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Category: Commentary

Microdosing and Mindfulness

MICRODOSING AND MINDFULNESS  

         A few years ago (at least five years), a retired doctor who was very depressed, took a dose of LSD and went from severe depression to optimism.  The report made the New York Times and within a few years Stanford, Harvard, Yale, and a slew of other Universities started doing research on the effects of LSD.

         Spoiler Alert – I took LSD in 1969 and had a profound spiritual awakening.  The physical world seemed to dissolve around me as everything became translucent and vibratory.  I became a speck of light at the center of the universe, time stopped, and I was the universe.  That was the peak of the experience that went on for a few hours.  It started with each of my identifiable selves snapping away from me – husband, father, worker, friend; all my selves gone, I was no longer me, I was a part of a bigger whole.

         The whole experience left me yearning for a repeat performance, but this was not to be the case.  Every attempt to duplicate the original experience was a minor, less challenging experience.  It wasn’t until almost ten years later that I had a similar experience.  I was at my first Vipassana Retreat.  A ten-day nonsectarian affair with hard core Buddhist meditation, concentrating on the breath and body sensations. Up at 4AM, no talking, no food after noon and ten solid hours of intense meditation “on the cushion”.  On the first day of the retreat, as I sat on my cushion and focused on my breath, I suddenly felt my body dissolving.  I opened my eyes and looked at my hand and I had the same physical experience that I had with the LSD ten years earlier.

         Ram Dass, in his now famous BE HERE NOW, talked about the effects of LSD and how his Guru ate large quantities of the drug to no effect.  He was enlightened, the LSD was simulating an enlightened state and he didn’t need it to get there, he was already there.  

         Michael Pollen’s recent book “HOW TO CHANGE YOUR MIND, What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence”, may be just what we need to get us out of this slide toward authoritarian fascism. 

         The world seems to be upside down.   We’re living in an Alice in Wonderland horror movie.  “Our society is really totally nuts”, says Dr. Anthony Fauci, not exactly someone who exaggerates.  A relative of mine recently said to me the Fauci was the worst person on the planet and should be shot.  Another familiar encounter regularly posts absurd pro-Trump lies and if someone counters with facts, they are brow beaten down with insults and lies or rejected from the group. The majority of the Republican Party seems to be on this same page.  In unison, they are dismantling the democratic systems we have in place.  They are threatening pole workers, election volunteers, elected officials and creating havoc at school meetings.  The “Stop the Steal” bandwagon, created by the man who built an empire on lies, continues with absolutely no verifiable evidence that Election fraud took place.

         All this is very disheartening.  It’s not exactly that we have the best democracy.  In fact, if you were to ask me about the state of the democracy before Trump, I’d say it was shaky at best.  With Citizens United, the final nail was driven into the coffin.  Money rules, period.  We have elections where the power of advertising is more relevant than any actual policy position.  Lobbyists rule the corridors of Congress.

         Civil servants like police and fireman are subject to drug testing on a regular basis.  Marijuana stays in your body and is easily detectable.  LSD on the other hand does not.  I’ve come to know of civil servants who “party” regularly with their spouses and co-workers.  The spouses are smoking weed and the co-workers are microdosing.  A recent conversation with a pro-Trumper was a real eye opener.  Their experience led to a slightly more tolerant view of the “other” – blacks, gays and anti-Trumpers.  I was shocked.  If this trend continues there may still be hope for the planet.

         I was doing a local cable access show after 911 and would interview people working on World Peace.   A rather Santa Claus-y looking gentleman showed up in town one week and he fit the bill for a person working on World Peace.  His thing was LSD.  He was like the Johnny Appleseed of Acid.  His plan was to distribute large quantities of LSD in Israel, in order to settle their conflicts.  I don’t think he was very successful, in fact not at all.  The idea seemed interesting, but he seemed absurd.  He was on to something, but sometime too much of a good thing isn’t so good.  With microdosing you don’t wind up in a catatonic state at peace with the universe or unable to even cross the street.  The effects are mild, subtle and profound.  We may be on to something.

         The safer and more lasting method, is to do a ten-day retreat, learn mindfulness meditation and have a daily practice.  There seems to be quite a bit of steam for this to happen.  Mindfulness has entered corporate America and the military services, and barely a week goes by where it’s not mentioned in the newspapers or on television or a newsstand special.

         Microdosing, with a well-researched book by Michael Pollen, is entering the mainstream.  Nichole Kidman’s “Nine Perfect Strangers” on HULU introduced microdosing in an exotic but positive way.We could sure use some “Heavenly Powder” to accelerate an evolution, because we’re going to destroy ourselves if we don’t evolve.  Even evolution is entering mainstream conversation as Tristan Harris, the monk of high tech, makes the rounds on the talk shows, talking sense.        

 LSD is what fueled the spiritual revolution of the sixties and microdosing can fuel the spiritual revolution of the twenties.  I don’t think massive numbers of people are suddenly going to become monks, but massive numbers of people could entertain a little dose now and then.  You can Turn On and Stay Tuned without Dropping Out.

STONEWALL 1969 – BLACK LIVES MATTER 2019

When Stonewall happened that fateful night on June 27, 1969 nobody expected it.  Just a typical payoff to the cops kind of night, with a slight irregularity to it;  like the day George Floyd was killed, a typical kill a black guy kind of day with a little irregularity to it.

The killing of George Floyd was not that unusual by itself. Racist cop called in on a minor infraction treating a black suspect like he’s some kind of animal. Four Boys in Blue cuffing a black man for ”possibly” passing a counterfeit $20 in a local bodega, roughly pushing him across the street to the back side of their cruiser, then throwing him to the ground where he starts bleeding. The Alpha cop steps on his neck while the other two drop to their knees, not on the ground, no, on top of his back with legs off the ground to achieve full pressure. The “Good Cop” stands there watching with impunity while passersby pass on by and a casual young girl iPhones the “dry lynching. For over eight minutes they taunt him to get up and get in the car, while he pleads for breath, for his life, and ultimately cries out for his “Mama”. The slight irregularity is the casual young girl with the iPhone. Their impunity is so ingrained that they don’t even see that she’s filming their homicide. They don’t see it. It’s just another Kill a Black Guy kind of day. But this time the irregularity made it to the Front Page, and we had all reached the Tipping Point. Six weeks of Sheltering in Place, with an in-charge mad man attempting to not see what was right before everybody’s eyes, like the Emperor with no clothes, had us all on the edge a bit. It gave us time to see more clearly that not only was the Emperor naked, but the entire Justice System was as nakedly exposed as the Emperor.

The riot in the Stonewall bar was the result of another irregularity. A crooked cop just doing what crooked cops had been doing for the last few decades, and a black girl in the right place at the right time. Most of the gay bars in Manhattan with few exceptions were frequented by gay guys. This was one of those exceptions. Stonewall was in the West Village on Christopher Street which was strictly guys, while the rest of the West Village was mostly gals. There was a mixed crowd this particular Friday night
The correct cop procedure was to come into a gay bar for their regularly scheduled payoffs during the week when it wasn’t too crowded. That way you didn’t disturb business too much. To be clear, the cop’s payoff wasn’t supposed to interfere with the mob’s business. The monthly payoff was par for all the gay bars, as every gay bar in Manhattan payed off the cops and the mob. When my Father’s bar was a “straight” bar the payoffs were quarterly, when it became a gay bar the payoffs were monthly. The cops made their presence in the neighborhood known and were able to instill just the right amount of fear and intimidation to keep everybody on board.. Also, the cops who came into the bar, were part of a larger syndicate of cops and not necessarily connected to the same precinct that any particular bar was in.

Friday night June 27, 1969, the cops from the Greenwich Village Precinct that the Stonewall Bar was in, were “sick and tired” of the uptown cops coming into their precinct and shaking down their bars. They were going to do it themselves, and they were going to go in on a busy Friday night.
So, in come the local Boys in Blue, making their way through the partying crowd to the back room. A black bull dyke in the back room saw them coming. She saw them coming and she was up to here with it. That was it, no more of this bullshit. No more paying off the cops just so she could have a drink and hang out with her friends. She didn’t quite realize the other half of the equation; that the Mob actually owned the joint and the barkeeps were window dressing that managed the transfer of money. She jumped up and said, I’m paraphrasing, “we’re not going to take it anymore”. That started it and the whole place erupted.

The local precinct cops couldn’t get out of the bar but were able to make it to the bathroom where they barricaded themselves in, while the patrons barricaded the front windows and doors. It was a riot inside Stonewall and a riot outside on the streets. As news of the riot spread throughout Greenwich Village more and more of the mostly gay guys, came out, physically came out into the streets and surrounded the bar. By the time the paddy wagon arrived it was too late, and what should have been a local event turned into the event of the century. The paddy wagon cops dallied in their response in order to “punish” the precinct cops who were where they shouldn’t be on a night when they shouldn’t be. Talk about turf wars.

Meanwhile, a little old man with a cheap fedora who usually plays bocce at the bocce ball court in Greenwich Village is sitting somewhere in a corner of Stonewall wishing he was home. Every gay bar in Manhattan had a little old Italian man, in a cheap fedora sitting somewhere in a corner watching out for the interest of the mob; because the cops and the mob were in this together and the mob wasn’t as visible as the cops, so they needed a little back up. The mob owned the bar which paid the cops so that the cops didn’t close them down, because it was an ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control) regulation that you could close down a bar if there was a gay person in it. Didn’t matter if he was in a three-piece suit with Gucci shoes and a Dior necktie or swishy wrist and a silk scarf. Gay: close it down. So, we have the ABC, the NYPD and the Sicilian Mob, all collaborating to get a piece of the action, all at the expense of a persecuted and reviled minority. Sound familiar? By noon that very day, the NYC Homophile Youth Movement – HYMN, with the help of the Village Voice newspaper, which just happened to be at the other end of the block, published the now classic flyer, “GET THE MAFIA AND THE COPS OUT OF THE NEW YORK CITY BARS”.

Stonewall opened that very night. The clean-up fixers crew came in and rebuilt the bar, restocked with their untaxed watered-down booze and filled the cigarette machine with their untaxed cigarettes bootlegged from Virginia, which you could buy uptown once a week on 45th Street and Vanderbilt Avenue at the back of Grand Central Station. I did, every Friday. Everybody who was anybody was in on the fix and got a little piece of the action. That’s Trickle-Down Economics in the Carnegie Hall Culture of Corruption.

Well, Stonewall reopened but the anger wasn’t quelled. A conglomeration of “anti-Vietnam War, pro-Black, pro-Women, pro-Hippy, anti-Capitalist left-wing politics,” or the entire counter-culture of the late 1960’s, met one month later on July 24th and formed the Gay Liberation Front. They started meeting and talking and organizing and by the end of the year the little known homophile movement turned into the first Gay Liberation Day Parade on the streets of Greenwich Village. We now have GAY PRIDE day every year on the whole planet.

Black Lives Matter has been around since 2013, has an organization in place and is not going to stop until real reform happens. The roots of Democratic Capitalism are based on the commodification of all people, with white people in charge and black people at their beck and call. The economic success of Capitalism is based on the enslavement of an entire race, and the roots of Democracy ensured the dehumanization of that race, which elevated the enforcers to a position of superiority. That superiority has traveled through the centuries to where we are today. Racial injustice is built into the system. It’s “systematic” and requires systematic change.
It started for me in my father’s bar, which led me to understand what happened at the Stonewall bar, and to see clearly today why the death of George Floyd is leading Black Lives Matter to take on the issues that the whole system of Democratic Capitalism is based on. Slavery, greed, corruption and immunity for those enforcing this rule of disorder. The entire system is built on a base of sand that’s collapsing right before our very eyes. Climate change, Covid-19, swine flu on it’s way, apocalyptic events becoming a daily occurrence, global right wing fascism, state surveillance, are all a wake-up calls from the living breathing earth that we all live on. If we don’t fix it, it will fix us. Evolve or die.

CARNEGIE HALL TO STONEWALL

My Father was a bartender in New York City in the 1950’s. He worked in a bar off Central Park South on Seventh Avenue for over a decade and dreamed of one day buying the business, being his own boss and not being the boss’s “slave”. One night, an Irish bookkeeper from a bowling alley in Hoboken, New Jersey showed up with just the right amount of money to go into a 50/50 partnership. Dad would be the worker and Joe the paper pusher. They bought the business and renamed Crimmins Bar, The SOUTHMOOR Cafe. Central Park had been a swamp or a moor, and Central Park South is south of the moor, hence SOUTHMOOR Café. Turns out the Irish Bookkeeper from Hoboken, who happened to know just how much Dad was short for the purchase, was “connected”, and our family found itself in bed with the Mob for the next five years.

The local gangsters started hanging out during the day, in a booth towards the back of the bar, across from the public telephone where they took “book” – bets mostly on horses but any sporting event with odds would do. This was before the lottery, when off-site betting was illegal, and people went to bookmakers to place a bet.

Every Sunday, I would drive into The City with my father; over the Queensboro Bridge, down 59th Street past Bloomingdales and the Copacabana, left onto Fifth Avenue and down to the Plaza Hotel, right onto Central Park South passing the fancy horse drawn carriages and tired looking horses with feedbags brimming over with hay strapped over their mouths, and a final left turn onto Seventh Avenue, where he parked his black Studebaker until four the next morning. I’d spend the morning sweeping, eating maraschino cherries and helping him open up. He’d drop $5’s and $10’s on the floor for me to find. This was my weekly “time with Dad”. Afterwards, I’d go into the alleyway which separated the bar from the Century Theatre, and I’d find exotic and interesting props and stage detritus that was being tossed from the night before. I’d finally go into the back door of the theatre and watch theatrical rehearsals during those first two years, and television production setups in the last three, as the theatre transitioned from Broadway plays to Television productions; from Mary Martin in SOUTH PACIFIC and PETER PAN to Jackie Gleason and Milton Berle.

We were friendly with the theatre’s stage manager, Eddie Bracken, and I remember hanging out with him in the back of the theatre one Sunday matinee while Mary Martin pleaded with the audience to believe in Tinker Bell. Captain Hook had poisoned Tinker Bell and she slowly dies before out eyes. Peter Pan returns to find her dead and knows that if we just believe in magic, believe in forever young, believe in Tinker Bell she’ll come back to life. Martin sat at the apron of the stage in her boyish green tights with so much love and empathy and truth that she had the audience in the palms of her hands. Grown people were weeping for Tinker Bell to come back to life. Handkerchiefs flew from top jacket pockets and hankies from pocketbooks. They believed, they really believed. I remember turning to Eddie and asking, “Why are they all crying, don’t they know it’s not real?” “That’s what the theatre is all about,” he said. To this very day, it’s at least one play every month on date night. If I don’t see live theatre, I feel like I’m missing something, incomplete. It somehow fulfills some inner need in me, to see real people reciting profound thoughts and sharing it simultaneously with hundreds of other people.

I’d leave the bar about noontime when the “goomba’s” came in and occupied their real estate at the back booth. “Goomba”, in my world, was nasty slang for an Italian gangster. I vividly remember Joe Sherman, a fat giant of a man packing a holstered gun over his heart. He could barely get into the booth and had to grab onto the tabletop while he squeezed into the bench. I was between 10 and 14 years old during this period and I would wander downtown from 59th to 42nd Street on my own. The first big stop on my way through Times Square was on 48th Street. It would be about 1PM and I’d watch from outside as Gene Krupa set up on a platform on the top of the bar right in the front window of the Metropole Cafe. He was a drummer’s drummer. A flamboyant mad man with the sticks. He’d sometimes toss those sticks at a distant wall, like a magician throwing knives at the girl on a spinning target. The Metropole is still there, but it’s now a “classy strip -joint”, with curtains so thick you can’t see or even hear anything. After listening to his opening beats, I’d continue cruising down Broadway to 42nd Street, gawking at the XXX-rated movie theater marquees and the knife stores with their big bowie knives and the super-sexy switch blades. When I finished taking in the magic of the lights and the crowds and the sounds, the huge billboards, Mister Peanut Man swinging his arms, the Camel guy blowing cool refreshing smoke, the ribbon of news headlines floating around the oddly fronted Times building; I’d leave the Church of Excess, go underground and take the subway back home to the quiet of Queens. Whenever it came up in school to talk about family life, it never made sense for me to talk about any of it. It just didn’t fit in with any of the other stories that the other kids had. Maybe they all made up their stories, I don’t know. I know I definitely did.

It wasn’t all weird and irregular and I did have an extraordinarily positive experience one Sunday afternoon. It was early on, maybe 1954, I was about to leave when a boozy brunette in a short mink stole ran her fingers through my hair and asked me if I “want to go to a ‘talk of some sort’ around the corner”. She had been given a ticket and didn’t really want to go; it wasn’t her kind of thing. “Sure, I’ll go,” and she gave me the ticket. It was an afternoon television event at the ABC Studio around the block on 58th and Ninth. There were about a dozen people and little ol’ me. It felt in size and shape, like a mini jury. The cameras were ready to roll and out comes this very friendly chubby faced Doctor with boring glasses in a dark conservative suit. It’s Norman Vincent Peale and he’s lecturing on his recently published popular new book, “THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING”. I would never be crazy about his overzealous religiosity but the overall theme, I’m sure to this day, had a positive impact on my life. In fact, “Couldn’t be better”, is a refrain, that I wholeheartedly embraced two decades ago and still lead with when asked, “How are you doing?” It’s like Eli Weizer, the Jewish survivor of Hitler’s concentration camps, having a better mental attitude towards his captors than they did towards themselves. It’s accepting the reality of the present moment and being content with it. You can react to the present moment, or you can act with a clear mind and not react. If you can accept the present moment and not get reactive, you can proceed with a calm and peaceful mind and be positive in your thinking and attitude. There is nothing you can do to change the present moment. Accept it and keep your head above the fray or resist and fight your way through life.

My Uncle Arthur was Albert Anastasia’s barber. “Albert”, as my Uncle often referred to him as, was the Gambino family head of the Mob for all of New York City. He’s the guy that they shot in the barber chair two blocks down at the Park Sheraton Hotel, across the street from Carnegie Hall. The day before the “shoot”, a couple of Albert’s boys, came to Arthur and told him to “go to the track and get a ticket for the third race at Belmont”. He came back to the bar and said to my father, “Ernie, I don’t know what’s up, but THEY told me to go to Belmont tomorrow. I’m going.” He did. No questions asked. Billy Crystal and Robert De Niro’s movie, “ANALYZE THIS”, opens with the bloody pictures of the aftermath of what happened during the third race at Belmont. Scorsese ‘s recently released movie, “THE IRISHMAN” portrays the gangsters coming up the stairs of the Park Sheraton from the lower level with little pistols in their hands, passing a floral display and entering a window-lite hotel barbershop. In real life, the two hitmen actually came in the front door of the Park Sheraton with musical instrument bagged tommy guns and marched straight back to the barber shop. The substitute barber for the day stepped back, and they sprayed the place so badly with bullets, destroying all the imported Italian marble along with Albert, that it took them over a year to replace the marble and get the barber shop back in business. The two hit men, with smoking guns, walked back through the lobby to a waiting car and “arrivederci’ed“ into history. They probably tipped the doorman, who held the getaway car at the Hotel entrance, when they came it. The one hit man from the Gallo family recently died in prison, the other one is speculated to have been from the Genovese family and may have passed a few years back.

The side door of the New York Athletic Club was on Seventh Avenue right across the street from the bar. Every major team, or professional boxer, tennis jock, or any money producing athlete was automatically a member of the club. Yankees, Dodgers, Giants,  Knicks, Rangers, and famous players from Micky Mantle to Roger Marris; they all came into the bar at one time or another, and the gangster were waiting. Anything that had odds on it, the mob had their finger in. They’d threaten to break legs if you didn’t cooperate, and that meant to shave points. Not lose the game, just shave points so they could affect the point spread. It’s was all about that little edge, which separates the losers from the winners or the saps from their money.

We made payoffs to the cops and the mob four times a year, every three months. The payoffs were somewhere between $300 and $350 and usually the amount was within $25 of each other. It was price fixing. Both bills, from the cops and the mob, came the very same week each quarter. If you didn’t pay the mob, they broke your legs, if you didn’t pay the cops, they sent in an inspector who’d find the ice machine leaking and shut you down. The mob just gave you the bottom-line amount on a small piece of paper. The cops had so much “chutzpah” that they listed the name, rank and amount for each individual on very formal accounting paper. Decades late, when Frank Serpico went undercover and exposed police corruption, his little book, where he kept track of all the transaction, still had the name, rank and amount for each payment. The corruption was decades in its execution.

While the gangsters took book in the back of the bar and the cops kept the neighborhood safe from uptown ruffians, the wealthy sipped cocktails and flirted with the help. They all attended the concerts and theatrical events at Carnegie Hall, and when somebody with “white gloves” needed something fixed, they knew where to go. After all, they’d be sitting next to each other in the orchestra seats.

I was in the middle of it all – the corruption with the mob, the cops, and the “Richie-Rich” Carnegie Hall crowd. Famous Broadway actors and television personalities, sports heroes, authors, old money, new money, any money, the crème de crème of the ‘good life”. The pinnacle of the excess of the Golden Age of Capitalism, and all the dirt and filth and corruption that accompanied it. It was all just part of growing up; and as with all things that happen in your childhood, it becomes a part of you, an appendage for the rest of your life.

After five years Joe Barrett, the bookkeeper partner disappeared, nobody knew to where. The federal taxes hadn’t been paid for those five tense-filled years and Dad owed more than the place was worth. The mob said they would take care of the tax bill and made him an “offer he couldn’t refuse”.  He sold it to them, and they never paid the Feds, imagine that? The very next day they turned his dream into a “gay bar”. My Father couldn’t believe it, and to his dying day never understood why. He couldn’t figure out why the tough-guy gangsters would want to hang out in a gay bar. With a broken heart leading the way, he slowly deteriorated to an inglorious death in not too many years.

I was very young and never really understood or bothered to try to understand what had happened. I had no idea what a gay bar even meant, other than maybe some clean-cut guys with southern accents hanging out, drinking and dancing. It wasn’t until many years later that I stumbled onto the infamous pamphlet, “GET THE COPS AND THE MOB OUT OF THE GAY BARS” and figured out what was going on and why the mob had turned the SOUTHMOOR Cafe into a gay bar. It finally all made sense.

That was 1958 when I was barely out of Grammar School. Eleven years later, in 1969, the riot at the Stonewall Bar in Greenwich Village took place. By then I was married with two kids, two jobs, night school and barely able to stay awake long enough to finish my papers and get my degree. Stonewall came and went. Just another event in the series of events that made 1969 so unforgettably unforgettable. The anti-war marches, the women’s march, the pig’s head hanging at the front entrance to Hunter College were memorable. Stonewall was a blip in my world, but it was everything to a lot of other people. It took another year to coalesce, but once it did it didn’t stop. I wasn’t there that night, so I can’t recall from personal experience, but I was back there in my father’s bar, and I know first-hand what it’s like living with the oppression and fear that can be instilled. The same scenario that made my father “an offer he couldn’t refuse” led to the butch gal at the back of the Stonewall, refusing the offer she shouldn’t refuse, but did. It took a black girl with “stones”, to turn the Stonewall bar into the symbol for the Gay Liberation Movement.

CAPITALISM AND SLAVERY

As Americans become more aware of the history of slavery, it’s essential that we understand the root of the problem. Modern slavery did not start on a happy plantation that was “Gone With the Wind”, but by the French, Dutch and British East India Trading Companies; corporation which from their beginnings were not just concerned with protecting the assets of their investors while they were engaged in both trade and politics, but were bent on ruling the world. They were using slave labor, transporting enslaved people throughout the East, and expanded into the America’s as demand for slaves increased.

In the 18th Century a man’s worth was judged by how many people he could command. The land-owning aristocrat with servants and tenants is obviously a man of worth and commands many people. With the Division of Labor and the first factories, mass production created cheap commodities and the common laborer was able to become a consumer of these commodities. Therefore, the common laborer suddenly had “hundreds of factory workers at his command” by virtue of his having any commodity that took hundreds of people to produce it. Adam Smith in THE WEALTH OF NATIONS in 1776 said that the “ savage and barbarian” is “worse off than the poorest man in England”. The “savage and barbarian” had no commodities, hence no people at his command, therefore no worth.

Adam Smith goes on in this twisted logic to say that “the profits available from using Negro slaves on the sugar colonies were such as to justify their use.” Once the Chair of Moral Philosophy at the University of Glasgow justified the use of slaves in the pursuit of profit, the game was over. Adam Smith is famous for encouraging regulation in order to protect the buying power of the poor downtrodden classes. The Negro was somehow not part of any class. Smith’s blindsided ignorance is astonishing. As the Protestant Ethic merged seamlessly with the Bible of Capitalism, the stage was set for Christianity to embrace an Ethic that dehumanized an entire race in pursuit of an Ethic that turned Ethics on its head.

Open the Pod Bay Doors HAL


         I like to write with a pen on paper.  I like food and I like people. I’m a waiter.  I like being a waiter.  I like describing food, writing orders, interacting with customers, giving the order to the cook, serving the food, seeing satisfied families, couples and people.  I like the job.  It fits like a glove.

         I used to work at AT&T and while there I was running Human Resources type sessions about Hertzberg Motivational Hygiene Theory.  The bottom line was that the “Work Itself” is the most compelling reason people are satisfied in a job, and satisfied people stay in their job.  They, AT&T, turned “Work Itself” into it’s exact opposite, but that’s another story.

            Suddenly the Computer has come into the restaurant where I work.  Two input screens.  No more checks.  Scraps of paper and then navigating with fingers on a screen; five layers in to get a diner into the digital world.  Each item is another screen.  Focused on the screen, people become a background blur; a background blur that I don’t want to interact with so as not to screw up my inputting.  Hit SEND, don’t forget to hit SEND, and the order is transmitted to the cooks.  Two terminals at the kitchen end, one for hot and one for cold.  What could possibly go wrong?  I go back to make sure they’ve got the order, and that they have it right.

         My order input time has tripled, and I can’t wait to get away from the people at the table so I can get to the computer screen and get the order in.  I’ve also had to refigure my time dealing with the immediate items like drinks and appetizers verses the main diner items, as the data entry has become an extra step, which is directly visible to the custom.  The data entry is now part of their dining experience. On the second night of operation a customer commented that we ”all looked like a bunch of robots”.  I’ve become a cog in the machine. 

         It just doesn’t feel right.  I don’t feel right.  There’s an anxiety that I feel when I get to the screen.  It’s not like writing or surfing on a computer.  It’s physically touching a screen to input information that is hierarchically absurd.  If one hits the wrong button or makes a mistake, backing out of it is way more cumbersome than getting in to it.

         The morning after the new system was installed, the NY Times had a front-page story with a picture of a sleek white plastic robot waiter in Japan serving drinks to ladies in a cocktail lounge.  Later that night I was channel surfing through the movie “Terminator 3” when the good guys plugged into Skynet in order to save the world and inadvertently doomed the world, since the people that make movies and videos use different software for this, including programs for video transcoding which are useful for this.  Quoting Isaac Asimov’s “I, Robot”, in the August 2018 Common Ground “Everything, it seems, depends on HMI, the HUMAN-MACHINE-INTERFACE.  In a world increasingly controlled by smart machines, who will be master and who will be slave?”

         With the introduction of the Human-Machine-Interface, “Work Itself” is now dominated by the Screen.  We fit into it. The giant steel and iron frame of the industrial era has been replaced with an interactive screen that demands our absolute attention. The machine has taken over.  

         My wife worked in Hospice home care for many years. 
Toward the end of her career, an MBA took over for the company that was originally run by a nurse administrator.   The new “bean counter” in charge, increased the nurse’s workload by 50%, while increasing the marketing and IT sections.  More computer time, less people time.  Humanity sacrificed for efficiency.

         I’ve also been watching the decline in human contact during my weekly supermarket shopping.  The clerks used to take my money or credit card, run the transaction, and give me back my receipt or change, with a brief exchange of words and smiles.   Now, with the new improved Screen experience, the clerk stares at the cash register screen, while I, the customer, navigate through the credit card screen.  Neither of us talks nor makes eye contact, as we each stare at our individual screens until the transaction is complete.  “Thank you and have a nice day.”

         Casey Schwartz’s “Save Us From Our Phones” (NYTimes 8/16/18), “The liberation of human attention may be the defining moral and political struggle of our times”, writes James Williams, a Silicon Valley-type philosopher in “Stand Out of Our Light”.   We are transfixed by our screens, thumbs twitching, lost in traffic, lost on the street.   A week before Christmas 2017 there was a published study about the street traffic on Fifth Avenue in NYC.  It seems as if “walking while texting” or simply being on the phone, is causing pedestrian blockages and slowing down the rushing masses.  A savvy world traveler once compared lunchtime on Fifth Avenue to a crowded street in India.  We have this jam-packed moving mass of people and half of them are now on their phones, with their attention totally on the machine.  It was bad enough to start, it only gets worse.

         As I’ve shared this essay with a few people, the most common response is an all too familiar recognition that this indeed is also their experience.  They then usually start to recount their experience, and the doctor or nurse interaction is the most common.  Where the doctor used to come into the room, look you in the eye and ask you about your condition, they are now on the machine within seconds of a “hello”.  An individual told me that they we’re so annoyed by the doctor being focused on the computer while doing the interview, that they took out their phone and started checking messages.

         Somewhere in all this mayhem and alienation, somebody is doing very well.  I suspect it’s the bean counters within the industries and the heads of the software companies.  For a brief period during my earlier years I flirted with becoming an “efficiency expert” or Industrial Engineer.  I was involved with a series of projects where I was able to maximize people’s efficiency in order to produce financially positive results.  In all cases, I started with the individual and build the working arrangements around them.  In all cases, the “Work Itself” improved and the financial results proved it out. 

         I look around at the situation I’m currently in, at the grocery store, at the doctor’s office, all around me, and it looks like the opposite of “efficiency”.  The accountants in the back room or managers in the Executive Suite are making the decisions based on what they perceive to be the “bottom line”.  “Hit One Button” to get your final results, it saves time.  It doesn’t matter that it took more time at the front end, because those are the “low level” workers interacting with the customers or clients.  It save time at the back end and the folks in the back room are running the show.

         It’s like the Wizard behind the curtain in “The Wizard of Oz”, putting on a ferocious face in order to keep you in line.  You somehow become out of step if you’re not keeping up.  The genie is out of the bottle, and we forgot to consult with our ethicist before letting him out.

“Open the Pod Bay Door HAL…I’m Sorry Dave , I can’t do that.”

Crimes Against Humanity

A Crime Against Humanity

I’m definitely not an Early Adapter to the technology. I was and Early Adapter to a lot of things when I was “earlier”, but since becoming “later”, I’m slower to adapt. I also am no longer impressed with the “first” of anything.

In all cases concerning our new and improved technologies, screen time has increased and human contact has decreased. The Screen requires our complete attention. We serve the machine in the name of efficiency and profit, and where is all this newly found profit going? Probably the same place all the newly found time we have from all these new labor saving devices, our imagination.

The profits are going to the very, very, rich. Every day there’s another merger. Every merger leads to another shrinking of the competition. The whole point of Capitalism was that competition would decrease prices, which would give more products to all the citizens, which would increase the wealth of all the people, which would increase the Wealth of the Nation (Adam Smith, “Wealth of Nations).

The Rate of Return on Capital is always greater than the Rate of Return on Labor, R > G (Thomas Piketty’s “Capital In the 21St Century”). We now have this economic system that demands ever-increasing profits, as part of the fiduciary responsible of the people in charge. No mention of human responsibility, civic responsibility, or social responsible.

We have let a system that was meant to regulate the growth of wealth within a society, turn on itself, and serve a minority of plutocrats who are fighting for fascistic control. Capitalism, as it has evolved, is Fascistic, top down, state socialism for the corporate elite. Hitler unapologetically called it National Socialism. We call it Capitalism. I call it a crime against humanity.

SPIRITUAL POLITICAL ECONOMY – Part 1

Spiritual Political Economy

is the study of the interrelationship between the spiritual and material aspects of humanity and the economic and political institutions and processes necessary to support and sustain our livelihood and evolution.

Spiritual Political Economy is interested in analyzing and explaining the ways in which our engagement in various sorts of spiritual practices affects the allocation of resources in society through the natural laws of the universe, as well as the ways in which the nature of the economic system and the behavior of people acting on their socio-economic interests affects the form of spiritual practices and the kinds of rules and policies that are agreed upon.

Spiritual Political Economy recognizes the inherent separation between spiritual and economic institutions and practices, but also recognizes the necessity for considering these seeming disparities in order to provide a framework for dealing with an emerging order that is historically unique, seemingly uncharted and consequently fearful for many.

Spiritual Political Economy honors the origins of economic thought and seeks to return to the moral imperative from which it was born.  Adam Smith’s THEORY OF MORAL SENTIMENTS is a necessary prelude to the WEALTH OF NATIONS.  The Golden Rule, DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU, is “written into our genes” and is a necessary dictum for conscious evolution.

Spiritual Political Economy rejects the notion that humanity is morally stagnant and incapable of advancement beyond material goals, and embraces the concept that we are living, breathing beings in a continuous state of change, and our destine is to return full circle to the source from which we came.

Spiritual Political Economy honors the nature of the Dialectic Process and presumes that the emerging Thesis or new Paradigm is evident today in the emerging social fabric that is the result of centuries of evolution.

Spiritual Political Economy recognizes that the diversity within the natural order is reflected in the social order and that the health and wealth of communities depends on a healthy interrelationship between all the seemingly disparate elements in the society.  Our social order is more web than hierarchy, and common sense is comprehensible to all.

Spiritual Political Economy recognizes the immanent collapse of materialism as manifested by global corporate capitalism, that unregulated capitalism fosters greed and avarice, has run it’s course, and will lead to the suicidal end of the human race; and recognizes that the inevitable end of materialism means the emerging of a new spiritualism throughout humankind.

Spiritual Political Economy seeks to define the possibilities and potential implications of the emerging globalization of localism through internet based communications, computer assisted manufacturing and sustainable food production, which are co-jointly fueling hope and optimism for a population that is weary of war, starvation, rape and genocide and longing for peace, prosperity, and health.

GMO Letter to Feinstein, Boxer and Woolsey

Letter to Senators Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, and Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey

There appears to be a revolving door between just about every industry in the United States and the agencies that we have created to regulate them.  The Department of Agriculture is no exception.  In January, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, with the “heavy handed” urging of President, ‘I’ve-got-an-organic-garden-in-my-back-yard’, Barack Obama, approved the coast to coast planting of Genetically Modified alfalfa, sugar beet and corn seeds.  Genetically Modified seeds or GMO’s, incorporate a disruptively violent process of splicing poisonous genes into the DNA of plants in order to ward off pests, which eventually destroy natural seed stores via airborne contamination. The entire feedlot of the country, affecting milk, meat and produce, could potentially be contaminated within a year.

We face an IMMEDIATE CRISIS. Despite repeated industry claims to the contrary, a recent Canadian study (Daily Mail, May 20, 2011) shows Bt toxins (Bacillus thuringiensis) implanted into food crops to kill pests, showing up in 93% of the blood samples taken from pregnant women.

On May 6th, 2011, we held a forum in San Rafael, CA where over 300 people came out to hear Norman Solomon moderate a panel of GMO experts: Good Earth Natural Food Store owner and  “Non GMO Project” founder Mark Squire, “Seeds of Deception” author Jeffrey Smith, “Uncertain Peril” author Clair Cummings and legal council for the Center for Food Safety Rebecca Smith.

In order to protect the imminent threat to our food supply Organic Consumer Association’s founder Ron Cummings is organizing a Millions Against Monsanto Washington, DC lobbying event for World Food Day on October 17.  Doctor Bronner’s son is organizing a New York to Washington march that same week.  We in Marin County are organizing a lobbying effort in Sacramento in September and will join World Food Day activities in Washington, DC in October.

This is our “Cairo Moment”.  Our corporate controlled government has gone too far.  We will stop Monsanto.  Little people like myself are fed up, are “mad as hell and are not going to take it anymore”.

Real politicians follow the lead of the people they represent.  This is your time to step up and do the right thing.  Fill the gaping regulatory hole left by the FDA to protect American’s, by actively working to require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods. Education and organization is the first step, restoring democracy is the second step and stopping Monsanto is our final goal.

For over forty years, I have supported the organic food movement with every purchase I make.  As a human being, I firmly believe I should have the right to know if my foods have been genetically engineered. Under current FDA regulations I don’t know if GE ingredients are in the foods I purchase and feed my family. Labeling is essential.  If Kraft and Kellogg’s can label the GM products they sell in European countries because the Europeans have demanded it, they can certainly do it here in the United States.

92% of the American public wants the federal government to require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods. ABC News stated, “Such near-unanimity in public opinion is rare.” I HOPE you will listen to me and the other 92 percent of the American public who want mandatory labeling and show your support for American consumers by supporting and co-sponsoring legislation requiring mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.

2011 – Most Important Year in History

2011 – Most Important Year in History

Over the years, I’ve noticed that the last few weeks in January frequently have some astrological earth shattering news or entrepreneurial opportunity smack me in the face like when I discovered you can use now services from http://elitist-gaming.com for your video games. This year was no different:  “The year 2011will be one of the most important in human history“, says ASTROLOGY TODAY (Jan 2011) ….accelerated time of change….incorporate new views…. be willing to innovate…be an agent of change…leap in collective consciousness ….no separation between spiritual and physical …as we help others we help ourselves.” What a positive mouthful, hold on to your hats.

Then the news started.

New York Times Mon 1/17 Front Page:

“Data Overload Can Be Deadly” – The Army has figured out that “multitasking” doesn’t work and might actually have negative effects, like the wrong people getting killed because a soldier has too much information to deal with and can’t make an intelligent decision.  The Army is using MINDFULLNESS training to help soldiers focus. They are teaching soldiers to concentrate on a FEELING in their body, while sitting still.  Unbelievable, they’ll be sending soldiers to Spirit Rock pretty soon.  Wait long enough and everything changes.

Tuesday 1/25

“Cold Jumps Arctic Fence”… the world seems to have “flipped upside down”, as stalactites hang from a subway in Brooklyn, a deep freeze spreads across Europe and there’s no snow in the Arctic.  It’s always good when mainstream media gets anything right.

Wed 1/26

Financial Crisis Was Avoidable, Inquire Finds” … greed, ineptitude, corruption, heedless risk-taking, failure in regulation and corporate mismanagement are all highlighted as the actual cause of the financial meltdown, which was brought to us by Alan Greenspan, Bernanke, Paulson, Geitner and the Bush’ies, who are all signaled out by Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission chairman Phil Angelides and chided in Shakespearean language, “The fault lies not in the stars, but in us.”  Real news two days in a row.

Thursday 1/27

Pitcher Spurns $12Million, to Keep Self Respect” … for the first time ever, a professional baseball player Gil Meche turns down a $12 million dollar salary because he doesn’t want to sit on the bench and collect money he wasn’t earning.  What a concept!  Integrity over money, and in the same spot, on the front page below the fold, as yesterday’s Financial Meltdown story.  Wall Street Greed caused the problem, and a Main Street individual can solve the problem

Friday 1/28, Business Page

US Approves Planting of Modified Alfalfa” – Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack authorizes the unrestricted commercial planting of genetically modified alfalfa.  This could potentially contaminate the entire feedlot of the country within a year.  Alfalfa is what the milking cows and the cattle eat.  This is insane.

In summary, the Army figured out that multitasking doesn’t work and is using Mindfulness Meditation Techniques.  The world has been turned on its head.  Greed and corruption is the cause of the financial meltdown, and we know who is responsible.  A superstar turns down $12M to keep his self-respect.   The Department of Agriculture declares war on the organic food movement.

All this in the same week that the uprising in Tunisia and Cairo started.   Think there’s something in the air??????

The year started out so hopeful

The year started out so hopeful

        The year started out so hopeful.  ADBUSTERS published an article by my old Political Economy professor, Robert Heilbroner, Final Reflections on the Human Prospect and PARABOLA published A Reverence for the Divine, by Peter Kingsley.  Both articles flipped conventional thinking on its head and both articles offered HOPE for the future.  Hope has sure come into abuse and misuse over the past year, but for a brief few weeks, I felt like it was reemerging as a real prospect.

     Heilbroner, your typical elbow-patch-pipe-smoking-liberal-tweedy professor, wrote Final Reflections in 1975, as I, with his encouragement, was dropping out of graduate school and heading to California.  He updated it in 1990 and ADBUSTERS, the most anti-capitalistic publication in the mainstream market, published his thoughts twenty years later in 2010, wow.  He talks about the end of capitalism and the dangerous mentality of industrial civilization itself. He sees us moving into a postindustrial era where characteristics of many pre-industrial societies, such as the exploration of inner states of consciousness and a more communal social organization, rather than material accomplishments and individual achievement, become the norm.

     Peter Kingsley essay is from his new book, REALITIES.  He asserts that 6th Century BC Greek philosopher Parmenides, the father of Logic, developed his thesis from a previously unknown Shamanistic practice called Incubation, not from some head tripping dry abstract thinking.  Incubation meant going deep inside, shutting down the body, going into the darkness of a cave, for anywhere from a week to a month, and finding the still point of deep mediation, visiting the underworld or the otherworld.

      Heilbroner, author of the most famous Political Economy book of the 20th Century, THE WORLDLY PHILOSOPHERS, and Kingsley, well-respected theologian and philosopher, have both turned western philosophy on their head.  As one of my long-term projects has been writing a “Spiritual Political Economy”, both these publications gave me much food for thought, fit into my own philosophy and gave me what I needed.

         That was then, a time of hope. This is now, a time of unprecedented disasters, one after another.  I’ll continue catching up to the present with my next post, which will start with the events at the end of January.