Monthly Archives: April 2019

It Can’t Happen Here. Until It Does.

Yesterday, I found out what it’s like to be a target of the government. As a white, straight male, I never thought that they would come for me. How does it go?

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

You can insert whoever is currently being maligned or demonized in this cussed era of open white supremacy and it will still ring true. Everyone should read that and understand that we have a duty to come to each others’ aid when the chips are down, especially given the open hostility that characterizes this administration’s attitude (and to a larger degree, the right wing in general) to so many groups of ordinary folks trying to get by who aren’t always white, straight and male (throw Christian in there if you like).

You might be wondering: what is it about me that makes me a target?

I’m a veteran.

A disabled one.

Who’da thunk it, right?

You would think that any president of the United States would reflexively support wounded warriors or any fucking warriors, but PresidentTrump clearly has no use for the troops or veterans except in the most perfunctory of ways.

And today, I don’t think I have a safe space on social media anymore because his administration wants to look at my accounts to determine whether or not I need my Social Security benefits anymore.

I have been a vocal critic of Trump on Facebook, and there’s pictures of me smiling and happy there. I know it’s hard to believe, but smiling and being happy on social media just might be one metric of how they determine whose benefits can be cut.

Both of those editorials linked above go into satisfactory detail about why this is an incredibly bad, wrongheaded and misguided way to cut fraud. We may be disabled, but that doesn’t mean we are miserable 24/7.

If this policy goes into motion, who’s to say that the Veteran’s Administration won’t use these metrics? Best practices say to assume that all agencies are politicized at this point. I’m sure Trump has seen on Fox that segment of a reserve major (and I am not denigrating his service, he did one more tour in the sandbox than I did) who worked for Bear-Stearns (and was under consideration for head of the VA) saying that those of us that cannot get a job at Bear-Stearns use too many benefits.

If any of this is successful at slashing my retirement benefits it will leave me and my family homeless and in bankruptcy should these arbitrary standards become a way to cheat the disabled from benefits they earned.

So I have decided to leave Facebook until I am assured that none of this will become policy. I don’t even know if it already has and I am not sticking around to find out. I am doing better these days, but I know bipolar disorder is waiting to attack if stress is applied. It’s never far away. I had to earn this reprieve from the disease, it took 13 years of medicinal wrong turns, hundreds of hours of therapy, and multiple trips to a locked ward to get where I am today. And I am lucky and grateful we have this safety net so for once I cannot be dogged my my illness. I have a right to be happier without Trump’s Gestapo bean counters misinterpreting that it’s a sign that I’m all better.

In the meantime, y’all let me know when I can be happy and safe again on social media. They won’t find me here in my tiny corner of the internet. No one can, come to think of it.

Dying Because Of Your Country

Veteran’s issues came into sharp focus in Austin a few days ago. We lost another soldier when he walked into a VA clinic and shot himself in front of hundreds of people.

I had no idea that this is a thing that has been happening. I mean, vets take their own life all the time, but I didn’t know they were steady offing themselves at the clinics. Here, scroll this. In fact, it happened in my back yard over the weekend.

Twice.

Now, normally when a story like this grabs the public, a good government would take notice and pledge to reduce the number of veterans killing themselves because they don’t have enough access to care. But since we don’t have one, the number of suicides at hospitals will continue unabated. The current administration is trying to monetize the VA as they do with all their Cabinet positions, handing over delicate specialty care to private practice- not to improve care, but to profit.

I have a tendency to come to the VA’s defense because I have gotten nothing but top notch care from them. I have never wanted for an appointment. When I needed psychiatric inpatient services, my wife was able to do with me what she needed to do for all of our sake. Today, thanks to all the hard work people did at the VA to get me here, I have come out the other side of a dangerous, merciless and unrelenting disease like bipolar disorder. I’m experiencing more clarity than I ever have in the past, perhaps even more than I did before the illness reared its head and ruined my career as a soldier and a productive member of society. I’ve battled for over 13 years at the least to get where I am right now and my doctors have been right by my side in the fight. So generally, when people tell me the VA sucks, I tell them to go fuck themselves.

But these horrid shootings cannot be ignored by me nor the federal government anymore. I am very fortunate that I am only a 25 minute drive to the VA. Lots of vets have to travel much longer than that, and that’s unacceptable. We are still in the middle of the longest war in American history and I don’t think we have significantly improved the infrastructure to deal with the flow of broken warriors. This map clearly shows that vets in several regions are under-served, especially in the places where soldiers generally come from to escape urban hopelessness and rural ennui. They shouldn’t have to go back to their home of record not knowing where to turn for soldier trauma, which is unique.

It’s going to take a herculean attempt to right this wrong. But this congress and this president have no stomach to meet the challenge with the unparalleled power of the federal government. Anything that costs money costs too much, unless we are shoveling out cash to corporations and banks who cannot stay afloat without a bailout. With all the ballyhoo about “taking care of the troops”, by doing nothing to meet the needs of soldiers when they come back we are currently saluting service with one hand and shooting the finger with the other.

A Few Thoughts On Kratom

I have a lollapalooza of a katzenjammer this fine Sunday morning. I am glad I am not religious, because Jesus would undoubtedly have taken a back seat to this hangover. I decided to take some kratom to dial back the symptoms and I am sure I will feel much better in a few minutes, or at least I’ll be happy enough while I suffer through this mother.

So: let’s talk a little about kratom, which is the powdered leaves of mitragyina speciosa. There are loads of misinformation out there on the nature of the drug (and yes, that’s what it is). I have been a user for probably a year or so, and I believe I have standing on kratom, pro and con.

One thing that is certain is that if you are gonna be hooked on something no matter what, you could definitely do worse than kratom. Good strains will lighten your mood, untie your tongue, and make you feel like you are on prescription cough syrups. It’s far, far cheaper than having a pill habit, and many people swear by kratom to replace an opiate addiction from fighting chronic pain. It doesn’t show up on a piss test because it’s not looking for the metabolites of mitragyna. You can get it in head shops, but there are sources for bulk buying overseas where you can get discounts for the amount you buy. You can also get premium stuff through the mail, unless you live in a handful of states or cities who have scheduled kratom as illegal.

What’s not to love about all of that?

The size of an average habit is a subject of debate, but that’s what happens when you cripple good research and have to rely on your own empirical study to get at the truth. Take this stupid page; they say a low dose is 10 grams. I can tell you with certainty that a person who does 10 grams at a time is a heavily developed, full blown user. You don’t need more than 3 grams to get off. However, remember that this is a drug, and one that you can easily develop a tolerance to if you go at it too much, and consequently you will need some more to tickle that
μ-opioid receptor.

Kratom advocates can be somewhat disingenuous about its addiction potential. I realized I was addicted about a month ago, which is my primary reason for writing this. There are many ways to ingest kratom, and I either mix it in a shake, or dump it straight down the gullet with a drink nearby that I can chug to wash it down. I had an 8-9 gram a day habit, broken up into two administrations. How did I find out I had a monkey on my back? I needed a hit before a grocery trip but the wife was in a hurry. Guess who came first? Kratom. What’s worse is that I flushed hot while I was measuring the dose on a small digital scale. I know what that means, even if I have only really been truly addicted to cigarettes. At that point, I wasn’t even enjoying myself anymore even if I bumped up a gram. I was now doing maintenance to feel normal. So I knew I was dealing with a problem that needed my attention.

I am now stepping down, slowly but surely. I have cut my use by more than half without issue, and that is another one of the good things about kratom- withdrawing slowly does not cause any discomfort. I’m going on vacation in late May, and I will not be taking kratom with me so I have a mission-to either stop completely, or cut the dose so low that I don’t need the drug as much anymore and I can go days without it. With luck, I might be able to get back to enjoying it as a pleasant occasional high.

All addicts understand the hedging I am doing about quitting.

To close, respect opioids, no matter what form they take. I still think kratom should be legal, researched and regulated and should be a part of modern American medicine to fight pain. No one’s going to do any crime to get some. It’s certainly not something that belongs anywhere near the schedule table. But if you are going to have fun with kratom, know the risks concerning addiction like you would any drug.


The Soft Report

A few posts ago, I decided that making peace with the fact that Robert Mueller could not establish a incriminating link between Russia and Donald Trump is the best thing I can do for my sanity. We lefties hitched a ride on a star, and that thing imploded on us when AG William Barr said there wasn’t anything to see. Now the question most of us asked was, how did he boil down a 400 page report in the space of two days? The answer is not complicated. The original author of the summary had to be none other than Robert Mueller. Bill Barr looked over it, perhaps boiled it down some more, and that was that. Thud.

We’ve trusted a lot of unusual entities, people and agencies over the last two years or so to give us what we wanted, which is Trump’s head on a proverbial pike. We allowed the FBI, the CIA, former prosecutors and commentators, many of which were Republicans to lead the charge against him and speculate what Orange Julius Caesar was likely guilty of. We believed somehow that these institutions would be the failsafe for a president who was in insane crook. And of course, there’s Mueller himself, who is also a Republican. And you simply cannot trust them to do the right thing, because if he wanted to do the right thing, he’d be a Democrat. I’ve never put too much stock in the “reasonable Republican” myth. At bottom, there’s probably myriad disgusting reasons you don’t want to hear as to why most Republicans remain Republicans. But anyway, we got in bed with a slew of disagreeable conservatives and didn’t give a shit who they were as long as they were ostensibly anti-Trump.

Sometimes it all feels like a giant troll, or perhaps we trolled ourselves. I don’t know. What do I know is I’m done trusting historically dirty organizations and people not ideologically like us to do the work of dislodging Trump from office. At least one of them helped him get there in the first place.

Anyway, The Clown Prince From Gotham seemed nonplussed by what the report could contain following its release. Let it fly, he said coolly on Friday. However, this week he started calumniating about the report. This tends to follow Trump’s usual pattern of saying something and then walking it back or saying the opposite thing of what he said only days ago. In fact, many of Trump’s “friends” do this too, some of who are going to enjoy prison soon for playing fast with the truth. But I’m not going to read much into it, having done so far too many times in my writing about this mess of a presidency when a desperate tweetstorm dropped. I’m not going to engage in that type of wishful thinking anymore, if I can help it. Again, I get the feeling that we are being fed a story, either by a rather crafty liar, a raving lunatic, or both.

All of this notwithstanding, I’d like the report to be pored over by oversight, and that’s what Jerry Nadler (D-NY) is going to aim for. This administration has been far too secretive, from Trump’s taxes and his meetings with the Russians. Besides, we paid a couple dozen million dollars for it, so why shouldn’t we get our money’s worth? For those of us who still need to hold on hope that this racketeer president will get what he richly deserves it should be mentioned that the grand jury that Mueller created is still at work, and there are several other suits and charges against god knows who in the Trump orbit, to include His Highness of The Fat Ass.

My advice: temper your hopes. Consider your sources. Don’t get too excited, because the system is coming to pieces while Trump and his gremlins are gleefully taking a hammer to everything that might have been good or at least OK in this country. I’ll go out on a limb and say we’ll be rid of him in 2020 even if a bowl of spoiled chicken salad runs as a Democrat. So hang in there, comrades.

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