We Know it’s Wrong

We know it is wrong when the “Supreme” Court declared that money is free speech, and corporations are “people”
Our basic, human sense of fairness tells us when something is just plain wrong.

Ivory tower
High Priests

We all know in our hearts when something is unfair;  something is just wrong.

Our gut tells us it’s wrong

A teenage black boy was followed and shot by a vigilante in a gated community.  The killer has yet to be arrested and interrogated.

We just know that mix of money and politics is bad.

We know it is wrong when the “Supreme” Court declared that money is free speech and corporations are “people”.

Our basic, human sense of fairness tells us when something is just plain wrong.

NRA at work
It is wrong!

And neither the local governments, the NRA nor the high priests in their ivory tower (we call them “justices’) can convince us otherwise.

We know it is wrong when money influences our elections.

We know it’s wrong when the top 1% controls over 50% of the wealth in this country.

We know it’s wrong when those big banks that nearly destroyed this country for profit are declared “too big to fail”, and none of the thieves who stole billions from our citizens’ pockets went to jail.

We know it is wrong that access to health care is a privilege and not a basic right.

We know it is wrong when religious zealots are trying to deny women basic health care.

It is a long list.

We The People will decide
We decide

But my fellow Americans.

If what is going on in our country feels wrong to the majority of people,  it is probably wrong.

Don’t allow the lawyers, the lobbyists and the bankers to get away with “murder”.

It’s just wrong.

Damage to our Hearts

Tayvon Martin was guilty of looking suspicious, and Mr. Zimmerman is guilty of being either a racist s.o.b. or a fool

Matt about a racist killing a child
Matt Cole

Note to my friend Tom,

Tom, you so kindly and bluntly informed me that my blogs are too wordy and rambling.  In response to your advice, I was going to compose an extremely succinct blog consisting of perhaps five strident, horribly rhyming statements expressing my contempt for the Republican Party, but then a story broke that hurt my heart.  So Tom, forgive me for the next 450 or so words.

Facts: a 17 year old youth of color was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in a gated community in Sanford, Florida.  Zimmerman, the self-appointed captain of the neighborhood watch committee was armed with a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun.  Trayvon Martin, visiting a relative in that community, was armed with a box of Skittles.  Prior to the shooting, Zimmerman called 911 and was instructed by the dispatcher to NOT follow Trayvon.

Trayvon Martin - no more

Pain in my gut:  my grandson is a 12 year old beautiful, talented child of color.  My niece lives in a gated community in Florida.  It is not beyond my imagination that my lovely grandson’s life could be ended so senselessly.  Words cannot express my sadness and distress in response to this horrific story.

What is to blame:  fear and ignorance

Fear:  fear of people different from oneself, unwarranted and exaggerated fear that crime lurks behind every townhouse, and fear that our government cannot protect us.

Ignorance:  that a gated community, a car, a cell phone, and 911 center is not sufficient protection; it just takes 5.5 pounds of force to pull a trigger, but that force cannot be undone; that strapping on a holster does not make a  “nobody”  a “somebody”; that guns may not kill people, but bullets do; that a gun’s sole purpose is to end a being’s life.

(Please note: I am a hunter.  When I walk out that door with my weapon, I know I am fully prepared to kill.   Even, when I target shoot, I am practicing killing.)

Who is to blame:  those instilling and abetting fear and ignorance for political and monetary purpose

Who is guilty ?  Trayvon Martin was guilty of looking suspicious, and Mr. Zimmerman is guilty of being either a racist s.o.b. or a fool

Last words:  the NRA, which yearns and works at arming every citizen 24/7, and every damn politician who pushes the 2nd amendment, race baits, or plays the “other” card, should, but won’t be ashamed.

Grandpa Matt says, “SHAME ON YOU ALL, YOU BASTARDS”

no words

Matt Cole is a dad, grandpa, former construction executive and middle school science teacher.  As an active member of the Chicago Ethical Humanist Society, he cares about people.

Sixty-Six Years in Prison . . .

Shortly after being sentenced in 1946 to life in prison for three murders, he recanted his confessions, stating that he pleaded guilty only because his lawyer told him if he didn’t, he’d be tried, convicted and sent to the electric chair.

Ed McManus

A friend of mine died the other day.  You might know the name:  William Heirens.

If you were a child in Chicago in the 1940s, as I was, you knew about him; he was the bogeyman.   His arrest in June 1946 concluded a much-publicized five-month manhunt after six-year-old Suzanne Degnan was abducted from her bed in the middle of the night, killed and dismembered–her body parts were found in sewers.  Heirens, a 17-year-old University of Chicago student caught in the act of a burglary, confessed–after several weeks of intense questioning–to murdering her as well as two women, Frances Brown and Josephine Ross.  Scrawled on Brown’s wall with lipstick was the plea, “For heaven’s sake, catch me before I kill more.  I cannot control myself.”

If you have lived in Chicago in the meantime, you probably have heard of Heirens.  Year after year, the news media reported that he had applied for parole or clemency.  Shortly after being sentenced in 1946 to three life terms, he had recanted his confessions, stating that he pleaded guilty only because his lawyer told him if he didn’t, he’d be tried, convicted and sent to the electric chair.  (It’s hard to believe, but the state’s attorney actually conceded in open court after the sentencing that there had been “small likelihood of a successful murder prosecution” without “the cooperative help of defense counsel.”)

Wrongly convicted?
William Heirens

I became acquainted with Bill Heirens’ case in 1987 after a law school professor told me about it.  Aside from the issue of innocence, the professor believed Heirens’ constitutional rights had been seriously abridged.  Among other things, he was forcibly injected with sodium pentothal, the so-called “truth serum,” and interviewed by a psychiatrist; that would never be admissible in court today.  The Illinois Supreme Court in 1954 said there were “flagrant violations” of his rights, deserving “the severest condemnation,” but the court nevertheless upheld the conviction.   And Judge Luther Swygert of the U.S. Court of Appeals, in a dissenting opinion in a 1968 Heirens appeal, said the case “presents the picture of a public prosecutor and defense counsel, if not indeed the trial judge, buckling under the pressure of a hysterical and sensation-seeking press bent upon obtaining retribution for a horrendous act.”

Dolores Kennedy, a Chicago legal secretary, got interested in Heirens’ case in the 1980s through her father, who was a lawyer and had met him in prison.  She wrote an excellent book in 1991, “William Heirens:  His Day in Court” (Bonus Books), focusing on the rights issues.  Subsequently, she assembled a team whose research uncovered a large amount of evidence suggesting that he simply was not the killer.  There is strong reason to believe that his fingerprint, found in the Brown apartment, was planted by the police; a police officer with special expertise who examined it said it clearly was a “rolled” print, the type that one would find on a police fingerprint index card.  Five handwriting experts said neither the lipstick message nor a ransom note left at the Degnan home were written by Heirens.  One of them said the ransom note appears to have been written by a man who confessed to the Degnan murder but was released because the police didn’t believe him.  In addition, the confessions had multiple inconsistencies.  But all of this fell on deaf ears.  The authorities were unwilling to mess with such a sensational case.

Dolores Kennedy, who now works for the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University, introduced me to Heirens in 1990, and I wrote several articles about him over a period of years.   My wife Ellen and I visited him many times at the minimum-security prison in Vienna and later at Dixon.  He was a remarkable man who tried to make the best of his horrible situation.  He was a model prisoner; in 1972, he became the first Illinois prison inmate to earn a college degree.   He never gave up hope of release, and we talked with him often about what it would be like when he got out.

Ironically, he finally made it back to Chicago.  He collapsed in the prison Feb. 26 and was transported to the University of Illinois Medical Center, where he died March 5.  He was 83.  He had been in prison 66 years.

The last time we saw Bill, in 2008, his health was failing but his mind was alert, and of course he continued emphatically to maintain his innocence.  And we believed him.

—Ed McManus is an attorney and a former editor/reporter at the Chicago Tribune.

Rick Santorum about carbon emissions resulting in global warming: “CO2 is a pollutant? Tell that to the plants.” And I did. And that what the plants told me: “Finally a leader that recognizes that our planet is in trouble and who is fighting to feed the hungry plants . So plants-hang on! Help is on the way! Rick the CO2rusader for President!”

Daily wisdom
Horses for Rick!

Rick Santorum about carbon emissions resulting in global warming: “CO2 is a pollutant? Tell that to the plants.” And I did. And that what the plants told me: “Finally a leader that recognizes that our planet is in trouble and who is fighting to feed the hungry plants . So plants-hang on! Help is on the way! Rick the CO2rusader for President!”

Antidepressants and Depressants – Part 1

The report stated that many medical researchers are coming to the conclusion that antidepressant drugs are not effective and cause more harm than good. Most of the observed improvements can be attributed to the Placebo Effect. As usual, today’s medical philosophy dictates that medicine treats symptoms instead of addressing the root of the problem.

Recently I watched a report on “60 Minutes” about the “effectiveness” of the so-called ANTIDEPRESSANTS.

Blue
I need a PILL

The report stated that many medical researchers are coming to the conclusion that antidepressant drugs are not effective and cause more harm than good.  Most of the observed improvements can be attributed to the Placebo Effect.  As usual, today’s medical philosophy dictates that medicine treats symptoms instead of addressing the root of the problem.

The general public continues to be duped  by advertisers and medical professionals professing  that there is always a quick-fix pill.

It is so simple to understand.  There are a lot of stress factors in today’s society and people’s inability to cope with daily problems contributes greatly to the depression epidemic occurring in “advanced” societies.

Below are a few excerpts on the subject of depression and today’s life style:

HORWITZ AND WAKEFIELD:  Our book argues that, despite widespread beliefs to the contrary, the rate of depressive disorders in the population has not undergone a general upsurge.  In fact, careful studies that use the same criteria for diagnosis over time reveal no change in the prevalence of depression.  What has changed is the growing number of people who seek treatment for this condition, the increase in prescriptions for antidepressant medications, the number of articles about depression in the media and scientific literature, and the growing presence of depression as a phenomenon in popular culture. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=really-an-epidemic-of-depression

The definition of “depression” is so broad now that  people are “depressed” and need a pill if they get a traffic ticket.  In reality it is what we call LIFE.

Who Tends to be Most Depressed?

This study found the following groups to be more likely to meet criteria for major depression:

  • Depression
    In the dark of depression

    persons 45-64 years of age

  • women

  • blacks, Hispanics, non-Hispanic persons of other races or multiple races

  • persons with less than a high school education

  • those previously married

  • individuals unable to work or unemployed

  •  persons without health insurance coverage

Clinical Trials – What the Drug Companies Don’t Report

What Dr. Kirsch and his colleagues found was that 80 percent of the medication response in the combined drug groups was duplicated in the placebo groups, and that the mean difference between the drug and placebo was a “clinically insignificant” two points on both the 17-item and 21-item Hamilton Depression Scale, regardless of the size of the drug dose.  The placebo factor ranged from a high of 89 percent for the Prozac response, according to the study, and a low of 69 percent for the Paxil response.  In four trials, the placebo equaled or achieved marginally better results than the drug.  In the nine expert commentaries published with the study, none of the commentators disputed the study’s main findings.  http://www.mcmanweb.com/clinical_trials.html

Depression is an illness with a purpose.  In a new website about coping with depression I recently published, I talk about depression, itself, being ‘OK’ – because ‘depression’ is merely a ‘signal’ that something in our life is not ‘right’.  This is simplifying things but what most treatments tend to do is address the symptoms…hence a ‘pill’ might make you ‘feel more normal’ by overwhelming the brain’s ability to use the ‘signal’ of depression to alert you to the need for sometimes significant change.  Masking the underlying problem by the use of chemistry is a popular way for allopathic medicine to help people cope with depression.  I personally do not think that in the long-run this really helps us address what we need to do.  http://www.gonando.com/depression.html

Overuse of antidepressants
Life is good!

400% Increase

According to a 2010 report released by the CDC, antidepressants were the most frequently prescribed prescription drug between 2005 and 2008 for adults aged 18 to 44 years, and the third most commonly used drug for all ages.  That report also showed that the use of antidepressants increased by almost 400% for all ages from between 1988 and 1994 to the period between 2005 and 2008.  http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/751931

Teen Suicide Risk Similar Among Antidepressants

WebMD
By Jennifer Warner
April 12, 2010

Antidepressants increase Kid's violence
Pills kill

Overall, the child and teen suicide rate after initiation of antidepressant use among participants in the study was five times higher than the rate reported among all teens aged 13 to 17 in British Columbia, which researchers say reflects the higher suicide risks among the depressed.

Psychiatrists and the pharmaceutical industry spokespeople are rushing to defend the use of the medications, which are currently being taken by 17 million Americans and bring in $11.3 billion a year to drug companies. (They are not giving up $13 Billion!)

As anecdotes, statistics and case studies are being bantered about by experts, the question that comes to my mind is why are so many of us being diagnosed with depression in the first place?  What is going on that we must rely on a medication to help us cope with everyday life in this country?

I believe that the root cause of our depression epidemic in the US is the fact that we cling to illusions about life that have no substance.  Our illusions tell us that life should always be happy and we should not suffer.  http://www.karenwyattmd.com/apps/blog/show/12567868

Standing behind the familiar surfaces of everyday life – our family, our work, the travel we undertake, our preferred recreation and so on – a single question confronts us all, rich and poor, in every country in the world:  How should we respond to a world slipping deeper into crisis each and every year?

This leads me to speculate that the repressed knowledge of this failure to confront reality may be among the root causes of the ‘depression epidemic’ noted in recent years.  http://www.foresightinternational.com.au/shop/books/biggest-wake-call-history-book

Here is my prescription:

Exercise.  Gardening is great.  Get 8 hours of sleep.  Try meditation.  Watch your diet.  Change your social interactions.  If necessary, change your job.  Take a break and have a hobby.

Doing the above requires no health insurance, causes no money to go to big pharma and has no negative side effects.

Stress causes depression
"Advanced" society.

In most cases pills are not the answer.  Your attitude is.

Ponder this:  Doctors are considering to give antidepressants to kids as young as 2 years.  Don’t you think this is a symptom of a sick society?

NUMERO UNO

The idea that powerful people might use a religious or moral belief as a justification for bypassing laws protecting the average citizen could be possible, and should be terrifying.

I am not a person of religion. But I am a believer.  I believe that tomorrow at about 6:15 AM the Sun will rise in the East.  I believe that people can be good, and I believe in freedom.   I believe that those Eighteenth Century, wig-wearing, slave-owning, White guys knew more than just Roman numerals when they composed the documents shaping our country’s governance.

Let's see God or Guns

The “Founding Fathers” fretted about the balance of power and the protection of citizens’ rights.  Without the benefit of Microsoft Word, they wrote our constitution, and James Madison, sans Excel, was able to sort and prioritize those rights most in need of protection.  Madison brilliantly composed the Bill of Rights, this seminal document consisting of ten amendments delineates those cherished rights.  Surely, he must have asked himself, “Where do I start?  Which right is paramount?  Which right deserves to be numero uno?. ”

He somehow reached a decision, and next to Roman numeral one; he wrote,

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The first protected right chosen by Madison was the right to practice one’s religion, and prohibiting our government from foisting a specific religion on its people.

Why did Madison choose religious freedom as number I? Was it a divinely inspired decision?  Was he fearful of a state sponsored religion?  Was religion just so illogical that it needed protection from rational thought?  I don’t have an answer.  Perhaps, I could pray for one.

Religion is unique, because it often relies on an ephemeral, unknowable higher authority, an unchallengeable authority, an authority that can and has been used to abridge human rights.

On March 1, 2012 forty-eight U.S. Senators cast votes in favor of the Blunt Amendment. The amendment was cleverly attached to a popular transportation bill.  Note; only via senatorial logic could a bill funding roads and bridges for Peterbilts be merged with a bill protecting the church Peter built. The amendment which blessedly failed (48-51), was an attempt to permit employers to avoid providing any federally mandated healthcare coverage that an employer deemed in conflict with his or her moral beliefs.  Specifically, it was designed to allow bosses to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage to employees.  More importantly, this legislation was probably designed to garner Right Wing Conservative Christian votes by claiming Obama’s government was anti-religion.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor before the vote. “If the government is allowed to tell people to buy health care, it won’t stop there. I wonder what’s next. This isn’t about one particular religion — it’s about the right of any American to live out their faith without the government picking and choosing which doctrines they’re allowed to follow.”

No Mitch, it’s about employers having the right to determine the fate of their employees based on the doctrine or specific faith they professe to follow.  It’s about permitting one to impose his or her  beliefs on the rights of their employees by limiting their life choices.

Mitch, wouldn’t it be more equitable and fair to add “PROVIDED those actions do not impinge on the life and liberty of others?” The supporters of this bill in truth were not concerned with freedom of religion, they were concerned with women having the freedom to use contraception.

Go forth and multiply

This bill failed, and perhaps this will go away. However, if our Senate shifts to the right, and we get a Santorum-like President, the idea that powerful people might use a religious or moral belief as a justification for bypassing laws protecting the average citizen could be possible, and should be terrifying.

I ask the reader to ponder the following:

Should a boss be able to:

  • require women to wear burkas

    When do I get to choose?
  • require that girls be circumcised
  • avoid controlling pollution because God will take care of things
  • refuse to provide health insurance covering blood transfusions or stem cell transplants
  • demand people tithe to a specific Church
  • insist that employees say a prayer before starting the workday
  • demand that children attend a school that teaches creationism
  • require men to wear hats
  • forbid employees to have lovers of the same sex

    Fired!
  • only hire those believing in a specific God
  • fire people for taking the Lord’s name in vain (whatever the hell that means) after working hours
  • forbid people to drive on Saturday or Sunday
  • forbid people from voting for legislators in favor of legalizing marijuana
  • forbid people from attending pro-choice rallies
  • demand that all little boys be circumcised
  • refuse to sell to customers of certain religions
  • refuse to purchase from suppliers of different faith

Should people in power be able to treat their employees these ways?

Today, many of the above demands can be legally instituted by religious institutions.  Some can be done by businesses.   Few can be done by publicly funded institutions.   On March 1, 2012, we were just two votes from changing that.

Matt Cole March 6, 2012

Matt Cole is a dad, grandpa, former construction executive and middle school science teacher.  As an active member of the Chicago Ethical Humanist Society, he cares about people.

March 8 – International Women’s Day

Today I am in the United States. For 30 years in this country I was ignoring March 8th, sometimes even forgetting it, sometimes being reminded about the Holiday by old friends and family. This year is different. The election campaign for the President of the United States turned everything upside-down. Listening to rhetoric of Republican candidates, I cannot help but feel the necessity to fight for women’s rights, the necessity to remind everybody that we, the women, will not go back to times of being told what, when and how. I feel the necessity of March 8th.

Anna
Anna

Back in the Soviet Union, March 8 was a Holiday.  We celebrated International Woman’s Day.  The majority of people, including me, were happy to have a day off from work without even thinking what this day was all about.  In a country where women legally had the same rights as men, there were very few women representatives in the Government, practically no women were heads of big companies or educational and cultural institutions.  So, women got their flowers, chocolate and were happy.  Men ruled at work, at home and in government.

Today I am in the United States.  For 30 years in this country I was ignoring March 8th, sometimes even forgetting it, sometimes being reminded about the Holiday by old friends and family.  This year is different.  The election campaign for the President of the United States turned everything upside-down.  Listening to the rhetoric of Republican candidates, I cannot help but feel the necessity to fight for women’s rights, the necessity to remind everybody that we, the women, will not go back to times of being told what, when and how.  I feel the necessity of March 8th.

So, this year I want to celebrate this Day, to remind everybody and especially women that we will stand for our rights, we will not ignore the slogans and rhetoric of this campaign, we will not be taken back to the 50’s of the last century.

 

We are the power!

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