We Are Closed Through July 8, 2020 For the Holiday

Most Inventory is Pre-Covid, New Inventory is All Cleaned! Stay Healthy!

 

 

 

Jane and I send you Love and Light from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 


Jane and I have been unpacking boxes as fast as we can and we feel confident the store will reopen mid-April, much faster than expected. We will send you a heads up newsletter a few days in advance. We are getting a huge new shipment of jewelry in this week and the largest collection of new Vogel wands we've had in years will arrive later this month. So stay tuned! We appreciate your patience!



This week we celebrate April's Full Libra Supermoon. April's Full Moon in the Northern Hemisphere celebrates the return of the light, a time when days are longer than nights after a long winter season of relative darkness.

Hours of daylight increase day by day at this time of year, seeds are planted, and flowers begin to bloom in profusion. Native Americans called the April Full Moon the Pink Moon, because pink phlox appeared across North America at this time of year, marking the beginning of the growing season.

Tulip blossoming at the Reynolda Gardens by Wakeforest University, Winston Salem, NC, photo by Jane Sherry


Next Sunday, April 12, is Easter, and we call upon you all to celebrate that feast of immanent and transcendent love and light with us! If you're like us, you have felt the need for extra protection in and around your home during the pandemic. There is a tsunami of negative emotions swirling around us, and we need all the help we can get.

Happy Easter! Scroll down to read our special Meditation Practice for Protection During the Easter Festival of Death and Resurrection. You can perform this meditation as you use your favorite crystal allies to clear the space you live in, and to cleanse your aura, removing all detrimental energies from mind, heart and body. Don't forget to check out our article entitled Eastertide: Uniting with the Cosmic Christ, Honoring the Divine Motherfor more on the esoteric meaning of this joyous feast day!


View of downtown Winston Salem from our balcony, photo by Curtis Lang

Our county is in a lockdown, but that hasn't stopped us from taking long walks in the parks that are open. The major tourist attractions are closed for the most part, but this is a garden city, with lots of small parks so we have a choice of strolls and hikes. You can see a strollway leading from Old Salem to downtown Winston in the picture above. There are miles of trails in the inner city.

                               Pink Azalea and honeysuckle -- Reynolda Gardens at Wakeforest University, Winston Salem NC, photo by Jane Sherry

Origins of Coronavirus -- How to Prevent the Next Pandemic

The current Coronavirus crisis underscores the importance of the way our industrial agricultural system is structured. Immense factory animal slaughter facilities and intensive animal husbandry worldwide cripple our ability to deal with disease outbreaks originating from contact with food borne pathogens. The way our global monocultural agriculture industry is structured could blight our future in a world where scientists say such pandemics are increasingly likely as a result of global climate change, deforestation, highly interconnected global supply chains, globalized business and recreational travel, industrial agriculture, and disregard for the safety of our food supply.

In the panic generated by the pandemic, it's easy to overlook some obvious questions that get right to the heart of the problem.

We've all heard about the prominent theory that the coronavirus infection began in Wuhan, China, and is thought to be connected to an open air market selling seafood and exotic animal meat, such as bats, snakes, and other wildlife. Scientists are still arguing about the pandemic's origins, but for right now, that seems to be a good working hypothesis.

But how did this even happen? And how did the sale of some bushmeat in a secondary city in China evolve into a global pandemic that threatens the entire global economy and could result in millions of deaths worldwide?

The wild animal flesh sold in the Wuhan market didn't come off the back of a truck, but was part of a formal system of agricultural production that has increasingly come to include exotic meats and seafood. The purveyors had to conform to Chinese food regulations to participate in that market.

 

File:Camel Farm in Mongolia 05.jpg

Camel Farm in Mongolia
Alexandr Frolov, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

 

Right here in Winston Salem, at our favorite restaurant serving local farm fresh food, one of the weekly specials is Camel burgers, which have become widely available. Just Goog it and you'll find Camel burgers near you too.

Industrial agriculture now encompasses 40% of the Earth's surface, and in this age of monoculture food production, there is an increasing premium on novelty foods such as exotic meats and seafoods.

Unfortunately, because industrial agriculture has penetrated so far into the world's woodlands and jungles, it's necessary for purveyors of wild meat to invade hitherto unknown areas, which are often home to exotic pathogens, such as the bat-hosted SARS-2 Coronavirus that found its way onto the world stage either from exposure of wild meat workers, trucks used by exotic meat purveyors or from consumption of wild meat exposed to the bat-hosted SARS-2 Coronavirus in some way.

Prepping bushmeat and home burials are two well known disease vectors that emanate from exotic locations deep in woodlands and jungles far from established communities and trade routes.

Our globalized food supply chain delivers that bushmeat on trucks packed by workers that have exposure to those sources of exotic pathogens to nearby city centers, often to slum areas where cheap labor is available, and then that bushmeat is transported to the wealthiest global cities, which are usually global financial centers, where the meat is highly prized and produces the most profit.

Suddenly, New York, London, and other major global hubs of commerce become disease vectors only one step removed from the world's largest most unsanitary slums, and global business and recreational travelers who live in those crucial urban centers of global finance deliver these pathogens with increasing rapidity to other cities around the world in the course of their normal activities.

 

 Toria/Shutterstock

 

"Ecosystems in which such wild viruses were in part controlled by the complexities of the tropical forest are being drastically streamlined by capital-led deforestation and, at the other end of periurban development, by deficits in public health and environmental sanitation," explains an article entitled COVID-19 and Circuits of Capital, in the current issue of Monthly Review. "While many sylvatic pathogens are dying off with their host species as a result, a subset of infections that once burned out relatively quickly in the forest, if only by an irregular rate of encountering their typical host species, are now propagating across susceptible human populations whose vulnerability to infection is often exacerbated in cities by austerity programs and corrupted regulation. Even in the face of efficacious vaccines, the resulting outbreaks are characterized by greater extent, duration, and momentum. What were once local spillovers are now epidemics trawling their way through global webs of travel and trade."

"By this parallax effect—by a change in the environmental background alone—old standards such as Ebola, Zika, malaria, and yellow fever, evolving comparatively little, have all made sharp turns into regional threats," Monthly Review continues. ". . .Among recent emergent and reemergent farm and foodborne pathogens, originating from across the anthropogenic domain, are African swine fever, CampylobacterCryptosporidiumCyclospora, Ebola Reston, E. coli O157:H7, foot-and-mouth disease, hepatitis E, Listeria, Nipah virus, Q fever, SalmonellaVibrioYersinia, and a variety of novel influenza variants, including H1N1 (2009), H1N2v, H3N2v, H5N1, H5N2, H5Nx, H6N1, H7N1, H7N3, H7N7, H7N9, and H9N2."

Our entire system of industrialized monoculture agriculture unwittingly facilitates the spread of previously exotic pathogens. Growing foods with identical genomes diminishes the immunity present in a diverse food environment. Crowded conditions on factory farms facilitate the spread of pathogens among farm animals with depressed immune systems. High throughput in these factory animal farms insures that the exotic pathogens, once introduced will quickly and decisively spread fast and far from their place of origin.


David Tadevosian/Shutterstock

 

Far from addressing these issues with the current system of intensive animal husbandry, "Food safety advocates warned Monday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's newly implemented rules for pig slaughter are setting the stage for a potential public health disaster—including the possibility of another infectious disease that could come from animals," as reported on the Common Dreams website.

Donald Trump's FDA is implementing a New Swine Inspection System (NSIS) that will let farm factory workers remove infected animal parts long before any government inspectors can review the production line. 

"A new analysis from Food & Water Watch released Monday and included in a lawsuit against the USDA says that in plants where the new system has been implemented, 'federal government veterinarians were precluded and prevented from adequately inspecting animals and carcasses that had signs of diseases, recent treatment, and other abnormal food-safety and public health-related conditions that would render an animal or its meat not fit for human consumption,'" Common Dreams continues.

"Self-regulation when it comes to animal movement, slaughter, and meat inspection is bad news. This data shows just how bad it really is," said Zach Corrigan, senior staff attorney with Food & Water Watch.

 

Roxbury Farm, Kinderhook, New York, 2005: Farmer John-Paul Courtens on Tractor and Farm Crew
with Jody Bolluyt, and Curtis looking on, photo by Jane Sherry

 

It is quite likely that the only way to diminish the skyrocketing risks associated with food borne pathogens is to mandate a return to a more diverse global agricultural and animal husbandry system, with producers that are smaller in scale and localized in nature, committed to producing a wide array of animal varieties in less claustrophobic conditions, with less dependence upon chemical inputs, and more conscious of the risks inherent on their farms. It goes without saying that increasing government regulation of intensive factory farms slaughtering animals must be part of any sensible system that intends to minimize the dangers of pathogenic explosions in our globalized 21st century civilization.

We are most fortunate to live in Winston Salem, which has dozens of small scale farms within a few miles of the city, no large industrial hog farms, and numerous farmer's markets. We support our local farmers in their efforts to produce a diversity of animal products and farm fresh produce for personal consumption and for preparation in restaurants or resale in grocery stores.

We hope you will also make the effort to find and support such farmers in your area. You'll be making a valuable contribution toward diminishing the chances of a future pandemic. 

 
Full Pink Supermoon, Aries Solar Festival Cosmic Weather Forecast

This month's Full Pink Supermoon in Libra takes place Tuesday April 7 at 10:36 pm Eastern Standard Time, as we celebrate the Aries Solar Festival. 

The Aries-Libra axis highlights relationship issues, and dramatizes the tension between individual rights, drives and desires and the compromises and sacrifices required for healthy relationships and healthy integration into social structures we inhabit.

Johannes Hevelius's chart of Aries, with Taurus and other surrounding constellations,
from his book Firmamentum Sobiescianum sive Uranographia.

The tension between individual rights (Aries) and social responsibilities (Libra) underlies the vast questions surrounding the rise and spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. These questions are now at the forefront of collective consciousness for careful consideration.

Here in North Carolina, researchers at Duke University and UNC Chapel Hill released a study today projecting that if the current stay-at-home restrictions are lifted April 29, which is the default setting, North Carolina will suffer 750,000 infections, but if restrictions remain in place until June, our state will generate 500,000 fewer Covid-19 infections. Wow! That's a strong incentive to put social responsibilities above individual rights for the next few months!

We must all consider our actions and how they might affect others around us. Each individual has a responsibility for self-preservation and protection of loved ones in this crisis. 

Unfortunately, there seems to be little appetite in Washington for serious contemplation of these existential questions, or for forging pro-active responses to future catastrophes. Instead we see business as usual. Far from visionary leadership, Washington politicians focus on short-term crisis management with an eye on public opinion polls and the interests of campaign contributors.

This feeds the frustration we feel as individuals, because as individuals we tend to feel powerless to affect the trajectory of the global pandemic. We are all being asked to sacrifice our personal freedom, to stay locked down, in many cases to sacrifice our jobs, deemed to be non-essential to the society at large during this emergency, and to take steps to protect ourselves and our loved ones without much support from government agencies or our dysfunctional health care system, and these difficulties can consume all our energy.

Johannes Hevelius's chart of Libra, with Scorpio and other surrounding constellations,
from his book Firmamentum Sobiescianum sive Uranographia.

The positive side of the Aries-Libra axis involves courageous acts by individuals in solidarity with the community, and that kind of positivity is on full display in England, where 750,000 people responded to the government's request for volunteers to help the nearly overwhelmed National Health Service. Hundreds of community groups have enrolled tens of thousands more, who help older and more vulnerable individuals.

Despite a tremendous outpouring of (Libran) love and goodwill shown by medical workers, grocery checkers, public transit workers, volunteers sewing medical masks, and others who continue to unselfishly provide us with what are indeed essential social goods and services, frustration is building in the collective consciousness. 

This Tuesday's Full Moon at 18°44' Libra and the Sun at 18°44' Aries are square the Jupiter/Pluto conjunction in Capricorn, which seems to be the astrological signature of the global Coronavirus pandemic.

This is an extremely tense energy signature, indicating that the Plutocratic power structures of the current global fossil fuel economy and the global neoliberal Utopian laissez-faire financial system are under maximum stress, while the world's leaders and the Plutocrats that control them work 24/7 to contain the spread of the virus, the collapse of the global economy, and the potential meltdown of financial markets.

This Full Moon T-Square in Cardinal signs symbolizes simmering angst and anger among the general populace in countries around the world, who fear for their lives, and for their livelihoods. 

As of April 6, there are 1.2 million coronavirus cases worldwide by official count, but the true number is undoubtedly several times greater since adequate testing of the global population has not been attempted. 

President Donald J. Trump joins Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, at their bilateral meeting Saturday, June 29, 2019, at the G20 Japan Summit in Osaka, Japan. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
Image from the White House from Washington, DC / Public domain

World leaders and politicians in America are not working together in the Libran spirit of goodwill but instead are consumed in a war of all against all (Aries), that creates tremendous fear, anger and confusion among people all over the world.

"Global solidarity has been noticeably absent in the fight to stop an outbreak that has already killed more than 4,300 people and spread to more than 110 countries," reports The New York Times. No one seems to be in charge. There doesn’t seem to be a plan." 

The World Health Organization, a subsidiary of the United Nations, is tasked with co-ordinating a global response to epidemics. Underfunded, often ignored by national leaders, without the ability enforce global rules and regulations, the WHO appears virtually helpless as the pandemic spreads around the world and nations blame one another for the outbreak instead of acting in solidarity to mitigate the crisis.

China says the coronavirus is an American virus, while President Trump calls it a Chinese virus. Government authorities and medical experts in America and France are in a battle royal over the efficacy of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine to treat the virus.

The US federal government and state governments are engaged in no-holds-barred bidding wars for scarce medicals supplies needed on an emergency basis in hospitals and clinics, creating the impression of a society at war against itself. President Trump refuses to disclose the purpose or the amount or location of supplies being hoarded by the federal government while states are in a panic.
 

 SamaraHeisz5/Shutterstock
 
Even worse, perhaps, tens of millions of medical masks and other badly needed supplies made in America have been sold to foreign buyers because American hospitals and state governments are burdened with so much bureaucratic red tape they cannot compete in the red-hot global market for these supplies. David DiSalvo, a reporter for Forbes magazine, spent a day observing traders on the global medical market and observed that "By the end of the day, roughly 280 million masks from warehouses around the U.S. had been purchased by foreign buyers and were earmarked to leave the country, according to the broker — and that was in one day."

In Europe, when Italy asked sister European states for help with a spiraling coronavirus outbreak, the response was to treat Italians with the same degree of cold-heartedness normally reserved for immigrants from Africa. No help from European "allies" was forthcoming. The Italians did get immense help from the Chinese, who sent them tons of medical supplies, thousands of ventilators, millions of medical masks, and doctors with expertise in virology -- all free of charge. The European Union suddenly appeared to be in a state of advanced dis-union, a war of all against all.

As bad as the mutually antagonistic response of global leaders has been, the lack of reliable information about the pandemic creates further ill will, anger and fear.  Conflicting accounts about how the virus developed and spread, how it is best treated, and what we can do about it create escalating emotional stress and mistrust of both governmental agencies and medical authorities tasked with managing the pandemic.

People's frustration in the face of contradictory official accounts of how the virus spreads, whether or not to wear face masks, and whether or not to trust epidemiological models of the probable extent and duration of the crisis is compounded in Western countries, and especially in America, by the apparent inability of the Trump administration to provide the most basic, credible information about the pandemic. 

In early March President Trump confidently declared the threat of coronavirus in the US was just a figment of the Democrats' imagination. In mid-March Trump assured America that there was no real problem, and the number of cases would be minimal. Trump claimed America would be back to work by Easter, and that the economy was solid, even as his administration rushed a multi-trillion dollar bailout of the banking system through Congress. By the end of the month, Trump proclaimed that if only 100,000 to 240,000 people died that would be a tremendous success, showing that he and his minions had done a "heckuva job" controlling the virus threat. 

At the late March Coronavirus briefing, when Trump announced the government's projected death count, the President claimed the projections were based on data "that has been, I think, brilliantly put together." Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, responded to Trump's projections by saying, "I've looked at all the models. I've spent a lot of time on the models. They don't tell you anything. You can't really rely upon models."
 
File:Anthony Fauci.jpg                                                                                                                                            Dr. Anthony Fauci
NIH Image Gallery from Bethesda, Maryland, USA / Public domain

This Full Moon week the public's simmering anger may begin to generate inflamed, even disproportionate responses to perceived threats, lies, and incompetent efforts by governments around the world.

On the level of person-to-person interactions, it is important for all of us to realize that we could be susceptible to exaggerated emotional outbursts triggered by relatively inconsequential actions of others, perceived to be much more important, aggravating, and threatening than they actually are. 

This tendency could be exaggerated throughout the first half of April, as Mars has joined Saturn in Aquarius, and both are square Uranus in Taurus this full moon week. We can anticipate that news about the spread of the pandemic will worsen during this time. Unexpected Uranian problems could arise with global communications systems, including the Internet. This same aspect could trigger further outbursts of outrage as the full extent of the mismanagement of the American pandemic response becomes clear to the general public.

The pandemic has preempted virtually all reporting about the 2020 American Presidential campaign, which is unfortunate, because the response of Republican and Democratic party politicians to the pandemic is revealing.

In last month's newsletter, we provided an analysis of the multi-trillion dollar March 2020 Wall Street and Main Street bailout, showing how the legislation favored financial and corporate interests at the expense of average Americans. That was not unexpected since both parties are controlled by the same ideologies that brought us the 2008 Wall Street bailout that privileged corrupt bankers and initiated a decade of austerity for American workers. 



The current financial and economic crisis dwarfs the Global Financial Meltdown of 2008, and could be more severe than the Great Depression of the 1930s. There are 2.6 billion people around the world on lockdown. Unemployment is skyrocketing. There are 6.6 million newly unemployed in America in March alone. Prominent financial forecasters envisionas many as 47 million job losses in the United States alone before the pandemic runs its course. 
 
In the face of a potential 33% unemployment rate, far higher than during the Great Depression of the 1930s, right wing Republican President Donald Trump managed to outflank the hapless Democratic party establishment from the left during negotiations on the multi-trillion dollar financial relief package.

In mid-March, "Progressives erupted with frustration and anger Wednesday over days of reporting that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would not consider cash payments for Americans without means-testing despite the ongoing coronavirus outbreak that has ground the U.S. economy almost to a standstill," Common Dreams reported

Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi
United States House of Representatives / Public domain


"I truly don't know how to describe how maddening it is that Republicans and Trump officials are to the left of Congressional Dem leadership on this issue," tweeted activist Jordan Uhl. 

Eventually, Trump's direct payments became part of the multi-trillion dollar bailout package signed into law. 

Extremely right wing and corporatist Democratic party priorities were also revealed during negotiations about extending health care benefits to millions of newly uninsured workers suddenly unemployed as a result of the pandemic and the crash on Wall Street.

"While establishment Democrats were calling for the White House to reopen the Affordable Care Act’s enrollment window, the President outflanked them to the left with what amounts to a temporary version of Medicare for All," reported The Sports Geek blog. The President again got his way, and the uninsured will be able to get federally funded coronavirus testing and treatment. If the Democrats had gotten their way, millions of uninsured and newly unemployed Americans would have had to line up to purchase unaffordable Obamacare plans with huge deductibles, leaving them on the hook for thousands of dollars in payments to insurance companies.

Nancy Pelosi’s big goal since the passage of the Multi-Trillion Dollar March Bailout Bill has been passing tax breaks for upper-middle-class homeowners, further cementing the Democratic Party's image as a party exclusively for the top 10% of wealth holders in America. 

The Democratic leadership's response during the negotiations for the Multi-Trillion Dollar March Bailout Bill has been incredibly ironic, since Presidential contender Bernie Sanders has long made Medicare for All and the reform of our current profit-driven health care system a cornerstone of his campaign for President. Front runner Joe Biden and numerous centrist Democratic candidates, who have since dropped out of the race, supported incremental reform of the current system, similar to what Pelosi championed this March.

File:Bernie Sanders July 2019 retouched.jpg
Senator Bernie Sanders
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders speaking with supporters at an office
opening for his campaign in Des Moines, Iowa.
Gage Skidmore, retouched by Wugapodes

The astounding, tone-deaf response of the Democratic leadership, which has circled the wagons around a Joe Biden candidacy for President, is hard to understand in the midst of a global pandemic which is rapidly revealing the for-profit American health care system as corrupt, inept, and woefully inadequate for America's needs in the 21st century.

To be in the top 10% of American earners a family must earn $118,400 or more per year. The current system does not provide affordable health care to the 90% of American families who earn less than $118,400 per year, and often even those in the top 10% must pay more than they can afford.

Most families earning $120,000 a year can't really afford insurance provided by their employers. The total costs for a typical family of four insured by the most common health plan offered by employers will average $28,166 this year, according to the annual Milliman Medical Index, which would be about 25% of yearly income for that family in the top 10% of American earners.

As for the lower income workers covered by Obamacare, "A recently released analysis by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) confirms what Democrats themselves have admitted: Obamacare has priced millions out of the market for health insurance," The Federalist magazine reports.

Our experience with Obamacare in California was not good. As small business owners with highly variable income we were charged $1500 a month for insurance through Kaiser Permanente, and when Jane had a bad case of cellulitis as a result of a spider bite in the garden, she ended up going to the hospital for two days, and we ended up with a $12,000 hospital bill. 

High premiums and high deductibles have driven so many people out of the Obamacare insurance market that Donald Trump and the Republicans have successfully implemented a variety of new insurance plans known as Trumpcare.

These short term insurance plans don’t always  cover prescription drugs and allow insurance companies to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions by denying coverage to them or spiking premium costs to the point where they are unaffordable.

Trump has allowed prescription drug prices to skyrocket and given drug companies billions of dollars in tax breaks. Trump opposes giving Medicare the authority to negotiate lower drug prices

Despite Trump's obvious political vulnerability on the health care issue, and the obvious attraction of Senator Bernie Sanders' proposal to provide universal health care, Democratic leaders have waged a scorched earth battle against Sanders and his supporters while allowing President Trump and the Republicans to appear as champions of the middle classes. Meanwhile Trump and his allies are dismantling the protections provided by Obamacare and seek to replace it with highly provisional, even more expensive junk insurance plans.

The Covid-19 pandemic should have opened everyone's eyes to the need for universal health care in America. Every other developed country in the world provides universal health care. The richest country in the world can do likewise. It's a matter of choice and America's leaders choose not to do so.

Now the nation will pay the price for that refusal, in pain and suffering.

But that's not the whole health care story. 

The United States has been closing hospitals across the country for decades, and now, with a shortage of hospital beds in the wake of the pandemic, we are left with tents in Central Park and temporary medical facilities in other cities from New York to California.

File:SinaiMed crop.jpg

Mt. Sinai Medical Center From Central Park, NY

Homieg340; cropped by Beyond My Ken (talk) 22:26, 7 December 2013 (UTC)


"A report by Morgan Stanley analysts 'found that 8% of U.S. hospitals were at risk of closing and another 10% were considered weak.' At least thirty US hospitals entered bankruptcy last year alone," according to The Jacobin magazine.

Hospitals in America, whether nonprofit or for profit, are all run as businesses, not public utilities. They are expected to provide owners with yearly profits, or they are shut down. This is in stark contrast to the nation's public school system, which is run as a public service.

Over the last two decades American state governments have cut back on support for hospitals, and slashed Medicaid funding. In New York, which is experiencing an acute shortage of hospital beds, Governor Cuomo says the state needs twice as many beds as they currently have.

Yet “'Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly stated, over and over again, that New York has excess capacity of hospital beds, that it’s too expensive and not needed and we need to reduce spending. He said this over and over again throughout his entire tenure,'” said Sean Petty, a pediatric nurse at a public hospital in the Bronx and a high-ranking member of the state’s politically active nurses’ union," according to a report in The Nation magazine.

Cuomo's current proposed budget will cut $400 million from the Medicaid program that supports the publicly supported hospitals that serve less affluent urban and rural populations around the state. New York has lost 20,000 hospital beds over the last 20 years, and half of those were lost under Governor Cuomo's administration.

As publicly supported hospitals wither away, for profit hospitals increasingly charge exorbitant fees for out-of-network and emergency room care without informing patients. 

"Due to the pressures of the market, hospitals do the same kinds of things all businesses do to increase their profit margins, The Jacobin reports. "They hire as few workers as they can and pay them as little as they can reasonably get away with. They cut corners on space and equipment in order to lower overhead costs. They lobby for deregulation, which can be dangerous to patients and workers, to save money. They downsize, restructure, close locations, and merge with other businesses to simplify operations and maximize revenue streams. And sometimes they just fail."

And sometimes their owners pursue business models that are almost guaranteed to bring about that failure. Sounds paradoxical, but that's the way private equity buccaneers have operated since the 1980s.

During the last decade, Wall Street hedge funds and private equity firms have been buying up billions of dollars worth of health care facilities, hospitals, networks of physician practices, and health care equipment manufacturers. These are the same Wall Street pirates who have driven many of the biggest bricks-and-mortar retail brands into bankruptcy in recent years, and they look set to perform a similar kind of black magic on America's ailing health care system.

Private equity funds use large sums of money they borrow or obtain from investors to purchase companies, often companies in some distress that have trouble finding traditional sources of funding. 

During the high-flying 1980s, convicted felon and Junk Bond King Michael Milken  provided liquidity for leveraged buyout buccaneers such as Kohlberg, Kravis, and Roberts, who engineered the gigantic and infamous $25 billion acquisition of RJ Reynolds-Nabisco, which is now considered a case study in corporate kleptocracy. Milken was sentenced to ten years in prison and forced to pay $600 million in fines for his activities. He is now considered a model of philanthropic virtue and has been pardoned by President Trump.


File:Michael Milken 1.jpg
Convicted Felon and Junk Bond King Michael Milken
This United States Congress image is in the public domain

 

Today private equity firms are more popular and powerful than ever. Today's private equity firms, including KKR, perform leveraged buyouts, taking publicly traded companies private. These private equity firms buy a portfolio of companies with other people's money, usually money from pension funds or insurance companies seeking high returns, in a series of transactions that leave the companies loaded with more debt than the companies can afford to pay in the long term. The private equity firms make sure that in the event of a bankruptcy by one of their companies, they are shielded from any liability.

Then the private equity firms create multiple ways to siphon money out of the companies. They pay high dividends to themselves. They charge huge management fees. They benefit from usurious interest rates charged to the target companies they have bought for money borrowed from the new ownership. 

Generally the private equity buccaneers will raise prices charged customers to nosebleed levels when they can and cut expenses to pay these lavish charges that accrue to the parent company. They slash employees, sell valuable assets, and generally bleed them dry.

Eventually many of the target companies go bankrupt. Private equity owned companies are ten times more likely to go bankrupt than other companies. When they do go bankrupt the private equity buccaneers simply walk away, leaving their investor-partners to take any losses.

"More than 1.3 million retail workers have lost their jobs because of bankruptcies or financial struggles at retail companies owned by private equity and hedge funds, according to a new study from several left-leaning advocacy groups," CBS News recently reported.

People blame Amazon for the death of bricks and mortar retail giants, but "Since 2012, 10 of the 14 largest retail bankruptcies, which included The Sports Authority and A&P supermarket chain’s parent, involved private equity owners, and those companies are twice as likely to go bankrupt as public companies, reports Forbes magazine. Among retailers that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2016 and 2017, two-thirds were backed by private-equity funds."

Now that private equity firms have targeted our health care system, hospitals and other health care companies are in more danger of failure than ever before.

We are starting to see the results of private equity takeovers during the pandemic.

"In this pandemic, private equity executives are indeed ripping the throat out of anyone they can, exploiting whatever market power they have." explains antitrust expert and public policy analyst Matt Stoller. "Steve Feinberg’s Cerberus Capital Management [private equity firm] threatened to close down a hospital it owns in Pennsylvania if the state didn’t offer to assume $24 million in expenses. Another private equity baron, Joel Freedman, bought Philadelphia’s Hahnemann University Hospital in 2018, in a comical display of greed. This hospital served the poor, and Freedman closed it down so he could use the land to build luxury apartments. When the city recently asked to use the empty hospital during the pandemic, Freedman demanded $1Million/month in rent. (He also got a substantial tax break in the bailout bill.)"

Hospitals across the country are being forced to forego more profitable elective surgery procedures in order to treat the flood of Coronavirus patients, and that is cutting into their profitability. Likewise, large companies that have aggregated physicians' practices into corporate Doc in a Box healthcare providers are seeing lower profits. We are seeing that when large chunks of our healthcare system are owned by private equity firms, that leads to some very troubling results.


File:Medics from across the NHS practise in full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) (15649499108).jpg

Medics from across the NHS practise in full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
DFID - UK Department for International Development


"KKR, one of the giants of private equity, is considering cuts of up to a third in pay for doctors through its own subsidiary, Envision Healthcare Corp," Stoller reports. KKR of course are convicted Junk Bond King and felon Michael Milken's old friends from the high-flying Eighties.

It should be clear to people on both sides of the red-blue political divide that today's American health care system is broken. With the large-scale entry of private equity firms into the health care industry at every level, and the imminent fiscal implosion of state governments impacted by the Coronavirus Economic Meltdown, our health care system is likely to go the way of bricks and mortar retail businesses in the coming years.

If the idea of paying large sums of money for telemedicine administered by pharmaceutical companies, insurance giants, and private equity buccaneers doesn't appeal to you, perhaps you'll be able to go to WalMart or CVS instead. Clearly that is not a best case scenario.

The best alternative is Medicare for All, and the socialization of the vast majority of America's hospitals, so they operate on the same basis as public schools. If nothing else, every American should be allowed to buy into the Medicare system as an alternative to the failing for profit health insurance system.

On the one hand, we can continue with the present system that prioritizes the privatization of profits within a national health care system designed to enrich a few rapacious investors (Aries), and on the other hand we could create a more Libran system that prioritizes the health and well being of the entire nation at the expense of the excessive profits reaped by those who see life on Earth as a war of all against all, and act accordingly. 

The Libra Full Moon and Aries Solar Festival Week is an ideal time to meditate upon the choices before us as a nation. 

And it's also the ideal time to perform spiritual practices designed to promote health and healing for ourselves and those around us. The following meditation is one tool for that purpose.

Meditation Practice for Protection During the Easter Festival of Death and Resurrection

At the moment of his Death by Crucifixion on Good Friday, Christ unified his own Body of Light with the etheric body of planet Earth, permanently infusing the energy of transcendent Cosmic Christ Self into the Earth’s aura, according to clairvoyant and Esoteric Christian spiritual teacher Rudolf Steiner.

 

Mary Magdalene Kneels Before Christ on Easter Sunday

After his death, and following his descent into the underworld, Jesus Christ appeared to Mary Magdalene on Easter Sunday in his immortal, subtle energy body. Thus the Resurrection of Christ, which we celebrate this Easter Sunday, is the Feast of the appearance of the Immortal Light Body of Christ walking upon the Earth. Easter is the Feast of the manifestation of Holy Spirit within the four elements of the material creation.

Esoteric Christians know of a special mantra that encodes the entirety of these Wisdom Teachings of Jesus Christ in a few syllables, a mantra that invokes the energy of the Cosmic Christ for protection, for healing, and for sharing with those in need, those who suffer, those who are in danger of death.

This mantra was given to Jane and me by Bishop John Rankin of the Liberal Catholic Church in the early Nineteen Eighties, when Jane and I were doing healing work with individuals infected with the HIV-AIDS virus. Bishop Rankin told us to use the mantra for our own protection and for healing others. We worked with people who had physical, emotional, mental and spiritual ailments that were torturous and infectious, at some level of being, and this mantra helped bring relief to those who were suffering, and to Jane and myself.

We have found over the years that this powerful mantra can be chanted aloud when clearing spaces of detrimental energies, or when performing healings and clearings of individuals in need. You can also say the mantra silently over and over as you meditate and in this way bring your own aura into resonance with the energy field of the Cosmic Christ.

Here is the mantra.

Invoke the secret name of Christ. Chant the following to yourself over and over, "Yod, Heh, Vau, Heh, Yod, Heh, Shin, Vau, Heh", pronounced "Yod, Hey, Vow, Hey, Yod, Hey, Shin, Vow, Hey". These Hebrew letters stand for JHVH or Jehovah, and JHSVH (Jeheshua or Jesus). The four letters comprising the name of Jehovah, YHVH, stand for the four elements, fire, water, air and earth. The fifth element, which is spirit, is called Shin. When you put Shin, or spirit in the middle of the four elements, into YHVH, you get Jeheshua, or Jesus.

Photo of the Vitruvian Man by Leonardo Da Vinci — Stock Photo

The Vitruvian Man is a drawing made by the Italian polymath Leonardo da Vinci in about 1490.
It is accompanied by notes based on the work of the Roman architect Vitruvius.


Note that the name JHSVH, composed of five Hebrew letters, invokes the energy signature of the protective pentagram. As you chant, aloud or mentally, you can visualize a pentagram of energy surrounding your body for protection and healing. Recall that as Vitruvius so beautifully pictured, the human body is itself a pentagram, and resonates with the powerful protective energy of this sacred geometric figure.

You can also envision the pentagram surrounding your room, your home, or the body of an individual in need of healing while you perform prayer, subtle energy work, Reiki, or crystal healing to cleanse the person or place in need, and repeat the mantra as needed.

You can also infuse the room you are working in with sage smoke, or with an essential oil airspray as you repeat the mantra. We have also used sacred drumming in conjunction with this mantra while circumambulating a space we wish to cleanse and heal, and that has also been very effective. This mantra is very effective for distance healing work as well.

Jesus indeed infused spirit into the material world through his Divine presence and ability to sacrifice everything, even his own body, for love. So chant these nine letters over and over to yourself as you meditate or perform healing work and breathe deeply and slowly. In this way, you can attract Christ consciousness, the spirit of Love, into your aura, your mind, your heart and your home for protection and healing for yourself and for loved ones or anyone in need of healing. 

Jane and I wish you Happy Easter! May you be safe, healthy, happy and free from fear!

Jane and Curtis at the Reynolda Gardens against a backdrop of pink honeysuckle, photo by Jane Sherry
 
Meditation Moment:  The Power of Sacrifice

 "In ancient times, it was the tradition for some priests and priestesses to have only one function, which was to maintain a fire in the temples that must never go out. Fire, flame and light in sanctuaries evoke the presence of the Divine in the universe, but also in human beings. In humans this fire is love, which like the sun must burn ceaselessly in their heart, and it is fed by sacrifice.

What is sacrifice? A transmutation. Only those who know how to make sacrifices possess the secret of transmuting matter, which is the very condition of life. This transmutation of matter can only be made by fire, especially the spiritual fire of love. Life is only possible because of sacrifice, because of love. Everywhere, from stones to the stars, love sustains the structure of the universe; if love disappeared, even our body would crumble to dust. And it is thanks to love, thanks to the sacrifices humans make for one another, that families and nations are also able to survive. Love is the greatest force in the universe." -- Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov

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