Physical therapy, damn it!

Just Monday I started physical therapy. I didn”t plan it. I suppose one never plans it. The VA is paying for my therapy through its Veterans Choice program which allows veterans, in certain cases, to receive non-Veterans Affairs providers. In most instances the program might allow vets to be seen where VA facilities are too great a distance. In my case, the therapy was set up here because it would cause too much of challenge physically and professionally to attend physical therapy several times a week some 85 miles away in Houston.

I think this is maybe the fifth time I have had physical therapy. I’ve had it mostly for my cervical disc problems. Last year I had therapy for a month after arthroscopic surgery to repair a meniscus tear in my knee.

I have to say that I have never had successful physical therapy. It may make me feel better as I walk out the door or maybe for an hour or so. In my case over the first two visits so far, I have felt much worse than I originally felt. I am receiving treatment for my neck pain after two neck surgeries over the past 20 years. I also am getting treatment for a back pain that may or may not be caused by an inflammation of a spinal membrane called arachnoiditis. And as I have to repeatedly say, “No, it isn’t something caused by a spider bite.”

A physical therapist who, did something or other to me yesterday, said a muscle in my back is causing my problem. That may be but that is now three diagnoses for my lower back pain and the first by a non-doctor who is forbidden by law to diagnose medical conditions.

I had a visit with my podiatrist today at the Houston VA, some four months after I had hammertoe surgery. All is well there at least. I told Doc that I was a reluctant patient in physical therapy. He told me to give it a shot. That is what I am doing.

But as I told my DPM, I have to weigh the pain I have from physical therapy with the pain I have been having in my neck and back. Right now, the pain increase I have from physical therapy is outweighing the original pain. That cannot go on for too long, no matter how generously I am being treated by the VA.

Oh, if you don’t see my writing here very much in the next few weeks, it will be due to someone deciding to “improve” my health and well-being.

Who needs a headline: the cable news networks

CNN winds up on my s**t list every once in awhile. And lately that “awhile” is every f**king day!

First the cable news has a “presidential candidate” with whom it apparently has easy access. Reporter Athena Jones, just now, alluded to his having staying power. It’s what, 15 months until the election and even a year more or less, until the major party conventions.

Donald Trump, garnering more than 25 percent of GOP voters in one recent poll, seems to pop up for every CNN show with perhaps the exceptions of “Death Row Stories” and that of Tony Bourdain’s show.

I cannot remember CNN falling all over a candidate. I believe the interest in Trump and his willingness to spout all kinds of bulls**t via the electronic media is somewhat of a cable perpetual motion machine. It isn’t just CNN’s fawning. What about Fox? Well, I bet newsmen like Shep Smith has to bow and scrape before Megan Kelly.

Okay, it’s the silly season. The proof is in the pudding and desert won’t be served until Super Tuesday. A convention fight at the Republican National Shindig next year would be too much to hope for.

The problem is The Donald has gone beyond all reason and makes up these wild statements. Take for instant, his “plan” to deport all illegal immigrants and even their kids who were born in the U.S. Likewise, while not mentioning — perhaps even not knowing — the Fourteenth Amendment would require change, Trump said he would end an Amercan birthright for foreign babies born in the USA. Today, it sounds as if he was craw-fishing.

There are thousands, well 14, 16, however many Republican candidates. You may hear a bit about Jeb Bush. He would once and for all establish a Bush presidential dynasty. Or sometimes you hear Huckabee because he’s a preacher politician. It is the same with Democratic candidates. You hear how Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is pulling ahead of Hillary. And you only hear of Hillary when she is paired with emails.

Unlike the case with Fox News, I think the Trump fixation is not geared to elect him to the White House. It’s just laziness, going for the low-hanging fruit. Hell, if The Donald offer me a ride on his whirly bird I would take him up on it. Of course, if I had a chance to ride Marine One or Air Force, no matter who the CINC was I would go for it. Or, if Willie Nelson offered me a ride on his bus I would definitely accept. I best leave it there.

That is just how it goes for people who go all apes**t for a never-ending scandal. We don’t have a king or queen but we have our Fleet Street gossip mongers.

Hyper plus, says new doc

Just a note before the weekend. I have been using my tablet in lieu of the laptop I normally use. It is a pain in the ass to be honest.

I went to the new VA doc today. She graduated from medical school in Central America, according to the Texas Medical Board website. The doc seems like a nice lady. I appreciated her calling me after I left with lab results which had not made it to her when I saw her this morning. I was a bit shocked when she told me my A1C results. I kind of knew it would be high this time. I had eaten terribly over the last three months. I didn’t know it would be as high. I have work to do which is to eat better.

The doctor is putting me on a second kind of diabetes meds. I am glad no insulin is in my immediate future. Seem I will have to do the rest.

An hour writing about randomness passes by.

Whatever the phase of the moon may be never really concerns me. Perhaps at a younger age I might have had my suspicions of the chaos that allegedly surrounded the full presentation of that heavely body.

Almost everywhere I have lived were those who believed as I once did that they would be in for the crazy of craziness when that big old moon shined forth. Among the most stident of believers were firefighters, cops and other emergency workers. As a fireman in the 70s and 80s of last century one might have seen an over abundance of calls, including seemingly non-ending burners, or being summoned by the police to remove a naked man from a tree. Just to name a couple of examples.

Some fire or police officers would go so far as to schedule a day of leave if the calendar showed a full moon rising.

More than 30 years later I have accepted chaos as a routine pain in the ass of the universe. S**t happens. As that randomness occurs does it seem we are all fair game for nature piling on upon our misery.

Some of my examples:

My laptop began screwing up late last week. With the help from a HP technician we tried the factory reset but it was to no avail. This has happened to me once before on the same machine. It appears the companywill ship a different laptop or that is what I was led to understand. We shall see. I am fortuante that my warranty was extended during the last round of laptop disruptions.

Yesterday, I took my business vehicle in for body work. The Chevy Cruze had sustained a parking lot dent. One has to look closely to notice it. Stll, it will make the dealership $1,660 and some cents. I am sure glad I don’t have to pay for that.

But wait: Yesterday in traffic my 1998 Tacoma pickup died and would not restart. It has been running poorly for some time. More often than not,  I did not have the money for what I feared a repair job might cost. It turns out that it will cost more than I had imagined. The wrecker ride was $65 and the mechanic quote just a short time ago was a whopping $1,090. Ouch!

What perhaps turns this run of misfortune on its head is, for once, I can afford a hit like that. The money comes from a pool that I hoped will help with retirement but to do anything I need to do, I suppose my “motor-vation” is required.

I took a hit. And I doubt the moon had any part in the bad luck streak. I am not sure I believe in so-called “silver linings” Such inconvenient times though seem to somehow work out. Or else, they don’t.


Concerned vets or Koch Brother chicanery?

The GOP Debate on Fox News is on until I can find something more entertaining.

In the meantime, I came across an interesting fact. It seems a Koch Brothers-funded front group called Concerned Veterans for Americans (CVA) is making various anti-working proposals that will attack veterans health care.

While they wave the flag and make everything a misleading headline, some of the CVA’s proposals are just unsubstantiated bullshit. Take this for example:

 “With 88 percent of veterans saying that it is ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ important to increase health care choices for veterans, it’s time for the VA to stop pretending there is no demand for increasing options, even if veterans choose to seek care outside the VA. Veterans deserve the freedom to choose a provider who suits their needs, not one dictated by a government bureaucrat and a set of rigid guidelines,” says one of CVA ‘s propaganda releases.

There are percentages that may or may not be true or may or may not be taken out of context. I’ve not had time to check it. That really belies the remainder of the statement. I also don’t know how many veterans receive outside health care. However, I’ve had a “Veterans Choice” card for quite some time. This card allows me to see private providers who are too far from a local VA facility as well as seeing providers for specialized care that the VA cannot provide. I’ve had a sleep study to determine why my CPAP machine no longer helps control my sleep apnea as it should. This was with a local private provider. The study led to another VA study last month because the findings from the two studies turned out to not give information that a memory card in machine displayed. I came home from the VA hospital yesterday with a new CPAP. I also have an appointment with local physical therapists to see if they can give me PT or whether it will help. This is because driving to Houston, about 150 miles round-trip, three times a week is not an option for me.

Yes, these are just a couple of examples for this year. Before that time I only saw a local hospital ER that I had to fight with because the VA was too slow in paying the bills. These two visits were after a VA nurse on the Houston “Telecare” line told me I needed to go to my closest hospital.

I have been pissed off at the VA a number of times. I raised a little hell during my visit yesterday. But the VA is the only systems that specialize in veterans either by directly treating them or having local providers do so. The VA is much improved than when I started using the system’s health care more than 20 years ago. They’re not perfect. But neither is the private medical system by itself.

To paraphrase the old joke, you know when the Koch Brothers are lying whenever they (or their minions) move their lips (or send out press releases.)

Clean air coming. Hopefully it will not be too late.

No doubt an excess of conservative weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth in the next few days will mark the aftermath of the Obama administration’s new clean air program.

The Clean Power Plan sets a target of reducing U.S. carbon production by 32 percent — about 870 tons — over the next 15 years. Power plants are the largest contributor of climate change in the country, producing about 1/3 of all carbon emissions. No limits had been set on carbon pollution until today.

The United States is leading by example today, showing the world that climate action is an incredible economic opportunity to build a stronger foundation for growth,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “The valuable feedback we received means the final Clean Power Plan is more ambitious yet more achievable, so states can customize plans to achieve their goals in ways that make sense for their communities, businesses and utilities.”

Have you never seen Dallas ... ? Flying out of D-FW we had to get on up a ways in the air to see the city (below, right.) Photo by EFD

Have you never seen Dallas … ? Flying out of D-FW we had to get on up a ways in the air to see the city (below, center.) Photo by EFD

The plan lets states pick two distinct ways to reduce carbon production. One way would allow specific plants to develop performance rates. States may also pick programs allowing varied measures including incentives based on renewable energy or  through improvement of energy efficiency.

A “cap-and-trade” plan in which companies could bid on pollution is encouraged by the Obama plan but will not be mandated.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — coincidentally booked today for felony security fraud in Collin County, Texas — has said he intended to sue the federal government over the plan. Other Republicans such as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has pouted about the clean air initiative saying it will drive electric bills sky high and will threaten the power grid reliability. Such claims have been refuted by Obama. The president has said the plan will save the average American family in fuel costs $85 by 2030.

Additionally, Obama said the electrical program has both benefits to the U.S. economy and to human health. The administration pointed out that some 3,600 premature deaths and 1,700 non-fatal heart attacks can be prevented in the country by 2030.

The administration has not backed off on climate change predictions even though conservatives have managed to change some American minds as to whether such changes even exist.

I took the photo in this post on Friday upon flying home via Dallas from Albuquerque. The Dallas area was well masked with smog, haze, ozone whatever one chooses to call it. Hot summer days like the one pictured can influence the hazy air through a number of avenues. Pollution can come from cars blowing smoke down the freeways or waiting in drive-throughs for a taco, lawn mowers and from other sources including power plants.

One only can get up in higher altitudes to see where the visible pollution haze ends. Oh, the regional jet on which I flew was also doing its part to pollute. Still, one has to go a little bit out of this world to see what is dirty in between the pure blue skies and terra firma.

Diagnosis: Mass murder fatigue

Too many thoughts are racing back and forth. I am not “depressed” though I do suffer from depression. One Veterans Affairs nurse practitioner — not a psychologist — wrote into my record a diagnosis of “narcissistic personality disorder.” No, I don’t have any of that today. That is, as far as I can tell.

No I think many in our land suffer from what is wrong with me. Perhaps it hasn’t been officially declared by the “Diagnostic And Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” That is the “bible” of psychiatry. If the disorder hasn’t been categorized and named here is a suggestion: “Mass Murder Fatigue.”

I am aware that might sound narcissistic. Perhaps it is even flippant-sounding. But I am more or less serious.

The theater shooting last night in Lafayette, La., about 125 miles east straight down Interstate 10 from where I sit, is troubling in many ways. Thankfully, the Lafayette — I was there on business last week — shooting is less complicated and not likely wrapped up into Jihadism as was the mass killing in Chattanooga, Tenn. It was only a week ago that four Marines and a Navy petty officer died from that mass shooting. This time the venue was a recruiting office and a Navy and Marines reserve center. Muhammad Abdulazeez was the shooter in that assault. Abdulazeez died after one of the slain Marines and the center’s commanding officer returned fire, according to today’s Navy Times.

It seems this shooting last night was apparently a typical instance of severe mental illness, whether psychotic or overly narcissistic or just a crackpot. Whatever you call it. Sadly, I don’t really seem to care.

Not even the glasses and wigs found in the Motel 8 room in which the mass shooter stayed interested me. Motels have such a bad rap by the way. I could write a book.

It isn’t that I don’t care though about those two young women, known as bright and lovely, who lost their lives while watching a movie. Nor am I callous toward those who were injured in the carnage. But I am not very intrigued by the Lafayette shooter, a man who supposedly graduated from law school but was a perpetual crank, according to lawmen.

I would sound like a very bad person to say I don’t care about these mass shootings. Those killings seem to click like dominoes one after another. So no, it isn’t I don’t care. Me, who was almost blown away with a shotgun as a toddler, not caring? No, I think I care too much.

I care that our society has become so murderous. I care that the only cure our politicians, fed by the NRA-Koch money machine, can come up with is meeting these mass killings with more guns.

“Oh my neighbor’s tree is hanging over our fence.”

“Buy a gun.”

“My toe hurts.’

“Get a gun”

“Ain’t this heat something?”

“Get a gun?”

No, it’s that I care too much that I am left adrift in a world where people with intense personal problems think they can cure their ills by shooting as many people as possible. Then, they either kill themselves or force police to shoot them. Some would say, why not skip the killing and shoot yourself first? That is ridiculous. It is ridiculous as all the killings week after week. We have mentally ill people who need more help than having some shrink handing out the anti-depressive du jour.

Fatigue, that’s what I got. I need to go out in the woods and listen to the wind through the pines to clear my head. I like shooting targets. I don’t think that would be very therapeutic.

This crap of murder and mayhem is wearing me down. I have fatigue. Our society needs to get a grip. And that grip is not at the butt of a gun.

Sandra Bland: Suicide or Homicide? Will people find the answer believable?

My friend Paul sent me a message from Tokyo today asking questions about the Texas traffic stop video of Sandra Bland, who was arrested and was later found dead in jail:

 “I want to know, as the driver does, what is she being arrested for? What has she done? What can the cop order her to do — and based on what?

“By Texas law, do you have to ‘step out of the car’?”

All good questions that Paul asks. And certainly there are answers though perhaps not nearly enough for some. Here are some supposed answers assembled by The New York Times. It seems as if some editor told a reporter on a short deadline to have pronto so many inches of print or whatever they measure news with these days. It’s okay. It’s not like plagiarizing a lead. Sorry, inside joke.

The answers in the article are enough for a start in that netherworld called justice where truth often finds itself the prisoner. When one sees the video more times than is good for one’s own mental stability and reads what was said in the video it would seem a tie ball game as to whom is the most surly. Texas State Trooper Brian Encina surely has the advantage though wearing a badge, Taser and firearm.

Having covered one of the early cases involving a police dash-cam video — this too involved a Texas state trooper — my belief is that audio plus video recordings don’t always equal instant truth.

In reality, the widely disseminated video of Sandra Bland’s arrest might stand moot if another video or a witness appears with some concrete evidence of how the prisoner died in custody. In the Perry Mason world this used to occur every day. But life isn’t Perry Mason and perhaps that is why I haven’t seen episodes of this show in three or four decades.

It’s sad to say that this isn’t the first story I have read or heard about in which a black person died under mysterious circumstances in an East Texas jail. I also have written stories about black people, men, who died under suspicious reasons in East Texas county jails.

My first such story was also my first freelance try. I worked on “spec,” meaning no money until the story is finished and approved by the editors, in this instance it was Texas Monthly during the late 1980s that disapproved. I chalked this up to my inexperience. Oh well, my expenses were reimbursed.

This story too was controversial. A black man from Louisiana was jailed and allegedly beaten to death with a “slap stick” by a cop because he was making too much noise. I investigated another claim — this was in an adjacent county to the aforementioned case —  in which a black man had supposedly committed suicide in jail, according to the official reports. As in the Bland case, the family in the case I investigated didn’t believe their loved one took his own life.

Is there a connection here? Is there a longstanding — the cases I investigated as a journalist were in the 1980s and 1990s — epidemic of black people being killed in East Texas jails that reaches into today?

Unfortunately and with a bit of irony, the answer is “yes,” “no” and “no answer” is found in black and white. Cultural differences from as far back as the Antebellum South to today permeate discussions, not to mention the unmentionable. The black perspective is often that white redneck cops are a danger to blacks in general. And, of course, “Brothers don’t kill themselves.” Clarence Page, the black, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the Chicago Tribune, calls such thinking a myth.

It is difficult to find the truth. It is a task made harder with that noise which is the world spinning around and around. If the truth is that Sandra Bland was murdered it will not make anyone happy. The same can be said if it is proven that she did kill herself. But something short of proof seems an even more likely outcome.

And the burden of proof? Why it will likely be a heavy one indeed.

The truth about Trump

Trump gives out Lindsey Graham’s cell number. He belittled John McCain because the Arizona senator was captured by the enemy. He calls Mexicans who cross the border “murderers” and “rapists.” And he is leading polls in the field of what is now 16, so far, Republican candidates for the presidential nomination.

National television news is giving him airtime as if he would take this all the way to the Republican Convention next year in Cleveland.

I certainly don’t support the Republicans. I’ve said for years that I would love to see the party go the way of the Whigs. I thought they were going that direction during the last election. If this expansive list of candidates fails to make the Grand Old Party implode explode — blowing the Republican elephant to smithereens —  then bless their staying power.

As for Trump, he is an a**hole. That’s simple enough. Dump Trump. Dump Trump. Dump Trump. For he is an a**hole. Say it again? No, I don’t need that. Just remember, we don’t need a freak show.

What do vets say about Trump or McCain? There is more than one opinion.

Anyone who has ever read the newspaper or watched television should know Donald Trump — despite his ability to make millions — is generally a buffoon who loves hearing himself speak.

The attack on Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in which Trump questions the long-time senator’s heroism, seems to do nothing insofar as advancing the race for the Republican nomination for president. With the exception of raising the geographically-inspired debate on immigration, one must wonder what in the hell does McCain have to do with this presidential race?

This is not to say genuine questions might be raised in the discussion of McCain and his past. During the period of time, as well as after, in which McCain was imprisoned in Vietnam he broke the military’s Code of Conduct. That Code, introduced by President Eisenhower in 1955, acts as a guide of obligations and responsibilities of U.S. service members who are in “harm’s way:”

U.S. Military Code of Conduct


I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.

I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.

If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.

If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information or take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not, I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way.

When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.

I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.

Those tenets are not military law but rather a code of ethics that would no doubt cause fellow troops to cast aspersions if an American service member strays too far from these six guidelines.

During the five and a half years McCain was a prisoner of war he would break this code due to reasons including physical torture. Though names were redacted, this paper McCain wrote during study at the National War College in Washington, D.C. in 1974 after repatriation. Some of the reasons for straying from the Code as well as praise for the same are spelled out in his paper.

Some World War II veterans held Vietnam vets in contempt. The reasons run from breaches of the Code of Conduct to one-year tours. Some of those resentments are still harbored by those surviving WWII vets. Likewise Vietnam vets sometime resent the government that sent them to war and seemingly forgot about them afterwards.

Perhaps “some” is not a grammatically-correct or an inaccurate measure of participants. But no doubt, the word serves as a true measure when it comes to veterans, of any era, and what feelings they may harbor.

Last week I wrote a local TV news reporter and complained about a story she did. The local reaction piece was on what veterans felt about arming recruiters and other “soft” military facilities in the wake of the Chattanooga shootings that resulted in four dead Marines and a dead Navy logistics specialist. The two veterans in the news piece were a retired sergeant major and retired captain who just happened to meet each morning for coffee. Being retired from the military and from  Southeast Texas, it was no big surprise to hear they believed the soft targets required hardening — with guns.

My complaint was there were two lifers who have met for years each morning for coffee. Does it seem that some veterans might disagree? Or the same for some civilians?

Perhaps the one redeeming quality of Trump and his McCain bashing is to show the American public that military veterans are not homogeneous. Most should already have that figured out, but not in this old world will the logical become the norm.