Category Archives: Health

I Hope Kanye West Gets Help


This whole Kanye thing is hard to watch.

I’ve had a couple brushes with bipolar folks – one of them terrifying enough that I started carrying a gun out of fear for my well-being – and I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like living with it.

I hope he gets help. I also hope that people watching are motivated by his case to educate themselves more on mental health. And maybe the stigma lessens a bit.

If you’re struggling with mental health issues or know someone who is, you can get help at

Donald Trump Belongs on Mt. Rushmore

Let’s have a look at the current residents of South Dakota’s most famous mountain.

The first was a rich white guy who owned more than 100 slaves, and wasn’t known as the best master, at that.

The second guy – also wealthy – owned more than 700 slaves during his life.

The third guy didn’t own slaves, but had this to say about those of African descent: Read more

How Many Dollars Is a Life Worth (and Why Did We Choose This)?


Our desperation is no accident. Desperation is good for business.

Colorado reopened for business yesterday. There were precautions galore, like these posted on the website of one of our favorite local restaurants:

    • You must wear a mask or face covering until drinks and food arrive and  while you are moving about the restaurant and bar
    • Practice social distancing by staying 6 feet away from other patrons
    • Limit your party size to eight people or less
    • Make reservations if possible
    • Check in with the host and provide your full name, phone number, and email address
    • After checking in, please wait outside weather permitting, for your table
    • Please practice patience with our staff as we are doing our best to accommodate you within our new restaurant dine-in guidelines

We reserve the right to deny service to anyone(s) not following the safety protocols from the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment 


    • Our team members are all wearing face coverings and are increasing their handwashing practices
    • All team members go through symptom monitoring when arriving at work
    • We are disinfecting all shared surfaces such as menus, tables, and chairs after every use and/or applying sanitation to food contact areas between seatings
    • Menus are available online to view from your mobile device if you prefer – let the host know if this is your preference
    • High touch areas are being disinfected every 30 minutes
    • We have a reduced occupancy capacity and are practicing social distancing of 6 feet
    • We are offering our full menus for take out, delivery, & curbside pickup

My guess is these guidelines are pretty standard around the state, and no doubt health inspectors will be out in force looking for skulls to crack and examples to make.

I have friends working in a couple of these restaurants and it goes without saying I hope all goes well for them.

That said, reopening is as bad a decision as has ever been made by a Colorado governor (and that’s saying something). From the standpoint of public health, this is malfeasance in the first degree. Gov. Jared Polis just killed people.

Let me say that again just so we’re clear:

Gov. Jared Polis just killed people.

How many we don’t know yet, but you can be forgiven for expecting the worst.

Of course, this wasn’t a public health decision. It was an economic decision. How do we know? Well, when you need an extended laundry list of shalts and shalt-nots like the one above so you can eat dinner without killing the neighborhood, that’s maybe a hint.

And as infuriating as it is contemplating how many dollars a life is worth, we understand how this morbid calculus works, don’t we?

Billionaires can’t become multi-billionaires if the doors are shut (okay, okay – yes, one mega-multi-billionaire is in the process of becoming a trillionaire – so maybe there’s an angle after all).

Billionaires are powerfully motivating for our elected officials, many of whom hope to be elected again someday. Most of us regular types don’t worry so much about the rich, though. They’ll manage. But we still support reopening. Why are we on the same side of the issue as those who literally don’t care if we die?

Duh. We care about the small businesses in our communities. We care about workers at the bottom of the food chain – waiters, bartenders, retail clerks, delivery drivers – all those “essential” folks on the frontlines. We know these people. We patronize their establishments. We know the workers. They’re our friends, our relatives. And we know the straits they’re in.

Which means that while we’re not happy about it, reopening is necessary, right?

Oh hell no.

That proposition requires me to accept a deeply flawed assumption: that Capitalism, and our particular brand of feral dog Capitalism in particular, is natural and necessary. It isn’t. That we have no safety net isn’t inevitable, it’s a choice we made. That losing your job, through no fault of your own, means losing your healthcare insurance isn’t just how the world is. It’s how Capital wants it and we’ve acquiesced.

When push comes to shove, the people who shape our economic reality have no obligation to their neighbors or their communities. They answer only to shareholder value – and that didn’t come down the mountain with Moses on a stone tablet.

We could have chosen differently. We can still choose differently, and each day we don’t allows our wealthy elite to consolidate their power just a little more.

Colorado opened its economy because it’s the only way to alleviate our desperation. Way too many of us already live one or two bad months from utter disaster, and thanks to a pandemic that those at the top of the food chain ignored disaster is no longer two months away. It’s clawing at the door.

Our desperation is no accident. Desperation is good for business. It keeps labor costs down and deters people from seeking employment somewhere less exploitative (which keeps turnover down, and turnover is hellishly costly for companies). This is especially true if the employer provides health insurance for the worker and – this is key – the worker’s family.

Desperation means a frightening number of Americans don’t have jobs, they have hostage situations. (And if we had single-payer healthcare like other developed nations, that means employers would have a bit less leverage, doesn’t it?)

Don’t let anyone arguing to “reopen the economy” get away with “we have to let people work to stay alive.” That’s a rhetorical trick aimed at suckering you into accepting their toxic worldview. The real question is this: how did the richest nation in the world get into a mess like this in the first place? Why do regular citizens have to choose between the plague and homelessness?

What if we don’t assume predatory Capitalism, but we make its adherents justify it?

For COVID-19, America is Home

As any number of Facebook posts and memes have pointed out in recent weeks, we don’t wear masks to protect ourselves, we wear them to protect others. Our homemade cloth masks don’t do a great job of keeping the virus out, but they’re fairly effective at keeping it in.

In other words, minimizing the spread of Coronavirus depends on concern for others.

But America was founded on the idea that somehow individualism adds up to utopia for everyone. The best society happens when I get mine. The root of this ideology is economic, but it has, over several centuries, become generalized to all spheres of life. We have recently seen the results in pictures from malls, restaurants, and, remarkably, state capitols.

Being forced to wear a mask violates my freedom. Rules requiring me to distance from other citizens violate my freedom. Closing restaurants and bars violates my freedom.

We have apparently reached the point in our social evolution where I have the freedom to kill you. If the government does anything to prevent me from killing you, that’s communism.

Individualism is no longer an ideology of freedom (if it ever really was). It’s an existential pathology.

my car my choice drunk driving is a rightI’ve written before about the French statesman Alexis de Toqueville, whose tour of the US in the early 19th century gave us Democracy in America, still regarded by many as the most insightful look at our national character ever written. For me, the center of his thesis rested on the phrase “self-interest rightly understood.”

Their socially and civically viable vision of self-interest was working well in 1835, when Alexis d’Toqueville wrote “How the Americans Combat Individualism by the Principle of Interest Rightly Understood.” The idea and word “individualism” were newly minted and Tocqueville marveled that “an enlightened regard for themselves constantly prompts [Americans] to assist each other, and…willingly to sacrifice…[for] the welfare of the state.”

This variety of self-interest knows it needs a thriving community and doesn’t seek to gain at the expense of it. Weakening what you depend on, slowly weakens your more enlightened self-interest (it’s a win-now-lose-later strategy). Similar logic animates Pericles’ funeral oration: “It does not matter whether a man prospers as an individual: If his country is destroyed, he is lost along with it.” Even Ayn Rand, the high priestess of selfishness, distinguished between what she called rational and irrational forms.

What would de Tocqueville have made of the display in Lansing a couple of weeks ago?

Granted, much has changed. The America of 1831 (when he arrived) was comparatively homogenous – which is another way of saying the slaves hadn’t been freed and, as such, the particular forms of racism that have driven both social evolution and public policy since Gettysburg (and especially since the Civil Rights Act) didn’t yet exist. People are more likely to take care of theirs, and it’s always a mistake to romanticize their concern for yours.

In short, America c.2020 is perhaps the ideal host for Coronavirus. Its ability to spread is dramatically hindered where the population actively works to protect others. A society that has fetishized and institutionalized feral-dog-Darwinism, on the other hand, is the best incubator imaginable.

COVID-19 wasn’t born in America, but rest assured, America is its home.

If nurses are essential why are they being treated this way?

nurseWe’ve heard a lot lately about how America is finally learning who’s really essential now that we’re deep in a real crisis. I even chipped in. But are we treating our essential workers with the care and respect we should be?

I have a good friend who works in an emergency department in a mid-sized Midwestern city hospital as well as two nearby ERs in smaller cities and one community clinic. So four facilities and the issues she reports are the same in each. Let’s call her K.

K and I were trading messages today and apparently things aren’t rosy on the ground there. I won’t share the whole exchange, but here are some key points.

I work 24 hour shifts so I only have to go to work 6 days a month. But I can tell you it’s no joke. We don’t have the PPE [personal protective equipment] we should despite what you may hear. For the whole hospital we have about 150 surgical masks left and those don’t do s*** for anything! We’re given one mask to wear for the entire day. Goes against every infection-control thing we were ever taught. It’s like what we’ve heard about in developing countries all these years where they reuse masks and wash the gloves.

Obviously this is disturbing news to hear from a friend who’s “on the front lines.” I asked if any of her colleagues have contracted COVID.

Yep. One of the ER nurses and also his wife, who’s one of our flight nurses. And another frontline ER nurse. All three were hospitalized but have been released…

At least the hospital is doing what they can, though, right? Here K is started getting a little heated.

They’ve basically told us to f*** off and quit complaining.

They told us that if we can prove with 100% certainty that we became infected with the virus at work then we can file for workers’ comp. But if we can’t prove that we became infected at work then we’re on our own.

We aren’t essential, we’re expendable.

The conversation continued for a while, and you get the idea.

I’m not sure what to add here. I’m glad so many of us have realized what people like my friend mean to our society, but…

It’s like how I describe the career world generally. Companies love to talk about how much they value their people, but their actions – hiring practices, compensation, layoffs, and so on – belie the claim.

The don’t value you. They appreciate you. Which is different. Appreciation is a friendly pat on the back that costs nothing. Value is measurable.

It sounds like America really appreciates its medical professionals. And why not – they go to work and risk their lives despite the kind of treatment K reports. But until we make their workplaces safe and treat them – in all ways – with the respect their commitment deserves, we don’t really value a damn thing, do we?

Disgusted yet?

How Are We Making History Today?

Cat White sewing coronavirus masks

Cat White sews coronavirus masks from her home in Cleveland. Photograph: John Bacon.

The COVID-19 pandemic is the defining moment of our generation. The last global crisis of this magnitude was World War II, and with any luck we won’t see anything this dire again for decades. That’s probably wishful thinking, for a variety of reasons (climate, for instance), but we can hope.

We’re living in History – with a capital H.As in, this event is one that will appear in History books for years, decades, perhaps centuries to come. The Black Plague. The Spanish Flu. Coronavirus. With luck we have advanced to the point medically where COVID will claim fewer lives, although late-stage consumer capitalism, coupled with dramatic overpopulation and poverty, has perhaps created a perfect storm of entitled affluenza in the developed world (mainly the US) and lethal squalor elsewhere. It’s early days still, and most of the narrative is yet to be written.

Here’s the thing we should be thinking about, though. Histories tell stories. Stories of bodies stacked in the streets. Of beaches soaked with blood. Of empires brought low by hubris and new empires arising from the ashes.

They also tell small stories, stories of sacrifice and goodwill. Stories of people and communities uniting in the face of existential threats.

Right now some of my friends are rounding up scrap fabric and unused craft remnants, breaking out their sewing machines and making masks for their friends, for emergency workers, for medical professionals. These masks aren’t medical grade, but in a nation that was tragically slow to catch on not-quite-perfect is better than nothing.


In Denver, the British Bulldog is down but hopefully not out.

Here’s another one. My Chelsea FC supporters club, the Rocky Mountain Blues, has been passing the hat for the bartenders and kitchen workers at the British Bulldog, the pub where we stand on matchday. The Dog is more than a soccer bar. Many of us might as well be family and we cherish those who take care of us, even though Samantha supports Liverpool and Drew is a Gooner.

The total so far is over $1500. 10 times that amount wouldn’t be nearly enough, we know, especially in an economy long on me and short on us. But it’s something, especially if we lock arms and multiply it by millions.

Collectively Western society is festering at its core. But at the level of the individual, at the level of the civic group, at the level of the informal gathering of empathetic souls we’re as good as we ever were. Better, even.

The History books will repeat this story. But first we have to write it.

Let’s get to it.

Kristen Wheeler sewing masks

Disabled Army vet Kristen Wheeler is still serving. Photograph: Sarah Wheeler.

How many drugs are you taking that you don’t even know about? (Hint: a lot.)

Antibiotics, antidepressants, blood thinners, ACE inhibitors, calcium-channel blockers, digoxin, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, painkillers, anti-seizure drugs, cholesterol drugs, diabetes drugs and more – it’s all in your drinking water. Here are five steps to help clean it up.

Pharmaceutical Pollution

We’ve all read and heard a great deal about pollution in our society – carbon emissions in our air, toxic chemical dumping poisoning our water supply, garbage and industrial waste on land, plus newer concepts like noise and light pollution. The message is clear: our world is dirty, cluttered and getting worse.

There’s another type of pollution, though, that we hear comparatively less about. Unfortunately, it’s one with potentially harmful implications for the air and water we’re leaving our children.

This new category of dangerous pollutants? Pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs).

Read more

Point/Counterpoint on Medicare-for-All: @Doc argues with himself

There’s been a lot of attention in recent days about the “Medicare-for-All” bill introduced by Bernie Sanders, and the reaction I’m seeing on social media is interesting.

Point-CounterpointPeople keep posting notes wanting me to tell my Dem Congressperson to support the bill. They want me to encourage Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to support the bill. Tell this Dem to support the bill, tell that Dem to support the bill.

I found myself in a pointed argument with myself about the Sanders bill this morning. Here’s the transcript.

Point: @Doc

You dumbasses realize that there are still Republicans in Washington, right? And that one of them is president, and that a bunch more hold voting majorities in both houses on Capitol Hill? And that every single Democrat could light his/her hair on fire in support of the bill and it wouldn’t matter because no Republican will vote for such a measure even if Jesus shows up and tells them to?

You want Medicare for everybody? You’re going to need the White House, the Senate and Congress. And probably the Supreme Court, too, because if the law passes there will without question be some sort of ginned-up legal challenge funded by the people who brought you $400 aspirin on your last hospital stay.

So maybe that’s a better place to focus your energy.

Counterpoint: @Doc

Sam, you ignorant slut. Bernie Sanders knows full well his bill has no chance. Not in this Congressional session, at least. His bill isn’t about now, it’s about the future, in two ways.

First, it paves the way. It gets the conversation on the radar. Thanks to him, this will be a talking point from now until a single-payor measure becomes law. And the more people talk about it, the more normal it becomes to talk about it, and the less radical the idea seems. This is especially true since it doesn’t propose a new program. It merely seeks to expand a program that everyone knows, that every family in America already relies on or eventually will, and that we know works. It’s by far the most efficient healthcare delivery system we have, and this all makes it a far easier path to tread, legislatively speaking, than some hypothetical new BernieCare system.

Second, what Bernie is doing is a clever political ploy. At this point, it’s less about the law and more about picking teams. The bill, and the activity you see on social media, is all about forcing Democratic reps to get on board. A bright light will be shone on those who refuse, and that allows us to focus laser-like on making clear they need to get on the bus or we’ll find someone else who will.

In other words, this is a wedge bill aimed at strengthening the hand of the party’s progressive wing.

So pay attention and start contacting Congresspeople like your Facebook friends tell you to.

McCain torpedoes “skinny repeal”: for once in his life, the faux-maverick gets it right. Sort of.

After a long, distinguished career of talking the talk and then cowering like a whipped bitch caught with her nose in the trash, John “Mavericky McMaverickstain” McCain finally did something right.

Republicans’ seven-year quest to wipe out President Obama’s Affordable Care Act came to a crashing halt around 1:30 this morning, when Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) shockingly bucked his party and voted against a scaled-down repeal bill that emerged as the Senate’s last-ditch effort. It’s now clear that replacing Obamacare — or even repealing small parts of it — may be forever a pipe dream for President Trump and the GOP, whose deep divisions over the U.S. health-care system proved unbridgeable in the end.

He likely did it for the wrong reasons (providing cover for GOP colleagues who wanted the repeal to die but still have to face their yahoo bases back home), but these days I’ll take what I can get.

Through the years, Scholars & Rogues has been hard on McCain, with me leading the charge. For instance: Read more

I’m suffering from DTSD (Donald Trump Stress Disorder); you may be, too

Donald Trump Stress Disorder - DTSD

[UPDATED July 16, 2018]

I wrote this just over a year ago. And the only thing that was off is that I think I underestimated.

I know a lot of people, and I’ve had a year to watch, to listen, to discuss, to take stock. My conclusion is that most of us are worse off than we were when I wrote this. The range of emotions (and there are many) right now runs from desperate hope/belief in the system (but knowing the fight is a vicious, uphill one) to civil war (and/or global collapse) is inevitable. If you consider all the perspectives, they fall into one of two categories.

a) We’re in deep, deep trouble, but we can maybe fight our way out, although we may or may not be alive to see it.

b) We’re fucked. Period.

Or, put another way, our chances are

a) slim

b) none

I have friends in trouble. I’m in trouble.

Some of us aren’t going to make it.


I fear I’m caught in a vicious cycle. I have to find a way out.

It’s been tough of late.

Earlier, I posted this to some of those close to me.

I want to ask my friends, people who are around me and who maybe see me online, a question. First some backstory.

It has been hard, throughout my whole life, to make friends. If I don’t bother trying to be nice people think I’m an asshole. If I do try and be nice they sometimes think I’m an asshole anyway. In most cases I honestly don’t care what people think. But there are times when I feel like I hit these periods where it overcomes me and the negative responses just bleed into everything. Read more

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