Emphysema (2017May08)


Monday, May 08, 2017                                            12:32 PM

Emphysema III   (2017May08)

Improv – Deuce


Improv – Trey


Improv – Quatro


Improv – Embracing the New


Improv – Having Fun


Improv – Persistence

Forgive the cliché, but it is the best of times, it is the worst of times. At long last, everyone who wanted me to quit smoking (including myself) is getting their wish—on the other hand, I’m quitting smoking—or, at least, I’m striving to do so—and there is some discomfort involved.

I started with patches and single-digits of cigarettes per day, then I stopped patches and went back up to double-digits for a day—but now I’ve been back in single-digits, and without any nicotine patches, for a couple of days. Learning to use my Advair corticosteroid inhaler twice-a-day has added a wrinkle—lately I’ve been waking up with huge pupils and no irises. It goes away after an hour or so—but apparently I’m tripping in my sleep.

I don’t know if that’s nicotine withdrawal or cortisone side-effects, which I could say about my mood-swings, tremors, and more-frequent spasms as well—and, in a way, not being sure helps with avoiding the cigarettes—I thrive on chaos, and at the moment, it’s non-stop.

Reaching zero total cigarettes is not the challenge for me (well, not the biggest one). Once I full-stop on the cigarettes, I will experience a healthy, calm stillness—I won’t be reaching for things, I won’t be drugged (except for caffeine), my mind will be relatively clear and my ears won’t be ringing.

That will be torture—that yawning void will be begging me to put the cigarettes back into the mix—you know, for fun—and nothing will distract me from that nagging voice—that’s going to be the real challenge. Stillness bugs me—clarity seems like a waste, a self-imposed chore.

That behavior used to have a function—my old mind was always threatening to over-rev itself, always in danger of over-heating—it needed an extra-viscous lubricant to reduce the friction. Nowadays, I’ve merely become used to that approach—my mind has little risk of overexerting itself nowadays, but it still enjoys a bit of viscosity to the thought-process—it’s what I’ve become comfortable with.

But, good-bye, comfort! It’s cigarette-quitting time. And please—don’t mention it. Talking about cigarettes is the worst thing I can do—and I certainly don’t need anyone else bringing it up.

The doctor switched me to a new anti-depressant—it’s hard to say, with all the rest of the chemicals, but I’m pretty sure it’s an improvement. And I’ve stopped taking vitamins every day—I’ve switched to a multi-vitamin every other day, and a B-complex every four days. Apparently that’s more than enough—every day is overkill, or so I’m told—and it makes less work for my stomach.

I could go on, but you get the picture—I’m going squirrelly, trying to become healthy—and I’m so unstable that the whole thing could crash and burn any minute—my kingdom for some will-power!

Tuesday, May 02, 2017                                            11:13 AM

Emphysema II   (2017May02)

Back to the doctor’s office we go—to get the skinny on my breathing and how to use an inhaler. Apparently, I have 75% use of the lungs of a 91-year-old.

Thursday, May 04, 2017                                          2:45 PM

Advair is the brand name for my new cortico-steroid inhaler—it’s a pain in the ass to use and very weird. Sometimes, being sick makes you a helpless, involuntary drug-tester for future users of new drugs.

Inhaling steroid dust is nothing, though, compared to trying to quit smoking. I’ve been messing around with a mixture of nicotine patches and will-power—it’s heavy sledding. I wasn’t sure I had it in me. However, Bear has obtained Chantix for me—it’s a quit-smoking drug with side-affects like you wouldn’t believe. I think I might have just enough will-power to quit smoking, if it means I don’t have to take that shit—I don’t want to give up tobacco for my health and, in the process, go mad or bleed internally or whatever Chantix might do to me.

I’m sure not-smoking is a wonderful thing—but it will never be anywhere near as nice as smoking. How come every time I have to do something for my health, it means making life less enjoyable? The biggest problem with quitting is that I spend all day not-doing-something—which is weird and unenjoyable—and I’d much rather be so involved in doing something that I didn’t think about what I was missing. I need a hobby, I guess.

Thursday, April 27, 2017                                        12:22 PM

Emphysema   (2017Apr27)

Emphysema is fun—a true smoker’s disease, unlike lung cancer or heart disease, which any old Tom, Dick, or Harry can fall prey to, emphysema is virtually unheard of except in the case of long-term smokers. The little bubbles at the end of the bronchioles, the alveoli, become enflamed—or even necrotic—thus disabling their function (to be the exchange-point for oxygen). The lungs can pump away like a bellows—but the oxygen being breathed in does not make it into the bloodstream.

Without that fuel, the body works much harder—shortness of breath, fatigue, and weight loss are common symptoms of emphysema. Most people notice shortness-of-breath right away, but those who lead a sedentary lifestyle may not notice this—or connect it to something other than lack of exercise. Idiots like that may wait until their lungs actually hurt before they get a chest x-ray.

I got a chest x-ray yesterday. Fun’s over. I now have to quit smoking. I already had to quit drinking—this is the last straw. I’ve run out of vices. How does one live a life without vices?

But never mind that. How do I quit smoking? I’m four hours into this brave new world and I’m clenching my jaw and feeling dizzy—that’s with a nic-patch, mind you—so it’s all in my head. We fear change—and this is a perfect example of why.

Since I was eighteen—so that’s about forty-three years, about 16,000 days, at two packs a day—that’s over 600,000 cigarettes, give or take. Honestly, I may have spent more time smoking a cigarette than I’ve spent on anything else. Also, I kind of liked smoking—as an activity—it was relaxing and enjoyable.

But now I have to confront tobacco as an addiction—I’m not ignoring nagging doomsayers anymore, I’m ignoring my own health by any future smoking. As with my old liver problems, the lungs don’t self-repair—emphysema is forever—and while nothing can reverse the damage, each cigarette can worsen it. Good times—as usual. Well, Claire is happy, at least, at last—without ever truly nagging me about cigarettes, she has hoped I’d quit for a long time.

Double Standard Much? (2017May08)


Monday, May 08, 2017                                            6:48 PM

This afternoon, Sally Q. Yates, the former acting attorney general, and James R. Clapper Jr., former director of national intelligence, testified before a Senate subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism – Russian interference in the 2016 United States Election. I enjoy these hearings when, as a by-blow, they point up our new president’s habit of discrediting all authority: Courts, House, Senate, scientists, journalists, or recognized authorities of any kind—leaving us to wonder what his ‘special sources’ are, that so compellingly contradict all known information from every normal source?

I also enjoy watching professional, ethical people being questioned by pols—as both sides of the committee try to ‘message’ with pointed, weighted questions—questions that tell a goddam story before they end as questions. It’s fun because good folks like Ms. Yates simply answer yes, or no, or they give a specific date or number or name—and the occasional ‘I don’t know’. When she is invited to give her opinion, she demurs.

At one point I was distinctly annoyed by one GOP Senator making a point of Ms. Yates having ‘determined for herself’ that Trump’s original Muslim ban was unconstitutional—he even asked very snidely when she had been appointed to the Supreme Court. However, Senator Franken promptly re-directed, allowing Yates to point out that “any first-year law student could determine that a Muslim ban is unconstitutional”.


That first senator’s smug assertion that the former AG had a lotta nerve, thinking for herself, is a compounding of the annoyance that the Senator himself did not see the point as glaringly obvious—which seems ignorant. Perhaps I’m being too harsh—or listening too closely—the Republicans hate it when anyone else tries to split hairs or stickle over details.

One detail from today’s spectacle stands out—the several weeks between Trump being apprised that his NSA pick was disqualified as a security risk—and Flynn’s eventual firing ‘for lying to the Veep’. If I remember the Benghazi hearings correctly, Secretary Clinton was often questioned about how many days it took her to act on intelligence—at some points she was asked about hours and minutes—at no point was she ever asked why she lolled about for weeks before doing her job. I’m just saying—double standard much? Flynn attended weeks of high-level security briefings, after he was revealed as compromised by the Russians—were they feeding him disinformation to pass on to Putin? Or we’re they just flailing around like incompetents? Hmmm.


But my favorite scandal this week is that Stephen Colbert said Trump was “Putin’s c**k-holster” during his recent monologue and suddenly, he’s a walking hate-crime who should be drummed out of the media. First of all (and it seems this never gets through from the last big huff) it was a joke. Secondly, Colbert has done a pretty good job of scaling back the scathingly raw humor that made him such a hit on cable TV, first on John Stewart’s Daily Show, and even more popular as host of his own satiric talk-show, Colbert Report.

Trying to domesticate Colbert to the ‘family-standards’ of CBS would be hard enough—without this maddeningly stupid president providing a daily dissolving of all that made us civil in years past. To jump all over him because he got a little racy on late-night—please. Talk about McCarthyist tactics—they’re actually calling for hearings—on that one joke! I think it might have been a funnier joke, but it certainly isn’t a crime to let one’s frustration with corrupt politics creep into your nightly monologue about same. Long live Colbert—and comedy—and freedom of speech.

Operation Iraqi Stephen

Stephen Colbert greets troops and civilians at Al Faw Palace at Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq, June 5, as part of his “Operation Iraqi Stephen: Going Commando” tour.


Friday, May 05, 2017                                               1:24 PM

Saying Goodbye to Health Insurance   (2017May05)


I’m not interested anymore. The politicians can’t be a source of constant controversy—having proven their disability to govern properly, their unashamed bias towards the moneyed interests—these folks can’t be reported on as if they were inherently interesting.

The tragedy of their being elected to public service is old news—all we get now, daily, is a progress report on the rot that accompanies corrupt governance. Meanwhile, stories that lay low for a while simply disappear—it doesn’t matter how big the stories seem—if there’s no movement on a story, it disappears. In a way, it’s evidence that the news-media isn’t practicing real journalism.

It’s all very exciting and entertaining—sure—in its own small-minded way—the hustle-bustle of tweets and rants and bombs and back-walking and self-contradiction—whoopee! But no one talks about the new paradigm: voters can be misled to the point of voting against their own best interests—so, how badly can the GOP overtax them, and screw them over, before the con stops working? And will it ever stop working? Is it an iron-clad mind-fuck—or can people awaken from it? These are the real issues of today—and inquiring minds want to know.

A blow-by-blow of what these public servants (that lied their way into office) are destroying, daily, isn’t so much news, as a death knell.

Think about it—this new healthcare legislation is supposed to scrape 24,000,000 people off the health insurance rosters—and put the onus of paying for serious illness only on those who are seriously ill. And the question isn’t whether people want that—the only question is whether people can be convinced by this, that Obamacare was worse.

Now, the people have been told to hate Obamacare—but they have also gotten used to having health insurance. When it disappears, will they blame the Republicans? Will people have the presence of mind to see they’ve been betrayed? And, with supposedly the free-est press on earth, how did they get conned in the first place?

The truth is that hate and fear have won this round—simple as that—the forces of good got their asses kicked and we have to wait ‘til next time. I can’t help wondering how the bad guys got so much better at getting elected—that’s just not right, is it?

Now, don’t listen to me—I’m an old man, and sick to boot. I can’t get out there and run for office or help someone campaign or protest or any of that good stuff. Maybe you can. Odds are you’re younger and healthier (my sympathies, if you’re not). Maybe you can make a difference—people can, you know. They do it all the time. I used to, in my small way—it felt good. All that is necessary for evil to thrive is for good people to do nothing. Be good.

Fancy Words   (2017May01)

Monday, May 01, 2017                                            2:35 PM

If you had never heard of, and then got health-care eight years ago—and it then paid for some health problem in your family—you are not a Republican. If your parents are on Social Security—you are not a Republican. If you are on Medicare and Disability (like me) —you are not a Trump supporter. If you employ non-English-speaking help—you are not a Republican. If you think people are more than employees—you are not a Republican.

If someone just explained to you that the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare are the same thing—that one is its correct name and the other is its nickname—then you are not a Republican, or a Trump supporter. You may say, “O, yes I am—don’t tell me I’m not.” Let me explain—you may root for that team—that may be your favorite brand—but you don’t support their policies.

No one supports them—no one supports playing nuclear ‘chicken’ with Kim Jong Un—no one supports trashing the environment—no one supports naked bigotry and elitism. They run a great ‘show’—they tap-dance like a mothafukka and they all have a B.S. in BS—but there’s nothing there, behind the scenes, except maybe cynical gloating and paranoia.

There is a struggle going on—in simplest terms I’d call it good vs. evil—but that is too simple—and oversimplification is one of the tools of the forces of evil. By calling one side ‘evil’, we reveal a lack of nuance—better to present a situation, an illustration—and allow others to come up with their own judgements.

For every example I can think of, I usually can describe its good side—and then go on to describe its evil. Even then, while I’m thinking it is good to be open the interwoven nature of good and evil—to see the nuanced, detailed panorama of a certain choice or issue—I’m also thinking that firehose of perspectives can be just as useful in confabulated obfuscation.

It is sad that the grand elegance of the human mind’s mathematical discoveries (or is it ‘inventions’?) is the same mental skill used in contrivance and fraud. Some industries combine the two—marketing, for instance, is the deep-drilling, sociological science of separating people from their money. Likewise, banking and finance—industries that have decided to specialize in business banking—and leave the personal business to the worst of their ilk.

If I sound bitter or critical, it’s not my fault—to be honest about business and politics and such, without sounding so, isn’t possible. It’s pretty common, too—I hear others talk this way all the time—regular-type folks—and the only ones I ever hear push back are hired guns—PR hacks, campaigners, spokespersons (O—and the occasional homunculus sitting outside her trailer).


Adult Freedom   (2017Apr30)


Sunday, April 30, 2017                                                      12:53 PM

Some of us see being adult as taking responsibility for being a part of a family, of a community. But there’s an aspect of adulthood that is simply the freedom to tell parents (or teachers, or anyone else) to go to hell— freedom to do whatever, and not care what other people think. So being a grown-up is a mix of being let off the leash, and learning to guide yourself.

Currently, many adults show signs of emphasizing their freedom, without any commensurate responsibility. They insist on freedom from facts—if those facts run counter to their preferences—raising the question—where is the line between freedom and irresponsibility? Even our own president shows irresponsibility in his words and his behavior. To hear him blather, one might suppose that some Americans are more free and equal than others—i.e., that freedom includes the right to impinge on another’s freedom.

I marvel at the continuing election of Republicans—they stand for things the majority of citizens oppose—and oppose many of the things that truly matter to the majority of citizens—or, just as often, pretend to ignore things that most of us consider important. Their supporters tend to insist that, since society has always had a pecking order, society is supposed to have a pecking order—as nature intended.

Many people cannot conceive of anything more nuanced—and who can blame them? Everybody has people they must answer to, and people that answer to them—an almost military-style tree of authority overlays every aspect of our communities.

The strength of this pecking order was once inviolate—rejection by a community, in pre-industrial days, was next to a death sentence. In the modern era, the chokehold is capital—cold, hard cash—communities can no longer demand total conformity, but now workplaces can. Your employers can drug-test, credit-check—even restrict bathroom breaks—American freedom ends abruptly at the entrance to your workplaces.

I believe this lust for authority has become the true motivation behind Capitalism. Competition no longer makes sense—humanity’s total production could easily support every single human in comfort far above what we see around today’s chaotic globe. Automation and digital tech are erasing jobs with increasing acceleration. If we extrapolate capitalism out to the next few decades, it results in maybe a thousand really wealthy people, 50,000 people with service jobs, maybe another 50,000 maintaining the tech, and I guess the other (by then) 9,000,000,000 of us are supposed to just curl up and die? If I have that wrong, please explain how it can go any other way.

Now the joke here, to me, is that people counter calls for socialist-leaning policies as ‘attacks on our freedoms’—ha! There has to be more precision in our discourse. Our ‘freedoms’ as individuals remain untouched by regulations on business—unless we’re talking about employee rights—which we never are. It is our ‘freedoms’ as business-owners that are under attack by socialist programs. (According to the ‘American Dream’, anybody could end up being a business-owner, so it really applies to all of us, right? O—wake the hell up. And besides—it’s ludicrous—if everybody had a business, who would they hire?)

It’s as if America were Amway, writ large—lots of promises, lots of ‘opportunity’—but no guarantees, no protections. This is a great thing for an employer—but makes a cold, cruel situation for employees. Consider the years we’re expected to spend on schooling and experience before we can be considered for a good job. Now consider how quickly a person’s life disintegrates when they’re let go—money for food runs out within a week, within a month or so, the home is lost (and most possessions, since you can only own what you can carry with you).

There is no justice in American Capitalism—the opportunities it once boasted have shriveled down to match the odds of a lottery win—the lack of regulation wasn’t enough to satisfy business-owners and has become a surplus of business-centric legislation, a dam against any employee push-back—assuming an individual could afford to sue a company in the first place. The stuffed suits that rail for their ‘freedoms’ are concerned that justice might turn off their taps. The manifestation of their destinies depends solely on neglecting the destinies of the rest of us—their freedom is the freedom to take advantage of us, to curtail our freedoms whenever it conflicts with their profits.

The digital age offers a profound enhancement to the lives of the well-off—but it has zero impact on the poor. The income-inequality divide is partly due to this bisecting of society into digital haves and have-nots—like college degrees on steroids, digital technology makes it easier for owners to take advantage of employees and consumers—and harder for the poor to keep up.

Plus, after more than two centuries of ingrown affluence, our government rarely stops meeting with lobbyists long enough to glance at the needs of the people—so any adjustment of this unfairness is, ultimately, in the hands of those few who benefit from it—while the rest of us watch jobs continue to evaporate. It’s a recipe for disaster.


Harder and More Complicated (2017Apr28)

Friday, April 28, 2017                                              4:34 PM

Trump recently commented that the presidency is more complicated than he thought. Just yesterday, he commented that the presidency is much harder than he anticipated. I heartily agree—having an incompetent president is much harder and more complicated than having a fit candidate in that office.

Just imagine a prepared, informed, sane president—aaah, how easy that would make everything (comparatively speaking—and for us, not the officeholder—but all fit candidates who run for president expect their hair to turn gray, or white—they wouldn’t be surprised by the nature of the office they spent a year campaigning for). Trump, in attracting his base, displayed a total lack of respect for the demands of being president—because he, and they, were constitutionally unable to respect President Obama.


(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Which brings us to Trump’s favorite burn—pretending that his job is harder because Obama didn’t do it properly. Trump’s trademark is self-contradiction—so now, having pooh-poohed Obama—and by extension, the job of head of state, he turns around and says he’s shocked that being president doesn’t leave him enough leisure time.

But, basically, what disgusts me beyond bearing is his constant surprise—yes, Donald, as an ignorant, empty-headed ass-hat, all new information will no doubt surprise you. But you seem to think we, too, are being surprised—no, no, Little-Fingers—we were surprised by your Electoral College win. We were surprised that so much ignorance lay beneath the surface of the electorate, especially the rural areas. We were shocked by that revelation—but, that you are clueless is no surprise at all—doing the job well, now—that would have shocked the hell out of us.

We were not surprised that healthcare is complex, that foreign affairs are complex, that taxes and trade are complex—we knew. And we knew you were clueless by the way you dismissed these issues during the campaign (as if past presidents had neglected to use the UPS tracking number to locate these answers)—your total ignorance and zero experience is what made your election such a shocking surprise—they were clearly on display throughout your campaign.

Trump, you discover something new about our country every day—with the wonder of a newborn child, you gaze at the enormous task before you and notice some new, little detail every day—surprise. But the rest of us read newspapers, stayed informed, followed current events—as part of a lifestyle. Believe it or not, some of us perceive our vote as both a right and a responsibility—which means it behooves us to know what we’re voting about. That is why it is true—anyone who didn’t vote for you could probably do your job better—just because things like the Syrian civil war (or the First Amendment) are not surprises to these people.

You were a traitor the second you took the oath of inauguration—because you swore to protect and preserve the Constitution—and you lacked the sincerity of someone who knew what it says in that document. You would have been more honest if you had said, ‘yeah, sure’, like people do when they just want to avoid a subject they don’t really understand.

Speaking for the rest of the planet, let me assure you—if you feel this job is too much of a strain, please feel free to resign. We’ll manage, I promise.

Beltway-Collar Crime   (2017Apr25)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017                                          12:50 PM

I dunno.


and then there’s this one, too:


Excerpt: “Two House Republicans joined more than 160 Democrats on Friday in calling on President Trump to release his taxes.

Reps. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., and Walter Jones, R-N.C., signed a letter to Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, and Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, calling on them to ask Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to compel Trump to release his taxes for the past decade to those committees for review.

The letter is the latest move by Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., in trying to finally pry Trump’s taxes loose.

“Disclosure would serve the public interest of clarifying President Trump’s conflicts of interest in office, the potential for him to personally benefit from tax reform, and ensure that he is not receiving any preferential treatment from the IRS,” the letter leads.

“The Founding Fathers were so determined to prevent corruption among public officeholders that they wrote into our Constitution the foreign emoluments clause,” it continues. “Yet President Trump has chosen to keep an ownership stake in his businesses, in which we know that state-owned enterprises in China and the United Arab Emirates are involved. We know that his business ties stretch to India, Turkey, the Philippines and beyond. None of these potential conflicts and violations of the emoluments clause can be verified until and unless we have disclosure from President Trump.

This all seemed pretty clear to me, back in January. Two GOP Representatives, now breaking ranks with their party, to address an obvious potential fraud—is proof to me (finally) that one does not have to take an ‘asshole’s oath’ to be accepted as a Republican. That there are only two—and here it is already April—puts a pretty hypocritical face on the rest of the party. We aren’t talking politics here—we’re talking complicity and collusion in a criminal conspiracy.

That the papers and the TV (and the people) talk about it endlessly, while our government pretends to oblivion to this ongoing conspiracy, is a crystal clear ‘FU’ to the American people. The rules only apply when you’re not in power, I guess—all evidence from the beltway certainly points that way. Hey—we may have been stupid enough to elect this guy—but there’s a limit, ya know? Are we supposed to put up with this Trumpster-fire for a whole year, two years? I don’t think so.

Fooling us into allowing you into the White House was easy. But now that you’re there, you have to obey the law to stay there—and Congress is supposed to impeach you when you flout the law, whether they want to or not. Odds are, Trump, you’re breaking several laws, right this minute—how long do you think the GOP is going to stonewall for you? I get that you love walls, but perhaps you don’t realize that you campaigned to put yourself in the brightest spotlight there is—and the truth is coming for you. The real question is whether the entire Republican party will be justifiably dragged down with you.

Let Momma Through (2017Apr22)

Saturday, April 22, 2017                                          11:02 AM

Improv – For One and All

I guess it’s time we went full matriarchal up in this bitch—recent indications provide mounting evidence that women are better able to deal with modern life. In a global, hi-tech environment, cooperation works better than competition—giving the feminine mindset the advantage over the male. In the old world, a bellicose nature helped to grab up land and resources—now that all the land and resources have been grabbed (‘post-frontier’, if you will) civilization benefits more from teamwork than from pioneering.


While our premiere female politician, Elizabeth Warren, rails against income inequality and corruption, our premiere male politician, Trump, neglects his leadership role and uses his high office to stuff his own pockets. Women are more inclined to nurture the group—where men are inclined to compete for the alpha position. And fighting to be king of the hill, in a hill of seven billion, is more disruptive than empowering.


Seven billion means cooperate or die—and men just don’t get that—even now, they’re busily destroying the environment for a quick buck—deadbeat dads to the world. ‘Have your fun and don’t look back’ is bad enough when a child is involved—when it’s the atmosphere, or potable water, that’s species suicide. Women, for whatever reason, seem less inclined to ignore their children’s future—or their present welfare, for that matter—or their education… Would it be sexist of me to suggest that women are more concerned with children than men are?


As capitalism leads us all over a cliff, I’m thinking women are more likely to be able to let go of its siren song—to see past the status quo to the requirements of sheer survival. If that is true, it is only because women are the ultimate minority—they have always gotten the short end of the capitalist stick, so they are well aware of its shortcomings. Their lack of fealty to America’s traditional upper-hand, capitalism, is the one spark of hope in an ever-more-hacked democracy.


Not that there aren’t bad women—or good men—that’s not what I’m saying—I’m talking about our approach—the things we choose as goals as part of our nature, as much as our judgement. Do we look for advantage or compromise? Do we look for primacy or partnership—command or community? Fragile egos tend to go for all the former—and who has the most fragile egos, men or women?