Sunday, December 6, 2015

Some Words in Defense of Jesus...

Drive around Paradise, California and you will see more churches than fast food restaurants, thrift stores, and pickup trucks combined. The churches are everywhere. The biggest one is called the "CMA", and it is monstrous. It is probably the biggest building in Paradise and is certainly in better repair than the high school that serves 1,200 students. The church is so big, they have their own gym. The parking lot is gigantic enough to host a farmers' market every Thursday with ample parking.

On the Church's website, spend some time poking through the sermons archive and you get a nauseating combination of self-help tripe combined with simplistic steps to take to solve any problem. It is a church for white families who own Chevy Tahoes. It's one of those popular churches that are in vogue for people who are lonely and find life without meaning. A meaningless, lonely life sucks and I don't think it is an awful thing to go to church to place a little salve on it.

What I do object to is the ostentatiousness of the Church. Turns my stomach. I'm not so certain that Jesus wouldn't be nauseated by the whole thing too.

I consider myself a Christian. Although I find most of the post resurrection stuff about Jesus as a work of fiction. Dead people do not become alive again. Atonement for sins is silly. I don't want anyone paying the price for my sins but me: I deserve it. It is called cause and effect. To me grace is just luck.

I don't believe Jesus was born of a virgin while three wise men followed a star to his cradle. That's a beautiful story, but it is a myth.

I don't believe Jesus rose from the dead. In fact, I doubt any body was ever recovered. Generally crucified people were fed to the dogs.

I don't believe Jesus is coming again. I don't believe he was God. Some say he didn't even exist. I think he did.

That doesn't really leave much of the Apostle's or the Nicene Creed to recite. All that stuff comes from the Post Resurrection Jesus. The Post Resurrection Jesus is responsible for a whole lot of problems. I like the Pre-Resurrection Jesus. The historical Jesus. The one that Jesus scholars have been uncovering, like an archaeological dig. That Jesus excites me. That Jesus makes me proud to say I'm a Christian.

So what is there to love about Jesus? Jesus was a poor, Mediterranean peasant who preached radical egalitarianism, was critical of the rich, and was full of wisdom. He practiced free healing and the one ritual he created was a common meal. What's not to love about fish, bread and wine? What's not to love about making a ritual out of such a simple meal? What's not to love about providing access to healthcare?

Every indication states he was a practitioner of non-violence. He resisted becoming a Che' Guevara to the Roman Occupation. That doesn't mean he didn't rebel against it: it was the Romans that ultimately killed him.

The stories in the gospels are thrilling. Some real; many fictional. What is real, I believe, are his humble upbringing, his healing, his wisdom, his charisma, his common meal, his devotion to service, his devotion to his God, his poverty, his travels by foot (he was a hiker), his act of civil disobedience in the Temple that led to his death.

He was a real man. Not some fictitious character that overcame death and lived as a god. Somehow that cheapens the story for me. A real Jesus, standing up to the temple, to the Romans, to the elites of the Temple who take in the donations and side entirely with empire---getting pissed off in the Temple, causing a demonstration and then dying a political death because of that: that is real. That is courage. That is worthy of worship. A man like that is worth following. That's not the man they worship at the CMA Paradise Alliance Church in Paradise.

So that's who I follow. I don't mind celebrating such a person's birth at this time of the year. Even if all the nativity sets have wise men there. Wise men and women will listen to this man's powerful story and, hopefully, emulate it.

And for hikers, there is a new "Jesus Trail" in Galilee that connects Jesus' two home towns: Nazareth and Capernaum. That's an adventure for the bucket list.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Let's Quit Calling Hateful Killers People Who Were "Radicalized"

Lately the media, acting like a galloping herd, likes to state over and over again that various Islamic extremists became "radicalized" in order to do the awful things they have done. And so the couple in San Bernardino were "radicalized". The shooters in Paris were "radicalized". We worry about normal devout Muslim people becoming "radicalized". 

It is an easy way to talk about a brain-washing conversion process, that takes normal people, possibly weak-minded or with psychopathic traits, and turns them into monsters. And yet, nobody said the Planned Parenthood shooter was "radicalized". We seem to save the term for violent extremists, usually of the type that we love to hate. The process seems to be reserved for Islamists and Leftists.

The Islamic State is an awful thing. Don't get me wrong. Their methods of recruitment are ingenious and prey upon weak minds that are susceptible to evil. But I find it curious that we use this notion of becoming "radicalized" to describe the followers of the most repugnant political movement since Fascism.

There are radicals and there are radicals. We have seen many fine "radical" journalists: Alex Cockburn, Izzy Stone, Glen Greenwald, Amy Goodman, Chris Hedges, Claud Cockburn, Jack Reed, Hunter Thompson: they all would fit easily into the term. We have many fine radical political commentators: Tariq Ali, Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, Doug Henwood, John Bellamy Foster.

Then there are the off the chart radicals, of the Left and the Right: you find them in the Anti-Vax Movement, or in the Libertarian tradition, in the Truthers and the Birthers. The kooks and the weirdoes.

I've heard Jesus called a "radical egalitarian" who practiced "radical non-violence". Would you say that his followers were "radicalized"?

We save the process of "radicalization" for those we hate. Mostly Leftists and Islamists.

Look at the Republican Party this year. Is there anybody out there saying that Donald Trump is "radicalizing" the party? After all, he is calling economic refugees "rapists" and calls for tracking and registering all Muslims in this country. How about the Tea Party? Do we say the local gun toting Obama Hater is a person who was radicalized? Why not?

Because we save the term for Leftists and Islamists.

Lenin said once: "Be as radical as reality". That's what real radicals try to do: Describe reality and complement that with a vision of something better. Radicals don't tinker; radicals create.

Ed Abbey almost single handedly created the Radical Environmental Movement. I fancy myself a Radical in many ways and I ascribe myself into a radical tradition that includes many thinkers that I admire. I find myself politically someplace between Ed Abbey and Che' Guevara.

We don't need to say "Radical Extremists" Just say violent Extremists. It is all in how you look at the use of violence, it isn't about your social criticism. We don't need to say the couple in San Bernardino were "radicalized". They were brainwashed into following a sick tradition that is willing to kill innocent people and abandon their own children.

Yes, we talk about the radical wings of both parties. It is a way of justifying the status quo. A radical critique is one that seeks truth. And it points to something better. Lenin (although certainly no saint) is right: reality is radical. And America has a fine Radical Tradition. A fine non-violent Radical Tradition. Let's not ruin that word.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Requiem for Rocky..

With all the senseless killing going on--Paris, Colorado Springs, San Bernardino---the death of one pet, on one homestead, in the middle of the woods, seems trivial. Unless it is your pet. Our 12 year old cat, Rocky, has been missing for four days. We fear the worst.

Rocky was a fantastic cat. Fiercely independent. He held his own with three very large dogs who tormented him daily. He spent his days and nights outside, coming to and fro through a cat door we built into the cobb of the house. I would spot him on my wildlife camera---sauntering along before the camera, sometimes just an hour or two before or after a coyote or a fox was in the area.

Rocky had grown more affectionate lately. Both Joni and I noticed it. On Sunday night, he slept on my lap as I sat in the Lazy Boy---something he almost never did. He was in good shape for being twelve, but Joni speculated that he knew his reflexes were slowing; eyesight not as keen; getting older. His increased affection lately makes me think that he wanted to say: "Thank you. Thanks for the good life. Thanks for letting me roam in these woods. For letting me be an outdoor/indoor cat. For inviting me into your lives."

Joni cried all day when Rocky didn't come home. I was at work, talking to clients about their troubles, yet I could barely listen. I was troubled by my dear cat being gone.

Joni and I have gotten older while living with Rocky. We were young when we got him. Now age and girth have caught up with me. I've grown slower too. And those predators are on my tail: the predators of the American Lifestyle, signified by an ever increasing A1C and an ever growing medication list. Sooner or later, the predators will get you. A lesson.

Kylie holds out hope that Rocky will return: "He is a mountain cat", she says. "He'll come back".


God bless Rocky. You are missed.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015---My Women Caretakers.

The Industrial Revolution came to my hometown in 1963, just a couple years after I was born. The Revolution came in the form of a factory. A feeder factory for GM. General Motors (called "Governmental Motors" after Obama bailed out the company in 2009). The factory in Rushford made the switch that turned on the heat in all the General Motors cars from the model years 1964 until 1992. That factory meant jobs for my impoverished town. It meant jobs for the whole county, which, last I checked, was the poorest county in Minnesota.

My mom and dad were scraping out a living in the 1950's. They rented a farm and mom stayed home with my brother and sister. Dad worked in town during the day at the Tri County Oil Cooperative (a great socialist institution). In the evening dad came home and worked on the farm. My mom told me once those impoverished farm years were the best years of her life.

Working that hard must have been tough on dad so they moved to town. And when the factory opened, my mom was there on the first day on the assembly line. From there she spent the next 30 years or so putting GM switches together. If you owned a GM car in those decades, my mom might have made you warmer by making the heater switch. I still feel guilty for owning a couple of Japanese cars. GM paid the bills when I was a kid.

And thanks to the first Clinton and NAFTA, the factory was moved to Mexico in the early 90's. And just to show how greedy Multinationals have become, even Mexican labor got to be too expensive, so they moved the whole damned thing again to China where a young Chinese lady now works, doing the same thing my mom did. Except I doubt the work pays enough to feed a family.

Factory work for mom, meant they had to find daycare for me. And so mom and dad hired my grandmother "Olga" to watch me while mom sat on the assembly line. Grandma was a simple woman. She followed the old adages like Monday being washday, Tuesday bread day and so on. Grandpa and Grandma Klungtvedt ate out of their garden. They canned their food. Harvested walnuts. They spoke Norwegian in the home and I'm told I could speak a bit of it with them. They eeked out a living before retirement by renting a farm. Money was never in abundance and, in fact, it wasn't until they collected Social Security that they could buy their first home (Thank God for FDR!). They supplemented that money by watching me, although I never knew that.

There is a myth about poor people being happy with the simple things. That's bullshit. Poverty sucks, no matter how you slice it and my grandma and grandpa weren't overly happy people. I don't remember much laughter. I do remember summer days listening to the Minnesota Twins on the radio and playing endless games of dominoes with my grandma. Grandpa Klungtvedt was a World War 1 veteran. A private. He was in those god awful trenches with the Mustard gas and came back permanently emotionally wounded from that experience. I only heard him talk about the trenches once. About getting lost and how horrible it was to see the dead bodies. When President Johnson sent men into Vietnam, grandpa Klungtvedt railed against it. "Sending all those innocent kids to die", I remember him saying.

But mostly I was cared for by the women in my family. Mom. Grandma. And Ruth.

Ruth, my elder sister by 10 years, got stuck watching me a couple of summers. I'm sure it was no fun for a 16 year old to be stuck having a 6 year old tagging along for most everything. But she did it. I remember walking barefoot with her on the streets of our town. Going to the diners. When Ruth turned 18, she moved to far northern Minnesota and pretty much disappeared from my life. Older siblings often do that when they are corralled into doing childcare against their will.

Ruth died of cancer a couple years ago, and I was lucky enough to see her on the last good weekend she had alive. Breast cancer. My own theory about all these baby boomer women who die of breast cancer is that they are paying the price for the above ground nuclear bomb tests we had in the 1950's. All that milk that Ruth drank on the farm from a couple of dairy cows in the 50's contaminated with strontium and the like. Eating local and organic wasn't an expensive, nor a trendy thing to do back then: it was just called food. Sure, it was organic; but if you had a garden or a dairy cow, it also was radioactive as hell.

Ruth was born on Thanksgiving. November 23, 1950.

Grandma Klungtvedt died on Thanksgiving. November 22, 1990.

My wonderful mother died on Thanksgiving. November 25, 1999.

Thanksgiving is special to me because of the Thanksgiving connection with the women who shaped my attitude towards life: simplicity from my Grandmother; devotion to mind numbing work done for love of family from my Mother; and a love of the Beatles, organ music, and even a bit of curiosity about politics from watching my sister put a scrapbook together of JFK's assassination---from my sister: all have helped shape who I am.

And so on Thanksgiving, I celebrate the women who shaped me. A bittersweet day as they are gone. Two died on this day; one was born on this day. They are gone now. Gone, but not forgotten.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Homelessness and the Inheritance Tax...

Chico has a homeless problem. That much is obvious. The whole region has a homeless problem. Today I walked my dog on the trail in Paradise where a homeless couple smoked cigarettes and drank beer, hiding in the shade of a tree. Drive anyplace in the region and you will see men with backpacks, sometimes with dogs on a leash, walking and thumbing it on the side of the road. And we've all seen the "Hungry" and "God Bless" cardboard signs held by sometimes very young people, often with dogs in tow, who also are subjected to the life of wandering. Unless it is all one big scam.

The Chico City Council adopted a "get tough" approach to the problem of homeless camps and trash. Many letters-to-the-editor have been written, both for and against, the new "get tough" approach. People are passionate about the issue because it involves everything from public safety to environmental degradation.

But isn't it obvious that with our low wage economy, we would have a homeless problem? The roots of this crises can be traced back to trade policies and the fact that the minimum wage doesn't enable anyone to survive. Over the last 35 years, we have done away with inheritance taxes and have let the minimum wage lie dormant. It is almost as if the cultural elites think a job is just a hobby; the real money comes from inheritances.

Call it class war, of sorts. Working for a living is devalued; investments are barely taxed and inheritances aren't taxed at all. Isn't that just the way a person from an upper class background would like it?

And so the poor you see out there, scraping by, all have different reasons for being homeless. Substance abuse? Sure. Inability to hold a job or a desire not to work for peanuts because you wind up homeless anyway? Probably.

But one thing unites all of the homeless: They probably don't have an inheritance check coming in the mail.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

My Take on Hunter Thompson

I've been trying to figure out why people have a fascination with Hunter Thompson for a couple of years now. I used to work with another nurse who idolized Hunter. He even looked like Hunter and his idea of a "flight of wine" was to get three 750 ml bottles of wine and drink them in quick succession. Spending a night with this nurse friend, or once, a drunken expedition into San Francisco, was like spending time with the real Doctor. He even mumbled, when drunk, like the his idol.

I just finished a couple of biographies of the real Hunter Thompson. And I also got around to reading "Hey Rube" which is a collection of his sports pieces from ESPN. Hey Rube is worth it solely for his often quoted sage-like musings the day after 9/11.

Thompson wrote:

The towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the United States or any other country. Make no mistake about it: We are At War now — with somebody — and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives.
It will be a Religious War, a sort of Christian Jihad, fueled by religious hatred and led by merciless fanatics on both sides. It will be guerilla warfare on a global scale, with no front lines and no identifiable enemy.

We are going to punish somebody for this attack, but just who or what will be blown to smithereens for it is hard to say. Maybe Afghanistan, maybe Pakistan or Iraq, or possibly all three at once. Who knows? Not even the Generals in what remains of the Pentagon or the New York papers calling for WAR seem to know who did it or where to look for them.

This is going to be a very expensive war, and Victory is not guaranteed — for anyone, and certainly not for anyone as baffled as George W. Bush. All he knows is that his father started the war a long time ago, and that he, the goofy child-President, has been chosen by Fate and the global Oil industry to finish it Now. He will declare a National Security Emergency and clamp down Hard on Everybody, no matter where they live or why. If the guilty won’t hold up their hands and confess, he and the Generals will ferret them out by force.

So why the fascination with Hunter? Because he helped to create a genre'. For Hunter the story was found in getting the story. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is the classic exaggerated high point of the genre' and also the best example of this literary device. Every writer in every alternative weekly (including this free-lancer) owes him a bit of thanks for creating his gutsy GONZO style when Thompson took up shop with Rolling Stone. Hunter is every journalist's ID, as in the Freudian term. And his opinion of most everyone, except those he saw as being pure (McGovern and Carter are on that list)---are that we are just sex starved, power hungry degenerates who long for that next drink, orgasm, or line of coke. We are all fiends in Thompson's view.

His celebrity got him connections. He was kind of like the journalistic version of Paris Hilton. Once a following is created, he could publish most anything and make it sell. His behavior on the expense accounts of magazines is legendary. And real.

Thompson wrote the way many journalists wish they could. No holds barred. Just bear down and write whatever comes to mind. Let your imagination fly----helped along by a whole shitload of pharmaceuticals. I'm sure many straight news writers, bored to tears by keeping themselves out of the story, using whatever connections they have to quote, responsibly, and with no malice or bias, BOTH sides of a story---wish they could just once, do a line and type what they really think. Journalism suffers from this silly idea of neutral, sterile balance. There are always just two sides of a story. Never three, four, five or sixteen sides of a story. Always just two.  Balance, they call it. Boring. It's the ying/yang of news. A dialectic borrowed from Hegel and all those other emotionless, stoic German Rationalists.

Along comes Hunter playing the role of the independent free-lancer. And succeeding at it. The rest of us need day jobs, usually teaching English or Journalism. Some stoop to becoming an editor---a chore that destroys any love of the English language. Editors are good people; it's just hard to edit and then go home and write something decent after following all the rules from the Hegelian paragraph above.

I do think Hunter Thompson was a bit of a psychopath. He was nearly arrested for vandalism by the FBI as a young child. He almost went to jail once after some youthful burglary but was told to go into the military instead. If not a psychopath, he was, at the very least, unscrupulous with other people's money (witness Fear and Loathing), with his fascination with things that blow up, and with his penchant for young women (a trait shared with Edward Abbey).

The women of Thompson's life? Always the 24 year old assistant leggy female journalism student hired to research, read and edit his stuff. The relationships always ended acrimoniously (with the exception of his first marriage). The 24 year old wouldn't be able to keep up with the lifestyle and the partying and would move on only to have her (and it was always a her) job filled by another 24 year old, female journalism student.

Yes, Hunter was an original. He became part of the journalism's upper tiered tribe. Lucky SOB. A great drinking buddy for the 60 Minutes set. And the Hollywood Elites (their roles are more and more mingled: just witness the guest list of the annual Journalist's Washington Dinner).

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail from the 72 race is every Lefty/Liberal political junkies favorite campaign book. Or at least it should be. He could be wildly inaccurate and sometimes dabbled in downright kookdom, such as his friendly words he wrote about George Wallace or at the end of his life when he dabbled a bit in what was to become the 9/11 Truth Movement. The kind words for George can be traced to his working class, white kid Kentucky Roots; his 9/11 conspiracy thinking must be nothing more than drug paranoia.

Reading through every letter and exchange that is published out there by Hunter is like wading through a garden of clovers looking for one with four leaves. It takes awhile, but you will find one eventually.

What a lucky guy. He arose in the afternoon to peruse all the major newspapers. That's followed by conversations with pundits and connections. All while drinking and carrying on from his holdout in the Rocky Mountains. He'd start writing around midnight and would continue writing, and calling friends, until dawn.

And the suicide? A natural conclusion to a life filled with substance abuse and guns.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Death of a Boyhood Home.

My life hasn't been a stable one. I've had more than my share of change: cities, states, partners, friends, names, family, geography. I don't think I could list all the different addresses I've had since I turned 18. My brother, many years ago, wrote my address in his Address Book in pencil so that it could be easily erased. I remember one time when I first moved to Reno, that I had four moves in a couple of months. Change has been a constant feature in my adult life.

But for the first 18 years of my life (except a couple of summers), I lived in one residence. My mom and dad's home in Rushford, Minnesota. How we ended up living in this monster beheamoth Victorian is unbeknownst to me; our family income certainly didn't match the house. It was a Victorian in a sleepy little river town in southeastern Minnesota. A town filled with Victorians and amazing architecture.

Rushford had around 1,000 people living in it back then. Rural. In the "Driftless Area" meaning that, for some inexplicable reason, the last few glaciers didn't squish the place flat. What was left behind were "bluffs". From a child's perspective, they were mini-mountains. Hardwood forests and "open space" (in the words of city planners) abounded. I crawled all over those bluffs. All of them surrounding the town of Rushford. Some of the bluffs had names: Magellson's (I don't know who Magellson was, but there is a city park on top of the bluff); "Star" bluff was where the "star" was that was lit up at Christmas. I used to carry my tent in a pack up to the top of that one and camp out, looking out over the town below. No trails back then: I just grunted the stuff straight up the bluff.

It was an idyllic childhood with lots of time playing in creeks and hiking the bluffs. Rare was the day that my friends and I weren't out hiking. My huge leg muscles were developed from such exploits.

Life was stable back then. The economy was good. Rushford was supported by "The Plant". This was a factory that made heater switches for GM. Two shifts churned these things out, day after day. It gave a decent wage to hundreds of workers who could live very inexpensivlely  in this town. My mom was one of them who worked in the factory from the day it opened nearly up until the day it was dismantled and shipped to Mexico courtesy of NAFTA and Bill Clinton. Voters for Hillary, be warned.

Our town of 1,000 people boasted three grocery stores, a butcher shop, a fantastic bakery, three diners, a local dairy that made their own ice cream and butter---in short, this was a localvores dream. And it still existed 45 years ago. Affluence had its downside too; much of the beautiful downtown architecture got torn down in order to modernize. Rushford lost many of its historic buildings. Other towns that weren't so prosperous, like Lanesboro, were discovered by Yuppies from the Twin Cities and became a tourist destination with fancy restaurants, a theatre (acting kind) and newly restored downtown buildings turned into B and B's.

That was Rushford in the 60's and 70's. I miss it.

Of course, I couldn't wait to get out of there. I dreamed of going to the city, then moving all over the place, eventually settling in California after a bunch of craziness. I've lived in Vegas, Reno, the Napa Valley, and the western slope of Colorado. From my upbringing, the one rule I've had is that I want to live in a place of physical beauty. Vegas was a move out of desperation for a job--but there is beauty there if you look for it.

But now that that house back in Rushford is gone, I find myself immensely sad.

It is said that to have a sense of "Place" you need Space and Culture. Space and Culture = Place. Now that almost every place looks the same; the same restaurants, the same gas stations, the same architecture, the same Box Stores---it hardly matters where you live. We've lost the culture part. Or rather, the economics of Corporate Culture destroyed all that was local.

Except for where the rich congregate. They can afford to have a sense of place. Witness the Napa Valley with their "NO CHAIN RESTAURANT" rules. Or Lanesboro, Minnesota.

One of my places is gone now. That bedrock of childhood yanked away by Alzheimer's and the need to pay for care.

I fear I will never get over it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

You'd be a fool to let the Lotus Guide you...

The Lotus Guide is a free publication distributed in Northern California. It is filled with the normal New Age fair: meditation and past life regressions, rebirthing and homages to Yogis and Yodas. You will find the usual Woo stuff there. I've read it a few times. Not all that impressive. Most of the content in the magazine sells you some sort of enlightenment. Enlightenment is usually for sale from an Ayurvedic Healer or some other peddler of New Age Goofiness. The Advertisements are for "Life Coaches" (usually Trust-funders who haven't a clue as to  how to manage their own life, called upon to tell you how to manage yours) and various dietary claims.

And so it is with curiosity that I picked up the most recent copy where the Publisher named Rahasya (really?) Poe. He names his piece "Disinformation and Misinformation: What’s the Difference And Why Does It Matter?: In it he states:

"I recently read in two local newspapers who published two separate stories that were specifically meant to be disinformation pieces, meaning that they were deliberately published to mislead their readers.

The first one was on vaccinations, giving them approval in a way that was meant to persuade parents to vaccinate their children but that left out pertinent information most parents should have to make an “informed” decision."

He doesn't identify my piece on vaccinations as the one he is talking about, but I have seen this guy elsewhere exclaim his disgust for my article. Frankly, he should have the courage to acknowledge who he is responding to so that people could go and read the article and decide for themselves whether the piece was intellectually honest.

Rahasya then goes on to quote VAERS (the vaccine injury reporting system) to point out just how dangerous vaccines are. He claims the Measles vaccine has killed 108 kids. (It hasn't). When it comes to Misinformation, his article is the one that is guilty of the act.

My tolerance for New Agers gets less and less the older I get. The fact that a New Age Magazine is opposed to vaccinations is not very surprising. New Age Religions are pretty much narcissistic, selfish exercises that ignores the needs of the majority. You won't find much talk about "no greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for another" from a New Ager. Nope. New Agers are about their own Enlightenment and to hell with everybody else. They seek their own path. And if others are trodden upon or lethal disease is spread or reawakened? Big deal. More than likely they would argue that their own Immune System is arrogantly superior to the disease. Too bad for those lesser humans who die. If they only were Gluten Free and ate Organic, they could handle the disease.

If vaccinations are safe (they are), effective (they are) and if Herd Immunity is real (it is) then an Anti-Vaxxer has no moral ground to stand on in their opposition to vaccines. It is immoral to oppose them.

A final note, the other article Mr. Poe objects to is one that is critical of those who believe in Chem Trails. Need I say anymore?

Lenin wrote that one must strive to be as radical as reality itself. The radical thing in some circles is to stand up for Vaccinations (they work!), or to state that some things are unreal, a mere fiction (Chem Trails!). Or state that Bush didn't blow up the Twin Towers (which is absurd). Or that cannabis farming is disastrous to the Pacific fisher population and is destroying some of our last wild areas of California (because it is). Liberal Orthodoxy can be pretty bizarre. But Radicals need to tell the truth. Even if it hurts. We need to be as Radical as Reality itself.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Murder: Chicago and the Northern Sacramento Valley Compared

Chicago made national news when they had 7 murders last weekend.

The 45 mile patch between Orland and Cottonwood in California suffered 6 murders from 4 separate incidents between July 2 and July 5. Just guessing, but I would put the population of this area of California at, tops, 40,000 people.

Chicago has 2.7 million people.

The murder rate in the northern part of the Sacramento Valley must be close to Guatemala or El Salvador's in the early 80's. All 6 of the unfortunate victims were killed by guns. Two of the incidents were family violence: an ex-husband killed his ex-wife and ex-father in law; a 19 year-old female in Orland killed her 16 year-old sister and her father and then turned the gun on herself. The 19 year -old lived but is in serious condition having shot herself in the head.

The two other incidents? A teenager from Chico killed by a gun in Orland (three murders in Orland over the weekend). Orland has a population of just under 8,000 people. A 28 year-old man was killed by a gun in the small town of Corning. Corning's population is 7,600 people. So far, the motives behind these two murders are a mystery.

So what to blame? Guns are dangerous things to have when our emotions are challenged by a situational crises. This rural part of California is awash in guns. The NRA dinners are well attended. Guns are loved. Cherished. Worshipped. Available.

When we don't teach emotional intelligence, when we don't teach people how to withstand tough emotional problems such as divorce, betrayal, jealousy---and when we add easy access to guns to the mix---people die. People Die.

And they died in this rural, agricultural breadbasket of California over the last weekend.

And yet, the gun worship continues. We need a cultural shift when it comes to guns. Soon. If you have a friend going through a tough time, check in with them. Figure out if they are unstable. Ask to take their guns "for awhile", until things simmer down.

We license drivers; it is time to license gun owners.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Three Huge Decisions and the Big Three's Response.

I wrote the following for a Facebook page I admin. on Butte County Media.

Three huge events occurred in the world of politics over the last week. Two national issues involving the Supreme Court with marriage equality and Obamacare, and one state issue regarding mandatory vaccinations.

So how did the the Big Three (Chico ER, Chico News and Review, the Paradise Post) deal with this? You can learn as much about a paper by what it omitted, rather than by what they chose to comment on.

#1. Marriage equality: The Chico News and Review (CNR) lauded the Supreme Court's decision to extend same sex marriage to all 50 states. They called it "about time". The Chico ER's editorial board was silent on the issue. They did publish a couple letters to the editor, both pro and con. The editorial board of the Paradise Post had a first paragraph where they said they were happy that gay people can get married, then they went on to publish extensively from the dissenters, bringing up concerns about an activist court and polygamy. Jim Chastain, columnist for the Paradise Post went much further and outright condemned the decision. He called the Supreme Court an "American Politburo".

Overall, CNR (pro); Chico ER (avoidant); Paradise Post (mostly negative).

#2: The opinion pages of all three newspapers avoided Obmacare being upheld. The Chico News and Review did have a small news blurb on the story. So far, no letters-to-the-editor, nor columns mentioned it. Nor were there any editorials on the fact that Obamcare was upheld. Quite the omission on such an important decision.

Overall on the Supreme Court decision? The Big Three avoided the topic.

#3. In a surprise move, Governor Brown signed SB277 on Tuesday, which requires school aged children to receive vaccinations from 10 diseases in order to attend public and private schools. The Chico News and Review devoted a feature story in May to the issue, and have been editorially friendly to vaccinations, but they were quiet on its passage--probably because it happened close to press time for them. The Chico ER has been very pro-vaccination since the Disneyland measles epidemic. They ran an editorial applauding the Governor's decision to sign the bill. On this issue, they have strayed from the positions of Sen. Nielson, Assemblyman Gallagher and Assemblyman Dahle, who all voted against SB277. The Paradise Post has been silent on the issue so far. And there have been no columns or letters to the editor on the Gov. Brown signing the legislation. Yet.

Overall on SB277: CNR (silent); Chico ER (pro); Paradise Post (silent).

So what to make of this? The Chico ER's position on vaccinations is refreshing. The ER occasionally departs from the conservative lockstep regarding important issues. Their silence on Marriage Equality is a bit disappointing. As is their silence on Obamacare.

It is interesting that the CNR had nothing to say editorially on Obamacare. The ACA isn't popular among liberals because many support Single Payer. When the Public Option was lost from the bill, most liberals lost their enthusiasm for the law. They still support it because something is better than nothing, but it is hard for Lefties to get excited about it.

When it comes to Obamacare, the silence of the Chico ER and the Paradise Post is deafening. Conservatives don't want to admit that this law is now codified and will be very difficult to repeal. They are beyond anger and outrage and have settled into a quiet acceptance (and depression?) regarding the law, thus completing their stages of grief on the issue.

Overall, this was a very interesting week reading the Big Three. Some of these topics might be taken up in subsequent weeks.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Two Days that Changed the World....

Sometimes life surprises you. Like the Assembly passing SB277. Or the Supreme Court deciding that marriage is just marriage. Or the Supreme Court saving Obamacare. Twice.

For those who think there is no difference between the parties, all of the above came about because of Democrats. Democratic Supreme Court nominees made the difference. The Democrats carried SB277 in California.

And I was surprised to see I had the Guest Comment in the CNR last week. That was a surprise when I opened up the page to see my smiling mug.

It has been a good week.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

For the Serious Butte County News Junkie...

This is a post I wrote for Butte County Media Watch, a Facebook Page I manage. On that page, I try to publish most of the opinion pieces and letters-to-the-editor in Butte County. I include it here because it took a lot of work and I'd like it to get a bit more exposure.

Warning: This is a post for the serious local News Junkie.

Butte County Media Wrap Up:

It has been quite awhile since I've done one of these. Partially it is because the media scene has been downright boring. After the really ruckus election of 2014, things have settled down.

Butte County has only four newspapers that provides local news content. The liberal Chico News and Review (CNR), The Chico ER and Oroville MR (mostly the same paper), and the Paradise Post. The last three papers are owned by the same media group. The CNR is the first creation of 3 weekly newspapers that includes the influential Sacramento News and Review and the Reno News and Review. The Sacramento News and Review is where the persecuted Gary Webb ended up after writing gallantly about the CIA/Cocaine connection. His life was profiled in a recent movie and his reputation has been redeemed. Unfortunately, Gary took his own life from struggling with the pressure before he was vindicated.

No doubt we have some fairly decent journalism in Butte County. The CNR newswriting is awesome. The Chico ER and the Paradise Post boast some decent reporters. Heather Hacking is always good when she writes a news-story. Ashley Gebb at the ER also turns in a good read. The best newswriting belongs to the CNR where their newswriters, managed by Tom Goscoyne, always put out accurate, readable print. All in all, the news writing is pretty good in Butte County.

We could benefit from more local, diverse opinion writing. The Paradise Post has four columnists on board: Rick Silva (the editor): Russ Neal (a conservative retired school administrator); Jim Chastian, who grew up in Paradise but lives elsewhere and, again, is a conservative; and the ever fiery Jaime O'Neill, who single handedly, defends the Left/Liberal spectrum up on the Ridge. Plus the editorial board is skewed to the rightward end of the spectrum. Rick Silva does occasionally offer an "Editor of the Day" column. Never-the-less, the Paradise Post does, at least, offer some local Op/Eds.

The Chico ER has a column by its editor: David Little. Plus they have a weekly amateur column, rotated by four writers. These columns are rarely about politics and tend to be local, color/flavor pieces without much controversy to them. The letters-to-the-editor are the most diverse and interesting in the Chico ER. But the word count diminishes the arguments of the proponents. Plus they can be amateurish (by definition) and the accuracy of information is judged on a very low standard.

The CNR has a column by Melissa Daugherty, the editor. She has won awards with this "Second and Flume" column and it is influential. She has been the editor for a couple of years, and after a fairly slow start, she has established herself as a good column writer and an excellent editor. I've written for her and she is demanding and an excellent editor. The CNR also has a 400 word "Guest Comment" that provides local insight into issues. The letters-to-the-editor section is tidier than the Chico ER. Plus the 3,000 word Feature is open to free-lance writers (I've written a few of them). Again, the quality is very good.

The CNR editorials are a much needed breath of fresh air in an otherwise mostly Conservative desert.
We live in a county that boasts a University and a 2 year college. We have hundreds, if not thousands, of highly educated professors and teachers. Our culture doesn't benefit enough from having these thousands of educators who live the intellectual life. Our Intelligentsia has lots of heavy weights in it. From writers of books on Climate Change to a biography of I.F. Stone.

I wish we would hear more from these Professors. Mark Stemen and the retired Jaime O'Neill aside, very few of these teachers enter into the fray. And please, correct me if I'm wrong. Some do write for the CNR; and the online publication: ChicoSol, does do some good work.

There are some local freebie publications that offer a limited world-view such as the Lotus Guide (which tends to be a bit flakey and intellectually infirm).

It would really help if the Big 4 local newspapers did more to attract expert opinion from the PHD's. Everyone likes to be paid for writing: offering a small sum might help. There is nothing like a check from a newspaper to stroke a writer's ego.

So come on Professors, belly up to that lap top and let us know what you think! We need to hear your opinion. Come down from the Ivory Tower and join into the fray! We get to hear plenty from the small set of courageous letter writers. We could use more expert opinion to elevate the debate on many local issues.

When it comes to newspapers, we who live in Butte County are spoiled. Per capita, we have more newspapers and more variety of opinion than most small, rural counties. I'm not complaining. We do well here. I'd just like to hear from the Ivory Tower a bit more in the form of local Op/Ed's.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

For the Love of Guns...

All this is so predictable. Another horrible mass shooting by a young, white male. Wait a few months and it will happen again; the response, the same.
Already I have seen the tired argument that if only somebody in that historic church was armed, they could have stopped the assassinations. Right wing radio talkinghead, Michael Savage, raised the question that the government did it. Just another "false flag" operation. And then he said perhaps it was the opiate recovery medication, suboxone, which caused the kid to do it. When in doubt, blame the AMA and psychotropic medications.

In fact, blame everything possible in order to deflect the argument elsewhere. And provide the same old answers: More guns make us safer! Psychotropic medications creates crazed killers! There are gun laws already on the books that would have stopped this! Gun free zones lead to mass shootings!
But never, ever question why a 21 year old, unstable, unemployed, racist kid had a reason to own a lethal, easily concealed, weapon. Never question that the love of guns, the worship of the false Glock Idol, the political power of the NRA—all contribute to this problem.

There was an opportunity to prevent the tragedy in Charleston.
A friend of the shooter actually took Dylann Roof’s weapon when he became concerned that his friend was making bizarre threats. This friend gave the gun back to Roof because the friend was a felon and he couldn’t be found in possession of a gun. In California, under AB 1014, this friend could have called the authorities and reported that Roof was making bizarre lethal threats. The police then could have investigated and taken the weapon. Now that’s a sensible gun law.

But would that friend have actually called the cops? Good question. The NRA used to be an organization that promoted gun safety. Well, by now we certainly should have figured out that some people should not own a gun. Rather than fighting every sensible gun law that is proposed as a threat to the 2nd Amendment, the NRA could get back into the business of gun education—including when you should call the police and report that a fellow gun owner is acting bizarre and making threats.
Protecting the public by calling the police when someone is acting unstable and making threats is the responsibility of all of us, whether we own guns or not. The NRA certainly could make this part of gun education a higher priority. And they should get out of the way of stopping sensible gun laws.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Our Backyard Wildlife Cam...

I'm not certain how long it was ago, probably about a year, that I bought an inexpensive wildlife camera. It isn't a top-of-the-line model; it was quite inexpensive. But this is one toy I have purchased that continues to thrill me almost on a daily basis.

I almost lost it once, when I set it up by a tiny seep of a spring. Pot farmers tore the camera down (but didn't destroy it), when they decided to use that seep to irrigate their grow. This was pretty far off the beaten path; I was surprised to see that tubing go in for the irrigation. That's pretty much the story of every little spring of water in the foothills: it is being used to irrigate somebody's grow. This drought is tough on the wildlife. Stealing water makes it tougher.

But I digress.

Lately I've been putting the camera pretty close to our house. All the apricots on our tree have gotten ripe at the same time. We can't keep up with them, so, inevitably, many fall to the ground and get a bit too ripe and buggy to use. Besides, the critters should get some of our bounty. So we pitch the apricots over the fence. That's where I set up my camera. Joni calls it "Chumming".

We've been curious as to what eats our apricots every year. Now we know.

We've had foxes, coyotes, skunks, jackrabbits, squirrels, stellar jays. Plus an assortment of neighborhood dogs and cats.

Having these critters this close to the house makes me all the more impressed with our 12 year old Rocky the cat. He is an outdoor/indoor cat. Comes and goes as he pleases. He is quite the survivor to be running around with all these predators. You have to be smart to not become a meal.

We haven't really seen any acorns for a couple of years now. The drought has severely limited their production. I can't help but wonder how the animals that are dependent upon the acorns are doing. Deer. Bear. Acorns used to be a staple of the Natives in the region.

We also have noticed that there aren't many pine cones. Trees are just trying to survive. Because the oaks and pines aren't producing food, we've started feeding our squirrels. It is probably a bad idea to feed wildlife, it's probably only a matter of time before the bears discover we've been putting food out. The bear have have been migrating into the cities around here looking for food and water. Two were killed outside of Chico and Oroville last week.

The same view during the day with a Steller's jay and our propane tank.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

My Day with the Pro and Anti-Vaxxers in Sacramento

Last week, Jazmine, age 13, was game enough to go to Sacramento with me to spend the day. Now we didn't go to the Mall, Museum or to any of the regular tourist attractions. Jazmine went with me to check out a protest against SB277. After the protest, we had pizza in Sen. Richard Pan's office and then she sat for six hours as we watched the Assembly Health Committee debate SB277.

In case you haven't been following the news lately, SB277 is a bill that would require students who attend public and private school in California to be vaccinated for 10 vaccine preventable diseases. It would do away with the "Personal Belief Exemption" that has led to pockets of unvaccinated children through out the Yuppie/Granola/Wealthy pockets of California. I wrote about SB277 for the CNR. An article that, as usual, was disabused and praised, maligned and applauded. Some called it Pro-Vax propaganda. Some called it "balanced". I called it the truth, as I see it.

I worked on that article for 8 months. I first pitched the idea back in October. I read books on both sides of the issue; my G-mail Alerts were set for 8 months to topics like "measles" and "pertussis" and "vaccination". I estimate that I probably read 2,000 articles on the topic. Or, as the Anti-Vax people say: I did my own research.

This is an issue that divides my friends. I have Left leaning friends who hate vaccinations and think that they are just a tool of making money for big business. They think that vaccines cause all sorts of maladies like autism and that they contain poisons like mercury and formaldehyde.  I have Granola Hippy friends that believe in anything natural. They read websites run by Mercola  and GreenMedInfo and other sites that promulgate the "Natural Living Idol" so often found amongst urban liberals who love cannabis, hate GMO's and buy all their veggies at the Farmers' Market. I also have friends who remember what life was like before vaccines. There is an age gap, as the younger you are, the more likely you will be to be Anti-Vax.

I believe in Government and I believe that Government can make a difference in people's lives. It was through Government Vaccination programs that Small Pox was eliminated. Government programs eliminated polio in North and South America. Last month, Rubella was declared to be eliminated in the western hemisphere by Government Action. I believe in public health. As a person with Socialist tendencies, I believe in being Social. I believe in Herd Immunity (although that is not a matter of belief and if anybody argues against the concept you should immediately start edging towards the door because you have run across a person that is totally out-of-touch with reality). I believe that we should vaccinate ourselves so that we can help others.

Reading through the arguments of both sides, I have become a vaccine advocate.

Jazmine and I made it early to the Anti-Vax rally. I milled around--reading the signs. Much has been made that the Anti-Vax Movement is a movement of Mothers. That is obviously true as I roamed amongst all the women in Red Shirts at the Rally.  It is an overwhelmingly White, Middle Class, Educated, Sustainable Living/Gluten Free Movement. It was an influx of Suburban Moms.

I listened to the speeches. I heard Assemblyman Patterson say that not letting unvaccinated children attend public schools was similar to sending kids to Internment Camps or Concentration Camps (he soon backed off of that statement). I heard Assemblywoman Shannon Grove talk about how this bill pretty much is an attack upon our Freedom. This Assemblywoman went on to make the national news by stating that the drought in California is God's punishment of this Jezebel state for actually providing some semblance of access to abortion services.

Assemblywoman Shannon Grove addresses the rally.

And then the Nation of Islam guy, Brother Tony Mohammed showed up. He brought a message from Louis Farrakhan, that the Black Community is against this "heinous bill". It was strange to see all the White Christian Moms who live in all white school districts, applauding the impeccably dressed Nation of Islam guy (with his ever present bodyguard behind him--lessons learned from Malcom X).
His speech was rather stirring.

Then came Brian Hooker. Brian lives in Redding, California and teaches at a Podunk school there with a nursing program that exposes future RN's to Anti-Vax propaganda. Brian is besainted in the Anti-Vax community for outing a secretly recorded tape that purports to prove that the CDC has known about an Autism/MMR Vaccine connection since 2004. He took the stage and went through all the talking points. He had the gall to say that more people die from Vaccinations than from all public infectious diseases. Lots of hyperbole.

Brian Hooker addresses the rally.

Assemblyman Patterson

At the back of the crowd, Dr. Bob Sears hung out. I can pick out Sears in a crowd now, having heard him talk so many times. I had to leave before he talked. And I had to leave before the Rock Star, Barb  Fisher, founder of the National Vaccine Information Center and, really, the person who started the whole Anti-Vax Movement in the US back in 1980. She has made a life of spreading Anti-Vax propaganda.

But Jaz and I had to leave because we had an appointment to have lunch in Dr. Pan's office. It was a few hundred yards, four flights, and a total shift in World View to go to Dr. Pan's office for pizza. The Pro-Vax people were there. One of the founders of Vaccinate California, Leah Russein, who has become a friend through out this ordeal, paced the halls with her toddler in a sling, trying to get the poor lad to sleep. Leah was an environmental aide to Diane Feinstein before becoming a mother and starting this shoe-string organization four months ago. And no, the group doesn't get any money from Pharmaceutical companies. We had lots of pizza but Senator Pan wasn't as available. Or maybe he doesn't like pizza.

Off to the hearing. We were able to secure seats in the Assembly Hearing room. Jazmine and I had decent seats. Behind us sat, Bob Sears. Also Toni Mark, an MD who has said some rather startling New Agey things and has been profiled by Oprah; she was bragging about her role in the anti-vaccine movie that has just come out called "Bought". Brother Tony Mohammed sat behind us too--with his silent body guard

We sat in our seats for an hour before the hearing started. The hearing lasted five hours, before the vote. Dr. Pan and Sen. Ben Allen, endured the whole thing standing in front of the Committee. First the pro-SB277 side talked for 25 minutes; then the Anti-Vax people which included Jay Gordon MD and the afore mentioned Barb Loe Fisher.

Then came the public testimony and around 1,000 Red T-Shirt Wearing Moms (mostly) testified their opposition to this bill. A few of us got up to state our support of the measure. After the parade of Red Shirts that took a couple of hours for them to have their say, the Assemblymembers talked. And asked questions of Dr. Pan.

It was impressive to see them grapple with the issue. Most buy into the science that vaccines are important. Those who were opposed to the bill gave eloquent speeches about parental rights and the like. It was obvious they had put some thought into it. One lawmaker, Autumn Burke, admitted that her own child was being vaccinated on a slower schedule. Burke abstained from the vote. But in the end, SB277 passed the Committee by a 12-6 partisan vote. It now goes to the Assembly floor.

As the vote was announced, it was mostly anti-vax people left. They hollered at the lawmakers "Merck Won". They hollered "Fascists!". Lots of anger. Jazzy and I waited for the crowd to leave. A Seargant at Arms noticed that we were still in the Chamber and was worried for Jazmine and my safety amongst the Anti-Vax crowd. Two of them, big guys, took us aside and led us down a back stairway to safety, away from the crowd that believes that Vaccines are poison and the cause of many problems.

Driving home, sadness descended over me. The world views of the Anti-Vaxxers and the Pro-Vaccine people are so very far apart. There is no middle ground. The AVers inhabit a part of the political spectrum all their own. Some of which I find sympathetic (which is part of the appeal of the movement). What populist isn't Anti-Corporate and Anti-Profit? What Environmentalist isn't sympathetic to all things natural? Things like proper nutrition and boosting the immune system the old fashioned way?

Government isn't exactly a trustworthy Institution. We have the Military/Industrial complexes. We have revolving doors between the CDC and Big Pharma. What self respecting Radical wouldn't be opposed to such things? Government has given us wars. Government has bolstered the wrong industries like Big Oil and enhanced Gas Extraction.

We don't trust Government anymore. We don't trust Big Corporations. The Anti-Vax Movement takes advantage of those warranted concerns.

That's the appeal of the movement. The Rich have always wanted the Poor to endure the risk when it comes to vaccines. Ever since the 1830's, the rich wanted the poor and minorities to get crude vaccinations for small pox. Even back then, the rich wanted to hide in the Herd. Even in the 1850's, the phenomena of Herd Immunity was noticed.

It isn't a very long stretch from the Rich imposing the small pox laws of the 1850's to the Wealthy White Privileged wanting to duck out of being Vax'd in this modern decade. The motives are much the same: Let others bear the risk.

But then you look at the data. The real data. Vaccines are safe. They don't cause autism. And they have helped you to live 30 years longer than prior to their invention. We need them. There is nothing good, or natural, about Whooping Cough or Measles. Diphtheria is back in Spain, it kills one in six and it is a plane ride away.

And there are pockets of rich kids, a reservoir, waiting to be infected. That needs to stop. We need SB277.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Time to End the Personal Belief Exemption

For months, I've been researching vaccinations. "Doing my own research", as the Anti-Vaxxers like to say. I've been doing part of this as background for a piece that has literally taken me six months to write for the Chico News and Review. I pitched the piece and started working on it long before the Disneyland Measles outbreak last December.

I've read much of the Anti-Vaxxer material. I've signed up for all the Anti-Vax websites and read Mercola, Wakefield, Humphries, Sears, Tenpenney and all the other celebrity stars of the Anti -Vax Movement. I've read the critiques of Big Pharma. Watched the "whistleblower" interviews and the supposed secret documents that make the accusation that the CDC is nothing but a patsy for making money for the Vaccine Companies. I've read the websites like the "Farmacy" and "GreenMedInfo", sites that reel in people like me who are generally in favor of eating organic veggies and using lifestyle interventions to increasing public health. That's a no brainer.

But the problem is that these websites and Natural Living Buffoons have such an agenda against vaccines, for no good reason, that it has become more a matter of Natural Living Religion to be Anti-Vax rather than a realistic, reasonable, rational position.

I've interviewed Doctors. I've interviewed Public Health Officers. I've had dinner with Anti-Vax RN colleagues. I've read the Gospel of Offit. I've enjoyed Eula Biss' bestseller. My daily google search alerts for the last year has included topics like "Measles", "Pertussis" and "Vaccinations". I've read thousands and thousands of journalism pieces on the subject. I've paged through the payouts of the Vaccine Court and read about all the alleged injuries in the VAERS reports. I've read the Cochrane Collaboration reports.

The CNR will publish a very sober piece I wrote on the subject soon. But I will say bluntly here what that article states in a more opaque style. As they say in the journalism business: show, don't tell.

My conclusion: We have to do away with the Personal Belief Exemption for school aged children immediately. We must maintain vaccination rates above 95% for all vaccine preventable diseases. This isn't a Big Pharma Conspiracy to rake in billions of dollars; this is about public health and eliminating very dangerous diseases. This is serious business. It is about the right to be free of disease.

Vaccinations are safe. Serious reactions occur but are rare--in the 4 reactions per one million dose range. A fatality from a vaccine reaction is even more rare. One in millions and millions of injections. Autism is not caused by vaccines. SIDS is not caused by vaccines. Shaken Baby Syndrome (and yes, there are Anti-Vaxxers who say this) is not caused by vaccines. Allergies are not caused by vaccines. ADHD is not caused by vaccines. Tenderness at the injection site is the most common reaction. Very rarely, a mild fever.

Recently I had a front row seat watching California attempt to do away with Personal Belief Exemptions. I sat in Richard Pan's office, the co-author of SB277, munching on a wrap and exchanging pleasantries with him and a couple pro-vaccination leaders an  hour before he defended his historic bill in front of the Health Committee of the State Senate. Richard Pan is a pediatrician and a very, very brave and intelligent man. I watched him look every one of the hundreds of critics of his bill's eyes and acknowledge them in the public comment section of the meeting. Some of these hundreds of mostly well intended people, overtly threatened him. One pastor put a curse on all of us who support the bill. Richard Pan remained calm and pleasant even when a few people had to be forcibly removed from the hearing room. Richard Pan was rational and understanding. He has nerves of steel.

I was given a front row seat at the first hearing. I watched hundreds of Anti-Vaxxers march up to the microphone, most of them wearing red "Choice" t-shirts, some of them barely holding back tears, many of them shaking with anger, all of them passionately arguing for their "right" to not vaccinate their children. They do this because of all the normal reasons you can read about if you read Mercola, or Humphries, or Wakefield. Many of them brought their children up to the microphone, most without any sort of blemish that is noticeable, and had the kids say they have been permanently "vaccine injured".

Being "Vaccine Injured" is a badge worn by many of these True Believers. The diagnosis is often given by the parent who needs something to blame for their child's malady. Sometimes the diagnosis is given by a Naturopath or a Chiropractor. Having the diagnosis gives a sense of power to fight against the evil something that caused the problem.  It isn't crazy; it is normal and natural to want to have answers.

This is important stuff. And nobody should care what these people do, if they vaccinate their kids or not, except for one thing: The health of all of us is dependent upon Herd Immunity being maintained. The Anti-Vaxxers do not have the science. They do not have the proper moral argument for their cause. How do you defend your own right to pass on potentially lethal disease to others when a safe vaccine is available to all?

I missed the second hearing but I followed it on-line. The Education Committee seems to have lost focus. They seem to have bought some of the hundreds of protestors message, parroting things like "What if they are right about Autism?" Dr. Bob Sears, a patron saint MD in the Anti-Vax cause was at both hearings. He has rock star status who flopped big time at the first hearing. At the second hearing he outright lied and said he was there for all the Autistic children who, presumably, have been created by vaccines. The bill stalled in this committee.

Will it make it out of committee? We are confident it will. And if it doesn't, we will be back. Vaccination rates have gotten so low that a return of the diseases is almost a given. Disneyland couldn't have happened anyplace else in the US because of California's lax laws. It will happen again and we will be back.

You can count on that.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

My First World Hospitalization

It has been about 48 years since I was last admitted to a hospital. Back then, in 1967, hospitals had "Wards". I was just a kid, in the hospital to have my tonsils out. A common practice back then---and since I never have sore throats, perhaps not a bad practice. I know in these days where anything natural is worshipped and Turmeric is the new Ibuprofen (except you don't really know what is  in the Turmeric because of the lack of standards; one study showed a high percentage of mouse shit in Turmeric pills sold as a supplement).

I digress.

The last time I was a patient in a hospital, I was placed overnight in a children's ward. There must have been five or six kids in that room. I remember lying in the bed, looking across what seemed like a massive expanse of a room, really almost like a gymnasium---looking at the back of a television set of the kid across the room from me. I guess hospitals wanted to make money back then too, so your parents could rent you a TV to watch while you recovered from your ailment. I remember feeling sorry for myself that my parents were too poor to rent me a TV and I so desperately wanted to see what the rich-kid-who-must-have-been-loved-a-whole-lot-more-than-me, was watching.

That room way back then was utilitarian. If you think about it, the nurse working that unit didn't have to walk 15,000 steps in a shift to take care of us. We were all right there.

Fast forward 48 years. I am driving on a lonely two lane highway between Chico and Corning. As has happened three times in the last ten months, I heard a rush in my ears. Then, slowly, like a tilt-a-whirl just starting to spin, the world starts to revolve.

"Ah, Shit", I think to myself---because I know in about a minute  this Tilt-a-Whirl will be going fast. I know I won't be able to walk. Driving is out of the question. I know that all I will be able to do is lie down and close my eyes.

And so I have about a minute to find a place to safely get off the road and park. I do so. I find a nice little, lonely place to pull off the road about half a mile from the Strip Joint that is just outside of Chico.

The world starts to spin. Fast. Really bad.

I call my client and cancel. I call Joni. "Should I come get you?" she says.

"Probably would be a good idea", I say.

The car is too uncomfortable to sit and spin in. Too much clutter in the car to get comfortable. I've got file boxes and lots of books; trash from the last 30 days of takeout food I've consumed. I have nursing papers and stethoscopes, more papers and more books that I've been meaning to return to the library. There's extra clothes in that car. Shoes. Backpacks. Bottles to be recycled. I can't get comfortable; too much junk. I wander outside and find that the best, most comfortable position, is to sprawl myself across the hood of the car. It is 6:00 pm on a very busy highway. This section of road is ripping with commuters during rush hour. Nobody stops to see why this guy is sprawled out on the hood of his car.

I hang onto the car like I am holding onto it for dear life. I am. I feel like if I let go of the car, I would be spit out into the void. Into a chasm. It would be like falling off a cliff. I feel like I am hanging onto the rim of the Grand Canyon.

That's how Joni finds me when she and Kylie show up.

Joni gets there in the van and I stagger to the back. Lie down. Spinning. Joni and Kylie transfer the contents of my car to the van and we leave. Where to go? They go to the grocery store.

I lie in the back of the van and spin. Of course this is just a ploy on her part because she wants me to go to the Emergency Room. After a half hour of trying to convince me I should go to the ER, she wins. We go to Enloe.

The world is still spinning. I am assessed by a team of RN's. I know what they will do as I am a Male. Mid-50's. Obese. History of Coronary Artery Disease. Vertigo. BP of 135/113. Some chest pain. They decide to get me back to a room quickly, but not quick enough for me not to vomit in front of all the dozens of people sitting in the waiting room of the ER.

Another notch on the bucket list: public emesis.

And so I am quickly brought to an emergency room. I get an EKG with a monitor. A CT of the head. Labs. All the normal stuff. My cardiac enzymes are fine so I am not having a heart attack. My EKG is okay except for my normal PVC's. Most vertigo patients would be sent home, but this episode is worse. My head feels like it is going to explode and I am nauseous.

They give me morphine for the headache. This doctor doesn't mess around.

Given my symptoms are worsening, they can't rule out a stroke or a TIA. The best way to do that is to admit me for observation and to get an MRI the next day when the lab technicians show up.

The ER MD wants to admit me. That's five thousand dollars down the drain, as that is what my hospitalization deductible is. I consent to the admission. Joni leaves.

Up to the room. Room 5584. I later learn that one of my clients was just discharged from that room earlier in the day. The room is private and has a great view of  the brand new Enloe Hospital Helicopter.

This room is nothing like the Children's Ward when I was a kid. The bed is super fancy and automatically weighs me. Just lie down and get your weight. I am still dizzy, so the nurses put me on FALL PRECAUTIONS. I am not to get up alone; I may not use the toilet. I must pee into a urinal.

Of course, I am still morphined up because of my head, so this isn't that bad of an experience. If you are going to go into a hospital, you might as well do it like Hunter Thompson. In the meantime, the nurse goes on and on about the benefits of Lavendar and how I can have scented oils to help me sleep. It is 4 AM by the time the admission is through.

Lavender, my ass. Give me some pain pills and something to relax! I sleep.

The next day I get the MRI. I was given Vitamin V (valium) prior to getting into the big machine. The MRI Technician puts a helmet on my head before sending me into the tunnel. I feel like Hannibal Lecter. "Good bye Clarice", I say to the Technician. She laughs, catching the Silence of the Lambs reference, and says nobody has ever said that before. I guess it was the valium talking.

Back to the private room to wait. This room is really a bit too nice. There is a distinct New Age feel to the place. Guided Imagery available. Essential Oils. Nice hardwood floor. The whole experience is designed to be like a Sedona Red Rock Healing Resort. Except you are in a hospital and there are no energy vortexes and no red rocks. It is a hospital trying way too hard to be a spa; something it can never be. And I don't know if all this splendor is needed. All the state of the art computers and call lights and $10,000 bed that blows up like an air bag and weighs you automatically.

On the TV: a choice between CNN (another weekend of a jet crash) or Fox News. This hospital needs MSNBC. Or C-Span (to promote sleep). Or maybe Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! to be played in an endless loop.

I watch Fox News with all the leggy female anchors who ask right wing questions endlessly. I think to myself: How do they live with themselves? Do they really believe this shit? Amy Goodman is much more sexy because she has a brain.

But here I am in this hospital stuck with Fox News. At least the nurses are nice; they don't let me walk around without watching me. I learn late Saturday that I didn't have a stroke or a TIA. Yet they hold me another night. The MD has gone home.

Okay. So I get up and do something I have always wanted to do. I walk the halls of the hospital in one of those backless gowns. Except I am wearing hospital pants, so there isn't any full moon out. I walk the halls feeling like an old man. Am I becoming an old man?

I ask for meds and sleep like a baby Saturday night. Since I am on a neural unit, I am there with all the dementia folk who have bed alarms that go off everytime they try and get up. I sleep through it all. The rocket helicopter lands at 2:00 am with a highway drunken trauma accident. The helicopter lands outside my window. I don't hear it and sleep like that 6 year old that slept in the Children's Ward in the hospital in Winona, Minnesota all those years ago.

Sunday the MD comes in. I get a diagnosis: Meneers versus Benign Positional Vertigo. The doctor thinks the latter. Evidently, the vertigo is caused by calcium deposits that roll around in your ears, wreacking havoc. It is treatable with physical therapy.

Joni comes to get me. I pack up my emesis basin, tub, hospital toothbrush, and all the other freebies they give you. I get escorted out of the hospital and off we go to the car.

Which has been broken into; Window smashed; Garmin stolen; Satellite radio stolen. So much for the safety of parking for two days next to a Strip Club.

Quite a weekend. $5,000 worth. At least. All of it amazing with the CT's and the MRI"s and the blood tests and the pills that make you sleep even though helicopters with rocket engines are landing outside your window.

And yet, it is all so First World. I know there are people in the Third World who can't even get a measles vaccine. Or an anti-biotic.

Perhaps we should go back to having wards and less expensive care. Perhaps we should do away with the concierge service and just make sure everybody has some health care access rather than spending all this money trying to attract the paying customers who have insurance like myself.

The nurses and everyone were wonderful. The care was exceptional. I wonder if maybe it isn't too exceptional? I don't think I would have minded being in a ward. Especially if that meant that everyone got healthcare too.

Just some thoughts. With high praise for the nurses and doctors and CNA's and ancillary staff of Enloe. They did an awesome job. They have my respect and appreciation.

Friday, March 20, 2015

BC Media Weekly Wrap Up....

I've been monitoring Butte County Print Media for about a month now. Every Friday, I write a Weekly Wrap Up---to sort of summarize the week's activity. This is this week's edition:

Weekly Wrap Up: 3/20/2015

The Sunday edition of the ER looked more like the left-wing Nation Magazine judging by the letter-to-the-editor content. Two letter writers used heavy rhetoric to call the actions by 47 Republican Senators treasonous when they decided to write the Clerics in Iran, telling them to ignore the sitting President. Obama said that there is no precedent for such an action. The Chico ER's editorial board was mute on the topic; the CNR had addressed the topic... the week before.
A couple brave Right Wing letter writers jumped to the Republican Senators' defense. Both letters were entertaining, especially local Tea Party gadfly (and probable candidate for something someday) Loretta Torres who pretty much said Iran is trying to usher in some utopic golden age by building Nukes, which will result in the birth of the 12th Eman and the destruction of the US and Israel (or something like that, you have to read the letter to believe it).

Never mind the fact there are Christians who still think Hal Lindsey's interpretation of Middle Eastern politics is dictated in the Bible, culminating in the battle of Armageddon with Jesus finally coming back to build a new Jerusalem after Russia and China invade.

The other major issue was water. Both the CNR and the Chico ER had some very timid editorials, praising the area for meeting water use reductions and encouraging all of us to do more. Neither paper challenged the notion that agriculture is the single biggest water hog and that, perhaps, we should rethink the type of agriculture we pursue.

And much to my amazement, I found myself agreeing with the Crank of Durham, Gary Cooper, who generally writes a letter-to-the-editor every week. This week Cooper managed to bring up the unethical practice of farmers selling their surface water rights at a handsome profit and then using pumps to irrigate their crops from the Tuscan Aquifer. Just today I saw two drilling rigs in orchards that were putting in new wells (both in Tehama County). Farmers are getting ready to save their orchards. You can't blame them for that, but, perhaps it is time to consider that drought is the new norm and that we should be making the transition to growing row crops and not commit to orchards that need the same amount of water every year . No amount of consumer water conservation will make a dent in the impending lack of water without a change in agricultural practices.

Then there is the matter of salmon. They deserve their share of water too.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Smart Phone Luddite

Well, I finally decided to act like it is 2005 and bought myself a Smart Phone. Joni went and picked one up one for both of us. Two mini droids (sounds like Star Wars). We now spend more money on our electronics: cell phones, Internet, satellite TV----we spend more money on those three things than we do on our house payment.

I remain mostly a technological Luddite until someone actually shows me the usefulness of a device or the sheer fun of something that connects all of us together. I was anti-personal computer until a visit to my brother's back in 1995, where I ignored him and his whole family in order to chat with some stranger in a chat room on his computer. Amazed by this technology, I drove home to Reno from Minnesota in about 26 hours in order to go buy a computer. I've been hooked ever since.

But up until that day when Doug showed me how it works, I was anti-computer. My brother, who is much more modern than I ever hope to be, argued that computers were "extensions of our brains" and that we become inherently smarter with the things. I guess that's one of the major differences between my brother and me: He was a Gary Hart fan; I liked Mondale. He is modern; I am not. But as for computers enhancing our lives and making us smarter? Yeah, right. Maybe. But porn and computer games are probably the two biggest uses of the PC. And now nobody even e-mails anymore (let alone write an actual letter---can you remember the last time you received one?).

So now I have a Smart Phone. And a Blue Tooth (can anybody tell me why we call those little ear plugs a tooth?). I still can't figure out how the sound is actually picked up by the Blue Tooth. I still can't answer a call with the thing.

As for the phone? It took me a day to figure out how to answer it. Press and swipe. Sort of like Harry Potter's wand, "Swish and flick". Kylie showed me some basics as to how to use the phone. Like how to turn it on. Basic stuff.

I downloaded two things when I got the phone. The first thing was a Facebook app. Now the thing vibrates anytime a friend does an update on Facebook. The second thing I downloaded was Walden by H.D. Thoreau.

What would Henry think? Henry didn't even like trains. Nor newspapers.

And so now I do something I swore I would never do (besides vote Republican) and that is: I sent a text message. It makes me feel a little like I moved to the suburbs and bought a BMW. Now to learn that awful corruption of English that the text message has taught us. It used to be called, shorthand. Now it is just text language and goes something like this. LOL U SCK. BRB. CYa.

What would Shakespeare say? Or Thoreau? Or Ed Abbey?

Essentially, I need the Smart Phone for work. And to be an alarm clock. The jury is out as to how much I actually enjoy the thing. So far I'm not so enamored with it that I'd drive across the continent in order to purchase one.