Tuesday, May 12, 2015

"The Shtetl Mentality" -- Relayed

I don't usually copy/relay other folks' articles, but this one is insightful enough to deserve it.

--Leslie <;)))><  

The Shtetl Mentality


By Eric King, Guest Contributor.

Not just for years but for decades I have been perplexed by the fact that American Jews are overwhelmingly anti-gun. Now they are not just indifferent to guns as they were when I was growing up 60 years ago, but today they are genuinely hostile to them. They are both in leadership positions of the movement to ban private ownership of all firearms as well as at the grass-roots level individually in favor of gun bans by over 10 to 1. After much thought I have arrived at what appears to be the explanation for this cultural aversion to firearms by most American Jews, and since I have never seen anything like this explanation in print anywhere, I thought it worth writing the following essay describing what for want of a better term I refer to as “the shtetl mentality.”
I was raised in New York City and later in a New Jersey suburb of New York by Jewish parents who had no interest in firearms, nor did any members of my extended family. Like most boys in those pre-PC days I had toy guns, but BB guns were absolutely forbidden. When I asked for one when I was 8, I was not told, “You’re too young” or “Maybe when you’re older.” I was told, “Not in my house.” As far as I knew, I was the only Jewish boy who asked for one.
My interest in “real” guns stems from a specific event. I was six years old sitting in my grandparents living room looking through old Life magazines. I came upon the photographs taken at the liberation of the death camps. I saw the pictures of bodies stacked like cord wood. I was stunned. “Mommy, why are all those people dead?” I asked.
·      My mother, a brilliant and subtle woman, thought for a moment and said, “The bad Germans called Nazis killed them.” Remarkably even in 1947 she made the distinction between the group “Germans” and the subgroup “Nazis.”
·      Of course, I asked, “Why did the Nazis kill them?”
·      She replied, “They killed them because they were Jews.”
·      Although I was only six and not yet sure of my identity or its meaning, I asked, “We’re Jews, aren’t we?”
·      “Yes,” answered my mother.
·      Almost without missing a beat I asked, “Mommy, do you and Daddy have a gun so we can protect ourselves if the Nazis come for us?”
·      My mother sought to reassure me of my security by answering, “This is America. That can’t happen here.”
All across America little Jewish boys and girls got the same answer and accepted it, but that answer never satisfied me.  From that day on I wanted to own a gun and know how to shoot it. The question is where did that answer come from and why, in the face of no little anti-Semitism in America, did Jews in 1947 and thereafter so strongly devote themselves to the answer that it could not happen here. For example, in a New Jersey suburb of New York City with a large Jewish population in 1955 why was I the only Jewish member of the junior high school rifle club? There even were two girls and two Blacks, along with about 35 Caucasian boys of various Gentile parentage, but I was the only Jew. I tried repeatedly throughout junior high and high school to interest Jewish friends in visiting the rifle club. None would step outside the accepted Jewish sphere of organizations like chess and math clubs and the debate team.
My parents were moderately supportive of this interest because they saw substantial positive effects of my target shooting in that I became much more disciplined and focused where previously I had been opposed to authority figures. I quickly recognized that you could not have 40 12 to 14 year old boys shooting guns without someone in charge to make the rules absolutely clear and then to enforce them. This was a role admirably filled by a local police lieutenant who worked very well with adolescents and probably had more influence on me than anyone outside my own family, especially my understanding of why people living in groups could not demand absolute freedom to do anything they wanted. Nevertheless my parents were still skeptical of the long-term value of my interests in this area and wished I would be more like other Jewish boys. For example, they were never willing to pay for my ammunition which I had to buy with the earnings from my paper route.
At that time I encountered a few Holocaust survivors who told me that just as American Jews felt secure from genocide in 1956, German Jews had felt similarly secure in 1926. They said that if you had asked every Jew in Berlin in 1926, “Do you think it is possible that 20 years from now almost every Jew in Europe will be dead, systematically exterminated by the German government?” almost all would have thought you were crazy. Needless to say, these Jews were more skeptical of their security in America, but it is important to note that I did not then, do not now and never in the intervening years have felt that there was some imminent likelihood of genocide against Jews, or for that matter any other group, in America. I just never saw the wisdom of assuming 50 or even 20 years from now this could not change.
This brings us to the shtetl mentality. Before the existence of the state of Israel, ever since the diaspora Jews have lived in small areas of other people’s countries. Among American Jews this now typically means great grandparents who lived in shtetls or ghettos, segregated, isolated, rural or urban areas in Europe. One of the major hazards of this situation was that occasionally a few Cossacks would get drunk, ride over to the nearest shtetl, rape a few women, maybe murder a man who protested rather than begging for his life, and then ride off into the sunset, big fun... for the Cossacks.
It had to be inescapably clear to these Jews that there were dozens if not hundreds of them, able-bodied and sober, surely a match for 8 or 10 drunk Cossacks. It would have been easy, even for people not trained in arms, to kill them and bury them someplace, but it is obvious why they did not. If they had done so, all the Cossacks would have come to the shtetl fully armed for battle. They would have massacred every Jew in this shtetl and every other one within 100 versts. Defense was just not an option, not a survival trait. The women raped and the men murdered had to be seen as the price Jews paid for living, for surviving as a people. Since no Jew ever even remotely considered the possibility that without some major provocation someday the Cossacks would try to kill them all, it seemed like a reasonable if awful compromise.
Such a compromise must have taken a devastating and horrific psychological toll on the people forced to make it. Sooner or later someone among our traumatized ancestors had to make the following rationalization to justify this situation: “We are better than those people because they are violent and we are not. They handle weapons, and we do not.” In order to maintain self-respect people in such a condition had to explain it as the result of something that made them better than their oppressors. This was the notion that they voluntarily (rather than of necessity as was the actual case) eschewed the use of weapons of any sort because they understood that violence was evil while their tormentors did not. It was the key to survival, self-respect and eventually the shtetl mentality which American Jews, far removed from the shtetl, still carry with them despite the fact that it has long since lost its utility.
There is now no possibility that if a 21st century American Jew used a weapon to defend him or herself, even to the point of lethality, against an assailant, anti-Semitic or not, that all the anti-Semites would descend on South Florida to murder all the retired old Jews who live there. What is worse, the shtetl mentality lumps all violence together in its rationalized prohibition of the use of weapons. For those with the shtetl mentality the knife wielding rapist who would slash a women’s throat after assaulting her is no different from the gun wielding woman who would shoot such a man to defend herself and her 12-year-old daughter.
Why is the shtetl mentality limited to American Jews? Do not Israeli Jews come from the same ghettos and shtetls? Yes and no. American Jews are the direct descendants of immigrants who left the ghettos and shtetls with the shtetl mentality intact and came to the United States between 1885 and 1925. They raised their children who raised their children to believe all weapons were wrong because all violence was wrong even though the conditions in America were different, the horrible compromise of Europe was behind them, and their survival and self-respect no longer depended on willingness to let some members of the group be raped and murdered without defending themselves.
The Jews who remained in Europe lived through the Holocaust. This caused the ones who survived and emigrated to Israel to see that the rules had changed. They saw that not all violence was wrong, that violence could be used to preserve the Jewish people, and that the defensive use of weapons was necessary for the survival of the group. This led to a greater acceptance of individual use of weapons for personal defense. American Jews only observed this from afar. They did not live it so they did not adopt this new insight as valid for themselves, even if most grudgingly accepted it as necessary for Israeli Jews.
The shtetl mentality has led to the Jewish Plan A for what to do in case seriously bad things begin to happen to Jews in America. Under such circumstances Jewish leaders plan to yell “Holocaust” as loudly as they can. They plan to use their not insubstantial resources and assets in the media to do this in hopes that the rest of Americans will rise and protect them from whatever new Cossacks have emerged. While this is a most reasonable Plan A, the fact that if this fails there is no Plan B is at the heart of what is foolish and stupid about the shtetl mentality. We have learned, or we should have learned, that there always must be a Plan B, a Plan B based on the notion that for a Jew the phrase “assault rifle” is a misnomer. The correct term, once the shtetl mentality has been transcended, is “Jewish defense rifle.”
In a way it is both ironic and sad that one of the best insights I ever have gotten into the relation of the Jewish portion of my identity to the rest of the world comes from a most unlikely source, the late Eldridge Cleaver, he of Black Panther Party fame. Once I heard him say, “The Jews are God’s chosen people. When anyone wants to blame something on someone, they choose the Jews.” Anyone of us who refuses to recognize this potentially is doomed.
Sincerely, Eric King

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Business Regulations: The Two-Edged Sword

As the campaign season nears and GOP hopefuls line up for the nomination slot, we're hearing a lot more of the old Conservative rap about government regulations cripple businesses and ruin the economy.  Uhuh.  You won't hear any of them voicing the Libertarian attitude of fair is fair: take the regulations off everybody.  None of them even stop to consider that a lot of those regulations on business were passed with the clandestine urging of the Captains of Industry themselves.

No kidding.  For example, the National Labor Act established the National Labor Relations Board, the 8-hour day, the 40-hour week, and the minimum wage -- all of which the unions had been asking for -- but it also outlawed a lot of effective union tactics, such as the sit-down strike, which the bosses had serious trouble countering. That law was quietly pushed by the bosses, as much as by the unions themselves.  Truth is, the bosses were willing to give some concessions about wages and hours in order to hobble the power of the unions, which had been growing steadily for the last four decades.  The power and membership of the unions peaked in that decade, and have been shrinking ever since

There are other laws, usually requiring particular standards, that were likewise pushed by bosses of particular industries for no better purpose than to cripple their rivals.  There's the legendary tale of the whiskey company that usually aged its whiskey seven years, which got the state legislature to pass a law requiring that all whiskey sold in the state had to have been aged in the barrel for a full seven years -- knowing that their chief competitor aged their whiskey for only five years, and had nothing older than five-years-aged product for sale, and therefore couldn't sell their product for the next two years.  Consider the fate of the Tucker car, how its production was ended and its company ruined by various government regulations and bureaucracies, much to the delight of the Big Three car companies, which couldn't match the Tucker for quality.

Now what would happen, really, if all those pesky government regulations were swept away -- especially if government regulations on labor unions, consumers' unions, whistleblowers and investigative reporters were swept away too?

Konrad Lorenz told of how his dog had a snarling rivalry with a neighbor's dog, and the two of them would bark and snap and howl marvelous threats -- so long as there was a good sturdy fence between them.  One day repairmen pulled down part of the fence, without informing the dogs about it.  When they came outside and started their usual bark-fest, they snapped and snarled along the length of the fence until they suddenly came to the gap.  Now this should have been their golden opportunity to settle the the rivalry with a roaring fight, now that there was no longer any barrier between them.  Ah, but neither dog took advantage of it.  After an instant's staring at each other, they both ran back to where the fence still stood, and went on with their usual threat-contest.  The truth is, neither of them really wanted to deal -- unrestrained -- with each other.  As Kipling put it, in his poem The Female of the Species, "...Man accepts negotiations, man accepts the compromise.  Very rarely will he squarely push the logic of a fact To its ultimate conclusion in unmitigated act."

The economic Little Guys -- labor unions, consumers' unions, whistleblowers, etc -- have long endured the unrestrained power of the rich and powerful, know how to deal with such, and would be willing to take on the Big Boys in the absence of government protections.  'Tis the Big Boys who really don't want to deal with the unrestrained vengeance of their victims, with no government shield between them;  the wiser heads among them remember that the Labor Wars of the early 20th century really were shooting wars, and it wasn't just the strikers who got shot.

This is why all the GOP hopefuls, when boasting of how they'd get rid of all those nasty government regulations on businesses don't really mean it.  The Libertarians do.  If Libertarians were to win, it would be fun to watch all those not-so-sincere pundits of the Free Market run like dogs to get back behind the fence.

--Leslie <;)))><   

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Baltimore Riots: Provocateurs!

Last night in Baltimore, the action followed a pattern that's familiar to anyone who's been following grassroots politics for a few decades.  First came the protest march, organized by local Black churches, that plodded down the street waving signs and shouting slogans and doing nothing more disruptive than blocking traffic.  Then, all of a sudden -- according to witnesses and marchers who had Twitter accounts and were carrying their phone with them -- a group of about 50 men, dressed like stereotypical Boyz In De Hood, started smashing and looting shop windows, throwing firecrackers, and attacking bystanders.  A hapless driver who turned his car onto the street was promptly surrounded, and the hoodie-boys started slamming their fists on the car windows.  They got as far as pulling the car doors open and starting to drag the occupants -- the driver, his wife and two children -- out into the street, and then, seeing that nobody in the rest of the march was joining them, suddenly stopped the attack and melted away into the crowd.  Of course the police moved in, grabbing the protesters and arresting a couple hundred of them.

The city government declared a curfew today, and the protest organizers insisted that they'd still march -- up to the beginning of the curfew.  That they did, and by the beginning of the curfew the only people on the street were just over 100 men, again wearing stereotypical Gangsta costumes.  These same guys threw rocks, bricks, bottles, firecrackers, and a molotov cocktail or two.  Again, the police moved in, but with only their riot-shields, tear gas and smoke grenades -- whereupon the gangsta boys faded quickly into the background.  The media, who were out in force this time, noted the difference between police tactics here and in Ferguson, Missouri.  The original protesters were in their churches at the time.

Now doesn't that sound a little too planned?  Yes, "violent" protests get media attention when nothing else does, but in this case the difference between the protesters and the rioters is a little too clear.

For anyone who has seen provocateurs in action before, it was pretty obvious what was going on here.  Starting with the Chicago Haymarket riot of over a century ago, the usual purpose of the provocateurs is
 to give the police an excuse to charge into the crowd of protesters, beating and possibly crippling or killing as many as possible, and arresting all the "leaders" for later jailing or execution.  Their secondary purpose is to make the protesters, and their purpose, look bad.  Their tertiary purpose, if they can pull it off, is to take the lead of the protest and stampede it into running itself over a political cliff.  A quick look through history can show you examples of all three of these in action.  Note the aforementioned Haymarket Riot, the discrediting of the Black Panthers, and the ruining of the National Organization of Women after it was seduced into following Andrea Dworkin.

But people do eventually learn.  The Baltimore protesters, after the first night, made a point of observing the curfew and getting off the streets -- and into their churches.  The police also had better sense than to charge at the crowd and bop-bop enthusiastically -- or maybe their commander recognized the provocateurs and realized that nobody else was out there.  It didn't hurt that some genius in city hall actually went and negotiated a peace treaty with the local street-gangs before the march started.

The ultimate solution is for the protest group to realize when it's being -- or likely to be -- provocateered, and have counter-tactics ready.  The easiest tactic is to step away from the provocateurs, point to them, and loudly yell: "Imposter!"  Another, requiring more warning and planning, is to surround the provos, close in on them, grab and silence them -- as in the classic movie, "The Grapes of Wrath".  Better still is to identify and isolate the provocateurs, send them off to some "action" where none of the rest of the protesters will be, and leave them to face the cops alone -- as was neatly done in Baltimore.  Well done, folks.  Well done.

--Leslie <;)))><    


Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Earth Day Feely-Goody Follies

Yes, today is Earth Day, and no, I'm not attending any Earth Day rallies, festivals, or other gatherings -- and haven't in years.  I gave up on them in disgust, years ago, when I saw that they were nothing but feely-goody festivals of self-righteousness where people who pride themselves on virtuous ecological consciousness get together to swap ain't-it-awful stories, swap ineffective tips on how to live more Green, make cheerfully loud demands about what other people should do, and go home feeling wonderfully pleased with themselves.  *Sigh*

You can find new ideas and techniques springing up all over the Internet, all the time, about how to do things like conserve water, clean out waterways, improve the lives of wildlife, make clean energy, make energy-efficient buildings, farm and ranch and fish more efficiently and soundly, and so on -- and you can apply these in your own life as much as you like, or can afford.  By now everybody connected to my Facebook page knows about my efforts to plant an orchard of rare and endangered fruit-plants.  I'm hoping we can save enough by the end of the year to put a solar electric generator on our roof.  Those are small things, but real.  There are plenty of small-but-real improvements that anybody can do to improve the biosphere, and as I said, you can easily find them on the Internet -- even in an hour's search on the public-access computers in your local public library.  This is a lot more effective than a day's worth of rallies and speeches and making yourself feel good for attending.

Likewise, when it comes to dealing with the ecological Bad Guys, the Internet is more effective than self-celebratory speeches.  The numerous sins of Monsanto, despite its multi-million-dollar TV ad campaigns and lobbyists' bribings, have been exposed repeatedly on the Internet and shoved under politicians' noses by way of electronically circulated petitions until nobody can ignore them any more.  More than that, the Internet makes it possible to start and spread rival industries -- such as home solar or wind generators, cellulosic ethanol production kits, 3D fabricators, and even Thorium nuclear reactors -- that have the potential to break the power of the cartels that are the major polluters.  The phenomenon of Internet crowd-funding has even started chewing into the financial industry, providing start-up money for new businesses while bypassing the banks entirely.  This is a quiet but growing revolution that will democratize the economy like nothing since the land-rushes of the 19th century, and it's in the hands of an informed and intelligent population with a serious preference for the ecologically sound.

This is an ongoing change, not fanned and satisfied with once-a-year feel-good festivals.  This is the revolution I'm trying to be part of.  This is why I spent Earth Day watering my seedlings and comparing local solar-power companies, and ignoring Earth Day entirely.

--Leslie <;)))><     

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Tale of Two Cop Videos

I'll name no names -- anybody who wants to can go look them up -- but within the last two weeks we've seen two different videos of cop/civilian interactions that really need comparison.

The first was taken by a security camera, and the cop obviously didn't know it.  It shows an unarmed civilian running away (unfortunately in a straight line), the cop firing no less than eight shots after him which finally bring him down, then the cop going up to the body and dropping a throw-down gun next to it.  No, the civilian did not survive.  It turns out he was pulled over for a broken tail-light and late child-support payments.  The local police department is having a hard time claiming this was a Righteous Shoot, the usual suspects are trying to justify it, and the usual activists are trying to bring murder charges.

The second, which has gotten a lot less on-air time outside of Arizona, where it happened, was taken by the cop's own car-cam.  It shows the car rolling up from behind a walking civilian who's holding a rifle, then swerving to aim toward the civilian, then finally running him down and crashing into a wall.  The civilian and his rifle, at separate angles, go flying over the wall.  Another cop-car rolls up, and the cops therein run out and cuff the civilian.  Yes, the civilian did survive.  Before that incident the civilian had spent the morning robbing a convenience store, burglarizing a house, stealing a car, then robbing a department store to steal the rifle and a box of bullets.  Before the cop-car came into view he had also fired that rifle, so it was clearly loaded and he was quite willing to use it.  The local police have no trouble calling this a Righteous... Take-down, but they're puzzling over how "appropriate" it was to knock the crook down with a car instead of a gun or taser.  The politicos aren't saying anything about it.  The various activists are likewise arguing over how "appropriate" the run-down was, and nobody but the crook's lawyer is trying to claim that he wasn't a public danger.  Nobody's mentioning the fact that a .30-caliber-or-better rifle bullet can go through a police armor vest, or a car.

The lesson I draw from this is that Arizona cops tend to have more sense and more imagination (as well as being better shots) than cops in other states -- which, perhaps, is only to be expected in a state where everybody has guns and knows how to use them well.  Also that politicos, Left or Right, think in predictable patterns and don't know how to react when something out-of-the-ballpark happens.  The run-down video makes it clear that a car, too, is a deadly weapon -- in fact, cars kill more Americans every year than guns do -- which is something that the politicos don't want to think about.

--Leslie <;)))><      

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Eat the Rich

There's an article on the Scientific American website which points out that income inequality in America is much worse than we feared, and social mobility is worse too.  The richest 20% of the population own more than 85% of the wealth.  The income of a 1% CEO is 340 times greater than the income of a minimum-wage worker, let alone someone on Welfare or Social Security.  A single family -- the Waltons, of Wal-Mart fame -- own more than 42% of the rest of the population.

Worse, they who make these incredible incomes do not create jobs, nor produce useful goods and services, nor work a useful industry.  They're managers in the financial "business" -- money-farmers.  "They toil not, neither do they spin";  they only manipulate the value of money.  They do nothing real or valuable to earn that wealth -- unless you think that buying elections and suborning governments, for their own purposes, does anything of value for the rest of us.

Now a brief diversion: "money" isn't exactly "wealth".  Money, as I've written elsewhere, is just a receipt, a useful shorthand, for services and goods -- things done and things made.  The only "money" that's worth anything by itself is coins made of useful and valuable metals -- gold, silver, and copper -- and precious little of the world's money is made of that anymore. Paper money is just a paper receipt, and electronic numbers on a credit card or a bank computer's memory is even less than that.  Real wealth is in the goods, services, and the territory where the raw material for the goods can be found.

Now territory, usually land, is almost worthless except in its potential to produce useful raw materials; a howling wilderness may produce wild game and useful plants, but these are useless to humans unless they go hunt that game and gather those plants -- in other words, put in labor.  The wilderness does produce clean air to add to what we breathe, but that's it;  everything else is potential, not actual.

So let's look at services;  those are all labor, in varying degrees of skill.  Their value is all in the usefulness of the labor.

Likewise, the value of goods is partly in the raw materials, but mostly in the labor needed to gather those materials and process them.  Consider: suppose you're walking through a howling wilderness when a healthy wild apricot tree chooses the moment you're walking under it to drop its fruit.  Wow, windfall -- literally.  You got the fruit, all that excellent food, (almost) for free.  But still, to make use -- get value -- out of that fruit, except for what you sit down and eat right then and there, you've got to put out the labor of gathering up all that fruit, stuffing it in whatever container you can come up with, and carrying it home.  Once you've got it home, you have to put in the labor of washing the fruit and storing it in a place safe from bugs and mold.  If you want to do more with it -- dry it, make jelly of it, process it into wine or brandy -- you have to put in still more labor.  Or if you're strolling through the howling wilderness and come across a riverbank full of fine potter's clay, you have to put out the labor of digging up the clay, hauling it home, and sculpting it into pots.  In short, the value of goods is primarily in the labor required to make them, even if the raw material is free.

So, most of the value of any useful goods and services is labor -- the more skilled, the more useful.

Bosses, from the beginning of history, have done their best to devalue other people's labor and inflate the value of their own.  They've evolved a million tricks for doing it, but it's basically the same old theft.  As the old IWW saying goes, anytime somebody has a dollar he didn't earn, somebody else earned a dollar he didn't get.  The triumph of the 1% is a colossal robbery -- of the value of everybody else's labor.

Now I'll be first to admit that not all labor has the same value.  An hour of the skilled labor of, say, a brain surgeon is easily worth 10 or 20 times an hour of the labor of, say, a fast-food cook.  But I really don't believe that the labor a paper-shuffling money-manipulator is worth 340 times the labor of that cook.  The cook at least produces real food.  What does the money-manipulator produce except corrupt politicians, bad laws and inflation?

The usual argument of the super-rich and their apologists is that they're The Job Creators;  without their investments there would be no factories or farms or mines or other businesses to hire working people. This is a transparent lie, for anyone who chooses to look.  Wherever the super-rich have a free hand, they reduce the number of jobs -- say, by replacing laborers with machines, or moving industries off to poor countries where labor is much cheaper -- in order to funnel more money back to themselves.  The real job-creators are the middle class and working class.  The working single mother who hires a babysitter is a job creator.  The mom-and-pop shop that hires a stock-boy is a job creator.  The farmer who expands his dairy and hires a milkmaid is a job-creator.  These are people who perform real work, which requires real workers -- whch means real labor.

All right, so the super-rich are thieves and parasites who are impoverishing the rest of us.  What can be done?  Taxing the super-rich at 90% rates would be only a stop-gap (even assuming you could get enough politicians to do it, or that next year's election wouldn't bring in a crop of them that would drop those taxes again in the names of St. Reagan and St. Bush).  A revolution to overthrow the rich and confiscate their holdings would be costly, in poor people's lives, and there's no guarantee that the confiscated wealth would be fairly distributed.  The real solution is to put an end to the money-farming "industry" itself.  How do we do that?

Well, here's an idea.  Flog the politicians (until they fear for their lives as well as jobs) to pass a simple but draconian national law which says: "No person (including corporations) shall loan money at interest unless he/she/it/they has already and previously owned and managed a business providing goods and/or services to the public which has produced enough profit to cover the loan.  Said business shall not be in banking, brokering, insurance or investing."  Think of the change that would make.  Nobody could be purely -- or even primarily -- a money-farmer.  Think of Joe's Bank and Grill, or Mor's Furniture and Loans, or Ford Motors and Mortgages.  Oh, and also abolish a lot of the restrictions on unions -- labor and consumer -- so as to restrict the bosses' ability to devalue the labor of their employees, or to falsely inflate the value of their goods and services.  And it wouldn't hurt to teach investigative journalism, logic, and critical thinking in the schools, either.  Can anybody think of other safeguards to add?

--Leslie <;)))><                

Friday, March 27, 2015

Folk Medicine Experiments: #1

Over the past several years I've occasionally had to battle with joint pains in my fingers.  Early arthritis or just the usual impact pains?  In any case, I've always cleared them up with my homemade remedy:

Take 1 dozen absolutely plain generic aspirin (no coloring, no buffering, no nothing), grind them as fine as flour, and dissolve in one ounce of DMSO.  Shake, stir, and filter through a coarse cloth until the fluid is clear.  Paint on the skin over the affected joint, wait until it sinks in and the skin is dry, then massage the skin vigorously to press the solution into the deeper tissues.  Apply twice a day.

This has worked reliably for years, until a couple months ago.  That's when I got pain and weakness in the joints of my right thumb, from wrist to tip.  I painted on my aspirin/DMSO solution as usual, and it stopped the pain and weakness from spreading, but didn't make it vanish as quickly as usual.  I told Rasty about it, and he worried that this was real arthritis;  he knows all too well about arthritis, having been damn-near crippled with it 20 years ago.  From what he could learn from a dozen doctors, what causes it is one's own immune system going crazy and attacking one's own cartilage.

I thought about that, and considered that the immune system doesn't go hog-wild for no reason.  Something has to set it off, and that something can only be some kind of an infection.  So, first solution: kill the infection.  Problem: just what kind of infection is it?  Not bacterial, I guessed, since lots of people with arthritis take antibiotics fairly often, for other ailments, and there's no record of them having any affect on the joint problem.  Not protozoans or parasites, I figured further, since those are quite noticeable in blood tests -- and, again, no correlation has ever shown up.  That leaves viruses and molds.  There are a number of mold-killers on the market, but where is there a broad-spectrum virus-killer?

Well, I know of an herbal mix that has a pretty good track record:

Grind up equal volumes of fresh raw garlic, fresh raw onion, fresh raw cabbage, and cured shredded tobacco.  For internal infections, swallow a teaspoon-full two or three times per day.  In this case, I painted the mixture on my skin, let it dry, then painted over it with DMSO. 

And looking further through folk-medicine accounts, I found something besides DMSO itself that's said to help with arthritis, and that's copper -- pure metallic copper, worn on the bare skin, as in a ring or bracelet.  After trying it, I realized that if you wear metallic copper on the bare skin, sooner or later the skin sweats.  Sweat is acid, and dissolves ions of copper out of the metal and deposits them on the skin -- thus causing the famous blue-green stain.  But not all of that stain stays on the skin;  some of it is absorbed through the pores, and eventually gets into the bloodstream, where the white blood-cells take up those copper ions and mix them into a chemical which kills all kinds of invading microbes -- but especially molds.  This isn't surprising, since molds (yeast, fungi, etc.) use a lot of copper in their metabolism, and therefore can't refuse to take in the stuff, no matter what else it's chemically attached to -- even if that something else is inimical to the mold's health.

At this point I mentioned my problem, and ideas, to my family doctor.  He agreed that mold infections do tend to make the immune system go frantic, and that both DMSO and copper have good track records for treating arthritis.  But he disagreed that the problem was caused by mold infections in the bloodstream, since "If you've got a mold infection in your blood, you're dead."  Hmmm, but how would the mold get to the cartilage in the joints if it didn't travel through the blood?  He also warned me to be wary of using too much aspirin, since it could burn the skin.  Well, of course: aspirin is acetyl-salicylic acid, and acid can certainly burn you if you get too much of it.  And we still hadn't completely ruled out viruses.

So what I settled on was painting the DMSO-and-aspirin on my skin only once a day, painting the herbal mix on my skin and following it with DMSO two or three times a day, and also wearing a copper ring and a copper bracelet on my right hand and painting DMSO on the resulting stain twice a day.

I've been doing that for the past four weeks, and the pain and weakness in the thumb have been slowly but steadily fading in intensity and shrinking in range.  They're not entirely gone yet, but they're retreating.

I think I'm on to something here.  Does anybody else have any similar stories?

--Leslie <;)))><