Wednesday, July 3, 2019

The sad truth: It’s all B.S.

By Bob Gaydos
Harry Frankfurt ... he knows B.S. when he hears it
Harry Frankfurt ... he knows B.S. when he hears it
  There have been times, like now, when I saw little point in writing about what the pretend president is saying or doing because millions of Americans don’t seem to care. At those times, I often wondered how the scribes who get paid to inform the world of the latest news — and even moreso, those who get paid to have opinions about it — find the energy to cover Trump day after day. It has to be depressing, I thought to myself. I’m depressed and I don’t have to write about it. Does a paycheck work as an antidepressant?
      Maureen Dowd finally answered my question. I admit to not being a religious, or even semi-religious, reader of Dowd’s column in The New York Times up to now. That’s changed since I read her May 25 column that carried the headline, “Crazy Is As Crazy Does.” Yes, it was about Trump.
     She begins by describing her waking thoughts as another morning arrives. About the talents of an actress and an actor she admires and their TV shows. About a book she has apparently just read or is reading. And then, abruptly, reality sets in: “Once I’m completely awake, a gravitational pull takes hold and I am once more bedeviled by our preposterous president.
        “I flip on the TV and gird for the endless stream of vitriol coming from the White House, bracing for another day of overflowing, overlapping, overwrought news stories about Trump. I’m sapped before I arise. …
       “My head hurts, puzzling over whether Trump is just a big blowhard … or a sinister genius …”
        Me too, I sighed. Glad to know I’m not alone.
        I’m also not alone in my belief in synchronicity. Serendipity, if you prefer.
      Coincidence? I’m with Carl Jung on that. The Swiss psychologist who gave us the word defined synchronicity as “a meaningful coincidence of two or more events where something other than the probability of chance is involved.”
       As in, what are the chances that, being shamed into participating in a decluttering exercise at home, I would “stumble upon” a slim book I’d never heard of that instantly uncluttered my mind on how to explain what in the world was going on in Donald Trump’s mind.
    It’s “Bullshit.”
    Literally.
    Some explanation is necessary.
    The house decluttering was precipitated by a prevailing notion that I had collected too much stuff (an occupational hazard, I believe) and some of it had to go, but we would find a safe resting place for the stuff that was worth keeping. One of the safe places was a lovely, old cabinet in which other stuff was resting. Old tapes, photos and books. Among the books was the aforementioned slim volume.
     I read the title: “On Bullshit.”
     The decluttering came to a momentary halt. Was this a joke? As it turns out, no. Oh, there is humor in this 67-page essay, but the author, Harry G. Frankfurt, it also turns out, is a distinguished philosopher, professor emeritus at Princeton University, which published the book. This was serious. In fact, the book was a New York Times best-seller in 2005 and Frankfurt discusses it on YouTube, which tells you something about my attention to literary news.
      But the point, and I’m finally getting to it, is that after months of trying to out-pundit everyone else writing about Trump and continuing to muse on why he does what he does, Frankfurt lays it out in a way that anyone, except maybe Trump, can understand — the man is a bullshit artist.
      It dawned on me as I read Frankfurt’s explanation of the difference between liars — which Trump has been crowned champion of all time by those who keep score — and bullshitters. (If the language offends you, I apologize, but Frankfurt says “humbug” is not the same. Also, the times have changed and I’ve already been labeled an enemy of the people for treating the truth with respect.)
     As Frankfurt explains, the difference between liars and bullshitters is that liars are acquainted with the truth. They have to be to maintain their lies. There is a discipline involved. Bullshitters don’t care. They make stuff up as they go along, saying whatever seems necessary to them at the time to appear to know what’s going on. It isn’t a matter so much of bullshit being false, Frankfort says, as of it being phony. It’s meant to convey an impression. It’s like bluffing. And too much of it can carry over into a general laxity about how things really are.
       As Frankfurt writes, “The bullshitter is faking things.” It’s not a matter of concealing the truth, because sometimes the bullshitter will speak the truth. It is matter of concealing “what he is up to.”
      Indeed. And those who are good at it seem to have no trouble attracting gullible believers. But that’s a mystery for another day.
      Frankfurt mentions patriotic politicians who, on the Fourth of July, give grand speeches extolling all the wonderful things this country represents, not that those things are false or lies or B.S., but because the speaker wants others to believe he believes in them and is a true patriot. There’s a good chance we’ll hear some of that this coming Independence Day, with Trump taking center stage at the Lincoln Memorial.
       I know in advance that I don’t necessarily have to write about it because it’s more of the same B.S. Instead, I can read what Dowd writes about it and focus instead on what synchronicity offers as a topic. Like the fact that Frankfurt and I share the same birthdate, May 29. Some stuff you just can’t make up.
Bob Gaydos is a freelance writer, rjgaydos@gmail.com
     

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

An addict by any other name, please

Addiction and Recovery

By Bob Gaydos
  What’s in a name? Maybe, recovery.
"New" me, at 73.
Bob Gaydos
Addiction — to opioids, alcohol, heroin, other substances or behavior — is a medically recognized disease, something for which treatment is available and prescribed so that the person who suffers from it can be returned as a contributing member of society. That’s the official, appropriately concerned line put forth by government agencies, the medical community and those who work in the field.
    Unofficially, which is to say, to much of society including members of the aforementioned groups, a person with the disease of addiction is commonly referred to as an addict. A drunk. A junkie. A cokehead or crackhead. An alkie. A pothead. A pill-popper. He or she is often regarded as someone who is weak-willed, immoral, untrustworthy, rather than someone suffering from a disease. A liar. A loser. Someone not worth the time or effort — or money — to associate with, never mind help.
   One of the major obstacles to persons seeking treatment for addiction is the stigma attached to the disease. It has been framed seemingly forever as a moral issue, a crime issue. Rarely — only recently — has it been framed as a health issue. We have waged a war on drugs as we tried to cure cancer or diabetes.
    Words matter.
    Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania lbast year released a study with the key recommendation to stop using the words “addict,” “alcoholic” and “substance abuser.” The study found the words carry a strong negative bias. Basically, the researchers said, they label the person, not the disease. Study participants not only displayed a reluctance to associate with persons described with those words in fictional vignettes, the researchers said participants also displayed “implicit bias” to the terms themselves when given a word-association task. They were subconsciously reacting negatively to the words.bbb
     If just the words can stir negative bias in people, imagine what an actual person carrying the label “addict” can arouse.
     The Penn researchers said their study was consistent with previous research that found some doctors, even mental health professionals, less willing to help patients who were labeled “addicts” or “substance abusers.”
     The researchers did not discount the fact that conscious bias against persons with addiction — for example, how involved one would want to be with the person described — is often based on personal negative experiences with “alcoholics” or “addicts.”  Family members, friends, co-workers have experienced pain and suffering from their connection to persons with alcohol or substance use disorders and a resistance to not just “calling them what they are” may be understandable.
      But, the researchers said, over time, adopting what they call person-first language (referring to a person with a heroin addiction rather than a heroin addict) — especially by public officials and the media — could help reduce the negative bias and stigma that keeps people from seeking and getting help for their disease.
       In 2017, prior to this study, the Associated Press, which publishes a style guide used by most news organizations, adopted a new policy on reporting on addiction. It recommends that news organizations avoid terms such as “addict” and “alcoholic” in favor of person-first language — someone with an alcohol or substance use disorder or someone who was using opioids addictively, rather than a substance abuser or former addict. Someone in recovery, rather than someone who is “clean.” Shift the blame from the person to the disease.
     This doesn’t excuse or absolve the person who is addicted from any damage he or she may have done, and it may be considerable. But it does provide an identity beyond the addiction and makes the road to recovery more navigable. 
     Earlier this year, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News adopted a policy similar to AP’s.
      The concept is simple: A person should not be defined solely by his or her disease. When mental health professionals stopped referring to patients as schizophrenics, society started referring to people with schizophrenia. Similarly, there are people with diabetes today who once were labeled diabetics. It is often argued that alcoholism or addiction are different from other diseases because the person chooses to use the substance. But experience tells us no one chooses to become addicted and the nature of the disease is being unable to stop — or at least feeling that stopping is not possible. Negative labels can’t help.
       Government agencies have begun using the new language, referring to persons with alcohol use or substance use disorders rather then alcoholics or addicts. Some who have managed to face their addiction and overcome it have abandoned the anonymity of 12-step programs and identify themselves publicly as persons in recovery. The opioid crisis has spawned a program called Hope Not Handcuffs, which steers the person who is addicted to treatment rather than incarceration.
       An exception to the change in language is recognized for those who are in 12-Step programs who identify themselves as alcoholics or addicts at their meetings. These are people who don’t see the terms as negatives, but rather as an honest admission of a fact in their lives. Members of Alcoholics Anonymous have been saying, “My name is xxxx, and I’m an alcoholic” at meetings for nearly 84 years. It’s tradition. There’s no stigma attached, but rather a common bond that holds out the hope there is something beyond being labeled a “drunken bum” or “hopeless addict.”
      The groups recommending the language change say this is not merely “political correctness,” as some have said. Lives are obviously still being ravaged by addiction. If something has to change in approaching the disease, there is a growing feeling that how we talk about it might be a good place to start.
Bob Gaydos is a freelance writer. rjgaydos@gmail.com

Monday, May 20, 2019

The countdown to Woodstock 50 and 2020


Fans of Woodstock may have a choice of two 50th Anniversary concerts to choose from. Or maybe not.
Fans of Woodstock may have a choice of two 50th Anniversary concerts to choose from. Or maybe not.
By Bob Gaydos
A look at the news, by the numbers:
  • 7: The percentage of the United States Senate that is running for president (so far) in 2020. All seven are Democrats and four of them are women. The latest count of Democratic presidential candidates stands at 20, I believe, but I could have missed a mayor or state senator or part-time legal clerk who decided that, what the heck, since 2016 proved that anybody really can get elected president in America, why not me?
  • 53: The percentage of the United States Senate that is perfectly comfortable with having a president with no understanding of the Constitution or respect for the rule of law, not a modicum oe f empathy, who lies as naturally as others breathe, has the IQ of a hedgehog (sorry, hedgehogs)  and the curiosity of a Big Mac, is totally consumed with his own image and how much money he and his family can wring out of the presidency before he bankrupts it like everything else he’s touched. All 53 are Republicans. The GOP, of course, used to be the party of law and order, the party that preached moral values and respect for the Constitution. Today, not so much.
  • 311: Reportedly, the number of grams of food per day Kim Jung-un, North Korea’s leader, says will be rationed to each citizen as the result of the latest food crisis to hit his nation. A bad harvest left the country 1.36 tons short of grain. The bad harvest came on top of dry spells, abnormally high temperatures and floods, which exacerbated limited supplies of fuel, fertilizer and spare parts, all of which was punctuated by economic sanctions against the country for its continued nuclear weapons buildup. For comparison, the average amount of food a healthy person eats daily in a non-rationed nation is four pounds. That’s about 1,800 grams. The North Korea ration diet is mostly rice and kimchi (cabbage), very little protein. About 10 million people — about 40 percent of North Korea’s population  — are affected by the food shortage. Of course, not Kim and his friends, or those who have access to the black market.
  • 3 million: Number of North Koreans estimated to have died in that nation’s famine in the late 1990s, when the ration system collapsed. The question is whether Kim is willing to continue the family tradition of letting millions of  countrymen and women die rather than abandon his nuclear (also chemical and biological) weapons, hoping that Russia or China will come to the rescue. Or, to put it another way — are the rest of the nations of the world willing to let tens of thousands of people die of starvation while they try to figure out how not to nuke each other to death? History is not on the side of hungry North Koreans.
  • 1: The number of times the winner of the Kentucky Derby has been disqualified for interference. This year’s 145th Run for the Roses saw the first-place finisher’s number taken down for interference, and not even for interference with the horse eventually declared winner. Maximum Security, the favorite and clearly the best horse in the field, drifted to the outside, preventing War of Will, a legitimate challenger, from moving forward. After watching a video of the race for 20 minutes, stewards stripped Maximum Security of the win and named Country House, a 65-1 shot, the winner. 
  • $132.40: Payoff on a $2 win bet on Country House. Nice.
  • 1: Number of days it took for Trump to say ignore what you see on the tape, forget the rules, the storyline called for Maximum Security to win, so the stewards’ decision was — here comes the buzzword, cultists — “political correctness.” “Bad decision.” To him, all the world is a reality TV show for which he writes the script. 
  • 2: Number of Woodstock 50th Anniversary celebrations planned for August 15-16 this year. Michael Lang and Woodstock LLC,, had 50 years to plan the ultimate tribute to the iconic festival without the confusion of the original gathering, but just as the 1969 event got bounced around and suffered from a significant error in available crowd accommodation, Woodstock 50, planned for some reason for Watkins Glen, is a whirl of confusion. The event’s major financial backer, Dentsu Aegis Network’s Amplifi Live, said in a statement: “Despite our tremendous investment of time, effort and co mmitment, we don’t believe the production of the festival can be executed as an event worthy of the Woodstock Brand name while also ensuring the health and safety of the artists, partners and attendees.” Lang said his partners had no right to cancel the event and that it was still on, even though you couldn’t buy tickets on the web site. Jay-Z and Miley Cyrus are still coming, Lang assured. He’s suing Dentsu Aegis. Subsequent reports pointed out that, while Watkins Glen is noted for auto racing (the festival is planned for the racetrack), the community does not have hotel and bed and breakfast accommodations to handle the size crowd expected for Woodstock 50. Sound familiar? That means a lot of the space would have to be allotted for campers, which would then cut down on the allowable crowd space, which would then cut down on profits, which would then make Lang’s financial backers’ cold feet explanation more honest. Lang insists Woodstock 50 will be held in Watkins Glen, Aug. 16-18. Oh, that happens to conflict with another 50th celebration of Woodstock at the original site in Bethel. It’s called A Season of Song & Celebration and will be held Aug. 15-18 at Bethel Woods. Naturally, the state is planning major roadwork on the perennially clogged main road to that site during the time the concert is scheduled. Should be like old times.
  • Zero: Chances that folks who get to a concert at either of these sites will care about the mixups. Peace and love.
  • 50-50: Odds Trump will have something to tweet about Woodstock, which, of course, was his idea until Lang stole it. The 1969 crowd would’ve been huuuger if the Donald’s name was on it.
  • 30. It’s a journalism thing. Google it.
rjgaydos@gmail.com

Monday, April 22, 2019

On influence and insensitivity

Kylie Jenner ... influencer par excellence

By Bob Gaydos
        It’s been awhile since I put my name on something I wrote, mostly because there’s really been only one one thing to write about. But other life goes on, so ...
        Last time out, I wrote about how I had recently come to the realization that, much as I chafed at the designation, given the 21st century dilution of the term and the relaxed admission standards that allow anyone with an attitude and an audience into the club, I was — am — for better or worse, a pundit.
    In my defense, just being able to write that sentence should qualify me.
    But punditry, I have even more recently learned, is small potatoes (chicken feed, chump change, yesterday’s news) compared to the title to which anyone with any interest in the power of persuasion today should aspire.
    I want to be an influencer.
    Really. It’s a job. I just found out. Some pundit.
Influencer is such a legitimate thing that Forbes Magazine has initiated a list of the Top 10 Influencers for 2018 in a variety of  categories. It’s starting with Beauty, Fitness and Home, capitalized I assume for influence.
Apparently one qualifies for this list by telling tens of thousands — even millions — of people who follow you on social media what beauty products you prefer, the type of fitness regimens, supplements, food, clothes you prefer or let them in on the type of furniture or decor you like to surround yourself with when relaxing at “home.” Then a lot of those people go out and buy the stuff. Companies pay you for your creative messaging.
It’s kinda like being a shill. In fact, it’s exactly like being a shill. It just pays a lot better, if you’re, you know, influential.
If you sense me being a bit flippant and sarcastic about this discovery it may at least in part be because I am not just a little bit envious of these people who have discovered a way to earn a good living by sitting home, posting photos and writing blurbs on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and other social media sites and being paid by companies whose product they promote. You don’t even have to use it. All you really need is a ton of followers who believe you and apparently await your every posting to find out what they should really like, then buy it.
For one thing, this says a lot about buying habits today, when so much shopping is done on the internet, with no opportunity to check out the merchandise firsthand. Well, heck, if Randi Jo Cutie Pie says those are cool candles or neat boots or dynamite hair products, they must be. Look, she’s got a million and a half followers.
The Forbes list was heavily female and mostly millennials, which would suggest that a male in his seventh decade might look for another line of work. It’s also prominently featured on Instagram, which I thought was mostly for sharing cellphone photos. So, on second thought, I’m going to stick to punditry, where I don’t have to worry about competing with Kylie Jenner or Cardi B.
Yet.
— Maybe it’s just me, but … if I’m going to get the news that I’m about to shake off the coils of my current mortal construct and rejoin the Greater Consciousness in some other form real soon, I want a living, breathing doctor standing next to my bed delivering the diagnosis as compassionately as possible, not a streaming image of someone, presumably a doctor, on a screen on a machine wheeled into my hospital room.
Ernest Quintana didn’t get that personal treatment at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Fremont, Calif. Instead, with his 33-year-old granddaughter standing by his bedside, the 78-year-old, who had been admitted to the hospital for the third time in 15 days because of difficulty breathing, heard the headset-wearing image on the screen say there was serious lung damage. “Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can treat very effectively,” the image said. He also said giving his “patient” morphine might help with pain, but would make breathing more difficult. He topped off his “On Demand” consultation by responding to a question about hospice care thusly: “I don’t know if he’s going to get home.”
     The grand daughter was mortified, as were Quintana’s wife and daughter, who had briefly left the hospital to go home and shower. They complained to the hospital, which was semi-apologetic. Quintana died two days later.
They call it telemedicine and it presumably has its place, but a spokesperson for the AMA said delivering a death sentence electronically should be a doctor’s “last choice.”
Don’t they teach this stuff in med school?
—  Speaking of insensitivity, maybe it’s just me, but the State of Virginia would appear to have a serious race issue. The governor, Ralph Northam, is desperately trying to repair his image after a racist yearbook photo of him was published and he subsequently admitted to wearing blackface in his youth. The state’s attorney general admitted likewise. Both men are white. But get this, mere days after her husband pledged to devote the rest of his term to racial equity, his wife, Pam, leading a tour of the governor’s mansion, handed raw, prickly cotton to 13-and-14-year-old black pages and asked them, “Can you imagine being an enslaved person and having to pick this all day?”
No, they couldn’t and no, they weren’t happy with the hands-on history lesson. Neither were their parents. A former middle school teacher, Northam said she does the same with all the history tours she leads.
Maybe they need to re-evaluate that lesson in First Lady school.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Maybe there‘s a little addiction, disorder in all of us

Addiction and Recovery

By Bob Gaydos
   
Opioids and alcohol get most of the attention, although marijuana, currently undergoing a reputation rehabilitation, has been grabbing plenty of headlines lately. But if you spend any amount of time studying the issue, it doesn’t take long to wonder if there isn’t an addiction, compulsion, behavioral disorder — call it what you will — for every human on the planet.
    Some conditions are more serious than others, but all
either involve the brain’s reward system or relieve anxiety, stimulate compulsive use and bring with them an opportunity for negative consequences. Consider the following an inventory of sorts, a look at some of the substances people use or behaviors they engage in, perhaps to excess. Maybe someone you know shows some of the signs of trouble.

Medically recognized substance use disorders
    Alcohol Use Disorder: Alcohol is a depressant. Alcohol use disorder is more common among adult men than among women, but the gap is narrowing. It typically develops at a young age. Severe use is commonly referred to as alcoholism.
Caffeine Intoxication: Heavy intake of caffeine resulting in symptoms including restlessness, nervousness, insomnia, gastrointestinal disturbance, rambling thoughts and speech, cardiac rhythm disturbances.
Cannabis Use Disorder: Highest among 18- to29-year-olds. Often the first drug used and often used with other drugs. Prevalence decreases with age.
Hallucinogen Use Disorder: These substances alter perception. Phencyclidine — “angel dust” or PCP — produces feelings of separation of mind from body.
Inhalant Use Disorder: Sniffing glue. Inhalant substances are volatile hydrocarbons, toxic gases that are released from glues, fuels and paints, that can have psychoactive effects. Occurs primarily among ages 12 to 17.
Opioid Use Disorder: Opioid drugs include heroin and prescription pain-relievers such as oxycodone, codeine, morphine, and fentanyl. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, opioid-related overdoses are now the leading cause of death in Americans under 50 years of age and prescribed opioids are the “overwhelming initial source” of addiction.
    Sedative, Hypnotic, or Anxiolytic Use Disorder: Addiction to sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medications (Valium, Xanax, Librium). These are brain depressants. Rates are highest among 18- to 29-year-olds.
    Stimulant Use Disorder: This group include amphetamines, Ritalin and cocaine. These drugs are commonly prescribed for the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Cocaine use in the U.S. is highest among those aged 18 to 25.
Tobacco Use Disorder: Nicotine in tobacco acts as a stimulant for the central nervous system. Studies show that 68 percent of adult smokers want to quit and 50 percent of smokers have tried.

Behavioral disorders
Binge-eating disorder (overeating disorder): Uncontrolled eating, often accompanied by purging (bulimia).
Gambling disorder: Because of the quick feedback, it can provide reward symptoms to the brain much like alcohol or cocaine.
        Gaming disorder: It has been recognized officially by the World Health Organization, but is still under study in the United States for classification as an addictive behavior. Other behaviors under study include smartphone use, Internet gambling, pornography, eating and shopping.

Compulsive behaviors
        These can include such things as hoarding, shopping, sex, eating, gambling, exercise, even talking compulsively. While the behaviors may not provide the pleasure reward of an addiction, they serve to relieve anxiety and stress and, if unchecked, can have serious negative consequences in a person’s life.

What else to know
        Simply put, an addiction is a repetitive use of a substance or engagement in a behavior because of the rewards message the substance or behavior transmits to the brain, despite numerous negative consequences the activity produces in the person’s life. Tolerance increases with time. The person may not even be aware of the damage being done by the behavior, or may continue in spite of it. At some point, the substance or behavior may dominate the addicted person’s daily life. It is highly likely that these conditions are accompanied by other mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression.
    Science has been unable to come up with one cause of addiction, nor can it predict who will become addicted. However, there are numerous risk factors that can be recognized, some of which may be avoidable, some not. Genetics/family history play a significant role in determining vulnerability as do environmental factors, including growing up in a dysfunctional family and early exposure to substances or abuse. The presence of other mental health issues can also contribute to susceptibility to addictive behavior. Even physiology may play a role since men seem to be more susceptible to addiction than women.
That said, there are a number of conditions that can predict the presence of an addiction. The following list is adapted from one used by the Mayo Clinic. Substitute the specific substance or behavior for the word “drug.”
    — Feeling that you have to use the drug regularly — daily or even several times a day.
— Having intense urges for the drug that block out any other thoughts.
— Over time, needing more of the drug to get the same effect.
— Taking larger amounts of the drug over a longer period of time than you intended.
— Making certain that you maintain a supply of the drug.
    — Spending money on the drug, even though you can't afford it.
    — Not meeting obligations and school, family or work responsibilities, or cutting back on social or recreational activities because of drug use.
    — Continuing to use the drug, even though you know it's causing problems in your life or causing you physical or psychological harm.
    — Doing things to get the drug that you normally wouldn't do, such as stealing.
    — Driving or engaging in other risky activities when you're under the influence of the drug.
    — Spending a good deal of time getting the drug, using the drug or recovering from the effects of the drug.
    — Failing in your attempts to stop using the drug.
    — Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to stop taking the drug.
Generally, two or three symptoms suggest a mild disorder, four or five a moderate one and anything more, a severe disorder.
The good news is that there is a variety of treatment available for all these conditions. If a problem is suspected, don’t try to deal with it alone. Consult with a health professional (doctor, psychologist, social worker, addiction specialist) and begin the road to recovery.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Are you now or have you ever ...?

By Bob Gaydos
Jeanine Pirro ... asked the question
Jeanine Pirro
... asked the question
It was at once the most astounding and easiest to answer question ever posed to an American president: “Are you now or have you ever worked for Russia, Mr. President?”

That’s a yes or no answer, with “no” being the preferred option. Unless you’re Donald Trump, in which case you say, "I think it's the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked. I think it's the most insulting article I’ve ever had written. And if you read the article, you'd see that they found absolutely nothing."

“They” was a reference to The New York Times which published an article reporting that the FBI had opened a counterintelligence investigation into Trump the day after he fired FBI Director James Comey. The article said the secret investigation was passed on to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed in the wake of Comey’s firing.

Back to the question. It was posed not in a challenging way and not by an antagonistic interviewer. Rather, it came from someone Trump picked himself, “Judge” Jeanine Pirro, who is not only his most vocal supporter at Fox News, but someone who gives the impression she would satisfy pretty much any favors the Donald would like in return for a position in his cabinet. Say attorney general. Even solicitor general.

But in his eagerness to defend himself and insult the sources of the question, to engage in his usual deflection, Trump never just said the obvious: “No.” He got around to that a day later (“I never worked for Russia,” he said.) after virtually everyone on Twitter and some White House aides who have not been furloughed because he shut the government down pointed out the glaring omission.

And so here we are. A TV commentator has, on the air, asked the president of the United States — a phrase I reluctantly attach to Trump for the sake of accuracy — if he is, in effect, a traitor.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think that is extraordinary. Even more extraordinary is that virtually no one in his political party seems to have an opinion on this — at least not publicly — and two days later the big story was Trump serving fast food burgers and fries at the White House to the national college football champions from Clemson University, because apparently that’s what he thinks finely tuned athletes, whose diets are monitored, eat routinely. Never mind the insult.

I write this, not in the hopes of convincing any suddenly awakening Trump supporters of the unrelenting awfulness of the man, never mind being the only president to ever be asked if he is a traitor. That time has passed. No, this is selfish. If it’s true that nothing ever disappears from the Internet, I want future browsers and historians to know that some of us saw what was going on and spoke out about it while others buried their heads in the sands of delusion or lined their pockets with the bitter fruits of enabling (Republicans) and exploitation (evangelicals).

I also want the Greater Consciousness to know I did my part in promoting peace, love and understanding. And yes, I know it knows, but I somehow feel better putting it in writing.
And, covering all bets, I want the Kirk Cameron “Left Behind” evangelicals waiting for the Rapture to know that my version of it has the guy with the MAGA bumper sticker who tosses beer cans on my lawn one day noticing a pile of clothes — wrinkled jeans, a black hoodie and a gray knit cap — lying in the driveway while I enjoy another balmy day in Heaven, watching reruns of the Trump impeachment hearings, eating tacos and listening to Sinatra.

Finally, it seems fitting to me if, many millennia from now, the dominant beings, whatever they might be, discover this ancient form of communication, decipher it, and conclude, “Once upon a time, a species known as human beings ruled Earth when it was abundant with riches. For some reason, they chose the most ignorant, ill-equipped, amoral person to be their leader. They were difficult times. Ugliness abounded. Only the persistent efforts of some outspoken humans saved the planet.”

I may be angry and astounded, but I still prefer happy endings.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Physical recovery is vital to sobriety

Addiction and Recovery


By Bob Gaydos
       
Alcoholism/drug addiction is often characterized as a threefold disease — mental, physical and spiritual. People in recovery hear a lot about the need for mental therapy and, especially in 12-step programs, the need for a spiritual awakening if they want to get and stay clean and sober.
    Experience has shown both to be important, but the physical aspect of the disease is frequently overlooked in recovery, even though prolonged substance abuse can wreak more physical havoc on the body than any other disease.
Depending on their drug (or drugs) of choice, people who abuse substances can do damage to their brain, liver and other organs, as well as their circulatory, cardiovascular, digestive and immune systems. Skin and teeth may also be affected. It’s not just that alcohol or drugs directly affect the body, dependence on them creates and reinforces negative lifestyles. Eating regularly becomes less important. A healthful diet isn’t even in the equation. Exercise? How fast can I walk to the liquor store?
Yet all too often, persons in recovery, thrilled or scared to be living without drinking or using, carry on with the same unhealthful lifestyle that has become their norm. A diet of fast food or processed food. Little to no exercise. Smoking. They may feel lousy and wonder what was the purpose of getting sober. They also may resort to habit and do what used to make them feel better — reach for a drink or pop a pill.
Recovering physically is a critical hedge against relapse. It is a vital part of the recovery process and establishing new, healthy lifestyle habits can lay the groundwork for years of healthy sobriety.
This is not to say it’s easy to all of a sudden start trying to eat healthfully and get exercise when the primary focus of one's life has become not drinking or using drugs. Quitting smoking may have to wait. Sobriety must come first. But it’s also possible — necessary — to begin to make changes in lifestyle. Start slowly.
The best approach would be to get a physical checkup so that a health care provider can assess what shape the abused body is in and what nutrients may be lacking. Taking that information to a nutritionist should be next. In a perfect world, a healthful diet and exercise regimen is suggested and followed and, eventually, a new, healthy person is created. Success!
But since we’re dealing with alcoholics and drug addicts, there’s bound to be resistance. So addiction counselors suggest keeping it simple to start. Set regular mealtimes and keep them. Drink plenty of water between meals to avoid dehydration. Eat more healthful foods and snacks.
For a guide, there's the United States Department of Agriculture’s pyramid of six healthful food groups. It’s a simple and basic foundation for a new diet. Here’s the hard part to start: Eliminate (as much as possible) processed foods, sodas, cakes, candy and fast food from the diet. They may make you feel good temporarily (especially the sugars), but your body will thank you for removing them or reducing their presence in your diet. Stop shopping in the middle aisles of the supermarket or stopping at the drive-up window of the Golden Arches. Instead, select foods from the USDA list:
1. Fruits: apples, berries, melons, pears, grapes, avocados, bananas, grapefruit and oranges. Fresh is best.
2. Vegetables: broccoli, squash, bell peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, other green, leafy vegetables, carrots, sweet potatoes, onions and asparagus. Be generous.
3.  Oils and fats: olive, safflower, corn. Avoid trans fats.
4. Healthy whole grains: oatmeal, 100 percent whole grain breads and cereals, brown rice, tortillas, pasta.
5. Lean meat, poultry and fish: salmon, mackerel, shellfish, turkey and/or chicken (remove the skin), eggs (sparingly), dry beans, nuts.
6. Milk and milk products: Try low fat or skim milk, nonfat cottage cheese, yogurt, high-fat cheeses.
Vitamin and mineral supplements may also be helpful.(The physical checkup should reveal deficiencies.) It’s not uncommon to be lacking in B-complex, zinc, vitamins A, C and. D.
Of course, the way to maximize the positive effects of a healthier diet is to exercise. For those in recovery, it’s good to know that becoming more fit not only improves cardiovascular health, reduces weight, builds strength and stamina and rejuvenates the immune system, it can also help alleviate depression and even add brain cells. That's huge in recovery. Another benefit of sticking to a healthier diet and fitness regimen — it can lead to a more normal sleep schedule.
Again, the key is to not be overwhelmed by the idea of exercising and at least do something within whatever physical limitations there may be. Walking regularly is a good start. Try gentle yoga.
Joanna (not her real name), is a health care worker from Ulster County. When she decided to stop drinking, instead of going to rehab she focused on improving her physical health. She was overweight and felt lousy.
She consulted doctors of osteopathic medicine locally and “wherever I could find them,” changed her diet and lifestyle, added the nutrients her body was lacking and started attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. She lost 35 pounds, feels “great” and recently celebrated one year of recovery — mentally, spiritually and physically.



The impact of drugs on nutrition:
OPIATES (including codeine, oxycodone, heroin, and morphine) affect the gastrointestinal system. Constipation is a common symptom of substance use. Symptoms common during withdrawal include diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. These symptoms may lead to a lack of enough nutrients and an imbalance of electrolytes (such as sodium, potassium, and chloride).
— ALCOHOL use is one of the major causes of nutritional deficiency in the United States. The most common deficiencies are of the B vitamins. A lack of these nutrients causes anemia and nervous system problems. Alcohol use also damages the liver and the pancreas. The liver removes toxins from harmful substances. The pancreas regulates blood sugar and the absorption of fat. Damage to these two organs results in an imbalance of fluids, calories, protein, and electrolytes. Other complications include: Diabetes, high blood pressure, permanent liver damage (or cirrhosis), seizures, severe malnutrition, shortened life expectancy. A woman's poor diet when pregnant, especially if she drinks alcohol, can harm the baby's growth and development in the womb.
— STIMULANTS use (such as crack, cocaine, and methamphetamine) reduces appetite and leads to weight loss and poor nutrition. Users of these drugs may stay up for days at a time. They may be dehydrated and have electrolyte imbalances during these episodes. Returning to a normal diet can be hard if a person has lost a lot of weight. Memory problems, which may be permanent, are a complication of long-term stimulant use.
— MARIJUANA can increase appetite. Some long-term users may be overweight and need to cut back on fat, sugar, and total calories.
(From the National Institutes of Health)