Friday, July 20, 2018

What do you Want?


Maybe we need to back off a bit and take a look at the slightly larger world of Deplorableville. Let me start with the following survey from Gallup done earlier this month. You can load the raw data from July 1-11 in PDF form at the bottom of the article.

The two greatest non-economic concerns Americans have are Immigration/Illegal aliens and Dissatisfaction with government/Poor Leadership, amounting to a combined total of 33%. The economy itself is 4%, surprisingly. Situation with Russia is *, meaning it is statistically Insignificant.

Statistically Insignificant.

Now, here’s the question the Liberal Left must ask ourselves. Huh? What exactly is this telling us, specifically and personally? And what do we do with this information? Well, pretty obviously America isn’t impressed by this whole knee jerk Russian Roulette parody that has recently gone into overdrive. Maybe some people remember the past hundred years of scapegoating Bolsheviks, Communists, Soviets, and Russians which accomplished nothing useful and only advanced the Military Industrial Complex to stupendous excesses. Since people don’t learn from history, I very much doubt that, but people are sick of it anyway. And as Bill Clinton reminded us that one of his advisors reminded him, “It’s the economy, Stupid.”

The Ignoratti in America have steadfastly refused to be lectured to by us All-knowing Elite. Not only that, they have the gall to want to democratically decide how the country should be run and to be taken seriously while doing it! Hmm. They are not smart enough to decide on such important issues as how to run a country, but they must have paid attention in civics class to learn enough about how it works to get by. Those clever, stupid people.

How do we respond? I can think of several ways.

1. Accept the American Right as our partners and fellow American citizens, equally. It's "Us." Not, "Us vs. Them."

2. Invite a dialog between the sides. NPR, Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC could surely create a shared segment which invites speakers from both sides, independent analysts like Dr. Stephen F. Cohen, and anyone else with a shingle and a (good) reputation. If only we could get a trusted journalist like Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow, or the like to mediate it and insure that both sides get an equal say. Cronkite once had a show called You Were There. It was produced during the height of the McCarthy era and was a way to speak truth to power. Each week they did a segment from history. The Trial of Socrates, Joan of Arc, and various other events where corrupt power put down a popular movement. It seems they had witch hunts back then.

3. Remember that Americans are not at war with each other, regardless of the hype. The last time that happened 600,000 of us died.

4. We must ask the Right what they want. Stop telling them how backwards they are.

5. And most importantly. Listen.

There’s an old saying, Truth is the first casualty of war. That adage works elsewhere, as well. Truth is also the first casualty of any emotionally heated exchange, domestic quarrel, etc. The reputation of our opponent is the second casually. So we can keep insulting the Right, comparing them to inbred southern stereotypes and calling them deplorable. Or we can admit that maybe we’re a little deplorable, too. Neither side is superior to the other. Neither side lays claim to any moral high ground. We’re all down in the ditch together.

Now, let’s talk.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Health Enhancement Program


Wow. I just got an email from my health care provider. I am part of a Health Enhancement Program (HEP.) This is supposed to insure that I’m not psycho or anything. Wait a minute. That’s the Insanity Limiting Liaison (ILL.) Last time I heard from them they were judging strait jackets. I wonder who won? LL Bean was in the running. Stylish, too.

So, to pass or at least get a good grade or whatever’s going on here, I have to answer some questions (about five, actually. Covering several topics,) about my numerous, lethal, and dubious illnesses. Not the mental ones, though. Those are saved for a different diagnosis. And treatment.

Let’s see. OK. No, I don’t need to read about my alleged ‘condition.’ I’ve read a medical book. Or Wikipedia. I know what you need to hear to shut you up. That’s a skill I’ve picked up. You’ve been teaching to the tests for ages now, you know. I’m savvy. Fine. Here we go…

Answer the following to be in compliance:

“I don’t have symptoms of high blood pressure, such as, blurred vision or headaches; do I still have to take my medication?”

Duh. No doctor drone, medical practice, or government funded insurance platoon is going to say ‘No’ to that.

“Can eating a low sodium (salt) diet reduce my blood pressure?” Thanks for the clarification! I now know what (salt) is! Though you forgot the ‘Chloride’ bit. OK. I’m gonna say they’re leaning toward ‘yes.’

“Is it true that smoking doesn’t affect my heart at all?” Get real.

“Is my LDL my Lousy (bad) cholesterol and my HDL my Happy (good) cholesterol?” And does Grampy love all his little Happy (good) children and Lousy (bad) grands alike? All on a Sunday afternoon, after church and Gramma’s pork gołąbki and mash potato Pierogies with cheese and Kielbasa for lunch? Can you please get real? No, I don’t suppose. (PS. Grampy has no Lousy (bad) grands.)

“Does taking my cholesterol medication in the evening help lower my cholesterol?” Sure, and all the other ‘medications’ I take at night must count for something, eh?

“If I feel good should I have a cholesterol blood test? Does having high cholesterol mean I may develop heart disease?”

Woah, that’s not fair. Sneaking in two questions on one go! Well, OK. I’ll give it a swing. If I feel good, then I should keep doing whatever it is that I am doing for as long as I can keep doing it. Up to, and including, dropping deal from an overdose of life. Now, since that’s pretty much what living is all about, let’s try something different. If that blood test includes phlebotomization, well, fine. Just don’t jab me right there. Oops! Ouch! FINE! Just take as much as you need, OK? And give me two band aids! And I want the needle back.

“Does having high cholesterol mean I may develop heart disease?” Gee. Doing anything can mean you may develop anything else. Or nothing. You’re starting to freak me out here. You’re getting beyond the pale. What’s up with this, ‘Health Enhancement Program’ anyway? If I didn’t know better, I’d say I was being gaslighted.

Gaslit?

Meh. Where’s my straight jacket?

Monday, May 7, 2018

A Sojourn with the Surgeon


I saw my surgeon today. 24 days after open heart surgery. Ah, time flies like the wind (fruit flies like bananas.)


I am recovering well. From the moment I woke up in Yale New Haven hospital my body was plotting how it could get me out of that place. I ignored it’s pleas to just get up and go. There are trees around the hospital… and a cemetery… and a limited access highway. Maybe I could run away and join the gypsies and spend my time dancing on the streets for coins and telling fortunes. Well, telling bad fortunes. Who wants the truth, anyway?


Wait. That’s the hospital in Norwich. The one in New Haven is much more civilized. No hiding in the woods around there. Maybe I can sleep in a museum.


I’ve had a few visits from visiting nurses since I came home. I didn’t spend any time in a nursing home. I had hoped not to. Dr. Darr’s assistant, Eileen, talked to me about it. I explained to her that Kristin was bringing me home and she was apprehensive about taking care of me. She understood, but also wanted to explain the procedure. If I go into a nursing home, it means that my doctor does not think I am ready to be home but no longer needs a hospital. Now, once I am in a nursing home I will need a doctor to release me. I can’t stay for as long as I want like it’s a country club or something. And nursing homes make money by having residents.


I understood that. But I also understood that Kristin was coming 3,000 miles to be a loving daughter to her doting father. I know I can be difficult when I am partially conscious and wholly insane. Mostly drugged. Over-the-top Paranoid. Scandalously Suspicious. Doesn’t-Recognize-my-own-Family Dysfunctional. It’s a family thing. I remember dealing with my mother at the end. Not pretty. But it’s family.


So my blood pressure was a little screwy-dazical last week. I came home from the hospital and was OK for about a week, or so. It happened that a bit after my surgery my heart started fibrillating. It was a trying time. My blood pressure was crazy. It would revolve around values like 98/59 with a blood pressure of 132. Or sometimes 178/142 and BP of 112. Or some other atrocity. 2 hundred something over 1 hundred a lot something with a side of no good? I was enduring something awful.

Then I started to feel feint when I stood up. I saw my cardiologist and he told me that my heart was fibrillating. It’s not uncommon, occurring in about 40% of the cases. I was scheduled to go in, this time to Backus, last Friday. He was going to do some procedure (beware the ‘procedure’) to De-fibrillate my heart, which involves a catheter, an electrode, and an IV. Wake me when it’s over.


Thursday, May 3. Early. AM. I had a date with surgery. 21 days after open heart surgery.


It was bad.


Eep!


So.


I was light headed. I would get up and feel feint. Like I was going to fall down. Just fall over. I wanted to breathe and inhale and get some oxygen into my lungs. Like a deep breath. How sweet. But every time I breathed a deep breath in, I would feel breathless. Like I couldn’t breathe a breath. I just sucked in with my lungs and held it there, a lost breath in a solid marble lung, cold and distant.


So my doctor said; My heart is freaking out! The anterior is screwing with the posterior. I had to take some new medicine and watch what I was doing and make sure it doesn’t screw up or something. And come in for that little procedure next week. Just a little procedure. We will put a catheter into some artery or other and put a heating pad alongside your heart. Then we’ll send a jolt of electricity into your heart while flooding it with a massive dose of blood thinners. You’ll hardly notice. Or care. Or remember.


Sure.


Kristin brought me to the hospital and checked me in. I was feeling better and the signs of fibrillating were dissipating. Gone, actually. Sometime the previous week I woke up and my heart was making normal noises. My blood pressure was acceptable and my pulse was a leisurely taking laps around my rib case. I had more stamina. Feeling feint when I got up was almost a thing of the past.


I came into Backus Hospital on Thursday morning. Kristin brought me. And I checked in. I got my death wish-wrist band and went upstairs to the operating room. Well, the waiting room for the operating room. A nurse helped me change into my Johnnie and put all my valuables into a bag for retrieval later. She loosened my Johnnie (I always tie it behind my back) and glued electrodes onto my chest for an EKG. She velcrow’ed a cuff to my bicep. Doctor mother had her way. I waited. Soon I would feel the propofol and Valium.


She looked at the monitor and thought for a while. “What test are you here for?” she said?
“Well, my heart is fibrillating. He wants to do a procedure to stop it? (They like words like ‘procedure’.)”
“Well, OK. Your heart looks OK to me.”
Dr. Needleman walks in.
“How are you?”
“Hello, Dr. Needleman. I’m fine (honestly!) How are you?”
Niceties were said by all. He exchanged thoughts and insights with the nurses.
“So. Let’s see what we have here?” He looked over some tests, blood pressure, pulse, blood oxygen level, (which is phenomenally high, btw) and said I did not need this procedure. My heart had pretty much healed itself.


Huh?


Let’s get clear here. In about 40% of cases, an aortic catheterization valve replacement results in stress to the heart and fibrillation as a result. Which means my heart is fluttering and the two sides of the THump-thump aren’t Thumping properly. So that’s not surprising. But in a rare number of those cases, the heart figures out how to smooth itself out. The ventricles and the atriums just figure out how to get along. Isn’t that nice?


So. They sent me home. Good news. No electroshock to my heart…! No chemical stimulus to the bunch of muscles that keep my body humming nicely…! Yipee!


Isn’t it nice that my body knows how to take care for itself?


Dr. Needleman looked at my X-ray, BP, Pulse, Oxygen level and asked me why, again, am I in here? When I couldn’t come up with a good answer, he sent me home. Keep taking your meds, and continue to taper off the blood thinner. And I’ll see you in a month. You’re doing phenomenal.


That was last Thursday. Today, Monday, I saw my surgeon, Dr. Darr. The nurse took my vitals, once again doing comfortably (and vitally,) and the doctor came in. Dr. Darr is very pleasant and friendly. The nurse had told me that the BP machine was noisy. It was kvetching about a low battery or something. It wanted to be fed. I told Dr. Darr that we in eastern CT can’t afford all the fancy high tech gadgets they have in New Haven. He smiled and told me to knock it off.


And, more importantly, he told me that I was doing good. And not just ‘good,’ good. I mean, good as in ‘very good.’ He used words like terrific. Fantastic. I knocked it out of the field… And then some. The tests and X-rays showed a heart and lungs very clean and functioning normally. The fibrillation figured out how to fix itself, which is very unusual. Damned if I know what's going on.


That’s OK. You keep the machinery going and I’ll throw you some Paleo diet once in a while. With a vodka in one hand and a scotch in the other to keep my genetic lines happy. I’m 100% recovered!


Ah, my Celtic/Slavic genes.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Justice


There is evidence. There is proof. There is hearsay. There is impression. There is gossip and rumor. There is he-said, she-said.  There is false testimony which serves to poison a person’s reputation and is quickly withdrawn once the vandalism is done.

There is contradictory testimony. All must be considered, sifted, separated, and ultimately supported by vetted sources and investigated by an impartial organization that is qualified to pick through the hard facts and the hysteria, the accusations and the slander, using sound practices like chain of evidence possession, multiple, independent labs, input from qualified experts, etc.

Enough proof justifies a trial before an impartial jury and judge. This is an indictment. An indictment is not a judgement. It is not a sentence. An indictment merely means that a grand jury has determined that there is enough credible evidence to warrant a trail. As they say; a grand jury can indict a ham sandwich. It’s much like an impeachment. An impeachment is bad press, but it is not a sentence of guilt, merely step one on the path to a trial.

In any case the defendant has the right to face his accuser and review the evidence against him. He has the right to counsel and to defend himself. Cross examination. Expert witnesses. Specific accusations that do not change over the course of the trial.

Then a judgement is made and a verdict delivered. Sentence is then carried out, plea bargained, deals made, state’s evidence turned, the defendant is given a chance to turn on bigger fish. Justice is disgusting. It’s one of those things you don’t want to see close up.

During this entire procedure, up until a verdict is delivered, the defendant is considered innocent. Innocent until proven guilty.

This is our legal system. The Rule of Law. This is the basis of jurisprudence in the civilized world. This applies to everybody. Individuals. Business executives. Public figures. Politicians. World leaders. Whoever you are. People you like. People you don’t like. Hillary Clinton. Juliann Assange. Donald Trump. Bashar al Assad. Benjamin Netanyahu. The guilt or innocence of an accused is not dependent upon the profanity of the crime nor upon the outrage of the masses, only on the verity of the evidence.

There’s a reason why we must insist upon a fair trial for every war criminal and corporate or political miscreant, all the way down to the dogcatcher and the cop on the beat. Justice is blind and so she weighs the evidence and goes by what she knows to be true. We must do the same.

Of course, this is not what happens in the real world. This is more idealized, Greek temple, philosophers discussing law on the steps of the gymnasium, Middle Ages barons threatening the king if they don’t get reforms to the legal system. And it is never done. Every age must struggle with the ideals of justice. Do we fall back into a Machiavellian game of sabotage, sensation, and spin? Or do we do what’s mundane and tedious. No matter how much we may dislike someone, we still guarantee them a fair trial. Jewish scholars in the first century believed that a Sanhedrin, the Jewish Supreme Court, that delivered more than one death penalty in 70 years was blood thirsty. That was an enlightened court.

Why should we care? Why not just walk away from the slaughter of an innocent for a heinous crime as ‘justice?’ It was a horrible crime. Everyone says this guy did it. Don’t we want justice for the innocent? Don’t we?

Yes, we do. But remember one thing: The next one in the docket may be you. Would you like to be judged by the mob?

Monday, April 23, 2018

Wine


I was in first place for my last rights.
A dead heat race to the end of this slip ‘n slide we call(ed) life.
One foot more and I’m on Charon’s Carnival Cruise,
The one that doesn’t come back?

I’ve got my ticket; I’ve got my boarding pass,
For the quick, it’s a lifelong goal,
To which we all progress,
They never expire, unlike me.

To what future wine-
Wait…, there’s wine? There’s a future?
Fuck this noise.
And don’t give me any of those, swish and spit, sample sips shit, either.

Our tickets are valid, with no departure date,
We all embark, some day.
But not today. For this day,
I will sip the wine.