Category Archives: Cancer

It Is Not Fair.

It is not fair.
The strongest of women, the weakest of which are stronger than any man while lying on their backs receiving the obeisance of men succumbing to their own mortal lusts.
She was the strongest of women, now struck down by the power of creation itself.
The mad hatter of genomic mutation, cancer, consuming her from inside.
She who could not be broken breaks herself from inside.
It.
Is.
Not.
Fair.
But she succumbs anyway.
Fair is not a word nature understands.
She who consumes the innocent and the guilty, the survivor and the wretched fool alike.
Nature claims her anyway, fair or not.
The hands that raised a multitude, struck down by simple time.

Sitting a Vigil

It’s four in the morning. I’m holding my mother’s frail hand in mine, for one last time. It is warm still. I’m trying, in what I’m certain is a vain attempt, to communicate with what little is left of her. What little the cancer hasn’t already eaten. Trying to let her know that we love her.  That we know she loves us, but it really is time to go. The curtains are closing. Silence is descending.

“Rage against the dying of the light?”

The light is gone. The rage is spent. The breaths are ragged, sometimes minutes apart. Will this be the last one? And then the next one comes. Why does life go on without purpose? How do the systems that make up the form that is my mother, with all that a mother is to a child, how is it that the systems don’t know the purpose has been served? The children are safe and grown. The fight is done. How can it be that she would not know this? She who knew how to mend wounds with a kiss, not knowing the battle was won long ago?

It is a shame. A shame that the kisses of loving children and grandchildren and great grandchildren cannot cure cancer. Cannot mend the ills of old age. Cannot wisk away the pain the way that a mother’s love can. A shame that she fights on for each painful breath of life, not knowing that the decision was rendered in her genes years ago. This battle cannot be won.

It is the fate of us all. To be born is to someday die. A dance with death that spans all of life. Hers has been a long dance. Not the longest, but I think she would say “long enough.” Always time for one more favor for a friend. Always  care to spare for the lost souls. For the wayward child with more will than sense. Always more worry for others than for self. So busy helping others with their battles that she forgot to fight her own, perhaps.

A life long enough to see the children grown. A dance long enough to know the form that the ending will take. Now it is done. We miss you already, mommy.

A Toast to My Alcoholic Father

“You would never know if I relapsed,” he said to me. “I was very good at being an addict.” 

No, honey, you weren’t. None of us are. We think we are cleverly hiding it. We think we have it under control. We think we are getting benefit from it. We think we are the exception to the rule. We think we will be able to prevent it from consuming us. 

– A Facebook Status Post

I have taken out the garbage in my home (eldest son always gets that job, ditto with husbands)  for my entire life. Consequently I know what people throw away in the house. I know who recycles and who doesn’t. I know who is doing what based on what garbage appears in their waste cans. It is extraordinarily hard to disguise behaviors that create garbage, behaviors that leave behind evidence which must be destroyed if you want that behavior to be secret.

My dad went through an astronomical amount of Canadian Club, Black Velvet, etc. At least a fifth every, single, day, without fail. I must have hauled several tons of discarded glassware to the ashcan over the course of the years I lived at home with my parents. We kids knew the drill. Ice (this much) bourbon (that much) water (a much smaller amount) He always drank, all the time. It wasn’t until the drunk driving laws started appearing that he knew he was heading for trouble, because he couldn’t be without his glass of bourbon and a cigarette (Pall Mall‘s) at any point in any day. Couldn’t do without it (them) until the cancer started.

When the cancer started it became imperative that he stop smoking and drinking, and he still couldn’t do it. He just didn’t know how to stop. He switched to low-tar cigarettes first. No more filterless Pall Mall’s, it was Carlton‘s or whatever else he was trying that week. He insisted the low-tars were filled with cabbage leaves, but he had to have a smoke. The bourbon took longer for him to give up. He switched to cheap beer when it finally became clear he was going to have to stop his addictions, not understanding that he was going to have to actually stop the behaviors entirely. He smoked and drank until they stopped allowing him to eat because of throat cancer. In the end the addictions killed him by causing the cancer, and that is what I remind myself of mentally every time someone offers me a cigar or I pour myself a drink.

I stopped smoking cigarettes ages ago because I could feel the drag they were putting on my lung capacity, and that process took years. One of my sisters now runs a cigar shop and I have to decline offers of cigars every time she comes to town or we meet with relatives who have seen her recently. I can feel the itch of a lifetime nicotine addiction in the corner of my mind just thinking about picking up a coffin nail. The air in the Steele household was blue with tobacco smoke for my entire childhood. Nicotine was in the air I breathed every day until I left home and had to infuse the drug by smoking it myself. Kicking that habit was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and it took years of mentally associating the desire to smoke with the smell of a the bars I worked in as a young adult, reminding myself of the stale smell of smoke, sweat, alcohol and vomit that permeates the air of a bar before all the people show up and renew the smells with life.

My dad loved to tell a story about me when I would drink with him. One thing my dad was really good at was spinning yarns, and he could talk all day and night if you let him. He was a certified master of bullshit and I could sit and listen to him talk for as long as anyone would let him talk. I was fascinated by his ability to just make stuff up on the fly. The bare bones of the story went like this; The first time my parents took me along for a fine dining experience, one that included courses of meals and an after-dinner drink, I cried for the glass of cognac they sat in front of my father. My father, being the indulgent person that he really was, wanted to see what I would think of the cognac. Would I hate it? Would I reject it because of the alcohol taste? He didn’t know. So he handed me the snifter and as he told it “You drank it right down. Sat there for a few seconds. Then you cried for more!” It always got a laugh and I laughed right along with him.

I am reminded of that story every time I crack open a new bottle of brandy or cognac, which is about the only thing I will drink these days; and I will drink a quiet toast to my father on those days. It is because of him that I am not an alcoholic, and that is probably the best lesson I learned from him. I have often wondered what he would have made of the efforts to end addiction these days? Would any of them have helped him? Would he have wanted help?

Godwin’s law, the GMO Version

Of all the contentious arguments I’ve engaged in over the last few years, the most contentious has been the irrational fear revolving around GMO crops.  On this weeks Skeptic’s Guide the Universe they get into the latest example of the kind of rancor that occurs on the subject of GMO; namely, the targeting of people deemed sympathizers with the Nazi labeled antichrist of corporations, Monsanto.

I myself have been accused of being on the payroll of Monsanto.  I wish that were the case.  If any Monsanto executives are reading this and want to pay me, please let me know.  I am not a journalist, I do not care if anyone considers my opinion unbiased or not; I will gladly take your payola.

However, targeting people who rightly suggest that the phobic froth around the mouth of the anti-GMO crowd is just this side of crazy is completely uncalled for and really should be investigated;

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, besieged by complaints from targets and the science and journalism communities, immediately launched an investigation of Adams and the site, with Adams facing possible felony charges of inciting violence (if he lived in a Europe or a Commonwealth country like the U.K., he would probably already have been served).  

(GLP Article)

I’ve never had any use for Mike Adams or NaturalNews.com, although I have been vilified by many, many people who mistakenly go to his website thinking that his information is reliable, it isn’t; and with his death threats and targeting of science journalists he has finally crossed a line that I hope he will be punished for.

courtesy The Genetic Literacy Project

GMO is not Monsanto. GMO is not a thing. GMO (Genetically Manipulated Organisms) is many things, some of them quite beneficial; but that doesn’t stop people with a phobic response from loosing their shit over the subject. Nor does its beneficial results get recognized by the self-same phobic types who decry it’s very existence.  Case in point, this article offered by an anti-GMO friend on Facebook that I have since blocked due to his (Mike Adams like) insistence that I was a Nazi sympathizer for Monsanto.

Scientists at the Mayo Clinic on May 14 announced a clinical trial that had been carried out in 2013, in which a Minnesota woman was injected with enough measles vaccine to treat 10 million people. Over the course of several weeks, the multiple tumors growing throughout her body shrank and vanished.  

After undergoing chemotherapy and stem cell transplants, Stacy Erholtz’s myeloma — a blood cancer affecting the bone marrow — had spread into her skull and other parts of her body. The virus she was injected with had been engineered by researchers for cancer therapy.

You read that right. GMO cured that woman’s cancer. That is just the tip of the iceberg.  Mexico has halted planting of a GM corn that was engineered specifically to address dietary deficiencies in their poor diet (which is largely corn) based on anti-GMO fears, and the threatened profit margins of competitors.

Mexico already imports tens of thousands of tonnes of GMO yellow corn each year, largely for animal feed, and permits planting of other GMO crops, mainly cotton and soybeans.

Supporters of GMO corn like Mexico’s corn farmers’ federation argue it can boost yields by up to 15 percent.

Their peers in the United States, Brazil and Argentina – the world’s top three corn exporters – are already producing large quantities of GMO corn. 

(Reuters Article

They could cross-breed corn in the traditional method of genetic manipulation for a thousand years and potentially never get the results that they achieved by simply taking the code out of one corn plant and splicing it into corn that grows in the Americas. It will end vitamin deficiencies in many poorer areas that rely on corn for sustenance in the same way that Golden Rice will potentially end vitamin A deficiency blindness in areas of Asia that rely on rice.

Because many children in countries where there is a dietary deficiency in vitamin A rely on rice as a staple food, the genetic modification to make rice produce the vitamin A precursor beta-carotene is seen as a simple and less expensive alternative to vitamin supplements or an increase in the consumption of green vegetables or animal products. 

(from the Wiki article) 

Our first world fears should not be given more credence than their very real needs. I think we should let them decide if they want to eat or not, want to see or not. It is a lot like the fear surrounding vaccination. When your kids start dying, you’ll discover you like medicine after all. GM foods are not health risks in and of themselves, no matter how many times you say otherwise; but, ya know, Round Up ready corn! It causes cancer!  Except it doesn’t.

The biggest criticism of the study is the combination of two features – the small sample size and lack of statistical analysis. The entire study is premised on comparing various dose groups with control groups that were not exposed to GMO or glyphosate. And yet, the authors provide no statistical analysis of this comparison. Given the small number of rats in each group, it is likely that this lack of statistical analysis is due to the fact that statistical significance could not be reached.

In other words – the results of the study are uninterpretable. 

(ScienceBasedMedicine article)

Uninterpretable; read as “the essence of bad science”.

Let me see if I can explain what is going on here. There is a tendency to grant that something that is natural is good. This is fallacious reasoning.  Everything that is toxic is also natural; or nearly everything. That is aside from the fact that none of the other varietals that are being farmed are natural in a fashion that varies from the GMO varieties. The methods used previously to manipulate crops are hardly natural. Chemical and radioactive treatment to force mutation, as well as cross-breeding. If you compare food crops to their natural variants, you would be hard pressed to identify what they have in common.

So the fear of the unnatural really is a phobia, unsupported by science. Understanding that, you might get a feel for why companies that market products might not want to be subjected to labeling mandates that cover GMO content in their products.

GMOs are just one efficient tool that people using bad farming practices can also utilize. This is akin to arguing that because crop dusting huge volumes of chemical pesticides is bad, we should boycott airplanes. Herbicide and pesticide resistance were cropping up long before genetic engineering came onto the stage, necessitating much greater use of those chemicals or turning to more toxic alternatives. The introduction of Roundup ready crops actually began as a wonderful thing in this regard, since Roundup was less toxic than many of the alternatives being used previously, and could be used in much lower amounts. That happy state of affairs was mis-managed and now much larger doses are needed because of resistant weeds, but again, this isn’t the fault of the GMOs. 

(Scientific American Article on labeling)

The fearful just want to boycott, and the manufacturers don’t want to be boycotted. Consequently labeling mandates will continue to hit brick walls (even though full disclosure should include such labeling) until there is less unreasoning fear in the public at large.  In Other Words, educate yourselves and you might get what you want in return.

There is broad scientific consensus that food on the market derived from GM crops poses no greater risk than conventional food. No reports of ill effects have been documented in the human population from ingesting GM food. Although labeling of GMO products in the marketplace is required in many countries, it is not required in the United States and no distinction between marketed GMO and non-GMO foods is recognized by the US FDA. 

(Wikipedia Article on GMO)

I hear you saying “But patenting of organisms! Evil Monsanto!”  If you want to change patenting, then change patenting. You won’t get much argument from me.  Patenting itself is a government subsidized monopoly on production, I much prefer competition.

Monsanto, separate from the subject of GMO in general, is its own worst enemy.  Every attempt that it makes to limit its liability through law, or to manipulate the media to cast itself in a better light ends up being picked up and used by its enemies to make it look all the more evil and manipulative.  It’s hard to imagine that you can make a company responsible for creation of Agent Orange look more evil, but that is a failure of imagination, as the article I lead off with should illustrate.

[Read this article about Monsanto and see if you can understand just how wrong the common knowledge about the corporation actually is. They didn’t create Agent Orange. That’s the start.]


Inquiring Minds, 98 Fred Perlak – Inside the Mind of a Monsanto Scientist

Digging into the issue of farmer suicides and various accusations leveled at Monsanto, it becomes hard to connect the dots reliably;

Studies dated 2004 through 2006 identified several causes for farmers suicide, such as insufficient or risky credit systems, the difficulty of farming semi-arid regions, poor agricultural income, absence of alternative income opportunities, a downturn in the urban economy which forced non-farmers into farming, and the absence of suitable counseling services. In 2004, in response to a request from the All India Biodynamic and Organic Farming Association, the Mumbai High Court required the Tata Institute to produce a report on farmer suicides in Maharashtra, and the institute submitted its report in March 2005. The survey cited “government apathy, the absence of a safety net for farmers, and lack of access to information related to agriculture as the chief causes for the desperate condition of farmers in the state.” 

(Wikipedia Article on farmers’ suicides) 

Over and over again I attempt to enlighten friends who fall for the natural fallacy offered by people like Mike Adams. Over and over again I’m told that I don’t understand the first thing about the subject.  Because they know. Monsanto is evil. GMO is bad. Never mind that neither of those accusations are true, as I (and others) illustrate over and over again. Humor doesn’t work.  Information doesn’t work.  Maybe the problem is psychological?

Orthorexia nervosa is not listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), which psychologists and psychiatrists use to diagnose mental disorders. The DSM-5 currently lists anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, “other specified feeding or eating disorder” and “unspecified feeding or eating disorder”.

Some clinicians argue orthorexia nervosa should be recognised as a separate eating disorder and have proposed clinical DSM diagnostic criteria. They note distinct pathological behaviours with orthorexia nervosa, including a motivation for feelings of perfection or purity rather than weight loss, as they see with anorexia and bulimia.

I don’t want to introduce fallacious reasoning into the mix, use the “Oh, you’re just crazy” dodge to dismiss the people who disagree with me. I genuinely do want to understand why people fear GMO’s as much as they do, and why.  Time and again, though, the answers are not quantifiable in any way that I can make sense of. I’m left with little else to explain the issue.


The Genetic Literacy Project is an excellent go-to site for information on GMO.  Here they offer up a TED talk that goes into exactly what GMO is and why we must embrace it if we are to feed future generations of people.

(h/t to SGU for the original link)

His central question in the video “Could the future of food production be genetically modified organic food production?” challenges us to understand exactly how misguided the current atmosphere is when it comes to the subject of GMO.  The video is a must-see.

George Johnson, Inquiring Minds, Cancer, Evolution

I keep coming back to this episode of Inquiring Minds. Over and over. So I’m going to backdate post it on the blog,

Yale Rosen/Flickr (Wikimedia

In the book, Johnson cites a stunning estimate by MIT cancer researcher Robert Weinberg: About 4 million of our body’s cells are dividing and copying their DNA every second of every day. With every replication, there is a potential for mistakes, and a risk of developing cancer. Thankfully, we’ve evolved solutions to rogue errors, and our bodies can repair or destroy precancerous cells the vast majority of the time. Yet the risk can never be zero, because without this process of cell division and regeneration, we would quickly cease to live.

In fact, without the capacity for cellular mutation and the ability to pass on reformatted DNA to our offspring, our species would not have been capable of evolving. We wouldn’t be who we are today. “There’s something unfortunately natural about cancer,” explains Johnson. “It’s a natural tradeoff of evolution.”

To paraphrase a quote from this episode, If you live long enough you will eventually get cancer. The errors in cell replication that lead to cancer are the same errors that allow for genetic diversity. We get cancer because evolution occurs even within our own bodies, and most evolution produces bad outcomes. Cancer is definitely not the result of poor diet or GMO foods.

Facebook comment

Jack Steele

This is the text of the Obituary that ran in the local paper, both here in Canon City where he lived, and in Leoti where he spent a large portion of his life.

John Hyland ‘Jack’ Steele Jr. died peacefully in the presence of family at the St. Thomas More Hospital in Cañon City late Saturday, June 27, 2009.

He was born Sept. 11, 1938, in Witchita Falls, Texas, to John Hyland and Dorothy (Heim) Steele; they preceded him in death. He also was preceded in death by his son, Kelly Steele.

Jack served his country in he United States Air Force for six years and, for most of his life, received joy helping countless people have a good experience buying a car. He never met a stranger and was loved by all who met him.

He leaves behind the love of his life, Charlene “Charley” Steele and children: Ray Anthony Steele, Jonnette Ann Kraft, Dawn Marie Nickell, John Russell Steele, and Damion Lee Steele; his seven grandchildren and his sister, Jean Mohri.

Jack was a fighter and fought until the end.

At his request, there will be no services. In lieu of flowers, Jack would appreciate donations to Fremont County Orchard of Hope, 111 Orchard Ave., Cañon City, CO 81212.

Arrangements handled through Wilson Funeral Home.

I have never been embarrassed to say “my father is a car salesman”. Horse trading is a long and honored tradition, and my father just applied the same principles to cars that was once applied to horses. In more than 30 years of working the deal, I never met anyone who thought they hadn’t gotten a fair trade from him. Even after he was forced into retirement by his battle with cancer, he could still be found sizing up, buying and selling cars and trucks in his spare time.

A good portion of the population in Leoti probably remembers him as Hyland Steele’s only son, Jack who inherited the service station that Hyland built. A volunteer fireman and occasional fire chief, my father was active in that small community in ways that would put most activists to shame in this day and age.

John Hyland Steele, Jr. was born in Wichita Falls, Texas. My gramma (Dorothy. From Kansas) when talking about those times, remarked “if he’d have waited another hour, he’d have been born in Oklahoma.” that was the life of people who worked the oil fields in the 1930’s. It wasn’t long, though, before they settled in Leoti, and that small town remained home for three generations of Steeles.

I remember fondly, riding the tractor with my Uncles and my Grandfather, working the farms that belonged to friends and relatives. I earned my first wages working in the service station, and my second job was in the fields, clearing weeds from around crops too sensitive to be mechanically maintained.

What I will remember most about my father though, is his love of fishing and hunting. Long stretches of the summer season would be spent washing lures in Swanson Lake near Trenton, Nebraska. Winter weekends were to be spent in Twin Buttes, Colorado hunting Canada geese; or quail, pheasant, deer and elk when in season. Fishing, more than anything else, defined the good times that I remember from childhood.

His health in his later years was so poor that I can’t even begin to understand how he managed to drag himself through each day. But he did it for years. He fought his cancer tooth and nail till the end, and survived far longer with it and its after effects than any of the MD’s thought he could. He breathed his last with his youngest adoptive son (as I was also adopted) by his side.

We miss you already, dad.

Courtesy Cindy Crays

Join the world’s largest family tree

The obituary we paid for in the Canon City Daily Record never made it into any online databases because they didn’t have a partnership with an online database (neither did Leoti) in 2009. The current owners of the paper are not interested in making good on payments made to the prior owners, and are only interested in getting me to give them money to do the job I thought we already paid for. Consequently the only place I can currently (3/31/2018) find my father referenced is on this blog, and on Tributes.com which just happens to reference my blog as the source. I will update the broken link to the official obit if the physical papers in either Leoti or Canon City are ever scanned and uploaded to the internet. 

The Health care Problem

Health care. Again.

I got slapped so hard by people who just love the idea of Single Payer Health care systems (and I don’t care what the Wiki article says on the subject. Tax funded health care is socialized medicine. Calling it anything else is attempting to sugarcoat the pill) when I sent out my Sicko comments the other day, I decided to do a little digging and see if I could find some hard evidence on the subject. Luckily I didn’t have to look too far.

CATO just happened to sponsor Health Care University 2007 about a month ago. If you listen to the podcasts, you might be shocked to learn a few things.

Arnold Kling visits his article Government and Health Care: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly and discusses what does and doesn’t work in currently instituted government programs.

Suppose that instead of looking at health care policy as a means to push an ideology or score political points, we examine it from a pragmatic American vantage point. What works? What does not work? What backfires? Those are the good, the bad, and the ugly, respectively. The table below summarizes our experience in terms of three goals of health care policy: improving access to care; improving the quality of care; and lowering the cost of our health care system.

Access
Quality
Cost
Good
–clinics
–vouchers
–high-risk pools
data analysis data analysis
Bad –mandates
–Medicaid
–Medicare
P4P cost containment
Ugly national health services malpractice suits licensing regulations

A CATO scholar that thinks government can contribute positively to the health care problem? Shocking! But oddly, making very good arguments.

Michael D. Tanner
talks about what doesn’t work in the health care systems around the world. Things like innovation that isn’t available anywhere else but here. That there aren’t any single payer systems that work;

When you look at single payer systems, you can divide them into two categories, those that work, and those that are actually single payer systems.

In Canada, 800,000 people are on the waiting list for treatment. In the UK today, 40% of all cancer patients never get to see an oncologist (because they die before seeing them) (The UK NHS Wiki article shows the same heavy handed bias as the other article I linked to above. I’m thinking theres a gov’t employee who is paid specifically to insure that the wiki article on NHS stays pro-NHS. If everything is so good, why are there so many articles on NHS problems on the web?) in terms of survival rates, the US ranks number one in cancer survival, the UK ranks 16th.

[yeah, I want to emulate those systems]

The government health care systems that equate to the quality of the U.S. health care systems, like in France, feature co-payment plans with co-pays as high as 40%. This is not a single payer system. In fact, it’s not much different from the system we find ourselves in here in the U.S.

The problems with the U.S. system are problems that have been beaten to death already, as far as discussion goes. Mandates don’t work (Massachusetts is a stellar example of this) percentages of uninsured motorists exceed the percentages of those people who have no health insurance, in areas where automobile insurance is mandated.

Employer provided health insurance doesn’t work. It has given rise to the problems we currently have.

Just paying for the insurance has the same problems as employer provided insurance. Those who use the service do not have to pay the costs of the service. (and will be indistinguishable from any other gov’t welfare system; e.g. demand will far exceed supply, costs will spiral, and rationing will once again be necessary) This is also not a solution.

So, what is the solution? Well, Health Care University 2007 didn’t offer one (at least in the podcasts) but I would think that for the U.S., the solution is obvious. Get the government out of health care as much as possible. At least provide tax incentives for individuals to purchase their own health care, with plenty of choices; in other words, not just incentives for health insurance, but incentives for health savings accounts. (HSA’s are extremely unpopular with insurance companies, and insurance companies are active lobbyists. Consequently, you won’t hear about them during the evening news soundbites) Remove regulations that strangle the insurance industry. If you want more, visit CATO’s voluminous Research Areas on the subject.

As someone who pays for his (and most of his families) health care costs out of pocket, I have to say that it isn’t the day to day costs that are a problem; it isn’t even the “what if you child breaks a bone?” type accidents that are a problem.

No, the problem arises when you have a chronic ailment that requires costly procedures, and most of the time these types of ailments will get your insurance (under the current system) canceled. Of what use were those $300 a month family health care coverage payments worth then?

HSA, HSA, HSA. I don’t think I can repeat that enough. Let me save that money myself, and after a few years, I won’t even need insurance coverage other than catastrophic care (which I dare you to find these days. Seriously, have you seen one?) so why would I need government assistance at all?

An Atheist Marking the Untimely Passage of a Family Member

Ok, I give up. I don’t know if this is writer’s block or some internal need for catharsis, but I haven’t been able to make myself sit down and write anything of any significance since learning that my father-in-law had passed away four weeks ago.

Well, calling him my ‘father-in-law’ is simplifying things quite a bit, but that is what he was. Grandfather to my children, husband to my wife’s mother. True, the man that my wife called ‘father’ died several years ago, an event that changed all our lives quite a bit. But does that fact make the passing of this man less than her father’s passing?

This was a good man; a man of the earth, and a man of deep faith. A widower who was just as alone as the woman he met at church one Sunday. After a few years of friendship they decided to spend the rest of the time they had together; and they were happy together. My children enjoyed spending time with G-ma and Grampa Henry; would it be wrong to observe “more than when Grandma lived by herself?” Henry reminded me of my own long departed grandfather in many ways. He had a sharp wit, and a gentle disposition; someone who was sure of who and what he was in life.

Looking back, I wish “the rest of their time” had been more than it was. Four short years after we witnessed their marriage, Henry was gone from us, taken by a disease that none of us had heard of before. My son, now about the same age as his sister was when she had to say goodbye to her first grandpa, looked at me with the same questioning eyes; what does it mean, where did he go?

Questions I don’t have any answers for. Other people comfort themselves with stories of a beautiful afterlife that is much like this one; fanciful visions of angels and visiting loved ones who are long gone. Though I never spoke to Henry about his beliefs, as a practicing Catholic, I’m sure his views of the afterlife were similar. I hope that his beliefs were comforting to him; in the end, that is the purpose of religion.

The answer I offered my son was similar to the one I offered my daughter, “he’s in a better place”. Since both men were in constant pain (when un-medicated) before their deaths, it’s a fairly safe bet that the observation would be true. But what does it mean? I don’t want to delude my children, nor do I want to crush them with the weight of harsh reality. For me, the meaning of “better place” is somewhere between non-experience (the ending of this consciousness that is ‘me’) and surfing the cosmic flux, and I don’t really know which end it will favor when the time comes. Nor, after reading some of the weightier reflections on the subject, do I find that I really care. Having decided that spending time in fear of being sentenced to hell by a vengeful god was a waste, I instead actually try living my life; so that when it’s “Times Up” I don’t experience the “I should have’s”.

Which is perhaps the reason why I’ve been absent for the last month. Just making sure I’m spending my time wisely.


As an afterthought, the other thing that these two wonderful men had in common is they both trusted MDs at the local hospital to diagnose their maladies. And in both cases, the doctors failed them miserably. The wife’s father was killed by overdoses of radiation used to treat a non-existent tumor. Grandpa Henry was killed by the failure of these same doctors to properly diagnose a disease; a disease that ‘the wife’ correctly identified just using the symptoms and looking it up on the internet, a process that took less than an hour. Not that knowing what it was did any good. Cancer is like that when it is in it’s advanced stages.

The MDs could possibly have averted it if they had done their homework when they were first presented with the problem. I only wish that we had realized that he was going to the same doctors earlier than we had. Perhaps we would still have grandpa Henry with us. Probably not. Cancer is like that.

Boston Legal, Jury Nullification, Euthanasia

Speaking of Boston Legal (I was) the episode “Live Big” (that aired on the 21st) features Alan Shore once again on the horns of an ethical dilemma. His client granted his Alzheimer’s afflicted wife’s request to have her life terminated.

I love watching James Spader’s characterization of Alan Shore. He’s so wonderfully dry. The contrasting relationship with bombastic ‘Denny Crane’ (William Shatner) makes an excellent sounding board (and vice versa) for discussion points within the episode.

Denny Crane: That’s how dad went. Morphine drip.
Alan Shore: How did you get the doctor to do it?
Denny Crane: “Denny Crane”. It was the real thing then.

Spader’s ‘Shore’ is clearly uncomfortable with the whole subject, but he believes that his client should not be labeled a criminal, and bases his closing argument on that very basic fact.

The A.D.A.’s argument amounts to: he broke the law, he’s a criminal, and we can’t afford to start down the slippery slope of allowing assisted suicide, what happens when people start getting rid of the old, sick people they just don’t want around anymore.

Shore’s argument goes like this:

The dirty little secret is; we went down that slope, years ago. Officially we say we’re against assisted suicide; but it goes on, all the time. 70% of all deaths in hospitals are due to decisions to let patients die. Whether it’s morphine drips or respirators, hydration tubes. With all due respect to the Terry Schiavo fanfare, patients are assisted with death, all across the country, all the time.

As for regulating motive, here’s a thought, investigate it. if we suspect foul play have the police ask questions, if it smells funny, prosecute.

But here, there is no suggestion that Mr. Myerson’s motive was anything other than to satisfy his wifes wishes and spare her the extreme indignity of the rotting of her brain. Can you imagine? Would you want to live like that?

I had a dog for 12 years. His name was Allen. That was his name when I got him. He had cancer in the end. That, in conjunction with severe hip dysplasia, and he was in unbearable pain. My vet recommended, and I agreed, to euthanize him. It was ‘humane’ which we as society endeavor to be, for animals.

My client’s act was a humane one. It was a sorrowful one. Mrs. Myerson’s nurse testified as to the profound love that Ryan Myerson had for his wife. Sometimes the ultimate act of love and kindness…

If you think this man is a criminal send him to jail. If you don’t, don’t.

His client is, of course, acquitted. A classic case of jury nullification, a legitimate finding by the jury that the law was wrongly applied in this instance.

Another example of why I love the show evolves afterwards. Once again in a conversation between Denny and Alan, the nature of “who’s life is it anyway” is explored. An excellent conclusion to the episode, and what I’ve come to expect from the show.

Looking forward to tonight’s episode.

“Light up, Everybody…”

The smoking argument. A conversation with my ‘teen’, and some suggestions.

CATO’s regulation seems to enjoy beating dead horses as much as I do. They have offered a rebuttal to the ACSH article that calls them to task for belittling the health threat posed by cigarette smoke.

Quoting from the article:

We started that article with this declaration: “Truth was an early victim in the battle against tobacco.” We ended the article with this admonition: ““When that goal [i.e., truth] yields to politics, tainting science in order to advance predetermined ends, we are all at risk. Sadly, that is exactly what has transpired as our public officials fabricate evidence to promote their crusade against big tobacco.”

OK, granted. They spin some pretty good arguments for the CDC’s figures being exaggerated. But I think they are confused about who and what is motivating the witch hunt that the CDC is simply the public edifice for. It isn’t the gov’t that is after ‘big tobacco’, as referendum after referendum and ordinance after ordinance against public smoking is proposed and passes. It’s the average person on the street who doesn’t smoke himself (which is now the majority of the population, by the way) doesn’t want to have to smell someone elses cigarette smoke, and figures “there outta be a law”. Suddenly, there are laws. This is how ‘democracy‘ works.

[Yes, I know, we’re a Republic. The majority says we aren’t any more, apparently they don’t understand the meaning of the words in the pledge that they recited daily. I guess that’s what happens when you let socialists write documents for free thinking people]
The fact that there are serious health consequences to smokers, and costs that get passed on to the government as the guy left holding the tab at the end of the night, simply buttresses the argument against allowing people to smoke, at all. Facts that the regulation article itself admits:

Second, we are wrongly censured for stating that ““the hazards of smoking remain largely speculative. “What we actually said is quite different, indeed mostly contrary: “Evidence does suggest that cigarettes substantially increase the risk of lung cancer, bronchitis, and emphysema. The relationship between smoking and other diseases is not nearly so clear.””

Pretty much puts case closed on it for me. My point in bringing up the evidence against smoking was never to call attention to ‘how many’ deaths, and the obvious manipulation of statistics to ‘awfulize’ the outcome should be ridiculed; but the facts do show a connection between poorer health, shorter less healthy lives, and smoking tobacco. Since I have health problems already, it benefits me to choose non-smoking establishments when I do go out. Luckily for me Austin is a proper socialist paradise and has taken any need to think for myself, about where to go on a night out, out of my hands.

…Which is good, because if it was left to my anarchist/libertarian brethren I’d have no choice but to walk in and sniff the air before deciding if I wanted to actually ‘stop’ anywhere. Probably just stay home in that case (the recurring “what do you want to eat?” argument is hard enough on its own) which would be cheaper.

On the bright side, watched a segment on Beyond Tomorrow tonight dealing with an ‘anti-smoking’ injection. Clinical study results are positive (success rates approaching 60 percent) which is good. Most people who try to quit ‘cold turkey’ fail (3 percent success rate) The various forms of nicotine replacement therapies fair only slightly better (30 percent success rate) So the drug manufacturer is obviously quite pleased with the results. I myself quit cold turkey, after three tries. I was able to apply an REBT technique to the nicotine craving; I would think of the smell that an empty bar has in the morning when you show up to clean it, every time I wanted a cigarette. It took a while, but I was able to beat it. I actually feel ill when I think about smoking these days. (I’m applying the technique to craving french fries now. I don’t know if that’s going to work or not. Love them fries)

I hear you saying “what if I just want to smoke?” Fine by me. Go do it somewhere else, though. Here, you can have my old supply of ‘coffin nails’, I’m not going to need them anymore.