Treason

During my recent convalescence, I watched a lot of television. A lot of television for me, considering I haven’t watched TV much since cutting the cable three years ago. I went through the several series on Netflix that I mentioned previously, but I also spent a lot of time watching several Ken Burns’ PBS series that I’ve had bookmarked for years.

The one that stuck in my mind was The Vietnam War, especially episode seven. You know the one. The one where we discover that Richard Nixon committed treason, and Lyndon Johnson caught him lying about it? For some reason, that series and that episode specifically reminds me of the political climate of today. More than one person has said to me,

You can’t say Donald Trump has committed treason because he hasn’t been conspiring with anyone we have declared war on.

…and I’ve found that non-denial denial quite revealing. Yes it is true that he hasn’t been shown to be conspiring with anyone we are currently at war with, but it is rather convenient that congress doesn’t declare war on enemies anymore. It’s also rather convenient that conventional war is limited to puppet governments and so-called third world regions, while information warfare is carefully treated as different from conventional war. As if destruction of a country’s political and social structure is somehow less damaging than the wholesale bombing campaigns of previous generations.

I mean, it is easier on the furniture and the infrastructure. It costs fewer lives, for the most part. But the uncertainty created by the mis- and dis-information campaigns currently being waged is psychologically as harmful as physical violence. You never know what is true and what is not true these days. All words are lies, especially words that come from government authorities. Sources that most people want to trust, demonstrably cannot be trusted. This has been true since Donald Trump took office proven time and again by investigative reporting.

Just like in Nixon’s time, White House sources deny that the reports are true, but their denials are clearly stamped as false, stamped as face-saving bullshit put out by the Bullshitter-in-Chief. Nixon conspired with Hanoi to prolong the Vietnam war in order to gain the White House. Donald Trump conspired with Vladimir Putin to gain the White House. No, we can’t prove it aside from the synchronicity of events that bear out coordination of efforts. But those events do occur in a properly causal relationship, and Trump did have business interests in Moscow that he still denies existed.

No, we aren’t at war with Russia, so that’s not treason per se. But if you think that just because we aren’t at war with another country, it’s OK to take their stolen information, their disinformation structures and use them against our own people? If you think that is OK, then I seriously have to question your sanity, your loyalty.

I just finished watching All the President’s Men. That line that Robard’s character utters near the end? That line keeps replaying in my head now. Those same pressures that were on the Washington Post back in 1974? Those pressures are on every single American today. There are no more gatekeepers. There is no barrier to information any longer. If we are misinformed, it is because we allow ourselves to be misinformed. Not allowing yourself to be comfortably deluded? That is what it means to be a good citizen. To know what the truth is, and to stick to it no matter the pressure to conform.

“We’re under a lot of pressure, you know, and you put us there,” Robards’ says. “Nothing’s riding on this except the, uh, First Amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press and maybe the future of the country. Not that any of that matters, but if you guys fuck up again, I’m going to get mad. Good night.”

All The President’s Men

Sacrifice

Why is the soldier more important than the teacher who trains the next generation? Than the farmer who feeds the nation? Than the doctor and the nurses who treat the sick? Than the average faceless nobody who drops a dollar into the cup of a homeless veteran on the streets of America and thus provides a moment of joy and compassion?

Stonekettle, It Was Never About The Thanks

Newsletter. Facebook.

I thought about joining the corps of engineers in 2001. Go over, build infrastructure, do what I knew how to do and not have to live with killing someone myself. But then W. decided to invade Iraq, secure that beachhead in the Middle East that would lead us to occupying all of the region eventually. I didn’t want to be any part of that. I was powerless to stop it, but I could sit on my hands and wait for everyone else to wake up to the reality of the transparent lie. I’m still waiting for that revelation to sink in. I’m beginning to doubt that it ever will.

Comment on the Stonekettle article.

High Crimes and Misdemeanors

The charge of high crimes and misdemeanors covers allegations of misconduct by officials, such as perjury of oath, abuse of authority, bribery, intimidation, misuse of assets, failure to supervise, dereliction of duty, unbecoming conduct, refusal to obey a lawful order, chronic intoxication, and tax evasion. Offenses by officials also include ordinary crimes, but perhaps with different standards of proof and punishment than for nonofficials, on the grounds that more is expected of officials by their oaths of office.

An example of a bad Wikipedia page.

The above came up in a Google search as an example of what the phrase High Crimes and Misdemeanors means, and it is a pretty common example of the kind of confusion that I see among the non-legally educated public. I’ve heard this dozens of times from a myriad of places, and the confusion over this phrase, like the confusion over the purpose of the Electoral College, is about to drive me nuts unless I take the time to explain it at least once.

If you were to speak to lawyers about the meanings of these terms, you would get a completely different answer than you would get out of the general public or from the mass media or social media. Specifically, High Crimes and Misdemeanors is a phrase in the U.S. Constitution. It is a term of art, not a type of crime that we must define through some mystic process in order for it to be understood. The definitions already exist.

A misdemeanor is a known quantity defined by law, just like a felony is defined by law.

Felonies and misdemeanors are two classifications of crimes used in most states, with petty offenses (infractions) being the third. Misdemeanors are punishable by substantial fines and sometimes jail time, usually less than one year. Felonies are the most serious type of crime and are often classified by degrees, with a first degree felony being the most serious. They include terrorism, treason, arson, murder, rape, robbery, burglary, and kidnapping, among others.

Findlaw – Classifications of Crimes

There are many possible misdemeanors that could be charged against the sitting president, if a president could be indicted in the fashion that a normal citizen could be charged. I would go so far as to argue that this president should be charged as if he was a normal citizen considering that he is well beneath the quality of human being that I would define as normal, but the niceties of tradition and political maneuvering hamstring most of the arguments that would allow for the direct prosecution of a sitting president for provable crimes in your average courtroom in Washington D.C. or elsewhere.

Lacking the ability to bring charges against a sitting president directly, we have, by definition, to be able to remove a president without having to meet the high standards that a criminal prosecution would require; in other words, the bar for impeachment of a official is lower than the bar for convicting an average citizen. This is because the standards of behavior are higher for political officeholders than the standards of behavior for your average fry cook.

That is why the term high crimes, is used in the U.S. Constitution, rather than the legal term felony,

high crime : a crime of infamous nature contrary to public morality but not technically constituting a felony

specifically : an offense that the U.S. Senate deems to constitute an adequate ground for removal of the president, vice president, or any civil officer as a person unfit to hold public office and deserving of impeachment

Webster’s Legal Definition of High Crime

…and that is why I have maintained that Donald Trump was a fool to even try to run for the office of the president for three years running. This is still my opinion, and the evidence for this opinion has only increased over his time in office. Impeachment is a pro forma operation when it comes to Trump, inc. His crimes are known. I, a layman, have detailed his crimes across the hundred-odd posts on this blog that I’ve written about this subject, and there are many more crimes that I’m sure I’ve missed in the last three years of the non-stop Trump media orgy we’ve all lived through. As to the specific criminal charges relating to the 2016 election that could be brought against him, those are icing on the cake. They aren’t needed, although everyone seems to think they are what will determine the future of the Trump presidency.

They won’t, because they aren’t the crimes that can be proven here and now. The Mueller report documents the crimes of obstruction that could be brought against Donald Trump, but he rightly or wrongly refused to bring those charges against him. In any case, the job of accusing and then convicting a sitting president and removing him from office falls to the Senate once articles of impeachment are passed by the House of Representatives. The crimes that can be proven right here and now without a protracted redaction fight in the courts are the financial crimes documented by his corporate accountants, and these crimes are a subpoena away from being proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.

People who expect Trump to last another two years should probably hang onto their seats (yes, I’m looking at you) because it is liable to get really messy over the next 18 months. No one can tell you what will happen, because nothing like this has ever occurred in the history of the United States. We are in the moment of crisis when Rome became an empire and was no longer a Republic. We are in the twilight era when the USSR was ceasing to function, but continued to grind on for a decade and more through sheer inertia.

The impeachments should not be limited to Trump, either. The Attorney General, the Treasury Secretary, even the Vice President are all open targets based solely on their behavior within the Trump administration. The emoluments clause remains the albatross hanging around all of their necks, collectively. They have all conspired to allow Donald Trump to profit from the office of the president, allowed him to steal funds directly from all of us to further his own fortunes. This cannot be tolerated.

The Trump administration will end a longstanding requirement that certain nonprofit organizations disclose the names of large donors to the Internal Revenue Service, a move that will allow some political groups to shield their sources of funding from government scrutiny.

New York Times

We The People not only expect but demand that we be told who buys whom and at what price, no matter how much power that person or group believes they have. This will be true for as long as as bribery, private financing for campaigns, is allowed. Mnuchin answers directly to Trump. He should be indicted along with Trump and the rest of his administration for high crimes and misdemeanors. This is no longer a request. #ImpeachTrump or join him on the dock to be charged with him. Pick one.

If you are afraid of where the truth might take you, if your loyalty is to a would be king and not the nation, then you are complicit. If you’re outraged at my words instead of at the thought of what that process might find, if you don’t want to know the truth, well, then you’re the problem.

Stonekettle Station

Google Delivers Russian Propaganda

I’ve got some feedback for Google

I don’t usually use Google now. I don’t know how many people even know what that is. If your phone is an android phone, you should be able to swipe right on the home screen to get to Google now. Google now isn’t even what it is called anymore, but it still is exactly what Google now used to be, it’s just referred to as “Google” these days. That makes the following feedback even more succinct.

Russia Today – RT.com

The above story was at the top of my Google feed today. A prime example of why I don’t use Google now very often in the first place. Top stories on my feed are almost always some flame-inducing bullshit from some less than trustworthy source. What does Google think I should read first today? A story from rt.com on Rachel Maddow. Google is suggesting I read an RT story about Maddow when there is a perfectly decent news article over on the Washington Post website that actually tells me what the real facts in question are. A news piece that isn’t about Rachel Maddow in the first place. So Google? Are you officially acting as a propaganda arm for the Russian government now? Why would I be offered a news story from rt.com in the first place, if not? RT is not a legitimate source for anything newsworthy. They are an even less reliable source than FOX is, which is saying quite a bit.

YouTube’s recommendation algorithms are designed to steer viewers to videos they may not have otherwise searched for, including by automatically playing more videos through its “Up next” function. But experts said that functionality can lead viewers down a rabbit hole of increasingly concerning videos of conspiracy theories, disinformation or offensive content.

YouTube’s algorithms have previously been designed to maximize watch time, which Chaslot and others have criticized as rewarding more shocking or sensational videos. YouTube said it now relies on information such as user surveys, likes, dislikes and shares to improve its recommendations.

Even its efforts to combat misinformation have in some cases backfired, as happened this month when videos of the flaming collapse of the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris were incorrectly identified by YouTube as imagery from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York.

Washington Post

Here’s a thought, Google. A thought I’ve offered to you as design advice more than once. I want the ability to exclude URL’s directly as an input function. I want to be able to key in URL’s directly and exclude those URL’s from my news feed. This would be useful in two ways. One, it would stop your customers from flaming you every time you offered an article that the user felt did not adequately outline the facts in question. Secondly, this block information should be useful as a rule of thumb determinate for the reliablilty and general acceptability of the source among the general public. A general trustworthiness rating of a site.

The subject in question is an excellent example of the problem. If I want to know how to get to the meaning of the Mueller report, I have plenty of reliable sources that I could go to, none of them controlled by the Russian government. Here’s one.

Thursday I surveyed the entire Mueller report. I read some sections carefully; I skimmed others. My job was to anchor Lawfare’s initial coverage, so I needed to have a sense of the big picture, as well as detailed knowledge of certain findings and arguments. Starting Friday, however, I am reading the entire document carefully, starting at the beginning. I’m writing up my thoughts as I go in this post. There will be no cohesive argument to this journal. It will simply be a collection of my observations, questions and thoughts as I go through the document. It will get long. I will not attempt to summarize the underlying document, merely to reflect on it, but I will organize this post by document section. I will update the post as I read. I hope people find it useful.

Lawfare Blog – Notes on the Mueller Report: A Reading Diary

Lawfare is world’s above in reliability for communicating legal information than any other site I that I can think off right off the top of my head. So, contrary to the talking head on the RT Youtube video that dismisses the entirety of the report as some kind of conspiracy against the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) you might discover that the Mueller team uncovered real crimes committed by the sitting president of the United States, and we might want to impeach him for these crimes. It would probably be a good idea.

It would probably also be a good idea not to act as the propaganda arm of any government, Google. The numbers of propaganda organs that survive unscathed after the existing powers are unseated is a number very close to zero. You might want to contemplate your future employment plans if you continue down this road. The vast majority of the American people are not fooled by this chicanery conducted by the OHM and his Russian buddies. There will be hell to pay, eventually.


Google is not the only culprit here. Google is simply the culprit pushing misinformation on my personal device. In this TED talk, listen while this journalist describes the multiple crimes and misinformation spread by the leave campaign, with direct ties to Donald Trump and Russia.

Carole Cadwalladr – TED2019 – Facebook’s role in Brexit — and the threat to democracy

This is the real harm in allowing ourselves to be used in this fashion. Allowing ourselves to be pushed in a direction we really don’t want to go except for the lies being told to us. The referendum that Theresa May thinks she has to honor was conducted outside the law. It baffles me why she thinks doing the stupid thing the referendum calls for, leaving the EU, is the thing that has to be done. What has to be done is to punish the lawbreakers who enacted the sham on UK citizens. The felonious results of the sham are irrelevant.

Firefly Online

Allan Steele‘s in-game tribute planet. No relation.

I had some real hope once that this game would eventually see the light of day. Sadly it’s been four years now since its announcement, and there hasn’t been any news of the games continued existence as a work in progress since 2016. Rumor has it that the licensing has run out on the project and the game will likely never be released because FOX is possibly looking to restart the Firefly universe with a new version of the series in 2020. I guess that is a faint hope to hold onto.

h/t to thezombiechimp.com for the info and the links. There are a lot more images of ingame content at that link.

Firefly Online First Look Trailer From Comic Con 2013 – Gamerhubtv

Rescues

Who is the rescued and who is the rescuer?

They were found tied up in a bag on the bank of a creek. A litter of mongrel puppies that someone had tried to drown, found by a local shelter volunteer and brought to the animal shelter for evaluation and adoption. Just another unwanted batch of puppies created by pets whose owners were criminally negligent in allowing their animals to breed when the products of that breeding were unwanted.

That’s where we found them, at the shelter. Every child should have their own puppy to raise. Dogs and children go together like sunshine and rainbows. Our geriatric nearly 20-year old Shusky Aurora was blind and deaf and would barely live two years past the day that we went to the shelter to adopt puppies for the children to raise as their own. Old dogs are for old people. Children need puppies.

The Wife and I have been animal shelter volunteers off and on over our many years together. We would take strays that we picked up down to the San Angelo animal shelter, and invariably we’d end up with a rescue that we just couldn’t leave behind coming back home with us. Whether it was a litter of kittens that would starve without our feeding them, or a doofus of a Springer Spaniel that we eventually traded to an acquaintance, the pets would come and go through our involvement with the animal shelter until we moved to Austin.

In Austin the shelter is much more regimented and much more expensive to do business with. Consequently we don’t take strays there like we did in San Angelo. Here we find them homes if we can’t find where their home is. Mostly we fend off feral cats here, and take in the odd parakeet that we find perched on the gutters when we come home.

Aurora truly was of the old guard, she migrated with us to Austin from San Angelo. She never had puppies of her own, and she was the last surviving member of the last litter of puppies we got from Muffin-Puff Chevas (she had a Regal name) and Budweiser, two previous rescues that were probably shepherd-husky crosses themselves. There might have been some recent wolf in Budweiser, he had a ferociousness that isn’t found in most dogs these days. But he was protective to a fault, and he gave his piercing blue eyes to most of his puppies that he sired with Muffin.

Muffin was a dream dog. She liked nothing better than to be where ever you were. If you were swimming across the lake, she was swimming right beside you. If she got ahead of you she would expect you to grab her tale and let her pull you to shore. She loved tug of war and fetching balls. She loved chasing tennis balls so much that she would shove her head through cinder blocks to get them, and ended up getting her head stuck in one once. Undeterred, she managed to lift the block while still holding the ball in her mouth, and stiffly walked back over to us with a cinder block hanging around her neck. We couldn’t take the ball from her when she offered it to us because we were laughing too hard to get up off the ground. I have those pictures around here somewhere. I had to carefully chisel the block off of her head after we took the pictures. She was full of life and play until the day she died. It was complications of an undiagnosed corn allergy that got her, common in dogs. She lost all her hair and had constant skin sores for the last few years of her life. She was the first dog we let sleep with us, we were so concerned for her health those last few years.

But she made beautiful babies with Budweiser, little blue-eyed, white, black and tan and black and white balls of joy that everyone wanted. We never had any trouble giving those puppies away, even charging for a few of them. But she died young, fourteen, and her puppies and Budweiser lived on. Bud made it to eighteen before a stroke took him, Corona the second to last of that last litter made it to seventeen herself. This left poor Aurora alone. We had a lapdog that isn’t part of this story since we didn’t rescue her, but Aurora was alone out in the yard and no dog should be alone just as no child should be alone.

So we took a trip to the Lockhart animal shelter looking for puppies for our growing children to adopt. When asked what kind of breed we were looking for, we said German Shepherd. They took us to the litter that had been brought in, the litter that some soulless human had tried to drown. They did look like German Shepherd mutts. They were a little large, but not overly so. The orange puppy immediately bonded with my daughter, and the brindle-coated one plopped down in my son’s lap and wouldn’t leave. So the puppies picked the children, just as it should be.

On the way home from the shelter the children settled on names. The daughter’s orange and white coated pup would be named Marshmallow, after the color of a marshmallow properly grilled over an open flame. The brindle-coated pup that adopted my son would be called Pearl because of the white overcoat and black undercoat that winked through when she moved.

We discovered within days that these dogs might be shepherds of some kind, but they were definitely not German Shepherds. They were not the six weeks of age that the shelter thought they were. Pearl couldn’t eat solid food and so we had to soak her food in milk for the first couple of weeks of her life. They were probably only four weeks old, making them much larger dogs than we had planned on in the end, but a welcome surprise. They grew up fast, getting larger than Aurora’s measly thirty pounds in a few months. As far as we could ever tell, they were at least partially Anatolian Shepherd, a breed of dog I had never heard of before.

We almost lost Mellow to sarcoptic mange in her first year of life. We only managed to keep her alive by force-feeding her a topical treatment for pests on a veterinarians orders (we thought he was crazy when he gave us instructions to do this) this left her legs scarred with white fur where it had been orange before, and I remain convinced that it made her the epicure she remained throughout her life, eating rocks, bricks, steel and masonite whenever she got bored or agitated.

Muffin used to keep the yard empty of sticks. She would forage around the yard on an hourly basis, looking for a stick to chew on. when she found one she would reduce it to splinters, and then look for another stick. In the same fashion, Mellow would rip the siding off the garage and eat it, leaving no trace of its existence anywhere in the yard. She went through forty linear feet of siding before I gave up and paid to get the garage resided in hardiplank. Apparently concrete was too tough for her to chew through. We caught her chewing on rocks so frequently that we ended up taking all the rocks out of the yard, and I don’t want to talk about what happened to the red clay bricks that used to be stacked up in the back of the yard. We can only find a few of them any more.

They never made a kennel that could hold that dog. She chewed her way out of a steel wire cage more than once. She destroyed so many kennels we finally decided to quit trying to keep her in one. Quit trying to cage her up at all, which was exactly what she wanted in the first place.

In contrast, Pearl was a watcher and a thinker. While her sister blunt forced her way through everything, Pearl studied any situation from a safe distance. She was snappier than Mellow, who could have been an excellent bird dog if I could only have managed to teach her to bring anything back to me. She like her space to be empty unless you were family, and she let everyone know this by raising her hackles and exposing the black fur of her undercoat on her shoulders. I never felt threatened when I was with that dog, and I trusted the children to go play in the park without me as long as they took their dogs with them. It is amazing the respect that a 100 pound dog can command, even if that dog is not visibly threatening. Pearl never bit anyone that wasn’t trying to feed her something, don’t get me wrong. She just never quite could figure out where the food ended and where your fingers began.

It was because of this that I kept unfamiliar people at a distance from Pearl, knowing she would bite, and instead let them pet Mellow who never set her teeth on anyone, ever. But Pearl was a clever dog. She worked out how to open doors and gates when she wanted to. If no one was looking. She would raid the recycling bin and eat the resulting mess on her sister’s bed so that it looked like Mellow had done it. Her favorite prank was going over to the fence and barking at nothing until she got her sister to bark, then she would slink away and leave the idiot Mellow barking by herself to get chastised for making noise for no reason.

She did have the bane of shepherds everywhere, hip dysplasia. It may have been her inability to move as gracefully as her sister, because of her bad hips, that made her think about how to get things done with as little work as possible. The less time standing, the better. For all of her problems moving, though, there was never a dog that liked taking a walk more than Pearl.

I discovered early on that if I wanted to keep Mellow from eating parts of the house she wasn’t supposed to eat, I was going to need to take her on a regular walk. Mellow would always start out fast, pulling on the leash. Pearl would start off slow, setting a slower pace, forcing her sister to slow down. By the time we’d done our mile of walking, Mellow would be dragging behind while Pearl, nearly lame, mincing, almost prancing, Pearl would be leading the way home.

For years we repeated this behavior. Me and my floppy hat, two giant dogs on leashes wandering the neighborhood, sometimes for hours. It was like this when the Daughter was in high school and then went off to college. When the Son started high school. When the Daughter came back from college. When we started looking for colleges for the Son. My dogs and me would be out two or three times a week, depending on the pollen and the weather, walking the neighborhood looking for new smells to smell.

I knew they were starting to get old when they started insisting on taking breaks before we got back to the house. Giving them water didn’t help. It was time to sit and pant. So the walks got shorter. Shorter and farther between. Then the day came that Pearl couldn’t manage to walk anymore. She could get herself up off the floor and out to the yard to pee, but just barely. Then she could barely do it while on enough pain meds to make me sleep for a week. Mellow and I continued to walk without her, but it was torture for her to be left behind. I could see it on her face, that she wanted to come with, but just couldn’t get up to do it.

Last spring, Pearl finally left us, surrounded by the people who loved her. Mellow and I went on even fewer walks after that. Now I’m starting to feel the age along with Mellow. Me pushing sixty, she’s pushing fifteen. The Daughter started taking her on more walks than I did. Exercising indoors means I don’t cough up a lung from allergy irritation. It’s boring as hell, but less life-shortening.

Yesterday we came home from a marathon round of doctor’s visits to find that Mellow didn’t want to drink or eat. Then she started to exhibit signs of pain. Labored breathing. Excessive panting. We tried a pain pill, but it just knocked her out, it didn’t help her breathing. About midnight we bundled her into the car and the Wife and Daughter took her to a 24 hour animal hospital, something else I didn’t know existed. I figured they’d be back in a few hours with some horror story about something Mellow had eaten while we were gone. Something she had eaten that had finally refused to sit in her stomach peacefully. Nothing could kill that dog, in my opinion.

One thing could, and I should have known what it was. Cancer could kill her. Cancer can kill anyone. I should have remembered. A tumor ruptured on her spleen, causing her to bleed out internally. She was gone and I didn’t get to say goodbye. I really hate that. Mellow joins the long list of pets that I’ve known before her, the only dog the Daughter has ever owned. Joins her sister, the only dog the Son has ever owned. By the time I was their age I had known no fewer than five dogs and countless puppies starting with a chocolate Poodle that founded a line of Poodles that probably still exists somewhere in Kansas, and the last being a Golden Retriever I named Buddy. None of them were mine, although dad told me Buddy was mine. He didn’t fetch birds for me, just for dad. That makes him dad’s dog, and dad mourned his loss when he was gone. Mourned him far more than I did.

Corona was my dog, more than any other dog I’ve ever known. She picked me, and like the Daughter who was born a few years after Corona, I didn’t spend the time I should have spent with her while I had her near me. I only appreciate how much that dog and the Daughter bonded in my absence, in hindsight. It was Corona’s being attacked and killed by a stray that dug its way into our yard that made it imperative to get new dogs to blot out that memory of violation. Not only because children should have puppies, but that because death, especially violent death, should be answered with unashamed hope. A recommitment to the future. A dedication to time, life, continuing unapologetically.

We will be taking a trip to the animal shelter soon, I imagine. Not today and not tomorrow. But soon.

Breaking the Western Mythos

New York Times

From the ACLU: “Two nights ago, an armed civilian militia organization describing itself as the ‘United Constitutional Patriots’ arrested nearly 300 people seeking safety here, including young children, in New Mexico. Other videos appear to show even more recent arrests…”

That’s where I’m going. Right there.

This is the myth, the heroic white cowboy legend, that Trump’s generation sold itself, an America that never was, small, limited, SIMPLE, where problems are solved with a gun and rope and all a good woman needs is a rough man to defend her from the savages outside of town.

When those who call themselves conservatives today talk of conserving “our” history, well, that’s the history they mean and they would erase anyone who does not fit their myth from it — or relegate the rest of us to the help or comic relief.

Stonekettle

If you look below the surface of the Western mythos you will find rare gems of television and Hollywood gold, like the 1950’s television series Maverick. I stumbled across this series a few years ago when James Garner died. I need to backtrack a little bit here.

I grew up watching detective stories at my dad’s feet. He had a weakness for cop dramas. If Hawaii 5-0 or Dragnet or any one of a dozen other shows I could name was on, he was watching it. I didn’t care much for most of the cop shows he watched, but the detective shows like the Rockford Files always intrigued me. Rockford, being an ex-felon, ex-cop, never carried a gun. In the world constructed around the character of James Rockford, it was a liability he didn’t want to have to answer for. If he needed a gun he seemed capable of taking one from whoever was threatening him.

It came as a surprise to me, learning more about him after his death, that the lack of a gun was a limitation that he demanded be written into the stories that he took part in. He felt that the gun was a crutch, it allowed the writers and the actors an easy way out of any situation. Just shoot your way out and you were the hero. Those weren’t the kinds of stories that James Garner wanted to be known for. This was true of Maverick as well as being true of Rockford Files. Guns were only carried by bad guys and lawmen, and the Mavericks had to learn how to turn a losing hand into a winning one by using their minds and the gullibility of the people around them. Rockford couldn’t carry a gun or he would go back to jail, so once again the stories had to be a little more clever in order for them to be interesting to the viewing audience.

Sure there were fistfights and concussions galore in both series, but this was the sixties and seventies. You had to have something to keep the audience watching back then. Dialog was simply not enough to keep them entertained. But the heroes of the series didn’t win because they were the fastest with a gun. They came out on top because they were smarter than their opponents were.

The more standard Westerns never kept my attention as a child. The closest I came to watching standard fare back then was watching The Big Valley or High Chaparral. I can watch Clint Eastwood in virtually any film his production company made and enjoy myself, but shows like Bonanza never held my attention. They were all too predictable.

Comparing what I call a Western with what the average Western looks like, is like saying that Lost in Space and Star Trek are equal because they are both science fiction television shows. I know, this insistence on distinction with a difference makes me an outlier, not the subject of the Stonekettle Facebook post I quoted at the beginning.

I get it.

…And yet there were five seasons of Maverick. There were six seasons of Rockford. A second Maverick series. A Maverick movie. Someone is watching Rockford right now somewhere out in TV land. There has to be a significant number of people like me out there. Like us out there. The question is, are there enough of us? Enough to change the myth? I still hope so.

Facebook comment expanded for the blog.

Angioplasty

It’ll all be fine.

That’s what they always say. Medical professionals. They’re always keen to reassure their patients that all will be well. They don’t want the patient to freak out and do anything crazy like killing themselves or canceling the procedure out of fear of the procedure. That is so not me; and I am way, way beyond the ability for comforting words to assuage any fears or disquiet.

Nope, I’m already certain that the end has come. I’m gonna die on the table. That’s the worst possible outcome. The next most likely outcome is that I’m going to wake up with a zipper chest like so many of my relatives have. Of course, I don’t tell anyone else that, not even the Wife. At least I don’t say that in those specific words. The Wife knows my mental acrobatics. She helpfully exclaims to the cardiologists nursing staff,

See what I have to put up with?

I know my own genetic history. I know what is in store for me because it is what happened to my direct genetic ancestors. My maternal grandfather had a heart attack when he was about my age. They cracked his chest open and sewed six bypass arteries into his heart in order to keep him alive. The procedure was successful. He lived for another thirty years before his gut killed him. When I started getting that weird sensation in my chest, I knew what that feeling meant, I just couldn’t jump to conclusions about what it was. No, I had to go through the experts and ge their opinions. I could have been wrong, but I wasn’t wrong. This time.

The feeling? It was like two solid objects rubbing against each other in the area around my heart. I’d never felt anything quite like it before in my life. After the sensation repeated itself several times during exercise, I decided I probably should take it seriously. So I did. I cancelled the physical therapy appointment I had the next day and booked an appointment with my cardiologist for as soon as he could see me.

He’s the one who offered the platitude it’ll be fine after saying the word angiogram and then watching me pale. What he didn’t know was that I have had nightmares about things crawling through my veins for most of my life. it’s part of my fear of needles and why I nearly faint every time someone sticks me with something. An angiogram is exactly that fear come to life.

I cringed every time an older relative would go in for one of the procedures. The Wife’s foster father had one done back in the dark ages, back in the 1980’s when an angiogram was still experimental. His was the first one I had ever heard of being done. They went in through his groin. They went in through that artery in the thigh that if cut you can bleed out in a matter of seconds. Not minutes, seconds. That artery. The femoral artery.

The catheter that they introduce into the blood system through the artery allows them to run a camera up through your arteries to study blockage from inside your body, and they can use it to introduce dye into your blood system, near the heart, so that they can use x ray imaging to study blockages. Which is what they wanted me to agree to. We’re going to slice open an artery and run tubes through your bloodstream. But don’t worry, we do this all the time.

They don’t know that worry is what I do eighteen hours a day, every day. If I’m not worrying about something, then I’m probably not actively thinking at the moment. I even worry when I dream. This is why driving a car every day of a working life is a special kind of torture for me. Anything more than a half-hour of driving, and I’m already worrying a hole in my stomach. I gave myself an ulcer inside of six months when I briefly flirted with driving for a living, bringing to an early end any kind of career driving trucks or test cars.

Over the course of the next week, while waiting for the procedure to happen, I say my goodbyes to everyone and make sure my karmic debt is paid off. I don’t want to be surprised in a potential next life by being reborn as a cockroach or anything. Just covering my bets. When the day finally arrives I’m under so much stress that if you scared me I would probably have a heart attack on the spot. That’s me trying not to worry.

Luckily I wasn’t going to be awake for the procedure. I made sure of that before agreeing to it. No, I do not want to be awake. I want the good drugs. The kind of drugs that keep you from remembering anything. I definitely do not want to be reliving the memory of crap crawling through my veins when I go to sleep for the rest of my life, if there is a rest of my life. Knock me out, or as close to out as I can get and still be responsive to commands or questions.

The doctor showed up early. He checked my wrist to see if it was large enough to get into easily. He was planning on accessing the radial artery rather than the femoral artery. I was initially thrilled at the notion that I wouldn’t have blood shooting out of the artery next to my junk the first time I went to the bathroom after the procedure. Then he left the room to allow the prep nurse to get to work. They prepared both the femoral artery area in the groin (so much hair!) and the right wrist as possible surgery locations. Had I known they would need to shave my groin anyway, I could have used the trimmers on it beforehand. Manscaping is a foreign concept to me. If hair grows somewhere on my body (on your body, even) it probably grows there for a reason. I see little need to trim hair that no one sees but me and the Wife. If she doesn’t like the hair, it usually gets snatched out by the roots anyway.

Talking to the surgery nurses is the last thing I remember before the procedure. I remember that both arms were strapped down (we don’t want you moving. Yes, I understand) The surgical shields were put in place. They were cold, but in place. The nurse said they do these kinds of procedures eight times a day on a normal day. They wouldn’t be doing eight of them on that day because the cardiologist I had been referred to had already dealt with two emergency procedures before he got to me in the mid-afternoon, and I had been scheduled as the first cardiogram of the morning when I walked in that day. He’s a busy guy. He earns his pay, without a doubt. He definitely earned it working on me that day.

The good drugs started when the doctor entered the surgery and verified everything I’d agreed to for about the fourth or fifth time (the thoroughness of modern medical procedure is reassuring if slightly tedious) and I don’t remember much after that. I remember the imaging system suspended over my chest like the upper hammer in a forging hammer press. I remember voices, but not words. I do vaguely remember something rounding the corner in my shoulder at one point, but I definitely do not remember the amount of work they had to do once they had done the initial scan.

…because it was as bad as I imagined it was. I didn’t die, so the worst outcome was averted. They didn’t have to crack my chest, something that would have been required had I been undergoing the procedure even ten years ago. Second worst outcome avoided by simply being born in the place and time that I was. No open heart surgery. Just three stents. Three stents, in three different arteries, and then the second set of tests to make sure that blood flow was restored to the blood starved areas of my heart.

What would have been weeks of bed rest and a lengthy hospital stay reduced to overnight observation and three months of cardiac rehabilitation. I’m a big fan of science-based modern medicine. It has once again kept me alive to see another day. From that perspective, what is there not to like about it?

I start remembering things after I’ve been in the recovery room for a bit. I remember the Wife’s usual amusement at my slowly dwindling confusion. I remember the cardiologist (now my favorite person in the world) visiting to let me know what they found while crawling through my arteries. He also let me know that I needed to stay for observation for at least a day to make sure that there were no complications. I also remember sitting in the recovery room until they had a hospital room ready for me, sitting there waiting until the cleaning staff was impatiently waiting for me to leave so they could clean up and shut down the surgery wing for the day. At least I had Looney Tunes to keep me company.

The pressure bandage was removed from my wrist at some point during the wait, and then there was a brief panic while I bled through quite a bit of gauze before the nurses got the bleeding to stop. Nurses pressing on the fresh surgery site to stop the bleeding, that was the most intense pain I endured that day. A mercifully brief pain considering the amount of pain that open heart surgery entails. Pain for months on end.

NPR – Invisibilia – The Fifth Vital Sign

I could bitch about the inability to get my betahistine cleared through the hospital administration while I was laid up at the hospital for the night, but that seems pretty trivial in the scheme of things. We’ll just pretend I didn’t take the betahistine anyway because that would be against the rules. Did you know you aren’t allowed to bring your own drugs into the hospital? It was news to me. If you have drugs that aren’t available in the US unless they are compounded, you probably should get your drugs approved by the hospital you might be staying in before you find yourself stuck there with no treatment for your weird diseases. It will save you the frustration. In my case, it would have kept me from requesting a Xanax from the staff in order to keep the vertigo at bay. They didn’t want to give it to me, but I convinced them they didn’t want to see a full blown drop attack in the middle of the night. Really, I’m not complaining, I’m just a problem patient. Ask the Wife.

The only real surprise I experienced post-recovery was that I didn’t expect to be one-handed for such an extended period of time. Had I realized that the bruising would hang around for as long as it did, I would have told them to go in through the groin. I would have missed a wedding anyway, as it turned out (thunderstorms will do that) But I could have done everything else I normally do while laid up in bed for forty-eight hours. Not having two hands meant I missed raiding in World of Warcraft for two weeks. But the worst part was not writing. Not writing much of anything for nearly three weeks. Slow torture for anyone who loves to write. As I said previously, I watched a lot of television.

This brings us to today in this little story. Today, where I’m stuck in the near-endless repetition of cardiac rehab three times a week. Exercising while wearing a heart monitor with nurses always hovering nearby. Me and a whole lot of people twenty years my senior sweating as a group and wishing we could be somewhere else. I’m beginning to understand what it means to be handed the short end of the genetic stick now. I hope to survive my genetic handicaps long enough to see a crispr application that will fix what is ailing me, whatever that is.

Look Ma, I Can Write Again!

…at least briefly. I’m starting a entry on what happened and why after I finish typing this up, but I can finally use the right hand without pain again. Two weeks of forced TV viewing has finally come to an end. I thought I was going to lose my mind. At least I still had my podcasts to keep the mind busy in between binge watching all of Better Call Saul, Altered Carbon, Man in the High Castle and finally finishing the HBO series The Pacific. I’ll probably have time to at least start Electric Dreams before I’m fully recovered.

Two of the greatest scientific achievements of my lifetime made the news during the weeks I was recuperating.

Reality provides us with facts so romantic that imagination itself could add nothing to them.

Jules Verne, the SGU quote of the week.

I think that is appropriate given this episode. I mean we have a picture of a black hole, what’s more awesome than that?

…Except maybe fossils from the day the dinosaurs died.

Steven Novella

So I’m pretty happy to still be here to ponder which of those two achievements is the more important one.