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Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Psychiatry does NOT Kill: Stupid Internet Videos Kill

Not everyone who hangs out their shingle
on the Internet knows what they are
talking about.
Okay, can you tell I'm angry? I just saw a video entitled "Psychiatry Kills". The premise is that the medicines psychiatrist give are all bad and you should get off them. The trouble is, rather than trust a highly trained physician with years of study and research behind him, you're going to trust a lot of anecdotal "evidence" from a group of people that the video says, quit all their meds "cold-turkey".


Here's what happens when you quit a psychotropic medication cold turkey.  First, you start going back into the depressed, panicked, schizophrenic or whatever state you were in that caused the medication to be prescribed in the first place. Second, the change in neurochemistry in the brain caused by the sudden stopping of your meds triggers all sorts of brain neuro-transmitters to either shut down or kick into overdrive giving you the equivalent of a very bad LSD trip.  So every story in this video (and no I'm not going to give you the link to some advice that can kill you, so don't ask), is based on someone doing what their doctor told them not to and in many cases probably because the person saw one of these scary videos about evil Big Pharma and decided some anonymous Internet video cares more about them than the physician you are paying to look out for your health.

Do psychotropic meds sometimes cause side effects?  YES.  You see, you can't peek inside the human skull when the patient is alive to see what's causing his mental problems. That would do more damage than good (remember lobotomies).  Diagnosing psychoses is a very much working in the dark process. We can only diagnose by observing behavior and listening to you tell what is wrong.

If you do a lousy job of telling the doctor what's going on in your head or if you spin the story to make it sound worse or sound not so bad, you will almost certainly get the wrong medication the first time out.  That's how psychiatry works. It's a partnership between patient and physician. He is not a magician. There are no magic words he can say nor magic pills he can give you, especially if he doesn't get good information from you. If you don't tell your physician what is going on, you probably are going to have a bad experience.

The truth is that the chances of the first medication you try working for you are pretty slim. That's because the causes of many mental disorders cause symptoms that look pretty much the same. One pill may work great for one kind of depression and be really bad for another kind of depression.

And yes, not every depression is exactly the same and cannot necessarily be cured by the same treatment.  I know people expect doctors to wave their magic prescription pad and cure their problems, but it's not that easy.

Think of the doctor/patient relationship as a collaborative research partnership.  Here's an example.  My grandmother's physician prescribed a powerful anti-biotic for an infection she had.  Just after she started taking it, she had a terrible panic attack. I was in grad school at the time and so the first thing I did was ask if she was taking any new medications. I'd never heard of an anti-biotic causing panic attacks, so I went down to the pharmacist to ask about side effects (this was pre-Internet).  Sure enough one of the side effects listed was panic attacks. 

We called her general practitioner and he prescribed valium for her anxiety. It didn't work and the problem escalated. She was so freaked out, she was afraid to drink water. Fortunately, at school I had access to Medline and looked up some info on panic attack. A doctor in Shreveport had done some work on panic attacks and noted that anti-anxiety meds don't work on severe panic when used alone. He recommended pairing it with an anti-depressant and had shown good results with a combination treatment.  I went down to the doctor's office (his secretary wouldn't let me talk to him). I ambushed him as the office was closing, told him about my grandmother's problem and showed him the research I had found (he was not a psychiatrist, remember).  He said he'd take a look. He called me a couple of hours later and told me I was right. He prescribed an anti-depressant to go with the valium and once we convinced my grandmother to take it, she got better immediately and within two weeks, just like the research said, the panic attacks were totally gone and she was able to quit the meds as she should have.

Treating mental illness is a tricky process. There are no instant cures. If you are lucky and diligent to give the doctor good information, you may get the right treatment the first time, but don't count on it. If you have bad effects from the medicine, tell the doctor and he'll try something else. Trying a lot of different meds doesn't mean you've got a bad doctor. On the contrary it may be a sign that you have a very good doctor.

Here is some advice for those of you with mental illness who are taking or considering taking psychotropic meds like anti-depressants, anti-anxiety or anti-psychotic medications:

  1. If you need psychotropic meds see a psychiatrist: If the problem is severe, you may need to see a psychologist too. A psychologist will test you to find out what's wrong. A psychiatrist handles medication.  Either may send you to a counselor for talking therapy if that's appropriate.
  2. Trust your physician:  Take the meds as he or she tells you to. Don't fiddle around with the dosages or times you take them. Doing that can cause some side effects or mess up what the drug is supposed to do.
  3. Choose a treatment partner:   Your spouse is the best or a parent or adult child who lives with you. That person needs to know what you are taking, why you are taking it and go along on doctor visits to provide a 3rd party report to the psychiatrist as to what your behavior is really like. They WILL see things from outside that you don't see from inside your rattled brain.Trust your partner! Your partner will tell you when you are going off the rails. It's the hardest thing in the world to trust someone to tell you your behavior is erratic. You probably don't want to hear that and you may be so screwed up that you think your partner is out to get you. You need to know that this may happen. It's the illness, not necessarily the meds. It could be both if you have the wrong medication too.  Here's where you have to use cold rational thinking to overcome your feelings. If you are mentally ill, you cannot trust your feeling.
  4. Don't self-medicate:  Pot may make you feel "mellow", but it may also have some nasty interactions with the stuff your doctor gave you. Illegal drugs are notoriously irregular in their strength and dosages and pushers are a real hazard to your health. My son wound up 3 days in a coma because he believed pot had no dosage limits and smoked his whole supply wrapped up in papers his helpful dealer had treated with PCP. It nearly killed him.  That's why you don't self-medicate.
  5. Call the doctor if there is something wrong or give your partner permission to call on your behalf: When you are having an "episode", you cannot trust yourself to act in your own best interests. People who trust their own judgement when they are mentally ill are the ones who kill themselves or do something monumentally stupid that they wind up in jail or worse. You need someone who will get you to the help you need and you have to keep reminding yourself that you trust that person, no matter what you feel emotionally.
  6. Don't switch doctors:   Too many people switch doctors the first time their medicines don't work and then complain because the new doctor gives them the same medication.  Each mental illness diagnosis has a protocol that doctors follow. You give Medicine A first and then Medicine B if that doesn't work and then Medicine C and so on. Change doctors and he's going to start down the same protocol list.  Stick with your doc till the two of you figure it out. If you find a physician that will listen to you when you tell him what's wrong, then stick with that doctor. You've found a jewel.
  7. NEVER QUIT COLD TURKEY:  Every damned story in the "Psychiatry Kills" video was of someone who belonged to a group which quit their meds cold turkey and they all had suicidal ideation, homicidal thoughts and really twisted urges. No wonder. THEY QUIT COLD TURKEY. The warnings that come with the medicine say never to quit cold turkey. It can be fatal.
  8. Don't believe everything you see on the Internet:  There are some wonderful resources there. Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins and other reputable information sources have a wealth of material about every disease imaginable. If you see some hysterical warning on Facebook, skip it. Search out the information for yourself. Avoid the independent websites. Hook up with social media groups to share stories and learn how other people handled their disease, but be careful of quack cures and hysteria. Your doctor studied all those years because she wanted to help people. Besides, killing your patients is not a very good way to make a living. Dead people don't pay for doctor visits.
  9. Remember that you are unique:  No two people are alike and there is no "blood test" or X-ray for mental illness. Even MRIs and CAT scans can diagnose your mental illness on their own. It's a long and complex process.
  10. Don't make big decisions when you're not thinking clearly:  If you or a loved one is struggling with mental illness, make it an agreed upon thing that you don't make big decisions when you're having an "episode". Always let your treatment partner be the one to be the final word on whether you are up to it or not. That's hard to do, but it's the best way to regain control of your world. By deciding not to make impulse decisions when you aren't at your best is very wise.
Finally, remember that fear, paranoia, sadness, elevated mood and rage are all components of various mental illnesses.  They come with the territory. Apologize in advance to your loved ones. You may say stupid things that you regret later, but which, at the time, seem like they simply must be said. Build around you a circle of loved ones who know what you are going through and who you trust to be on your side when you are in trouble. You want people who won't let you go to the casino when you're manic, because they know you'll bankrupt yourself if given a chance.  You want doctors who have enough experience with you to piece together a correct diagnosis and who trust you to tell them what's really going on in your head. Not every general practitioner is good with medications for your mental health. If you need medication support, go to a psychiatrist who is expert in treating mental illness and build a partnership with him or her in helping you reach stability.


Tom King
© 2016

Monday, January 25, 2016

Kale: The Vegan Hair Shirt

Since I started a website for Adventist Potluck Vegetarian cuisine (stuff you can make on Friday
Kale - The "Holiness" Church of Cabbages
and take to church for potluck on Sabbath and reheat and it still tastes good), I have been the periodic target of militant vegans.
These radical vegetarians find my use of eggs, cheese, milk, wheat gluten, soy products and cream of mushroom soup offensive.  Also my lack of outrage over GMOs and my failure to insist on organic products, seems to rankle as well.

Why is it that every time you try to make things nice for folk, there's always someone who comes along who wants to put a hair shirt on it. For those of you unfamiliar with medieval monastic practices, supposedly celibate monks of the middle and dark ages used to believe in a quasi-sexual practice call "mortifying the flesh".  Basically they would cut themselves, whip themselves with cute little whips, starve themselves and generally get naked and hurt themselves in some titillating fashion. Let's face it, monasteries were kind of like asylums for sado-masochists in many cases. They did some good, but there was an awful lot of really disturbing behavior behind those walls, one of which was the hair shirt. A hair shirt was an animal skin worn inside out so the hair was next to the skin. It poked you, made you itch unbearably, and kept the fleas close to you.

Haystacks are way better than hair shirts.
The point of all this self-induced pain was supposedly for the purpose of getting yourself right before God. I cannot imagine, though, how God could look down on a 58 year-old portly naked man slapping himself across his own buttocks with a rawhide whip and think "Now there's a guy who's really right with me!" There's always a human kind of vanity that says, I can do you one better and takes pride in its ability to suffer more than others.  They believe that this earns them special status with God or at least bragging rights for being holier than everyone else.

My favorite Vege-meal: Barbecued Tender-Bits
I believe along with my fellow Adventists that the body is the temple of the Lord and that we ought to take care of it. That's why Adventists pay attention to keeping up our bodies in good shape. Statistically, our lifestyle gives us an extra six or seven years more than typical Americans. We believe our brains are a conduit to God and that if we keep it reasonably healthy we can draw closer to him. It's also a good way to avoid heart attacks and cancer too by happy chance. So we follow scripture-based health practices like avoiding certain kinds of foods, we believe in exercise, and we have a quite ambitious medical work that we support worldwide. 

That said, most of us tend to be vegetarians, or at least what I call "mostly lacto-ovo vegetarians with an occasional tuna sandwich".  My website "The Potluck Vegetarian" is dedicated to the sort of Adventist potluck dinners I grew up with. The food is unique and quite delicious. Adventists invented The Haystack, for instance. It's basically I giant Tex-Mex salad consisting of either Fritos or Tortilla chips (there are minor theological differences as to which is the correct base for haystacks). Atop the corn chip base you then pile, Ranch Style Beans and/or Vegeburger, lettuce, tomatoes and cheddar cheese, maybe some sour cream, Ranch or Catalina salad dressing and a smattering of olives. Other ingredients are added or subtracted depending on the local culture. In Hawaii some churches make haystacks with pineapple in them. I tried that and it's really good. Adventism is a mission-intensive faith and so there are literally thousands of local versions of the haystack around the world. This happened because it's easy to make them for potluck and will feed hundreds on a giant pot of beans and a dozen heads of lettuce.  

King Ranch Vegetarian Chicken (uses mushroom soup)
The standard SDA casserole base is cream of mushroom soup. Used in various oatmeal patty recipes and grain-protein dishes, mushroom soup has been the go-to wet-base for potluck casseroles for decades. Cheese, melted over enchilada casseroles, lasagna, and other tasty reheatable casseroles has long been a standard protein source for Adventists, especially since most cheese is now made with vegetable rennet rather than the traditional pig-based rennet. Anyway, Adventist cooks like my beloved grandmother have come up with thousands of amazing dishes you can make on a Friday and serve on Saturday after church when everyone gathers for potluck - the Adventist version of a feast. And they all use a fairly basic set of ingredients that Adventist keep in their cupboards. She used to make a peanut butter loaf that was amazing.

ENTER THE MILITANT VEGANS! These dour, and usually unhappy people inevitably intrude upon the scene of potluck celebrations and commence to criticizing the vegan orthodoxy of everything in sight. If you use lettuce in the salad, they'll stand over the bowl and loudly enough to be heard at the far end of the hall, announce that lettuce has no nutrients and that you should have used kale!

Kale, I believe, is the vegan version of the hair shirt.

I've tried kale just to make 'em happy.  I firmly believe that there is a reason God made so kale so rare that it's expensive. It tastes bad. I'm sure some caterpillar somewhere loves the stuff and turns into a beautiful butterfly after eating it, but to me it tastes like dirt on an oak leaf.  And I know what oak leaves taste like. I lived most of my formative years in the tops of North Texas oak trees.

Non-Vegan Cottage Cheese Loaf
The Vegans have so far told me not to eat cheese, milk, sugar, cream of mushroom soup, wheat gluten, wheat flour, soy products of any kind,  avocados, bananas or any form of flour that doesn't cost $4.50 a pound. And do NOT let them get started on GMOs! Pretty much anything that tastes good is off the table with these guys. And don't believe them when they tell you something they made that is organic, non-GMO, high-fiber and vegan and brought to potluck is just delicious. Don't taste it unless you are prepared to tell an untruth when they say, "Isn't that just delicious?"  One hates to tell them the dish they slaved over for 13 hours tastes like a plywood and sand sandwich.

Militant Vegans do like the idea of raw kale and carrots and other RAW foods. I capitalized it because when they say RAW foods, it comes out like a kind of roar - imagine charging Mongolian hordes and you kind of get the sound.  But even their favorite RAW foods are not safe.  Recently I saw carrots blasted as unhealthy by one of these Super Vegans.  Apparently someone like me shredded carrots, sauteed them in olive oil (not the expensive kind) and made a sweet base for a spaghetti sauce. It's quite delicious by the way. Probably why it received the Super Vegan curse.

I believe in being healthy so far as you can. I believe God intended for us to enjoy food or he wouldn't have made it taste so good.  Remember he promised us a land of Milk and Honey - both animal products by the way. My principle is that if I can eat something that no animal had to die to provide, then, I'm probably okay with God on that.

One of my favorite Harry Miller creations.
As to Dr. Harry Miller's brilliant use of soy and wheat gluten (something he learned when he was a mission doctor in China), I heartily approve. Lots of his meat substitutes get used in the dishes I post on the potluck vegetarian. Atlantic Natural foods still makes some of Dr. Miller's vegetarian meat substitutes. They even make Vegan versions of some things if your offended by milk and eggs in the ingredient list.  Some of the older non-vegan types are still my favorites over the new gluten free versions. I don't have ciliac disease and don't have a problem with gluten. It's a wonderful plant-based protein source.

As to the kale-eaters who jump on my website to criticize my straying from Vegan purity, I usually don't approve their posts. I think potlucks should be celebratory feasts and should not be haunted by gaunt spindly figures dressed in black and gray who will come to the table and tell you stories about how unhealthy they were till they started eating kale-based organic, non-GMO food and six weeks later passed a cancerous tumor they'd had for years. I can do without that mental picture, thank you and I've had it happen to me many times, so I'm not making this stuff up. There really are people like this out there. And to those of you non-militant Vegans, I'm not talking about you. This is about your fanatic friends. You know who they are. They're like Ron Paul Libertarians only holier than them.

So, I say celebrate the bounty God has provided. Avocado is virtually the perfect food. Bananas are full of nice healthy potassium and soy and wheat gluten is God's gift to Chinese and vegetarian cuisine. In addition, I can tell you from experience that cows are quite proud of their many tasty cheese products. And drop by The Potluck Vegetarian for some ideas for you next church potluck or, for that matter, for Sunday brunch at your house. I think you'll enjoy the joyful version of vegetarianism.

Just saying.

Tom King
© 2016

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Soon-To-Be Lost Art of the Gentleman's Disagreement

Sometimes best friends are united by their disagreement over politics and religion. Wouldn't it be nice to live in a culture where old friends could sit on the porch and argue politics like gentlemen, share a tall cold glass of sweet tea and enjoy the back and forth of friendly verbal sparring.

One wonders who it is that has convinced us all that anyone who disagrees with us is our enemy. We live in a nation founded on the recognition that each of us is different.

We have fifty states so that you can find one that suits your political, social and economic clothes simply by moving a few hundred miles or so. We put limits on our government and balanced the three branches so that none of them may declare themselves absolute power and that we all might agree to disagree, preserve the right to be who and what we are and continue to live in peace.

The greatest threat to peace and liberty today is the insidious belief that anyone who disagrees with me needs to be shut up. Storm's a comin' folk!

Tom King
© 2015

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Scammers from the Special Hell

There was a possible woman named Leona Niemann contacted my wife on Facebook Chat today. She started out by telling Sheila she had "great news" for us. Sheila, a Facebook neophyte and very trusting soul called me to ask if I knew who this woman was. Having caught my share of scam attempts in the past, we led this person along to see if my suspicions were correct.

My wife is very kind and trusting. She doesn't have a lot of defenses against liars, cheats and swindlers. When I describe Ms. Niemann as a "possible" woman, it's because she has a brand new account with no personal information, started just two days ago. The avatar picture is a shot of a harmless looking older lady with her husband as an avatar. Red Flag #1. The avatar was posted two days ago. Red Flag #2 

"Leona Nieman is very likely a skinny Nigerian kid renting time in an Internet cafe' or "she" is a pasty 19 year-old high school dropout sitting in his Mom's basement and trying to scam bank account numbers from people who are under stress or in pain. This person needs to be unfriended by everyone on "her" list. You can bet the picture avatar isn't real. There isn't any information about her on her page. 

She started out her scam by starting a chat saying "I've been trying to get in touch with you for several days. I have some great news!" Red Flag #2.  A lot of details are hinky too when she describes the great news.  She calls it the "Facebook Powerball Grant".  The name works on three psychological hooks:

(1) Facebook - Everybody thinks Zuckerberg is so rich he needs to give his money away to everybody like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett (also popular free money scam names)

(2) Powerball - Sends visions of huge free winnings based entirely on luck.

(3) Grants - The idea of grants plays on the commercials of Matthew Lesko, the skinny guy on TV in the puce suit covered with question marks telling people there was all this free money out there that was being given away. Matthew did scammers a huge service with those commercials.

Then she tells you that she saw your name on the winners list when UPS delivered her award. Red Flag #4. Was that piles of cash in canvas sacks that were delivered to her and did a list of all the winners come in with the packing slip? UPS would never accept such a delivery. It is such an obvious come-on, but the people they target are usually people they believe to be inexperienced or fragile.

My wife's response was classic Sheila.
The scammer had got several of our Adventist friends on her list and tried to portray herself as "one of us", but made the mistake of using the abbreviation OMG. Sheila said no Adventist would use God's name in vain and on the Sabbath too! Then we unfriended her.

Such people a "Leona Neiman" (whoever the phony name refers to) should be consigned to a special level of hell. Preying on older people, people suffering trauma and people who are merely trusting souls  places one in a very close, personal cooperative relationship with Satan.

Just sayin'

Tom King © 2015

I want to post a clarification. The Leona Nieman account I wrote about above is a hacked account of a very nice lady from Keene, Texas. There are two identical accounts in Leona's name on Facebook If you check the account, you'll see that one has fewer friends and was set up on Nov. 11. I've contacted Leona and the hacker who now knows we're on to him. If "Leona" contacts you with some "great news" about you receiving the "Facebook Powerball Grant", they're trying to scam you and it ain't Leona

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

The Vanishing Art of Conversation

There's an excellent post in today's "Art of Manliness" weblog called "The Power of Conversation".  The post offers up the idea that our tech has altered our conversation in ways that prevent real conversation.  I've noticed that in my own experience, especially since the early 90s as more and more people have gone online in a big way.

I grew up before texting, cell phones and blogging, but I embraced technology early, in large part because I could do all this communicating from home without a large expense for driving around places. As a 40 year veteran of the nonprofit wars, my funds for socializing have always been somewhat limited.

One problem, however, with conversation by social media. Twitter with its draconian limitation on the number of characters you may use and the rapid fire exchanges encouraged by social media which hides the majority of any post that's more than a few lines long, social media users are encouraged over time to communicated in an abbreviated style. Ultimately one winds up communicating in sound bites.

When you have to get it all into 140 characters, you tend toward sensational, slogans and advertising jingle type posts and reject arguments or even discussions that require a lot of explanation or detail. It's the conversational equivalent of slam, bam, thank you mam! There is little room in this sort of conversation for nuance and no room at all for body language, slips of the tongue or unconscious social cues of the sort that make in-person conversations so surprising.

Another problem with this type of communication is that it encourages a kind of verbal sparring style of talking, especially when you are exchanging text blocks with someone you may not agree with. As a rule, most of us dislike conflict as a rule. In public settings or private conversations, it can sometimes be difficult to disengage from a conversation without hearing something that challenges our opinions and beliefs or takes us out of our intellectual comfort zone.

In social media, it's easy to unfriend or block someone who says things we don't like. That's kind of unfortunate, because as we do that we soon find ourselves in an intellectual echo chamber from which we have banished any voice that challenges our comfortable belief system.

Some thing that's a good thing. These people join cults or become members of religions or political parties from which they exclude anything or anyone that might challenge their narrow ideology. In a way social media actually encourages people to bunch together with only those who reinforce their own ideas.

But that's not how we are designed to learn and grow intellectually or spiritually. Even God can bear to be questioned. It's significant that the premise of the oldest book of the Bible, The Book of Job, was about this very issue. Job didn't know why all the bad things were happening to him and he asked God for an explanation. Jobs friends, however, tried to shame him into NOT asking those questions. Instead they presumed to know the mind of God and to tell Job why he was being punished. In the end of Job, God offered no explanation to Job, but told him he wouldn't understand, but that he should trust him. He also had Job offering up sacrifices for his friends' sin of presuming to speak for God.

"By engaging with those with whom we disagree, we end up growing and examining our own ideas more closely, even if we don’t ultimately change our minds." say Brett and Kay McKay. This is why I seek out conversations with people with whom I disagree. It's cost me some readers who find longer articles like this particular Art of Manliness Article to be tedious and to avoid them.

Because our social media style discourages in-depth reading and thinking and leads us to avoid conversations with those we dislike, we become stunted in our ability to carry out deeper level reasoning. As a result, we make ourselves vulnerable to flimflam orators who tell us what we want to hear and we do not examine the orator's real positions any more deeply than can be perceived in the loud authoritative bellowing of a Hitler, a Stalin of for that matter, a Donald Trump or a Hillary Clinton. The social media-trained conversationalist instinctively shies away from someone like Ben Carson whose communication style is deeper and more nuanced and lacks the self-assured bombast of his chief rival in the race for president. Carson, a man who knows better than to think we know everything we need to know just now, forces us to think more deeply than we are comfortable thinking. The twitter society doesn't like to read more than 140 words at a time. 

I've decided to risk challenging the 140 character limit and write till I'm done with my thought. I may even start doing a video podcast, just so I can get in the voice inflection and the body language that backs up your own half of a good conversation.

I'm not going to do what a lot of self-appointed doomsayers do in this kind of post and condemn society, technology and everything else we can find that is suitable for demonizing. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our technology or in society. The fault is in ourselves. If we wish to save our brains for something more useful than as a counterweight for our couch potato butts, we need to stretch our ability to piece thoughts together that are longer than 140 characters.  Just saying.

So, if you have any thoughts on this subject, please write them out fully in the comments section below. I read them all, even and especially the long ones. Some of the best conversations I've had so far on social media have been with people who challenge my assumptions and are willing to allow me to challenge theirs. I think, that if we all did that, perhaps our beloved country would not be as divided as it is today.

Tom King (c) 2015

Photo by:  Thomas Szynkiewicz

Sunday, October 18, 2015

We’re Off to See the Trumpster

Is The Donald’s Hair a Mind Control Device?

My wife, Sheila, and I were talking over breakfast this morning and watching a piece about Donald Trump on PJTV on the computer. My wife turned to me and said, “Whenever I see Trump on TV, magazine covers and on the Internet news, I can NOT force my eyes from that red squirrel tail on the top of his head. I keep waiting for the squirrel to scurry down his back leaving him bald and probably completely unaware of what just happened.”

My Sweet Baboo complains that on the one hand, Trump seems so completely narcissistic and on the other, he is so completely unself-aware. We could understand that if he weren’t a billionaire, but surely, Trump could afford a decent toupee’, some hair plugs or a membership in the Bosley Hair Club for Men. I mean, come on! The man could BUY the Bosley Hair Club for Men.

Perhaps the reason for Trump’s popularity is the fact that people are so distracted by his combover that they can’t actually hear more than just the loud bits when he speaks. My wife says every time that she’s listened to him, she finds herself mesmerized by the hair and by the time the speech is done, she’s no wiser about what the man believes than she was before.

And before you ask, she HAS tried listening to Trump with her eyes closed. I’ve caught her lying on the couch with her sleep mask over her eyes trying to absorb a Donald Trump speech.

“It’s no good,” she told me. “I know that hair is still there……….waiting. I can’t get it out of my head.”

I believe Trump’s hair is a kind of mind control device. It certainly explains Trumps popularity with low-information voters and with that certain class of journalists who believe they are immune to mesmerism, but who really aren’t. He says a few angry things that a lot of people would like to say themselves. He says those things loudly and with a full measure of authority.  It all sounds sort of good and you are kind of with him, but then he starts getting into details and shaking his head around when he talks. You find yourself fixating on that hideous combover and waiting for a little breeze to lift it up off his head.

I am Trump, the Great and Powerful
Who do you think you are?

At that moment you are no longer hearing what Trump is saying. It all sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher going “Wah, wah, wah, wah wah,” off in the distance and like Charlie, you aren’t really absorbing any of it.

I once watched fame Texas attorney Percy Foreman do something like that to a jury. You could smoke in court in those days and, during the prosecution's questioning, he would sit there with a cigarette letting it burn down into an ash two or three inches long. The jury was soon fixated on that hanging ash waiting for it to fall. When the prosecution was done with his questioning, old Percy would knock off the ash and do his questioning with the jury’s full attention on himself.  He was defending Charles Harrelson, the actor Woody Harrelson’s old man, who had murdered a judge and was on trial for his life. Foreman's client didn’t get the electric chair. Apparently, the jury couldn’t remember enough of the testimony later to feel like they should ask for the ultimate penalty.

One wonders how much of a surprise the real Donald Trump will be to voters if they actually do elect him President. Likely it will be as much of a shock to them as President Obama was to many of those who voted him into office. Apparently, it was even something of a shock to the would-be President Trump who had this to say about Barak Obama in 2008, and I quote, “His comments have led me to believe that he understands how the economy works on a comprehensive level. He has also surrounded himself with very competent people, and that’s the mark of a strong leader. I have confidence he will do his best, and we have someone who is serious about resolving the problems we have and will be facing in the future. To me that is very good news.

That’s what I mean about Trump not being very self-aware.  Even though that statement is printed in one of his favorite books (his own), he seems blissfully unaware that he's ever said such a thing. He’s very much a media surfer, riding whatever big wave is popular at the time. When Bush was unpopular in the media, Trump calls W the “worst president ever”. When Obama is getting Nobel Prizes, he saying Obama has the “mark of a strong leader”.  If the media decides Vladimir Putin is a cool dude, next thing you know Trump will be praising him. One minute he’s a hard-ass redneck right-wing radical ready to truck 11 million Mexicans back across the border tomorrow and the next he’s a socialist touting universal government single-payer healthcare.

And the Trumpettes cheer him on, also, like the Donald, blissfully unaware that he is saying things they would crucify any other candidate for saying.

Why do they let him get away with that? I've seen these people, that support Trump, turn on a GOP candidate for shaking hands with a random Democrat and then turn around and seem to have no problems that Bill and Hillary Clinton both attended his most recent wedding (#4), that he donated to Hillary's and Obama's campaigns and that he actually voted for Obama in 2008. He has the family values of a jackrabbit on steroids, but none of his drooling legion of supporters seem to notice any of that, nor do they object. Why?

I think it’s the hair. I just don’t think they are hearing the rest of what he is really saying. They’re all completely mesmerized, sitting there waiting expectantly for some stray breeze to lift the hair up so they can see what’s under there!

I can tell you what's under there Trump-o-philes.  Nothing!  At least nothing you'd want to actually see.

(c) 2015
Tom & Sheila King

Monday, October 12, 2015

SNL Pokes the Gun Culture Bear

Saturday Night Live took a poke at the pro-gun culture last weekend. I don't watch Saturday Night Live anymore. It stopped being funny ages ago as this video demonstrates. I knew about it because it kind of blew up on the social media site Banjohangout.  Now we have a strict, no politics or religion policy on the Banjo Hangout, but because banjo players range politically from hard left liberals like Pete Seeger to serious conservatives like that kid from "Deliverance", it's kind of hard to enforce that rule, so if we keep it relatively polite the moderators don't kick us off for the most part.

Mostly where I come from, guns reside quietly in gun cabinets and gun safes to be taken out for hunting or practice at the range or in case a burglar breaks into the house.
Hardly anybody thought about carrying a pistol around on their bodies when they go to Walmart until fairly recently. After all, the Wild West was over we thought. At least that's how it used to be.

When I was in high school, some of my friends used to carry rifles and shotguns displayed in plain sight in gun racks behind the seats of their pickups. I don't remember anyone being militant about it. It was just something guys did out in rural areas and small country towns. Then, when that became illegal, things started to change and gun owners started getting more defensive.  Then, as the number of holdups, muggings and robberies we saw on TV seemed to skyrocket, it felt like the Wild West had come back with a vengeance. Then, as the anti-gun movement became more aggressive about "getting guns off the street", I noticed that all of a sudden there's a lot more ammo being stored in those gun cabinets and gun safes than there used to be. Kind of like everybody's expecting something bad to happen.

After the last two presidential elections, gun stores all over East Texas sold out of a lot of basic kinds of ammo (shotgun shells, 357 magnum, 45 caliber, and 38 caliber and most popular rifle ammunition) in just a few days. You literally couldn't find the most popular sizes of ammunition for weeks at a time and when new stuff came in, it sold out overnight. A lot of gun stores put people on a list and took a deposit on ammo in advance of its arrival from the manufacturers. Gives you an idea of the climate created by the militant anti-gun movement.

My neighbors may be mocked by Saturday Night Live, dismissed as kooks by the press and characterized as gun nuts by politicians, but they are well armed, especially in rural areas. Choosing which home to rob is kind of a crap shoot and given the shortage of anti-gun folk in the region, the odds are really pretty poor that you're not going to walk into a hail of gunfire if you're burgling a place. And after you are shot, there's not a lot of love for you in the legal system as it's really tough to seat a jury of 12 people who have any problems shootin' outlaws.

A couple of years ago, an 80 year old man noticed that two guys had pulled up to his neighbor's house in a box truck and were emptying the place of valuables. He'd been asked to "watch the place", so he went over, got the drop on the boys and got on the phone to 911. Then on the recording, you hear him tell one of the young men to put down the gun and promising him if the gun came up, the young man was going down. The gun apparently came up and the young gentleman and his friend both went down.  The grand jury refused to prosecute the old man under the East Texas tradition that there are some folk that just need killing.

All that to say this. The "gun problem" is going to be tough to solve even in areas where there is a heavy concentration of anti-gun activism. I moved to Washington State, thinking I'd be surrounded by unarmed anti-gun progressives. I'm an easy-going, tolerant sort, so I didn't mind so much.  What I found was that outside of Seattle and Olympia, the denizens of rural Washington are armed quite as heavily as East Texans, if not more so. There are a lot of AR-15s and home built/modified weapons out there in the Washingtonian hinterlands. Many of these are of a firepower that would give anyone pause about getting aggressive with one of these sweet-tempered, church-going folks.  

The thing is, they do love their families and are well-prepared to defend them. Gun control is going to be a hard sell with them. Given the number of drug-related multiple murders and famous serial killings in this area, it's hard to blame them for wanting to have a handy means of self-defense. I went to a men's prayer breakfast just after I started going to my church up here and after the amens had been said, me and an assortment of church deacons and elders went over to the gun show at the fairground. Apparently the head deacon was building a fully automatic AR-15 and needed some parts.

We also have some unhappy bears up here too. They sometimes come into neighborhoods and have been known to eat the family cat or dog on occasion. We are fond of our dogs and kitties, so we need to be able to scare the bears off sometimes.  A fully automatic AR-15 would just about do that!

Just sayin'

© 2015

Monday, September 28, 2015

So Who Owns the Rain?

Gary Harrington, of Jackson County, Oregon was jailed and fined a couple of years ago for collecting rainwater. In court, Oregon officials declared unequivocally that rainwater is considered the "property of the state." Libertarians, conservatives and more than a few permaculturists (sustainable gardening/farming enthusiasts) are outraged. As it turns out they are more outraged by the government claiming to own the rain that falls on your property than they are by Mr. Harrington's treatment, but, after all, it's the principle of the thing.

Admittedly Mr. Harrington was collecting rather a lot of rainwater and it wasn't in barrels behind his house. Harrington had constructed 3 ponds on his 170 acre land which among them hold 13 million gallons of water. None of these ponds are situated on streams. The water comes from rain which actually falls on Harrington's
property and from snow melt - also from snow on his land.

The big deal that sent everyone through the roof was the statement in court by Oregon officials that the State of Oregon owns all the rain that falls on your property and that if you want to use any significant amount of it, you have to get a permit from the state.  Given that streams and rivers and town water supplies depend on runoff from the land, one can kind of understand why the state or county might want to not lose 170 acres of it. But of course, in trying to make everything fair, the government almost creates more problems than it solves.

The way the law reads, you can only collect rain off of hard surfaces like concrete driveways, rooftops and such, but once it hits the ground, it's no longer yours to do with as you please. According to director of
the Oregon Water Resources Department, Tom Paul, "Oregon law says all of the water in the state of Oregon is public water and if you want to use that water, either to divert it or to store it, you have to acquire a water right from the state of Oregon before doing that activity."

Always fearful of government overreach, people on both the right AND left wonder, "What's next?" Sunshine falls on your property. Are they going to charge you a fee for the sun that you use if you put up solar panels? How about the wind? Does Oregon own the wind? Will they charge you a fee for wind usage if you put up a wind charger? 
Here's one issue where we can hook up with the sustainable permaculture people, not a notably conservative lot and give them a little love and maybe get their votes next election. After all, it's liberals that are pushing this kind of thing, not conservatives. We think your home's your castle and rain, sun and wind belong to you. We don't like government overreach either.

If it had been a matter of Harrington arbitrarily blocking up a stream and depriving those downstream from free access to water, I can see the state's getting involved. In the Harrington case, Gary is a cranky old guy who blew off orders by the county to destroy his ponds and kept refilling them. This is more about government authority than it is about water. With his ponds full, Harrington's land is likely putting as much or more water downstream than it was when the pond acreage was covered in water-absorbing trees and grasses. Over time, the pond bottoms develop a kind of seal that holds water from being leaked out too quickly.  Water still percolates through to the water table, but even more goes downstream through overflow when the ponds are full.

Ironically, if Mr. Harrington had paved his land with concrete, destroying plants and trees and THEN collected the runoff, he wouldn't be in trouble. It's allowed for you to collect water from nonpermeable surfaces. So, since Mr H continued to allow much of the rainfall that hit his property to  to sink into the soil and down into the water table, he isn't allowed to collect any of what's left for his own use without paying for a permit and receiving permission to build his ponds, Actually Harrington did get a permit, but after the ponds were built, the state rescinded his permit.

Okay, so answer this question for me:  "If Oregon owns the rainfall, and if excessive amounts of Oregon State's rain falls and floods my property and destroys my home, can I sue the state for damages?"  After all, if my property, say my car for instance, crashes into your home, I have to pay the damages. I can do that because the state of Oregon forces me to buy car insurance in exchange for the privilege of driving Oregon's lovely roads.  Should Oregon then, be forced to buy flood insurance for the whole state, just in case THEIR rain wrecks my house?

This might be a fun case to present to the Supreme Court.  A more sensible ruling would be to allow the state to control streams and established waterways and prevent irresponsible damming up of shared water sources and leave rain which falls on your property to the property owner.  If you have a stream on your property, you wouldn't be allowed to dam it up, but in Oregon, with as much rain and annual flooding as they get, it seems likely they could use all the flood control ponds they could get. Harrington has even built three of them at his own expense.  

Oregon is not alone in claiming the rain as government property. Colorado does Oregon one better, claiming a right, not to just the rain after it falls, but to all the moisture in the atmosphere. There you can get in trouble for collecting rain off your roof.  The Colorado Division of Water Resources makes it clear:  “Colorado water law declares that the state of Colorado claims the right to all moisture in the atmosphere that falls within its borders and that ‘said moisture is declared to be the property of the people of this state, dedicated to their use pursuant’ to the Colorado constitution. Interestingly, in Colorado some folk have "senior" rights to the people's water, which, I think, means they acquired them before the Colorado legislature turned into a politburo. If only you have junior rights, you're just out of luck.

It's an interesting issue to say the least.
I should think it would provide some real entertainment if it took a run through the Supreme Court.  But then what do I know. I'm just waiting for Jesus to come, tear it all down and start over with a New Earth, where God gives to all freely and we don't have junior and senior water rights to fight over.

(c) 2015 by Tom King