Groucho Marx

Blog Archive – February 2007

Click here for translations

“ Since it is now physically and metaphysically demonstrable that the chemical elements resources of Earth already mined or in recirculation, plus the knowledge we now have, are adequate to the support of all humanity and can be feasibly redesign-employed [...] to support all humanity at a higher standard of living than ever before enjoyed by any human, war is now and henceforth murder. All weapons are invalid. Lying is intolerable. All politics are not only obsolete but lethal. ”
R Buckminster Fuller

“ You do not become a 'dissident' just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career. You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society. ”
Václav Havel

February 11 2007

A time to break silence

"At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in [the country we are fighting] and to understand the arguments of those who are called "enemy," I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in [the country we are fighting] is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among [the people of the country we are fighting], and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.

"Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of [my deity] and brother to the suffering poor of [the country we are fighting]. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of [this country] who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and death and corruption in [the country we are fighting]. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves [this country], to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.

"This is the message of the great [religious] leaders of [the country we are fighting]. Recently one of them wrote these words, and I quote:

""Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of [our people] and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. [The country invading us is] forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that [their leaders], who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of [the country invading us] will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism."

"If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in [the country we are fighting]. If we do not stop our war against the people of [the country we are fighting] immediately, the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horrible, clumsy, and deadly game we have decided to play. The world now demands a maturity of [this country] that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in [the country we are fighting], that we have been detrimental to the life of the [people of the country we are fighting]. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways. In order to atone for our sins and errors in [the country we are fighting], we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war."

Incidental and largely irrelevant contextual details of this speech:
Date of delivery – April 4 1967
Spoken by – Martin Luther King Jr
[the country we are fighting] – Vietnam
[this country] – America
[religion (of country we are fighting)] – Buddhism
[my deity] – God

February 11 2007 | | | Permalink

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“ It is becoming ever more obvious that it is not famine, not earthquakes, not microbes, not cancer but man himself who is man's greatest danger to man, for the simple reason that there is no adequate protection against psychic epidemics which are infinitely more devastating than the worst of natural catastrophes. ”
C G Jung

“ We have failed to grasp that when we do not protest and demand an end to atrocities committed in our name, something trips in the deep-brain cynicism of the governing psyche, which takes heart from the passivity it finds and devises more ways to control and enforce its will. ”
Henry Porter

“ Ambition is a gilded misery, a secret poison, a hidden plague, the engineer of deceit, the mother of hypocrisy, the parent of envy, the original of vices, the moth of holiness, the blinder of hearts, turning medicines into maladies, and remedies into diseases. ”
Thomas Brooks

February 10 2007

Bird flew

Whoever had the brilliant idea to attach the customary annual Asian flu scare to birds has certainly seen it take wings and soar. Now it seems it's got legs as well. Since its first appearance in Autumn 2005, the fantastical idea that humanity is about to succumb to some super-flu virus which is about to jump species from birds to humans and wipe out up to 150 million of us has not only grabbed the public imagination, but government coffers as well. In figures announced 2 days ago, Roche Pharmaceuticals, subsidiary of Swiss-based multinational Roche Holding AG and manufacturers of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu, has seen net income soar to £3.7billion in 2006, a rise of 34% on 2005's figures.

To put this in perspective, Roche's net income was greater than the entire gross domestic product – that is, the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year – of the bottom 73 nations of the World Bank's 183-nation rankings in 2005. (The parent company's revenues exceeded the GDP of 119 of those 183 nations.) When you consider that a substantial proportion of this was on the strength of a mere fantasy that has no basis in current reality, only an unproven theoretical possibility of coming into being, and probably no better odds of happening than any of the other disaster scenarios we regularly entertain our imaginations with, the sheer lunacy and obscenity of our collective gullibility in the face of these druggernauts becomes all too painfully plain (not to mention the hypocrisy of our societal attitudes to illegal drugs cartels).

For a grounded and thorough examination of the avian flu question, see the article Avian flu - the ecology of an epidemic from the archives of the Ecologist magazine, which is no less relevant today than it was when written in December 2005. And for a depressingly plausible reason for the US administration's enthusiastic participation in the flu promotion circus, see Dr Joseph Mercola's comments.

Who would believe so much money could be made from selling illusory "protection" against an illusory threat? To anyone familiar with astrology, this has all the hallmarks of the Neptune archetype. It seemed worth checking out.

The astrological chart for the event (below) is extraordinary. It fell within an extended period during which conflicting forces in the shape of fixed squares, crosses, yods, and other configurations were severely disrupting many people's equilibrium. The original announcement of the putative "epidemic" was made by Dr David Nabarro at the UN on September 29 2005. Note how retrograde Neptune, the planet of illusion and deceit (and also drugs and addiction), is the focus of the chart. Neptune was in loose opposition to both Saturn, giving inner fears outer structure and form, and the Moon, allowing illusion to play on unconscious fears and emotions and people's sense of security. (In a chart such as this, the Moon also represents the people as a collective.) With the Moon and Saturn in Leo, there's an element of control and domination in these aspects. Neptune was also in loose trine to Jupiter, magnifying its effects, exact to Mercury, maximising its effective communication, and again loosely to the Sun, giving it power. The Libran colouration of these 3 planets lent apparent balance and respectability, as did the aura of scientific detachment attaching to this most Aquarian of illusions.

Of themselves, each of these aspects had the potential to manifest in a positive as much as a negative light, but squaring Neptune, Mars (stationing before turning retrograde 2 days later) opposed Venus, each in the sign of their detriment, creating heightened tension and distortion fueled by big ambitions (Mars in Taurus) and excessive desires (Venus in Scorpio) and much potential for manipulation. Neptune septile Pluto invited greater ungrounded irrationality on a global scale than at any time since it last happened during the 1930s, which saw the rise of Fascism and other totalitarian regimes. Pluto inconjunct Mars indicated an obsessive, domineering and aggressive attitude towards work matters, and Pluto in trine to the Moon a self-assured confidence and inner security, coupled with great insight into the inner unconcious motivations of people, magnified by the presence of Jupiter in sextile to each.

It hardly seems necessary to go into any more detail, but when we do, there are additional levels of emphasis and illumination. Neptune was in direct opposition to Dark Moon Lilith, a theoretical point representing the negative unconscious, which was conjunct the asteroid Nemesis, the Achilles' heel or source of the problem. Mars, representing the will and activating principle of the chart, was conjunct the asteroid Pandora, which scarcely needs an explanation. Saturn was in exact opposition to within one minute of the asteroid Arachne representing intrigue, entanglement and entrapment.

Most eloquent of all is the Sabian symbol for Neptune's degree (15° Aquarius). "A big businessman at his desk."

Astrological chart for bird flu announcement

An annular solar eclipse occured 3 days later at 11° Libra, trining Neptune. In her book, Predictive Astrology: The Eagle and the Lark, Bernadette Brady notes that this particular eclipse is one with "immense power, anger and force ... huge obstacles will suddenly and easily clear". Since solar eclipses are meant to take effect for as many years as minutes the eclipse lasts, the influence of this one is due to hang around until early 2010. Looking at this chart, it's really no wonder this illusion has become so pervasive and so powerful. It's almost tempting to wonder if Roche Pharmaceuticals employ an in-house astrologer ...

February 10 2007 | | | Permalink

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Hatching komodo dragon Comet McNaught over Sellick's Beach, Adelaide, Jan 24 2007. Photo © David Summerhayes

Comet McNaught over S Australia.
Photo © David Summerhayes

February 05 2007

The Second Coming?

In the latter part of January, an unusual event occurred at Chester Zoo in the UK. Five of the eggs laid by one of the zoo's female Komodo dragons last May hatched out. Two fertile eggs still remain in incubation.

The event was unusual, not so much for the hatching of the dragons in captivity, but for the fact that the dragon embryos were produced parthenogenetically. The female dragon responsible, named 'Flora', has never been anywhere near a male. When three eggs collapsed soon after transfer to an incubator, they were sent to Liverpool University for genetic fingerprinting, which confirmed that Flora alone was the parent. All 5 hatchlings are males, the only possible result from parthenogenetic reproduction in these lizards, but are not exact clones of Flora.

Komodo dragons are the largest lizards in the world and renowned for their intelligence, as well as for eating the odd human. There are thought to be only 4-5,000 left in the wild, surviving on Indonesian islands such as Rinca, Gili Motang and several of the Lesser Sunda Islands, including Komodo and Flores. The creation myths of the first human inhabitants of Komodo, the Ata Modo, tell how man and lizard came into being when the female deity Putri Naga gave birth to twins: one child human, the other a Komodo dragon.

Dragon conversations

Just before Christmas, Chester Zoo's Lower Vertebrates and Invertebrates Curator Kevin Buley announced the imminent hatching, together with the publishing of a paper in Nature which he co-authored with scientists at Liverpool University and London Zoo. He quipped "We will be on the look out for shepherds, wise men and an unusually bright star in the sky over Chester Zoo."

Christmas came and went. Then around the end of the first week in January, Comet McNaught became so bright it was visible to the naked eye. The comet swung by the sun between January 12th-14th, going on to appear in the Southern Hemisphere and develop a magnificent tail clearly visible over a 30° arc at sunset. On January 15th, the first of the baby dragons hatched.

So now, following the appearance of a comet in the sky, we have a virgin birth ...

The last two lines of W B Yeats' poem The Second Coming spring to mind ‒
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Tongue in cheek? You decide. It certainly doesn't appear to be quite what certain right wing Christian fundamentalists are anticipating ...

February 05 2007 | | | Permalink

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Vitamins

“ There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true. ”
Søren Kierkegaard

“ An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it. ”
Mahatma Gandhi

February 03 2007

Desperate Dan

On January 16, the New York Times published an essay by author Dan Hurley entitled "Dietary Supplements and Safety: Some Disquieting Data." The essay makes for unsettling reading.

Hurley writes:

"Since 1983, the American Association of Poison Control Centers has kept statistics on reports of poisonings for every type of substance, including dietary supplements. That first year, there were 14,006 reports related to the use of vitamins, minerals, essential oils – which are not classified as a dietary supplement but are widely sold in supplement stores for a variety of uses – and homeopathic remedies. Herbs were not categorized that year, because they were rarely used then.

"By 2005, the number had grown ninefold: 125,595 incidents were reported related to vitamins, minerals, essential oils, herbs and other supplements. In all, over the 23-year span, the association – a national organization of state and local poison centers – has received more than 1.6 million reports of adverse reactions to such products, including 251,799 that were serious enough to require hospitalization. From 1983 to 2004 there were 230 reported deaths from supplements, with the yearly numbers rising from 4 in 1994, the year the supplement bill passed, to a record 27 in 2005."

He goes on to elaborate, breaking down the statistics according to the number of reported adverse reactions, hospitalisations and deaths linked to vitamins, minerals, herbs, homeopathic remedies, etc. "Homeopathic products, often marketed as being safe because the doses are very low, were linked to 7,049 reactions, including 564 hospitalizations and 2 deaths."

To any complementary medical practitioner and user, and anyone who purchases and uses dietary supplements, this article is worrying. But not necessarily for the obvious reasons.

At the end of the essay we read "Dan Hurley is the author of the new book ''Natural Causes: Death, Lies and Politics in America's Vitamin and Herbal Supplement Industry'' (Broadway Books), from which this essay is adapted." In his research for the book, Hurley (a regular contributor to the "Science Times" section of the New York Times with 15 years’ experience as a medical reporter for publications ranging from Medical Tribune to Family Circle and Psychology Today), claims to have spent nearly two years reviewing studies and court cases, speaking with politicians and public-policy experts and interviewing physicians, pharmacists, nurses, toxicologists, epidemiologists and public health officials, as well as victims and their families. His analysis of 23 years of data from the US Poison Control Centers was what was extracted from the book to form the basis of the NYT article.

However Michael Levin, a healthcare consultant who has served in executive positions in both pharmaceutical and dietary supplement businesses, was suspicious of the figures. Levin immediately researched Hurley's claims and promptly wrote to the New York Times. His letter has not been published but the full text of it is available here on John Weeks' The Integrator Blog.

He writes:

"Mr. Hurley's essay regarding the safety of vitamins and dietary supplements was, indeed, disquieting. He referred to "a national database accumulating strong evidence that some supplements carry risks of injury and death, and that children may be particularly vulnerable."

"In examining that database ("2005 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers' National Poisoning and Exposure Database", Lai, et al, Clinical Toxicology, 44:803-932, 2006), it became clear that Mr. Hurley's "disquieting data" is wholly misleading and utterly unfounded. His bias is reflected in the fact that he did not disclose to his readers that the statistics he cited included suicide attempts, multiple drug use and events related to children's misadventures in the household medicine cabinet.

Hurley, in his NYT essay, attempts to pre-empt the obvious riposte from the dietary supplement industry by arguing:

"Advocates of the products correctly point out that the poison centers' figures do not prove a causal link between a product and a reaction and that, in any case, far more people are injured and killed by drugs. Painkillers alone were associated with 283,253 adverse reactions in 2005, according to the poison centers, more than twice as many as with supplements. But only 3.5 percent of those reactions occurred when people took the prescribed amount of painkiller; most were from overdoses, either accidental or intentional. The same was true of asthma drugs (3.6 percent of reactions were associated with the prescribed dose) and cough and cold drugs (3.1 percent).

but apparently fails to apply the same logic to his own analysis of the data on supplements and alternative treatments. Levin writes:

"Regarding deaths from all causes: Dr. Lai, et. al. reports "of the 1,261 human poisoning fatalities reported, 89.6% of adolescent deaths and 76.6% of adult deaths (older than 19 years) were intentional" (page 811). Clearly, the vast majority of deaths were deliberate acts which have absolutely no reflection whatsoever on the safety of the products involved when they are used as directed or prescribed."

and goes on to break the data down further, showing in each instance the extent of Hurley's manipulation of the figures.

While it would be ludicrous to suggest that alternative medical techniques and treatments and dietary supplements are incapable of causing adverse reactions, or that those participating in the dietary supplement industry and alternative medical practice are all as pure as the driven snow – every area of life, without exception, has its ethical and unethical representatives and practices – sensationalist articles such as Hurley's do nothing to advance the cause of evidence-based medicine. The New York Times (not to mention The Lancet), once regarded as a publication of integrity and reliability, has clearly been co-opted into promoting agendas which have nothing whatsoever to do with reliable, robust science.

Yet the attempts of the medical mainstream to discredit alternative and complementary treatments are beginning to look more and more desperate. It's heartening to see that for all the extensive resources being thrown at these exercises, the truth still manages to find its way out somehow.

February 03 2007 | | | Permalink

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