Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

For the sake of ornament and illumination.

Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 18, 2013 12:39 am

HEALTHCARE? WE DON'T NEED NO STINKING HEALTHCARE!, by Charles Carreon



08/29/09

I’m So Uninsured

Has anyone tried to get health insurance lately? I haven’t had it since I stopped working for Jackson County, Oregon in 1994. It’s simply prohibitive. For many years, I couldn’t get the non-smoker rates, because I still smoked my daily cancer stick, but I’ve cut that out now. My wife started worrying about not having it, so I said, “enroll at Pima Community College and get the insurance the college kids get.” She did, and what a sad, sad joke that was. The doctors in town looked askance at the company, whose reputation in Tucson is apparently not good, and when the bills came in, they paid a paltry fraction. For this we were out well over a grand per semester, i.e., four-month period. Given our health care needs, it made more sense to keep it in the bank, pay for doctor visits out of cash, and if catastrophe hits, just plan on declaring bankruptcy.

Who Needs Insurance?

I’ve worked for adult entertainment industry clients for the last nine years. Without making too many assumptions, I think it is a safe bet that people in this industry rarely obtain health insurance for themselves or their employees. Content producers often fail to require even basic health precautions in shooting scenes where models are exposed to body fluids, and workplace regulations in this field are nonexistent, resulting in an epidemic of chlamidia and other STDs in the LA industry, which caused the AIDS Foundation of LA to file suit against the LA County Health Dept. Lest you think that’s unique to a dirty business, think again. There’s nothing unusual about this situation in the USA, where people are frequently exposed to hazardous substances while working at jobs that provide no health insurance.

Why Are Americans So Sick And Why Is It So Costly To Heal Them?

Excuse me, but the elephant in the room passing nasty gas is called Fast Food and the Sedentary Lifestyle. The major killers are heart disease, hypertension, obesity, diabetes. Christ, I talked to a young man at Fedex Kinkos who has gout! You used to have to be rich to get gout. Now any schmo can afford it. Fast Food is the Modern Bread Line — you can always supposedly buy a burger for under a dollar. But Obama should re-enact that scene in Moon Over Parador where Richard Dreyfuss, playing the role of replacement-for-a-dictator of a banana republic who goes on TV to encourage his citizens to eat healthy, “Our Paradorean food — it’s tasty — but it’ll kill you!” But if he tried, Arby would rope him, Wendy would shock him with a cattleprod, and Ronald McDonald would follow the late Ray Kroc’s adage and “stick a hose in his mouth.”

Fact is, everything about health care is backassward in this country, due to the dominance of greedy geezers who have a chokehold on the ballot box and anti-scientific agendas that legislate morality. It’s easier for an old drunk age sixty-six to get on kidney dialysis after rotting his liver with Thunderbird wine than it is for an eighth-grader with a working mom to get cavities filled. Needle-exchanges are deemed immoral, even though they close down the major vector of transmitting contagion, while the same interest group clamors to close the borders to protect against swine flu. Swine flu, for that matter, can’t be called swine flu, because the pig farmers have fed Congress so much slop they think it’s yummy. We are tied with Poland and Slovakia with the 29rd highest infant mortality rate in the world (big improvement though since 1960, when it was 12th, but the AIDS epidemic in Africa has skewed the numbers). It’s easier to get your face shot full of Botulin than it is to get treatment for skin cancer. And let’s not forget, if you’re a pop star, you can get a daisy chain of crooked MD’s to bleach your skin, carve your nose down to a stump, and issue scrips for all the sedatives you need to cope with the pain of celebrity and ultimately sedate yourself to death. At that point, the end of you will be the beginning of a windfall for the record companies, and lawyers for your estate will protect your legacy by stemming the flood of counterfeit merchandise, because after all, people come and go, but trademarks are eternal.

I’m sorry if I sound like Keith Olbermann, but this subject makes me feel like Schwarzennegger in T2 — I’ve got a Gatling gun, an endless belt of ammunition, and an infinite supply of targets. So I’ll stop now, before I get accused of indulging in an orgy of verbal violence.

Is It Competitive In The International Economy to Require People to Buy Their Own Insurance?

US businesses are at a competitive disadvantage with foreign companies in nations where health care is provided by the government. Case in point — health care costs for retirees are one of the primary causes of the GM bankruptcy. And take note, that in bankruptcy, the funds those retirees thought would be protected for their health care are going to be dwindling as financiers with lawyers sort through the wreckage. And it’s not rocket science or Nobel-prize economics to know that if you can’t afford health insurance for your employees, you’re not going to attract the “best and the brightest,” indeed, like me, you might not hire anybody at all, and just contract everything out.

Would Insuring People Protect A National Resource?

I have previously pondered why it is acceptable to insure banks as a matter of public policy, but not to insure the health of people. The issue is always put in the negative — it’s “too expensive to have people going to the ER for primary care,” and “health care costs are out of control,” etc. How about this for a novel thought? — People are our greatest resource, and they will be more productive and benefit society more abundantly if the have health care, food, and education. People think they only want to pay for their own kids to get health care, but consider the fact that some random kid who can’t get dental care or a college education might, if given a chance, go to school and discover the biotech solution to the cancer that you or your loved one may someday get. Or they might just reform the fast food industry and save us from our addictive appetites. Or negotiate peace in the Middle East, or … you get the idea. Incidentally, they will be less inclined to crime and spreading contagion by shooting IV drugs and letting their heads be used as semen receptacle to earn the price of a hit. But no, people are considered a burden, a mass of demands that need to have bread lines and entitlements to continue their lives as non-productive, uneducated “consumers,” and only corporations create value, so only corporations can suck the tit of Big Government.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 18, 2013 12:52 am

THIRD CIRCUIT DEALS GAMBLING SYNDICATE DEAD MAN'S HAND, by Charles Carreon

09/02/09

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The Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld New Jersey District Court Judge Mary Cooper’s decision of all legal issues against IMEGA, a gambling trade association that had argued that the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, 31 U.S.C. § 5361 et seq. was unconstitutional.

The law makes it illegal for companies “engage in the business of betting or wagering” to accept checks, credit cards, or other forms of payment “to place, receive, or otherwise knowingly transmit a bet or wager by any means which involves the use, at least in part, of the Internet where such bet or wager is unlawful under any applicable Federal or State law in the State or Tribal lands in which the bet or wager is initiated, received, or otherwise made.” IMEGA, referred to in the opinion as “Interactive,” argued (1) that the Act was void for vagueness, (2) that it violated the right to privacy by preventing gambling in the privacy of the home, and (3) that it violated the First Amendment right to free speech.

The Third Circuit found all three arguments had no merit. The court decided: (1) The Act was sufficiently clear for any person “of ordinary intelligence” to understand it; (2) gambling is not protected from governmental impingement in the same way as is the right to have sex in the home; and, (3) the Act did not impinge on speech in any way.

We reject Interactive’s vagueness claim. The Act prohibits a gambling business from knowingly accepting certain financial instruments from an individual who places a bet over the Internet if such gambling is illegal at the location in which the business is located or from which the individual initiates the bet. 31 U.S.C. 5362(10)(A), 5363. Thus, the Act clearly provides a person of ordinary intelligence with adequate notice of the conduct that it prohibits.

It bears repeating that the Act itself does not make any gambling activity illegal. Whether the transaction in Interactives hypothetical constitutes unlawful Internet gambling turns on how the law of the state from which the bettor initiates the bet would treat that bet, i.e., if it is illegal under that states law, it constitutes unlawful Internet gambling under the Act.

In sum, we must reject Interactives facial challenge to the Act. Simply put, a gambling business cannot knowingly accept the enumerated financial instruments in connection with a bet that is illegal under any Federal or State law applicable in the jurisdiction in which the bet is initiated or received. Thus, the Act provide[s] a person of ordinary intelligence fair notice of what is prohibited. Williams, 128 S. Ct. at 1845.4A

Next, Interactive contends that the District Court erred in rejecting its claim that the Act violated a constitutional right of individuals to engage in gambling-related activity in the privacy of their homes. As noted above, the District Court held that Interactive lacked standing to assert the rights of third-party gamblers, and alternatively, that the claim failed on the merits.

We share the District Courts doubts regarding Interactives standing to assert these claims, particularly because Interactive does not itself have any relationship with individual gamblers, but rather seeks to assert third-party standing based on its members relationships with such gamblers. However, … we need not decide whether Interactive has standing because, even assuming that it does, we agree with the District Court that Interactives claim clearly fails on the merits.

Interactives reliance on those cases is misplaced. Both Lawrence and Earle involved state laws that barred certain forms of sexual conduct between consenting adults in the privacy of the home. Lawrence, 539 U.S. at 567; Earle, 517 F.3d at 744. As the Supreme Court explained in Lawrence, such laws touch[] upon the most private human conduct, sexual behavior, and in the most private of places, the home. 539 U.S. at 567. Gambling, even in the home, simply does not involve any individual interests of the same constitutional magnitude. Accordingly, such conduct is not protected by any right to privacy under the constitution.

In its effort to locate a constitutional privacy right to engage in Internet gambling from ones home, Interactive looks primarily to Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), and Reliable Consultants, Inc. v. Earle, 517 F.3d 738 (5th Cir. 2008).

Before the District Court, 8 Interactive primarily pursued a claim that the Act violated the First Amendment. Although Interactive stated at oral argument that it had not abandoned that claim, it only tangentially mentions this argument in its papers to this court. In any event, the Act only criminalizes the knowing acceptance of certain financial instruments in connection with unlawful gambling. Simply put, such conduct lacks any communicative element sufficient to bring it within the ambit of the First Amendment. United States v. OBrien, 391 U.S. 367, 376 (1968).


The opinion is available at the link below.

Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association, Inc. v. United States
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 18, 2013 12:59 am

NOT SO FAST! OBAMA'S NOBEL SUBJECT TO CONGRESSIONAL APPROVAL, by Charles Carreon

10/13/09

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The Emoluments clause, U.S. Constitution Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 (art. I, § 9, cl. 8), provides:

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.


In a memorandum finding that NASA employees could not take paid leave to work for a Canadian University that was chartered under Canadian law, the United States Department of Justice has defined “King, Prince or foreign State” to include foreign universities:

Foreign public universities are, presumptively, foreign States within the meaning of the Clause.

The language of the Emoluments Clause is both sweeping and unqualified. The Clause in terms prohibits those holding offices of profit or trust under the United States from accepting “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever” from “any . . . foreign State” unless Congress consents (emphases added). There is no express or implied exception for emoluments received from foreign States when the latter act in some capacity other than the performance of their political, military or diplomatic functions. The decision whether to permit exceptions that qualify the Clause’s absolute prohibition or that temper any harshness it may cause is textually committed to Congress, which may give consent to the acceptance of offices or emoluments otherwise barred by the Clause.

*** Those who hold offices under the United States must give the government their unclouded judgment and their uncompromised loyalty. That judgment might be biased, and that loyalty divided, if they received financial benefits from a foreign government, even when those benefits took the form of remuneration for academic work or research. Moreover, institutions of higher learning are often substantially funded, whether directly or indirectly, by their governments, and university research programs or other academic activities may be linked to the missions of their governmental sponsors, including national scientific and defense agencies.

Accordingly, we conclude that foreign governmental entities, including public universities, are presumptively instrumentalities of foreign States under the Emoluments Clause, even if they do not engage specifically in political, military or diplomatic functions.



There can be no doubt that the Nobel Prize Committee is an institution of the Norwegian government. The Nobel website states:

Since the first Nobel Prizes were awarded in 1901, the Peace Prize has, in accordance with Alfred Nobel’s will, been awarded by a committee of five, appointed by the Storting (the Norwegian Parliamant), but without the committee being formally responsible to the Storting. According to rules laid down by the Storting, election to the committee was to be for a six-year term, and members could be re-elected. The committee’s composition should reflect the relative strengths of the political parties in the Storting, but the committee has elected its own chairman and deputy chairman. It was never required by the rules and on some occasions the matter has been debated, but so far all committee members have been Norwegian nationals.


Given that the avowed purpose of the award is to empower the President to exercise his influence in support of the Nobel commission’s mission to allegedly foment world peace, and comes with a very substantial “emolument,” $1.4 Million USD, it should be no-brainer that this comes up in front of Congress. Mr. Reid, Madam Pelosi, front and center! Let’s get this done before we vote on health care, okay?

This issue has already been raised by an anonymous poster, so I cannot claim to be an original thinker. However, the question is rather obvious, and I am uncertain why Attorney General Eric Holder has failed to consider it. Except, perhaps, that reading the Constitution isn’t a big priority inside the Beltway.

P.S. What I didn't cover here was this, far more trenchant question -- since when is the Commander in Chief of the world's largest rogue police force, a man who has failed to make good on promises to end torture and adventurism, who props up a puppet dictator in Afghanistan, and presides over a drone force that kills people like targets in a video game, a "Peace Prize" Winner?

APPLICABILITY OF EMOLUMENTS CLAUSE TO EMPLOYMENT OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES BY FOREIGN PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES

The Emoluments Clause does not apply in the cases of government employees offered faculty employment by a foreign public university where it can be shown that the university acts independently of the foreign State when making faculty employment decisions.

March 1, 1994

MEMORANDUM FOR LAWRENCE F. WATSON
CHIEF COUNSEL
GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION

This memorandum responds to your request of September 9, 1993, for our opinion concerning the applicability of the Emoluments Clause, U.S. Const. art. I, § 9, cl. 8, to the employment by the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, of two scientists on leave without pay from the Goddard Space Flight Center (Goddard), a component of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). (1) We conclude that the Emoluments Clause does not apply in these cases.

I.

As Goddard has explained, Drs. Inez Fung and James K. B. Bishop have sought your administrative approval for employment as Professors in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Victoria until August 31, 1994. During that period, the two scientists would be in Leave Without Pay status from their positions at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, a component of Goddard. (Goddard is itself a NASA field installation.) Both scientists hold the position of Aerospace Technology (AST)/Global Ecology Studies at the GS-15 level. For their services in teaching and research while on leave, Drs. Fung and Bishop would be paid $85,000 and $70,000 respectively by the University of Victoria.

The University of Victoria operates under the University Act, a statute enacted by the legislature of British Columbia. See University Act, R.S.B.C. 1979, ch. 419, as amended; Goddard Mem., Attachment 7. The Act provides that the university is to consist of a chancellor, convocation, board, senate and faculties. Id., Pt. 3, § 3(2). The chancellor is to be elected by the members of the convocation, id., Pt. 5, § 11(1), and is to serve on the board of governors, id., Pt. 6, § 19(a). The convocation is composed of the chancellor, the president, the members of the senate, all faculty members, all graduates, all persons added to the roll of the convocation by the senate, and all other persons carried on the roll before July 4, 1974. Id., Pt. 4, § 5.

The Supreme Court of Canada has outlined the powers of the boards of governors and senates subject to the University Act:

Under the University Act, R.S.B.C. 1979, c. 419, the management, administration and control of the property, revenue, business and affairs of the university are vested in a board of governors consisting of 15 members. Eight of the members are appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council, but two of these must be nominated by the alumni association. The provincial government, therefore, has the power to appoint a majority of the members of the board of governors, but it does not have the power to select a majority. The academic government of the university is vested in the senate, only a minority of the members of which are appointed by the Lieutenant Governor.

Harrison v. University of British Columbia, [1990] 3 S.C.R. 451, 459 (judgment of Dickson, C.J., and La Forest and Gonthier, JJ.) (plurality op.). Further, "under s. 22(1) of the Act, the Lieutenant Governor 'may, at any time, remove from office an appointed member of the board.'" Id. at 467 (Wilson, J., dissenting).

In general, the "management, administration and control of the property, revenue, business and affairs of the university are vested in the board." University Act, Pt. 6, § 27. In addition, the university "enjoys special government-like powers in a number of respects and the exercise of these would presumably fall under the jurisdiction of the board. It has the power to expropriate property under s. 48 and its property is protected against expropriation under s. 50. It is exempt from taxation under s. 51. The board may also borrow money to meet University expenditures (s. 30) and appoint advisory boards for purposes it considers advisable (s. 33). The University may not dispose of its property without the approval of the Lieutenant Governor (s. 47(2))." Harrison, [1990] 3 S.C.R. at 467 (Wilson, J., dissenting).

As pointed out above, the academic governance of the university is vested in the senate. University Act, Pt. 7, § 36. The senate is composed of a number of persons, including the Chancellor, the President, deans, administrators, faculty, students, 4 members of convocation, representatives of affiliated colleges, and 4 persons appointed by the Lieutenant Governor. Id., § 34. Thus, only a relatively small minority of the senate will consist of governmental appointees. (2)

Finally, the faculty is "constituted by the board, on the recommendation of the senate." University Act, Pt. 8, § 38. The faculty has various powers, including the power to determine, subject to the approval of the senate, courses of instruction. Id., § 39(d).

II.

The Emoluments Clause, U.S. Const. art. I, § 9, cl. 8, provides:

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

Goddard advances two basic arguments for concluding that the Emoluments Clause is inapplicable in these cases. First, it maintains that the University of Victoria is not a "foreign State" within the meaning of the Clause. Second, it suggests that when a Federal employee is on Leave of Absence Without Pay status, he or she does not occupy an "Office of Profit or Trust" under the United States. For reasons somewhat different from Goddard's, we agree that the Clause is inapplicable here. Although we believe that foreign public universities, such as the University of Victoria, are presumptively foreign States under the Emoluments Clause, we also find that, in this case, the university can be shown to be acting independently of the foreign State with respect to its faculty employment decisions. Because such a showing can be made, we conclude that in that context the University of Victoria should not be considered a foreign State.

A.

The Emoluments Clause was adopted unanimously at the Constitutional Convention, and was intended to protect foreign minister (3) James Madison's notes on the Convention for August 23, 1787 report:

Mr[.] Pinkney urged the necessity of preserving foreign Ministers & other officers of the U.S. independent of external influence and moved to insert -- after Art[.] VII sect[.] 7. the clause following -- "No person holding any office of profit or trust under the U.S. shall without the consent of the Legislature, accept of any present, emolument, office or title of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State["] which passed nem: contrad.

2 M. Farrand (ed.), The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 389 (1966); see also 3 id. at 327 (remarks of Governor Randolph). (4) "Consistent with its expansive language and underlying purpose, the provision has been interpreted as being 'particularly directed against every kind of influence by foreign governments upon officers of the United States, based upon our historic policies as a nation.' 24 Op. Att'y Gen. 116, 117 (1902) (emphasis in original)." Applicability of Emoluments Clause to Proposed Service of Government Employee on Commission of International Historians, 11 Op. O.L.C. 89, 90 (1987).

Our Office has been asked from time to time whether foreign entities that are public institutions but not diplomatic, military or political arms of their government should be considered to be "foreign State[s]" for purposes of the Emoluments Clause. In particular, we have been asked whether foreign public universities constitute "foreign State[s]" under the Clause. Our prior opinions on this subject have not been a seamless web. Thus, in an opinion that Goddard cites and relies upon, we concluded that while the University of New South Wales was clearly a public institution, it was not so clear that it was a "foreign State" under the Emoluments Clause, given its functional and operational independence from the federal and state governments in Australia. (5) Accordingly, we opined that the question posed there -- whether a NASA employee could accept a fee of $150 for reviewing a Ph.D. thesis -- had to be answered by considering the particular circumstances of the case, in order to determine whether the proposed arrangement had the potential for corruption or improper foreign influence of the kind that the Emoluments Clause was designed to address. On other occasions, however, we have construed the Emoluments Clause to apply to public institutions of higher education in foreign countries without engaging in such an inquiry. (6)

In re-examining these precedents, we have considered the claim that foreign universities, even if "public" in character, should generally not be considered to be instrumentalities of foreign States for purposes of the Emoluments Clause. On behalf of this view, it can be argued that the Clause was designed to guard against the exercise of improper influence on United States officers or employees by the political, military or diplomatic agencies of foreign States, because payments by those agencies are most likely to create a conflict between the recipient's Federal employment and his or her outside activity. Because public universities do not generally perform such functions, they ought not, on this analysis, to be brought within the Clause. (7)

After considering the question carefully, we have concluded that such an interpretation of the Emoluments Clause is mistaken. Foreign public universities are, presumptively, foreign States within the meaning of the Clause. (8)

The language of the Emoluments Clause is both sweeping and unqualified. (9) The Clause in terms prohibits those holding offices of profit or trust under the United States from accepting "any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever" from "any . . . foreign State" unless Congress consents (emphases added). There is no express or implied exception for emoluments received from foreign States when the latter act in some capacity other than the performance of their political, military or diplomatic functions. The decision whether to permit exceptions that qualify the Clause's absolute prohibition or that temper any harshness it may cause is textually committed to Congress, which may give consent to the acceptance of offices or emoluments otherwise barred by the Clause. (10)

Further, it serves the policy behind the Emoluments Clause to construe it to apply to foreign States even when they act through instrumentalities such as universities which do not perform political, military or diplomatic functions. Those who hold offices under the United States must give the government their unclouded judgment and their uncompromised loyalty. (11) That judgment might be biased, and that loyalty divided, if they received financial benefits from a foreign government, even when those benefits took the form of remuneration for academic work or research. (12) Moreover, institutions of higher learning are often substantially funded, whether directly or indirectly, by their governments, and university research programs or other academic activities may be linked to the missions of their governmental sponsors, including national scientific and defense agencies. (13) Thus, United States Government officers or employees might well find themselves exposed to conflicting claims on their interests and loyalties if they were permitted to accept employment at foreign public universities. (14)

Finally, Congress has exercised its power under the Emoluments Clause to create a limited exception for academic research at foreign public institutions of learning. The Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act provides in part that Federal employees may accept from foreign governmental sources "a gift of more than minimal value when such gift is in the nature of an educational scholarship." 5 U.S.C. § 7342(c)(1)(B). (15) Thus, Congress has recognized that foreign governmental bodies may wish to reward or encourage scholarly or scientific work by employees of our Government, but has carefully delimited the circumstances in which Federal employees may accept such honors or emoluments. That suggests that Congress believes both that the Emoluments Clause extends to paid academic work by Federal employees at foreign public universities, and that the Clause's prohibition on such activity should generally remain in force.

Accordingly, we conclude that foreign governmental entities, including public universities, are presumptively instrumentalities of foreign States under the Emoluments Clause, even if they do not engage specifically in political, military or diplomatic functions. (16)

B.

Having found that foreign public universities may and presumptively do fall under the Emoluments Clause, we turn next to the question whether the University of Victoria in particular is an instrumentality of a foreign State (the province of British Columbia), and hence within the Clause. We conclude that it is not, at least with respect to the faculty employment decisionmaking that is in issue here.

Goddard contends that "[t]he ability of [Canadian] federal or provincial government officials to influence and control the actions of [the University of Victoria's board, senate and faculty] is most possible concerning the Board, but in all three cases is minimized by the other members of the organizations, the sources from which those members are obtained, the method of their nominations and appointments, and the procedures concerning replacement . . . Thus, it appears [that] the University of Victoria is established as a largely self-governing institution, with minimal influence exercisable over the daily affairs and even general policies of the University." Goddard Mem. at 6.

Without attempting to decide whether, as Goddard claims, the University of Victoria is generally free from the control of the provincial government of British Columbia, we think that the evidence shows that the university is independent of that government when making faculty employment decisions. We rely here chiefly on the Supreme Court of Canada's decisions in the Harrison case, cited above, and in the companion case, McKinney v. University of Guelph, [1990] 3 S.C.R. 229.

The principal question presented in Harrison was whether the University of British Columbia's mandatory retirement policy respecting its faculty and administrative staff was consistent with the requirements of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the Charter). (17) Whether the Charter applied turned on whether the challenged policy constituted governmental action -- an inquiry raising issues at least somewhat akin to those posed by the "State action" doctrine in United States jurisprudence. See Harrison, [1990] 3 S.C.R. at 463 (plurality op.). (18) Over dissent, the Court held that the university's policy was not governmental action under the Charter. In reaching that conclusion, three of the seven judges drew a distinction between "ultimate or extraordinary control and routine or regular control," and held that while the government of British Columbia may be able to exercise the former, it lacked "the quality of control that would justify the application of the Charter." Id.; see also id. at 478 (L'Heureux-Dubé, J., dissenting on the appeal only) (university not "government" for purpose of section 32 of Charter).

Similarly, in McKinney, a majority of the Court, again over dissent, held that the mandatory retirement policies of the defendant universities (there, located in the Province of Ontario) did not implicate the Charter. Moreover, the lead opinion emphasized the autonomy of the provincial universities when making faculty employment decisions:

The Charter apart, there is no question of the power of the universities to negotiate contracts and collective agreements with their employees and to include within them provisions for mandatory retirement. These actions are not taken under statutory compulsion, so a Charter attack cannot be sustained on that ground. There is nothing to indicate that in entering into these arrangements, the universities were in any way following the dictates of the government. They were acting purely on their own initiative . . . The legal autonomy of the universities is fully buttressed by their traditional position in society. Any attempt by government to influence university decisions, especially decisions regarding appointment, tenure and dismissal of academic staff, would be strenuously resisted by the universities on the basis that this could lead to breaches of academic freedom. In a word, these are not government decisions.

McKinney, [1990] 3 S.C.R. at 269, 273 (plurality op.); see also id. at 418-19 (L'Heureux-Dubé, J., dissenting) (while universities may perform certain public functions attracting Charter review, hiring and firing of employees at universities in both British Columbia and Ontario are not among such actions; "Canadian universities have always fiercely defended their independence.").

While the Ontario statute at issue in McKinney differed from the British Columbia statute considered in Harrison (in particular, Ontario's statutes, unlike British Columbia's, did not permit the provincial government to appoint a majority of a university board's membership), the Harrison plurality held that these differences did not establish that the core functions of the British Columbian universities were under the province's control. Harrison, [1990] 3 S.C.R. at 463-64 (plurality op.) Thus, the Court's statements in McKinney concerning the autonomy of Ontario's universities in matters of faculty employment would apparently hold true for the universities in British Columbia as well. (19) Furthermore, even the dissent in Harrison acknowledged "the lack of government control over the mandatory retirement policies specifically in issue here and over matters specifically directed to the principle of academic freedom." Id. at 472 (Wilson, J., dissenting). (20) The remaining member of the Court accepted the trial court's finding that the university's employment agreements were essentially private contracts. Id. at 479-80 (L'Heureux-Dubé, J., dissenting on appeal only).

These Canadian cases cannot of course determine our interpretation of the Emoluments Clause. But they do provide compelling evidence that the University of Victoria is independent of the government of British Columbia with respect to decisions regarding the terms and conditions of faculty employment. Because that showing can be made, we believe the university should not be considered to be a foreign State under the Emoluments Clause when it is acting in that context. (21)

Conclusion

The Emoluments Clause does not prohibit the two NASA scientists from accepting paid teaching positions at the University of Victoria during their unpaid leave of absence from their agency.

Walter Dellinger

Assistant Attorney General

1 See Letter to Walter Dellinger, Acting Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, from Lawrence F. Watson, Chief Counsel, Goddard Space Flight Center, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, dated September 9, 1993 (the Goddard Mem.).

2 "With respect to some important matters, however, the decisions of the senate are effectively controlled by the board of governors." Harrison, [1990] 3 S.C.R. at 469 (Wilson, J., dissenting). For example, "every resolution passed by the senate respecting the establishment or discontinuance of any faculty, department, course of instruction, chair fellowship, scholarship, exhibition, bursary or prize (s. 36(i)) as well as internal faculty matters and terms of affiliation with other universities is of no force or effect unless approved by the board (s. 37)." Id.

3 See, e.g., The Federalist No. 22, at 149 (Alexander Hamilton) (Clinton Rossiter ed., 1961) ("One of the weak sides of republics, among their numerous advantages, is that they afford too easy an inlet to foreign corruption.").

4 The Emoluments Clause builds upon practices that had developed during the period of the Confederation. "It was the practice of Louis XVI of France to give presents to departing ministers who signed treaties with France. Before he left France in mid-1780, Arthur Lee received a portrait of Louis set in diamonds atop a gold snuff box. In October 1780 Lee turned the gift over to Congress, and on 1 December Congress resolved that he could keep the gift. In September 1785 Benjamin Franklin informed Secretary for Foreign Affairs John Jay that, when he left France, Louis XVI presented him with a miniature portrait of himself, set with 408 diamonds. In October Jay recommended to Congress that Franklin be permitted to keep the miniature in accordance with its December 1780 ruling about a similar miniature given to Lee. In March 1786 Congress ordered that Franklin be permitted to keep the gift. At the same time, Congress also allowed Jay himself to accept the gift of a horse from the King of Spain even though Jay was then engaged in negotiations with Spain's representative, Don Diego de Gardoqui." 10 John P. Kaminski et al. (eds.), The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution 1369 n.7 (1993). See also President Reagan's Ability to Receive Retirement Benefits from the State of California, 5 Op. O.L.C. 187, 188 (1981) (discussing background to ratification of Clause).

5 See Memorandum to H. Gerald Staub, Office of Chief Counsel, NASA, from Samuel A. Alito, Jr., Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, re: Emoluments Clause Questions raised by NASA Scientist's Proposed Consulting Arrangement with the University of New South Wales (May 23, 1986).

6 See, e.g., Memorandum to File from Robert J. Delahunty, Acting Special Counsel, re: Applicability of Emoluments Clause to Employment of CFTC Attorney by East China Institute of Politics and Law (Aug. 27, 1992); Memorandum to Files from Barbara E. Armacost, re: Emoluments Clause and Appointment to the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities (Nov. 15, 1990). The General Accounting Office has reached a similar result in a related context. See 44 Comp. Gen. 130 (1964) (retired Coast Guard officer subject to recall to active duty held not entitled to retirement pay for period in which he was teaching for Department of Education of State of Tasmania, Australia).

7 See Gerald S. Schatz, Federal Advisory Committees, Foreign Conflicts of Interest, The Constitution, and Dr. Franklin's Snuff Box, 2 Dist. Colum. L. Rev. 141, 163, 166 (1993) ("The Emoluments Clause's reference to foreign states was a reference to foreign governments' acts in their sovereign capacity, as distinguished from the acts . . . of foreign governmental entities without the legal capacity to represent the national sovereign . . . . The Clause addresses the problem of conflict of interest on the part of a U.S. Government functionary vis-à-vis a foreign sovereign in a sovereign capacity. The Clause thus may not be assumed to disqualify from U.S. Government service . . . an academic paid by a foreign government with which the officer does not deal").

8 See also Memorandum to Gary J. Edles, General Counsel, Administrative Conference of the United States, from Walter Dellinger, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, re: Applicability of Emoluments Clause To Non-Government Members of ACUS, at 10-12 (October 28, 1993) (opining that Emoluments Clause applies to foreign public universities).

9 Accord 49 Comp. Gen. 819, 821 (1970) (the "drafters [of the Clause] intended the prohibition to have the broadest possible scope and applicability").

10 Accordingly, Congress has acted in appropriate cases to relieve certain classes of government personnel, e.g., retired military officers, from applications of the Clause. See Ward v. United States, 1 Cl. Ct. 46 (1982).

11 See Application of Emoluments Clause to Part-Time Consultant for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 10 Op. O.L.C. 96, 100 (1986).

12 Consistently with this view, we have opined that an employee of the National Archives could not serve on an international commission of historians created and funded by the Austrian Government to review the wartime record of Dr. Kurt Waldheim, the President of Austria. See Applicability of Emoluments Clause to Proposed Service of Government Employee on Commission of International Historians, supra.

13 Goddard's own link with Columbia University in New York City, see Goddard Mem. at 3, 7, is illustrative.

14 Of course, the same predicament could arise if Government employees worked at private universities abroad (or even in the United States). But the fact that the Emoluments Clause does not address every situation in which Government employees might be subjected to improper influence from foreign States is no reason to refuse to apply it to the cases which it does reach.

15 We have opined that this exception applied to an award of approximately $24,000 by a foundation acting on behalf of the West German Government to a scientist employed by the Naval Research Laboratory. We reasoned that a "program designed to honor United States scientists and enable them 'to stay for an extended period at research institutes in the Federal Republic of Germany to carry out research of the Awardee's own choice' seems to be in the nature of an educational scholarship, acceptance of which Congress has permitted." Letter to Walter T. Skallerup, Jr., General Counsel, Department of the Navy, from Robert B. Shanks, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, at 4 (March 17, 1983).

16 We would also reject any argument that foreign public universities should be excluded from the purview of the Emoluments Clause on the theory that the Clause must be taken to prohibit only the acceptance of office or emoluments bestowed by a foreign State while engaged in performing "traditional" governmental functions, i.e., functions that governments would normally have performed at the time of the framing. The theory assumes that governmental support for higher education would not have been among such functions. The argument has several flaws. First, there is no such exception provided by or implicit in the language of the Clause. Second, the purposes of the Clause are better served if it is understood to cover all the functions of modern government, not some narrow class of them. Third, the Framers appear to have thought that support for higher education was indeed a legitimate function of government. The Constitutional Convention considered a proposal to empower Congress to establish a national university, but rejected it on the ground that the power was already embraced within the District of Columbia Clause. See 2 M. Farrand (ed.), The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 616 (1966). President George Washington, in his first and eighth annual addresses, called on Congress to consider establishing a national university. See 30 John Fitzpatrick (ed.), The Writings of George Washington 494 (1939); 35 id. 316-17.

17 The Canadian Charter is, in essence, a bill of rights. The Federal Government of Canada "enacted first the Canadian Bill of Rights, R.S.C., 1985, App. III, in 1960 and then the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, the latter having constitutional status. The values reflected in the Charter were to be the foundation of all laws, part of the 'supreme law of Canada' against which the constitutionality of all other laws was to be measured." McKinney v. University of Guelph, [1990] 3 S.C.R. at 355 (Wilson, J., dissenting).

18 But see McKinney, [1990] 3 S.C.R. at 274-75 (judgment of Dickson, C.J., and La Forest and Gonthier, JJ.) (noting certain differences between Canadian and American doctrines) (plurality op.); id. at 343-44 (Wilson, J., dissenting) ("This Court has already recognized that while the American jurisprudential record may provide assistance in the adjudication of Charter claims, its utility is limited . . . . The Charter has to be understood and respected as a uniquely Canadian constitutional document.").

19 Judge Sopinka concurred in the conclusions and reasoning of the Harrison plurality except on the question whether the mandatory retirement policy was "law" within the meaning of section 15(1) of the Canadian Charter. He would have preferred not to decide that question on the basis of the assumption that the university was part of the government. Harrison, [1990] 3 S.C.R. at 481. In McKinney, Judge Sopinka agreed that "a university is not a government entity for the purpose of attracting the provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. " [1990] 3 S.C.R. at 444. While not being willing to say that "none of the activities of a university are governmental in nature," he was of the opinion that "the core functions of a university are non-governmental and therefore not directly subject to the Charter. This applies a fortiori to the university's relations with its staff . . . ." Id. As in his opinion in Harrison, he preferred not to reach the question whether, if a university were part of the government, its mandatory retirement policies would be "law" for purposes of the Canadian Charter. Id.

20 Judge Cory agreed with Judge Wilson that the University of British Columbia formed part of the government for purposes of section 32 of the Canadian Charter, but disagreed with her on other grounds. Harrison, [1990] 3 S.C.R. at 481.

21 Since it is not necessary to our decision, we do not address Goddard's alternative argument that Federal employees in Leave Without Pay status do not occupy an Office of Profit or Trust within the meaning of the Emoluments Clause.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 18, 2013 1:04 am

JAMES RAY SWEATBOX TRAGEDY -- GET RICH OR DIE FRYING, by Charles Carreon



10/20/09

Success – it’s an American obsession. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been exposed to the culture of makin’ it. My dad was devoted to the philosophy of positive thinking, and given how he grew up -- alone on the streets of LA, sleeping in all-night nicolodeons, boxing professionally from the age of 18, graduating from a mail-order high school and eventually becoming a the first Hispanic legislator in the state of Arizona – he clearly made good use of it. His philosophy was pretty simple – get a good education, learn to do something worthwhile, and always do a better job than you were paid to do. His favorite book was “Think and Grow Rich,” and though he never got rich, he never stopped recommending the book. I suspect that just getting out of poverty and being able to raise his kids in decent style was enough for him.

But some people take getting rich very seriously. So seriously that they will take classes on how to get rich. Classes taught by people who, strangely enough, have uniformly gotten rich teaching other people to get rich. You see, real rich people never teach classes about how to get rich. Shrewd business practices, buying low, selling high, lobbying Congress for favorable legislation, garnering no-bid government contracts, and turning billions in losses into an international crisis so big that all the people in the world have to take on massive amounts of debt to bribe you into getting richer – that’s how you get rich! And those people won’t reveal their secrets for fear of prosecution, much less would they reveal them from a desire to help others to enjoy abundance.

Of course, that type of wealth-gathering is tasteless. Who would want to be one of those hated, ultra-rich investment bankers who view all other humans as the scut-suckers, whose trophy wives bless their unions with offspring groomed for greatness from the cradle to grad school? No, that would be depressing. That would be like giving in to the materialistic horribleness of life, and besides, that is a completely hopeless aspiration. Because becoming super-rich is nowadays a demanding job – the stress alone can kill you. One day, like Ken Lewis, you’re head of Bank of America, and everyone is praising you for doing pretty well in the financial crisis, then you approve four billion in bonuses for Merill Lynch in a midnight deal that everyone, including both the past and present heads of the Dept of the Treasury, is urging you to get done right now because you’re going to save the economy, so you do it, and then, a year later, you’re forced to resign in disgrace and don’t get a dollar for the last year’s worth of work. People like Lloyd Blankfein, head of Goldman Sachs, barely has time to work – he spends all his time insisting that, record bailouts and rising unemployment be damned -- bonuses are going to flow this year, more richly as ever, in fact, because “his people” deserve it. And then, here come Obama’s finger-shakers, crying “Shame!” on all the new shows and threatening to do – nothing…. Imagine the stress for these super-richies. Brutal, grinding stress that takes all the flavor out of a hundred dollar cigar, all the sparkle out of a diamond necklace, all the pleasure out of the plush comfort of your new Mercedes.

So, instead of pursuing wealth in the realistic, greedy, grasping style that actually works, many people aspire to achieve something ridiculous – getting rich by spiritual means. Leave aside the fact that Jesus said he’d lay odds on a camel making it through the eye of a needle before a rich man would get into heaven, that Buddha owned nothing his whole life, and that no spiritual teacher worth thinking about could by any stretch of the imagination be called a go-getter! Leave aside all that – Americans – who once proudly cranked out massive export tonnage from the world’s largest manufacturing plants and paid their way in the world – have become huge consumers of this spiritual wealth-gathering system that used to be confined to the back pages of the National Enquirer and Weekly World News. You know, the Secret Gypsy candle, the Virgin of Medjugorge, the Handkerchief of Solomon. Now we have the “Prayer of Jabez,” “The Secret,” and the whole realm of Deo-nomics.

God is rich, and he wants you to be rich! We need to build heaven on earth. The only reason you’re poor is because your mind is closed. Open it like a parachute, and the wind will pick you up like a dandelion and waft you away to the land of your dreams. While you’re there, visualize your ideal lifestyle – whatever you want – the awesome ride with twenty-inch wheels, the beautiful companion, the weekends in Vegas or the Bahamas, the imported champagne, the delicious meals. And more than that – visualize your body brimming with health, and your inner mental state as secure, confident, oozing positive feelings! Then think, “I have it all!” “That’s right, I have it all, right now.” It’s kind of like virtual reality. Some people say that through this type of mental exercise, you will “knock down barriers” to your higher self, “escape limiting self-definitions,” and “open the gates to limitless wealth on every level.”

But then there are more strenuous approaches to Getting Rich. Approaches that raise the bar for people who believe there’s no gain without pain. They have a special market to tap into – people who have a need to suffer. People who believe that if they suffer for the right reasons, while thinking the right thoughts, they will become someone greater, more fabulous, the kind of person who just “attracts wealth.” These kinds of programs usually offer “training” that sets you back a few thousand bucks, and that you are inclined to believe is valuable, since you paid good money to get it. When people feel suckered by these training programs, you rarely hear about it, because they don’t tell their friends. They just shake the dust off their shoes and move on.

One of these programs is “Harmonic Wealth,” (Registered Trademark 3062872), ginned up by James Arthur Ray, one of the authors of “The Secret,” who puts on free shows in which he manipulates vulnerable audience members in psychodrama interactions while his followers cheer and shout encouragement. The message they absorb is that Wealthy People are Superior People! To Get Money, You Must Get Wisdom! Not training, a degree, access to capital, an opportunity to sell your skills at a high price. No, Wisdom! Harmonic Wisdom! For those of you who already have degrees and can’t get ahead in the economy, this is the answer – you lack Harmonic Wisdom!

Once the cheerleading takes hold, they are signed up for Warriorship Training, in which they will be roundly abused at their own expense. Ray’s Warriors pay $9,000 to attend a three-day training that starts with getting their heads shaved, continues with a day of classroom instruction and self-indoctrination by listening to CDs and doing written lessons late into the night. Then he raises the stakes – he takes them out into the cold desert night and abandons them with nothing but notebooks, no food, water or shelter, for thirty-six hours. Then they get picked up, taken back to the ranch, given a little buffet to graze on, and then, they’re stuffed into an overcrowded plastic lean-to heated with loads of red-hot rocks that are doused with cold water to release clouds of stifling steam. On October 12th, Ray crammed fifty hungry, dehydrated people into such a torture chamber. With only 450 square feet, and a ceiling height of five feet at the center, there was precious little air to share, and Ray positioned himself next to the opening, where he could control the flow of air and coolness, and get maximum benefit when he opened the door briefly.

If that's a sweat-lodge, I'm Sitting Bull. Three people died, and nineteen were hospitalized with burns, dehydration, vomiting, and other signs of spiritual development. And while this lethal farce was unfolding, what was Ray doing? While his followers were keeling over, puking and dying, Ray was, of course, Tweeting! And what did he tweet in those hours of madness? “The Spiritual Warrior has conquered death and therefore has no enemies, no fear, in this life or the next.” And “For anything new to live something first must die. What needs to die in you so that new life can emerge?” Baaaad Guru.

Though he later tweeted “shocked and saddened … confused and frustrated,” he hasn’t slowed the pace of his schlock-slinging. The debacle in the high desert happened on October 12th, and seven days later he did a press release cautioning people to stop living vicariously through reality TV shows, and burst out with this urgent message: “The reason that 'reality TV' is such a hot item is because real life is not. You must master the secrets of the Newtonian world of physical action AND the quantum domain of your internal game. Once you have that combination, you can open the doorway to your dreams and your new reality every single time. This is for real!”

It appears to have escaped Ray that his disciples are REALLY DEAD! The closest this proud fool has come to facing reality is his admission that he was “being tested.” Yes, he’s right about that. The Yavapai County Sheriff is calling the deaths a homicide, and from the descriptions of how Ray behaved during the sweatbox experiment – apparently smug and confident, taking no interest in the people who had passed out and were dying – he is going to need serious legal representation.

Still, why were those people sitting there? Delusion, my friends! Delusion! The fond hope that somehow magic would accomplish what they hoped and desired fervently – a perfect world. Not a perfect world for everyone, which would be impossible to achieve, but rather a world in which they could feel perfect. They could obtain “Harmonic Wealth,” the sweet spot in the Universe where everything comes together and rainbow energies hum in sympathy with you, riches rain down, nice people tell you you’re beautiful, smart and capable, and you don’t have to think about global warming, AIDS in Africa, drone warfare on innocent civilian populations, and Dick Cheney’s family starting a new lobbying company. Y’know, when you put it that way, I’d kind of like to try it myself.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 18, 2013 1:08 am

A SLIGHTLY DEEPER LOOK AT EXOBIOLOGY, THE STUDY OF THE ORIGIN OF LIVING FORMS, by Charles Carreon

01/16/10



Full Disclosure of the Writer's Agenda

I will preface by saying that I endorse "origin-of-living-forms" research, and am in no sense on a Creationist agenda. Perhaps that will result in a lowering of the spear-points that seem to be ever at the ready here, in search of heretical mumbo-jumbo dealers. I will also reveal that I have my own, completely unverifiable theories that I believe would be consistent with any scientific evidence regarding the origins of living forms that is likely to be uncovered during my lifetime. Finally, while I espouse a spiritual view of life, I am not a deist, theist, atheist, or nihilist. I am a classic "not this, not that, not both, and not neither" kind of guy. But enough about me, what about this video?

The Video Makes Some Big Claims for the Work of Dr. Szostak

The video argues that Dr. Szostak has managed to create self-replicating structures that would break up easily when buffeted about by rocks and waves, and then, by circulating back and forth between the hot and cold areas around suboceanic heat vents, would gradually acquire more complex materials inside their proto-cell membrane, inside which further replication of complex structures occurs, resulting in some of these little buggers getting bigger and some getting "competed" out of existence. This, says the video, explains the whole origin of life.

Not So Quick - What Does Dr. Orgel Say About Dr. Szostak's Work?

Dr. Leslie E. Orgel was an origin of life heavyweight:

Wikipedia on Orgel wrote: Together with Stanley Miller, Orgel also suggested that peptide nucleic acids - rather than ribonucleic acids - constituted the first pre-biotic systems capable of self-replication on early Earth. His name is popularly known because of Orgel's rules, credited to him, particularly Orgel's Second Rule: "Evolution is cleverer than you are". In his book The Origins of Life, Orgel coined the concept of specified complexity, to describe the criterion by which living orga,nisms are distinguished from non-living matter. He has published over three hundred articles in his research areas.


And Dr. Orgel, before he died a couple of years ago, said some interesting things about the origin of life problem:

Dr. Orgel wrote: [T]he central problem of origin-of-life research can be refined to ask, By what series of chemical reactions did this interdependent system of nucleic acids and proteins come into being?

Anyone trying to solve this puzzle immediately encounters a paradox. Nowadays nucleic acids are synthesized only with the help of proteins, and proteins are synthesized only if their corresponding nucleotide sequence is present. It is extremely improbable that proteins and nucleic acids, both of which are structurally complex, arose spontaneously in the same place at the same time. Yet it also seems impossible to have one without the other. And so, at first glance, one might have to conclude that life could never, in fact, have originated by chemical means.


Thus, it is clear that the protein / nucleic acid paradox presents a chicken/egg problem that isn't easily overcome. Question is -- did Dr. Szostak's experiments solve it? Orgel's commentary suggests not:

Dr. Orgel wrote: Ingenious techniques devised by Cech and Jack W. Szostak of the Massachusetts General Hospital have modified naturally occurring ribozymes so that they can carry out some of the most important subreactions of RNA replication, such as stringing together nucleotides or oligonucleotides (short sequences of nucleotides). Quite recently Szostak found even stronger evidence that an RNA molecule produced by prebiotic chemistry could have carried out RNA replication on the early earth. He started by creating a pool of random oligonucleotides, to approximate the random production presumed to have occurred some four billion years ago. From that pool he was able to isolate a catalyst that could join together oligonucleotides. Equally important, the catalyst could draw energy for the reaction from a triphosphate group (three joined phosphates), the very same group that now fuels most biochemical reactions in living systems, including nucleic acid replication. Such a resemblance supports the idea that an RNA molecule could have behaved like, and preceded, the protein catalysts that today carry out the replication of genetic material in living organisms. Much remains to be done, but it now seems likely that some kind of RNA-catalyzed reproduction of RNA will be demonstrated in the not too distant future.


Volcanic Vents Might Be A Problem, Not The Answer

And Dr. Stanley Miller, who was the first to try cooking up life in a flask, has suggested that submarine vents might not be the deus-ex-machina that this video presumes, providing the sort of perpetual motion machine that will keep the proto-cells pumped up, competing, and "evolving," because the damn things are sort of destructive. Here's from an interview:

in an interview Dr. Miller said wrote:

Q: What about submarine vents as a source of prebiotic compounds?

A: I have a very simple response to that . Submarine vents don't make organic compounds, they decompose them. Indeed, these vents are one of the limiting factors on what organic compounds you are going to have in the primitive oceans. At the present time, the entire ocean goes through those vents in 10 million years. So all of the organic compounds get zapped every ten million years. That places a constraint on how much organic material you can get. Furthermore, it gives you a time scale for the origin of life. If all the polymers and other goodies that you make get destroyed, it means life has to start early and rapidly. If you look at the process in detail, it seems that long periods of time are detrimental, rather than helpful.


Conclusion: The Video Substantially Overstates The Conclusiveness of Dr. Szostak's Research

So, after subjecting the ideas in this video to a little inquiry, I conclude that Dr. Szostak's work is apparently some of the most promising work for answering this question -- how did living forms arise? The answer in a general sense is probably correct -- start with a "reducing atmosphere," one that unlike ours, isn't full of the elements and chemicals produced by billions of years of life, bombard with energy, overcome the chicken/egg problem so that either nucleic acids or proteins, probably nucleic acids, probably RNA, in fact, appears first. Allow the RNA to carry on the process of transmitting information from one "generation" to the next, until at last, De-oxyRNA, that is, DNA, arises, and then we can really start coding and storing to create the complex cellular forms existing today. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. However, using this video as what Humpty-Dumpty would call a "nice knock-down argument" will only work if they don't know how to work a browser and a search engine. In my opinion, somebody put this together to poke a sharp stick in the eye of the Creationists, and therefore it substantially overstates the conclusiveness of the Abiogenesis argument.

Is It Possible Life Forms Evolve to Accommodate Life, But Do Not Give Rise To Life Itself?

The question I have is, after all of this explaining the origin of living forms, have we entirely banished the possibility that intelligence is a vibrational, or otherwise physically imperceptible, aspect of the universe that is able to operate through physical forms as they become sufficiently complex? As I have often said, while you need a radio to pick up a radio program, and it emits human voices, there are no people in the radio. People are far too complex a phenomenon to fit in a radio. And it may be that a human is also too complex a phenomenon to shove into a bag of skin. Certainly cybernetics lends some support for my suggestion. Because no one could even attempt to simulate human decision-making processes until computers were developed, and the process gets easier and easier with every increase in computing power. In other words, hardware must be sufficiently complex to accommodate software. And software can be resident in any magnetic medium of sufficient capacity. Similarly, software has a potential state and a run-state, just as life forms have a seed state and an operational state.

Citations:

Excerpt of Dr. Orgel's book, "The Origin of Life On Earth" http://eddieting.com/eng/originoflife/orgel.html
Dr. Miller Interview http://www.accessexcellence.org/WN/NM/miller.php
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 18, 2013 1:09 am

THE FALL AND RISE OF LEONARD COHEN, by Charles Carreon

2/11/10

Rejoice! The troubadour par excellence of the late twentieth century has risen from the crypt in which he had untimely entombed himself, and put to flight the rumors anticipating his final demise. In the performance captured in the Live in London DVD, Leonard Cohen is effusively grateful to his audience, and the audience reciprocates with unrestrained enthusiasm. During his brief opening words to the audience, he observes that he hasn't been in London in fourteen years, and that on that occasion, he was "Sixty years old -- just a kid with a crazy dream." The audience responds with hearty, affectionate laughter. After the intermission, he cracks another joke about his age, and thanks the audience for "keeping my songs alive."

He begins most of his songs with a brief recitation of the most memorable lyrics in his soft, rasping voice. Then he swings into the tune with familiar ease, as each member of his ensemble takes up their part with passionate discipline, warmth, and sincerity. Almost all of the songs are drawn from his familiar, well-loved repertoire, starting with "Dance Me To The End of Love," continuing through such stalwarts as "Bird On A Wire," "Tower of Song," and "Suzanne."

If there are weak points in the concert, it is when he sings a couple of songs -- "Boogie Street" and "My Secret Life," authored by his "collaborator," Sharon Robinson. Although they go down well, the lyrics are distinctly less complex. The feel-good moment of the concert is supposed to be Leonard's performance of a new political song, "Democracy," and while the song is heartening, its literalism contrasts awkwardly with the lyricism of Leonard's other works. Put simply, Leonard Cohen isn't Bruce Cockburn.

The closeout of the concert is an exquisitely long affair with one song about endings segueing into the next. "Take This Waltz" is the nominal last song. Then they return for "So Long Marianne," swing into "First We Take Manhattan," and wind down again with "Sisters of Mercy." After this second ending, Leonard reads the lyrics to a new song, "If It Be Thy Will," in which he alludes to the "obstacles" that brought him to the brink of despair and led him to surrender his fate, leaving it to the Almighty whether he should ever sing again. After his two backup singers render the song in a touching duet, he rolls into "Closing Time," "I Tried to Leave You," and "Whither Thou Goest." By the time Leonard says his last goodbyes, the audience has been filled to overflowing, and it feels as if the Universe has been enriched by an exchange of great affection and warmth.

I am sure that many people, like myself, had concluded that Leonard's dismal mumblings on "Ten New Songs" spelled the end of his creative time on this Earth. Fortunately, he was gifted with the "obstacles" to which he alluded, and the travail roused him from the tomb. As some of us know, the obstacles included having $5 Million stolen from him by his longtime assistant Kelly Lynch, a Buddhist of the Vajra Vampyre sect. No doubt this was a terrible experience for him, but the results have been good for all of us. Leonard has lost a modest fortune, but regained his immense creative power. In this performance, he stands before his audience in humble gratitude for helping him to reclaim this gift.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 18, 2013 1:10 am

CARREON SEES FREE CONTENT LOWERING REVENUE OF SEX.COM: VIDEO
by Charles Carreon
3/18/2010

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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 18, 2013 1:14 am

UNDERCAPITALIZED AUGUSTA RESOURCES CAN MINE COPPER?, by Charles Carreon

2/21/10

I live in Tucson, Arizona, where Augusta Resources is getting all the permitting done to put in an open pit copper mine. Allowing a company to dig an open pit copper mine in our vicinity is like a marriage that will require total commitment on the part of both partners.

Image

At the very least, you are going to be left with one big hole in your countryside, and huge mountains of “tailings,” which is waste washed out of the ore. In the case of Augusta, they’re planning on dumping their tailings on Federal Forest land.

And then there’s the humongous amount of water that is required to wash the ore. Then there’s the smelters, that consume enormous amounts of energy and generate sulfur dioxide that turns into sulfuric acid and rains down on the land. Check out these tailing ponds, basically acid lakes — colorful but toxic!

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Before entering into such a relationship, Arizonans should take a good, hard look at the suitor that is so zealous to take control of our assets.

Many people assume that the proposed Rosemont copper mine is being pursued by a well-established mining company with experience in the field of mineral extraction and a huge capital base that will enable it to accomplish what it promises. This is not the case.

Augusta Resources has never mined an ounce of minerals in any country. It is a Canadian paper creation powered by paperwork that is not highly regarded by the investment community. Let’s look at the financial numbers that are publicly available. In a July 21, 2009 press release, Augusta stated that it “strongly believes the project can sustain debt financing of 65%–70% of the total project capital cost, which amounts to approximately $625 million.” It “has no revenues from operations and does not expect to generate any revenues from operations in the foreseeable future,” and “the funds for the planned activities in 2009 and 2010 are expected to be raised from additional debt and equity financings.” It is currently living entirely on borrowed money. As of September 2009, it had only $14 Million in cash on hand and total liabilities of $40 Million, and recently raised $32.5 Million in an offering of common stock to fund its operations.

Meanwhile, Augusta has taken advantage of Arizona’s pro-mining water law to start drilling wells just south of Tucson that will very likely deprive thousands of residents and the City of Tucson of water for basic living purposes. Augusta will be able to pump 6,000 acre-feet of water a year, that’s 2 Billion gallons a year — worth about $5 Billion dollars when sold a gallon at a time to thirsty Arizonans. Augusta’s wells will deprive us of that water and provide nothing like a fair return on its value. Supposedly, Augusta will “recharge” the wells with CAP water, but what guarantee is there that it will ever perform this promise?

With 70% debt financing, if Augusta can’t meet its obligations, there is a great risk it will simply melt away, leaving Tucson poorer in copper, water, and quality of life. If Augusta is serious about pursuing this project, it should be required to post a performance bond for the entire cost of remediating all of the environmental damage, water use, and transportation expense that it will bring to the area. But where could they borrow that kind of money?

View Augusta’s Website, where the financials are available under the Investor tab.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 18, 2013 1:16 am

TOMMY, CAN YOU HEAR ME?, by Charles Carreon

06/01/10

“Tommy,” the first rock opera, created by Peter Townshend and The Who, received suitable deification in the 1975 Ken Russell production of the movie, starring Ann Margret as Tommy’s tortured mum, Oliver Reed as his materialistic stepdad, and Roger Daltrey, The Who’s redoubtable frontman, in the starring role. Filmed with astounding precision and what looks like digital clarity decades before the technology emerged, Russell’s epic transformed a popular record album to a milestone in cultural history.

Thirty-five years later, what is it that makes this movie relevant to the modern audience? Everything. In “Tommy,” Russell sank an exploratory drill into the zeitgeist of the late twentieth century, pulled out a core sample, and analyzed it with gas chromatography to reveal the psychological fault lines that shaped the psyche of the sixties generation. Presented in a delicious visual presentation that unites primary colors, outlandish sets, and over-the-top performances to bring out every nuance of the non-stop soundtrack, Tommy quite possibly reveals more than Townshend and The Who could ever have anticipated.

Giving himself a free hand with the sparse narrative, Russell moves in broad strokes from climax to climax. It’s war time. Hitler’s bombing England. Tommy’s conceived in a wartime romance, his Dad flies off in an RAF bomber to snuff Germans, and never comes back. Mummy gets the news while toiling away in a munitions factory, stuffing bombs with ball bearings that look suspiciously like pinballs. Then one day she gets a note, and faints dead away, spilling, you guessed it, lots of pinballs on the floor in a sort of orgy of random chrome movement. Mummy finds a new bloke to set up house with in a postwar boomtown, and everything is just tea and crumpets until one night Dad shows up with a big nasty scar on his face, not at all thrilled to see the new bloke, and the feeling being mutual, murder ensues, unfortunately witnessed by the child of tender years, who is thereupon advised, in no uncertain terms, at high volume, by now apparently evil stepdad and traitorous mum, that “You didn’t hear it, You didn’t see it, You won’t say nothin’ to no one ever in your life.” And just like that, the obliging little child turns deaf, dumb and blind, the most compliant fellow you ever could have asked for. Not surprisingly, this casts a bit of a pall over family life, but not enough to actually keep his parents from going out on the town, and Tommy is subjected to a couple of nasty babysitters who take advantage of his disability by manhandling and molesting him. Subjected to religion, therapy, and acid, like the entire sixties generation, Tommy emerges as insensible as ever, until at last he finds a crack in his isolation, and in streams the light of pinball!

Of course, pinball machines are an old technology, perhaps less resonant for a generation that has never pulled back the spring and fired steel balls into the maze of chutes, pads, and bonus-point holes, watching the numbers flipping over with a chunk-chunk-chunk sound, slapping the flipper buttons wildly, trying to keep that ball in play as long as possible, but Russell brings it to life pretty well. Tommy is an overnight sensation, and becomes the king of pinball who, as the lyrics of the song say, wins because “he ain’t got no distractions, can’t hear no buzzers and bells, always gets a replay, plays by sense of smell…” He gets rich, his parents hitch a ride on his fame, and one good thing leads to another one afternoon when his mum, tired of the deaf, dumb and blind routine, tosses him through a mirror and he pops out the other side hearing, talking and feeling. Tommy becomes the guru of his own religion, leading a worldwide network of disciples who adopt his doctrine of sense-deprivation and each take their places at their pinball machines, blocking off all sensory input with their handy sensory deprivation toolkit: “Put in your earplugs, put on your eyeshades, you know where to put the cork!” This turn of events would be a little less ironic if Tommy actually had been deaf, dumb and blind, not merely a trauma victim with amnesia and sensory denial. But Tommy’s mother and stepdad know a good thing when they see it. Delighted to discover that the kid they turned into a freak has managed to escape his psychological prison and become a very fine cash cow, they happily transform themselves into the chiefest of disciples, minding the needs of the faithful and reaping the earthly rewards. But the faithful are fickle, the sensory deprivation craze wears thin, there’s a riot, and mom and stepdad are killed by rampaging disciples eager to move on to the next craze. Tommy, finally freed from the need to conceal his father’s murder, declares his freedom from everything, climbs a symbolic mountain, the same mountain his real dad had been seen climbing at the very beginning of the movie, and emerges into the light of a brand new day, the first real day of his life since the darkness descended.

So it’s kind of like Hamlet with a pseudo-happy ending, isn’t it? If Hamlet had been steeped in the psychology of conflict-avoidance, sponsored a hokey religion so his traitorous mother and murderous stepdad could make a shitload of money, then let them be taken down by a mob of alienated devotees, so he could at last get on with his life. There’s something smug and adolescent about the story, of course. Little Tommy punishing his parents, sucking it up inside himself, hustling the public with their own lust for the miraculous, finally turning the whole game upside down and reclaiming his independence from everyone and everything. Which is why it is quintessentially the autobiography of the sixties generation, and also a map of failure.

Allow me to make my thesis painfully obvious. The killing that the sixties generation witnessed, and was told to be silent about, was the Vietnam war. Tommy’s blindness and deafness was the “my generation’s” refusal to absorb the social message to conform, to go to war and go to work like past generations. Tommy’s muteness was their refusal to communicate with a corrupt society, their retreat into back-to-the-landism, their flight into Eastern spirituality, their turning on, tuning in, and dropping out under the guidance of Tim Leary. None of which quite turned out as promised, and for a reason that the opera makes apparent – Tommy never confronts or exposes his mother and stepdad for their crimes. When they are killed by the rampaging mob of disgruntled devotees, it’s a bit too convenient, a deus ex machina, a liberating fantasy that parallels the apocalyptic hopefulness of the post-sixties era, when the imminent collapse of the existing social order was fondly anticipated as the precursor of the “Aquarian Age,” and of course, never came to pass.

There is more to Tommy than the history lesson, though. It’s also a movie for visionaries willing to peer into the maelstrom of existence, letting the blind eyes of an alienated child be their portal into a hallucinatory inner reality:

“Soaring and flying images spin
He is your leader
He is your guide
On the amazing journey
together you'll ride…”


Russell deftly places the audience inside Tommy’s mind, and the view is frankly terrifying. What I wish I could do, and can’t, is show you this movie in a large theater, to reproduce the experience properly. If you get the chance to see it in a big cinema, don’t let it get away. And if you are watching it at home, try to remember, as you watch the faces of traitorous mom and murderous stepdad filling the screen, screaming “You didn’t hear it! You didn’t see it!” that Russell wants their faces to be twenty feet high, totally overwhelming your identity, your tiny little self. He wants to shrink you down to nothing, to compress you, like the big bang in reverse, into a tiny, isolated sphere.

Speaking of spheres, they dominate the film. The primary Platonic form, the sphere is a pure abstraction that Russell uses first to capture the mind of the viewer, and then to hold it at the centre of attention. For a good part of the movie, it begins to seem as if Russell’s whole goal is to subject the audience to one insane experience after another. Russell’s familiarity with psychedelics is more than obvious during this part of the movie, and if he were less skilled in laying it on thick, viewers would reject his heavy-handed treatment. Instead, we feel the jolting cruelty personally when his cousin tortures him with cigarette burns and near-drowning, we squirm as he’s molested by his uncle, and we are rapt in horror as Tina Turner, The Acid Queen, in one of the most unhinged performances of all time, “tears his soul apart.”

Each traumatic event generates another traumatized Tommy and another sphere of contained trauma. Each sphere is color coded – torture is yellow, molestation is blue, madness is red. The spheres symbolize Tommy’s capacity to contain and control each ration of abuse that he is handed, but for a time, it seems as if Tommy is simply going to generate a whole family of traumatized selves to inhabit his hollowed-out personality. The way out is signaled during the Acid Queen sequence, when he sees his true father, holding a pure white sphere, and is himself transformed into his father, and into a crucified Christ-figure.

Tommy’s mother’s efforts to heal him lead us to more external spherical revelations. At the Church of Marilyn, High Priest Eric Clapton leads the rites of devotion to the silvered globes of Marilyn’s breasts and butt, as blind pilgrims gain admission two-by-two, piously kiss the mirror that reflects her exposed underwear, then consume her body and blood -- sleeping pills and Johnny Walker.

Salvation comes in a sphere, the pinball. And this is when you have to stop and acknowledge the hubristic genius of the opera. Buddha, Mohammed, Jesus, the other serious guys, would not be caught dead wringing wisdom analogies out of a pinball. We are therefore being reminded to laugh at ourselves, at Kahlil Gibran, Madame Blavatsky, the Ascended Masters and, even though he wasn’t yet a glimmer in a publisher’s eye, Deepak Chopra. They are all at the pinball level. We are at the pinball level. So now we can resume our banal spiritual contemplations.

Like a pinball, an individual human is subject to cause and effect, being bounced around in a little game, slamming around racking up points, trying to delay the inevitable moment when, despite frantically working the flippers and slamming the table with our hips, the ball goes down the hole and it is “Game Over.” For Tommy, the pinball game is the only external object he can allow himself to perceive. Since he is not physically blind or deaf, but rather is blocking out a world that has erected an insuperable barrier to communication, pinball is all he allows himself to see. Pinball is a simulated world, a safe place where he can stop time and seemingly defeat death by always getting a replay.

The scene where Tommy conquers Elton John, the Pinball Wizard, is the cinematic high point of Sir Elton’s career. Russell plants the pianist atop a huge pair of plastic boots that raise him several feet off the ground, and supplies him with a keyboard-equipped pinball machine to pound with furious futility until he goes down to inevitable defeat, grimacing with frustration. Toppled from the throne of his massive footwear, his erstwhile fans carry him out of the hall on his back, only the soles of his enormous boots visible above the crowd.

Fortune follows fame, and soon Tommy’s mother and stepfather are wallowing in success. But the sweet taste of the good life turns bitter for Tommy’s mother, because Tommy remains deaf, dumb and blind, sealed within himself, staring enigmatically into the mirror. And finally, what none of the healers, therapists, and quacks could do, she does. In an exasperated fit, she throws Tommy through the circular mirror in her boudouir. He crashes through, falls into the swimming pool, and in a baptismal rebirth scene, finally opens his eyes, sees the world around him, staggers into a forest, gesticulates rudely at soldiers engaged in military maneuvers among the trees, is flipped over the shoulder of a camouflage-clad soldier, bursts onto the beach, sprints past parked cars filled with people staring stupidly through sunglasses, cartwheels across the sand, and runs over the waves, into the sky, under the sea, across lava lakes, in a visionary explosion set to the thumping song, “I’m Free.”

Tommy not only thinks he’s free, he thinks he’s a man with a mission, and becomes a pinball-guru. The silvery sphere then becomes the symbol of royalty and dominion. The “Tommy cross” is the letter “T” surmounted with a silver ball. For a brief time, everything is lovely, but when an adoring young fan is injured in the midst of the crowd, and Tommy never even learns of her fate, it’s a hint that obstacles lie ahead. Some rougher spheres suddenly appear everywhere, because the training camp is heaped with huge piles of silver balls with handles on them, which seems to be both a broad joke about male virility and a reminder that all of this Messiah-hood is a big ball and chain.

In counterculture circles, the name “Gottlieb” rings bells wherever it appears, being the surname of Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, the Mengele-like physician who led the CIA’s MK ULTRA program, reputedly an acronym for “Making Killers, Utilizing Lethal Tradecraft Requiring Assassination,” and played fast and loose with the minds of experimental subjects, much like the Acid Queen. So it hardly seems an accident that all of the pinball machines in Russell’s production are “Gottlieb” machines. Why not some manufactured by Bally, Williams or Stern, also big names in the realm of the silver ball? And the Gottlieb games that get particular notice are very British, very royal – “Kings and Queens” is the game Tommy plays when he beats the Pinball Wizard, and “Royal Guard” is destroyed when his disciples riot. Ominously, after she is killed, a pinball machine serves as the funeral slab for Tommy’s mother’s body, and while the maker’s name is not visible on the machine, the stripped frame displays a series of ones and zeroes, suggesting that ultimately, his mother was nothing but a machine, a wire mommy, a simulacrum, finally exposed for the empty display that it always was. The Tommy Church’s prescription of pinball therapy as the cure for every human ailment is thus simply a campy symbol for cultic mind control methods of whatever stripe.

By being the guru of his Church, Tommy is able to keep his mother and stepfather under control. He becomes morally superior and financially omnipotent, so they can’t impinge on his freedom. One problem remains, however – nobody really needs his religion. This becomes quite clear when rebellion breaks out among Tommy’s followers, and they kill his parents and desert him. He lost his followers as quickly as he gained them. And there’s little time for mourning his mother’s death, either. Tommy’s mother has done little to make herself sympathetic throughout the movie. She has never been a mother in the sense of devoting herself to her child’s happiness. At its apex, her self-torment amounts to nothing more than reveling in maudlin sentiment while writhing drunkenly in her snow-white bedroom, cavorting with a champagne bottle as the television successively spews bubbles, canned beans, and offal over her fish-net bedecked body, culminating in sinuous humping on a shit-smeared, man-sized tubular pillow. So the farewell to Mom is a brief affair that releases Tommy from bondage to the person who forced him to keep a crippling secret, ruining his life in order to conceal her own guilt.

Tommy at last realizes he’s not a spiritual guide, he’s one more human being, who needs to learn from other people, from all humanity. At last, he sings triumphantly, “Right behind you, I see the millions." Ascending to the mountaintop, he reaches the peak and triumphantly greets the rising sun, a huge, warm, reddish sphere that enhaloes his entire body in a victorious stance, legs apart, arms spread in exultation. This is only the second time the full circle of the sun has appeared in this movie filled with shiny spheres and moons. The first time was in the first scene, where Tommy’s dad, in mountaineering garb, reached the peak of the same mountain at sunset, and then began his descent, as we know, into death. Tommy returns to the mountain and the sun reunites him with his father and his vital inheritance as a living human.

With this closing scene, Russell has literally fitted the entire opera between the two celestial spheres, the sun and moon, raising every human’s battle to break out of the lies that conceal reality to an epic level. Transcendence, Russell seems to be saying, isn’t achieved by playing human games like pinball, in which you progress through a linear pattern to higher and higher numbers, and judge your success by popular acclaim. Rather, it is an adventure that you do not begin until you throw over the oppressors that prevent you from speaking the truth. Russell concludes a work that takes over your senses at high speed and high volume with a message that, although born from the turmoil of the sixties, will resonate meaningfully for generations to come.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 18, 2013 1:19 am

THE RAM DASS BRAIN HEMORRHAGE INCIDENT -- AN OPPORTUNITY TO EXPLORE FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS OF SPIRITUAL LIFE, by Charles Carreon

06/19/10

Science has likely been advanced more through the ages by giving thoughtful attention to chance occurrences than by conducting planned experiments. Physicians have learned a great deal about physiology by treating the victims of accident and illness. In this comment I argue that the opportunity presented by the occurrence of Ram Dass’s stroke was wasted, present some of the reasons why this occurred, and venture some obvious inferences to be drawn by comparing his pre-stroke doctrine and his post-stroke experience.

The Involuntary Contribution of Phineas Gage to Knowledge of Brain Physiology

Every year another class of high school students learns one of the marvelous stories of psychology – the case of Phineas Gage, who on September 13, 1848, survived a dynamite accident in which a steel rod three feet, eight inches long with a 1¼ inch diameter was blasted through his left cheekbone and out the top of his head, leaving a gaping hole that amazingly, healed up. The rod’s trajectory was described by his physician, Dr. Harlow, as follows: The rod “entered through the anterior left lobe of the cerebrum, and made its exit in the medial line, at the junction of the coronal and sagittal sutures, lacerating the longitudinal sinus, fracturing the parietal and frontal bones extensively, breaking up considerable portions of the brain.” Dr. Harlow described the post-injury Gage as “fitful, irreverent, indulging at times in the grossest profanity (which was not previously his custom), manifesting but little deference for his fellows, impatient of restraint or advice when it conflicts with his desires, at times pertinaciously obstinate, yet capricious and vacillating, devising many plans of future operation, which are no sooner arranged than they are abandoned in turn for others appearing more feasible.”

Phineas Gage had suffered a crude, accidental, frontal lobe lobotomy that altered his personality for the worse. His case history fed interest in how the structure of the brain related to an individual’s personality, a topic now so widely studied that it seems strange that a tragedy was required to provoke inquiry into the subject. Yet so it was.

Ram Dass’s Philosophy of The Spiritual Self

Not long after he and Timothy Leary were fired from the Harvard University psychology faculty, Richard Alpert, Ph.D., traveled to India and, as he told the story in his popular spiritual how-to book, “Be Here Now,” met a charming, raffish, trickster guru named Neem Karoli Baba. After NKB passed Alpert’s toughest test – downing three tabs of Owlsley’s 305 microgram tablets of LSD, the famed “White Lightning,” without raising an eyebrow, Alpert was a convert. He ditched his trousers, donned a robe, swapped mantras and prayer beads for psychological jargon and hallucinogens, took on the name Ram Dass, and returned to the States where according to “Be Here Now,” he floated about on an ocean of love.

Ram Dass’s persona went through quite a few iterations, and he produced a string of books comprised mostly of edited extemporaneous lectures that he gave everywhere. His spiritual philosophy was, however, consistent over the years. Simply put, he taught that we each have a Divine Self separate and apart from the physical body. Perhaps, in his Buddhist moments, he might call it a Non-Self. But the important thing was that this awareness is not based on the operation of the physical brain or body.

Ram Dass’s Endorsement of The Spiritual Technology of Soul-Transference

Ram Dass was also a sincere promoter of spiritual technology based on the philosophy of the deathless, non-physical Divine Self. Through spiritual practices like reciting mantras, controlling the breath, and developing awareness of the subtle energy field that pervades and surrounds the physical body, he taught that spiritual practicioners could retain consciousness even while dying, and would be able to smoothly transition into deathless, non-physical awareness.

The Tibetan Buddhist version of this practice is called “Phowa,” the Yoga of Consciousness Transference, and it comes in three flavors. The highest level of Phowa is accomplished by those who realize the deathless, non-physical awareness during life, and when those people die, they shuck off the body like a dried husk.

Nothing happens. The second tier of candidates prepare for death by becoming skilled in unifying their awareness with a single-syllable Tibetan letter composed of diaphanous light about the fineness of a single hair, called the “seed syllable,” that resides in a tiny lotus of light in the center of their chest. During meditation, they practice raising the seed syllable, which is visualized as kind of springy with vital force, up to the crown of the head repeatedly, in what is essentially a fire drill for death. When death is imminent, they go all the way, using a special mantra that sounds like a hiccup to eject the seed syllable out the crown of the head and into the heart of the Buddha of Limitless Light, Amitabha, and obtain complete release from further transmigration. Legend has it that many Tibetan lamas and even ordinary people have made this process work. Of course, verifiable proof that the method works would be impossible to obtain, but at worst, it seems like a decent, dignified way to spend one’s final hours.

The third method of Phowa is for ordinary people who didn’t spend much time meditating, and this is to have holy people read from special inspirational holy guidebooks to the person who is dying, and even to their corpse after they are dead. These books provide a map of the “Bardo” state between death and the next rebirth, and since the Tibetans believe that the dead stick around near their body after it dies, reading to the corpse is an efficacious way of helping the disembodied person to make good choices in the Bardo, like “avoid the smoky red light – it leads to HELL!” Ram Dass was very familiar with this type of psychic guidebook. In fact, he and Timothy Leary took one of the Tibetan holy books on the subject, popularly titled “The Tibetan Book of the Dead,” and recast it as a manual for psychedelic voyagers interested in sparking and transcending the vaunted “ego death” that Ram Dass had identified as the psychedelic discovery that led him to study Eastern mysticism.

Over the years, Ram Dass had moved towards less dramatic forms of spiritual technology, becoming a proponent of a gentle brew of eclectic practices that he would dispense like, dare we say it, a soothing, vegetarian soup for the soul. Ram Dass was not dogmatic, but he was devoted, and in his own heart, a thoroughgoing convert to his own ideas. No doubt he was hoping that he had done enough spiritual practice and learned enough of the nature of the deathless awareness that he might have a shot at a top-tier, “nothing’s happening, I’m already there” type of Phowa. At least, he figured, he’d be able to take shelter in his heart chakra, unite his awareness with that of his guru, who would lead him to liberation, or at least, a better rebirth.

Ram Dass’s Rude Awakening and Modest Recovery

In February 1997, Ram Dass, the best-known American-born promoter of Eastern wisdom, suffered a cerebral hemorrhage that he barely survived. Afterwards, he lost a lot of functioning – he could barely form words, or perform ordinary life activities. But much worse than that, he was a spiritually shaken man. Why? Because he thought God should have protected him from popping a vein? No. His philosophy was not so crude. He didn’t expect fate to exempt him from physical illness. He expected his own knowledge of spiritual technology to provide him with an escape vehicle, a psychic lifeboat, and instead, he got nothin’, bupkus, zilch, a flinkin’ nihilistic nowhere. He could remember his mental state while he was dying, and it was devoid of sacred, inspirational content. He was just looking at the pipes on the hospital ceiling as the paramedics rolled him down the hall on the gurney. A lifetime of spiritual expectation crashed, and death, the great equalizer, had paid an early visit to reduce him to the level of every other living being, so that next time, he would die without delusions of imminent salvation.

Since Ram Dass’s brain hemorrhage, he has become a regular smoker of medical marijuana. He says it relieves pain, frees him from “spasticity,” and “gives me the soul perspective – it makes the stroke livable.” He says he doesn’t smoke around other spiritual teachers, though, “because it isn’t spiritually correct.” Asked whether Deepak Chopra was correct that “deep meditation” was a preferable way to attain “shifts in awareness,” Ram Dass conceded he was correct, then waved a baggie of bud and said, “But pot works faster.” He’s back on the speaking circuit, circulating widely, apparently enjoying himself and making people feel better about life. It’s almost as if the brain hemorrhage never happened.

The Lost Opportunity

There is a huge, booming market these days in studying the relationship between the physical body and the meditative mind. A Google search for “physiology of meditation” produces over 700,000 hits. The Dalai Lama has been the headliner at a number of symposia that purport to bring together neuroscientists, yogis, therapists, and philosophers to share their knowledge, presumably to make progress toward a unified theory of consciousness. However, there is a paucity of meaningful experimental work. The “TM” group has pushed the “measurable benefits” of their trademarked “20 minutes twice a day” mantra meditation, but this is sales material, not scientific work. The brain waves of meditators have been traced on EEGs, biofeedback studies have been conducted, and recently a small Harvard study claimed that meditators actually have thicker brain tissue in some brain regions. But we still know very little about the physiology of spirituality.

So when an unfortunate accident comes along that might give us some insight into the issue, you’d think we might take it. You’d think someone might look at Ram Dass’s condition post-hemorrhage, and want to de-brief him on his conclusions. Question number one would be, “Do you still believe that there is a non-physical, deathless awareness existing independent of your physical body?” If Ram Dass answered, “Yes,” the next question would be, “Why were you unable to contact that awareness when you were dying?”

We should ask Ram Dass these questions because he was a practicioner of spiritual technology that relies on a philosophical postulate that is impossible to confirm – the deathless core of our personal existence. The fact that, after a lifetime of teaching meditation, he now relies upon cannabis to attain “the soul perspective” should give us some pause. What’s the point of a lifetime of meditating, if we end up lighting up a joint? He claims to be “a mixed message,” and in the realm of ultimate reality, that’s not a plus. He recently said, “Silence is the royal road to God. Silence prepares you for death.” But he’s now reported to be doing more preaching and talking than ever. Shouldn’t he be preparing for death more assiduously? However, there’s a good side to his continuing willingness to talk. That means that before he goes silent altogether, someone could ask him, “What happened that shook you up so much, and why does it not seem to matter anymore?”

Why Nobody Asks These Questions

Nobody asks Ram Dass these questions because they don’t want to hear the answers. If indeed, a man who was expecting to find himself all dressed up in spirit and ready to head for liberation or the next incarnation, instead found nothing, then a central justification for adopting his philosophy has been destroyed. For the last thirty or forty years, the media has fed us a steady diet of near-death experiences recounted by people who wandered through death’s door to discover tunnels of light, guardian spirits, dead relatives and angels, and came back to live a better life. And here we have the story of a guy who, by all rights, should’ve gotten a better reception in the last waiting room before final departure, and discovered absolutely nothing. Clearly, this is an answer that no one wants because you can’t use it to sell religious instruction, inspirational books, yoga mats, or meditation cushions.

A Few Inferences About Spiritual Technology To Be Drawn Despite Ram Dass’s Failure To Make Full Disclosure

I’d like to conclude by posing two questions.

First, is awareness inextricably bound up with the activity of the physical body and brain, such that we not only appear to be inert when we die -- we really are?

Second, if awareness and physical life are inextricably connected, is spiritual technology of any value at all?

Let’s face it – the spiritual lobbyists cannot answer “yes” to the first question, because their entire product is based on cultivating and coping with the fear of death. But as people who answer questions based on evidence, this is a question for which all the reliable evidence compels a “yes” answer. We may not like it, we may be prejudiced against believing it, but if we were asked to disprove it or be killed this very instant, we would admit that we have no proof. All of the proofs that have ever been offered wouldn’t convince any objective, impartial judge, as they all amount to appeals to the impulse to believe. And believing without evidence is the alternative to reasoned decisionmaking.

But my answer to the second question might surprise you. I think that spiritual technology has lots of value, but not as the insurance policy peddled by fear-mongers in religious robes. Spiritual technology, rightly understood, is a branch of life science and physiology, a collection of folk techniques for better living. There is a subtle energy body suffusing the human body. There are acupuncture lines and chakras that can be charged with energy. Harmonizing breath, calming sounds, and transporting music, are all real vehicles for strengthening the human organism and expanding its capacity for happy living.

Quite likely, there is no way to bridge the gap between one living body and another, even though it was tantalizingly depicted in James Cameron’s recent animation epic, “Avatar.” For all the self-promoting ballyhoo of Tibetan lamas who claim to have enjoyed multiple reincarnations as a “lineage of enlightened consciousness,” there’s no proof of the claims, and plenty of evidence that the entire tulku trip was a clever innovation by the clergy to put themselves on an equal footing with the hereditary feudal lords, and indeed to manipulate feudal families by inducing them to vie with each other for the privilege of having their sons chosen as the “reincarnations” of dead, wealthy lamas.

The realm of “life after death,” or the space between one life and another, for those who fancy the notion that reincarnation or transmigration actually occur, has forever been the playground of deceivers, shysters, table-tappers, mediums, and spiritualists, and the daily operational base for priests and preachers. Harnessing spiritual technology, which can be used to deepen our experience of life, to the obsessive and useless project of defeating death, is just one more way in which religion and spiritualism wastes our time and resources.

Ironically, those who forget about death altogether and focus on living life to the fullest today, using every vehicle at their disposal, may find themselves in very exalted spiritual company.
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