Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Looking Death Right in the Eye

Last week the city of San Francisco announced the future plans for upgrading the Golden Gate Bridge with a suicide prevention net.  Its about time; considering it is the most popular suicide spot on the planet!

Between 1937 & 2012; over sixteen hundred bodies were pulled out of the bay resulting from self termination.  In just the first six months of last year 88 people chose to end their life right there on the bridge.  The 240 foot drop to the water has a 98% kill rate.  The announcement of the suicide net went on to say the "net" will be made of stainless steel mesh and located some 20 feet below the walkway.  The given logic was that suicidal people want to end it all, not break a few bones in a non-lethal fall, so they'll go elsewhere.  Nice to know the city prefers to make life harder instead of helping them.
I hope they will at least fix the suicide hotline phone on the bridge in the upgrade.

Teenagers and young adults under 30 are the most frequent jumpers; no doubt inspired by depression, despair, disillusionment and unbearable emotional pain.  In a good many of these cases the lack of coping skills drove people to seek the most permanent solution to a temporary problem; so they took the leap and became just another statistic for all who never knew them.

I think we have become "comfortably numb" to death; what with its daily dominance in the news across the face of our little blue world.  We've had to harden our hearts more and more just to continue functioning in an increasingly dysfunctional society.  When it comes to death we tend to avoid thinking about it until we're staring it right in the eye. 

"Its Only Life After All"
  ~Indigo Girls~

It's all about LIFE; that which we prize above all else, indeed that which encompasses all else.  Without noticing it we can get complacent and slip into a mindset that takes life and our participation in it for granted...that is until a close call on the interstate or some other impacting event snaps us back into reality. 

Just such an event came crashing into my personal reality a few months ago when my best friend broke the news that his wife has an aggressive and fast moving cancer. 

Ivan & Martha were literally among the very first people I met upon moving to California 17 years ago.  We use the term kismet when speaking of those with whom we feel exceptionally strong ties that go deeper than just being friends.  It's like that with the three of us.

You know how very often the spouse of a good friend is just part of that friendship?  This ain't like that at all. The very first thing I noticed about Ivan and Martha is that they are what I call authentic people; not counterfeit, phony or aloof in any way.  They are both strong and dynamic individuals; and I consider myself to be double blessed to have each of them as a friend.  I like to think that I have distinct, separate and individual friendships with each of them; as well as with them as a couple.

While Ivan pursues a career in technology and engineering, Martha has made a career in the hospitality industry; and is employed at one of the areas premier upscale Inn's with a Michelin Star chef and an international reputation.  Every other week Martha would tell me about meeting this celebrity or that famous person at work.  Knowing my feelings about the man, she wisely waited till he'd gone to tell me Trump had recently been there.

Martha is one of those people who is always smiling, always has something positive to say about nearly anything, and who is always making you laugh at her wit and wisdom.  She is also a virtuoso in the kitchen being an accomplished nutritionist and cook.  She eats right, lives right, runs the Human Race marathon every year, and works out at the gym twice a week.  Probably the healthiest person I know, and absolutely the very last person on earth to deserve getting cancer.  Upon learning she would have to undergo chemotherapy sessions, her immediate response was to change her hair color from brown to purple, just to put the cancer on notice!

I had my own bout with cancer a few years back, but I don't call myself a cancer survivor because it was skin cancer, and on my big Roman nose.  A few passes with the laser scalpel and it was gone, leaving me with a disfigured nose and yet another harrowing trip to the VA hospital.  I didn't have "real" cancer; the kind that takes over your life and feeds off your hopes and dreams as it eats you alive. 

A little over a year ago the upstairs apartment went vacant at the same time Martha and Ivan were looking for a new place.  The entire time we've known each other we've never lived in the same town, always 30 to 40 miles away, so I didn't get to see them as much once I traded my truck for a wheel chair.  Having them living upstairs is great, especially at times like this when family draws closer together.  They're my adopted family.

When I first learned of Martha's cancer diagnosis I was actually more Godsmacked than if it had been me getting the Big C.  I get almost daily updates on Martha and it seems like a whirlwind that won't let any of us catch our breath for a minute.  I fixed her up with a tablet full of movies for when she was at chemotherapy, something to keep me from feeling utterly helpless & useless in her darkest hours.

I must have prodded Martha to write a blog just enough times, because last week she took the plunge and began a blog for family and friends to keep us all up to date, etc.  I always suspected she would be a good writer, and none too surprised to see I was right.

"I've been informed by my OBGYN Oncologist that my cancer is not ever going away, I will always have this cancer and inevitably I will die from it.  It's aggressive and is growing at a rate we need to control, and then maintain with the right treatment."

 Having recently finished chemotherapy, Martha now has three different treatment paths ahead, and must choose which one she feels will be best.  Actually her choices are down to two different clinical trials, and trying a different kind of chemotherapy.  She feels chemo didn't help before so that its a last ditch option for her now.  So she must pick one of the trials to take part in. 

"The decision is actually very hard. I am in panic mode, what if I don't do the right treatment?  What if the cancer gets more advanced than it is after I begin treatment.  I am literally trying to beat the clock, my cancer is growing; causing me issues and pain I can't describe, (please don't ask me to)"

From the day Martha was diagnosed I've been watching my two friends deal with this turn of events; seeing in each of them, strengths previously untested, and a steely eyed determination to fight back against this cancer with dignity and love.  Martha has accrued a following of friends numbering in the hundreds who know her from work, the gym, or where ever.  Being such a social person, who loves people; she in turn is loved and admired by every one of them.

"I want all of you to know I am Okay.  I am still strong, positive, me and moving forward.  Please respect my wishes and don't tell me things I already know, or try to sway me to something not medically proven, I am all about a healthy lifestyle, believe me."

Beyond my own minor brush with skin cancer I've really never had such direct exposure to it, and feel totally helpless most all of the time.  What I can do is to keep sending her lots of pure white light, saying that she should apply as/where needed.  It is most difficult to see someone you love go thru this process and to feel totally helpless; wanting to do anything that you know will help. 

This Woman just can't catch a break

Every time there has been a glimmer of hope or good news, it seems to go south.  Every time I get an update from Ivan, the news is a bit darker and harsher than what we all wanted to hear.  The hope throughout the chemo process is that the cancer would go into remission, removing the need for harsher measures such as radiation.  Chemo didn't work, and now my friend is running her own Boston marathon; in a race for life itself, staring death right in the eye every day.

 For someone as socially active as Martha, having to be homebound is like a prison sentence on top of having the cancer to deal with.  I know a little something about that what with having lost the use of my legs to atherosclerosis three years ago, and being essentially homebound ever since.  We share this nice duplex house on a steep hillside full of redwood and hemlock trees.  After a while of not being able to leave the property, all those trees begin to look more like prison bars than anything else. 

"Another thing I must ask you not to say to me is that I am going to beat this. (I don't mean to offend) I am so overwhelmed with advice and false hopes as I am truly running this hard core race.  I just ask for your support at this time."

When I read the words above I felt really bad, because I have been telling her from day one she would beat this.  It wasn't just idle chatter to sound positive.  Martha is a very strong willed and dynamic person who is normally very positive and optimistic.  She knows the power of positive thinking and how to use it, so when I read those words I knew she has crossed the Rubicon.   Martha is doing this strictly on her own terms, not backing down an inch.  I think there is a distinct difference between "giving up" and accepting reality as it is.  There's no quit in this lady, and no denial either...just a ton of dignity.

"I may never see the finish line, but I can keep track of my miles and just keep going at my own pace; starting over if need be, and helping others on my path."

I mentioned that helpless feeling; of not being able to do anything to help someone we love who is undergoing a life threatening challenge.  It is our human nature to want to help; but we must temper that with the wisdom that in such times people are going thru what is in their spirits highest and best good; for reasons we may never get to understand.  When Martha is the focus of my prayers I always ask source and the universe to align my energies in harmony with her highest and best good, and the journey she is on.

Before they moved in upstairs I didn't get to see my friends very often, and for a little over a year now that has changed, as Martha keeps insisting on having me up for dinner and socializing a couple times a week.  That has changed too now, as she is having more bad days than good regarding the pain and discomfort she experiences.  She can still get out and about pretty good, just not every day like is her normal.  When I do get to see Martha; I can see in her eyes what this cancer is doing to her.  Martha's body is being consumed by this ravenous disease, but her eyes tell me it will never get as much as a taste of her soul.

It isn't so much about ignoring the cancer as if it wasn't there.  It is more about not allowing it to take over your life and become all of what you are about.  I've had one or two close calls with death, but never was tested by having to stare it down every day upon awakening like Martha is doing with such grace and dignity.
"In about 6 months my organs will start to shut down;
 so I really don't have the time to waste."

I got to visit with Ivan for almost an hour early last night; Martha had just fallen asleep despite the pain she was in.  He brought me up to date, and it was the first time I heard him use the word terminal when speaking of Martha's cancer ... it kinda shook my soul a little ... I wasn't ready to hear that despite knowing it, as he does.

I've lost friends to cancer before; but I've never been this close to the day by day living thru it with someone...never been in the loop before.

Ivan returned upstairs when we heard Martha up and moving about; an hour later he texted me from the hospital.  These late night runs to the hospital are like a minefield for hope.  You just get to harboring and nurturing some optimistic, hopeful thoughts about remission and seeing your friend be another cancer survivor; then its another midnight run.  They were still there this morning, she was admitted last night.

Not knowing is the worst.
and waiting, its also the worst.

Every day it seems we have people being shot dead on facebook, and in Fresno, for no reason beyond an expression of insanity.  In a very real way we are all, every last one of us, looking death right in the eye whenever we leave the safety of home and venture into this increasingly insane world.

BART trains held up due to a suicide threat at a 'terminal,' another tormented soul turned away from the golden gate.  How very surreal it is to see some people so despondent they can't wait end their life while watching another fight with everything she has to keep hers.  Wouldn't you think life is so precious that each of us has an equal respect for it? 

~The Fukushima Factor~

Talking about death and having cancer makes some folks uneasy, so does talking about Fukushima radiation pummeling the Pacific coast for six years now; but when our beaches are lined with the corpses of hundreds of whales & sea lions and with the incidence of cancer in the population of western states steadily rising - it's time to talk about it.  Even if we can do nothing to alter this reality, talking about it is still better and healthier than just ignoring it.

Just in the last two years I can recall Ivan and Martha telling me about the number of folks they know who have also come down with cancer where they used to live.  What does the federal government do in the face of all these rising cancer cases?  Why they increase the minimum safe levels of radiation exposure, of course.  As for myself, well I'd already lost about all the hair I was going to years ago; but nowadays when I brush my hair, the brush comes away full of hair.  Lots of hair.  So that's just another confirmation. 

If you live in the west, do you sometimes get a momentary sharp pain or burning sensation thru torso shoulders and feet?  Do you get unexplained little micro-headaches only lasting seconds, a few times a week?  If so there is an excellent chance those are hot particles from Fukushima zipping thru you.  Now you know.

Whether it be from global warming, Fukushima, or the Trump presidency; whether it comes slowly or quickly- we're all looking death right in the eye!  Death is the one great equalizer. We're all in this thing called life together, and none of us will get out alive; the only thing that matters is how we meet that inevitable end.  When we do stare death right in the eye will we do so in abject fear, or with a degree of dignity?

© 2017 full re-post with permission only

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A Nation of Sheep

By now most of you have likely heard of what transpired on a United Airlines plane in Chicago  yesterday: when a 69 year old doctor was beaten by airline security, then manhandled and physically dragged off the airliner.  It seems the airline had a fully booked aircraft when it was discovered they needed four additional seats to transport four United employees. 

Initially the airline offered up to $800 dollars to passengers willing to take a later flight.  There were no takers, so they decided to let the computer pick four people at random to leave the plane.  Three of them took the hike like peaceful little sheep and deplaned without complaint.  The fourth however, Dr. David Dao had to get to Louisville to treat his patients; and refused to be put off the plane.

It was at this point that the security goons were instructed by someone to physically remove the gentleman from the aircraft; and they did.  He was struck in the mouth and began bleeding from the lip as they dragged him like a duffel bag down the aisle of the plane.  Dr. Dao suffered a concussion, a broken nose, and lost several teeth in the brutal removal process. 

Yes everything about what happened was reprehensible; especially the reaction, or lack thereof, from the remaining passengers.  On the cell phone video taken by a passengers ONE woman can be heard kind of protesting the rough Gestapo like action and it was a chorus of one.  There were a couple of sarcastic wise-ass remarks made, but no real protest.   On a flight so full of humans there was a shocking lack of humanity.  The entire lot of them just sat there and not only watched this crime take place, they allowed it to happen by not standing up in defense of their fellow passenger.  As if filming video was the limit of civic responsibility.

The Silence of the Lambs

I'm really curious, were the other passengers indifferent because Mr. Dao was Asian, or because as well behaved cattle they feared the same treatment?  Yes the fine print in the 'carrier agreement' you sign to get a ticket to fly says the airlines can do pretty much whatever they want to you while on their aircraft; but we know nobody ever reads that stuff, so the passengers weren't silent and compliant because the airline goons were allowed to treat humans like's some other reason

They were silent because they were afraid that if they stood against this kind of treatment something as bad or worse might happen to them.  The nail that sticks up gets hammered back down.  It's true, they really have turned us into a nation of sheep, and lamentably there may be no way back for us at this late date. Nation of sheep, ruled by wolves & owned by pigs.

To his credit, Mr. Dao managed to slip back aboard the airliner, determined to not be deprived of what he'd paid for.  I believe the news said he wasn't allowed to remain on the flight.  Now, in the aftermath of this incident we see a flurry of "news" stories all from Dr. Dao's past which all seek to somehow discredit him as a decent human being as if to justify what was done to him.
I have no idea whether any of these allegations about Dr. Dao are true, but it simply doesn't matter.  Nothing from his past has anything whatsoever to do with what happened on that aircraft, period.  Those who dig up & make up such things to publish are not journalists, but rather ghouls who are pushing the party line of totalitarianism as if it was normal and right, which if course it is not.  The only thing Dr. Dao was guilty of was being Vietnamese-American and thinking he had the right to stand up for his rights as a citizen.

This man committed no crime, brought no contraband aboard the plane, and said nothing to bring about his forced, bloody eviction from the plane.  All he did was insist on getting what he paid for, and that got him a beat down...and everyone there just watched.  This is nothing new of course, we humans have a bit of a history of not wanting to get involved: whether we see a beating, or children in public being struck for misbehavior, or a woman being abused in public.  We say it's not our business as an excuse to turn away, avert our gaze and pretend it isn't happening.  

We let these things slide at our peril.  Yes today there is a hue & cry for a boycott against United Airlines, which is good and all that, but what would have been so very much better is if the other passengers had refused to permit the violation of this man's human and constitutional rights in the first place.  We have to make a stand somewhere, sometime don't we?  It might as well be right when the shit is going down, because the way we are doing things nowadays ensures us that when it is your turn to be dragged away by the Gestapo there will be no one left to complain or protest.  If we do not defend everyone's rights then nobody has any left.

© 2017 full re-post with permission only 

See For Yourself

Friday, April 7, 2017

Democracy Dies in Darkness

I had it all worked out in my head, how my new post would once again focus light and criticism upon the foundering Trump regime and it's various keystone cops players. 

It was gonna be funny, I was gonna toss in a generous amount of humor, like "Barbie Hands" is the new POTUS secret service code name, and that Trump refused the tradition of throwing out the first pitch of the baseball season, because his hands are too small to hold a baseball. 

I can't do that post now, maybe not ever, because Donald Trump has once again doubled down on just how low of a lowlife he genuinely is; and I'm no longer in a laughing mood.  Instead of a light hearted, possibly even optimistic bit of comic relief I must now write about what has made my soul vomit.

Trump has always used words and language as a means of attack, to demean and destroy his enemies.  Always before we mostly ignored him, so his vile sputterings caused little real harm.  It's different now that he is the acting president.  He tweets disparaging remarks about a company and their stock drops a few points.  He says offensive things to world leaders who have up till now been allies, and America gets an embarrassing black eye diplomatically.  Trump has now seen how much power his words have, and keeps escalating his rhetoric to create even worse damage such as what we witnessed in horror this week.

On April 1st, Trump publicly states that Syria's dictator Assad should remain in power and not be held responsible for six years of war crimes against his people.
On April 4th Assad again used nerve gas on his own people, killing 80, wounding 300
On April 4th Trump states the Syrian gas attack was Obama's fault.

Donald Trump is responsible for those 80 dead & 300 wounded in Syria.  Without his encouraging words of support and endorsement, would Assad still have launched that attack?  Maybe, it was the third or forth such nerve gas attack in recent weeks. Maybe not!  One thing is very clear, however and that is that days after Trump's appeasement; Assad commits another crime against humanity.  Cause & effect.

This is a milestone in the Trump chronicles that must not be swept away like so many before it.  This is the first time his public statement has directly resulted in 80 people dead in a crime against humanity.  How typical and cowardly of Trump to rush right out after the massacre and cast blame away from himself by accusing his predecessor of being weak.  How typical and cravenly he tried to politicize the attack.  Mr. President, you are a coward.  Simple as that!

Trump is on record as being against any action against Syria.  He even tweeted President Obama, advising against military reprisal.  Of course he doesn't want to act militarily against Syria because they're backed by Russian anti-aircraft units and on scene Russian soldiers and "advisors."  Trump is between a Russian and a hard place on this one, especially considering his bromance with Vladimir Putin.  What will Trump do, dangers abound no matter how he decides.  Perhaps he will pass this one off on his multi-tasking son-in-law.

 It matters not a single whit that Trump announced on Wednesday April 5th that he had changed his mind about Syria and Assad; that was his handlers feeding him sound bytes for the lamestream press.  Trump had but a single chance to be on the right side of history but he wasted his opportunity by trying to cast blame elsewhere. 

My biggest concern here is now that Trump has seen just how powerful his words are; he will conjure up a new grouping of words to see if he can increase the body count.  That's the thing about these narcissistic war mongers; they are addicted to the bloodsport of carnage, and motivated by getting a higher body count than the other despot dictators, and as with everything else, Trump wants more, his must be the bigly best body count.

"Is it progress if the cannibal uses a fork?"
                                                 ~ Stanislaw Jerzy Lec ~

Adding to the formula for disaster Trump is meeting with the President of China, who he accused of raping the United States; which Trump considers to be his job.  I wonder if they'll shake hands.

Trumps administration is fast becoming a dumpster fire with all the scandalous leaks, and flagrant violations of laws & traditions serving as background music for Russiagate.  So many protested so loudly that Steve Bannon was finally kicked off national security council, good riddance.  Little victories.  They'll all add up.

Another one bites the dust.  Investigator Nunes just resigned today amid all the bad press about his breaking bad.  Next we must push for Jeff Sessions to resign in disgrace and return to 1959.  Bad enough he lied under oath to congress and all of us Americans, but now he's talking about coming for my medical marijuana too.  He has to go, or he will drag us all back to 1959 with him. Little victories.  They're dropping like flies.

Trump, the brooding tyrant-in-the-making strolls thru the white house in his clown like seven foot long red tie and Darth Vader like coat which conceals both his bulk and barbed prehensile tail!  He is followed close behind by the scurrying little feet of his feral yes men & nay sayers who share the duty of not letting any reality seep into the dark & putrid  bubble that is Trumpland: the place democracy went to die. 

Some experts are saying that Donald Trump is actually anosognosic, which is a kind of reality denial brain disorder.  Woodrow Wilson suffered from it, and some historians think it led to WW2

In the professional wrestling industry there is a kind of code word among the participants and insiders, "Kayfabe."  It means that everybody is keeping the same secrets, everybody reads off the same talking points...everybody works to sustain the illusion of real.  Kayfabe, kinda almost sounds like pig latin for fake...and that is exactly what is going on with the dumpster fire that is the Trump abomination.

"Follow the trail of dead Russians"
                                      ~ Clint Watts ~

So, 15 thousand Russian trolls were spreading fake news and conspiracy theories, sometimes directly tweeting to Trump when they knew he was online, all trying to effect our election.  Turns out quite a few people on team Trump had some curious and illegal contacts with Russian spies; and most of them also spoke repeatedly with the same Russian diplomat.  The more Trump attempts to conceal the depth of his connections to Russia, the more facts tumble to the surface and more of this smelly iceberg can be seen.

One Trump son states they have a great many business deals on going with Russia, that they have a lot of money flowing in from Russia.  The other Trump son claims they have no business associations with Russia at all? 
Since the day Trump was elected, six soviet diplomats have turned up dead and apparently each time one died; Trump took off to Mar a Lago for a weekend of golfing paid for by American taxpayers.  If he is so filthy rich and can afford to finance his own  campaign and turn down his government paycheck; then how come he can't pay for his own vacations?  Each needless trip to Mar a Lago in Florida costs the American taxpayers 3.5 million dollars.  Adding insult to injury, while there he always dines in his own restaurant so we are actually paying Trump to eat in his own restaurant. 

Not only does Trump run off to Florida seemingly every weekend to golf, he also insists upon hosting foreign dignitaries there as well.  When one considers that Camp David was built for that expressed, exact purpose, it just seems like a real intentional slap in the face followed by the single finger salute every weekend when Trump flies south.  And no, you aren't loosing your mind, Trump actually said many times that he would seldom leave the white house and seldom take time off.  Narcissistic liar.   

Trump invents new wild claim that Obama wiretapped him during campaign; in order to draw attention away from Russiagate scandal. Unfortunately for Trump it seems to be having the opposite effect.  One or more of our on-going spying operations listening in on Russian conversations have discovered several calls with Trump on the other end of the line.

"America First" isn't Trump's rally's Putin's!

I really dislike the popular trend of belittling Trump voters & supporters as a group by calling them stupid etc.  Firstly it serves no good purpose to do so, just further alienates the various factions which is the opposite of the unity we so desperately need just now.  Secondly I do not believe as many voted for the orange turd blossom as the record indicates.  They cooked the books. There was so much dicking around with the election between the democrats doing it, the republicans doing it and the Russians doing it as well... the old adage still holds; "Too many cooks spoil the soup." 

Trump celebrated the 100th anniversary of America entering into world war one by dropping a 59 cruise missile response to Syrian atrocities.  No doubt a photo-op cooked up with Putin to make Trump appear strong.  Trump is just too much of a coward to risk killing any of Putin's soldiers, so they struck a deal.  "Just leave the runways alone."

So Trump gets to look good while getting rid of 95 million bucks worth of aging Tomahawk missiles.  I saw that sadistically evil smile on his face as he announced the strike on Syria, he was having himself a wargasm right there on camera, just contemplating what the total body count would be, come morning.

This whole sordid affair was cooked up as pure street theater to pull the worlds attention away from "Russiagate" and the raging dumpster fire that is the Trump presidency.  This is just exactly what Trump needed to regain the confidence of his base supporters.  The problem arises if and when Trump decides that if a little of this kind of glue is good, more must certainly be better.  What happens when the morning body count inspires still greater actions and even more corpses.  We need to remember that this is the same man who wanted missile parades, and asked "why we don't use nukes if we have them."  Yes, remember that every day!

With so many bad actors on the world stage it is fairly certain that nothing is as it seems and that goes for this whole Syria story as well.  There is no way to tell what the real actual truth of the matter is but you can bet it ain't being delivered on the TV by talking heads reading from todays talking points.

"You Want it Darker,
We Kill the Flame..."
                            ~Leonard Cohen~

Have you noticed how it is that everything Trump does is in the shadows.  Hides his taxes and lies about being audited; hell, he lies about everything.  He does the exact opposite of what he promises, and never gives specific answers to any question.  There is a decided darkness to how this one does business, and indeed, who he is in business with.  He doesn't want you to know because he thrives in secrecy.  Mushrooms, mold and fungus all thrive in darkness, but democracy dies in it. 

Democracy needs the light of day at high noon, transparency and accountability in order to thrive.  When deprived of these necessities democracy begins to erode into something more like Kleptocracy.  With Donald Trump's ascension to the presidency American democracy has slipped to it's lowest ever ebb tide.  What will be left when the pirates & plunder monkeys are all done?  That's a good question and the answer could get complicated because of so many moving parts.  At times like these the ancients would consult with an augur to cast the auspices for the future; what we would call looking for omens.

Well I am an augur and do I have an omen for your consideration!  On the same day that Trump gave his address to congress and the American people; no fewer than 25 tornadoes erupted across eight Midwestern states.  I'm thinking here that was an actual act of God speaking out against Trump omen.

© 2017 full re-post with permission only 


Michael Franti - "Good to be Alive today"

~Related Augureye Posts~

~Other Voices~