Living The Wildlife

There are many things to write about, but decided to take a break this morning.  I moved a few months ago and despite technically being closer to the big city, am in an area with woods, orchards, a huge yards despite the surrounding big city.

Two weeks ago, spotted a coyote at the end of the street.  Had suspected they were around, but getting the confirmation was interesting.

This morning, had a red fox come trotting down the road.  Said good morning, which startled it a bit, but was very glad to see it.  Foxes keep down a lot of rodents and other things I don’t care to have around.

Both, however, cause me to worry about the landlord’s remaining cat, who I call Boopster/Boopsie/Fleabag.  She is declawed and was living inside, but has decided that she wants to be an outdoor cat.  Only comes in to eat, and quickly demands to be let out again.  We’ve already lost the other cat (possibly to one of the hawks living nearby), really don’t want to lose her despite the fleas (for which I am now applying flea powder on a weekly basis).

The Need For Debridement

About three years ago, I began attending an “old school” Catholic Church:  as in one of the few in this state that routinely performs the high Latin Mass.  In it, I found something that reached me on levels I’ve not felt in some time.  So much so, I began the process to join the Catholic Church.

The RCIA program, designed for adults desiring to become Catholic, varies a bit from church to church.  At this church, it is intense and through it one gets a full history of the Church as well as a thorough grounding in the theology, dogma, and — most importantly — how both the theological and dogmatic aspects of Catholicism have evolved over time.

In this RCIA program, there was often some frank discussions of various problems the Church has faced, theologically, politically, and otherwise.  The fact is, while the Church is the bride of Christ and is intended to be a bedrock of the teachings of Christ and the Apostles, it is an institution of man.  Man (male and female) are fallible, and one sees that fallibility time and time again in the history of the Church (all churches, to be honest).

One of the things I enjoyed most about that process was that this program took the time to get into how theology and dogma developed and why.  We got “into the weeds” if you will of what lies behind the modern beliefs of the Church as contained in the Catechism — the beliefs and “laws” of the Church.  Of how and when the Church has adapted the teachings of Christ and the Apostles, and of how and when the ceremony of worship (the Mass) have changed and why.

Continue reading “The Need For Debridement”

A Laugh for the Day

Cheerfully stolen from Rodger:

A crusty old Army Sergeant Major found himself at a gala event hosted by a local liberal arts college. There was no shortage of extremely young idealistic ladies in attendance, one of whom approached the Sergeant Major for conversation.
“Excuse me, Sergeant Major, but you seem to be a very serious man. Is something bothering you?”
“Negative, ma’am. Just serious by nature.”
The young lady looked at his awards and decorations and said, “It looks like you have seen a lot of action.”
“Yes, ma’am, a lot of action.”
The young lady, tiring of trying to start up a conversation, said, “You know, you should lighten up. Relax and enjoy yourself.”
The Sergeant Major just stared at her in his serious manner.
Finally the young lady said, “You know, I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but when is the last time you had sex?
“1955, ma’am.”
“Well, there you are. No wonder you’re so serious. You really need to chill out! I mean, no sex since 1955! She took his hand and led him to a private room where she proceeded to “relax” him.
Afterwards, panting for breath, she leaned against his bare chest and said, “Wow, you sure didn’t forget much since 1955.”
The Sergeant Major said, after glancing at his watch, “I hope not; it’s only 2130 now.”

In Defense of Free Speech; and, Hopefully, the Rebirth of Blogging

Free Speech is one of the cornerstones of a free people.  It is at the heart of the Enlightenment ideals that are the philosophical underpinnings of our Constitutional Republic (note, we are NOT a democracy, thank goodness).  On the Federal level, it is enshrined in the First Amendment, which prevents the Federal Government (not the States) from engaging in prior restraint of speech.  Citizens have the right, if not the duty, to speak their mind.

This does not mean freedom from consequences.  All Citizens have the right, if not the duty, to read/listen/view, research, and make up their own minds on the topic.  They also can choose how and if they want to do business with a person or persons on the basis of their public speech.

They also have the right, and again the duty, to ridicule, mock, and otherwise dissect what is being said by others.  The concept is that there is a marketplace of ideas where anything and everything is out there for consideration.  That ideas, not matter how wild (or vile) can be put out for discussion in the form of rational discourse.  Within this, facts can be challenged, countervailing ideas proposed, and — with an informed electorate — general consensus reached on any and every topic.  Within that, there was a fond hope that ridiculous ideas would be dealt with in an informed manner.  This, as noted above, included mockery, ridicule, and other means of expressing condemnation of the truly ridiculous in a rational manner.

A free and open press was considered a key to this in an age of printed materials.  That said, it was also expected that such would take place in public discourse, be it in speeches or in tavern discussions.  It is worth noting that the free and open press accepted that many of what became newspapers (evolving from broadsheets) were not unbiased, but were often party organs with an agenda.  The idea that the media was unbiased and only reported the news is a fairly modern conceit that has little basis in fact.  In fact, the modern media is a guild and guards itself accordingly.

The fact is that most major newspapers are the evolved “children” of various party organs.  Competing newspapers were the product of the various political parties of the time.  That competition was considered essential to the marketplace of ideas, in that it allowed competing opinions (at least of the major parties) to be put before the Citizens of the Republic for discourse.  Said discourse was hoped to result in an informed electorate making informed decisions on political topics of the day.  That said, emotionalism was and is a heavy part of coverage, discourse, and resulting elections.

I’ve written before on the history of journalism and this topic.  I will further state that the concept of an unbiased press is one I support, but have seldom seen in the newsroom.  Today’s media is in fact heavily biased, and within the modern newsroom one does NOT find a diversity of political thought — in fact, I would say it is shunned in fact no matter the official declarations.  That is one reason I do not (any longer) refer to myself as a journalist, and is a reason I had my press credentials when doing embeds in Iraq say “Blogger” rather than media, reporter, or similar term.

It is also worth noting that every repressive regime makes extensive efforts to control the media and speech.  Only approved content is allowed out, or desired to get out.  The more repressive the regime, the more speech is controlled, to the point of informers turning in those who make any utterance not fully in line with the official line, no matter where or when it is uttered.

The concept of free speech goes well beyond the First Amendment of the Constitution.  It was, until recently, an unspoken part of American life.  The public, even beyond Citizens, looked askance if not in condemnation, of anyone who openly called for limiting free speech.  Those making such calls were rightly considered demagogs, if not despots.  Or, at least, despots in the making.  It was also known that such people hated being mocked, which led to much mockery of them and their position.  In America, nothing and no one was considered above such.

It has been noted that one can tell who controls a society, and how open and free it truly is, by who and what can not be mocked or ridiculed.  There is a great deal of truth to that.

Today, the concept of free speech is not just under attack, there are many active efforts to destroy it.  There are politicians who are openly calling for it to be eliminated on the basis of “hate speech” or other labels.  Those all boil down to “any speech we don’t like.”

For decades, modern media has been a gatekeeper to widespread free speech.  On some levels, refusing to cover fringe elements has been a good one, in that it limited the ability of such people or groups to have a wider audience.  Note that this was not the government openly limiting free speech, but an exercise of private companies to choose what they allowed on their platforms — which is their right.  However, when any industry becomes a bastion of one particular ideology that also becomes an attack on free speech, and artificially limits the marketplace of ideas.

The advance of communications technology has always served to break, at least temporarily, such a stranglehold.  New forms of media have consistently lowered the cost of entry into the field.  No such advance has had the impact of the internet, which dropped the cost of entry to pennies as opposed to major capital investment.  Hence, the efforts of repressive regimes everywhere to limit or control the internet within their borders (and beyond where they could) as they are adamantly opposed to their people both being exposed to contrary ideas (and facts) and discussing topics not approved.

Which leads us to today.  As is noted here, the internet spawned blogs.  Blogs allowed anyone with a few dollars to have a platform to put forth their ideas unfettered into the marketplace of ideas.  In its best form, it allowed specialists in an area or field to write about that field in a form not possible in the major media (see previous writings about the death of specialized journalism).  If you wanted to learn about the latest in high-energy physics, the military, or any other topic, and there were blogs devoted to those topics either by subject matter experts or by those who were interested in those topics.  The gatekeepers were bypassed, and they did not like it.

The attacks were immediate, and at first were limited to ridicule such as bloggers being people living in their parent’s basement writing in their pajamas.  It grew to organized (and well-funded efforts) to spam the comments to popular blogs with trolls.  That real trolls jumped in on such was simply icing on the cake to those desiring to shut down discourse and the wide dissemination of ideas.  It also found ways to use regulations, pressure, and other tactics to sidestep (in the US) the Constitutional protections for free speech (see above reference).

New social media was initially embraced by the bloggers as a means of reaching even wider audiences.  Rather than depending on those interested in finding on a given topic finding them through a search, platforms such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc., provided a way to increase reach and readership.  In fact, most platforms encouraged it as it helped them to grow financially, which was helpful since one or more started with no real business plan (looking at you, Facebook).

However, that relationship changed.  The new social media platforms recognized the revenue potential of making blogs, bloggers, and others pay for dissemination through ads.  This led to the practice of throttling posts with links.  Want your readers/friends/whatever to see what you wrote?  Well, buy an ad and we will let a select number more see your post, pay more and more will see it.  The net result was that the readership of the social media outlets (and revenues) grew over time as such policies grew.  The readership of blogs and other outlets declined.

This was not unnoticed by those desiring to control free speech.  It was also noticed that those behind some of the major social media platforms were of a fairly uniform political belief system, one that mirrors strongly those of modern media.  The result is what we face today.  A good read on this is here.

One of the hardest things to do is defend speech that is unpopular, either because it goes against prevailing beliefs or is simply vile.  Yet, such defense has been an essential effort to preserve freedom, and the Republic.  One can find many instances of the idea that ‘I hate what you are saying, but will defend to the death your right to say it.’  Doing so is not popular, and has consequences.

Yes, the social media companies have the right to decide what goes on their platforms, just as I decide who gets to comment here and to delete/not approve any given comment.  It is not that I desire an echo chamber; rather, I will not allow someone to use the bathroom in my comments by posting vile, loathsome, or false information here.  My house, my rules.

Yet, when the social media companies act in concert to “deplatform” someone with whom they disagree, and work with politicians on matters of regulation of speech (suppression of speech by any name) and there is a problem.  In fact, there is a huge problem that needs remedy.

The best remedy is for Citizens (and individuals anywhere) to cease using those platforms, depriving them of revenue.  Let the marketplace decide.  If that marketplace is rigged, however, the choices get more difficult.  Such rigging is at the heart of what is going on, and the open collusion of said companies with politicians to make them the only game in town.

Personally, I consider Alex Jones and InfoWars (no link from me) to be vile and loathsome on the order of any ethnic-purist or socialist.  According to someone I know, who stepped between him and a person he and his were physically attacking, he hits like a girl.  I’m very much in agreement with this post in regards him, and what is going on.

I do NOT like having to defend his right to free speech.  That said, however, to fail to rise to his defense brings up the old saw about ‘I didn’t say anything when they came for X’ which is not just a slipper slope, rather one already being on the slide.

For me, I’ve already dropped out of Twitter (several years ago) and no longer recommend it as a platform for most clients.  I’ve cut back on my use of Facebook, and hope to cut back even further in the days ahead.  I’m also starting to post more here, as I think the blogs may well see a resurgence and are a much needed alternative to current social media.  Will I reach as many people without them?  Time will tell, but initially the answer is no.  It is, however, the best I can do.

If you drop a single rock in a stream, the water flows around it.  If you drop a lot of rocks, you can — at least initially — dam the stream.  Thing is, water works to find a way around such dams, even the best built/most heavily funded works.  The public has had a taste of the river that is the free-flow of ideas, and is not likely to truly like efforts to dam it no matter the cause.  Even with regulations and such, people find ways around the dams — just look at China and elsewhere for examples.  The most you can do is force them underground, and there things happen that dam builders seldom like.  I would also note that sending them underground also brings about things that are equally as bad as the initial repression, or even worse for a free society.

The deplatforming of Jones and InfoWars is a bad idea.  It is one more step in taking the new civil war within the US hot.  Taking it hot will not go well, for individuals, groups, and the Republic.  That it is desired strongly by those who want to make it hot (idiots, no matter which of the sides they are on) makes it more essential to protest.

The public has had a taste of the river.  You can’t stop the signal, it will find ways around.  Those ways undermine essential structures, societal or otherwise.  Then again, that’s what far too many want.  It will not end well.

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CBD Oil, PTS, and More

As noted in a post below, I have been diagnosed with PTS and have suffered a number of pain issues for decades.  The two are most likely related (the topic for another post), but recently led to my exploring, and trying, CBD oil to see if it might help.  When you have five or so people from different parts of your life suggest it within the span of a few days, I took that as a sign that I needed to investigate it.

Before trying it, however, I did some due diligence and researched what CBD oil is, how it works, and what lay under all the popular articles.  It’s not that I don’t trust popular articles or even most medical journalism; but, that I know how the process works from the journalistic side.  Even in the best researched articles, there usually are word limits (a left-over from print days), focus issues (articles can be very tightly focused), and advocacy issues (advocacy journalism being something I recognize and loath).  The latter can and do leave out a lot of information that is needed in order to make an informed decision.

The problem with researching CBD oil lies in its ties to medical marijuana.  One aspect of the problem is that there is a lot of “information” out there that is clearly advocating for medical marijuana and legalization.  The second is a tendency to focus just on THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol).

The problem with the latter is that THC is just one component that makes up a range of cannaboids.  The fact is, the body produces a number of cannaboid compounds on its own, and they are essential components the neurological system of the body through two major receptors:  CB1 and CB2.  There is a possibility of yet more receptors, though none have (yet) been isolated.  These compounds produced by the body, known as endocannaboids, are part of what is now known to be the endocannabinoid system (EC system).  An article that discusses the basics on a general level can be found here.  A much shorter blurb can be found here.  A far more detailed account, with references, can be found here.

For those interested, the cannaboids created by the body are lipids (fatty) and appear to be produced “on demand” by the body rather than stored.  There are a number of issues that can prevent proper creation, including the lack of certain fats (Omega-3 being frequently mentioned) in the diet.  There are other issues that can effect production.  While many (most?) of these are in the brain, they are also located throughout the body and various organs.  Not only are they required for normal function, they also appear to play a (crucial?) role in mitigating out-of-control reactions (pain, autoimmune, etc.).

Indeed, there are studies showing that CBD oil can help with epilepsy and seizures (in fact, the FDA has approved a CBD treatment for severe forms of epilepsy); that it may have antipsychotic effects; that it may be effective against certain types of cancer; that it may be effective in treating a variety of anxiety disorders; that it is effective against Type-1 diabetes; that it is effective against inflammation, acute and chronic pain, and inflammatory and neuropathic pain; that it is effective in helping people quit smoking cigarettes; and that it may be effective in treating opioid and other addictions.  There are, of course, a host of other claims, most of which are awaiting formal study(ies).  On all, do your homework.

Now, for the bad news.  Since production is not regulated and there is no industry-wide agreement on labelling and other factors, not all CBD oils are the same.  In fact, right now, it is a bit of the Wild West in terms of how it is produced, from which parts of the plant it is produced, the levels of various compounds in each brand, and in terms of purity.  It is very much buyer beware!

That said, I found a couple that I was willing to try, and I chose one for my first effort.  It was around that time that a good friend of mine let me know that he was a distributor for a brand(HempWorx), and I checked it out.  I tried it, and will recommend it to you.  In fact, in the interest of fairness and transparency, I’m looking at becoming a distributor.

While it is anecdotal, my own experiences are that it:  reduced overall pain and inflammation, to the point I was able to start reducing my arthritis medicine; it did have an effect on some of the secondary effects of the PTS; and, it helped in some other ways as well.  While some effects became clear within a few days of starting it, it was not until the second or third week that the larger effects became apparent.

For a number of reasons, I’m using the no-THC version.  The max allowed by those states that do allow CBD oil to be purchased and used tends to be .3%, which will not make you high.  This does not mean, however, that you will not trip hot on a drug test.  Many tests simply look for cannaboids rather than THC.  So, if you serve or are otherwise subject to drug testing, check with your employer before use.  For that matter, you should check with your physician or other doctors before use.  Again, it’s part of your due diligence.  As is checking the laws of your state, or any other state or country to which you may travel.  The laws vary, are in flux, and you need to be sure of what you do.

Also, a thought to share is that you need to look at your diet.  Make sure you are getting enough of the right types of fat in forms your body can use.

If anyone else has any good studies to share (studies, not articles about same), please share.

Into The Light: Jonn Lilyea

There are times one knows one must write something, but you hope that such need not be done for years.  You know the day is coming, but hope against hope it need not be today.  However…

What can one say about a man who was, as Hondo notes, a man of honor and courage?  Who faced challenges from the battlefield to the health problems that came from his service with both fortitude and humor?  Who, at considerable personal expense, supported his fellow troops of all services and veterans?  TSO has done an amazing job of it, yet, there is so much more that can be said.

Given the antics of his own cats, I suspect that Jonn would get a chuckle out of the fact that my landlord’s cat is grabbing my arm as I write this, demanding love.  A chuckle that might turn into a smile as the cat runs away when I try to give her a skritch for him.

I honestly can’t remember when I first met Jonn, but I remember well the first night I had the honor of sitting in his home smoking cigars, enjoying fine aged Panamanian rum, and solving the problems of the world.  That rum was a favorite of his, and is now a favorite of mine.  It was a night of bonding, and discovering a friend who was one of those rare types that you feel you’ve been friends forever.

Over the years, I was one of many who benefited from his sage, sometimes gruff, advice.  And, the occasional swift kick in the ass given as only a first sergeant can give.  He was always there, not just for me, but for many.  If you served, or were serving, he had your back.  I suspect strongly that in the final tally he literally helped thousands indirectly through his writing and works, and more than can be counted directly.

He loathed poseurs, and spent time and money exposing them.  It is worth noting that some he did not go after in public, dealing with them in private.  It is also worth noting that if they came clean, he offered advice and encouragement to them.  Those that didn’t, well…  When I joined the Indiana Guard Reserve (state guard, not national) one of the first things I did was to tell him, both to share the news and to let him know that if he saw a photo of me in uniform that I had not gone off the reservation.  He gave me some much needed advice (‘he’s an asshole here’s what you do’) more than once.

Jonn was gruff, crusty, and had a soft center that could even be gooey.  He didn’t like to talk about his own problems, but was always there for so many to hear of life’s challenges and triumphs.  His loss is a loss for the Republic and especially for his family and friends.  Like TSO, I ask that if you are religious, please say a prayer for his family and friends.  If you serve, or have honorably served, raise a toast to him.

I toasted him last night, and this morning raise my coffee mug to him remembering the last time I saw him.  I had gone by his place for a visit, and Jonn insisted — as only he could — that I spend the night instead of pressing on with my journey.  He equally insisted that I stay for breakfast, though the morning was too cold for us to smoke a cigar on the porch as planned.  His loss has brought tears to my eyes, and smiles and laughter at some of the memories — he would approve of the latter.

He was a man of battlesteel-clad honor and integrity, and we are the richer for him and having known him.  For all that his death leaves a void in many lives, I give thanks that I knew him and echo Patton in saying “Thank God that such a man lived.”

Godspeed Jonn.

The Journey Continues

Not so much an apology, but an explanation of my lack of blogging the last few years.  For anyone interested.

As a good friend told me a couple of years ago, if you want to look after others, you have to look after yourself first.  That can be hard for me, as I tend to put others first.  Fact is, I was born allergic to almost everything, and that made my childhood interesting all by itself.

About three years ago, I was told I had cancer, based on a purely visual exam.  Took an exploratory procedure to prove I didn’t, and, yes, I fired the first doc in question and will never go back to a second.  Thankfully, found a very good doc in the process that I will cheerfully use again at need.  This was why I stepped down from Mission: VALOR and turned it over to others to run.

Then, other issues required me to be tested for a variety of nasty auto-immune diseases.  Again, thankfully, those were negative though I do have arthritis and some other inflammation issues.  I feel weather changes more than I realize, as I have a tendency to ignore (and not recognize) pain and related.  I’ve lived with some degree of pain for so long it simply doesn’t register as such.  Some of the issues come from things I’ve done in the past, and as I’ve told some, if I had known how much I would pay for them later, I would have done more so I feel that I have truly earned it.  That said, glad I did them despite the price.

Almost exactly a year ago today, I had what was supposed to be a routine colonoscopy.  Unfortunately, there was bleeding after that sent me to the ER and required an emergency procedure to deal with, during which I had to be given Epi to keep my heart beating.  I was conscious and watching when I started to crash again in recovery.  Remember not being scared, and found it interesting that the 12-lead data did not show what I would have expected for what happened.  Thankfully, my heart did not stop and I did recover.  Sadly, I never have gotten honest answers about comments I overheard in the ER about the original doctor and what was/was not done, and as such will never use the IU network again.

On top of it all, some other things led me to get some help and a diagnosis of non-combat PTS.  The root issue has been addressed, and I will add that my time in Iraq was beneficial for my PTS, which says a lot.  I will say that EMDR works, is intense, and I don’t recommend pushing it and treatment as hard as I pushed mine.  Now dealing with the secondary effects (all the things other than the original cause) and moving forward.  I would remind everyone that Hollyweird and the media do not give an honest or accurate account of PTS, and that the majority of those who have it are not a danger to others (mostly to themselves).

I’m now part of an amazing survivors group.  If you have PTS, depression, etc., please do reach out.  Too many don’t, and feel cut off and alone.  You are not.  Please, take the time and reach out to someone.  It is hard, but worth it and there is no shame in getting help.

So, putting myself and my life back together, and it is an interesting journey.  Sometimes in terms of the Chinese curse, most of the time a good and blessed thing.  My faith has been strengthened, as I see many blessings and examples of when and how things could have been much worse.  My faith in humans and human institutions, well, still not high and as a convert to the Catholic faith not improving given leadership of same, from Pope Che (as a friend calls him) on down.  There are a number of good priests, however, and they do so much for so many.

All any of us can do is try to do our best, to help others in need, and to try to do some good in the world.  The latter takes many forms, and I am more committed than ever to our troops and veterans for they do a lot of good at a high cost to themselves.

There is more to come, though it may be a bit sporadic for a while.

Politics Above All?

Some posts are easier to write than others. The last few weeks have seen some truly horrible people exposed for what they are: sexual predators. Sadly and predictably, that is now devolving. Frankly, I hope the spotlight will stay on the real predators, and that justice be done in court where possible. I particularly hope that stays true for politicians, but I want all the real predators to face justice as it hits home for me in ways I won’t go into at this time.

One bit of the devolving involves a candidate (who I am glad lost for many other reasons) who has a chorus of virtue signaling harpies calling a pedophile though his alleged behavior is not such. If true, wrong; but, it was not and is not pedophilia. The screeching bothers me on several levels, especially as it provides cover to real pedophiles and does harm to the real victims of same.

I’ve reached out in private to more than one such person, explaining things and have gotten positive responses. I’ve also, predictably, gotten responses were “the cause” and politics matter more to the person than the real harm they are causing. While I am tempted towards a very intemperate response, I instead pray for their souls.
Understand, I know people who were victims of real pedophilia. I have some as readers/fans/other. They are trying hard to not just be survivors, but to thrive and become victors despite the horrible things done to them. This is personal for me.

If your politics, of any stripe, matter more to you than the truth, including that you are doing real and demonstrable harm on this issue, then I will pray for your souls – and cut you out of my life for you are a cancer on both the body politic and society as a whole. Neither I, nor real victims of pedophiles, need that in our lives.

I’m a big believer in both positive growth and in redemption. I want those who were victimized to become victors, and will do all I can to support that. I will hope and pray that those who don’t get that may have their eyes opened, and if they do I will welcome them back into my life. Otherwise, no, and I ask you to pray for them as well.