parallels

By way of a post-script to the last pharmaceutical post…

I perceive a similar habit of mind at work in this situation as with another. The first, with a world society pursuing an unsustainable mode of living, the predominating attitude of its people seems to be one of finding ways to shore up the gap so they can continue in an unsustainable mode of living but somehow avert disaster. There is a blindness at work here, to be sure, in failing to appreciate that continuing the very actions which create the crisis cannot be part of a sensible solution.

The second is the drug approach to mental health, as noted below. Ignoring that the totality of one’s life has brought one to a point of crisis, and seeking a drug to alleviate the symptoms whilst fundamentally performing the same activities which cause the crisis.

The parallel seems clear to me, and, although the scale is different, the key element or actor is human beings, and human psychology is present in each. It somehow smacks of the wilful ignorance of a child pretending not to have heard the adult’s warning tones and continuing to play as they please, unable to see the danger.

Earth not to be engulfed in fiery inferno

It seems the picture of the sun expanding/going nova and taking the Earth with it is inaccurate when you rejig the calculations with the latest star data and take into account the sun’s mass and gravity loss during the process…

For decades, astronomy textbooks have insisted that the Earth will be engulfed in an inferno billions of years from now as the Sun burns up its nuclear fuel and swells to become a gigantic red star.
[…]
According to the team from Sussex University, however, these calculations missed out a crucial effect: the loss of mass by the ageing Sun as it expands and its gravity weakens.

Taking this effect into account, the team found that the Earth would manage to dodge a fiery fate, its orbit expanding away from the swelling Sun.
[…]
He added that although the Earth is safe from destruction, life on the planet still faces some formidable challenges in the far future. The new calculations suggest that the surface of the Earth will become too hot to sustain human life for a few million years about 5.7 billion years from now.

Neat. I mean, not an immediate problem or solution, but somehow cosmically more positive to our little egos.

Via Technoccult.

poll #1: world going to hell


Undulating Ungulate poll #1.

Which of the following is the best evidence of the world going completely to hell?

a) English wank a thon to be televised,

b) None of the police officers in the Menezes killing are to be charged. So legally it is okay to hunt down and shoot innocent people seven times in the head due to “organisational failings” so long as you believe they are a terrorist.

c) A series of 300 islands in the shape of the continents has been created off the coast of Dubai as a secure luxury retreat investment opportunity called The World

d) World media can tell situation in Lebanon is serious because US President Bush says the word “shit“. Meanwhile, from the same tape, Juan Cole can tell Bush is an idiot because the rest of his words indicate an incredibly degraded and simplistic understanding of the situation.

e) the combination of all of the above.

Bush To Impose Psychiatric Drug Regime

Following on from our earlier posts about the harmful effects of innappropriate prescription of drugs…

Bush To Impose Psychiatric Drug Regime

The whole article is worth a close read.

Plans to screen whole US population for mental illness

According to a recent article in the British Medical Journal, US president George Bush is to announce a major “mental health” initiative in this coming month of July. The proposal will extend screening and psychiatric medication to kids and grown-ups all over the US, following a pilot scheme of recommended medication practice developed in Texas and already exported to several other states.

The Texas Medication Algorithm Project (TMAP) will serve, according to the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, as a model for the upcoming initiative. The TMAP medication guidelines were established in 1995 as an “expert consensus” based on the opinions of prescribers, rather than an analysis of scientific studies. The pharmaceutical companies who funded the scheme include Janssen Pharmaceutica, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, Astrazeneca, Pfizer, Novartis, Janssen-Ortho-McNeil, GlaxoSmithKline, Abbott, Bristol Myers Squibb, Wyeth-Ayerst and Forrest Laboratories. The drugs recommended as “first line treatment”, many of them with potentially deadly side effects, are patented expensive drugs produced by the sponsors of the guidelines: Risperdal, Zyprexa, Seroqual, Geodone, Depakote, Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, Wellbutron, Zyban, Remeron, Serzone, Effexor, Buspar, Adderall and Prozac.

More than that. The pharmaceutical companies appointed the experts and wrote the survey questions which led to their products being endorsed. The resulting model is now to be extended to the country.

And hell, with the influence of the AMA, and the global nature of pharmaceutical companies, and a “successful” scheme to point at, probably the world someday.

(Side effects of these drugs can include, say, diabetes, which the company also produces medication for.)

What could be better than extending an inappropriate response to the pressures of modern
living to the entire population so as to enslave them to expensive drugs? It may just be me but I read into this the notion of extending the use of these drugs to the population at large. A large screening program will turn up all sorts of people who suddenly need medication. I wonder if it can be made compulsory, too. Say, to get insurance.

People’s struggles with their minds are usually (IMO) a function of imbalance in their lives. A disease model for mental illness is inappropriate in the absence of a physical pathology/cause. Drugs cannot “cure” because there is no disease to fight. A better solution is to make changes in lifestyle, to engage honestly with the self and find meaning, and move towards balance, rather than to drug the crap out of oneself so as to maintain an ongoing unbalanced state causing misery. This approach is mainly pushed by those who benefit financially.

Not to blanketly say drugs are bad, here. But they should be a last resort, not least because of their side-effects, but especially because of their actual effects. We don’t need disconnected zombies, we need actively engaged humans.

Ah, ignore my ranting. Read the article and figure it out for yourselves.

(via)

the happy planet index

The Happy Planet Index is an innovative new measure that shows the ecological efficiency with which human well-being is delivered around the world. It is the first ever index to combine environmental impact with well-being to measure the environmental efficiency with which country by country, people live long and happy lives. The results are surprising, even shocking, but there is much to learn from what they show. ”

I like this idea. Riffing on the notion our values are hopelessly misplaced, corrupted by money-and-the-crap-it-buys-as-wealth centric conceptions of wealth, and promoting new ways of understanding our relationship with our lives and our planet.

By their measure, our usual quality of life country order ranking takes a bit of a spin. The industrialised nations come in well down the list – including New Zealand, checking in about 95 – while smaller nations living more in balance with their environment come out on top. However, all nations fall well short of the achievable benchmark.

It’s not saying these are happier places, per se. More about showing that “achieving, long, happy lives without over-stretching the planet’s resources is possible.”

The clearly laid out site goes into details of how they calculate their measure from life expectancy, life satisfaction and ecological footprint, and what they think it shows, and is well worth exploring for those interested.

USA going bankrupt?

According to a paper delivered to the Federal Reserve by a leading economist, the US could be going bankrupt.

Prof Kotlikoff said that, by some measures, the US is already bankrupt. “To paraphrase the Oxford English Dictionary, is the United States at the end of its resources, exhausted, stripped bare, destitute, bereft, wanting in property, or wrecked in consequence of failure to pay its creditors,” he asked.

According to his central analysis, “the US government is, indeed, bankrupt, insofar as it will be unable to pay its creditors, who, in this context, are current and future generations to whom it has explicitly or implicitly promised future net payments of various kinds”.

[…]

Experts have calculated that the country’s long-term “fiscal gap” between all future government spending and all future receipts will widen immensely as the Baby Boomer generation retires, and as the amount the state will have to spend on healthcare and pensions soars. The total fiscal gap could be an almost incomprehensible $65.9 trillion, according to a study by Professors Gokhale and Smetters.

Via American Samizdat, who link to the PDF of the paper, too.

Elsewhere on the web, Juan Cole’s informed comment is well worth a look at the moment for his coverage of Israel’s offensive against Lebanon and his ongoing lucidity on Iraq.

we feel fine montages

I’m beginning to think We Feel Fine montages could become some kind of art form. They work by stripping out lines with “I feel…” in them and attaching them to whatever image appears nearby on the page. The results can be pretty interesting.



We Feel Fine is linked on the right (under Cool), and was blogged here. My initial assessment of WFF being post-secret on crack is growing on me…

from a paper clip to a house in one year

Over the course of a year, a guy has sequential traded items, starting with one red paperclip, for something else, ending up with a house.

It began when MacDonald, an aspiring writer, doer of odd jobs and apartment dweller, advertised in the barter section of the Craigslist Web site that he wanted something bigger or better for one red paper clip. He traded it for a fish-shaped pen, and posted on Craigslist again and again.

Roaming Canada and the United States, he exchanged the pen for a ceramic knob, and in turn: a camping stove, a generator, a beer keg and Budweiser sign, a snowmobile, a trip to the Canadian Rockies, a supply truck and a recording contract. Next, in April, he got himself really close, obtaining a year’s rent in Phoenix.

This can probably only work once, but it is some kind of genius.

As is an inflatable space hotel.

Less genius is Microsoft stopping support for Windows 98. So I guess anyone running 98 should just go download linux for free and have ongoing free support and upgrades.

psychedelic research clawing back into mainstream acceptability

And about time, too. (There’s been a bit of a trend in the past few years for psychedelic research to get funded. I should find the links…)

In a study hailed as a “landmark” a whole bunch of middle aged people with no psychedelic experience took psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) or placebos in a controlled setting. Significant percentages reported incredibly meaningful, life changing spiritual experiences, on the psilocybin.

That experience included such things as a sense of pure awareness and a merging with ultimate reality, a transcendence of time and space, a feeling of sacredness or awe, and deeply felt positive mood like joy, peace and love. People say “they can’t possibly put it into words,” Griffiths said.

These comments seemed just unbelievable to the head researcher, while oddly being old news to the endless anecdotal experience of enthusiastic psychonauts.

Even two months after taking the drug, pronounced SILL-oh-SY-bin, most of the volunteers said the experience had changed them in beneficial ways, such as making them more compassionate, loving, optimistic and patient.

Drugs are bad, m’kay?

Two months later, 24 of the participants filled out a questionnaire. Two-thirds called their reaction to psilocybin one of the five top most meaningful experiences of their lives. On another measure, one-third called it the most spiritually significant experience of their lives, with another 40 percent ranking it in the top five.

The sad thing is, people have been raving about the wonderful potential of these drugs for decades… check out Erowid on my links sidebar as the best (IMO) free source of information on how to take drugs safely… because you want to know what you’re taking, what it will do, and how to create the best experience possible by having an appropriate set and setting.

(Ooh. This is being reported everywhere.)

secret war, or, the modern siege

Okay, so the “West” has been mounting a secret war against North Korea since 2003, consisting of a quasi naval blockade and financial sanctions, or a modern siege, all ostensibly aimed at preventing proliferation of WMD. It’s unclear whether they can choke the regime completely ( and whether or not that is a good idea, either) via these means. The article is pretty interesting, getting into why even Bush realises attacking North Korea won’t work without hundreds of thousands of casualties (discounting civilians!)

A PROGRAMME of covert action against nuclear and missile traffic to North Korea and Iran is to be intensified after last week’s missile tests by the North Korean regime.

Intelligence agencies, navies and air forces from at least 13 nations are quietly co-operating in a “secret war” against Pyongyang and Tehran.

It has so far involved interceptions of North Korean ships at sea, US agents prowling the waterfronts in Taiwan, multinational naval and air surveillance missions out of Singapore, investigators poring over the books of dubious banks in the former Portuguese colony of Macau and a fleet of planes and ships eavesdropping on the “hermit kingdom” in the waters north of Japan.

[…]

“Diplomacy alone has not worked, military action is not on the table and so you’ll see a persistent increase in this kind of pressure,” said a senior western official.

That’s interesting if not surprising.

What surprised me is that apparently New Zealand is part of this.

Britain is a core member of the initiative, which was announced by President George W Bush in Krakow, Poland, on May 31, 2003. British officials have since joined meetings of “operational experts” in Australia, Europe and the US, while the Royal Navy has contributed ships to PSI exercises. The participants include Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Italy, Spain and Singapore, among others.

There has been almost no public debate in the countries committed to military involvement. A report for the US Congress said it had “no international secretariat, no offices in federal agencies established to support it, no database or reports of successes and failures and no established funding”.

Does anyone know anything about this? Specifically, what involvement we have? And why?

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