Tree-Hugging Dirt Worship

June 16, 2014

Shamanic Drumming

Filed under: magic — Tags: , , , , , , , , — paragardener @ 4:23 am

I find that laying back and listening to shamanic drumming affords me access to the imaginative world not unlike the freedom available through psychedelics or lucid dreaming. By taking shamanic flight, and afterward talking with a supportive partner about what I experienced, I was able to substantially reduce some post-traumatic stress-like symptoms associated with my experience of attending school.

Shamans are able to answer many kinds of questions, and to heal diseases with a strong mental or stress component.

It doesn’t take a lot of expensive materials or hours of training to embark on a shamanic trip. Of course, you are dealing with your psyche, and while that can be a garden of pleasure, things can also take a dire turn towards matters of life and death. Still, I think that most people would be better off to go ahead and risk an unguided shamanic flight, then to shuffle on as they are.

Here’s the technology: Repetitive drumming is key to perhaps 90% of the world’s shamanic practice. It bores your mind in a very specific way, which cuts out certain types of mentation and allows others to run unchecked. Shamanic will teach you the basics of entering shamanic trance and navigating the world it opens up… the website is not going to replace a live teacher but it will give you some clues to proceed upon. If you are inclined to explore, read about the shamanic paradigm and shamanic journeying. Invent a little ritual or imbibe some soft drugs to loosen yourself up.

Then lay back and listen to this track. Let us know what kind of experience you have!

June 4, 2014

Sasha Shulgin: a Light in the Dark

The great chemist and psychonaut Sasha Shulgin died peacefully of liver cancer on June 2, 2014, at 5 in the afternoon. He was surrounded by caregivers and listening to Buddhist meditation music, and passed with little struggle. I know his work better than the well-meaning obituary writers out there, and I want to tell you what he accomplished in his lifetime. It’s not to a honor the great man, which I could only do an inadequate job of, but to pull away the veil of establishment taboo and show something of the scope of his underappreciated work.

I have to skip right over his prodigal childhood and World War II Navy experience, not to mention his graduate work at Berkeley and his early professional work at Bio-Rad.

Moving right along: in the 1960’s, Sasha worked for Dow Chemical and invented Zectran, the first biodegradable synthetic pesticide (a huge ecological advantage over pesticides like DDT, which linger in the environment and accumulate up the food chain.) He was rewarded with free reign over a generously-appointed corporate lab. Not long before, someone had introduced him to mescaline on a sunny California day, and he’d been totally impressed by the experience (you can see his original write-up in the first of his lab books posted online.) So it was natural enough that mescaline was the substance Shulgin wanted to tinker with in his new lab. He experimented with alterations of the molecule, at first pursuing the all-too common medicinal chemistry approach of sifting for the most potent compounds through animal tests. Dow soon lost interest in Shulgin’s forays into medicinal chemistry (they prefer bulk chemicals and paint to pharmaceuticals, and on top of that, psychedelics became taboo over the course of the 1960’s.)

Shulgin became an independent consultant and set up a ramshackle laboratory on an old farm near San Francisco. He often found paid work testifying for either drug enforcement agencies or defendants accused of drug crimes, while continuing to make new variants of mescaline.

Shulgin believed in investigating new drugs as pure exploration, but hoped to find therapeutically useful drugs and even promote an expansion in human self-awareness as an antidote to human self-destructiveness.

He tested new drugs first on himself. He was aware of Albert Hoffman’s 1943 experience with LSD: Hoffman had started testing LSD at the 250 microgram level, believing that that was the smallest amount of any drug which could possibly have an effect… but Hoffman was knocked on his butt by a drug more potent than any discovered before! Therefor, Shulgin started with miniscule doses, and then took a nearly doubled dose a week or two later, until some hint of activity was found (poisons are just as likely as the next great breakthrough.) This work led to the Shulgin Rating Scale for rating the power of drug experiences, ranging from ” – ” for no perceptible effect up through ” ++++ ” for perceived omnipotence.

If Sasha found something worthwhile, he might take some with his wife Ann (married 1981), and then with a research group made up of close friends. The research group met on Sundays and enjoyed dinner and wine after an experiment. They included psychologists and lawyers and were able to help Sasha publish his work by qualifying as their own Institutional Review Board, for a time. The group soon found that the compounds differed in their qualities as much as in duration and potency. They investigated hundreds of Shulgin-designed derivatives of mescaline and spice rack oils (as from the peyote cactus and parsley,) and information about their synthesis and proper use was eventually collected into the book PiHKAL. Later, Shulgin tinkered with the structures of DMT and psilocin (as from ayahuasca brews and magic mushrooms,) and he wrote up over a hundred novel compounds in the sequel TiHKAL. Some of his more recent synthetic work began from new inspirations found naturally in various psychedelic cacti and poppies.

As the institutional environment became more oppressive, the research group was unable to continue getting published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. The Shulgins started Transform Press as a vehicle for self-publishing, and published PiHKAL and TiHKAL as fiction during the 1990’s. As a result, Chemical Abstracts, repository of the list of all chemicals known to humankind, has rejected some of Sasha’s compounds as fictional!

In 1976 a graduate student (whose name I will try to find) called Sasha Shulgin on the phone to report smashing results with a chemical gleaned from the literature: 3,4-methylenedioxy,N-methylamphetamine, better known as MDMA, ecstasy, or molly. At first Shulgin treated MDMA as a “low-calorie martini,” but as he shared it with the research group he saw it help people make remarkable personal breakthroughs. The drug lacked the colorful or disorienting effects of LSD or other infamous psychedelics, which suggested it would make an ideal drug for psychotherapists to give their patients.

A member of the research group, Leo Zeff, used MDMA in his therapy practice and began sharing the secret with other therapists. He developed new techniques for working with patients under the influence and was known as “The Secret Chief.” People said MDMA was like “six months of therapy in one session,” which is immensely gratifying to both patient and practitioner. Therapists worked with qualified chemists to obtain the chemical, and the practice was perfectly legal.

Someone with less discretion found out and decided that MDMA should be made available to everybody. Larry Hagerty and others in the inner circle of Dallas MDMA dealers were motivated not only by the ample profits, but also by the desire to save humanity much as Sasha himself had described in an especially zealous talk! Thousands and thousands of doses were sold in the Dallas dance club scene. In 1985 the DEA noticed and acted to ban the drug, not only from clubs but from therapists’ offices as well.

MAPS, a non-profit that runs on donations, today funds studies into MDMA to treat the fear of death in the terminally ill, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in veterans and rape survivors, and social anxiety in the autistic. MDMA’s capacity to quell human suffering is well-demonstrated, vast and legally forbidden. MAPS faces an uphill battle to fund the extensive testing required by the FDA, which only a few cartelized pharmaceutical companies have ever been able to fund.

Sasha Shulgin produced many interesting compounds besides his role in passing along MDMA. 2C-B is a sense enhancer and aphrodisiac; DiPT disrupts the perception of pitch and harmony; TOMSO is a psychedelic which manifests no effects until combined with alcohol; CPM leads to eyes-closed fantasy, yet the structurally similar MAL leads to visual chaos with the eyes open. ARIADNE has been investigated as an anti-depressant. 5-MeO-DiPT enhances orgasm. All of these compounds may present uses for therapy or creative work, and certainly all of them present clues and new puzzles for brain science. Investigation into them is a legally tortured pursuit, especially in the United States. The vast bulk of Shulgin’s compounds have been only very superficially investigated.

Shulgin’s work is carried on by chemists and therapists around the world, often quietly.

His one-time student David Nichols has worked within the system, and extensively probed the molecular mechanism of MDMA at Purdue’s pharmacology labs. He also is the founding President of the Heffter Institute, which conducts research into psilocin mushrooms as medicine.

Sasha inspired his friends Earth and Fire Erowid to provide the best information about drugs available online. is especially sharp at keeping current with new synthetics that appear on the grey and black markets. The site helps users understand what they are getting into and stay safe, and even to get the most out of their drug experiences just as a therapist would help a patient to do.

Paul Daley came to the Shulgin farm in 2007, to help in the lab after Sasha’s eyes failed due to macular degeneration. Recently the pair was working on techniques for growing peyote, for such time as this becomes legal for the Native American Church. Another project seeks to help cluster headache sufferers with an efficient synthesis for 2-bromo-LSD. 2-bromo-LSD is not a psychedelic or an interesting head drug of any sort, except that it aborts clusters of “suicide headaches” said to be among the most physically excruciating of all human experiences. Shulgin and Daley were working on improving the synthesis of an unapproved drug with little hope for running the approval gauntlet — suggesting that they might have been hoping for others to distribute 2-bromo-LSD in an underground fashion, just as earlier circles of doctors did with MDMA. Their allies in the 2-bromo-LSD project are the Cluster Busters, a patient organization.

In 2013, Daley reported that 87-year-old, blind, dementia-addled Sasha was still joining him in the lab every day. Sasha was no longer on top of the work but he hung around in the lab and cracked corny jokes about whatever was going on. Those are some of the best things about working as a chemist anyway.

Sasha is survived by his wife Ann, a writer and lay therapist with valuable contributions in PiKHAL and TiKHAL. I find her work on integrating the shadow to be especially interesting and useful. She was also a great support to Sasha, taking care of him when he was ill, and cooking meals for the Sunday experiments.

There is every reason to believe that when these drugs are freed from their taboo status, they will allow us to make strides towards physically understanding the brain-mind correlation, and relieve vast amounts of human suffering. It will take dozens of scientists decades just to chase down all of the suggestions mentioned in PiKHAL and TiKHAL.

Some may eulogize Shulgin as a colorful character, “Dr. X, the inventor of ecstasy” or the like, but understand that Shulgin’s work is just the beginning of an unfolding Big Bang in mind science and medicine. After the superstitious and ignorant Church (of unlimited government authority) stands out of the way, we’ll recognize Shulgin as a giant of science like Galileo or Einstein.

April 13, 2014

Silmarillion of the Midwest

I always wished that Michigan had a longer history. Our oldest town, Sault Ste. Marie, dates back to 1668, whilst towns in Europe have cathedrals from the 1300’s and ruins left by the Romans. In the countryside, Europe has standing stones that might as well date from the dawn of time. Here, we tend to tear everything down after about 30 years. The buildings we leave standing are fashionably ugly.

I was recently very satisfied to discover the Seven Fires Prophecy of the local First Nations. The prophecy is recorded on an ancient wampum belt, with various translations into English available on the ‘Net. Each Fire is a chapter in the history of the Anishinaabe peoples, such as the Ottawa and Chippewa. This is a history studded with magical events, not unlike reading Tolkien’s histories of Middle Earth or certain books of the Old Testament for that matter. It’s also a total cure for those who slip into believing the settler mythology about conquering an empty, wilderness continent.

Five or six of the Seven Fires have passed into history, but there are still a few events yet to come. Lately, with a Pan-Indian identity movement afoot in the land, the Seven Fires Prophecy is seen as applying in some ways to the entire North American continent; so, all North Americans become part of this unfolding story.

I’ve read a few versions of the Prophecy, and at each point in the story I’m going to relate whichever version I like best. That’s not quite a legitimate way to do history, so if you want a more accurate version, you’re going to have to poke around for yourself. As far as I can tell, the last keeper of the wampum belt, Grandfather William Commanda, died in 2011. If there is a new keeper s/he hasn’t made a public splash yet, so I don’t know who might be a legitimate authority on this topic. Assume that all inaccuracies are my fault:

The Anishinaabe lived on the shores of the Great Salt Ocean. A prophet came to them from their Mikmaq cousins, and told them that a light-skinned people would soon be coming to these shores. The Anishinaabe should divide: some would remain on the shores to greet the light-skinned people as brothers and sisters, and some would travel deep into the continent until the intentions of the newcomers were known. The travelling band would know they were on the right route by finding sites marked with sacred cowrie shells (which only occur naturally near salt water). They would find seven stopping places, the first and last of which would be turtle-shaped islands. The journey would be over when they found a place where food grows upon the water.

10,000 canoes were filled with Anishinaabe, from itty-bitty babies to withered elders. They headed up the St. Lawrence River and found a turtle-shaped island marked with cowrie shells, Mooniyaang, the current site of Montreal. There they split, half of the people continuing up the St. Lawrence and the other half moving up the Ottawa River. For the St. Lawrence band, the second stopping-place marked with cowrie shells was discovered near Kche Nisajewen, or Niagara Falls.

Around this time, a second prophet spoke to the people: “You will know the Second Fire because at this time the nation will be camped by a large body of water. In this time the direction of the Sacred Shell will be lost. The Midewiwin (Medicine Lodge) will diminish in strength. A boy will be born to point the way back to the traditional ways. He will show the direction to the stepping stones to the future of the Anishinaabe people.”

When the Niagara Falls region could no longer support the Anishinaabe’s growing numbers, some left in canoes once again. They discovered a third cowrie-shell-marked island in Lake St. Clair, where they established the third stopping place. From here, the sign of the cowrie shell was lost. The people struck out in different directions and divided into three bands: the Odowa (Ottawa), Keepers of Trade, camped along the North sides of Lakes Huron and Michigan and the south of Superior. The Ojibwe (Chippewa), Keepers of Medicine, camped on the North shore of Lake Superior. The Potawatomi, Keepers of the Fire, migrated to establish villages all around the southern half of Lake Michigan.

Search though they might, the Three Fires people could not find the next site marked with cowrie shells. The Midewinin declined in power and the people were stricken with all manner of ill health and disease. A Potawatomi boy dreamed of the next site, and called the Odowa and Ojibwe to meet his people East of Lake St. Clair. There they formed the Three Fires Council, an alliance of the three bands, which continues through today. From the camp on Lake St. Clair, an expedition paddled up Lake Huron, past the “stepping stone islands,” to Manitoulin Island, Lake Huron’s big island.

On Manitoulin Island, the Three Fires people met the Mississauga band. The Mississauga were Anishinaabe who had gone up the Ottawa River. They had never been lost, always maintaining cohesion with their Algonquin and Nipissing offshoots. The Medicine Lodges of these northern bands had never declined. On Manitoulin Island, the Mississauga reconnected the Three Fires peoples with their ancient medicine.

The Anishinaabe knew that the Second Fire was concluding and they were entering the time of the Third Fire, as the prophet had said: “The Anishinaabe will find the path to their chosen ground, a land in the West where they must move their families. This will be the land where food grows upon the water.”

Pushing out from Manitoulin, the fifth stop was at Senajewen, now known as Sault St. Marie. Those who remained at the fifth stop are now known as Saulteaux or Saulteurs, the people of the rapids and waterfalls. Others pushed on westward, searching for their chosen land.

One group paddled along the southern shore of Lake Superior, another along the northern shore, and they soon met up at Spirit Island near the western tip of the lake (the sixth stop). Here they finally found the food that grows on the water, wild rice. When a group stopped on Madeline Island and planted tobacco near the shores, cowrie shells washed up onto the beach, announcing that the seventh stopping place had been found and the journey was over. The Anishinaabe now ranged from the East Coast to the timber line dividing Minnesota.

At the opening of the Fourth Fire, the people were visited by a pair of prophets. The first prophet said:

You will know the future of our people by the face the light skinned race wears. If they come wearing the face of brotherhood then there will come a time of wonderful change for generations to come. They will bring new knowledge and articles that can be joined with the knowledge of this country. In this way, two nations will join to make a mighty nation. This new nation will be joined by two more so that four will make for the mightiest nation of all. You will know the face of the brotherhood if the light skinned race comes carrying no weapons, if they come bearing only their knowledge and a hand shake.”

The second prophet said:

Beware if the light skinned race comes wearing the face of death. You must be careful because the face of brotherhood and the face of death look very much alike. If they come carrying a weapon … beware. If they come in suffering … They could fool you. Their hearts may be filled with greed for the riches of this land. If they are indeed your brothers, let them prove it. Do not accept them in total trust. You shall know that the face they wear is one of death if the rivers run with poison and fish become unfit to eat. You shall know them by these many things.”

The French arrived with a face of brotherhood, trading useful articles like steel hatchets and iron pots for the animal furs the Anishinaabe collected in abundance. Before the French and Indians could forge a mighty new nation, unfortunately, the British and their American offshoot arrived with the face of death. Through a series of conquests and rip-off treaties, the Anishinaabe were confined to tiny reservations, assimilated into American culture, or shipped off to Indian Country in Kansas and Oklahoma.

The prophet of the Fifth Fire said:

In the time of the Fifth Fire there will come a time of great struggle that will grip the lives of all native people. At the warning of this Fire there will come among the people one who holds a promise of great joy and salvation. If the people accept this promise of a new way and abandon the old teachings, then the struggle of the Fifth Fire will be with the people for many generations. The promise that comes will prove to be a false promise. All those who accept this promise will cause the near destruction of the people.”

Many hold the false promise of the Fifth Fire to be Christianity, which basically failed to deliver the native peoples from miserable conditions. Others think that it was capitalism, or Federal recognition of the tribes. The many false promises extended to the native peoples render this prophecy obscure, but surely many of the native peoples of the continent were nearly destroyed. Languages and traditions went extinct.

In the time of the Sixth Fire it will be evident that the promise of the Fifth Fire came in a false way. Those deceived by this promise will take their children away from the teachings of the Elders. Grandsons and granddaughters will turn against the Elders. In this way the Elders will lose their reason for living … they will lose their purpose in life. At this time a new sickness will come among the people. The balance of many people will be disturbed. The cup of life will almost become the cup of grief.”

Compulsory schooling in the ways of the pale-skinned people, even including boarding schools that literally separated children from their elders, combined with new sicknesses of alcoholism and mental illness to destroy the balance of many peoples and turn the cup of life (almost) into a cup of grief.

This story is starting to suck. I don’t know that I want to write any further…

During the Sixth Fire, a group of visionaries called together all of the Medicine Lodges of the Anishinaabe. They gathered all of the sacred bundles and birch bark scrolls and placed them in a hollow ironwood log. They tied ropes around the log and lowered it down a cliff, burying it in the side of the cliff. The log is still waiting in the cliff. During a time when Indians can practice their religions without fear, a boy will dream of the location of the log to restore the old knowledge.

Not too long ago, the final prophet visited the people. This prophet was a very young man with a strange light in his eyes. He said: In the time of the Seventh Fire New People will emerge. They will retrace their steps to find what was left by the trail. Their steps will take them to the Elders who they will ask to guide them on their journey. But many of the Elders will have fallen asleep. They will awaken to this new time with nothing to offer. Some of the Elders will be silent because no one will ask anything of them. The New People will have to be careful in how they approach the Elders. The task of the New People will not be easy.

If the New People will remain strong in their quest the Water Drum of the Midewiwin Lodge will again sound its voice. There will be a rebirth of the Anishinaabe Nation and a rekindling of old flames. The Sacred Fire will again be lit.

The New People of this time are certainly the people of the First Nations rebuilding their cultures. With a great interest in traditional ways arising, with a new Pan-Indian consciousness building, with certain new protections such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in place, the time may not be too far off when a boy dreams of an ironwood log embedded in a cliffside.

The last prophet spoke a few more words: “In this time the light-skinned people will be given a choice between two roads. If they choose the right road, then the Seventh Fire will light the Eighth and final Fire, an eternal fire of peace, love, brotherhood and sisterhood. If the light skinned race makes the wrong choice of the roads, then the destruction which they brought with them in coming to this country will come back at them and cause much suffering and death to all the Earth’s people.”

The path of materialism, of economic growth, is obviously bringing suffering and death. My people launch wars across the globe to seize oil and opium fields, we disrupt the climate, reduce far-away peoples to peonage on plantations and in sweatshops, and we even tip the hormonal balance of the environment with BPA and other estrogens and anti-androgens, all in the name of increasing the standard of living.

The other path is called the path of spiritualism. This needn’t involve supernatural beliefs. Learning to be sane and build sane communities should be sufficient. The Anishinaabe used to practice going hungry for days at a time in the winter and early spring, adjusting themselves to their environment. In the settler culture, the response to a stress is almost always external: if we risk facing hunger, we need a giant well-stocked freezer. If we’re depressed, we need pills. If we’re bored, we need more television channels.

The material path is like trying to cover the whole world in leather. The spiritual path is like strapping on shoes.

Hopefully we turn from the destructive path, light the Eighth Fire and join into the union of four nations mentioned in the Fourth Fire prophecy (many believe that Africans and Asians will join Native American and Europeans in forming a new syncretic culture symbolized by the medicine wheel’s four colors of black, yellow, red and white.) The new nation will be guided by respect for all people and living things.

I really doubt that the settler culture can turn aside from its headlong rush into ruin. Still, each of us can decide which path we’re going to heed for ourselves. Whichever way things go, this story is not over just yet.

April 6, 2014

New Blog

I am starting a new blog. This blog has been a lot of fun, but it has been irregularly updated and it totally lacks focus. I probably published enough weird ideas that my credibility has been shot with virtually every reader.

Incorrigible Savagery” will focus on freedom issues. The discovery of a tiny libertarian left and Thaddeus Russell’s “A Renegade History of the United States” has given me some new lenses to view the fight for freedom through. “Renegade History” was inspired by Howard Zinn’s “People’s History of the United States,” which credits people’s movements for expanding civil rights, ending slavery, preserving the natives from total extinction, and so on. “Renegade History” says that even the scum of the Earth, acting without organization, have won freedoms for us modern folk. Progress is accomplished by the bad people who are willing to flout convention without being ashamed — like the hookers of old who walked in public without male escorts, dressed in red, and danced where dancing was against the house rules.

Michelle Obama is dressed like a 19th-century whore and is dancing with the President groin-to-groin in public!

Michelle Obama is dressed like a 19th-century whore and is dancing with the President groin-to-groin in public!

A savage is a forest person. Civilized people who fear all Others slapped a lot of negative connotations onto the word, but that’s fine since we’re working from the supposition that “bad” people are the freedom fighters. Protecting the freedom for various peoples to simply exist will be a topic of interest on the new blog. Also, the right for civilized people to turn their backs on Babel and live as savages. Many common traits of savages, such as matrilineal descent and sustainable horticulture, could really help to round out civilized culture. I’m fighting for your right to garden your front lawn and snuff toad venom here, understand?

Regarding this idea of left-libertarianism… imagine a libertarian who acknowledges that class warfare exists. A libertarian who knows that entitlement programs are people’s lifelines and that corporate welfare and imperialism are the really egregious wastes of taxpayer money.

As of right now, there is one post on Incorrigible Savagery, regarding the basis for moral reasoning (it’s fun, there are witches in it).

This blog is not dead. There are likely to be some gardening and beer-making projects in my future that don’t fit the new blog. Plus, there is a need for some corrections and updates to old posts here.

I appreciate all you readers!

September 21, 2013

I.D. this Weed

Filed under: gardening — Tags: , , — paragardener @ 5:48 am

This weed looked interesting to me so I let it grow in my lettuce bed. It looks kind of elegant trimmed up, with the seed pods, so I wonder if it has a cultural use. Any idea what it is?



The plant is about 4 feet tall and grows in small stands by the roadside. Its widely spaced leaves grow bigger than saucers but smaller than dinner plates. The flowers open up into some modest yellow cups.
Thanks friends.

August 6, 2013

Water Quality still Medieval

Filed under: science, Soapbox, Vinting — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paragardener @ 8:57 pm

Batch after batch of mead and brown-sugar based herbal beer was coming out tasting like band-aids. I moved my fermentation to the most temperature-stable spot in the house (under my desk, right next to the thermostat), switched from dish soap to hand soap to rinsing with water and sanitizing with hydrogen peroxide only, threw out my old bottles, and scratched my head.

Then, in Michael Pollan’s newish book “Cooked,” I came across a reference to band-aid flavored beer. A local brewer told Pollan that the flavor is caused by the chemical chlorophenol, and that lowering the fermentation temperature would eliminate it. Since I had lowered the temperature to the minimum my A.C. and cold-prone body could take, I knew that that particular solution would not work in my case. However, I did learn a highly specific tag for my problem, “chlorophenol.”

I used the search term in a homebrewing forum, and found my solution right away. It turns out that yeast make some phenols for their own metabolic purposes, and if there is chlorine in their environment, the yeast will incorporate chlorine atoms into their phenols. The chlorophenol products are typical of what the chemical industry provides for Lysol disinfectant and the microbial inhibitors in medical supplies.

Many of my beer and wine recipes call for boiling up some wort, but then topping up the fermenting jug with water from the tap. This is totally inappropriate — even the top-up water needs to be boiled to drive off the chlorine.

The water out of my Detroit tap is great by municipal water standards — not too hard, not too soft, nor too polluted — but it is chlorinated and tastes and smells kind of like a swimming pool. Now that the idea of chlorine in the water is linked in my head to the ruinous batches, mouthfuls of band-aid, I really don’t like the taste of my tap water.

I need to boil the water before I imbibe it — it’s no longer potable out of the tap in my view. Now wasn’t the point of chlorinating the municipal water supply to clean it up so that you wouldn’t have to filter or boil out the nasty things water can carry? Boiling won’t even remove the fluoride, which most Americans are overexposed to, which causes the softening of tooth enamel and potentially more serious problems (41% of 12-15 year olds suffer from dental fluorosis, caused by overexposure to fluoride through toothpaste and drinking water. Fluoride is also known to soften bone, cause diabetes and other endocrine problems, and decrease IQ, although this is not proven to happen with exposures typical for Americans.)

The more things change, the more they stay the same. I have to treat my water with the precautions as a medieval living in a horse-manure-filled, no-sewage-treatment-plant, cholera-infested city. As for the fluoride, that requires more sophisticated interventions (maybe the filter Alex Jones hawks on his radio show. Or mounting a political campaign, tilting against the dental establishment and the industries which sell their fluoridated industrial waste to the water department.)

Okay, it’s better than people dying of dysentery, and I don’t know of a better solution than chlorination. I’m just saying, boil all of your brewing water, and don’t take too much pride from the idea that you might be living better than a peasant living in the superstitious, technologically simple Dark Ages.

July 10, 2013

I wasn’t raised to tolerate fascists.

Filed under: Uncategorized — paragardener @ 6:49 pm

I was raised to tolerate other people’s ways and beliefs. Gay? Four wives? Believe that the mountains and lakes were created by the prankish adventures of a primal coyote? No problem.
Some people hold some pretty destructive beliefs, such as the world’s genital mutilators. Assuming that Americans were able to quit slicing on baby boys and take the moral high ground, I suppose we could send our armed forces around Africa and Arabia and lock up all of the older women who perpetuate the tradition, and shoot all the imams who preach nonsense about the clitoris, and impose new laws on all the nations. That would be a stunningly arrogant and costly approach. It’s better to extend a limited, first-do-no-harm form of tolerance.
One thing I was taught never to tolerate is fascism. Fascists are people turned monstrous, who take over governments and turn them to evil purposes, such as exterminating the Jews. They must be stopped, absolutely and in all circumstances.
Identifying fascists is like diagnosing a mental illness. The patient must be over the age of 14 and display four or more of the following symptoms:

-loyalty to nation placed above all other duties
-champions a rising elite
-believes in using brute force to crush opponents (of various ethnic, denominational, and ideological categories)
-overt favoritism for the Military-Industrial Complex and belligerent militarism.
-accepts or perpetrates fabricated threats from weaker nations
-accepts the curtailment of civil rights

This definition of “fascist” was derived from Michael Newton’s “Encyclopedia of Conspiracies and Conspiracy Theories,” but you can craft your own list of identifiers from the many definitions offered on Wikipedia or elsewhere. I might add “support for corporate-government joint management of the economy” to the list. Whichever symptoms are core to your idea of fascism, compare them to the behavior of the American-Anglo “globalist” leadership.
Point by point: Since the nation is supposedly global, it represents all of humanity, and nothing could be more important than loyalty to it. “We Are the World.” On the other hand, old-fashioned jingoist flag-bumper-sticker nationalism is still appropriate during start-of-a-war pep rally time. I find our leadership confused on this point, so I will score them “negative” on this point.
The next question is, does the leadership support a rising elite? The answer is a clear “yes,” with a rising inequality of wealth even amongst the wealthiest 1%, the stocking of the White House with financiers, and the imposition of financier “technocrats” on peripheral nations.
The question of brute force can be answered with a resounding “yes.” Every police department in the USA seems to be purchasing a tank and military-style armor for their troops, and I understand that the UK is under some harsh riot-control tactics itself. They are being trained that “extremists” are enemies, but extremists are sometimes construed to include groups as broad as the militia and patriot movements, anarchists, even Catholics and Ultra-Orthodox Jews. I can tell you with 100% confidence, as an occasional demonstater and protestor, when the police are treating you as the one they’re serving and protecting, they can be really friendly and helpful. But when they see you as the enemy, they are motherfuckers, and as a group they are willing to bully, beat and torture. We need to focus on people’s actions and real violence, and not frame Islam or redneck culture or what-have-you as the enemy… that way is sure to erupt into serious violence.
Belligerent militarism, Military-Industrial Complex? Check that box for the reason of your choice — sporadic robotic missile attacks on friendly nations, rattling sabres at Iran, the scale of the military in proportion to all other government projects combined…
The US and UK (and NATO, and…) most clearly accepted a fabricated threat by going to war over an alleged Osams bin Laden – Iraq connection and Saddam Hussein’s magical disappearing Weapons of Mass Destruction. As for false flag attacks, I can do no justice here to any particular case, but submit to you that in general the terrorists seem to come from within allied nations or the ranks of last decade’s beloved freedom fighters.
This brings us to the next point of our diagnosis, the curtailment of civil rights. Civil rights are regularly being rolled back to make way for the War on Drugs. Privacy has not been protected through the transition into a Digital Age. My city is holding an election for its formal government while it is actually being run by a dictator appointed by the State, so where does that leave my right to vote?
Finally, we come to the matter of the corporatist economy… intellectual property rights extended to seed and perpetual copyright? Loans of free money to too-big-to-prosecute banks? Modernized food safety standards in the face of trans fat and GMO? Check.
Our shitty globalist empire thus displays 6 of 7 fascist symptoms, or thereabouts, subject to your own definition of fascism and your own analysis. This means that the Tories and Labour and Fox News and CNN and MSNBC and Jon Stewart are basically all upholding fascism, or they would lose their mainstream credentials and access. It is everywhere, in every person who takes on a mainstream stance. And it is the one thing I was not raised to tolerate.
I cannot unsee the fascism all around me. Now I am in a position a bit like the hardcore Christian who sees wicked Hellbound sinners everywhere. How can I learn to tolerate fascists without accomadating fascism?

April 30, 2013

Safety Poem

Filed under: Soapbox — Tags: , , , — paragardener @ 5:08 pm

Let’s make the world safe

Let’s make ourselves safe from drugs

lock up the nutmeg and cinnamon

and classify naughty books

and ban dangerous speech

and make the world safe from weapons

register every box-cutter

license every gas pump attendant

what do you really need a sledgehammer for, anyways?

and make the world safe for children

a chip in every buttock

a stent in every neck

under constant armed guard

those people can keep their music and quaint cuisine


we can’t afford them the luxury

of their irrational beliefs


let’s burn everything written before 1800

then we’ll make the world safe from bad choices

all dates set up by E-Harmony

unannounced home inspections

denim jackets and hair grease banned

make the world safe from cancer

half of all known chemicals are carcinogens

let’s push them outside the membrane

of our glassed-in freedom dome

let’s make the world safe from bad poetr

April 27, 2013

When Presidents Fail (Obama and the Flying Saucer)

“Contrary to the rumors, I was not born in a manger. I was actually born on the Krypton, and sent by my father Jorel to save Planet Earth.” — Barack Obama

President Obama is notable for the length of his list of broken promises, and his continuation of pretty much every one of the hated Bush policies. Nice going on ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and installing a brewery at the White House, but you came into office with all of the executive privileges exercised by W. Bush, with a Democrat-controlled Congress, and yet…

  • you didn’t close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center
  • your universal health care is not universal health care (in a country with universal health care, even tourists get free care and there is no question about having an insurance card.)
  • you took no steps to preserve abortion rights (indeed, you just watched as the states eroded them.)
  • you nominated lobbyists into key positions
  • you dropped your promise to allow importation of prescription drugs
  • you continue to deny the very existence of drone missile attacks (transparency?)
  • your foreclosure prevention fund was a dismal failure
  • you did not push the Employee Free Choice Act (protecting unions) while you enjoyed Democratic control of both House and Senate, so it became a dead letter
  • you did not introduce a comprehensive immigration reform bill in your first year of office
  • you did not investigate Bush Administration war crimes
  • you allowed bankrupt companies to rob their creditors by paying outsize bonuses to their own executives
  • you did not create a $60 billion infrastructure repair fund
  • you did not lower taxes on low-to-middlin’ income senior citizens
  • you did not begin withdrawing from Afghanistan by July 2011
  • you did not increase the minimum wage
  • you expanded the war against medical cannabis providers
  • you raised taxes on those making less than $250,000 / year, via cigarettes, tanning beds, and the penalty on those who cannot afford their own healthcare.
  • you did not move terrorism suspects from military commissions into the civilian courts
  • you did not increase capital gains taxes
  • you did not tax oil company windfall profits
  • you did not achieve an agreement peacefully establishing a Palestinian state (and why on Earth would you claim to be able to accomplish such a thing?)
  • through the morally decrepit stooge Carl Levin, you introduced language into a defense spending bill allowing for the indefinite military detention of Americans, after you said that we weren’t that kind of country

Actually, there are at least 50 promises you broke, Mr. Obama. Your presidency has been a near-total failure, except from the standpoint of bankers, health insurance companies, neoconservative war-mongers, and weapons manufacturers. I can understand Obama voters who were simply more frightened of Mitt Romney, but… why did people show up to Obama’s second inauguration with jersies with”smiling pictures of the president sewn on like Girl Scout badges, and ‘THE ONE’ written where an athlete’s name would be?” Where was the change we were supposed to believe in?

There are instances where a total disappointment that totally disconfirms one’s beliefs is turned around into a strengthened belief. This was famously explored by social psychologist Leon Festinger and colleagues through the case of the “Seekers” UFO cult. The cultists believed that the world would end in a flood on Dec. 21, 1954, but the Seekers would be whisked away in a flying saucer to Planet Clarion. Festinger and friends were curious as to what would happen when/if the world didn’t end, so they joined the cult to watch the emotional ride first-hand.

When the saucer did not land at midnight, Dec. 21, the cultists got a little worried that they might be left behind. There was some crying and hugging. Fortunately, around 4:00 am, they received a new telepathic message from Clarion, informing them that the God of Earth had relented from his fury, moved by the love of the little circle of believers, and there would be no flood or saucer landing. The cult switched from a policy of secrecy, to one of enthusiastic proselytization.

What happened there? You’d think that people would throw up their hands, admit to having been wrong, and go home and start thinking about what to do with the rest of their lives. Festinger and team theorized that the discomfort of being so utterly wrong was unbearably great, so that people threw the whole force of their being into denying the truth and keeping the faith against all evidence. Converting new believers helped believers to feel more reasonable, with more social support for their ridiculously-held belief.

In their write-up, “When Prophecy Fails,” the researchers named some conditions that would support the redoubling of a disproven belief:

  • A belief must be held with deep conviction and it must have some relevance to action, that is, to what the believer does or how he behaves.
  • The person holding the belief must have committed himself to it; that is, for the sake of his belief, he must have taken some important action that is difficult to undo. In general, the more important such actions are, and the more difficult they are to undo, the greater is the individual’s commitment to the belief.
  • The belief must be sufficiently specific and sufficiently concerned with the real world so that events may unequivocally refute the belief.
  • Such undeniable disconfirmatory evidence must occur and must be recognized by the individual holding the belief.
  • The individual believer must have social support. It is unlikely that one isolated believer could withstand the kind of disconfirming evidence that has been specified. If, however, the believer is a member of a group of convinced persons who can support one another, the belief may be maintained and the believers may attempt to proselytize or persuade nonmembers that the belief is correct.

Of course, Obama’s active supporters were linked via e-mail lists, social media, house parties and so on, “groups of convinced persons who can support one another.” They took actions to be known as Obama supporters, from lawn signs to bumper stickers and so on, publicly declaring their loyalty, which cannot be undone. They watched on the news as their beliefs were unequivocally and undeniably refuted by Obama’s actual actions as President.

Hopefully more understanding can lead to more compassion for Obama’s lost followers.

April 18, 2013

Sasha Shulgin on Animal Research

Filed under: science, Soapbox — Tags: , , , , , , — paragardener @ 5:18 pm

From “PiKHAL, a chemical love story:”

This (MME) is one of the very few compounds with which I actually risked (and took) the lives of experimental animals. I was still impressed by the scientific myth that pharmacological research wasn’t really acceptable without animal support data. And I had access to an experimental mouse colony at the University. I injected one mouse with a dose of 300 mg/Kg., i.p. That sounds pretty scientific. But what it really means is that I picked up a mouse by the scruff of the back with my left hand, then turned my hand over so that the mouse was belly-up. I put the ring finger over a hind leg to keep things relatively immobile. Usually at this point there is a little urine evident where there had been none before. And I took a syringe equipped with a very fine needle and containing about 8 milligrams of MME in a fraction of a mL of a water solution and pushed that needle into the mouse at about where the navel would be if one could see the mouse’s navel, and then I pulled the needle back just a little so that there should be nothing at the business end but the loose folds of the peritoneum. Then I pushed the syringe plunger home, effectively squirting the water solution into the area that surrounds the intestines. I dropped the mouse back into his cage, and watched. In this case, the mouse went into a twitching series of convulsions (known as clonic in the trade) and in five minutes he was dead.

Fired with the lust for killing, I grabbed another mouse, and nailed him with 175 mg/Kg. Dead in 6 minutes. Another one at 107 mg/Kg. Dead in 5 minutes. Another at 75 mg/Kg. Well, he looked pretty sick there for a while, and had some shakes, and then he seemed to be pretty much OK. One final orgy of murder. I injected 5 mice at 100 mg/Kg i.p., and watched four of them die within 20 minutes. I took in my hands the sole survivor, and I went outside the laboratory and let him loose on the hillside. He scampered away and I never saw him again.

And what did I learn, at the cost of seven precious lives which I can never replace? Not a damned thing. Maybe there is an LD-50 [the dose lethal to 50% of the animals] somewhere around 60 or 80 mg/Kg. This is for mice, not for men. I was intending to take an initial trial dose of 300 micrograms of this completely untested compound, and it would have made no difference to me if the LD-50 had been 600 mg/Kg or 6 mg/Kg.  I still took my trial dose, and had absolutely no effects, and I never killed another mouse again. No, that is simply out-and-out dishonest. I had an invasion of field mice last winter coming up through a hole in the floor behind the garbage holder under the kitchen sink, and I blocked the hole, but I also set some mouse traps. And I caught a couple. But never again for the simple and stupid reasons of being able to say that “This compound has an LD-50 in the mouse of 70 mg/Kg.” Who cares? Why kill?

If you believe in something you are creating, there should be no problem in trying it out for yourself first. Shulgin’s usual protocol for trying new drugs is to start with perhaps 1/500 of the expected active dose, and then taste again next week with double or 1.5 times as much. If there are signs of activity, whether amusing or toxic, the next dose will only be a small increment more.

Shulgin’s intent is purely to make new compounds for exploring the mind, which generally fall near the psychedelic category. Not very much is known about the possible health effects of most of the (over 200) new compounds he’s synthesized.

Yet, I feel a lot better with the idea of taking an exploratory compound cooked up by an eccentric and earnest scientist, than buying shampoo at the store that was rubbed into bunny eyes as a Cover Your Ass move, but which was actually created by people whose only interest lay in making money. Monsanto represents an ultimate in ugly innovation, removing GMO items from their own cafeterias because their employees don’t want to eat what they are growing.

If corporate scientists don’t want to test their new creations on themselves, I understand why. They are just working on orders from above, acting as competent technicians. I am all in favor of testing on the people in charge: the Board of Directors, the CEO and management team, and the major shareholders.

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