truth or consequences…

ReligulousI wanted to finish off the recent spate of documentaries with the high point of the series… One that we’ve been wanting to see ever since it came out. Of course I am speaking of Religulous! This movie is Bill Maher’s attempt to understand how people of faith can be people of faith (basically). In it he goes around the world to ask various people of faith to ask them how/why they believe the things that they do. Though he is focused on people who follow the various Abrahamic religions, the ground that he covers is quite wide-ranging. It includes: a trucker’s chapel (yes, at a truck stop), a holy land amusement park in Florida, a mosque in Jerusalem, a Moslem gay bar, an orthodox rabbi, some ex-Mormon’s in Salt Lake City, the Vatican and a U.S. congressman!

He makes it quite clear to these folks that he doesn’t for a minute believe that any of it is true and that he is just dying to know why it is that they do. This tact leads to quite a varied group of responses, though except for one of the “worshipers” at the truck stop, most of them do earnestly try to explain the foundations of their faith. These responses vary from interesting (in a somewhat startling fashion), entertaining, befuddling and downright insulting and scary (in the case of the congressman when he suggests that if it weren’t for the ten commandments that people might not have come to the conclusion that it is bad to kill each other).

Some of the most outstanding bits are the earnest attempts at explanation from the fellow who portrays Jesus at the amusement park, the woman at the amusement park who says that when Armageddon comes she’ll be flying through the sky on a big white horse, the bit about it being a miracle if it starts raining when you want it to and, my favorite, the priests at the Vatican who don’t seem to think that anything in the bible is meant literally.

While you could say that he is trying to be objective, I think that in a situation like this you can only be so objective… For a person not-of-faith to have a conversation with someone who is of-faith about their beliefs can be interesting, but having those conversations with dozens of people who all firmly believe in ultimate truths that contradict the other peoples ultimate truths, well, I think you would have to take most of they people say with a big grain of salt. Of course, as Maher has to have a point that isn’t just his opinion but also of greater import, he covers the dangers of faith… Specifically the danger inherent in people who actually want the end of the world to arrive because they believe that something better will come for them after that. Not really the safest way to think considering what kinds of weaponry modern civilization has at its disposal… Even if it were true, it still wouldn’t be a good thing for anyone whose belief system didn’t happen to be the correct one.

get the hell out of the hospital…

The Business of Being BornOhh, shivers! Tonight we watched a documentary that was very through-provoking in a number of ways. It was The Business of Being Born
(which is a very accurate title for the subject matter) and it basically covers the difference between “regular” hospital births and midwife attended, both at home and in the hospital. As someone who was involved in a birth the straddled these lines, both in the sense of planning on a midwife attended natural childbirth, but having it be a conducted in a hospital, and who watched the progression of suggested interventions, this did ring quite close to home.

The Business of Being Born
is told mainly through interviews with OB/GYN’s (both American and European) and midwives, with lots of footage of births and birthing processes, both at home and in the hospital. It is very blunt, both in its message and its methods. Starting with the basic fact that the United States has: the industrial worlds highest rates of hospital births, highest rate of cesarean sections and also the most expensive births. From which this country ends up with about the worst rates for infant and mother mortality in the industrialized world! The filmmakers look at the smear campaigns against midwives in the early 20th centuries and some of the horrible practices used against women going through child birth in the decades since then (some of these are too much to stomach watching). There is one troubling segment where they discuss how once medical intervention is begun (generally under the guise of relieving pain for the mother), each step of intervention leads to effects that pretty much require a further step of intervention. All of which ends up in an unhealthy, expensive (and for some, quite disappointing) viscous circle of even increasing intervention.

They thoroughly point out that only in a small numbers of cases is there any reason for childbirth to be a surgical procedure or even a hospital event, yet in this country that it what it has become in the vast majority of cases. It becomes obvious that they are using the ever-present American tactic of “giving direction through fear” to keep childbirth a profit center (for many: hospital profits, insurance companies profits, ensuring enough highly billable work for doctors) and to undermine (if not quash) traditional, logic and natural means of doing that for which the human was actually designed to do. Of course to me it all brings to mind the old RIAA philosophy of seeing anything that doesn’t feed these good old boy profits centers as some kind of evil or ignorant foolishness.

Anyway, I digress. The Business of Being Born is a project of Ricki Lake (but no, she is neither irritating or obnoxious here) which she was inspired to make after undergoing a hospital birth. Conveniently, the director got pregnant while the film was in production and her experience was worked into the film. All in all, even for one as skeptical of the Establishment as I am, it was still quite eye-opening. And unsettling, and maddening. The fear that people are saddled with (to bring gain to the greedy), and the limits of what the Establishment will do to defend itself against reason can be a little hard to take in such potent doses.

convenience or death

Yes, though I’ve covered it at least 6 times previously here (killing ourselves), some topics I just can’t get enough of…


Cell phone brain scan


The above image is an “Estimation of the penetration of electromagnetic radiation from a cell phone based on age” to the brain.

In yet another recent report on this topic, this one from the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh titled The Case for Precaution in the Use of Cell Phones. Aside from this rather scary graphic there are some other reasonable tidbits, such as:

Studies in humans do not indicate that cell phones are safe, nor do they yet clearly show that they are dangerous. But, growing evidence indicates that we should reduce exposures, while research continues on this important question.

The most recent studies, which include subjects with a history of cell phone usage for a duration of at least 10 years, show a possible association between certain benign tumors (acoustic neuromas) and some brain cancers on the side the device is used.

– Do not allow children to use a cell phone except for emergencies. The developing organs of a fetus or child are the most likely to be sensitive to any possible effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields.

– While communicating using your cell phone, try to keep the cell phone away from the body as much as possible. The amplitude of the electromagnetic field is one fourth the strength at a distance of two inches and fifty times lower at three feet.

– Only use your cell phone to establish contact or for conversations lasting a few minutes as the biological effects are directly related to the duration of exposure. For longer conversations, use a land line with a corded phone, not a cordless phone, which uses electromagnetic emitting technology similar to that of cell phones.

– Switch sides regularly while communicating on your cell phone to spread out your exposure. Before putting your cell phone to the ear, wait until your correspondent has picked up. This limits the power of the electromagnetic field emitted near your ear and the duration of your exposure.

The list of people on this committee is impressive indeed and while most people would rather just go about their business and not think about these sorts of things, it would be sad for large groups of people to develop brain tumors in 20-30 years because they spent time chatting on a cell phone as children… Or so I think. But then again, something has seemed creepy about cell phones since I first got one and read in the Motorola manual that “usage should be safe as long as you hold it as you would a regular phone and do not point the antenna at your head”. Hummm…

with paranoia, you are never alone…

Following a chain of clicking from Brian Jepson’s Blog (I’m a sucker for anything that mentions mysterious tentacled creatures from the deep cold waters of Antarctica), I ended up at this MSNBC post, Doomsday fears spark lawsuit. Referring to a couple of folks in Hawaii who have filed a federal lawsuit against the Large Hadron Collider, because they fear that it may create black holes that might destroy the Earth! If you are keeping tabs on it, the LHC is an underground circular tunnel about 5 miles in diameter (or 27km circumference, if you prefer) whose stated purpose is: “LHC – the aim of the exercise: To smash protons moving at 99.999999% of the speed of light into each other and so recreate conditions a fraction of a second after the big bang. The LHC experiments try and work out what happened.”.


Large Hadron Collider


As loyal readers will remember, I made a post in February where I expressed similarly ridiculous fears. It’s nice to know that even if these fears are ungrounded, at least there are some people who have succeeded in bringing them to the forefront. If for no other reason then to attempt to get people to at least question the safety and ethics behind unbridled scientific research. With the advances over the last century or so in nuclear physics, biochemicals, miniaturization, genetics and especially cloning, we have hit a point where there is some research that shouldn’t be done, even if it can. Sometimes, this isn’t obvious until it is too late, as in Oppenheimer’s oft repeated quote that he is said to have made when he witnessed the first nuclear bomb explosion at Trinity: “I have become death; the destroyer of worlds.”.

This may not be an example of that, but, of course, the government is trying to get the case thrown out, seemingly before any of the scientific evidence is looked at, or at least that is what is implied here:

In 40 documents comprising hundreds of pages, attorneys and government officials contended that “scientifically, there is no basis for any conceivable threat” from black holes or the other theoretical horrors posed in the suit.

If the government has its way, the lawsuit would be thrown out on procedural grounds even before getting to the scientific arguments.

Of course, I realize how unbelievable these fears sounds (or downright silly), but as someone may have said at some point “I have witnessed too much to not believe the unbelievable”

And why was I even at Well our new future consideration is to look into relocating to Providence! One of our original ideas from when we first met and were still on opposite coasts, I also have a fondness for its HPL history, I like the size of the city and how you never hear about it and… Neither one of us has ever been there. Plus (and this is a big plus) house prices seem pretty darned low. So if anyone out there has any thoughts or knowledge regarding living in or moving to the Providence area, I would love to hear about it.

trying to walk a straight line, on sour mash and cheap wine…

I wouldn’t say watched it… But I did manage to glimpse some of tonight’s Oscars. I guess I don’t watch them often, as the wife seemed surprised when I pondered why the new Daily Show guy was hosting, as I thought that Billy Crystal hosted the show every year.

Regardless, this may have been the first year that I thought that no crap had been picked for Best Picture nominees. All of the picks this year were actually movies that I would want to see. And it was fun to see the success of No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood. But in unrelated news…



gaze into the fist of dread


I’ve been thinking lately about The Quiet Earth. A great film from New Zealand that has been terribly overlooked in the last 20 years. From what I can remember, in 1986ish it had a brief “arthouse” release in the states and then a little vhs printing and that was it, until its US DVD release a year and a half ago. A great and quiet film about a science experiment gone terribly wrong, in that it removes nearly every person on earth. It is an interesting and compelling film about what one might do if they were the last person on earth, and how three really can be a crowd. But it also seems (at least to a paranoid soul like myself) to be a meditation on the dangers of science. Well, on the dangers inherent in utilizing our existing technology to the fullest. As Einstein once said, “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity”.

I think about it whenever I hear about the idea of setting off powerful bombs underground on fault lines, in the hopes of using those as a preemptive measure against potential major earthquakes, but I also thought about it this week when I read this article at National Geographic about the search for the ridiculously (and inaccurately) named “god particle”, At The Heart Of All Matter. Obviously, I don’t think that anything terrible will happen, but still, reading paragraphs like this:

At four locations the beams will converge, sending the particles crashing into each other at nearly the speed of light. If all goes right, matter will be transformed by the violent collisions into wads of energy, which will in turn condense back into various intriguing types of particles, some of them never seen before. That’s the essence of experimental particle physics: You smash stuff together and see what other stuff comes out.

Does make me wonder if research may take that one final wrong step one of these days.

flogging the not-dead-yet horse

Well, since it’s been almost half a year since I last addressed this subject (back in August in okay, sure… but what if?) a couple of things have happened today to inspire me to bring up yet again (this makes the 6th time, I think) what will, one day, turn into a great big health care issue… Those darned cancer causing cell phones! Though I thought that last the post (on the ten minutes of cell phone use that it takes to start potentially dangerous cell division in ones brain) would be enough to get the world to kick its cell phone habit, it seems not. Just now Slashdot linked to an article at InformationWeek with the blunt title of Cell Phone Use Linked To Increased Cancer Risk. While the results expressed in the article aren’t that dramatic (not as much as last time), I just wonder how many times little bits of evidence like this need to crop up before really start questioning those devices on a wide scale…

What really set me off is that right before stumbling on this article, I read a bit in the local paper about a family who hired a well thought of contractor to remove the lead paint from the exterior of their old house. The method in which he did so left all three of their children permanently brain damaged! Which just goes to show that just because worrying about some things might make you feel paranoid, that doesn’t mean that there is nothing to worry about. Even little things can have harrowing and tragic long term effects. Especially in our dear little children, whose bodies are still developing and who need for us to make decisions for them that are the right decisions, no matter how hard those decisions may seem.

And my little girl certainly finds the family cell phone very appealing. I am look forward to the day we we can get rid of it…

new and improved..

Driving around the countryside, Caitlin thought she would like a bottle of water. Since the nice old general store that her folks used to own has been long closed, we went to the newish, unappealing, cinder block general store. The hunt there for a bottle of water was a bit suprising. Because I couldn’t find a single “bottle of water”, not even in the gallon size. I’m a big tap water drinker and don’t have much interest in bottled water, but we do occasionally get the Crystal Geyser sparkling waters. It is nice, just plain sparkling water, or with a little lemon or lime in it. Well, all that they had to offer at this store was Dasani and no plain, only in “fruit flavors”. I bought a bottle of “lemon”, just to not come out empty handed. We thought, “Well, gross, but we’ll split it and get some regular water the next place we go by”. I had one sip and couldn’t drink anymore, as it was a gross, chalky, syrupy thing, tasting nothing like water with lemon in it. Caitlin had a sip and we decided to dump it out. I hadn’t expected anything too great but a look at the ingredients was rather shocking: Filtered Water, Citric Acid, Natural Flavors… Alright so far, but then potassium sorbate, potassium benzoate, sodium citrate, sucralose, magnesium sulfate, acesulfame potassium, potassium chloride and salt.

It shocks me what people put into food! For one thing, after working in natural foods for as long as I did, alot of these seem unneeded. Sadly, even natural foods put unneeded sweetners in things that don’t need it (like fruit spread), but conventional food companies put artificial sweetners in everything, even water! Has is become some sad vicious cycle where they put sweetners in things, so people get used to the taste of them and then people demand sweetners? Yet the product would be just fine and good and tasty if no one ever sweetened it in the first place? And why do conventional foods companies put preservatives in everything when natural foods will make the same products with similar shelf lives without preservatives? It’s like some kind of sick poisoning joke that benefits no one except for the companies that make and sell these chemicals. Why, if you can make lemon flavored water by putting some lemon in water, would you add this other stuff?

I imagine that most of those ingredients are probably fine, some standard preseratives, a couple of artificial sweetners. My question with those is why? Unless there is a move to get peoples bodies used to an intake of manufactured chemicals, sort of like a vaccaine against modern industrially polluted life. But I think that they are quite unneeded. And salt? What is the obsession with salting everything, I’ve never understood that. Wouldn’t salting water just make you want to drink more water? But the big question mark in this case is really Potassium Chloride. Um, don’t they use it to kill people with lethal injections? Isn’t it used in fertalizer? With all the move to keep the water supply clean and safe, why put this garbage in bottled water?

Luckily, we know the West Barnet area rather well so a half mile ahead we stopped at the spring. It is a wooden trough that takes water straight out of the hill and dumps it into a great wooden barrel. I wouldn’t drink out of the barrel, but I rinsed the bottle out and filled it with this water out of the end of the trough. An amazing difference, terrifically refreshing, a good taste (as if it contains just the right amounts of natural minerals), the perfect slightly cool temperature, and a wonderful not to hard, not too soft body to it.

get your words outta my mouth…

Where would we be without the news? CNN is such a great source of both laughs and horror (all too often, both are combined) that I can’t help but dig around there over lunchtime. There were two really outstanding stories today.

One, back comes our old comic book supervillain, Osama. Seems he made a home movie and sent it out, well, of course that’s happened before. What makes this one special is that Bush seems to have become some kind of psychic Osama translator. It says “bin Laden calls the Iraq war “unjust””. This statement Bush cleverly translates to “If al Qaeda bothers to mention Iraq, it is because they want to achieve their objectives in Iraq, which is to drive us out and to develop a safe haven. And the reason they want a safe haven is to launch attacks against America or any other ally.” Or maybe he meant it would be nice if Iraqis could hold wedding parties outside without being bombed? I think that, even if Osama meant the Safe Haven part, I would guess that his statement just means that they want the West the heck out of their region… As we would want them out of the USA if the Iraqi army showed up and took over.

And, of course, those nutty freedom-hating Saudi’s also spread such nutty propaganda as “The transcript also shows bin Laden blaming global warming on large corporations.”. Whoa! They must be crazier then we thought! Strangely, in the CNN article, Osama comes off sounding more intelligent, honest and caring then Bush. But I guess that’s just showing the effectiveness of the Al Qaeda propaganda machine.

The second was even more up my alley. Seems that the profits are slowing down on pet chip implantation, so some folks are now dreaming of implanting them in 40 million American people! The trouble is, in another CNN article, they point out that the darned things might cause tumors! Oh those tumors, soon they’ll supplant Apple Pie as the American Way, since you have to actually go out to get Apple Pie, but you can get the tumors just by chatting on your phone, surfing on the wifiway and having your vitals stored in a blop of silicone in your neck. Who needs to choose between Convenience or Death, when the technology exists to give you both?

And in a picture-perfect American success story, Tommy Thompson, who was the head of the Department that approved the chip for use in people, went on to join the board of the company that makes them. Go Tommy!

My old favorite Einstein quote just keeps flashing back to me, in oh so many contexts… “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”

okay, sure… but what if?

I know that no one out there (at least in the “official” USA world of science, politics and media), has any interest is giving any credence to this stuff, but doesn’t the evidence at least make some people wonder?

Of what you may ask? Well of one of my standard ponderings… The ill health effects from cell phones (well from all of this manufactured radiation we shoot through ourselves). Yes, I know that I have complained about it before here, here, here and here… But now there is a new article. Maybe promising (well, towards my fears, at least) and maybe not… But, once again, it makes me think that, profits be damned, more serious long term research is needed… Because if us paranoid nutso’s are at all right, the coming medical issues could be huge.

Anyway, the Weizmann Institute of Science has published research that looks at the effects on cells (real cells) due to cells (phones) from a new angle (not just heat from the radiation) and is given the unduly scare inspiring title of “Only ten minutes on a mobile could trigger cancer, scientists believe” by the Daily Mail. Of course, that doesn’t actually seem to be what the article says, more along the lines of:

Mobile phones can take as little as ten minutes to trigger changes in the brain associated with cancer, scientists claimed yesterday.

They found even low levels of radiation from handsets interfere with the way brain cells divide. Cell division encourages the growth of tumours.

Although the researchers did not come up with evidence that mobile phone signals are harmful, the findings suggest they could be.

Although the radiation was far weaker than emissions from a typical handset, it began to switch on a chemical signal inside the cells within ten minutes, the researchers report in the Biochemical Journal.

The chemical signals they detected were involved in the division of cells.

Dr Dariusz Leszczynski, of the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Helsinki, said: “If cell-phone radiation cannot induce biological effects then there will never be any health effects.

“On the other hand if we can show this radiation is able to induce biological effects then we have a different story.”

Yes, quite a different story, I imagine… Anyway, there is a story here at the Daily Mail.

putting the pieces all together

Cancer does seem to be a plague upon our little Earth. The hospitals are filled with people dying from it, the streets are filled with people running for the cure, the labs are filled with scientists looking for the cure (well, supposedly… the only scientist I ever knew who was studying it was convinced there the establishment had no interest in curing “it” at all)… Seemingly to very little avail.

I have always been of the feeling that most of the cancers are caused by the man-made substances that we surround ourselves with: permeating the air with microwaves and electromagnetic fields, filling ourselves with genetically engineered food and laboratory devised food-like chemicals, curing everything with “medicines” and wrapping leeching plastic substances (remember, they are made out of oil) around ourselves… And of course all of the residue that these leave in our environment. All of this must lead to some kind of breakdown of our systems. So many unnatural chemicals and treatments… Yet the cancer that destroys these weakened cells? We never have an idea where it comes from, or how to cure it. Yet test after test shows that the problem is just that, this crap we fill ourselves with and surround ourselves with: the Swedish university’s study about the connection between cell phone use and brain tumors, smoking and cancer, red meat (ok, so that is natural enough) and cancer, and now on the front page an article about how, with the decline of “hormone replacement therapy” there has also been a decline in breast cancer rates?

I just don’t know why more people don’t just put it together. Our foods are filled with substance’s that have been shown to cause cancer in mice, but only in excessive amounts, we have “safe” amounts in our food. If you ingest 20 “safe” helpings of carcinogens a day for 20 years, mightn’t they have a cumulative effect? Why, with all of the science showing the cancer dangers of this stuff, do scientists scoff at people who try and make the connection? Why don’t we look at the thousand’s of tests that show insignificant (or even significant ) cancer links and think of them as a whole, rather than just as individual tests? Wouldn’t it then be obvious that the best cure for a lot of these cases is to keep away from transmitted rays, petroleum products, chemicals and medicines?

The “Cure for Cancer” is not something to be found, it is something to be done (or undone). If you get skin cancer from spending excessive time in the sun, should we cover ourselves with chemicals to prevent that, or just not spend excessive amounts of time in the sun? Oh, well I guess I know the answer to that one.

People’s lifestyles and thoughtlessness about what they are doing is so central to who we are that I don’t think that a lot of people can even begin to contemplate a reality in which the products that they buy are causing them harm, no matter how much the evidence builds. But I can’t really get away from that. I can’t stop thinking that inside my skull, are dozens of television stations, radio stations and phone conversations bouncing around in there. Am I the only one creeped out by that? It means that the Mark and Brian show is always permeating my brain? Ug!

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