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Welcome

NP Journal for experimenting with ideas, Copyright © 2011-2018 LJ Frank. All Rights Reserved. 

 

Narrative Paths Journal

“We think we know but have yet to discover.”  Thomas Aquinas
“Narrative Paths Journal is a literary magazine focusing on new philosophies and ideas.”  Uriél Dana

 

NP Journal for experimenting with ideas initiated 6/2011 within the context of experiences – rooted in treks, voyages, studies and work. The access, integrative content and design of the journal are evolving with the goal of enhancing the reader’s experience.

The views and opinions expressed in the Journal are those of the individual authors. 

Impressions and visits to date: 2,250,000+ from over 100 countries and regions.

 

CONTENTS

About Us

Brief overview of  the vision and people who offer their insights and expertise. Includes a list of NP Journal Group & Contributors: editor, assistant editor, guest columnists, writers, poets and photographers.

For comments, suggestions, questions, being a guest columnist, interviewee or photographer: Contact: L J Frank at narrative.paths@gmail.com

Announcements

Introductions and links to evolving ideas, philosophies, trends with both narrative and poetic reflections on diverse issues.

Interviewees, columnists and other contributors may list their publications and presentations – books, articles, book signing events, links to periodical, radio, television, YouTube, theater and film productions, talks, speeches, other programs and performances.

Art

Includes some of Frank’s works of abstract expressionism. Numerous works are on display in business, professional offices, non-profits and private homes.

Guest Column

We welcome guest columnists/contributors. Please note: We like to experiment with ideas and explore different philosophies, topics and trends. We offer links to your online sites, updates to your writings/publications, social media presentations. Guidelines for the length of a written article – up 1500 plus words, give or take. Much depends on subject matter and author. Photos, videos, film, You Tube, podcasts, art works, cartoon drawings and other formats are welcome. Contact us for questions, suggestions or comments.

Current: Inspiration by Angie Sanchez

Inquiries

Philosophical approaches in essay and occasional poetic format to a variety of artistic, cultural, literary, political, religious, scientific and social matters. Current: The 1930’s Downstream, a poetic inquiry L J Frank

Interviews

Strives to offer insightful and thought-provoking observations of varying lengths in areas that are engagingly diverse and leaning towards the paradigmatic. Current: Race, towards an understanding, Interview with Vanessa Holloway.

NPJ Book Review

Books from the past to the present reviewed within the inquisitive, exploring nature of the journal. All reviews are by L J Frank unless otherwise noted.

Publications 

“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”  Lao Tzu, Daoist philosopher

Preview listing of L J Frank’s published books with links to retail availability. Frank is also ghostwriting and currently working on manuscripts.

Rhythms

Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home — Japanese poet, Matsuo Bashō

Contrasting shapes of experiences, ideas, dreams and thoughts primarily in the form of experimental poetry, short essays and conversations.The words amusing, romantic, disquieting, nonlinear, rhythmless, obscure and existential are a few of the descriptors for these jottings.

Index

Links to archived Contributors, Announcements, Guest Column, Inquiries, Interviews, NPJ Book Review and Rhythms.

NPJ Briefing

The Briefing includes updates on Visitors by country, region and union.  Also, includes the Publisher’s Log.

Please send Comments and Questions about N P Journal to the attention of L J Frank at narrative.paths@gmail.com

 

How do you ride the wave of Inspiration? 

In Greek mythology, there were nine daughters or Muses who some scholars believed to be the primordial Goddesses of Uranus and Gaiea. Other scholars suggested they were the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne. Regardless, the daughters were considered the Goddesses of Inspiration. They affected a variety of areas in Science, Arts and Literature.

In our modern world, the energy from the word muses still carries on in words such as, “music” “the muse” “museum” “amused” and I am sure you could think of more. 

Just like The Muses, the spirit of inspiration lives within each of us if we but reserve moments to tap into the inspiration. Some like to say feeling inspired is living In Spirit or Flow.  Perhaps that is true but think about it. All the things we see and experience today were once just a thought until someone felt inspired to create it.

So, what ideas are you having recently? If you feel inspired then the energy to manifest it into this reality exists within and is waiting for you to hear its rhythm as if it was knocking at your door. It might be as facile as being aware of those around you for they may be feeling and sensing the same thing. Knowledge and inspiration depends on each of us.  It is both a concept and an act.

So how does one ride the wave of inspiration?

It’s simple, by taking action! Whenever you get an idea, take action. That action might be writing it down first because the idea or thought will eventually leave you as new information bombards your mind every day through social media among many other influences.

 So as you breathe in the ideas take time each day to jot them down. You might not be the person to give birth to a particular idea, but you hold a piece of the puzzle that may help someone else. Ideas build on each other and serve as inspiration as they affect the importance of our relationships.

 My thoughts are not new ideas, they are the culmination of study, self-examination and experience. Each of us has an opportunity each day for a fresh beginning and the inspiration we gain can in turn serves as an illumination for others. Our own humble self-awareness assists in our inner peace and that in turn affects the entire world around us.

I am transitioning to living and breathing en femme. The hormones I inject are rapidly transforming my skin; hair, body fat distribution and my breasts are already a full B cup. New feelings and emotions flood my thoughts and senses. Things once familiar, now viewed with a different perspective. Moving through social situations and public life as a teacher call upon my utmost attention to my presentation as female. I am glad that I can do this and be “passable.”

There has been some attention drawn to the term ‘passable’ as tacit approval of the sexist, male generated vision of what a woman should look like. Although, I agree that transgender women should be able to dress, act, and appear, as they will, personally I feel much safer if I am ‘passable’ in public. This is a reality that some of us find quite disarming in this hostile social environment.

As hostile as it can be at times, I truly see real change in social values. I see greater acceptance of transgender women. There has been a backlash against the trans-haters and the anti-trans vitriol being spewed by public figures and religious leaders. The average person may know a trans-woman or have some familiarity with the concept of what it is to be transgender. All of the attention both positive and negative will have a normalizing effect over time. This I can be sure of. The transgender movement is in much the same place as the lesbian/gay movement was 30 years ago. Over time, being lesbian or gay became socially acceptable and tolerated. Therein lies my hope for trans-people.

I am transitioning in a turbulent period in our shared history, true, but I am not alone. I have a voice. We have a voice. Our voice is getting louder as more trans-women assert their rights as individuals. Our voice is getting louder as we find more allies in our lives and in media.

I am very fortunate to have found not only a staunch ally, also a loving, kind man who respects me as transgender and loves me fiercely. We live together and we have slept in each other’s arms for over two months. Our bond has gone from just physical attraction to a love relationship. Our bond is strong and he is not ashamed to be with me in public because I am trans. He is proud that I am transgender and he has told his friends and family just that. We tease each other about marriage and love like any cisgender couple would. We inhabit a very special and rare place in our culture as a couple with a trans-woman and a straight, cisgender man. We both realize this and prize our time together. Life is good.

*Transsexual teacher/activist/lover of languages/anthropologist  (Medium.com)

Image for Writings

Credit: Jean Philippe-Cypres, photographer

 

A black and white photograph

alone on a dresser without clothes

in an empty clapboard house

the genes of a forgotten past

a period in history filled with hurt,

the forlorn captured

in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.

 

The wind howled across the fields

a dustbowl shattered lives

tattered garments covering

skeletons

of humans in used trucks and cars

as they made their way west;

“Damn fat rich bastard” an Okie shouted

as the banker took his land.

 

Protectionism was the password

a Republican Congress

Hawley Smoot Tariff narcissism

made law earlier

but it was just a symptom not a cause

isolationism and protectionism

was the viral disease

as the rich got richer

and the poor sought relief

a sign alongside the road read:

”This is your country

don’t let the big men take it away

From You!”

 

“This is the breadbasket of the world

but we’re starving,” an old man moaned

his suit coat worn through at the elbows

two days without food and tears in his eyes

sitting on the curb of a city street.

 

The polarized became increasingly angry

fighting amongst each other

power resided in those who controlled

the debt

for the common man was the pawn,

even when the child cried, “mommy it hurts,’

the other’s point of view seethed and spit

though empty inside

where the darkness dwells,

and the love of God was missing

in the middle of a cold night,

“Stranger these are tough times

and don’t I know it,” a weary faced man finally stated.

 

“We never saw it coming but we should’ve

it was staring at us in the face,”

said a woman whose silk stockings

were decorated with holes.

 

“I’ve been through hard times,

but not like what’s coming”

and Woody kept singing

…”the hard working folks have done something

that the bosses, his sons, his wives,

his whores and his daughters have failed to do…

they sang their way through the whole dirty mess.”*

 

And the crowds of men and women out of work

walked passed stores vacant of affordable goods

ghostly haunted banks money withdrawn,

and those with wealth lurked in the shadows

while those without felt the ache on their backs.

 

And oil was spread over hogs and other beasts

shot and dumped into rivers along with food,

“Best not to feed the hungry and lose money,”

the owners stated,

while too many children of Man were admonished

for simply asking: Why?

 

The downstream of a generation lost

under the rubric

the beginnings of the scripture of prosperity

while the Social Gospel was speeding into the past,

and loathing and hurtful words were repeated

civility loss

“why should I pay a preacher

to make me feel guilty,

when I can do that all by myself

without charge,” was a familiar echo,

to purposefully change thinking

means to rewrite the past

so as to comply with the now

and still people followed like sheep

it was too much to think about

besides the trains ran on time

at least for the politicians.

 

*from Woody Guthrie, A Self-Portrait (an exceptional work)

 

The male population is what we read about when we view what’s going on in “The war on drugs and the war on crime”, which we are learning is more of a war on minorities and women.

Did you know that women are filling up our jail cells? Did you know that most of the women behind bars are mothers? Did you know that most of these ladies are single parents, having sole responsibility for their children that are left behind? Minority women are affected by this “war”. It’s a war on women, that we are beginning to recognize that is not only unfair and unjust but that also sets limits on these same women, these same sole providers from being able to apply for help within the system, in both welfare, child support and drug treatment programs.

A perfect example is the recent comments made by President Trump’s present attorney, Rudy Giuliani, when he remarked about Stormy Daniels and her line of work. He stated he had no respect for women that work in the adult film industry, yet he defends a man who has used many women in that same industry, the man who sits in the highest office in this country. A blatant and ignorant double standard comment, and the typical attitude concerning women and people of color made by the former mayor of one of the most, if not the most, diverse cities in the nation.

Women are one of the fastest-growing segments of the prison population. From 1970 to 2015, the number of women in prison grew by approximately 1,000 percent. That is tragic statistic. And although the U.S. accounts for 5 percent of the world’s female population, it also represents 30 percent of women imprisoned.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics there are 8,500 women in federal prisons on drug charges, 24,700 in state prisons and 27,000 in local jails. Sixty three percent of these women have not been convicted

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics.6 Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2016.

Mothers of minor children make up 60 per cent of women in prison. Two-thirds of these parents are incarcerated for non-violent offenses, a substantial proportion of which are drug law violations. More than 5 million children (one in every 14) have a parent who is or has been incarcerated. The racial disparities seen in the incarcerated population replicate themselves among the children left behind: by 2008, one in nine (11.4 percent of) black children, one in 28 (3.5 percent of) Latino children and one in 57 (1.8 percent of) white children had an incarcerated parent. Eighty four percent of parents in federal prison and 62 percent of parents in state prison are housed 100 miles or more from their children. Pregnant women who are incarcerated for drug law violations often do not receive prenatal care. Children are routinely separated from their imprisoned mothers, causing irreparable damage to the child.

Sources: Bureau of Justice Statistics.18 1 Bureau of Justice Statistics, “Female prisoners under State or Federal jurisdiction,” Corrections Statistical Analysis Tool, www.bjs.gov.

Aleks Kajstura and Russ Immarigeon, “States of Women’s Incarceration: The Global Context,” (Prison Policy Initiative, 2015) http://www.prisonpolicy.org/global/women/.

Ibid. 4 Carson, “Prisoners in 2015,” Table 9. 5 Prison Policy Initiative, “Women’s Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2017” https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2017women.html Source: Western and Pettit, Pew Charitable Trusts, 2010.

Prisons and jails commonly use restraints (handcuffs and shackles) on women in labor and during delivery, regardless of their histories. According to a 2015 shadow report to the United Nations Committee on Torture, “Only 18 states have legislation in place that restricts the use of restraints on pregnant inmates, 24 states limit the use of restraints on pregnant inmates only through institutional policies, and 8 states do not have any form of regulation at all.” Washington DC and the Federal Bureau of Prisons have also banned or restricted this practice, which the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposes because it puts “the health of the woman and fetus at risk.” The long-lasting penalties and exclusions that follow a drug conviction have created a permanent second class status for millions of Americans, who are often banned from voting, getting a job, securing a student loan and accessing housing or other forms of public assistance, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

A 2013 report found that more than 180,000 women have been affected in the twelve states that maintain a full lifetime ban for people with drug convictions. Due to the extreme racial disparities in drug law enforcement and sentencing, these collateral consequences disproportionately affect women of color.

Our society still today has a limited understanding of the inequality that women truly suffer, regardless of the #metoo movementIt is as important to educate the public to speak up with courage and conviction about the injustices and social stigmas that are inflicted upon all women. #metoo.

New World by Kathryn Thompson

 

Your large hands travel across
and around
the curves of my soft body,
your fingers trace a gentle glowing pleasure,

 

a curled, knuckled wake still trembles

 

long

 

after your touch has gone,

I can hear your breath,

honey tonal,

hear the moans.

our juices spread, sucked and licked.

Outside and closing the owl hoots

while we
bound by our history, finally entwine

 

upon the hallowed mattress of love.

The trickster smiles,
our hearts, red, dark suns, chthonic,

 

outside and closing the raven caws

 

as your fingers, like grace greet my skin
seeks the well,
spreads the lips,

 

and whisper profanities like a holy prayer,

outside and closing

the wild cat, upon the roof top, keens into the night.

 

My kiss
is just a shadow away, from the rise of your chest

 

I inhale your vulnerability,
breathe warm light upon our shared breath,

 

in you I seek extension,

seek solace, seek completion

 

and you will remain until I shrivel and slip from your sepaled embrace.

Hold,

don’t permit the diminishing,

 

the buzzing upon the liminal
the ritual upon the dream
the shining of stars, straining to align.

 

This chamber of tides,
I hold in the name of our love,

 

and outside and closing
the wild cat keens, the raven caws, and the owl hoots,

 

you the wingless angel, the only mortal,
to know my love.

 

The Gods always demand that I taste you first

… each and every time.

 

* An over-educated expat Brit, artist, poet, writer, etc, living in the Northern Territory, Australia (28 yrs with brief interlude of 2 yrs in New Zealand). Worked in Aboriginal education at the Red Centre for 25 years. Currently, working as a counselor and therapist.

Scribes, Scripts and Books, The Book Arts from Antiquity to the Renaissance by Leila Arvin (1991)

This work effects curiosity. I took a course decades ago from Professor Leila Arvin. Her research was always intelligent, thoughtful, in-depth and complex with invaluable insights. In the preface of the work she sums up two idiosyncrasies she possesses: “chutzpah and courage of imperfection,” which she acknowledges was coined by the existential psychologist, Rollo May. And, I like imperfection.

I found the professor to be an eloquent, quirky and engaging intellectual. She states when she undertook this “work of passion” (my words) that “I have written this book to gather the scattered information on writing and the handmade book into a continuous history, whose progress has been determined by the principles of tradition and change.” Her aim was in effect …to demonstrate just how these principles “have determined the form of the Western book from ancient times to the age of printing.”

The overview is extensive. This is a scholarly reference tool, not a coffee table work, though it may appear as such. Whether it’s cuneiform tablets, the Hebrew book or Egyptian book, etc., there are details for the curious to consider in this age of digital books.

One example of a detail worth noting: The Egyptian book was the papyrus scroll. “In addition to serving as a writing surface, papyrus provided Egyptians with raw materials for boats, sails, shoes, clothing, rope, mats, fuel, even chewing gum and its roots were eaten by the poor.” Now this may be the interesting part for some readers, “The Egyptians leave us no instructions for transforming the papyrus plant into a writing surface.” Or at least no directions that archaeologists have found. The same could be said of other things such as pyramid building. One would think a high technology civilization would leave instructions. Then again it might require an engineer to translate an engineer’s how to instructions. Perhaps it was such common knowledge that people would shrug their shoulders and say even a child knows the answer regarding papyrus (my speculation).

Of course this is but one small example of the voluminous number of examples the author provides. Another example, is when she discusses the Greek and Hellenistic book and notes: “Just as Greek script came from the outside world, so did the major materials for making books. Ironically, but not illogically, while her literature endured, most classic Greek books did not.” Whoever has the raw material is in effect a major player.

Latin works and codices and so forth are also covered. The description of scribes, where and how they worked and the time spent in the scriptorium is insightful.

In summary, this remains an exceptional historical overview/reference tool and a path for further research. It’s the kind of work that you drink from, so to speak, to be savored and compared to other emerging wells of knowledge.

The American presidency is an expanding fault in which it is now descending. The fault is both a chasm of political illiteracy and a chasm of weakness. It increasingly appears as a moral defect and failing that elected Donald Trump into the highest office of our country, the office of the President. We allowed this to happen despite being fully aware of this man’s manipulative behavior and transgressions of human dignity.  We allow him to continue despite his many weaknesses, his frenzied, irresponsible and reckless tweeting, his inability to lead this country, and some of us who are supporters continue to do so despite the direction that Donald Trump is taking this country.

The Trump Administration mimics a fracture in the crust of this planet accompanied by a displacement of one side of the fracture with respect to the other in a direction parallel to that fracture.  That fracture is “We, the People”

There is no argument, no excuse that can change this description. No matter how biased an individual or group is or becomes, this act of defiance within our own country has legitimized live-in conditions that are comparable to a Third World country. The question is whether the polarization is irreversible.

We have people living under dire conditions.  Take a good look at our city streets, littered with a homeless population in the richest country in the world.  Take a good look at areas like West Virginia where the oil and gas industry write its own laws, the teachers are among the worst-paid in the nation, and the Opioid epidemic has reached peak levels.

Therefore, we need to ask who President Trump really is?  We all know his blank promises about making America great again.  We also all know that he refers to people as “animals” when he speaks of immigrants and sanctuary states, such as California.

Because Donald Trump was elected president he is responsible for our issues, and he took on that responsibility when he was sworn into office. There is no more “past blame” that he systematically and continuously uses to excuse his inability to obliterate any of our requests.

I read, with interest, in The Washington Post the following,  “The slippery inexactness of Trump’s language is often ascribed by his detractors to the deficiencies of his verbal skills and his lazy tendency to return again and again to the same stock words and phrases. Trump’s admirers frequently cite his use of the English language as key to his success in convincing so many that he is not a traditional politician. After all, the way in which he uses the word “animals” is drawn from common street-corner or barroom talk. It’s not a usage he invented.”

This is a language of a far-right universe. It’s not conservative. It’s authoritarian. Words have effects just as the use of the word, terrorists. Language can seduce our youth and align them with white supremacy.  This is the message he sends to our sons and daughters.  They become his supporters and true believers. His goal is to dehumanize others by referring to them as “animals”, the press as “fake news” to destabilize and fill emptiness with a sense of belonging to making America great again. It’s the extremes and meanness that are distressing.

Trump made those awful statements at a White House gathering last Wednesday because California officials opposed to what Trump, in his introductory remarks, called “deadly and unconstitutional sanctuary state laws.” They offered, President Trump said, “safe harbor to some of the most vicious and violent offenders on Earth, like MS-13 gang members, putting innocent men, women and children at the mercy of these sadistic criminals.”

We all know that we are a country of immigrants that came here and stole the lands of the native American, but sometimes we must be reminded.  We must make sure that our children and grandchildren understand that.  It is up to us to make sure that history, the history of this country is not lost in the abyss of this fault we now suffer from, and we do suffer.

 Donald Trump is the epitome of dishonesty, he is purposefully deceptive, unpredictable, and erratic.  He is a showman, a TV star, a real estate mogul that is still working like he is on a reality show, but this is our show.

Those of us that are members of the “baby boomers” generation, that Donald Trump was born into, grew up quickly, during a time of war, a time of protest, a time when we sang ” Give Peace a Chance”. We were convinced we could change that world. We witnessed the assassinations of our young president, JFK, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy…….and to this day, we don’t understand why those tragic events were meant to happen.

Fast forward to 9/11…devastation took hold of us, a nation of sadness, a nation filled with pain. Yet, we continued to love one another, to connect, to help each other mend, to grieve, and then tried to rebuild what we had lost with our broken hearts, and so much suffering. Still, there was no peace.

This is an important part of history, one that must not be forgotten.  We elected our first black president, Barak Obama.  We elected out first woman to run for the highest-ranking office, Hillary Clinton. Are we back pedaling in our strides to create an environment that is worthy for our upcoming generations?

Peace and Love remain in our angry hearts, but if we remain angry, we will find no love, we will have no peace.

And that, my friends, is our fault and the chasm of darkness in which we will descend.

Evil in Modern Thought – an alternative history of philosophy by Susan Neiman (2004)

My read – this is an intellectually profound inquiry. Sitting on my bookshelf and consulted from time to time, more so as of late. How much time do we have? What is evil? Where can meaning be found? In a post–truth world sliding irrevocably into varied forms of authoritarianism how do we get a handle on the moral and seemingly natural evil that envelops us. There is no escaping evil. The study of evil perhaps is the beginning of philosophy itself as the author observes.

But what is evil? We can point to evil people in history such as Adolph Eichmann in terms of human cruelty like Auschwitz. We can then proceed through history with endless examples in every country and place on earth.

Professor Neiman’s thought provoking study lies with the philosophical challenge of evil. In other words, evil threatens if not negates human reason in a world that might otherwise make sense.

For Neiman “evil is not merely the opposite of good but inimical to it. True evil aims at destroying moral distinctions themselves. One way to do so is to make victims into accomplices.” Listening to recent events in Jerusalem and the violence brought about by the United States moving its embassy there and blaming victims as accomplices for their plight may be considered as an example of one form of a moral evil. Other examples include slavery, torture, terrorism, starvation, nuclear bombs, greed, etc…each thought of what is evil leads to another example.

The author reviews the thoughts of the philosopher Pierre Bayle, among numerous others. “And to imagine a God who judges many forms of life He created to be sinful, then tortures us eternally for our brief participation in them, is hardly to imagine a solution to the problem of evil. Positing a God who may permit infinite and eternal suffering is of little help in stilling doubt about a God who clearly permits finite and temporal suffering.”

The pages of human history overflow with evil in all cultures and the people who are punished and left unpunished. The Spanish inquisition, the Holocaust, terrorist acts like those that occurred on September 11, 2001, and the thousands of obscene acts of cruelty throughout history or major natural events like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and surges in the oceans. Nether God or nature appears to be concerned. Why do people suffer from evils? Is evil, like sin, merely a word invented by humans to arrive at some understanding of human suffering and misery?

Professor Neiman considers “philosophy’s response to the Holocaust as a final moral evil, concluding that two basic stances run through modern thought. One, from Rousseau to Arendt, insists that morality demands we make evil intelligible. The other, from Voltaire to Adorno, insists that morality demands that we don’t.”

Neiman describes Hannah Arendt’s reporting of the Eichmann trial concerning Auschwitz. “For Arendt, neither German war crimes alone nor possible Jewish complicity in them was on trial. What was under indictment was Creation itself.”

The author goes on to observe, “evils can be acknowledged as evils without insisting that evil has an essence. Our inability to find something deep that is common to the mass murders committed by terrorists and the starvation furthered by corporate interests does not prevent us from condemning both. Thinking clearly is crucial, finding a formula is not…Debates about which blend of moral and natural evil is worse will lead us nowhere. “ The author adds, “I write this in the fear and knowledge that either could destroy us all.”

This “alternate history of philosophy,” is not a fast read. It’s a long-term study balanced with self-examination and question, digested within both historical and contemporary knowledge. It’s a necessary read for anyone wanting to know more about the nature of evil in modern thought.

Upon reading Neiman’s work I’m reminded of Voltaire’s words in the final paragraph of Candide. “That’s well said,” replied Candide, “but we must cultivate our garden.” Is it that simple or that complex?

Image for Writings

Credit: Jean Philippe-Cypres, photographer

A query: How many Congressional finance Bills are written by corporate lobbyists? Who stands to benefit the most?

The most recent sweeping tax reform:

“To provide for reconciliation pursuant to titles II and V of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2018” (or as Senator Bernie Sanders points out: 13% Middle Class Tax Hike, 29% Cash for Corporations, 47% Trillions for Billionaires, 11% Medicare Cuts.) The bill’s title was shortened to – The Tax Cuts and Jobs act. Interesting.

The value of tax cuts?  Doesn’t evidence demonstrate that corporate tax cuts do nothing for shared growth? Where is the empirical evidence to show a correlation between tax rates and economic growth? The economic drip philosophy?

“U.S. corporations have been raking in the profits since the Great Recession ended just over eight years ago. After-tax profits hit a record seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.86 trillion in the third quarter of 2017. And totaled more than $13 trillion since 2009. As a share of gross domestic product, after-tax profits have averaged 9.6% over the past eight years, by far the highest in the 70 years on record. See the work of Rex Nutting, Market Watch.

Is the reason that corporations don’t need capital any more because “profits are based on intangibles, such as computerized information, IP, network monopolies, and other forms of monopolization? Tangible investment like property isn’t where the primary action is.” (see: Capitalism without Capital, The Rise of the Intangible Economy Jonathan Haskel & Stian Westlake)

Or as suggested by a number of economists, when corporations go public, the purpose is not to raise capital for investment. Rather, it’s to – reward the founders with immeasurable personal wealth. The large tech companies are piling up mountains of cash because they have no place to invest it.  Similarly, the most important use of profits these days is stock buybacks–a definite sign that corporations have no idea of how to profitably invest the money.

At what point does an individual of enormous wealth and power have enough wealth and power? (Remember, corporations are also flesh and blood individuals under the 2010 US Supreme Court ruling, in fact corporations have more rights than the ordinary individual – unlimited spending on political issues and lobbying benefiting them.)

Back to my first question of who were the writers of this Bill? The question more precisely is which players are benefiting the most?

*Wasis Diop song in the 1999 version of the Thomas Crown Affair, “Everything Is Never Quite Enough.

Ideas with consequences: The Federalist Society and the Conservative Counterrevolution (Studies in Postwar American Political Development) by Amanda Hollis-Brusky (2015)

Impartiality? That word comes into mind and the question surrounding it, upon perusing this scholarly work. The atmosphere whether in a judge’s chambers or in the halls of Congress or the offices of the US Supreme Court – there’s been a distinct change over the past few decades and it continues. The line between politics and policy and law is blurring. Context: There’s a harshness that’s been developing in the daily life of politics and the law and the public square. Lives are disrupted and distrust sets in while polarization rises. What are the downstream effects of judicial decisions and policy making?

Perspective depends I suppose on how close you are to the action or whether you have been paying attention to the decisions being made by district judges and politicians affecting your daily life.

Power. Who has it, why and how is it used. During the first years of the Reagan administration Yale and University of Chicago students created an organization as a response to what they perceived as the left of center liberal view of law schools and justice in the country. The agenda was to move the discourse from the training and credentialing of lawyers to the judicial system itself to the right if not far right. The society eventually grew to 40,000+ lawyers including judges and policy makers and a number of the wealthiest corporate leaders among others.

This is a thought-provoking, scholarly, exhaustive work and the author treats the subject matter in-depth and even-handedly. Her research / bibliography are quite substantial and remarkable.

The state of “justice’ in the United States is disconcerting. More right of center judges are appointed for life in district courts across the country. Judges were once vetted on their impartial views and non-political credentials. Today that has changed.

Interestingly, former Pres. Obama’s selections for district court and a “center oriented” Supreme Court justice opening was/were routinely blocked by a Republican Congress influenced by the Federalist Society, leading to the most conspicuous – Mr. Gorsuch’s appointment under a Republican president. There are four Supreme Court Justices who are members of the Federalist Society (Chief Justice Roberts, Justices Thomas, Alito and Gorsuch.

From a citizen perspective watching a district judge or Supreme Court justice making a ruling one might ask do they fully understand the downstream effect of their decision? Yes they do. Entire generations are affected: When police enter a house without a search warrant based on a suspicion or misplaced rumor, when a corporation is treated like a flesh and blood human being with an individual’s rights, when an elderly man in debt is imprisoned because he can’t pay a bill, when campaign finance is held in secret by private interests for public control, when gun control issues are so blurred nonsensical arguments develop, when abortion rights are based on politics not on a mother’s emotional and physical health are made policy, etc., etc…the list is lengthy. Are the human and humane issues obscured to divide and conquer? The judges understand. Decisions are made based on partiality. The former impartial center is now considered “left.”

Another example of partiality: A Supreme Court justice (and member of the Federalist Society), invites a lawyer (also a member of the Society) to present their case before the court. The Federalist Society in effect become “gatekeepers” of lawyers securing a position within the judicial system and what cases will be heard and supported. That’s called influence. The posture of the Society is to create an alternate elite who “controls” the reins of power.

This is an important book for understanding how the US Constitution and “Originalism” is being translated and how the district court system that affects all of our lives is a primary vehicle for the Federalist Society perspective on how we think, act and live. Freedom is a politicized word that ultimately depends on how much money you have.  The book is a useful reference tool to be consulted and reread and compared with other studies.

I woke up in a fog unsure of where I was.  The lights were bright and I could hear people walking around and talking quietly. I couldn’t make out what they were saying.

My strength dissipating, my body sought sleep. My eyes closed sending me back into a dream like state.  Was I in an operating room? Had they performed the costly liver transplant that I needed?  Even with Medicare there would be many out of pocket expenses and years of expensive anti rejection drugs that would surely put me deeper in a “Black Hole” where only a shadow of light might escape the gravitational pull of mounting debt. I dreamt I was gasping for air or was it real?

After a number of struggling attempts I finally woke enough to realize I was in a hospital recovery room and had a titanium rod inserted in my femur, hip to knee.  Then memories of the fall in my garden came back and the neighbors who had gathered to help and the ambulance ride to the hospital and the excruciating pain.

After three days post surgery in a hospital lying flat on my back and drugged sufficiently I was moved to a rehabilitation center for 2-3 weeks of physical therapy and skilled nursing care.  I was totally out of control of making any decisions so my daughter and son took charge of my care.  I was transported to the rehab center in another ambulance. This was a private for profit facility that accepted my Medicare unless my money didn’t take care of it.

I tried to make my stay there as pleasant and positive as possible even comparing it to a cruise…meals provided, a gym and beauty shop and a room with a big window and cleaning service.  The ocean had to be imagined. I rationalized.

The nursing staff, both registered and technician appeared very over worked on 12 hour shifts.  The technicians did their best to see that basic needs were met including a shower every other day if time permitted.  The RN’s kept up with medications.  Physical and Occupational Therapists spent three one hour sessions a day with me.  They were awesome and overworked with circles around their eyes in the name of profit.

Still the fear I felt as I was wheeled into this institution was palpable.  I was on a lot of pain medication still so I was in and out of reality.  When lucid I could feel and smell and taste the depressive surroundings…the reality of the elderly,  the incompetent and incontinent and incurable with empty looks and hollow eyes doomed to a forever life here.  A life counted not by months or years but by when the next meal was to be served.

When I was on enough drugs it was easy to sleep my way through chunks of time but with horrible dreams and hallucinations.  Twice I was found on the floor in the middle of the night.  The staff believed that I fell out of bed.  I knew in some altered mental state that I was trying to escape.   Somehow the pain medications I was taking caused a bad reaction and since my liver wasn’t metabolizing them I went into severe psychosis.  I was sent back to the hospital for two days of detoxification.

After that back to the rehab center for another week of PT before being discharged.  I am now able to walk again but am still trying to clear the cobwebs from this nightmare out.

This particular chapter of old age ailments is thankfully behind me.  I am a little more than fearful of what lies ahead.  There should be a better way…a better way than dark brown double rooms with limited personal space.  A better way than spending all of your time in bed or wheeling your chair around the gloomy halls.  A better way for permanent residents who disappear into themselves when no one comes to visit. A better way than showering when someone has time to help.  A better way than waking up each day to the depressing sameness as the yesterdays spent here. A better way than watching for profit health care companies making fortunes off of our misfortunes. A better way than losing total control of the remaining future.

Is this the only country that treats the elderly as income and the only country that enjoys large profits from our aging and ailing population? There has to be a better way.

Detroit, An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff (2013)

I really didn’t want to read this book when it was first published in 2013. I’ve been putting it off. I was born in the inner city of Detroit. After a brief stint at St. Mary’s Hospital established by the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul on June 9, 1845, the place under another name was demolished in 1990. It was rubble for a while which brings me to LeDuff’s story. It’s gritty, bleak, uneven and a vivid portrayal of a city called Detroit named by French missionaries in the 17th century. It’s a restless city, at times bustling with the automotive industry, other times decaying like a body at the bottom of an elevator shaft in an abandoned automotive plant. If you’re black or poor any one, it tastes like hopelessness.

I grew up in the inner city through my elementary years which makes this scathing, insightful, witty, expressive and heart rendering drama in part, all the more poignant.

Intolerance, graft, human loss, shattered dreams, racism, lack of money, the blasphemy and violence of poverty, the breath of hope, homelessness, and race riots (Detroit is the only city where thousands of federal troops had to be sent in on three separate occasions and occupy the city – 1863, 1943 and 1967). It’s a city known for its sports, bars, cars and more freeways once used as an escape out of the city now slowly a movement toward returning since LeDuff wrote this memoir (his book is part autobiographical).

Still, Detroit in 2018 is a tumultuous place that appears on the edge of hope and hopelessness depending on the cash you have in your pocket. Poverty still remains substantial as it is in other cities as does high unemployment and higher under-employment; buildings torn down are slowly replaced with inner city cropland. Hope comes in the form of people doing the moral and ethical thing – from a fireman, a cop, a judge, a teacher…the list is long. Every one that comes into contact with the city has a stake in its survival even if it’s at a casino.

The author writes like a novelist…and this book has the slight feel of a war novel…. the city has experienced the disease of institutionalized racism, religious intolerance, corporate and political corruption and greed in it’s history…times change…flickers of hope come from the human heart mid the tragedy and comedy of the city, a person and a people find a way of coming together or perish. There are some parts of the city that feel like a refugee encampment and other parts are hollowed out structures that once housed families. The despair is real. The solutions are more provocative.

Yet, there’s a glimmer of light for Detroit but on some days it seems rather distant. It’s being rebuilt. The author’s autopsy of Detroit is also one of possibilities. Detroit is seeking not a reincarnation but an awakening in the present moment.

Body by Kathryn Thompson

With each embrace

there is no distance between us

and yet we hold the space of the whole cosmos,

indefinable.

Each one of us,

a thought in the mind of

the ocean of perception.

Our minds

our hearts  yearn to name

what we feel,

to be loved, to be known,

each

 

is the power we need,

 

folded into one another

 

we hold the future shared

 

together

 

is to gather

 

like a wave, a tide, the ebb and flow

 

we make the land

of tomorrow from the

 

beautiful yearning of

 

each

 

drop

 

* An over-educated expat Brit, artist, poet, writer, etc, living in the Northern Territory, Australia (28 yrs with brief interlude of 2 yrs in New Zealand). Worked in Aboriginal education at the Red Centre for 25 years. Currently, working as a counselor and therapist.

I love Terpenes, they are one of my favorite subjects to talk about. The terpenes found in Cannabis are especially fun to discuss. First, what are they? Terpenes are component of a plant and essential to their own built-in defense center. They are natural pesticides and miticides and act as a communication tool for plants. That is why feeding your soil and making sure that you provide all the proper nutrients is so important

In nature, terpenoids serve a variety of purposes, of which is defense and signals as the key agents in the metabolic processes.

Terpenoids have been used for fragrances, cosmetics and medicine for thousands of years and are still extracted from their natural sources today.

One of the best aspects of cannabis is the scents and flavors associated with the various varieties of the plant. These compounds known as most plants produce terpenes as a defense mechanism communicate chemically with other living things by what we now know as organic chemistry, because plants and animals produce such a diverse range of chemicals. There are over 120 different types of terpenes that can be expressed by the cannabis plant, although some are only found in trace amounts.

Terpenes make up between five and 10 percent of the total oils that are produced in the trichrome glands. Although they are constantly being produced, they’re easily vaporized by heat and daylight throughout the day, making the morning an ideal time to harvest.

When cannabis is grown in different soils or with different fertilizers, some strains can produce different variations because they are classified into primary and secondary metabolites. This is what adds the fragrances and physical effects and is also partially responsible for the kinds of effects that are induced by different strains of cannabis.

Here are some of the most common terpenes found in the Cannabis plant:

Limonene is much like its name, as it is a citrus terpene that smells like lemon and orange and is used for stress and moods disorders. Limonene also has cancer fighting properties.

A common cannabis flavor is the natural taste of pine needles, which comes from the pinene terpene. Investigations into the chemistry of pine components have made invaluable contributions to our understanding of carbocation chemistry. It has allowed us to discover that this terpene can also be used as an expectorant, topical antiseptic and bronchodilator.

Borneol smells like menthol and is known to be calming and to relieve stress. Borneol is mainly utilized in traditional Chinese medicine.

Myrcene is a kairomone produced by the ponderosa pine. This earthy and musky scented terpene can also be found in bay, ylang-ylang, wild thyme, parsley and hops. It is famous for its sedative effects, and for reducing pain inflammation. You will find may topical applications use myrcene.

Another sedative terpene, linalool produces a flowery fragrance. Aside from promoting relaxation Linalool is widely used in patients suffering from seizure activity.

Delta– 3-Carene has a very sweet and cedar aroma but is more importantly used to dry excess fluids like tears, running noses and excessive menstrual flow. That is what causes red eyes and cotton mouth when using Cannabis.

Found in the eucalyptus plant, and in many of the herbs that we cook with, eucalyptol is a balancing and stimulating terpene that gives off a spicy and minty aroma. Medicinally, it can be used to increase circulation and relieve pain as well. Eucalyptus can be rubbed on the soles of one’s feet to relieve symptoms of a cold or flu.

These are the most frequently used in essential oils and are often referred to as caryophyllene and humulene. Humulene is also very widespread in oils such as sage, ginseng and ylang-ylang. Beta-caryophyllene is a terpene found in cannabis. This terpene is among those that has been known to ease pain and can be used medicinally as an anti-inflammatory.

Humulus lupus, cannabis also produces high amounts of this sesquiterpene, as hops and cannabis have similar traits and fall into the same taxonomical category called Cannabaceae.

And last, but not least, terpineol is one of the major characteristics of the many essential oils found in plants. It has a sweet aroma and is used in different fragrances. The process by which nature produces the chemicals it needs is biosynthesis. The infinite variety of terpenoids produced in nature is such an elegant process and is amazing when we view the wonderful universe that we live in.

From Fascism to Populism in History by Federico Finchelstein  (2017)

Finchelstein, Professor of History at the New School for Social Research and Eugene Lang College in New York City offers brilliant and provocative ideas and insights into the nature of fascism and populism and the historical underpinnings and connections.

He notes in the introduction, “Fascism as a term has the uncanny ability to absorb any new event in a way that obscures its meaning and history.” He offers numerous examples of fascism’s nature from a historical context. The first chapter, “What is fascism in history?” He begins with the genesis of fascism in northern Italy in 1919 and Benito Mussolini and being ‘”rooted in the ideology of the anti-Enlightenment, fascism was not only a reaction against liberal politics and a rejection of democracy.” The author  revisits the roots, the entanglements and downstream effects of the workings of fascism. To say it’s complex is an understatement. His thoughts are quite accessible and stimulating, whether one agrees with him or not.

In chapter two the author delves into the question of what is populism in history? He states that, “ Populism is an authoritarian form of democracy that emerged originally as a post war reformulation of fascism.” He then offers in-depth examples . The author maintains, “fascism and totalitarianism are key parts in populism’s long history, and the ways in which populism has been and continues to be used are not limited to its origins.”

He begins the third chapter by observing, “Dictatorship is one of the foundations of modern populism, but populism is not dictatorship. In the context of the early Cold War this paradox played out in modern populism’s renunciation of dictatorial rule, which in turn created a new, authoritarian regime form of democracy.” He explores the observations and interpretations of other scholars on populism and its relation to fascism.

Though today’s populism is not fascism, from the author’s perspective, what exists today is “a revamped authoritarianism that transformed the dictatorial tradition of classical fascism into an anti-liberal and intolerant form of democracy.” America today is viewed in his words, “as arguably populism’s most stunning incarnation.” Its roots are in fascism and transformed into authoritarianism. Today’s populism is historically and genetically linked to fascism…”One might argue an heir to fascism – a post fascism for democratic times, which combines a more narrow commitment to democracy with authoritarian, anti-democratic impulses.”

Oligarchy, elitism, racism, intolerance, bigotry, misogyny, anti-Semitism are symptoms of a deeper anti-democratic, fascist/populist malaise beyond traditional left and right labels.

This is a fascinating, accessible, thought-provoking study by a scholar who is passionate about his subject and the complexities and historical trajectories of fascism and populism. There are a large number of other works on both fascism and populism from Jon-Werner Muller to Cass Mudde, etc. Finchelsteins’s work synthesizes the scholarship and inspires this reader to look even deeper. This is a timely work. The social and political implications are enormous and troublesome especially in light of our technologies that continue to outpace human relationships on a fragile planet.

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