Archive for April, 2018

Installing Linux on an HP Stream 11

25 April 2018

linux mint desktop

The Stream series of portable computers from Hewlett-Packard (HP) are low-cost and rather bare bones devices for connecting to the internet.

I have a Stream 7 which is a tablet and runs Windows 8 (the first version of Windows that introduced various features to desktops that formerly were only used on portable devices like smartphones). And I have a Stream 11 which is a small notebook that has just a little more disk space than it needs to run its OS (operating system) which was Windows 10.

One day while sitting somewhere (probably my church’s café), I got a message that the computer needed to install a security update, but did not have enough disk space to do so. I was not able to reduce the unused space on the disk to the point where the update could be done. What could I do about this?

One alternative would have been to get a bigger disk. I could do this by purchasing a little gizmo called a “Micro SD” card. These are basically thumb drives in a special package designed to be installed more or less permanently in a host device, like a digital camera. They aren’t very expensive; it was an option.

But, I don’t like Microsoft products (like Windows) that much, and am always trying to find excuses to replace them with something else. The “ultimate” anti-Microsoft operating system is Richard Stallman’s GNU/Linux. Loaded onto “free” hardware (no proprietary firmware or hardware-related software – drivers) it creates a totally free computer system. I usually settle for a compromise. The HP hardware is no way totally “free” and I believe there is some proprietary software associated with reading some media files I use that are very popular. So I decided to try Linux Mint. Mint is a Linux distro that is meant to look and behave almost exactly like Windows. The rationale is that if Linux can attract Windows users, they might never go back to Windows. A full install of Mint would require maybe 10GB of disk space, whereas Windows 10 was taking around 20GB.

The UEFI

The Stream 11, like most recent computers, uses the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) on its motherboard, instead of a Basic Input/Output System (BIOS). The UEFI is implemented with much more modern hardware, and supports stricter security protections. In fact, a manufacturer can use UEFI settings – if it wants to – to limit its motherboard to just one type of operating system.

Thus, updating recent hardware from Windows to Linux can be chancy. Will it work?

Getting a Linux disk

These days the standard way to obtain a Linux install disk is to download the disk “image” (a huge file showing exactly what the final disk should look like) and then burning it to a DVD-ROM on your own DVD drive. The HP Stream has no optical drives. So I had to obtain the image (.ISO) file then burn it to disk on a computer that does have an optical drive. Then I had to get out my portable DVD ROM reader, put the DVD in there, and connect it to the HP Stream. And then I had to get the HP Stream to boot from the attached drive instead of the installed boot partition. This is done by pressing the ESCAPE key when powering up the Stream and selecting the appropriate items from the text-based menu that appears.

escape key

Install

Like most recent versions of Linux, Mint detected the presence of the UEFI and presented me with a variety of special options to deal with it. I needed to install proprietary hardware drivers, and this can be a potential problem for the UEFI (per on-screen instructions) but did not seem to be a problem in this case.

Then I had to decide whether Windows would co-exist with Linux or be totally replaced. In this case, I wanted total replacement. The installer reported to me what disk partitions it was going to create over the old ones and then started the process. The whole thing went rather smoothly.

On reboot, I feared the worst, as the UEFI presented a screen telling me it could not find the operating system (Windows).

But all I had to do was press ESCAPE again, and there after F9…

startup menu

…were a list of boot options that included the new Linux.

UEFI boot options

So: The installer was unable to erase the fact that Windows was the expected default OS on this machine. But it was able to tell the UEFI that a new OS had been installed. Like most Linux distributions, software called “grub” is used as the boot manager. Here is the options screen it displays:

Linux Mint

linux mint password screen

Linux Mint is a very nice OS. It is based on the very popular Ubuntu, but has a special desktop environment that makes it look almost the same as Windows 7. It has an Update Manager just like Windows, and also a software installer called Software Manager. My browser needed immediate updating in order to run videos properly, and now everything runs smoothly. As I only use the Stream to watch the Scientology TV channel and download files occasionally, the OS will never get a full test on this machine. But at least the bulk of Windows 10 and the programs that came with it is gone.

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Marijuana

8 April 2018
wild hemp Iowa farm

Relatives inspect a wild hemp plant, found on a farm in Iowa during a family reunion, summer 1980.

Yesterday I attended an event concerning marijuana use in California. The event was sponsored by my church and featured Bishop Ron Allen as the speaker. Dr. Allen is a long-time opponent of teenage drug use, and an ex-addict himself. The group attending was very small. There was only one person present who had a problem with a person she was close to and needed those kinds of answers. The rest of us were concerned with how best to counter the effects of legalization in California, and in particular in the Black communities. The church has developed an education program called Truth About Drugs which is operated by the Foundation for a Drug Free World. Bishop Allen has a more faith-based approach, but uses the Truth About Drugs materials. He has started his own group, called the International Faith Based Coalition. Its mission is to get effective drug education programs into all churches and being delivered to all young people.

But on that Saturday afternoon, with the eight or ten others that shared the room, Bishop Allen was mostly worried. He had come to realize that some of the government agencies that you’d expect to want to prevent drug use were instead pushing for legalization, supposedly due to the potential revenues from excise taxes. He found that they were buying into spurious and dishonest claims being made by pro-drug groups. And he recognized that the “black market” selling marijuana to minors continued to grow, with their costs now reduced due to legalization. He was also troubled by the continued problems in the black communities in dealing with drugs, crime and violence. He warned that the current focus on white-on-black violence was avoiding the more painful and prevalent issue of black-on-black violence, and of the broader problem of violence and war in human society. “All lives matter!” he said. And he repeated this many times.

All Lives Matter!

In embracing this concept, Bishop Allen to some extent turns away from teachings that require unwavering devotion to a deity but instead see deity in all people. Another way of stating this belief or awareness is: “What you do in life matters.” In other words, if an individual makes good choices, the effects of this will be felt by many others around him, and perhaps even improve the general environment. Conversely, if an individual makes poor choices, similar ripple effects will occur. This awareness is very similar to the awareness of connectedness that many who pay attention to the spiritual side of life acquire. This contrasts with the separateness that is implied or expressed in the popular pursuit of material advantage. Thus, Bishop Allen is confronted by a conundrum (puzzling problem) that has confounded the best thinkers of the ages.

Drugs

The Foundation for a Drug Free World pushes the message that all drugs are poisons. Biologically-created poisons are known as toxins. Toxin is a back-formation from toxic which comes from a Greek word for the poison used on arrows. The word “intoxicated” shares this root meaning. We start from this as our stable datum concerning drugs. If an overdose of something can kill you, then it is a drug. Otherwise, it is merely food, or a food-like substance, like vitamins. Certain drugs are also known as narcotics, the Greek root of that word meaning “numb.”

Because pain relief can be medically useful, the worlds of medicine and narcotics have become crossed – and have been so for a very long time. This should be understood as a problem of biology. However, the mind, and the mental effects of drugs, go beyond biology. This is the difficult point that many reach when trying to understand drugs, as many persons of this world don’t recognize the existence of any living thing beyond the realm of biology. In this they are most certainly mistaken.

Because pain and confusion can exist in the mind independent of the state of the body, the subject of drugs also crosses over into the realm of the spirit. This is one reason why churches are quite rightly involved and concerned. They can see this clearly; particularly those like Bishop Allen, who have been through the experience of addiction.

Addiction

Can physical and mental addiction be separated? Researchers say, “yes.” Spiritual people are not so sure.

A web article published by rehabs.com states:

In many ways, physical and psychological [addiction] are identical in that they activate similar brain regions.

The difference involves what happens when a person is deprived of the drug. Do they experience simple mental torture, or actual physical withdrawal symptoms (plus the mental torture)? That’s the difference. So we are talking about a difference of degree. One argument made about marijuana is that it is not physically addictive. But it is mentally addictive. Some call mental addiction “dependency.”

Imagine, if you can, that you have the body of a robot. Your body works on electricity which is supplied by some sort of power pack that is designed to run for years. You have been taken out on a long space tour, and you miss your robot buddies back on the home planet. You are sad about this, as you see no way of returning to your friends. You discover that when your smell sensors are overwhelmed by the presence of certain solvents (such as alcohol) in your environment, you forget about your lost friends, and switch to a different line of thought. So, to relieve your sadness, you seek out such solvents, and hover over them. You, a robot, have started on your path towards addiction. With a machine body, you could never get physically addicted to anything; you don’t eat or drink! Here on Earth your problem would be classified as psychological addiction, or dependence.

An addicted robot? OK, perhaps a little far-fetched. But I wanted to stress the mental component of addiction and by extension, the spiritual component. In the end, it is the spiritual being who is addicted. And this is backed up by numbers: The most effective drug rehab program is Narconon, and that program addresses the being, not just the body (detox). Though withdrawal can kill a body, it is mental attachment, not physical attachment, that drives addiction.

Medicine versus Salvation

It has been the hope of Ron Hubbard, from the beginning of his work, that medicine, science, and spirituality could someday be harmonized into an overarching theory and practice that would handle any human condition.

However, it appears that medicine, as an institution has come to see spiritual practices as a threat. In this we see that some “doctors” have walked away from the ideals of medicine and into some other realm, which could – frankly – be labeled as criminal. This is an unhappy circumstance, as most practicing doctors would not agree with this. They still want to make their patients permanently better, and they haven’t given up hope about this. Those currently in control, however, seem to have different ideas.

Today we understand this to be a “dramatization.” A compulsion to display non-optimum conduct for reasons that have been totally buried and seem to be totally lost. But today we can handle dramatization. It works on many drug addicts. It could also work on many doctors.

Meanwhile, though, we have a problem. Organized medicine is opposed to many health-giving therapies because they aren’t medical! They have been pushing an anti-spiritual, anti-religion message for decades, only recently slightly relenting in the face of the overwhelming popularity of some of the simpler non-medical practices.

Whole industries have been built up that take advantage of various human weaknesses and conditions. So now we have business people and bankers also being lured into the criminal attitude that a sick population is better for business than would be a healthy population.

The Role of Government: Decriminalization versus Legalization

I have expounded in other places about the problem that government has with crime. It is summed up in the phrase: “If you can’t beat them, join them.” This is considered to be sound political advice. However, it contains a connotation of deceit, in that you could remain an enemy of a group while pretending to join it, and thus operate within the group as a traitor.

I have proposed – and this is not a new idea – that many people in government, if not whole governments, have been taken over by criminal interests because the criminals appeared stronger than the honest people they victimize. They are certainly not spiritually stronger, but in the physical universe – especially if given superior physical weapons – criminals can appear to be the stronger force.

This has been and will continue to be a problem for beings who want to do right. The most workable strategy has been to use spiritual strength to one’s advantage. And we know now that you can actually improve, or rehabilitate, the spiritual strength of someone if they decide to stay honest. Thus what we see playing out here on Earth – in really just its beginning stages – is an attempt by honest beings to recover control over the institutions of Earth, fought against by criminals using technologies of an increasingly devious and destructive nature.

These technologies very much include Bernay’s approach to marketing and public relations, which involves taking advantage of human psychological weaknesses.

So you have a situation on the planet now where the economy has stagnated and in some sectors collapsed. Governments, which depend on healthy economies for their own existence, become desperate for funds to continue providing the public services that the population expects from them. And so they become open to arguments that law enforcement costs would reduce and tax revenues could increase by legalizing (but taxing) activities that have become popular in the culture, but were previously seen as illegal. While some governments have only reduced criminal penalties for some acts (such as possession of marijuana – decriminalization) in the hopes of increased revenues from fines, others have opted for legalization for adults, as has been done with cigarettes and alcohol, expecting, we presume, even better economic outcomes.

The situation is further confused by the fact that centralized legal systems have never served the population well, and so popular sentiment is often in favor of fewer prohibitions. From the viewpoint of an honest citizen, this is a justifiable position. Laws are routinely used selectively on the population, enforced on persons that are dissidents or rivals, and not enforced on friends and family. There is also a significant and undeniable legacy of false and forced imprisonment across the planet and down through the ages, used by governments to prolong the reign of leaders or cabals who have outlasted their tenure of popular support. It is a common criminal practice, sometimes referred to as a “frame-up.”

That police departments continue to work with churches and the Foundation for a Drug Free World in anti-drug education programs and other forms of community outreach attests to the basic goodness and decency of people – particularly those who have pledged to work for the public good – but not in all instances, unfortunately, can the same be said for their political leaders or funding sources.

In the face of this morass of ethical and moral confusion at the leadership level, the question of whether or not to legalize becomes irrelevant. Leadership must first decide to unconfuse itself and start to lead for real. Leaders in government could then begin to serve their communities in some useful way, and would rise up out of the criminal situation where so many of them currently find themselves.

A vision based on reality

In the real world, for ages past and for ages to come (I hope), people will do what they decide to do. Yes, laws can serve as guidelines towards the better path. But they can never replace the resolution of a being to pursue his choice, no matter what. Thus, a “legal system” based on guilt and punishment will never fulfill its purpose of improving conditions, but will tend to worsen conditions. Only a legal system based on education and real understanding could hope to do that. Where beings lose hope that they could ever attain their ideals, the improvement of conditions becomes impossible. Thus, absent a general improvement in the population on the subject of happiness, a general improvement of the human condition on Earth (or anywhere else for that matter) will not occur.

Thus, this vision starts with The Way to Happiness. I know of no other book that does what this book does, without once mentioning God, heaven, or scriptures. We need a universal moral guide, and this is the only one I am aware of that exists on Earth. In it are our stable data, the foundation on which a better society may be built.

Next, groups need purposes to survive as groups. Put otherwise, they need games, goals, visions of the future to work toward. The lowest common denominator purpose on Earth has been war. That has to change…but not necessarily that much. How do you turn a game from something destructive for the larger group, to something constructive? There are two main ways: 1) Construct the game in ways that allow the defeated rival to survive and play again, as in sports. 2) Pick a rival that is external to the group, either physically or conceptually. Thus, “fighting human aberration” becomes a playable game if it doesn’t actually destroy human life, but only strives to remove the self-imposed barriers to a fuller life experience. In the hands of psychiatry, “mental health” became a criminal game. But it doesn’t have to be. With effective mental technologies, it is a game very much worth playing, and winning.

In this vision of the future, what does government and law look like, and how can we move in that direction from our current scene? Would marijuana be an “illegal drug” in that new world?

If we start with The Way to Happiness as our foundation, then we can imagine that law, to the extent that it was necessary and desirable, would parallel the Precepts. Take Care of Yourself. Be Temperate. Be Industrious. If someone was abusing marijuana, they would have problems in some of these areas. And their community would be organized to assist them to change their ways. If they got into Ethics trouble, say for missing work, they might be assigned a Condition. If they could not get out of that Condition, an investigation might be undertaken to determine if that person had criminal ties or tendencies. If so, further handlings would be recommended. If those handlings did not result in turning the individual around, a justice procedure might result in the person being placed on a list of persons with unhandled drug dependencies, limiting the sorts of employment and assistance that would be available to them. They’d have a hard time in life. Would they go to jail? Possibly not. Would they be given opportunities to detox and get rehabilitated? Probably so. It would be in the community’s interest to turn such people around, so the community might even help pay the cost of such services. Or maybe the addict would be billed for the cost, and expected to repay after he got cleaned up.

What we can do right now is push The Way to Happiness into use. All the police organizations of the country of Colombia know this book! They used it to help create a truce with the FARC rebels. In Los Angeles it has been used to reduce gang violence, with similar results in Denver and many other cities.

Even the Ethics technology has made some inroads into society, and should be promoted as an adjunct to the criminal justice system. Third Party Investigations have been mentioned as useful in conflict resolution work in Los Angeles, and deserve much wider recognition and use.

These are both educative technologies, and that’s what the planet needs right now. Some reach for it. Others know they need it, but are afraid to ask. You can often get cooperation in forwarding this data just by assuming that you will.

That’s the way – briefly stated – to run a community, a city, a state, a planet. Care about everyone. Make sure they know and understand their moral and ethical choices, then let people get on with it, and see what happens. The curbing of crime and of criminals is an important aspect in such a world. It simply has to be done in an honest and humane manner, with the application of as much effective mental and spiritual technology as seems practical. Earth, after all, is not the end of our problems. Even now, as many more than do should realize, other worlds – worlds many of us once participated in – are knocking on our doors, inviting us to learn and play their age-old games of commerce and war. Do we meet those invitations with the moral compass of our ancestors, or with The Way to Happiness? What we decide in the next few years could make a big difference over a long stretch of our future.

As for pot and drug addiction: I’m sure glad I didn’t have to worry about that this lifetime. Was there an anti-drug education program in my school when I was growing up? Yes! Will such programs save everyone? No, but one saved me. Can I get an amen?

Death of a Cultural Hero

5 April 2018

portrait of Martin Luther King
On yesterday’s date 50 years ago (1968) Martin Luther King was shot while standing on a balcony outside his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee. He died later that day.

A story was invented and widely published about how this death came about. However, it was incorrect.

A man named William Pepper, who was a friend of King at the time, a writer, and later became a lawyer, worked for the following almost-50 years to unravel a more accurate story. The only remaining major piece missing is true motive.

Pepper published his last book on the subject in the summer of 2016. About 17 years earlier, a jury had found government complicity in the murder in a civil trial that ended in late 1999. Have you heard this story? Has any major news media made a point of correcting themselves on this subject? No? So, they are complicit, too.

The Truer Story in Brief

King was shot by a Memphis police sharpshooter with a completely different rifle from the one that was found across the street in a “bundle” and reported to be the murder weapon.

James Earl Ray was not on site at the time of the shooting, but was the named fall guy and picked up later while traveling through the UK. Earlier, he had been smuggled out of prison, with the prison warden paid off to look the other way. He was contacted and given money and instructions through an intermediary who was nominally just a criminal.

Coordination of the operation has been linked to the FBI, or at least its director, J. Edgar Hoover, and at least one of his top people. Hoover has been linked to several similar incidents.

According to a nurse at the hospital where King was taken after the shooting, he was still alive when the head of neurosurgery entered the emergency room with two men in suits, ordered everyone else to leave, then suffocated King with a pillow.

Motive?

It is known that Hoover hated King and many other activists who were trying to steer the country back onto a more open and honest trajectory after the huge deceptions and atrocities it had been part of during and subsequent to World War 2.

 

King had come out against the Vietnam War a year (to the day) before his death. So this position, in combination with his general popularity and effectiveness in restoring civil rights in the South, has been cited as a possible motivation to have him killed.

Of course, each individual or group that was involved in the plot was given a motivation and story line that fit their viewpoint and need to know. That “higher concerns” may have figured into this murder – as has also been theorized about JFK and RFK – does not mean that any of those intimately involved with those plots had any awareness of those concerns.

I don’t rail about “truth and justice.” It won’t be enough to expose the true perpetrators of these crimes and “bring them to justice.” That won’t handle any of the most important problems we face on this planet. Only a higher level of knowledge and spiritual ability could handle those problems. So that’s what I advocate.