Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category.

Prostate Cancer Update

I write this on the odd chance someone is searching the net looking for answers. Anecdotes are not answers, but they can help those who are facing advanced stage prostate cancer. First, as far as curing the disease, probably not in our life time. I have a Gleason score of 9 meaning bad and aggressive. But the good news was that while it had metastasized (the reason it cannot be cured), it was still fairly localized in my adrenal glands.

Most of us that have cancer that has metastasized and cannot be cured, regardless of type, go to some kind of delaying action therapy. In my case that is what is called ADT (“Androgen Deprivation Therapy, also called androgen suppression therapy, is an antihormone therapy whose main use is in treating prostate cancer. Prostate cancer cells usually require androgen hormones, such as testosterone, to grow.“). Now there are several sites in the body for the production of testosterone, so after you have lost your libido going after your gonads, they can use a different drug in conjunction with the first to stifle testosterone production in the adrenal glands. I have moved on to my last known treatment, Lupron and Zytiga. Right now when they fail it is chemo and radiation to add a month or two and then it is tits up time. I hate to be so direct, but that is the reality.

So far my current drug regime is working not just well, but great. I feel pretty much normal, (except that at 72 you can’t do stuff you did when you were 30), but here is the anecdotal thing you might want to think about. First understand that sooner or later the cancer cells will win. How long is unknown, but an additional five years when you are 72 is quite a gift. But what I have found with my meds was that I tended to bloat (the Zytiga ended that), and everything you eat goes on as belly fat (nothing changes that). I refused to spend whatever time I have left on this planet as a pregnant Guppy so I started to look around for a good diet (there aren’t any by definition). After a trip to Hawaii where my son Andy got me out and walking everywhere, I started to realize I could get back into really good shape, the bad times were behind at least for now if I was willing to get serious.

So on the flight home I watched a video about fasting and I was hooked. There is no simpler diet than just don’t eat. Second there were all kinds of residual benefits including cell regeneration and anti-aging effects. There is little or nothing in research that says it helps with cancer although there is some that says it helps protect you against cancer by your body going into a protect and repair state when you are fasting which may repair and replace cells that might become cancerous. There is anecdotal evidence that it greatly reduces the side effects of chemo and radiation therapy. So my thinking is what can it hurt? If nothing else, I get my fine tuned sexy muscled body back (a man can dream, oh, and on the sexy part, I know women are interesting, I just can’t remember why). My oncologist was fine with it and even encouraged me.

Now I will give you some resources here. The first is the original video I watched which I got from Amazon, The Science of Fasting. That got me really interested. Then I read The Fast Diet which gives you some of the science to date, and easy fasting options to get you started. But the guy I found most interesting was Dr. Jason Fung who uses fasting to treat patients with metabolic diseases (like diabetes), but really knew the science (not a lot of research because who invests in research on taping your mouth shut? Where is the money in that?). He has a great video out there on YouTube, and his book, The Complete Guide to Fasting which tells you just about everything there is known to date.

Dr. Fung argues that weight gain is not simply calories in, calories out, but hormonal. That if we reduce the production of insulin in our bodies, we don’t store fat. He points out that in a fasting state, our metabolism does not slow down like in calorie restricted diets, and human growth hormone is actually increased. The body, while losing fat, does a great deal of regeneration in a fasting state, hence some anti-aging benefits. Note also that if you fast long enough to get into ketosis (your liver is turning fat into ketones which your brain uses for food instead of glucose in the blood or glycogen stored in the liver from carbohydrates), you may have both feelings of well-being and improved mental processing.

I will leave the rest to you to read/watch, but why not? Could it be that cancer is hormonal also and maybe fasting could slow down the cancer? I don’t know, but I feel great. My regime is three consecutive days a week, the first 2 water only and on the third day, less than 500 calories (studies have shown for men, not exceeding 600 calories keeps you in a fasting state), usually mostly protein. I have done one five-day water only fast to push my body into cell regeneration/ketosis. I plan to do that every six months and probably push to 7-days water only. I have lost 26 pounds since Christmas, am weight lifting and doing yoga (my body is as flexible as a brick) and interval training on my spinner bike, alternate days, 7 days a week. Yes, toward the end of a longer fast you lose stamina, but you get it back quick.

Summary: Who knows. Maybe it is a placebo effect. Tomorrow it could end. But losing weight and being in shape sure can’t hurt my cancer fight, and feeling good about myself certainly helps. Right now my blood chemistry is all normal with PSA<0.1. Might as well spend whatever time we have on this planet in the best shape we can be in to enjoy every moment. What else have we got for sure except today? Oh, and one last thing. You can splurge once in a while and just eat/drink what you want and enjoy the moment. There will be at least three days where you won’t eat anything. Carpe diem.

Baseball Calms my Soul and Makes Me Smile

Yes, I know. Many of you think it is too slow. Next time you get a chance go to a batting cage and if they will let you, turn up the machine to be throwing 100 mph fast balls. Still too slow? Once you understand how hard it is to hit a round ball with a round bat, the rest of the game starts to come into focus. What’s the pitch count? What’s he likely to throw? Based upon the pitch, where is the ball likely to go? What is going on on-base? Actually there is so much going on that it boggles the mind.

Last night I was in nirvana. The Dodgers were at the Giants and the Padres were playing Houston, both at the same time, both going into extra innings, both with amazing pitching and plays. I could not switch back and forth fast enough to get every pitch. Padres lost theirs in the 11th on a walk off infield pop up nobody caught. After all that, one little mistake…Giants won theirs in the fourteen with another walk off home run after one of the best at bats I have ever seen, fowling off pitch after pitch. I was exhausted. I like all those teams so there is joy and sadness when it is over.

Baseball is our spring, summer and fall game. It is not about busting heads, but great plays, great pitching, and great hitting. It is so summer to sit in the warm sun with a cold beer and no matter what is swirling around you, how screwed up the world is, here at the Park it is just great fun where the rules are respected, and so are the players. There is a civility about baseball that we seem to have lost in public affairs. Generally speaking we can go to the game with our friends who root for the other team and it is great fun for all of us. It is a game, not the end of the world.

The civility goes so much deeper than most understand. The players have for the most part climbed an arduous road to get to where they are. And they have to work hard to stay there, always learning. There is a great respect for each other. There are smiles and laughs between the players. There is the joy of young athleticism And then there are the unwritten rules. They are about respecting the game and respecting your opponent. If you are down by 7, it is the ninth inning, you don’t bunt into the shift. Doug Glanville wrote a great piece about them the other day.

The point is that it maintains our civility and perspective. It is an object lesson for what we have lost in politics today thanks to President DFF and his Republican friends whose new way of doing things breaks all the rules. Baseball reminds me of what we have lost, and that we can get it back. Watch these highly competitive young men play the game, and yet respect their opponents and honor the game, and it will make you feel good about yourself. It will make you feel good about the human race that could invent such a game and play it with such integrity.

Yes I love baseball and it is the end of my winter of discontent when spring arrives and they throw out that first ball. As I watch the boys of summer, I remember that the human race really isn’t so bad, maybe for a little while. Sit in the sun, get a dog and a beer, smell the grass, smile at your neighbor, sit back and just experience it. Yes, I love baseball.

Idle Thoughts of a Closed Mind

The TV show Roseanne has been revived. I did not watch the premier, but I read it had a large audience. I was never a big fan. Oh there was an episode here or there that were great like the one she did on PMS that still makes me smile. Some of her humor was cutting to the quick of an issue without all the politically correct baggage. But generally I found their fictional family depicted life fairly crassly. I don’t know, but I always felt there was a level of pandering to ignorance. But that was just me and in all fairness the show took on a lot of issues.

So why did I not at least give the reboot a chance as apparently 18 million viewers did? Well in some sense a closed mind. Eventually I will probably take a peek, but what I can’t get by is maybe the real life dilemma of families split around President DFF. Maybe in a show about a middle American family this division can be explored. Maybe this is an attempt to try to find the bridge to understanding and see President DFF supporters and their real concerns. Maybe it will even work.

But I simply can’t buy it. You know how when you are watching some show and it takes a plot twist that you know would never happen and they kind of lose you? Well that is how I feel about President DFF supporters. It is unbelievable to me anyone could be that stupid. The man is despicable and a lying racist. Not to mention ignorant, spouting things that are so easy to disprove, and yet we have about 30-40% of the nation thinking he is just fine. The man is a walking time bomb for destroying our country and to normalize either him or his supporters as just misunderstood does our intellect and rational debate a great disservice.

So maybe the show will help people cross the divide, but I can’t. To support such a man tells me too much about your own character and ignorance. It is not about respecting someone else’s opinion. We can argue about what is the best way to handle global warming or an approach to poverty, but we can’t claim it doesn’t exist or that it is the fault of laziness. When the facts shine sunshine on a way forward and we deny that reality, we are no longer America. It is not about open debate and respect of your opponents differing opinion. It is about challenging an alternate reality that could destroy who we are as a people and everything we used to stand for.

I am afraid shows like Roseanne that hope to cross that cultural divide and open up people’s minds to their own ignorance and prejudices simply normalizes the rejection of reality and rational thought that should have made a President DFF impossible. We are possibly facing the greatest challenge America has ever faced as we have one political party that is nothing more than a giant con (Paul Krugman), and a President who is a walking bomb to destroy what made America great, diversity, equal opportunity, and a system that leveled the playing field. For me there is nothing funny about those who don’t see that. For me, quite frankly it is a war. If we lose it, we lose the country. And in the last election they won. It is not time to start normalizing his supporters. Just the thoughts of what is admittedly a closed mind or maybe one who sees clearly that we too are facing our “darkest hour”.

Note:  For new readers, DFF is Dumb Fat F*ck

Another “Things” Morning

You know how you are on a list that sends you emails of breaking news? Well I am on a lot of them. But here are the the ones I think we should think about instead of Stormy Danielles (who did not know President DFF was a pig?). The first came from a headline from my local paper, The Sacramento Bee, about the shooting of an unarmed black man (Stephon Clark) by police which I blogged about the other day. Here is the headline:

“Black Leaders Demand Criminal Chargers Against Police Officers Who Shot Stephon Clark”

Now I read this and thought, understandable, but counterproductive. In a way almost total pandering bound to go nowhere. The law on this is fairly clear, although wrong-headed. In case-law there are two parts to this, did the police officers fear for their lives and was it reasonable. The cases piling up where outrageous police shootings are acquitted is telling us that it is almost impossible to judge this and benefit of the doubt always goes to the police officers. In other words, charges will not be brought. It is grandstanding by black leaders instead of focusing on the real problem, the law itself and better police training. Maybe this is a several step process, but I can’t help feel that somehow this demand is pandering to the family and black community instead of taking on the real problem.

UPDATE: Erika D, Smith from the Sacramento Bee gave us this today:

What happened to Clark most certainly should be a crime, but it’s probably not one. Not under the straitjacket of two U.S. Supreme Court rulings that make it all but impossible to charge and convict officers for shooting suspects in the line of duty.

Tennessee v. Garner allows that it’s OK to shoot a fleeing suspect when “the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a threat of serious physical harm, either to the officer or to others.” And Graham v. Connor states that “the reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.”

These rulings are, in part, why this week Louisiana’s attorney general declined to charge two white officers for shooting Alton Sterling outside a convenience store in 2016 — and why so many other officers in so many other cases haven’t been charged or convicted either.

Complicating matters is California’s own use-of-force statute, which states any “officer who has reasonable cause to believe that the person to be arrested has committed a public offense may use reasonable force to effect an arrest, to prevent escape or to overcome resistance.”

,,,Instead of giving people in Sacramento false hope and raising expectations for Schubert to file charges that likely will never come, why don’t we talk about how to change state law so it’s easier to hold officers accountable for their actions? Because it’s possible.

…None of this will bring Stephon Clark back. And perhaps none of it will ease the pain felt by his brother, Stevante. But protests alone aren’t the answer either. It’s time to channel all that anger.

Next up is this one:

“After Stormy Daniels, Republicans Face a Referendum on Trump’s Conduct”

This one actually makes me laugh. Republicans do not face a referendum on Trump’s conduct, but their own conduct in response to his. Because they won’t act, President DFF will face a referendum in 2020 unless Mr. Mueller drops a bomb, which the Republicans are doing everything they can to defuse it. That defusing along with policies like tax cuts for the wealthy, tariffs, and wild spending without raising taxes is what is going to cause a referendum on Republicans. Conservative ideas don’t really play anymore and when the average American who does not watch what is really going on feels it in their pocket book, they will vote them out. The fact that they fell in line behind Trump, not his conduct, is why they will be given the heave ho.

In the March on gun violence and the continuing discussion of what the problem is, the kids seem to have it figured out. It is too many guns. But one father of a slain young woman is a favorite of the media because he does not want to rock the political boat, just make schools safe. So he does not want to talk about getting rid of military grade weapons, or other gun restriction laws, just what we can do to make our schools safe. It is a fool’s errand. Think about not changing anything with access to guns, and then making schools safe. They would look like prisons with guards armed with AR-15s. And whether a teacher or a trained SWAT police officer is armed, what happens if he gets taken down first and they are all trapped in there?

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens gave us his thoughts here this morning when he gave a short summary of how until the Roberts court, there was not an unfettered access to guns, and suggested the obvious, repeal the 2nd amendment as it has no relevance in our 21st century life. Amen to that. The kids get it. If you want to fix something you go for root causes, not some political white wash that does not solve anything and has its own bad consequences. People love their weapons. They are wrong. It is as simple as that.

Finally, I would like to leave you with some wisdom from Paul Krugman of the NYT. I know I have seemed crazy when I say all Republicans are evil. I am not and Paul has come to the same conclusion demonstrating that they have all been elected with the big con:

…the success of people like Blankenship [a known crook] — or Trump — was an inevitable consequence of the political strategy Republicans have followed for decades. For the simple truth is that ever since Reagan, Republicans have basically played a con game on American voters.

Their sustained, invariant agenda has been upward redistribution of income: cutting taxes on the rich while weakening the social safety net. This agenda is unpopular: Only a small minority of Americans wants to see tax cuts for the wealthy, and an even smaller minority wants cuts to major social programs. Yet Republicans have won elections partly by denying the reality of their policy agenda, but mainly by posing as defenders of traditional social values — above all, that greatest of American traditions, racism.

And this sustained reliance on the big con has, over time, exerted a strong selection effect both on the party’s leadership and on its base. G.O.P. politicians tend disproportionately to be con men (and in some cases, con women), because playing the party’s political game requires both a willingness to and a talent for saying one thing while doing another. And the party’s base consists disproportionately of the easily conned — those who are easily fooled by claims that Those People are the problem and don’t notice how much the true Republican agenda hurts them.

…there will be no redemption from within. Principled, ethical politicians won’t reclaim the party from the likes of Trump, because they’re not what the base wants: The modern G.O.P. is no country for honest men. Con artists will continue to rule until or unless the party loses big, repeatedly, and spends years in the political wilderness.

And he leaves us with they may get thrown out as people wake up, or they are such criminals that they will have no problem rigging the vote through tactics we have already seen. It really is up to Americans to get out and vote.

Well a Couple of Thoughts

There was an op-ed you need to read in the Washington Post, I Went to Prison for Disclosing CIA Torture, Trumps Director Nominee Helped Cover it Up. Now there are some things here that I think are critical. If you know anything about real torture, besides it is immoral, is that it does not work. The second thing is that once it did not work, they lied and tried to make it looked like they were getting real intell, and then destroyed evidence of their brutality. That is the person you want to head up the CIA? That sends a great message. There is one more thing. Obama failed miserably here when he wanted to look ahead not back and then went after leakers when they were whistle blowers. And now here we are again. That is one I have never figured out.

Meanwhile President DFF gets more erratic. His lawyer comes and and makes sure none of us missed the political message firing McCabe was by now demanding we should stop the investigation into Russia. The reason McCabe was fired is now exposed for what it was. President DFF has a tweet storm and calls McCabe’s alleged memos Fake. He is panicking and even a couple of Republicans said wait, this looks like a pure partisan spite. He doesn’t seem to care anymore, so next week ought to be really interesting. He is a true danger to this country.

The other day, I laid out what I thought was the way forward for us and what that end state should look like. There has been an interesting discussion going on lead by some at the South by Southwest Conference in Austin about a guaranteed income. With the onslaught of automation and the recognition of those left behind, maybe we should redistribute some wealth to guarantee everyone a living wage (without work). Oh, I know Republicans will blow a gasket on this one because they really believe everyone is lazy and the hammocks would be everywhere. I don’t. It might be the simplest way to get rid of the myriad programs to help the poor and just guarantee a living wage. It is worth some thought and I will do that in coming blogs.

Finally some words on Stephen Hawking who was explaining why he had come to the conclusion there is no God and why I think he was honestly surprised at the reaction. Stephen was a man of logic. He felt that you always look for the simplest solutions as probably the right answer. He had seen science wipe away the need for a god in the sense of explaining anything in the universe. In fact, he had even shown that there was nothing before the Big Bang and the Big Bang did not need a creator to set it off. To him, everything down to our own choice and actions could be explained by physics.

I won’t try to recreate his descriptions of this, free will, or the meaning of life, but I think he is right. And I do think if you understood all the variables you could predict everything. But he made the point that we humans were far too complex to do that. Our choices could be made up of billions of connections within our brain, and predicting our choices are impossible. As for God, the universe doesn’t need one and to imagine one is to find something we have never been able to show, something that violates the laws of the nature, thus the simplest explanation is he does not exist.

But then he said something about the meaning of life I think was very insightful. Each of us has to find our own meaning of life. It is within us. I take that to the next logical step and say, some people need a god to give them meaning, so they invented him. I find the argument that we cannot arrive at morality and goodness without a god, almost childish. Think of all the gods we have created over the millennia, and there is a thread through all of them that has many of the same moral prescripts. How can that be? Did the gods all make a pact? And of course as we expand our knowledge, we inform ourselves and our morality matures and evolves. Hey, gays are people too. What do you know.

And the last thing he said made infinite sense to me, there is no afterlife. Of course there isn’t. If there were, why would we wait so long to kiss goodbye the suffering and ignorance in this one? When we come to the realization that god is nonsense, and afterlives are fiction, it makes every second we are here so much more important and special. It makes doing something wonderful and helping each other in this life so very important.

And now you know if you think about it, why Republicans so hate science. It really is about challenging what we know and growing. That is the last thing they want us to do if they want to hang on to their power and favored status. Welcome to the thinking world. We question everything, even god.

Stephen Hawking 1942-2018

We are each free to believe what we want, and it’s my view that the simplest explanation is that there is no God, and no one created the universe, and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization, there is probably no heaven and no afterlife either. We have just this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that I am extremely grateful.”

Me too Stephen and thanks for giving me that glimpse. For me that struggle to get that glimpse is all that is needed for the meaning of life. I think, therefore I am (Descartes), and the meaning of life is what I give that awareness. Don’t waste a moment of it.

Pay Attention Mother F*ckers

Tonight was one of those nights. I had friends over, and some of them came from the experience that is seared into my mind. No shit. We have so many lessons to teach and no one is listening. I am talking about Vietnam and no one really understands it. One comments about what they saw on the news. Another reported that she was asked to volunteer, about what she had no clue what she was volunteering for. She found herself at Travis AFB climbing on C-141 to be assigned a baby to hold until they could be taken to San Francisco where a foster family would pick them up. It is probably one of the most important stories not told about the Vietnam war and its aftermath (this was the fall of Saigon in 1975). Those of us who fought it and experienced it are getting old and tired.

The things I know about that war could fill many many books and yet, it is a story that the young think is dated and ancient history. It is not. It is the lessons that make us human and is the most important time in many of our lives. One guest at our dinner party asked why people don’t talked more about their war experiences, I tried to explain that those of us who have been there know there is no way to explain it in way someone not there could understand. You only relate to others who have been there. I live in a little community where the Vietnam War is an minor hiccup in history. But we are a tight little community, and one guest said one of our friends, Larry Lighty, was having a hard time adjusting in his old age, and dementia was setting in. Larry was one of those guys that people thought was a wonderful guy, but they had no idea where he had been. I know where Larry Lighty had been.

Larry was a Thud driver, and a wild weasel. Look it up. It was one of the most dangerous jobs in the war for us flyers and about half did not come home. They did the job. Nobody knows that around here but me. One time a friend said he listened to a conversation Larry and I had and it sounded like a foreign language. Yep, they will never, never understand. It was a different world and it did really have a different language. It was a reality and place I simply cannot take you to. You had to be there. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans know what I mean. So as Larry goes off into the fog of old age and death, I will be there to give him a hug and say, “Larry, I know where you have been, and you are my hero.” Somebody has to remember where we went way back then and what it cost us. We have to remember it because we need to understand what we may ask of the next generation.

I retold the story of my bringing home a POW and the many emotions that were ricocheting around the war, even for POWs. I told the human story of the amazing love for them, my own awe because they faced my nightmare of being held captive and staying true to their oath when many knew the war was wrong. I know this: I have an insight into the humane experience that I wish I could communicate, but I know it is a fool’s errand. You simply won’t get it. You simply won’t understand, yet I know something about human suffering, about war, about lulling ourselves into a false reality, that somehow has to be transmitted, except it isn’t. I was with friends who had lived through that time and appreciated what all of us brought to the table. Sadly it is a dying wisdom that few either appreciate or recognize for its utility today.

I wrote a blog way back when about Fleet Week in San Fransisco, and a couple of Navy enlisted men I ran into in a bar. They knew instinctively. I had been there. It is a common experience from those who meet those who know. One was guilty about being labeled a hero because he had never seen combat. He knew I had. It was visceral. It is a common feeling out there these days where those who don’t know thank you for your service. Fuck you. Serve and figure it out. It cost us so much more than you will ever know (or that we knew then) whether we saw combat or not.

For this young man the guilt at being labeled a hero, although he never saw combat, was too much. He tore off his medals and handed them to me. I handed them right back and got right in his face. HE WAS SERVING, AND NOBODY KNOWS WHAT TOMORROW WILL BRING, HE WAS THERE FOR THE REST OF US. AND THAT IS ALL THAT MATTERS. AND YOU PAY A PRICE FOR THAT. Firemen and policemen know exactly what I am talking about. There is a wisdom in that service, that just does not get through to the rest of the human race who have not stepped up.

That is the hero part that nobody gets. It is not whether you were shot at or not, but that you are there if called on. You have no clue how you will measure up, but you showed up. It is not about whether you got killed heroically or in a minor accident. Of course none of us knows if we will stand up to the hero’s we admire, but that is not the point. We are still standing point anyway. We will be there if need be. If it comes our way, well at least we showed up. That is the real hero thing, that we understood that it was important to be on the wall and there is a cost to that that few understand.

This blog is about the cost and what we who bear that cost learned. That is the lesson that Vietnam should be for the whole nation, and yet we ignore it. Old news. Afghanistan and Iraq veterans with PTSD may remind us, but the nation looks the other way. It is a lesson seared into my soul, and there are few people I can talk to that understand it. It is the one my friend talked about being a high school student and asking to volunteer, and ending up holding a baby given up as Saigon was falling, to a world they did not know, and maybe never to be reunited with their family. It is such a profound moment in human experience, and we cannot put a label on it. It says something so profound about the human experience and the incredible suffering in war.

I am not much longer for this world. I learned and experienced some amazing things when this country went through its Vietnam experience. If we had learned those lessons, about human sacrifice, the cost of human suffering, torture, POWs, death and destruction, love, and the human experience, then we would have had a glimpse into the human soul that should unite all of us in this struggle we call the human experience. Instead, I sit on a bar stool in the middle of nowhere, and somebody looks at me and knows I know. That’s it. And sooner rather than later I will no longer be on this planet and for the most part most people don’t give a shit what I learned and know. But for a moment, on that bar stool, or with a friend suffering the fog of dementia, I know, they know, and they know I know. And I weep that what we know is being lost. Just a couple of old guys/gals, sipping whatever, passing in the night. It’s your loss.

Capitalism is the Problem

If I look at our greatest problems, economic inequality, global warming, and President DFF, they all have one root cause, capitalism. Now I am sure you are going to say what about equal pay for equal work, or systemic racism, or rust belt myopia, or immigration, or failing infrastructure. I would say these are all symptoms of economic inequality, as well as global warming and President DFF. And the root cause of all of this is unbridled capitalism. I would also argue that capitalism has brought us many things and improved the living conditions of many in the world, but then the problems start to show up.

I am not the only one. Remember Bernie. Remember the howling from even Hillary on this was not possible. All Bernie was trying to do was level the playing field. But in an interesting op-ed this morning by Elizabeth Bruenig, she made some points we seem to want to ignore. She started by pointing out that Liberals are in a funk:

This assumption is reflected in the blindsided, startled unease of liberals in the era of President Trump: “There are moments when everything I have come to believe in — reasoned deliberation, mutual toleration, liberal democracy, free speech, honesty, decency, and moderation — seem as if they are in eclipse,” Andrew Sullivan recently lamented in New York magazine. “For the foreseeable future, nationalism is likely to remain a defining political force,” Yascha Mounk fretted this weekend in the New York Times; “liberals should strive to make nationalism as inclusive as possible,” he warned.

Ha! Liberalism incorporating nationalism is what Democrats have done over and over to their failure, incorporating failed ideas to try to out Republican Republicans, Republicans with a softer edge. It’s a journey to nowhere. Ms. Bruenig’s description of capitalism is in fact its problem for those of us who want a level playing field and social justice. She has what I call the “Bernie moment” when she realizes that moving the chairs around on the Titanic as most “liberals” do is a waste of time:

I don’t think business-as-usual but better is enough to fix what’s broken here. I think the problem lies at the root of the thing, with capitalism itself…Americans appear to be isolated, viciously competitive, suspicious of one another and spiritually shallow; and that we are anxiously looking for some kind of attachment to something real and profound in an age of decreasing trust and regard — seem to be emblematic of capitalism, which encourages and requires fierce individualism, self-interested disregard for the other, and resentment of arrangements into which one deposits more than he or she withdraws. (As a business-savvy friend once remarked: Nobody gets rich off of bilateral transactions where everybody knows what they’re doing.) Capitalism is an ideology that is far more encompassing than it admits, and one that turns every relationship into a calculable exchange. Bodies, time, energy, creativity, love — all become commodities to be priced and sold. Alienation reigns. There is no room for sustained contemplation and little interest in public morality; everything collapses down to the level of the atomized individual.

That capitalism is inimical to the best of liberalism isn’t a new concern: It’s a long-standing critique, present in early socialist thought. That both capitalism and liberal governance have changed since those days without displacing the criticism suggests that it’s true in a foundational way.

Not to be confused for a totalitarian nostalgist, I would support a kind of socialism that would be democratic and aimed primarily at decommodifying labor, reducing the vast inequality brought about by capitalism, and breaking capital’s stranglehold over politics and culture.

Welcome to the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Well, I hate to say the Democratic Party because the establishment still does not get it and even rejected a Progressive in the Houston primary as, well, too progressive. But they are asleep to what happened in the last election when Americans rejected status quo. Hillary got the nomination because the establishment wanted her and shunned Bernie. Republicans got their radical and he won. The urge for change is stronger than ever and the Democratic Party is trying to calibrate between moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats (read moderate Republicans in 1980) and it is a failed policy. Maybe not at an intellectual level yet, but at a gut one, most of us feel capitalism is failing us. And the reality as Thomas Piketty (Capital in the Twenty First Century) showed us, unrestrained capitalism gives us growing economic inequality.

I do have to laugh though. Ms. Bruenig in her last quote above is pining for “kind of socialism that would be democratic and aimed primarily at decommodifying labor, reducing the vast inequality brought about by capitalism, and breaking capital’s stranglehold over politics and culture.” Would that not be European social democracy as they have in say Finland or Norway or Sweden. Oh, and it works.

We have grown a culture and attitude about policy that reinforces unrestrained capitalism. We learned to hate taxes, regulations, and big government. It has been beaten into our heads by Republicans, But it isn’t working. I see massive deterioration of our infrastructure which is key to our future, and our hate for taxes keeps us from doing anything. Global Warming is already impacting us and yet we turn a blind eye to it because that would be big government and regulations. Oh, and it would upset the apple carts of who benefits by ignoring it.  Economic inequality grows by leaps and bounds and so does the concentration of political power and again we can do nothing because that would require rewriting the rules, regulation, and taxation. And yet the majority of us know it is not working. We got President DFF because Americans rejected the status quo, but he is a mindless moron who is still a creature of the 1980s.

As Ms. Bruenig points out, it is time for a different approach. I hate to keep repeating this, but Republicans, all of them have to go. So do most moderate Democrats who have the same conservative ideas only kinder and gentler. Conservatism has run its course and has proved defunct. If we want change, if we want to do something about economic inequality that touches all inequality, if we want to attack our problems with solutions that work, it is time to throw off the old mantle of unrestrained capitalism. This won’t happen with Republicans because they have become radicals of the me, me, me, and captured creatures of the monied. It is time for a new approach, and the only ones who are going to get us there are today’s new progressives.

Oscar Night

It was kind of a breath of fresh air after the foul stench coming out of Washington. It was about diversity and empowering women. It was about respect and the best of America. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I try not to take too seriously who won or lost because in many ways Hollywood runs in insider streaks. But some of the stories this year were complex and powerful. I am still trying to figure out why The Shape of Water won as best picture.

There was an interesting article a few days ago in the Washington Post looking back over the years at who won the best picture award, and now with some distance for perspective, who should have. Some of the winners quickly fade into forgotten while some of the losers become standards that are watched over and over again. I kind of feel that happened last night.

Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill and Francis McDormand were perfect for the best actors. Both got me deep into the internal struggles of both characters But best picture I wrestle with. My criteria is that it leaves me wanting to watch it over and over, not for the action, but for the passion, ideas, and unresolved human experience. Darkest Hour is up there, where Winston Churchill struggles under the weight of deciding a nations fate. Finally he rejects those that want to make a deal with the devil even though the cost in human lives could be horrendous. Makes one stop and think if there was a lesson there for the French. But the lesson for us was to do the right thing, not the easy thing and I wonder if Republican politicians squirm in their seats having made their own deal with our President DFF.

Four Billboards left me thinking about that movie for weeks. It is really a tale of reality. Bad shit happens and anger and revenge keep us going, but destroys who we are. The sheriff’s office is full of racism and brutality and yet the Sheriff played by Woody Harrelson seems to have come to terms with something he could not change, made even more poignant by his exit. It is a movie about living today and tomorrow and not in yesterday. It is a movie about what happens if you never get your revenge, that life is not tied up in neat little bows, how do you move forward and come to terms with the chaos of life. It is also a story about growing emotionally.

But the one I think was my favorite was Dunkirk. There were so many stories there about the human condition handled masterfully, from the desperation of the soldiers, the impossible situation, the Navy commander who stayed to get as many French off the beach as possible, The young man who just wanted to do something, to the kindness and forgiveness on the little boat given to the shell shocked soldier. There was so much going on here about the human experience that you have to watch it many times to absorb all of it. And all it all, it told us something about our better selves.

Yes Lady Bird got snubbed, and in other years might have been best picture, but this year there was so many good ones. That is why I struggle with The Shape of Water. Nice tale, but the complexity of real human experience? Maybe in a comic book. Okay, maybe I just missed it and I will get it later. But after watching those others, it was a real let down for me. I could tell you what was going to happen halfway through. Yes it was a beautiful movie, but the human story was a fantasy, not the nitty gritty reality we got in Darkest Hour, Four Billboards, Dunkirk, or for that matter, Lady Bird.

But all of them and the whole tenor of the Oscars was an in your face Donald Trump’s America. It was about what makes us great, embracing diversity, ideas, immigrants, respect, and achievement. So for a couple of hours I was transported to the America I remember before we became the Donald Trump reality show. Today is back to reality and see what they are smashing today. Maybe I can write something to make a difference.

More Things

The first is Vietnam. Yeah, sometimes I am stuck there, but it is something I know deep in my gut, the lessons we have still not learned. There has been some attacks on the press for loosing the war by reporting on it and what they saw. There is a good editorial defending Walter Cronkite for his editorial against the war after the Tet Offensive. But even that misses the point. In the piece we get this:

It was not a war that could be won by firepower, even overwhelming firepower. Edward Lansdale, the country’s foremost expert on counterinsurgency, and one with long experience in Vietnam, had counseled as much from the beginning. As the military historian Max Boot writes in his superb biography of the man, “The Road Not Taken,” Lansdale told Defense Secretary Robert McNamara on their first meeting in 1961, after dumping a sample of the relatively primitive weapons and rubber sandals and equipment used by the Vietcong on his desk at the Pentagon:

“The people that are fighting there on our side are being supplied with our weapons and uniforms and shoes and all of the best that we have, and we are training them. Yet, the enemy is licking our side. Always keep in mind about Vietnam, that the struggle goes far beyond the material things of life. It doesn’t take weapons and uniforms and lots of food to win. It takes something else, ideas and ideals, and these guys are using that something else. Let’s at least learn that lesson.”

Boot has argued that the war could have been won with different tactics. I would argue that is nonsense. It was a civil war about reuniting the country and you can’t win someone else’s war for them. Sometimes, they have to solve their own problems. I have no idea how tactics solves the massive corruption in the South, or the idealistic dedication of the North. Also I would argue define winning. We could still be there today trying to change hearts and minds. In that kind of a war, we are the problem. Enough said. You can draw your own conclusions about Afghanistan.

I would like to add a little more to the fight for humanistic secularism. Science is not political. Science is not value based. Science is about a method to just find what is after removing all your biases for what you want it to be. Politics is just the opposite. People who think global warming is a hoax have no understanding of what science is or how it operatives. But the politics are clear. Se the tobacco companies for the strategy cast doubt among those who do not understand science. These are the same people who want to deny evolution because it does not fit into their ideology. Science does not care about ideology, only what is. My example here is an experiment to detect the early signs of the universe. In an amazing discovery, a group of scientists think they did, but here is then how the process goes:

To ensure their signal was real, rather than a quirk of their instrument or a fluke in their data, Bowman and his colleagues spent two years considering and discarding a range of alternative explanations. They repositioned the antenna, tested it in the lab with simulated radio sky, even built a copy of the instrument to demonstrate that the experiment was reproducible. So far, they haven’t been able to prove themselves wrong.

You see politicians trying to prove themselves wrong? You get the difference? It is never a he said/she said idea or a politicized outcome, it it a peer reviewed and sometimes viciously attacked proposition to get to the truth. Our current administration is about not just denying science and data, but discrediting it because it does not support their point of view. It is the stuff of religion and the Dark Ages of our past.

I will say one other thing about science and it shows I have a strong bias. I am alive because of it. By all measures I should be dead of advanced stage prostate cancer by now. I have had it for over two years and it was a highly aggressive form of the cancer already metastasized, hence the term advanced stage. There is no cure. Enter science in the form of medicine and new drugs. Today I am healthy, happy, and well, with few symptoms, except from the drugs themselves. It won’t last forever, maybe five years, maybe longer, but today is what is important. And in five years, well, maybe we will have a new way to attack it. A plan D as my doctor and I like to call it. Five years ago there was not the Plan C that I am on today. Science is has given me a miraculous gift. But that raises that other thing I rant about, rational thought, critical thinking. What if there is not Plan D? What if this is it?

Using my ration and planning mine, I have to face that prospect. Last weekend I almost got hit by a head-on driver passing on a curve, so who knows how all this will end. I live in a state where when the end gets near, it is in my hands when to call it quits. This was brought home to me the other day when my great friend of 15 years, my Golden Retriever Sophie, just could not get up any more. She had been leaving us for some time, with long stares into nowhere, sometimes not aware we were in the room, rapidly advancing weakness in her hips, and now a large abscess on her leg that probably was not going to heal. But she had her good days too. I decided it was over and called my vet. As is her want, she kind of perked up at the vets, but she really wasn’t quite there any more. It killed me to put her down, think about this as her last day on earth, sniffing around at the vet, eating treats, and then nothing. I cried throughout. The responsibility of that decision to decide when her life was over still weighs on me.

And realistically, in this world of rational decision making, I may have to make that decision for myself. And of course that decision is really not about me, it is about the people around me. For Sophie I could play god, although it cost me. If I have to someday realistically decide that the quality of the life left to me is not worth it, I may not be able to play god with their lives. Is it selfish or kind? I would think I would like to pick the day instead of the degradation of slowly loosing what I hold so dear, my quality of life. I know for Sophie my selfish need to have her to still be here was a price in pain and rapid deterioration I was not willing to pay anymore. It was time. I wonder if I can be as sure for me. Rational choice that comes with knowledge and science also comes with a huge responsibility and burden. Back in the day it was just some mystical being. Now it is mine. I wonder if I am up to it? It just seems like every gift we have, being able to love, laugh, reason, and think, always comes as a double edged sword. It puts us in charge of our fate and some of those choices are the most painful choices of all.