Freedom is Painful

This nation could not start without a unanimous vote of the colonies. Through days of debate, it became clear that the southern colonies would prevent independence unless the mention of the slave trade was removed from the document.

The Cast of 1776 from The Ritz Theatre in Oaklyn, NJ in August 2003.

There is an awful lot of debate now, particularly in the recent weeks that deal with the ongoing hate and prejudice surrounding men and women of color. There is a desire to expose our painful past and remove any public link to any degree of pride with some of the characters that have been involved with past events. Some, I dare say most, are justified. While protesting today’s injustices we must try to keep some kind of perspective. This nation had a painful birth. It was in the name of freedom from England’s tyranny that we sought to have a separation from them as a governing body. At the same time, we had a massive contradiction when talking about oppression but having a practice of enslaving human beings.

When Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, he examined his own practices and conscience and intended to have this document indict the King of England for creating this practice and seeking to have it ended with the Independence of the United States. This nation could not start without a unanimous vote of the colonies. Through days of debate, it became clear that the southern colonies would prevent independence unless the mention of the slave trade was removed from the document. In the interest of the unanimous vote, the passage was removed.

Independence Hall with the “mythical” scoreboard that kept the audience aware of the score.

“The right to be free comes from nature.” This quote was from Thomas Jefferson. Ben Franklin encouraged Jefferson to leave out the entire passage relating to slavery for the sake of the vote to pass. Samuel Adams said to Ben Franklin, “If we give in on this issue, there will be trouble a hundred years hence; posterity will never forgive us.”

In 2003, I was in a play called 1776. This play and movie chronicle the proposal, debate and finally approval of American Independence. It was a painful process. No country had ever broken off from the mother country before. The quotes listed above were in the play but since Sam Adams was not the main character of the play, the line was given to John Adams character and shortened leaving out the “hundred years hence” line because the authors believed that it would be too unbelievable because it actually happened.

Now here we are…over 200 years hence. We are now “posterity”. We are trying to decide whether to “forgive” the founding fathers. George Washington, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson have been vilified over recent days because they are now being identified as being in favor of slavery. They were living in a time when it was already part of a “way of life”. If they never debated it in the process of becoming a “free” nation, then I would agree that they needed to be judged a little harsher. They also became traitors to England, a crime punishable by death, in order to become a new nation. They were brave, honorable and yes, they risked the judgement of “posterity” by compromising their ideals for the sake of starting a new nation.

Statues of confederate soldiers and leaders that fought to continue the practice of slavery should be removed. Hate and prejudice will remain but as a nation we need to condemn the painful time. We have to acknowledge that as a nation worthy of the name United States, we have to come together. Our history is our history.

Turner Classic Movies will be running the movie version of 1776 starring William Daniels on Saturday. Maybe we should encourage everyone to watch it. Aside from the songs, which probably didn’t happen, this depicts what actually happened. It may give a new perspective to those who would want to demonize all of our founding fathers without putting this into context.

It’s Going Viral

If we all locked down and really did what we were told by medical professionals, we’d be looking at this in the thing rear view mirror.

This is an all too common phrase. When we see a YouTube video that we like or some other video or post and we share it, it is said to go viral. The term comes from the medical world where a virus spreads from person to person because it is transmitted or “shared” with that person. That is why households get sick, places of work get sick and it goes from place to place. We seem to be comfortable with the term when describing the Internet experience but it gets clouded when you bring it back to medicine and that is where the viral experience becomes deadly.

Medical professionals have told us that it is a virus. They have categorized it as such and understand it as such, but the disease that it causes is new and it is attacking old and young alike in many different ways. In order for it to be treated we have to deal with it for a much longer time and experiment and we are going to lose a lot of people that way. In order to prevent it, we have to find a way to trigger an immune response to the virus. This also takes time and is unique to this new virus. Medicine has only one absolute. Remove the host and the virus will die.

If we all locked down and really did what we were told by medical professionals, we’d be looking at this in the thing rear view mirror. It would have taken about a month of serious lock down and we’d be back to “near normal”. Instead, we are on the path to real devastation. This is because we have another viral load to deal with…deniers…led by the denier in chief.

He said in January it would go away and has been saying it ever since. Now, what could have been a one month shutdown if it where handled as a national emergency has no end in sight and his narrative hasn’t changed. “It will go away”, he says. In spite of all that he has said that hasn’t come true, people are believing him…and they go about like there is no threat at all. They also do something far worse. They “share” their opinion and others follow suit. The idea goes viral and so does the virus.

A Seismic Change

Yesterday I was watching a special extended news program regarding the local response to the COVID-19 outbreak. During the news broadcast there was a sudden boom and shaking of my chair, violent shaking that lasted for about 5 seconds. The government put the seismic measurement at 4.9. The news had already gone to commercial but was cut back immediately to the local anchor who was knocked off his game. He was clearly shaken up and for the rest of the broadcast there was a trembling in his voice as the tremors continued.

Just two days ago I had been hiking in the mountains very close to the center of the quake. I remember thinking to myself that just one misstep could kill me or seriously injure me. I also thought about and earthquake. The ground was rock solid. There was nothing but rock. This was unthinkable. Imagine the power to move all of this rock.

There are protocols for what happens in a quake. Emergency vehicles have to exit their structures so that they are not trapped in the event of a collapse. Local law enforcement is put on high alert and now, our cell phones send out the emergency message. Everyone knows what to do but it doesn’t make it any easier. The very ground we live on, the literal foundation of our lives has become unreliable.

This is what we, as a society are facing right now. All of the things that we held dear are now unreliable. Our jobs, our schools, and certainly our government officials have become as unstable as the ground was last night. We want to have back what we have lost. At this point, we have been so shocked at the speed that it has vanished that we miss our opportunities.

We now have the opportunity to rethink a lot of things. We can re-imagine our lives. In the war against a killer virus, we have all become foot soldiers in the battle against the pandemic. We are driving our cars less and the air is beginning to clear around our urban centers. Gas prices have come down and this could contribute to lower costs of moving goods and services around. Our ability to work from our homes has made the highways less crowded. We have all had to embrace technology just to continue to survive.

On a Hike with Mike

I have seen far too many people focus on the negative aspects of this “crisis”. I choose to look at the situation with a different perspective. I choose to consider things that I never would have considered before. I refuse to take a bias against anything as we are in a new world. The ground has moved. It may knock me down but I will get up. If the path is gone, I will make a new one. I will be a better person in the end.

The Pain

Physical pain combined with emotional and spiritual pain can be unbearable.

In 2018, when I arrived in California, I was in serious pain. I had both a DVT and a Baker’s Cyst in my right knee. I was placed on blood thinners and did whatever I could to relieve the pain. I just felt old and helpless. In march of 2018, I saw an ad for a Stem Cell Therapy Seminar. I met Dr. David Duffner and was able to chat him up at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Rancho Mirage, California. He was presenting but was experiencing technical difficulties. Two days ago, on Valentine’s Day, he was fatally shot in his office.

People go to doctors when they are in pain. Doctors have solutions for the pain that vary according to their specialty. I have had doctors work with me and been successful. Some have been unsuccessful. In some cases, they have been the cause of more pain and ill health. I have been angry with doctors. I have been angry with lawyers. Physical pain combined with emotional and spiritual pain can be unbearable. It can make someone believe that “if I can’t get rid of this pain, I must cause equal or greater pain to the person that I believed caused this pain”.

Then they take their legal gun and make a lethal choice. Common sense gun laws mean that we have to make sure that people who are taking huge does of pain medication do not have access to a gun, a driver’s license, or anything else that we seem to consider a God given right… I pray for the family of Dr. Duffner’s and hope that they can get past this event and move forward. I pray for his patients who had successful results. I imagine that there were quite a few.

Later this week, Donald Trump will be speaking in Rancho Mirage. Dr. Duffner will not be in attendance. I won’t either. Common sense and Donald Trump are don’t go together.

New Year, New Scam

Nothing like a scam to start the new year. It’s becoming way more common than you might think. Scams have a way of affecting the masses everywhere. Let’s take my day here and think of all of the scams that I encountered.

This morning, like I have been doing since November, I got up at about 5AM to prepare for my day in the stock simulator. I have been doing this for the last 3 months and I have been very excited to learn the procedures. I was getting better and better at this over the past week, but today, no. When the President attacked Iran, he put fear into more than just the Iranians. He put fear into the Middle East, the allies, and everyone connected with international commerce. The result was something that I had never encountered before. Craziness put me close to $2,000 in the hole. Of course it was play money but I am trying to develop skills and discipline.

Somewhere along this losing streak, I became aware of new activity in my online store. That is the one on this site. You can visit it if you want, but i has been disabled temporarily. You see, people started buying my stuff. They were buying my downloads. This was my original content. I was so pleased. Then…I realized, most of the transactions were being denied. I quickly realized it was all the same person using many credit cards. After briefly researching this and removing the downloadable products for now, I found that this was a way for people who had acquired stolen credit card data to find out which cards were still live and which were cancelled.

There were 7785 attempts to purchase materials using this stolen credit card data. All but 3 were denied because of credit card rejection. The total attempted crime was $80,536.35 . Yes, that’s a big number, but I was not the intended target. I was the conduit. These people were seeking the cards that “fell through the cracks” to rob individuals of far more. They are operating outside of the United States. Up until this week, all of my website traffic came from the US and China. This week, India and Australia spiked. I am angry but thankful that there were security measures in place to protect me and most of the credit card users. What about getting the perpetrators? They’re in India. Should we bomb India?

Truly the new battlefront is the Internet. If it is not misinformation regarding our politics, then it is the very real threat to national and international commerce. Foreign powers continue to abuse the naivete of American citizens aided by selfish partisan politicians who continue to ignore the fact that the failure of the government to act to lock down our electronic communication and truly defend this front instead of their own personal agendas.

It took me 3 hours to figure out and lock down my site. This is a major crime and if you are reading this, there is a chance that your credit card was used on my site. At some point during my work, the President made a public statement about his “war footing” and the stock market found some more confidence and went on a run. Surprise, surprise. I opened my trading software and I found that I left an open position on 17 shares of Tesla. It went from -$17 to +$325. At some point, I am sure that I will have to deal with the refund of $27 that actually went through on my site. My prayer is that the criminals who found these credit cards were working will immediately charge way more on these accounts. That would be tragic.

If you own a website store, lock it down. If you are alive a breathing, your information is already out there and no amount of free credit monitoring will fix that. Be vigilant. Oh…and Happy New Year.

Stem Cells and Pain

Medical marketing to a population in pain that is largely on a fixed income for the promise of pain relief through intervention that is cost effective comparatively to some other procedures is infuriating.

In February of 2018, I made a permanent move to California from New Jersey. I knew I should establish some local doctors and as luck would have it, my chronic knee pain reached levels of pain that required me to seek immediate medical help. Urgent Care didn’t have the resources to check my leg for the suspected Baker’s Cyst or blood clot, so I went to the emergency room and they were both confirmed. Since I have had blood clots in the past, a surgical option was moved to the bottom of my list and I began to pay attention to the Stem Cell advertisements that came to me by way of Facebook. I attended a free luncheon.

The information that I received in April of 2018 was very informative and I was ready to get the treatment. Financially, I wasn’t. It seems that this therapy although allowed to be performed by doctors, was still not covered by insurance. The cost of Dr. Duffner’s therapy was $6,000 and if I committed to the treatment, I would get a $500 discount. I didn’t have the $5,500 at the time, and they were willing to let me go into debt with something called Care Credit. I didn’t take it because I had enough debt already.

I limped along for another two months and met my new “family doctor” and we ran some tests. The doctor had concerns about my blood work and my family history, but he was happy to keep me on my blood thinners. I asked him to refer me to Dr. Duffner for an orthopedic followup, but I never got a call.

My leg got stronger over the next 11 months but I hadn’t been “pushing it”. I wanted to exercise to lose the weight that I had put on and improve my overall health. In May of 2019, I read the Plant Paradox by Dr. Steven Gundry. I lost 30 pounds, improved my blood numbers, and my pain in my leg all but vanished. Still, I know that I have some lurking issues in the knee. I decided to visit another Stem Cell Seminar. I figured now that it is being more advertised in the mainstream, the competition alone would bring prices more competitive. I was wrong.

Dr. Olesnicky and Dr. Hashimoto are on TV and the Internet and targeting the population of the Coachella Valley. Their costs are $8,900 for the same Stem Cell Therapy that I investigated a year earlier. The question I had was why wasn’t this covered. My choice, if I were still in pain, would be to use pain relievers. In this era of Opioid abuse, why would insurance companies be fighting this coverage and why is the cost so high? My specific therapy that was explained to me would be extracting my own STEM cells from my own fat and reintroducing them at the appropriate spot to stimulate growth. Why is the cost so high?

I now have access to money and if I were in enough pain, I would do it. I was told that this is the perfect time to do it and a person with my history of blood clots makes me a perfect candidate. Thankfully, my lack of pain gives me the ability to think it through and when I do, I get angry…very angry.

Medical marketing to a population in pain that is largely on a fixed income for the promise of pain relief through intervention that is cost effective comparatively to some other procedures is infuriating. This is a perfect fix for people who are dependent on pain relievers and the refusal of insurance companies to cover this procedure pushes patients into creating the necessity for more expensive and invasive procedures in short order. The amount of marketing through TV and Internet represents an enormous cost to the doctors and the behavior in the office makes it almost predatory. “Get this now and I will discount the procedure…” means it is already unreasonably high to begin with.

I am glad that my pain has subsided for now and I will continue to follow good nutritional practices which Dr. Gundry says will activate the STEM cells to repair damage done by inflammation over the years. He too sells far too many products that are marketed to people who want a quick fix for their weight and health issues. After reading his book, it seems to contradict what he preaches. As Dr. Hashimoto said when I asked him what the medical establishment is doing to solve the insurance issue…”healthcare is a business”. STEM Cells may be the next major step in fixing many of our medical problems…but it seems like it is just bad business for insurance to cover it. I don’t completely understand why because it seems like it would save them money and possibly lower costs to their subscribers. Oh, wait…maybe I do understand after all.

Stewardship-A Care Full View of the World

Well, this planet is not mine, it’s not yours, and it’s not anybody’s. It is here to sustain us and as such we are its caretakers.

The Amazon is burning. Why should I care? People are starving. Why should we care? The Earth is warming. What is the big concern?

We live but a small time in the ongoing existence of our planet. Humans lived only a small time on this planet according to scientists. Why then do we face such a broad array of problems from the environment to politics to social woes and why are those problems so critical right now?

It is promoted by society, particularly commercial society that we should be striving for financial independence and security. Those who have this to sell believe that those that don’t have only themselves to blame. It’s a pitch made to a world that believes that it can own something. Well, this planet is not mine, it’s not yours, and it’s not anybody’s. It is here to sustain us and as such we are its caretakers.

In church, one of the hardest topics for preachers to preach on is finances. It’s in the Bible that God owns everything. He also requires the first fruits. It’s a hard pill for Christians to swallow so it’s delivered with so much “tact” that it has lost its meaning. The truth is that it is a universal truth. We can’t own anything here…ever. Oh yeah, we can possess it for awhile, but we can’t own it. The only thing that we can own is our mindset. It is this that will cause us to destroy the very world that we live in.

I am not an owner, but a caretaker. While I am here, I have to take care of that which gives me life…my planet. I cannot be careless because if I am careless then I am just a taker. If I am a taker without giving as so many of us are…we will keep on taking until we tip the scales. I cannot be carefree because without the care I cannot be free.

As the political season continues to drag on in the US, we need to care more and not care less. When the tipping point is reached in the environment, there will be nothing we can do to recover. When the tipping point is reached in the economy, there will be nothing we can do to recover. When the tipping point is reached in international politics (aka Presidential trash talk), there will be nothing we can do to recover from the devastation.

Feeling Guilty in Retirement

I was challenged to continue to do my work as long as God keeps me in this body. This seems to be helping me to clarify my life

Everything that I always wanted…

So here I am going into year 3 of my retirement. I always got up to be a teacher very early. I can’t sleep now. I still have to get up. I get confused because there is no one telling me what to do. I can’t seem to get started on anything.

I think that the guilt comes from the fact that when I was a teacher, I knew in my heart that I was helping people. I don’t know. Service to students isn’t always appreciated but I just believed that everyone wanted just what I wanted…crazy right? Still, I managed to fool myself for over 25 years.

Today in church, during a study of Phillipians, I was challenged to continue to do my work as long as God keeps me in this body. This seems to be helping me to clarify my life. Yes, I still want to be at the pool everyday. Yes, I still want to ride my bicycle everyday. Yes, I want to make music…(this is my biggest challenge even though I was a music teacher.) The fact is that I want to enjoy it…guilt free.

I have to be productive. I have to be guilt free. I have to help people. I have to feel relevant. Maybe then, the guilty feeling will go away. I’ll keep you posted.

An Abortion Story

When the life starts growing, the ethical questions get tougher. In a culture of extremism, the answer to a question like this is difficult to find.

In the summer of 1987, my wife became hospitalized with extreme swelling and high blood pressure. She was in her fifth month of pregnancy. She had an undiagnosed auto immune disease. There are a limited number of medications that don’t cross the barrier to the fetus that may control the blood pressure.

I can still remember being called to the hospital by my wife’s nurse. I came to the hospital and my wife was crying. She had been told that there was no way to control her blood pressure and that they had to administer drugs that would be harmful to the baby and that the very presence of the pregnancy was causing her blood pressure spike. They also induced labor. Later that night, while my wife and I were alone, she spontaneously delivered a still-born child.

What I just described was an abortion. This is a medical procedure for terminating a pregnancy. This decision wasn’t made by myself or my wife. It was made by medical professionals. The doctors weren’t weighing any other political or moral questions. They weren’t worried about the legalities of the steps that they took. My wife’s life was saved, her Lupus was diagnosed and she is a mother today. This didn’t happen easily as another pregnancy ended at 7 months with the death of the fetus in utero.

Today, I have 28 year old twins who wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for an abortion performed over 30 years ago. For the record, I am pro-life. Today, I honestly believe that there are 3 lives that wouldn’t be here if the doctors had to face this decision in this environment. Abortion was a heroic intervention that needed to take place when the circumstances demanded it.

I do believe that abortion should not be treated as a casual solution for an unwanted pregnancy. I do believe that there are choices that can be made before and after sex. When the life starts growing, the ethical questions get tougher. In a culture of extremism, the answer to a question like this is difficult to find.

I recently began a new diet, well, healthy living program. It is based on the premise that all living things want to survive long enough to procreate or reproduce. Their defenses are genetic, instinctive, and rational. They protect their young from the time that they are alive. Certain plants are poisonous until they are ripe and then they become food so that the plant can reproduce. This astonished me, and gave me pause.

Nature wants us to reproduce. That’s why we have a sex drive. God proclaimed for us to be fruitful and multiply. It was Mr. Spock who said, “live long and prosper”. The living long part makes us want to fight the nature of reproducing when our sex drive is the highest. It also makes for a huge market for solutions to the fact that we want sex to be for our own pleasure long after reproduction has taken place and our ability to “perform” is lacking. We are so afraid to separate the science from the science fiction.

Extremists on both sides want there to be black letter law to justify their positions. It is wrong for all pregnancies to be treated the same. My own situation is a perfect example. It is wrong for us to treat life with such disregard as to wanting the government to guarantee that a mother can make the choice for or against a life right up until birth. These are “extremist” views and neither one can be defended in a civilized society. So what if we start there and back off to the center.

If we decide that there are no absolutes and that there is in fact a point where we have to defend the living child inside of the mother as well as the mother, then we can talk about it. We have to define birth control before conception and conception interruption after coitus as acceptable means to control an unwanted birth that may have come from a non-consensual sexual encounter. If we are unwilling to do this, then we have no business being in government.

The bottom line, for me…abortion needs to be regulated as a choice. No medical professional should ever be second guessed by a black letter law when it comes to rendering care to a patient that needs it. Finally, no person, man or woman should have so little regard for human life that they proclaim the ultimate right to life and death of a living viable human being in the name of a cause.

Search your own hearts and know…that black letter law on this subject…is extremism…and if I may be so bold…now it is state sponsored terrorism against medical professionals.

The Role of the Choral Musician

Those who are offended by the request that they refrain from cell phone use by a fellow singer should seriously consider their membership because they don’t understand their role in the art.

I have been a choral music teacher and director for many years. Now, when I get the chance, I am a singer in a choir. I may have a unique perspective when it comes to the rest of the choir membership. The issue of cell phone use in rehearsal has come up in my choir where I am a participant. Of course, the issue comes up in social media…and then there is the back and forth…and then there is the defensiveness…and, well some philosophies come out that are somewhat confusing. Still, it seems that the choral ensemble member doesn’t know what their role is in the group.

A choral music participant must be on time with their music and a pencil and be actively engaged in the choral music rehearsal process all the time. Active engagement requires all of the senses. It means watching and learning while other parts are being played or performed. Clearly, this has been a problem before cell phones particularly in high school where the typically overachieving student will try to sneak in a little homework. It is now magnified by the presence of electronic distractions.

From the director’s perspective, it is not always easy to see who is disengaged from the rehearsal because the phone is obscured behind the folder. It is easy to see from the choir chair, from the rows and seats nearby, and yes, it is very distracting.

A common level of commitment to the group means that everyone is desiring a good rehearsal situation. Those who are offended by the request that they refrain from cell phone use by a fellow singer should seriously consider their membership because they don’t understand their role in the art.

The following issues are completely irrelevant.

  • It’s not a professional/paid choir. This is a complete cop out for those who don’t want to be held to the musicianship standards that we should all be striving to maintain. Whether you are in a grade school, high school, college or church and community group, you are still singing choral music and the standard for rehearsal should be the same. The compliance might not be as growth should bring maturity and older, experienced, and more seasoned groups should be much better prepared.
  • It’s not your job to police the choir, it is the director’s job. This one was mentioned in the “we’re all adults here” commentary. I guess that the concern is that you shouldn’t bring this to the director’s attention. It is likened to the grade school tattletale. Well, there are only two choices here. Go to the director and say that you are distracted or go directly to the source of the problem. Either way, ignoring the problem is the wrong choice. That’s the “mind your own business” implication.

The choir can be likened to a team. We all need to know our role. We all need to do our job.