Thursday, April 30, 2009

Alarming Dangers

© MMIX v 1.0.3

We live in a dangerous world: the world-wide financial melt-down; swine-flu and bird-flu global pandemics; Muslim fundamentalists and Isamo-facists; neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. Serial killers and drug fiends menace us from the shadows. Anti-Semitism is a perennial peril: Hitler might rise from the grave, he might still be alive plotting world conquest in a secret headquarters somewhere in a dark tropical jungle or under the Antarctic Ice Cap — which is melting! We have been threatened by fascists and Nazis; anarchists and Communists. There once was a Red Under Every Bed. There has always been a never-ending string of deadly dangers from which we must be protected. Our enemies yesterday might be our friends today, but they might become our enemies again tomorrow.

If we go back in history, it has always been thus. H.L. Mencken summed it all up with this:

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

- H. L. Mencken (1880 - 1956)

The authors of these threats are the very people who are selling protection insurance and having us fight wars to keep us safe and free. Free from what? Free from them? No, no, no, no, no.

The world's moral leaders who live in Washington urge and have urged everyone to join in the War on Poverty, the War on Illiteracy, the War on Terror, The War on Drugs, The Cold War. And let's not forget The War on Iraq, The War on Afghanistan, The War in Vietnam, The Korean War, The Second World War, The First World War, The Spanish American War, The Western Indian Wars, The Civil War, The Mexican War, The War of 1812, The War on the Barbary Pirates, The Napoleonic Wars (oops lets forget about that one), The Revolutionary War, and The French and Indian Wars. Of course, all of these Wars were necessary at the time and new Wars will be necessary as the future unfolds. You can count on it. We are currently waging a War on Global Warming and a War on Illegal Immigration. A War on Asteroid Collision is being planned and we might one day see a War on Sun Spot Activity. Are sun spots good, or are they bad?

Whatever the question might be, War has always provided the answer: War is our prefered road to peace. Hallelujah!

- Morley

Thursday, April 23, 2009


© MMIX v 1.0.5

Here is a recent conversation. The order is first to last. E-mail addresses have been deleted to protect my correspondents' privacy:

Hi Len,

Since you aren't from here, or at least you have spent time away from here, you may be able to understand what I'm talking about. I have been struggling for years to diagnose what, if anything, is wrong with Regina, with Saskatchewan and with Canada.

The general underlying problem here, I conclude, is that people are smug. SMUG: Having excessive pride in one's accomplishments. This is why people here — in Regina more than any other Canadian city I've lived in — simply do not recognize problems when they exist. They are not moral lepers, but they are morally tone deaf and morally colour blind.

They have zero capacity for self-examination and self-criticism. Two examples are the medical system and drivers. Saskatchewan, especially Regina, may have the worst in the world. Yet people here believe they have the best. Contrary evidence simply is ignored. And one had better be careful about saying a discouraging word since the skies are not cloudy all day — even if it's raining.

Lt-Gov. Gordon Barnhart gave an entertaining speech at the 90th Anniversary banquet of the Kiwanis Club of Regina last Friday evening. He is a real booster for Saskatchewan. Sadly, however, much of what he said is not true. This is disturbing for someone who is touted as being, "an acclaimed historian." Acclaimed by whom? What else does he not know?

At the banquet, I mentioned Sandra Greenough to you. She was an evangelist for the power of positive thinking. Her theme was "career passion". She trademarked the phrase. She made a presentation to our Kiwanis club one Valentine's Day. I looked her up just now and was surprised to discover that she is dead. Sandra was only 51 years old. Maybe she was run down by one of Regina's drivers. Maybe she was treated for cancer, or stroke, at the Pasqua hospital. "It is with deep sadness and great joy that Sandra's family announces that she went to her heavenly home on Friday, August 22, 2008." Apparently, you can send Sandra an e-Mail message from her website.

Lt-Gov. Barnhart told us that radiation for cancer treatment was invented right here in Saskatchewan. Really? I thought Madame Curie started treating cancer with radiation. She won two Nobel Prizes for her work with radiation. Since she and her husband both died of radiation-related illnesses, her papers are so radioactive they are kept in lead boxes, and radiation is generally recognized as being the number one cause of cancer, I would think twice about using radiation for anything, especially treating cancer. Medical radiation is the number one source of radiation today too. There could be something fundamentally wrong with cancer treatment. But what do I know?

I maintain that smugness is the underlying disease in Regina, in Saskatchewan, and in Canada. Others, who didn't come from here, have noticed the same thing. Regina may be ground zero for the smug. Regina may be even more smug than Saskatoon (but I doubt it). Pat Fiacco is the right mayor for Regina. Here we ignore problems so we don't have problems. We have a positive attitude, even if we do complain about everything, especially the weather.

Being smug may be one of the Seven Deadly Sins. I'll have to look it up. Sure enough, Pride is #7.

Tell me what you think.

- Morley

No reply, yet, from Len.

Hi Sieg,

I had a great visit with your mom the other day. I read the letter [above] to her. We discussed the movie The Reader as well. Peter has mentioned that your father was always seeing things in Saskatchewan that could be done differently to improve them or to solve some chronic problem. But his efforts were frustrated.

[I have a friend who came here from NYC to teach at the U of R. When he first came to Regina, he told me, he could see all sorts of things that could be done differently and improved. But he was always thwarted. "We don't do it that way here," he would be told. After a while, he stopped having such ideas. He was in Regina for 34 years. Then, after he retired, he moved away, hoping to be free at last of Regina's mind-control.]

Throughout my life, I have found the same thing. [Mind-numbing and mind-death are painful, for those who think.]

[Before Tommy Douglas (who is a saint to some) and the CCF took over Saskatchewan in 1933, there were Liberals and Conservatives. Afterward, there were Liberals and the CCF. Who were the CCF? Here's another clue: From 1933 onward, Saskatchewan voters elected the CCF to go to Regina and the same voters elected Conservatives to go to Ottawa. Then, in the early sixties, the CCF joined the big labour unions in the East to become the NDP. After having created Heaven on earth in Saskatchewan, Saint Tommy moved to Victoria, BC. where the climate is better.]

Saskatchewan is extremely conservative, despite being "the home of Canadian socialism"; the "not invented here" syndrome is firmly entrenched; "nails" that pop up are hammered down; thought control is as pervasive and oppressive as it was in the Soviet Union; the élite stays in power decade after decade and nothing changes. This is my diagnosis. What do you think?

- Morley


Excellent — your assessment is right on. Smugness is a disease that has taken root everyhere. The disease can however be controlled and even corrected by massive doses of the truth.

It is expensive medicine , as the smug bodies fight back with the usual denials, self interest propaganda and spin and try to marginalize or demonize the source of the truth as being "non team players."

The reward can be high, particularly now.

There are many opportunities in these obvious tough times. – Lean times knock down, or out, smug fat cats and lightweights, sub par complacencies and old perceived ways of doing things. It seems that talent, merit and out of the box thinking that delivers results is part of the natural renewal process. Hitting those that can not see because of past practices, entitlements and non performing "politically correct" or smug indoctrinations — politely, but effectively, between the eyes with an intellectual two by four — could be the natural and necessary tool of choice under the circumstances. (It will always be a challenge to suffer a smug fool’s follies politely but it will always be worthwhile.)

Just a side bar on smugness. Smugness and stupidity are linked. The SS factor is a deadly and malicious force for evil in any body politic.

- Sieg


Yes, I've noticed that too, Sieg. Years ago, I attended a seminar at the University of Regina. One of the speakers, Father Sadowski from Fordham University, asked me during a break, "Is this really a university?" "Yes," I answered. "Why?" "Because I've never met so many stupid people," he said. As you know Jesuits are generally considered to be pretty smart. I had coffee with Father Sadowski one afternoon a few months later in a restaurant in the World Trade Centre several years before they blew it up. That was a brush with greatness.

I have decided that people here in Regina, in Saskatchewan, and in Canada suffer from "INVINCIBLE SMUGNESS".

- Morley

Friday, April 17, 2009

German Guilt

© MMIX v 1.0.1

And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'

The Reader [1] leaves me with many things to ponder. Chief among these are 1). effects two world wars have had on Germans, 2). the philosophy of Law, and 3). Love.

The sombre tone of The Reader expresses the reality that Germans have been made to carry the can for the 20th century's two world wars. I find this objectionable — it is not fair or true. Joe Schlesinger [2] summed up my sentiments in his CBC documentary when he said that Europe today resembles Bismarck's plan of the 19th century. "Germany is at peace today and is surrounded by friends."

The carnage was for nothing and it cannot be blamed exclusively on "The Germans". Germans, along with everyone else, are reminded every day that they committed the ultimate crime, The Holocaust, or as Norman G. Finkelstein calls it, "The Holocash". The Reader is a Holocaust Movie. The other villains of WW II, the Japanese, have not been defamed in such a manner, nor should they have been. The sanctimonious Holocaust survivor lecturing "Michael Berg" in her luxurious NYC apartment at the end of the movie may plant a seed of doubt in the minds of some viewers. Perhaps that scene exists for that reason. The Germans in The Reader are constantly dealing with "German guilt," as have real Germans for the last 60 years. This is the greatest injustice of the 20th century — which was an epoch of bloodshed and injustice. And we are responsible for it.

Virtually nothing we have been told about the 20th century is true. We can begin looking at the past with that premise and start looking for the truth.

"Hannah Schmitz" is a tragic figure. She was a young woman (early 20s?) who had been trying to survive in WW II. She first appears in The Reader as a young woman (probably late 20s or early thirties) in post-War Germany. She takes pity on 15-year-old "Michael" who has taken shelter from the rain in the entry to her apartment. Hannah helps Michael and takes him to his home when the rain stops. He is diagnosed by the family doctor with Scarlet Fever. When he recovers, Michael returns with flowers. He and Hannah become lovers. Hannah lives in a decrepit apartment, she is a ticket-taker on the tram, she cannot read or write. Hannah bravely faces life and plays the cards as they are dealt. Michael comes from a well-to-do family, goes to Heidelberg Law School and becomes a lawyer. Their love affair lasts only one summer, before Michael goes to university. Hannah runs away when she is given a promotion to work in the office. She is illiterate. She is ashamed. Hannah keeps her secret.

While Michael is in Law School, he is taken to a trial of former SS guards. One of them is Hannah who is accused of leading a crime and writing a report about letting 300 prisoners die in a fire. Hannah could not have written any report because she is and was illiterate. She is accused by her fellow guards who have made a deal for lenient treatment. Michael knows Hannah is innocent, but he remains silent because Hannah, herself, does not want to reveal her secret. This may seem idiotic, but it is what a good lawyer might do. I, myself, could not keep quiet. It is idiotic. Michael is not Hannah's lawyer. Michael is not even a lawyer. Michael is a law student.

Perhaps Hannah and Michael are both caught in the web of "German guilt" and they accept their punishment for their crimes: being a German is a crime today, after all. This has been going on for a century. "Well, they deserve it." Do they?

Love exists and survives regardless of what is happening around the characters in the movie (as it does in life). Hannah's act of kindness at the beginning of the movie is truly touching. Sex is an expression of love in the movie. Years later, love triumphs when Michael starts tape recording the books he had read to Hannah during their affair and sending them to Hannah in prison. Hannah is enlivened. So is Michael. Hannah uses the books and tapes to teach herself to read and write. But when Michael withdraws his hand during their one visit in the prison, Hannah decides to commit suicide. Michael was not rejecting Hannah, he had become distant, but she didn't know that. Love is expressed again when a case worker calls Michael to have him agree to look after Hannah when she is released. But when Michael comes with flowers to take her away, she is dead.

In the final scene, Michael takes his daughter to Hannah's grave and explains to his daughter who Hannah was. Michael had become a distant person, but he had always loved his daughter and Hannah.

The Reader, like the 20th century, itself, is a tragedy.

The real lesson of the 20th century is summed up by Bob Dylan: "for, the times they are a-changin". [3] Honest hard work and quality products have brought the Germans and the Japanese (and the Indians and the Chinese and others who have been beaten down by us) to the forefront — because we bought and continue to buy their stuff. Just ask General Motors whose chairman, Rick Wagoner, testified in Congress that the auto industry is the last major industry that the United States can call its own. Everything else has gone somewhere else, he said. Truth and justice are rewarded. We must be patient. We must have faith. When the British embarked on building the Channel Tunnel with the French, they had to admit they were far behind the French in some areas of engineering, construction and trains (which the British had invented 200 years ago). The British had to swallow their pride and pull up their socks. We will have to do the same.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

What I Don't Believe

© MMIX v 1.0.0

Dear Seminarian,

It is impossible to sum up the last 300 years (and why stop there?) in a sentence that would make sense to anyone. What I might be able to do is say in a few words what I don't believe anymore.

I do not believe that the United States of America is now or ever was a force for good: "America is NOT the last best hope of Mankind." I don't believe anything said by the State Department, the Pentagon, the CIA, the FBI, the DEA, the Department of Homeland Security, Congress (either House), the United States Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, or the White House. I make an exception for Rep. Ron Paul (R) Texas. The United States Coast Guard is generally reliable when talking about the weather.

I do not believe we are, or ever were, the "good guys".

I do not believe what I see on TV, newspapers, or magazines. I may sometimes watch the news on TV with the sound off while I work. That allows me to monitor what everyone else is looking at. This is something like listening to the police dispatcher. I listen to CBC Radio One FM in the car. When they start to talk, or play Country & Western music, I turn it off. The French CBC channel is fine because I don't understand French and I don't know what they are saying, or care. I read journalists on the Internet. They are unemployed, unrecognized, unrewarded, and unknown. What they say is generally true as everybody else discovers months or years later.

Modern universities are a waste of time and money. They train robots. They do not train thinkers. Thinking is discouraged. Robots get jobs. Graduates might get the Order of Canada some day for free thinking, as long as they fit in and follow orders.

I do not believe that Canada is a wholesome version of the United States. (Canada is not what America would be without all those nasty minorities — which is what many Americans believe.) Canadians, generally speaking, are even dumber than Americans. Their main fault is that they are so smug. Regina is the worst place in Canada for smugness.

Americans, the British, and maybe the Australians and New Zealanders, have a capacity to indulge self-criticism. If you want to find out what is wrong with the United States, an American will be able to tell you. He will be able to give you all the facts, in detail. He will know what he is talking about. When H.L. Mencken was asked why he didn't leave the United States if he found so much wrong with it, he answered, "I stay here for the same reason that people visit zoos."

Canadians have NO capacity for self criticism. Pat Fiacco is a perfect mayor for Regina because he always looks on the bright side. For Pat, there are no dark sides in his kingdom. He is following in the tradition of every Regina mayor.

The ostrich, not the beaver, would be a good national symbol for Canada. The only good political party Canada ever produced was the Rhinoceros Party, named after another African animal never seen in Canada. The Bloc Québécois gets my vote these days. Of course, they don't have a candidate in Regina.

I am not cynical though, as a follower of Diogenes, I am a cynic. I am hopeful for the future because I believe we are in the hands of a God who cares what happens to us. Otherwise we would have exterminated ourselves long ago. He must be a forgiving and loving God. He doesn't care how dumb we are. That is the best evidence that there is a God that you will ever hear.

"But it is the tireless work of hardworking and unrewarded reformers that keeps us from being destroyed," you might counter. That is true. How do you think God works his miracles?

- Morley

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


© MMIX v1.0.0

Let's give a point to President Obama for announcing a relaxation of the stranglehold the United States put on Cuba when Fidel Castro took over the island in 1959. Fidel has served U.S. interests well by playing "bogeyman in our hemisphere" for the past fifty years, diverting everyone's attention from other things that were going on in our own backyard. But now Fidel is old and his usefulness has waned. This is an opportune time for the United States to reassert its role as the world's moral leader. With this gesture, the historic first black President can usher in good times and a New World Order.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Placebo Use Common

© Reuters

Doctors say placebo use common

Thu Jan 3, 2008 1:25pm EST
By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Placebos are a surprisingly common prescription, according to a U.S. study in which nearly half of the doctors surveyed said they had doled out a dummy pill at some point.

Researchers at the University of Chicago said on Thursday the study raises ethical questions and suggests a need for greater recognition and understanding of placebo use.

"It illustrates that doctors believe expectation and belief have therapeutic potential," said Rachel Sherman, a medical student at the University of Chicago, whose study was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

The idea behind placebos is that when patients think they are getting an effective treatment, they sometimes feel better, even though the pill has no proven benefit.

They are often used in clinical trials to compare the benefits of drugs, and many times patients taking placebos show some improvement. But few studies have shown how doctors use placebos in routine practice.

Sherman and Dr. John Hickner, a family medicine professor at the University of Chicago, sent surveys to 466 internists at three Chicago-area academic medical centers. About half, or 231, responded.

Of those, 45 percent said they had used a placebo during their clinical practice, a number that surprised the researchers. But 12 percent of those surveyed said placebos should never be used.

"I think this shows that it strikes a chord among physicians. We may underestimate the body's natural healing potential," Sherman said in a telephone interview. "This shows that doctors may think that, too."

But Sherman said the practice brings up ethical issues, including whether a doctor has an obligation to provide patients with informed consent.

Of respondents who reported using a placebo in clinical practice, 34 percent said they told the patients the substance was something that "may help and will not hurt."

About a third gave other information to patients including, "this may help you but I am not sure how it works."

Nineteen percent said it was a "medication," and 9 percent called it "a medicine with no specific effect." Only 4 percent of the doctors said, "it is a placebo."

Part of the reason doctors are not forthcoming about giving a placebo is that in order for it to work, patients need to believe it can help, Sherman said.

One way around this dilemma is to ask all new patients for their consent in advance. "The patient could say no. Then you avoid any of these ethical questions," Sherman said.

(Editing by Michael Kahn and Xavier Briand)

Placebo effect is all in the doctor's mind


Placebo effect is all in the doctor's mind

By Michael Durham Health Correspondent

Friday, 25 May 2001

The oldest trick in the doctor's black bag giving a patient a dummy pill to make them feel better may have to be abandoned after scientists yesterday reported that the placebo effect is a myth.

The oldest trick in the doctor's black bag giving a patient a dummy pill to make them feel better may have to be abandoned after scientists yesterday reported that the placebo effect is a myth.

Countless patients have been comforted by fake pills, believing they are real or so doctors have long believed. The effect has been supposed to demonstrate the power of suggestion... until now.

Danish medical researchers Dr Asbjorn Hrobjartsson and Dr Peter Gotzsche, writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, say they have analysed medical research over 45 years and concluded that the placebo effect does not exist. If patients say they feel better after taking a dummy pill, it is most likely to be because they are feeling better.

The doctors, from the Nordic Cochran Centre in Copenhagen, an organisation which studies medical trials, analysed 114 published studies from 1946 to 1998 which used placebos, involving 7,500 patients.

Dummy pills are used in medical research to measure the difference between patients receiving genuine medicine and patients who only believe they have been treated. Medical textbooks assert that on average, 35 per cent of patients improve simply because they are told they are being treated.

In each of the 114 studies analysed, there was a third group of patients who had not been given any pill at all and many of these also reported feeling better. Dr Hrobjartsson said any apparent placebo effect could be due to researchers seeing what they wanted to see, or patients trying to please the researcher.

Researchers had also failed to take into account the fact that diseases naturally wax and wane, he said.

"The idea that placebo causes dramatic improvement in patients is a myth," said Dr Hrobjartsson. "There are just as many trials where there is a negative effect... as where there is a positive effect."

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


© MMIX v 1.0.1

"The sport called professional wrestling is fake, but the activity is real." Politics is like that. You can ask Jesse "The Body" Ventura, who was the Governor of Minnesota after he retired from pro wrestling.