Note to Rick L. in Chicago

I had a “follow” the other day from a reader/writer named Rick, a person who suffers from a sitting disability.  I read the well-written description of the problem and wanted to write an email, or leave a comment, but, outside of Social Media (aside from this blahg I am decidedly anti-social as far as Twitter, FaceBook and their intrusive intimacy-destroying, democracy-corrupting ilk go), there was no way to get back in touch with Rick L.  Sekhnet, a genius, suggested I write this post.  Hi, Rick.

Your sitting disability, unbearable pain when sitting for any length of time, will be familiar to my friend Rick in Poland,  who has made a religion of regular breaks from his desk to walk and stretch many times a day.   I read about your many attempts to cure the lumbago and sciatica — or even get an accurate medical diagnosis — and kept having only one thought:  Dr. John Sarno. 

Sarno recently died at a ripe old age, but he had a long (and controversial) career helping countless people who came to him in crippling pain (often related to the spine) who could not otherwise get relief or even a helpful medical diagnosis.   I have a post about Sarno here, which you can read as an intro.  I’ve heard (from your namesake Rick) that Sarno’s final book is an excellent source of his theory and practice.   

In a nutshell, Sarno found that much crippling pain of the kind described in Sitting Disability is the result of what he termed TMS, Tension Myoneural Syndrome.  The pain of TMS is the result of oxygen deprivation to the affected muscles and nerves.  TMS is a psychic defense mechanism, the body creates terrible physical pain to mask equally unbearable psychic pain.  Sarno found little correlation between crippling back pain and physical damage to the spine;  patients with TMS sometimes had relatively undamaged spines while patients with herniated discs and otherwise damaged spines sometimes experienced little or no pain.

I find Sarno’s work, which deals with the underlying psychological causes of TMS (which is very real pain), very convincing.  It is certainly worth checking out, especially since you’ve explored virtually every other cure imaginable.  The connection between mind and body is more and more understood today, even as the surgical and pharmaceutical industries continue to dismiss it as hokum.   

Sekhnet also recommends hatha yoga, the gentle daily stretching of all the muscles in the body.  She had relief from terrible chronic back and shoulder pain when she did yoga every morning.  Reminds me, I ought to get up now and stretch my back!

I’ve also heard that regular swimming is excellent therapy for sciatica.   A friend’s mother credited swimming a few times a week, in conjunction with working with John Sarno, for ending her long bout of sciatica.

Good luck with it, Rick, and let me know how it goes if you decide to check out Sarno’s ideas. 

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Briefly Describing the Indescribable

Yesterday I had a basal cell removed from the left side of the bridge of my nose.  I’d detected the cell myself, pointed it out to the dermatologist who said it was probably nothing.  I told her I’d only felt this particular intermittent pin-prick of pain twice before, on the other side of my nose, and each time it had been a basal cell.  The pore eventually bleeds and then it is easy enough to detect.   By then, past experience shows, a skin graft is needed after the basal cells and surrounding skin are removed.  The dermatologist told me she’d never known a patient to diagnose a basal cell, took a precautionary biopsy, which hurt like hell, and later called with the bad news– it was indeed a basal cell.  She sent me to a surgeon.

The surgeon who operated yesterday was a diminutive red-haired woman whose card identifies her as “Director of the Comprehensive Skin Cancer, Director of Dermatologic Surgery, Dermatology Department.”   She too expressed surprise that I’d been able to feel the presence of the basal cell at such an early stage.   She assured me that since it had been detected so early only a tiny line of stitches, and no skin graft, would be required to close the wound.  I’ll take my good news wherever it can be had these days.  No skin off behind my ear.

During the surgery, my eyes shielded from the high intensity light by a towel draped over them, she asked me what I did for a living.  I borrowed the phrase of a former judge friend (who always claimed it was my line), to tell her and two other doctors, and their nurse, that I was a “recovering lawyer”.   

I briefly described my subsistence law practice, defined subsistence for the nurse who was unfamiliar with the word (“like a farmer who grows just enough to pay the rent on his land and feed his family”) and was praised for my noble work protecting the city’s most vulnerable from eviction, a compliment I shrugged off sincerely as they were burning and cutting my nose. 

“If the smell bothers you, breathe through your mouth for a minute,” said the surgeon as the waft of seared flesh hit my nostrils.

In response to the follow up about what I am doing now I told them that I am writing a book about the remarkable life of my father.   

“How is it remarkable?” asked the surgeon, poking unseen at the basal cell.  I felt only minor pressure, after the painful injections of lidocaine.

A canny self-promoter would have had the canned thirty second elevator pitch talking points ready to go.  Always be selling, the mantra of the salesman.  If you have talent, sell it, otherwise you are a failure.  I paused for a second and said:

“He worked in the Human Relations Unit of the Board of Education in the sixties and early seventies, intervening in schools where there had been race riots.”   

Everyone was very impressed, by the sound of their collective reaction.  It didn’t occur to me then that the life of every individual is remarkable, for uncountable reasons.  We are trained from birth, in a commercial society like our own, to believe that some lives are remarkable, the life of a baby born a billionaire, for example, a baby!, while others, well… the only remarkable thing is that these determined fucks hang on for as long as they do. 

I described to them some of the things I learned researching my father’s life.  I told them that there were no child labor laws in the U.S. until my father was twelve, that, but for the worldwide Depression, he could have been legally employed as a chimney sweep or something.  I described the NYC Division of Human Rights’ report on an early seventies riot in a Brooklyn High School that my father and his team had been called in on afterwards.   

That report, I told them, would be unimaginable today.  It was a candid and detailed search for the causes and solutions of the tensions that led to the riot.  There was no blame or finger pointing, there was no agenda, except to try to honestly understand the dynamics and solve the problem that led to the violence. 

“Did they solve the violence?” one of the doctors asked, foolishly.   

“My father would take the gang leaders off for sensitivity training and he said the rivals often became friends, or at least no longer enemies. Peace would reign at the school, until those kids graduated and their little brothers and sisters began stabbing and shooting each other.”

Then I went into the domain that makes the man truly remarkable in my eyes.   This part of my answer they were neither prepared for, nor particularly interested in.  I reasoned, if it can be called that, that they had asked me a question and I was doing my best to answer it.   That the question had been asked out of mere politeness, and for the purpose of having me talk as another way of measuring whether I was experiencing any pain during the surgery, did not occur to me then.

“One remarkable thing is that this idealistic peacemaker, sensitivity trainer and advocate of social justice was called the Dreaded Unit by his children.   He had this bottomless reservoir of anger, which is, in a way, hard to reconcile with his social conscience, although, blah blah blah….”

I rattled on in this manner for a while, telling them of the pseudo-closure of the last night of his life conversation, and then summed up, saying the ms. was now almost 1,100 pages and that I was going to try to sell it and have it published.  They were even more clueless than I am as to how one goes about doing this.  I explained that I need to find a literary agent, who would then shop it to publishers.  I’d prepare a sample of the book, send it out in hopes of interesting an agent.

“You might have a black eye,” said the surgeon, which sounded about right.  She explained that since the basal cell was close to my eye, blood from the operation might show up in the eye.  I’d heard it metaphorically as well.   They will beat the fuck out of you, and make you wait, panting and full of dread, before they finally finish taking care of you.

An hour or so later I was roused from my drowsing in the waiting room with the good news that only the one slice would be necessary,  that they could stitch me up now.   

Back in the operating room I had another painful poke in the nose with a needle.  The doctor explained that many people would not need additional lidocaine for the stitches.  The next injection was also painful, as was the one after it.   I winced meaningfully.  The doctor’s next question surprised me.   

“Did you have red hair when you were a kid?”   

I told her it had been dirty blond, but my beard had always been red (it’s now white).  She told me she thought she saw some red in the mustache.   People with red hair, it turns out, have more sensitive skin and it’s much harder to anesthetize them for dermatologic surgery.   A person with dark hair, apparently, would probably still be good with the lidocaine injected an hour earlier.  Another injection, another stoic, but determined wince from me.

The notes they sent me home with a few minutes later told me I could expect mild discomfort and that I should take tylenol for it.  I was already experiencing some pain before I even left the hospital, it was beyond mild discomfort.  The nurse gave me two tylenols.   By the time I got home, twenty minutes later, the pain was excruciating.   

Sekhnet stood crying in the local pharmacy as I called the doctor twice to get a prescription for pain medication sent over.   The bridge of my nose felt like a snake had just finished biting it over and over.  I was told the doctor was in surgery.  I told the receptionist that it was irresponsible for a doctor to send a patient home in pain without pain medication.  After a little less than an hour from my first call the prescription reached the pharmacy and Sekhnet rushed back with the pills in hand.  A half hour later I had some relief.   

An extroverted L.A. lunatic named Larry Fisher spent some time in mental hospitals.  When he was not institutionalized he’d sing songs for change on the street, often making them up on the spot, custom jobs for a quarter or fifty cents.   Frank Zappa ran into him, liked the guy and produced an album called “An Evening With Wild Man Fisher.”  Interesting work, this double album (if I recall correctly).   At the end of the record Frank asks Larry, from the control room, “what’s the matter, Larry, don’t you like making records?”   

Wild Man Fisher says “they’re all fucking bastards, Frank, they’re all fucking bastards.”

How You Do It

“What difference did it make to Azrael?” I asked him, when he told me how upset Azrael had been when an insect drowned in hot water while he was running a bath.   

“I asked him that after he came out of the bathroom,” he said.  “He’d been running hot water to rinse the tub when a bug he realized was alive a moment too late to save it died a horrible, plunging, drowning death in the pipes.    What he said to explain it to me was so simple it still strikes me.   He said ‘picture your own moment of death — would you like it instant and painless or prolonged and painful?’  I always think of that when I kill a bug, to this day.  That bug desperately swimming for his life away from the sucking drain could have instantly been put out of his mortal terror and unavoidable death by a merciful finger.  

“Azrael had been too slow to react when he saw the bug, at first he didn’t realize it was even alive.  Then he saw it struggling to swim in the hot water away from the drain.  Then he’d watched the bug get swept over Niagra Falls to die an agonizing death by drowning in the churning, unbearably hot water.  It impressed me how awful he felt about not sparing that bug such a miserable death.”  

“Instant and painless or prolonged and painful,” I said.  “I like that.  A no-brainer for a marketing/branding scheme exploiting that no-brainer:   ‘Quick/no pain or slow/maximum pain, your choice.’  It’s appealingly philosophical, too.”    

“Of course, life is not so black and white,” he said.  

“Exactly, which is why such idiotically phrased choices are so irresistible, anyone who’d choose the wrong choice is so obviously wrong.   I like the phrase, and I think we can monetize it, I think it’s a good choice phrase,” I said.  “Plenty of imagery and punch, the rubes will love it.”

“The phrase is fine, monetize away, I’m just sayin’,” he said.  

“You know, it’s not like Azrael was exactly into Ahimsa or any ascetic religious practice that would have made him so sensitive to a bug’s soul.  He ate meat, he’d curse, he was always rough breaking up a fight,” I said.   “He certainly didn’t shrink from hurting anybody.”

“He didn’t, but when you say Azrael ate meat, that’s funny, yeah, he ate meat.  He lived on meat, ate almost nothing besides meat.   He was a shoichet’s assistant, at a place down the street from the butcher’s, from shortly after his bar mitzvah, if I recall correctly, until he started working at the delicatessen,” my brother reminded me.  

“He was one tough son of a bitch,” I said.  

“Yiss,” he said.  

“And he always kept a dog.”  We both remembered Azrael’s dogs.

“Yiss,” my brother said.

Insights from a Jesuit

My sister alerted me to a recent Terry Gross interview with a Jesuit priest named Greg Boyle, Fresh Air from November 13, and said it was worth my time.  It was.  Then, as his new book “Barking To the Choir” is currently hitting the stands, Krista Tippett broadcast her chat with him.   I wrote to thank my sister, with cuttings from the transcript of Krista’s talk with Boyle, which I will provide here.

He covers some different ground with Krista Tippett, I’m reading the transcript, this just jumped out at me (and what a potent phrase that is below, which I emphasize for ye):

Ms. Tippett: One of the realizations you’ve said you made out of that is that peacemaking requires conflict. And while there’s lots of violence between gangs, there’s not conflict that you can define, like you can with a war.

Fr. Boyle: Yeah, it’s difficult, because I’m sort of the dissenting voice, I think, in the country at the moment, when it comes to this thing. And sometimes people will say to you, “Well, how can you be against peacemaking?” Well, obviously, I’m not against peacemaking. But I’m old-fashioned: I think peacemaking requires conflict, and it’s important to say that there is no conflict in gang violence. There’s violence, but there’s no conflict, so it’s not about anything.

So you want to understand what language is gang violence speaking? That’s important to me:

It’s about a lethal absence of hope.  It’s about kids who can’t imagine a future for themselves. It’s about kids who weren’t seeking anything when they joined a gang. It’s about the fact that they’re always fleeing something — always, without exception. So it shifts the way you see things.

Somebody, Bertrand Russell or somebody, said, “If you want to change the world, change the metaphor.” And that’s kind of how we want to, I think we need to proceed, in something like this. So if you think it’s the Middle East, you’re quite mistaken. If you think it’s Northern Ireland, wrong again. It’s about kids who’ve ceased to care. So you want to infuse young people with hope, when it seems that hope is foreign.

(as I wrote to my sister about this next clip)  WOW.  from the same interview with Krista Tippett:

So recently, I gave a talk, a training, an all-day training to 600 social workers, a training on gangs. I had two homies with me, and one of them was a guy named José. And he got up — he’s in his late 20s, and he now works in a substance abuse part of our team, a man in recovery and been a heroin addict and gang member and tattooed. And he gets up, and he says, very offhandedly, “You know, I guess you could say that my mom and me, we didn’t get along so good. I guess I was six when she looked at me, and she said, ‘Why don’t you just kill yourself? You’re such a burden to me.’”

Well, the whole audience did what you just did. They gasped. And then he said, “It’s sounds way worser in Spanish,” he said.

[laughter]

And everybody did what you just did. And then he said, “You know, I guess I was nine when my mom drove me down to the deepest part of Baja California, and she walked me up to an orphanage, and she said, ‘I found this kid.’” And then he said, “I was there 90 days, until my grandmother could get out of her where she had dumped me, and she came and rescued me.”

And then he tells the audience, “My mom beat me every single day. In fact, I had to wear three T-shirts to school every day.” And then he kind of loses the battle with his own tears a little bit, and he says, “I wore three T-shirts well into my adult years, because I was ashamed of my wounds. I didn’t want anybody to see them. But now my wounds are my friends. I welcome my wounds. I run my fingers over my wounds.”

And then he looks at this crowd, and he says, “How can I help the wounded if I don’t welcome my own wounds?” And awe came upon everyone, because we’re so inclined to kind of judge this kid who went to prison and is tattooed and is a gang member and homeless and a heroin addict, and the list goes on. But he was never seeking anything when he ended up in those places. He was always fleeing the story I just told you.

D.U. never had this, too bad he didn’t learn the last part:

Our motto, still, on our T-shirts is: “Nothing Stops a Bullet Like a Job,” but that does about 80 percent of what needs to be done. There’s still the other 20 percent, which is relational, and it’s about healing. And it’s about what psychologists would call “attachment repair,” because gang members come to us with this disorganized attachment. Mom was frightening, or frightened. And you can’t really soothe yourself if you’ve never been calmed down by that significant person in your life. And it’s never too late to kind of gain this, so they repair this attachment, and they learn some resilience.

Nice ending, she asks him to read the 14th century Rumi poem from his latest book.  Krista does a great job with these interviews:

Fr. Boyle: Yeah, I don’t know why I put it in my book.

[laughter]

And so now I’m living my nightmare of my interview with Krista Tippett.

[laughter]

Now proven myself shallow and uninteresting.

Anyway, it’s called “With That Moon Language.”

“Admit something: Everyone you see, you say to them, ‘Love me.’

Of course you do not do this out loud,
otherwise someone would call the cops.
Still, though, think about this,
this great pull in us to connect.

Why not become the one who lives with a full moon in each eye
that is always saying,
with that sweet moon language,
what every other eye in this world
is dying to hear?”

Epigenetics and Resilience part two

Rachel Yehuda’s closing insights to Krista Tippett about resilience rang another couple of bells for me.

“What I hear from trauma survivors, what I’m always struck with is how upsetting it is when other people don’t help, or don’t acknowledge, or respond very poorly to needs or distress. I’m very struck by that.”

Oh, man.   This is the truest and most certain way to strike cruelly at somebody’s heart– remain stonily silent in the face of their pain.

“And I’m very struck by how many Holocaust survivors got through because there was one person that became the focus of their survival, or they were the focus of that person’s survival. So how we behave towards one another, individually and in society, I think, can really make a very big difference in, honestly, the effects of environmental events on our molecular biology. [laughs]”   

Oh, boy.  We live in what Henry Giroux rightfully calls a Culture of Cruelty.  The message could not be more explicit:  your worth as a person is directly tied to your wealth, as we see most directly in wrongful death awards.   How we treat each other, as a society, is beyond shameful.  But I am more struck by the first part of that statement, how one other good person in your life can give you reason not to succumb to despair.   

I recall Primo Levi, in his memoir of his time in Auschwitz, describing a fellow prisoner who, simply by being a good guy, not being twisted beyond recognition by the inhuman pressures of life in the death camp, gave Levi enough hope to enable him to survive.   One man, simply by remaining friendly and decent to others, enabled Levi to picture life beyond the borders of Auschwitz.  He credits this man with his being able to cling to reason enough to survive an unimaginable nightmare.

Now, suppose you have one person, a person who listens to you, doesn’t dismiss your pain, supports you when you’re anxious, gives you the strong feeling that you are important and have value as a person.   What if this same person, in a moment of high stress, once threatened to cut your throat, after killing your parents and burning your kids alive?   Ah, nothing is simple, my friends.

To mention this, in the context of this conversation, may strike some readers as insane.  Think of it, though, the desperation not be alone in a frightening, violent culture where fear is broadcast to us around the clock, fear that drives hatred and rage and ratings and shopping and elections, can become so great that we will accept the love and support of someone who also, in a moment of crisis for them, raged that they would murder us.    Many women every year are killed by such mates, otherwise loving but liable to snap and do unspeakable things when the stress gets to be unbearable for them.   

I shudder for our species when I consider that many spouses would rather hide the shame of this potentially fatal compromise than enter into any kind of conversation about their alternatives.  That imagined chat is much more terrifying than a ONE TIME threat to cut their throat.  The only one she can even imagine having that talk with is the one who, if he snaps, would end her life.  Imagine that.

A fascinating conversation

Krista Tippett interviews neuroscientist Dr. Rachel Yehuda about the effects of trauma (and, sometimes, resiliency) passed down genetically from one generation to the next.  The interview, including a transcript, is here.  Rachel Yehuda is a pioneer in the field of epigenetics, which Krista describes:

epigenetics is the idea that not only do experiences lodge physiologically, but that physiological changes can actually be passed on to the next generation — transmitted generationally, trans-generationally. One helpful way, to me, that you’ve talked about epigenetics is, you said, “Think about genetics as the computer and epigenetics as the software, the app, the program”

The conversation is interesting throughout, but the second half gets very deep.  Krista begins:

This whole notion of generationally transmitted trauma, it gives a kind of a chemical basis for talking about what happens to populations of refugees, or African Americans in this country who have this history of generational trauma, or aboriginal peoples in Australia, or — I was reading about some work in generational trauma that Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart did on the Pine Ridge Reservation, using the term of the “soul wounds,” the wounding of the Native American soul. This is science that is putting something to that phenomenon that seems to me to be quite new. It’s a more holistic way of describing what happens to human beings.

Dr. Yehuda: Yes, but it doesn’t all have to be negative. I think the purpose of epigenetic changes, I think, is simply to increase the repertoire of possible responses. I don’t think it’s meant to damage or not damage people; it just — it expands the range of biologic responses. And that can be a very positive thing, when that’s needed. Who would you rather be in a war zone with — somebody that’s had previous adversity, knows how to defend themselves, or somebody that has never had to fight for anything, but might be very advantaged in many other social and cultural ways?

Ms. Tippett: Right. So you’re saying that our — that there’s an intelligence in our bodies, behind this adaptation?

Dr. Yehuda: Oh, yes. There is a wisdom in our body, for sure.

Me:  And we have to be told this kind of basic human thing, in our culture, and hear it explicitly, to understand what we need as human beings, as sentient creatures– to feel, be listened to and heard:

Ms. Tippett:  … I’m so struck by the fact that this knowledge itself, just acknowledging the force of what has happened to us — that the force of trauma itself is a piece of knowledge that — I don’t know if you want to say it’s healing, but that it helps, that it’s kind of a — that it’s a building block to healing.

Dr. Yehuda: I think it’s a necessary prerequisite for healing. You have to do more than just recognize it, but you have to recognize it. We have a culture that goes to two extremes — they either completely dismiss something as “Nothing happened, don’t worry,” or they get very hysterical about what might have happened. And really, what we have to do is give ourselves a little time after an adverse event, to kind of take stock and not be so hard on ourselves, or not set expectations, and just listen to our bodies and give ourselves the space to be quiet and to heal and to see, to ascertain what has been damaged and try to counteract that by putting ourselves in the most un-stressful, healing environment that we possibly can have, to counteract some of that and promote a biological and molecular healing process that might forestall some of the epigenetic and molecular changes.

Ms. Tippett: I keep having this memory of an experience I had a couple months ago. I was in the city of Louisville, where they’re working on — from the mayor to the chief of police to the school system, they’re trying to figure out what it would be to be a “compassionate city.” And they’re actually using some science in this, they’re bringing some contemplative methods into schools — it’s very interesting and very holistic. And there was an — actually, a pastor, an African-American leader, who leads one of the — an important church there. And he said that one of the most important, transformative things that this mayor had done — that young people in his community had said this to him — was to sit with their grief.

Dr. Yehuda: Beautiful.

Ms. Tippett: To be — to dwell with the — and they may have used the word “trauma,” but just to let that be in the room.

Dr. Yehuda: Feel it. Feel it, instead of running to someone to give you a sleeping pill. Feel it. If you want to have that kind of a culture, it boils down to two words. It boils down to being able to ask someone, “You OK?” Just the idea that you are acknowledging the possibility that something bad has just happened to someone, and inquiring about them, is really, really at the heart of how military cultures really check up on each other. And in other healing cultures, you really hear a lot of people saying, “Hey, you OK?”

Their conversation ends beautifully, with one of the most profound statements I’ve heard in a long time.  I tip my hat to these two brilliant, empathetic women:

Dr. Yehuda: “How are you?” has become a pleasantry that is devoid of all meaning. But just really taking a second to inquire, in a real way, about how someone is doing — and even if they don’t tell you, and even if they lie to you, it will probably have a beneficial effect.

What I hear from trauma survivors, what I’m always struck with is how upsetting it is when other people don’t help, or don’t acknowledge, or respond very poorly to needs or distress. I’m very struck by that. And I’m very struck by how many Holocaust survivors got through because there was one person that became the focus of their survival, or they were the focus of that person’s survival. So how we behave towards one another, individually and in society, I think, can really make a very big difference in, honestly, the effects of environmental events on our molecular biology. [laughs]

 

Dribs and Drabs

What the fuck are “drabs”?  What are dribs?  Fucking cliches… some of ’em with roots lost in the mists of time.

Yesterday, in the USA, a transgender politician, a former journalist, unseated a thirteen term douchebag in Virginia’s House of Delegates election.  The defeated 73 year-old Republican douchebag had referred to himself, apparently, as “Virginia’s Chief Homophobe”.  Doesn’t that old cocksucker know that homophobe means somebody who fears homosexuals?   What a fucking adorably ignorant faggot….  Congratulations to newly elected Danica Roem, you go, girl!

But I digress.

Cabin fever slowly roasts me as my lock-down in Sekhnetville continues.  I wasn’t told when I went for the immunosuppressive therapy two weeks ago, not by doctor, nurse, medical technician (though Sekhnet points out that SHE told me), that I could be randomly fucked up very easily with no immune system.   You’d think it could have been printed on a card every first time patient could be handed, along with the list of their expected side-effects:

“You may very well feel absolutely fine when you leave here today.  Do not be fooled.  Your immune system is suppressed, you are susceptible to every bug out there.  Stay out of crowds, restaurants, public place of all kinds, for a week.  If you go outside, carry Purel and use it after touching anything someone with a fucking runny nose may have touched or sneezed on.  Pretend you are the Boy in the Bubble for the next few days.” 

“Common sense, (idiot),” says Sekhnet, hammering home the implied “idiot” with an uncannily Alice Kramden-like facial expression.

In other news, good for Puerto Rico saying “no” to Whitefish Energy.  Look, I don’t know if it was a corrupt no-bid $300,000,000 contract to some people closely attached to the corrupt Trump administration, but their prices, if nothing else, looked a little suspicious.   Something like $300 an hour for the guys doing the electrical work on the ravaged island.   Forget that Ryan Zinke, Trump’s Secretary of the Interior, is from Whitefish, the small Montana town where the two person corporation is located, or that Zinke’s wife, Lolita Hand (if that is her name), and the wife [1] of Whitefish Energy CEO Andrew Techmanski are facebook friends.   Zinke and Techmanski (great name for a guy with a tech company, man) both say there was nothing improper about how the contract was awarded.    Shouldn’t that be the end of it?   

I’m reminded of the standard for judicial recusal from a case.  If there is “the appearance” of impropriety, a judge must recuse him or herself from ruling on a controversy before her/him.  For example, if the judge is close personal friends with one of the parties, has gone on vacations with them, flown in their private plane, etc. during the pre-trail period, there is an appearance of impropriety and the judge is supposed to recuse herself from judging the case.  Although the judge might very well be able to rule fairly and dispassionately on the merits, it looks bad if she stays on the case.   The “appearance of impropriety” standard is an element of fair play that is intended to give people faith in the impartiality and integrity of our legal system.   

So you have Antonin Scalia on TV, after he refused to bow out of a case involving his good friend, the aptly named Dick Cheney and his secret energy task force meetings that preceded the disastrous deregulation of energy in California.   Scalia was a brilliant guy, quick on his feet, with a smart mouth on him.   He was apparently personally a very warm and lovable person, odious as virtually all of his sickening reactionary pontificating from the bench generally was.   A young female reporter asked Scalia, since he had just returned from a hunting trip with Cheney, if there wasn’t an appearance of impropriety in sitting in judgment of a case involving Cheney’s claims of executive privilege, state secrets, go fucking fuck yourself, etc.   Scalia didn’t miss a beat.   

“I think it’s a sad day when Americans question the impartiality of the Supreme Court,” said the affable Justice snippily.

It was a sad day in America, without a doubt.  Doubly so because the reporter was unable to say, “granted, sir, it is a sad day, I agree, but that was no answer to my question.  I asked you about the standard for recusal, which is the “appearance of impropriety” and why you have not recused yourself from this case involving your friend Vice President Cheney.  What do you say in answer to that, you smart-mouthed bastard?” 

Of course, there’s no point to living in a dream world, right?  I don’t know if Zinke had anything to do with the contract for Whitefish Energy, and I don’t know anything about Zinke’s character, except that the fact Trump appointed him to a powerful government post does not speak well for it.  As no less an authority than George F. Will said recently (I paraphrase, but barely), anyone who is associated with Trump is irrevocably soiled with a stink that can never be washed off.   Ah, here he goes:  Pence is a reminder that no one can have sustained transactions with Trump without becoming too soiled for subsequent scrubbing. 

Well, wash my mouth out with a fucking bar of fucking soap, I have to go make some more tea and put socks on, the temperature seems to be dropping in here.   I feel some post nasal drips and drabs a comin’.

[1]    Techmanski’s wife, Amanda, is listed as one of two managers for Whitefish Energy Holdings LLC. She is a registered nurse, records show, and last month she touted on Facebook a new job she was starting as a nurse practitioner.

With Amanda Techmanski as a manager, Whitefish was listed as an “economically disadvantaged woman-owned small business” on a federal Energy Department contract it won in July for a small transmission line repair in Arizona. The company’s registered address also goes back to the couple’s remote Montana home.

A prior business venture in the last decade ended poorly for Andrew Techmanski, records in Britain show. In 2009, he resigned from a business he had helped form three years earlier to string electric lines. The company folded less than two years later, and some debts remained outstanding last year, according to records.

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