Monday, June 18, 2018

Depressing Drugs

Recently there's been a spate of high-profile celebrity suicides. Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade drew particular attention to the media's coverage of suicide.

But this is nothing new. In 2014 there was a similar fire drill when Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman committed suicide. That was when people started taking the opioid epidemic seriously.

This time, however, there's a different vibe: an article was just published in JAMA with the following statistic:
More than a third of Americans are estimated to be taking at least one prescription medication that carries the risk of depression, including suicidal symptoms, as a possible adverse effect—and they may have no idea—according to a study published this week in JAMA. 
The study is an observational one, meaning it can only identify associations and not whether common drugs are causing depression or suicide in people. Still, the researchers found some worrying links between the use of common medications and the potential for depression. Most notably, the researchers found that those taking three or more medications with depression risks had a greater chance of self-reporting depressive symptoms on a nine-question survey. Their rate of self-reported depressive symptoms was 15.3 percent, about double the rate reported by those taking just one drug with a risk of depression and about triple the rate of those taking no medications with risk of depression.
I can't say whether those drugs caused suicides and depression, but if you're taking three or more different drugs, you've got problems. When you add to those real problems the inevitable side effects and interactions between these often toxic drug cocktails, you are going to be miserable.

I've got some limited experience with this. About 20 years ago I was hurting. I'd been playing volleyball heavily for about 10 years, was hitting 40, and everything ached all the time due to overuse injuries. I stopped playing volleyball, but didn't get any better: everything still hurt.

So I went to the doctor and told him my story, and asked if there was some kind of physical therapy that could alleviate my aches and pain. In all seriousness he said, "You're suffering from clinical depression. I'm going to write you a prescription for Prozac."

I was skeptical, so I went home and thought about it for a while. I was unhappy because I couldn't do what I wanted to due to physical ailments, not because I had some underlying mental defect. "Screw it," I told myself. "I'm just going to do what I want." I threw out the prescription and just played volleyball. A little at first, and then more.

I endured the pain, sucked it up. Eventually it got better (endorphins, maybe?). Since then I've suffered through several injuries and surgeries, and now I'm getting arthritis and other afflictions of old age, but I keep soldiering on. I might be cranky because my hand always hurts, but I'm not depressed because I'm still doing what I want to do.

I do limit my playing time to four or five hours a week, and avoid overexertion: I've given up tournaments and leagues so that I don't have to play if I'm not feeling up to it. At some point I'll have to give up volleyball completely, and then I'll switch to biking or something less jarring.

I am sure that some drugs actually do cause depression. They often make people feel nauseated, prevent them from thinking clearly and have countless bad side effects like gas, lowered sex drive and the entire litany of disgusting ailments recited in those annoying drug commercials.

But the real problem with most drugs is that drugs do not cure the underlying problem. They just mask the symptoms. If you've got a strained rotator cuff or serious gastric reflux, Aleve and Prilosec will not fix your shoulder or eliminate your heartburn. The problems will just recur when you stop taking the drug.

Worse, taking the drug may hide real problems and eventually result in much more serious injury (a blown shoulder or esophageal rupture), which could have been avoided had the real problem been dealt with instead of brushed aside by doctors who are urged by management to crank through as many patients as quickly and cheaply as possible.

So, if eating pizza gives you heartburn, you should stop eating pizza instead of taking a drug to eliminate the heartburn eating pizza gives you. If playing volleyball four hours straight makes your knees hurt, only play for two hours.

People need to realize what's really going on with them and deal with the actual problem. If you have normal brain chemistry, no pill is going to fix all your problems and make you happier. Learn your limits.

Our national drug problem is an indictment of the health insurance industry, which always looks for the cheapest solution, and the pharmaceutical industry, which became drug pushers who steered people with normal aches and pains to highly addictive and extremely expensive opioids. It turns out boring old Advil and Tylenol are just as good as oxycodone for alleviating acute pain.

The sooner people understand that drugs do not cure your problems, the sooner this country will start healing. And stop committing suicide.

The Russian Iceberg

Remember the old saw about icebergs? "Only ten percent of an iceberg appears above the water."

The passengers of the R.M.S. Titanic might have initially thought that their unsinkable ship could survive a collision with the iceberg that sank it. The Titanic was huge, almost a thousand feet long, 175 feet tall and 90 feet wide. The iceberg was only 50 to 100 feet tall and 200 to 400 feet long.

But it was really 10 times bigger.

The same thing applies to scandals. Only ten percent of a scandal is ever known by the public. And the investigation into the Trump campaign's conspiracy with Russia to defeat Hillary Clinton is slowly revealing the true size of the crime.

The first inkling we had that the Trump campaign was conspiring with Russian hackers was when Trump himself publicly called on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton's emails.

Then we learned Paul Manafort and Trump had the Republican platform plank supporting Ukraine removed, at Russia's behest. Then we learned that Manafort was getting secretly getting millions of dollars from Russian-owned Ukrainian politicians, and he was fired as Trump's campaign manager. Then we learned that Michael Flynn was taking money from the Russians. And then Trump fired James Comey to stop the Russia investigation, according to what Trump himself told NBC News and the Russian ambassador.

Practically every major figure in the Trump campaign had dealings with the Russians: Donald Jr., Carter Page, Jeff Sessions, Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, Michael Cohen, Roger Stone, etc., etc. And of course Donald Trump himself visited Russia at least twice, and has sold billions of dollars of real estate to Russian oligarchs and mobsters in New York and Florida, and was in bed with Russians in Canadian and Azerbaijani hotel deals.

The Trump strategy on the Russia investigation has always been to deny and delay. When news broke about the meeting at Trump Tower between the Trump campaign and several Russians offering dirt on Clinton the Trump administration issued three or four different stories all within a matter of hours. These lies were all dictated by Trump himself, we later learned in a filing by Trump's own lawyers.

Roger Stone is the latest to admit new revelations. He was in contact with Russian hacker Guccifer and Wikileaks way back. Now Stone admits he was in contact very early on with another Russian ("Henry Greenberg") who was offering him dirt on Clinton.

Stone claims that this guy wanted $2 million, but since "Trump doesn't pay for anything" Stone just laughed the guy out of the room. Yet a short while later Stone was talking to Guccifer and Wikileaks, and Don Jr. was meeting with a Russian hacker and an oligarch's mouthpiece.

Stone is releasing this information now to piggyback on the FBI inspector general's report: Greenberg had served as an FBI informant. But Russian informants like Greenberg are frequently double agents: they report back to Moscow about what the FBI knows. And the only "proof" we have that Greenberg wanted money is Stone's word.

Stone is infamous for the dirty tricks ("ratfucking") he played while working on Dick Nixon's presidential campaign. His credibility is nil.

But the Stone story makes it clear that we know maybe 10% of what went down during the election. That 10% is the few cell phone records, emails and tweets we've seen between the Russians and the Trump campaign, and the meetings they've copped to. Their more substantive contacts, the 90% below the water line, would have left no electronic trail.

So the question is: will the Russian iceberg sink the Trump administration? And will the Republican party go down with the R.M.S. Trump?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

A Sunday Reflection

Leviticus 19:33-34 and 24:22 – When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

Numbers 9:14 and 15:15-16 – “…you shall have one statute for both the resident alien and the native.”

Deuteronomy 10:18-19 – “For the Lord your God...loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

Matthew 25:35-40 

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Thursday, June 14, 2018

North Korean Beaches

I've purposefully waited until all the dust settled from the Trump-Kim meeting in Singapore because the hype was masking reality. I also wanted to wait for our president to talk about it because his comments on matters such as this usually indicate what it was all really about. Now that sufficient time has passed, it's clear to me that it was about business development. Check out this video, specifically the two minute mark

Trump really isn't interested in countries like Canada or Germany where there isn't much growth opportunity. This is why he spent last week ripping on them. He's more interested in countries like North Korea where he sees a new Trump hotel. This is the main reason why he cozies up to dictators. Sure, he'd love it if he could be president for life but part of me thinks he just says this stuff to rile up liberals and distract them from his goal for more money. Considering he owes Russia a shit ton of cash, North Korean development could solve a lot of his problems.

I want it clear, though, that we shouldn't dismiss outright the praise he heaps on Kim in this video. The simple fact that Trump's followers are that enamored with him means we always have to be vigilant regarding a descent into the type of fascism we saw in the 1930's in Germany. 

It could happen here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The NRA-Russia Connection That Won't Go Away

The DC bureau of McClatchy has a report out that the ties between the NRA and Russia are far more numerous and deeper than originally thought.

Several prominent Russians, some in President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle or high in the Russian Orthodox Church, now have been identified as having contact with National Rifle Association officials during the 2016 U.S. election campaign, according to photographs and an NRA source.

It gets better.

It is a crime, potentially punishable with prison time, to donate or use foreign money in U.S. election campaigns.

I've been saying for quite some time that gun people are fucking traitors. It looks like Bob Mueller is building a case against them now too. Maybe my dreams of these assholes ending up in Gitmo may soon be realized.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Trade War

Friday, June 08, 2018

Putin's Puppet Speaks!

"No collusion! No collusion!" is Donald Trump's rallying cry. But you wouldn't know that from what he said this morning:
“Russia should be in this meeting,” Mr. Trump said. “Why are we having a meeting without Russia being in the meeting? And I would recommend — and it’s up to them, but Russia should be in the meeting, it should be a part of it. You know, whether you like it or not, and it may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run and the G-7 — which used to be the G-8, they threw Russia out. They should let Russia come back in because we should have Russia at the negotiating table.”
And it's even worse when you hear Trump speak the words: he sounds just as aggrieved about Russia being excluded from the G-7 as he does about  Jeff Sessions recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

In case Trump doesn't remember, the reason that Russia was kicked out of the G-8 was that they invaded Ukraine, a country that had freed itself from the Soviet Union, occupying the Crimea. After that the Russians sent mercenary troops into eastern Ukraine, occupying even more of the country.

The Russians subsequently set up anti-aircraft batteries that shot down a Malaysian Airlines jet en route from Amsterdam, killing 298 people. That's a war crime.

This is why it's impossible to believe Trump's denials about colluding with Russia during the election. He's done nothing to curb their interference with social media, nothing to protect our electoral computer systems from Russian hacking, and he's constantly lobbying for sanctions against Russia to be lifted. After he fired James Comey Trump bragged to the Russian ambassador that the pressure from the Russia investigation was over because he fired "that nut job."

Now Trump wants Russia back in the G-8 so they can dictate the economic policy of the free world!

Meanwhile, Russia continues to work against the interests of the United States, supporting dictators in Iran (helping further Iran's nuclear interests) and Syria, where the Russians have been bombing civilians non-stop.

Worse, Trump's tariffs are angering our European allies and driving them into Putin's embrace. The Europeans are fools to have anything to do with that murderous dictator.

But now that the United States is run by a moron who thinks he can shoot the FBI director and not be indicted, why the hell not?

Thursday, June 07, 2018

The Best Kind of Wall

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Hey, You're Racist!

Now that the Philadelphia Eagles, the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers have all stated that they will not come to the White House for any victory celebrations with President Trump, perhaps it's time for the president (and his supporters) to reflect upon the fact that they are fucking racist.

I realize that it is highly unlikely that they will see the errors of their ways but I have to try, right? Granted, actually listening to a liberal is an anathema to Trump and his supporters. It's just not in their nature to reflect, take advice, and change. They really, really need to, though, because they look like a bunch of fools right now and they will pay the price at the ballot box this fall.

As far as the sports teams go, they should just invite Barack Obama to their practice facility and give him a jersey. They could have a big party as well and invite the liberal media

Hee hee...

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

The President Can't Pardon Himself

Back when Dick Nixon was breaking the law and getting into all sorts of trouble, the Department of Justice issued this memo regarding whether or not the president can pardon himself. In short, he can't.

Mostly I think what's going on here is Trump is trying to muddy the waters because he knows what's coming. If I were a conservative, I'd bail out right now. You still have time to hold on to a little integrity if you do.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Dancing FBI Agent Shoots Bystander

Lest we forget why carrying a gun all the time is an idiotic idea, here's yet another demonstration of the foolishness of the concealed carry trope:

Guns should only be carried by on-duty officers of the law, or hunters in the woods. They should never be carried by people walking around the streets, and especially not by people drinking or frequenting bars.

And then there's the incident that occurred in Liege, Belgium last week: a man stabbed two armed cops, stole their guns, shot them both dead, then shot and killed a man sitting in a car, then went to a school and took a woman hostage. When other officers responded four of them were wounded before the attacker was killed.

For umpteenth time: guns are not protection. They will not stop someone from backstabbing you and stealing your gun. Stab/Kevlar vests are far better protection than guns, but as the Liege incident shows, they're not total protection.

Design changes could fix some of these problems: how on earth did this FBI agent shoot someone while picking up his weapon? What happened to the safety?

And if the cops in Belgium had better vests and guns that only authorized users could fire, perhaps the only death that day would have been the attacker.

Racism That Gets You Elected President