Every candidate attracts unrealistic expectations but the Democratic idea that Joe Biden is going to fix everything that is wrong under Donald Trump has brought magical thinking to a fever pitch. Newsflash: if things get any better, it won’t be much better.
Few things are more terrifying than the unknown, as we are discovering as we struggle to navigate, avoid and (if we fail) survive a mysterious new virus. That goes double when reliable information is hard to come by; it is unquantifiably worse without credible leadership.
“Who ya gonna believe,” Chico Marx asked, “me or your own eyes?” More than other cultures of which I am aware, Americans are acculturated to ignore their instincts and the truth of their observations. A smoker might wake up coughing up phlegm every morning for decades yet he only begins to internalize that tobacco is dangerous to his health after a surgeon general he has never met issues a report. You might live in the same house years on end but discount your observation of the fact that it used to snow but now it doesn’t; global warming only becomes official when hundreds of climate scientists certify what you already knew.
Sometimes you have to trust yourself.
Even when you are mistaken about some details.
I’m 90% sure that I had COVID-19. It was in November. I was in LA for several weeks. In March I blogged about my symptoms: “I had an incessant dry cough…I had a constant fever. My temperature ranged from about 101° during the day to closer to 103° at night. My chest was tight: it felt like a car was parked on it. I had absolutely no energy whatsoever. I was exhausted. Even walking half a block, I had to take a break. I would get back to my hotel after a meeting and be asleep by 6 PM. I would sleep 14 hours and wake up still wiped out. ‘What the hell,’ I would ask myself, ‘is going on?’”
I tested negative for influenza. An x-ray revealed early-stage pneumonia. I was prescribed antibiotics and a nebulizer. Obviously I recovered; here I am writing this. But I’m still weak and tired.
If I could prove I had the novel coronavirus in November, it might be a news story. Aside from a New Jersey mayor who says he is sure that he had COVID-19 in November and a 55-year-old Chinese man whom doctors say had the disease on November 17th, the scientific and journalistic consensus is that the coronavirus pandemic originated in Wuhan, China in December. Last week my physician administered a serology test to determine if I have antibodies consistent with past infection with SARS-CoV-2. It came back negative. I was puzzled. If I hadn’t had COVID-19, or the flu, what the hell was this horrible illness?
I’m 56. I’ve had trouble with my lungs my entire life: asthma, lots of bronchitis, several cases of pneumonia, swine flu. My symptoms are remarkably consistent. My November experience was nothing like anything before. What bronchitis gives you fever for weeks at a time? What pneumonia?
The day after my doctor called with the negative antibody test result, the FDA issued a statement essentially declaring such lab tests worthless for the purpose of figuring out whether you’ve ever had COVID-19. So even if it had come back positive, it wouldn’t have meant anything.
Even if my test had been 100% reliable, and it had come back positive, all the test result would have proven is that I had COVID-19 at some point. It would not have evidenced that I contracted COVID-19 in November. I could have caught something else in November and COVID-19 asymptomatically, later.
Further reducing my reliability as a possible COVID-19 Patient Zero is a failure of memory: in my blog, I wrote—because I believed it—that this happened in January. When I subsequently reviewed my records, I came across a photo selfie of me on the nebulizer in a West Hollywood urgent care clinic. It was dated November 15th and I had already been sick for a couple of weeks. You may be less surprised that I made such a mistake when I tell you that my mom was desperately ill at the time, and she died on February 7th after a year of hell. Whatever it was, COVID-19 or something else, definitely happened in November.
Does it matter? Scientifically of course the answer is yes. Epidemiologists benefit when they can trace a viral pandemic to its roots. Personally, medically, probably. Though the experts remain officially uncertain whether someone can be reinfected by COVID-19, the evidence appears to say that COVID-19 survivors probably cannot get reinfected to a significant extent. It wouldn’t prompt me to go out in public without a mask or stop washing my hands. I know it’s selfish but I won’t deny it: I would love the peace of mind of knowing that this particular beast isn’t going to kill me. And I would like to donate blood for use as plasma in order to treat coronavirus victims.
As it stands, most of my thoughts on this subject are a muddled rumination about the nature of humanity and the reliability of personal knowledge. If I were an animal, and had never heard of science, and had memory and self-awareness, I would know—know with the same certainty that I know I am typing this column—that I had COVID-19 and that I should probably worry about something else more than the possibility that I might get it again. But I am not an animal, I am an American filled with self-doubt, in awe of Science and the desire to document what can probably never be proven and that in fact might not be true at all.
(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Bernie,” updated and expanded for 2020. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
Thanks to everyone who has been supportive over my struggle against a severe case of viral conjunctivitis. I am both sorry and happy to report that there hasn’t been a significant improvement in my vision. On the other hand, it hasn’t gotten worse. It isn’t unheard of for these cases to drag on for months or even over a year. Basically, I can see but things are blurry. And while the itching and pain are gone, there’s still a lot of tearing. Of course, seasonal pollen doesn’t help. Anyway, it goes on.
Speaking of pains in the ass that won’t go away, the Los Angeles Times is continuing its campaign of McCarthyist retaliation against me for taking on the LAPD (whose pension fund effectively owned the parent company of the LA Times at the time). Yesterday they filed the first of three — of a second set! — of anti-SLAPP motions directed against me. Their goal: to bankrupt me by forcing me to pay their legal fees! That’s right: a $500 million corporation wants to make me pay at least $300,000 to them. (They paid me $300/week before they fired me in a corrupt secret deal with LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.)
I am suing the LA Times for defamation, wrongful termination and blacklisting, as well as other charges related to their publication of two libelous pieces about me in which they described me as a liar even though I was telling the truth. The Times is terrified that my case will get in front of a jury, so they’re abusing the anti-SLAPP statute — which was designed to protect small-time individual whistleblowers against big corporate institutions like the Times — to try to bankrupt me.
You can learn about the Times’ sleazy tactics and contribute if you are so moved here.
My lawyers are preparing their response to the Times’ disgusting anti-SLAPP motion this week.
Thank you for your well wishes.
Short version update: my eyes look better, see worse.
The good news about my fight against a serious case of viral conjunctivitis is that it doesn’t hurt much anymore. If you saw me, you’d say I look pretty normal. The “pink” in pink eye is largely gone. It doesn’t feel like there’s sand lodged in my eyes anymore. I can think again. There’s hardly any discharge and just a small flow of tears. The doctor says I’m not contagious anymore.
The bad news is, my vision is not only improving, it’s getting worse. My doctor says there’s no way to know what happens next. It gets better. Or it doesn’t. Total recovery, blindness or permanent vision loss. Who knows?
Everything’s blurry. Really blurry.
I miss the sharp edges.
Originally published by Breaking Modern:
The World Health Organization (WHO) now warns teens and young adults that they are at high risk of hearing loss if they listen to music on headphones more than an hour a day. Buy in open office spaces, headphones are required to keep out distracting noises … including co-workers’ music.
Originally published at Breaking Modern:
The future is so bright you may want to wear shades — and, if the latest economic data is any indication, you may be able to afford some swagaroo designer ones as what might just be a real recovery heats up in the coming year.
All that crazy optimism, however, might leave you with one hell of a hangover the morning after celebrating New Year’s Eve 2015. That’s no way to start out a promising year! Which is why, as a veteran of more all-nighters than I care to (or can) remember, I’m sharing my hangover avoidance and mitigation tips. Even if you absorb just one of these tips on how to avoid a hangover, you’ll be a happier post-partier…or a slightly less miserable one, anyway.
What IS a hangover, exactly?
Let’s turn to the friendly folks at Medical News Today for a solid definition of that crap I’ll-never-drink-again feeling when you wake up:
A hangover is a collection of signs and symptoms linked to a recent bout of heavy drinking. The sufferer typically has a headache, feels sick, dizzy, sleepy, confused and thirsty. Hangovers can occur at any time of day, but are usually more common the morning after a night of heavy drinking. As well as physical symptoms, the person may also experience elevated levels of anxiety, regret, shame, embarrassment, as well as depression.
The severity of a hangover is closely linked to how much alcohol was consumed, and whether the sufferer had enough sleep. The less sleep the worse the hangover. It is impossible really to say how much alcohol can be safely consumed to avoid a hangover – it depends on the individual, his/her circumstances that day, how tired they were before their drinking started, whether they were already dehydrated before the drinking began, whether they drank plenty of water during their drinking session, how much sleep they got afterwards, etc.
How to avoid a hangover
The only surefire way to avoid a hangover is, to echo Nancy Reagan, Just Say No, i.e., don’t drink alcohol. For certain people — alcoholics in or not yet in recovery, obviously, drug abusers, people who are allergic to booze — that should be their daily reality. If you’ve read this far, however, you’ve probably already decided that abstinence is not for you.
If you know in advance that you’re going to drink a lot, plan ahead. That starts with what you eat, beginning with breakfast the day of the big event. Pickles, hummus, asparagus, eggs and milk are among the foods that mitigate the negative effects of alcohol consumption — but only if downed beforehand. Others suggest mashed potatoes. From personal experience, I vote for carbohydrates. A generous serving of pasta in your stomach at least two hours before your first glass will probably take the edge off.
Even if they’re the same weight as you, if you’re female and/or of East Asian descent, don’t try keeping up with your drinking mates. Women have less body fat by weight than men do; Asians have low levels of the enzyme acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, which breaks down acetaldehyde. Women and East Asians get drunk faster and suffer more the next day.
Avoid carbonated drinks — the CO2 speeds the absorption of alcohol into your system. “A study at the University of Surrey in 2001 found volunteers given two glasses of fizzy champagne had an average of 0.54 milligrams of alcohol per milliliter of blood after five minutes, while those given the same amount of flat champagne had 0.39 milligrams,” reports The Daily Mail of the UK, where they know something about drinking.
Conventional wisdom dictates that a principal cause of hangovers is dehydration, but that has become controversial in recent years.
Adam Rogers, author of Proof: The Science of Booze, told NPR.
“Everyone will tell you, “Oh, it’s because alcohol dehydrates you and that’s what’s causing the hangover.”… [So you’re told to] alternate [between water and alcohol], or have a big glass of water before you go to bed, and some of that comes from the fact that you do get dehydrated. But, in fact, the dehydration does not seem to be what’s causing the hangover. You can fix the dehydration — and you’re still hung over.”
Anthony Giglio, a NYC wine expert and author of Mr. Boston Official Bartender’s Guide, disagrees: “I drink at least eight ounces [of water] with no ice to make sure I pace myself and don’t overindulge.”
I side with Giglio.
If you drink one full glass of water (no ice, unless you make it two glasses) for every alcoholic beverage, you’ll won’t feel like dying when the hangover hits — and you might stave it off entirely. Whether this is due to the hydration factor or the fact that during the time you’re drinking water you could be drinking booze instead — not to mention the tendency to get thirsty in a hot bar — is for scientists to debate. All I know is, alternating between drinks and drinks of water works.
Light makes right. Lighter-colored alcohol like vodka has fewer congeners — chemicals that determine the color, smell and taste of the drink — than darker drinks like bourbon. Studies have found that lighter beverages with fewer congeners leave you feeling better after drinking.
Go to the top shelf. It’s not just labeling: more expensive bottles have fewer congeners. Tomorrow morning, you’ll be happy you sprung for Bulleit over Night Train. Your credit card bill, on the other hand, may not agree.
Now you’ve done it. How can you take the edge off the hangover you already have?
Traditional remedies include drinking lots of water, greasy food and even sex, but the truth is, there’s no scientific proof any of those will actually speed the alleviation of your headache or other symptoms. Still, your body will likely crave the water and certainly the food, so go with it.
Aspirin works. So does sleeping it off, so you might want to call in sick.
Alcoholism experts disapprove of people talking about this, but it turns out that the “hair of the dog” remedy — having a Bloody Mary or other alcoholic beverage over breakfast — actually reduces the effects of a hangover.
Here’s Rogers again:
“The idea [is] that a hangover is caused by methanol toxicity. So, methanol is another the kind of alcohol right, alcohols as a class or a class of molecules in organic chemistry, ethanol is the one that we drink to feel like we’ve been drinking. But in any preparation of fermenting and especially distilling you’ll get a little bit of methanol too. And if there’s too much, that’s that, it’s the stuff that makes you go blind in bad moonshine right? But there’s a notion that in small amounts it might be what’s causing symptoms of a hangover too. And when you’re treating methanol toxicity in a hospital – you show up in an ER with methanol toxicity. They’ll give you a big dose of ethanol because it displaces the methanol off that enzyme. It keeps the enzyme from breaking it down into toxic stuff. So the idea is, well maybe the hair of the dog is like that. Maybe the hair of the dog is you’re giving yourself ethanol and that’s displacing the methanol and so you feel better.”
Seriously, though, at some point — at least by the afternoon after the morning after the night before — it’s time to start detoxing.
Liberal BS on Income Inequality
Everyone talks about income inequality, but no one does anything about it.
Lately they’ve been talking more than ever.
“The United States is the rich country with the most skewed income distribution, ” Eduardo Porter asserts in his upcoming book “The Price of Everything: Solving the Mystery of Why We Pay What We Do.”
Porter continues: “According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the average earnings of the richest 10 percent of Americans are 16 times those for the 10 percent at the bottom of the pile. That compares with a multiple of 8 in Britain and 5 in Sweden. Not coincidentally, Americans are less economically mobile than people in other developed countries. There is a 42 percent chance that the son of an American man in the bottom fifth of the income distribution will be stuck in the same economic slot. The equivalent odds for a British man are 30 percent, and 25 percent for a Swede.”
For students of history and economics, this is shocking stuff. Europeans came to America in search of opportunity, for a better chance at a brighter future. How can it be that it’s easier to get ahead in Britain—famously ossified, rigidly class-defined Britain?
Yet it’s true. David Leonhardt of The New York Times writes: “Income inequality, by many measures, is now greater than it has been since the 1920s.”
According to Nicholas Kristof, also at the suddenly class-conscious Times, we live in a time of “polarizing inequality” during which “the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans possess a greater collective net worth than the bottom 90 percent.”
This, we are informed, is bad. Not just for us. Income inequality hurts everybody—including the rich.
Cornell economics professor Robert Frank notes the correlation between financial stress and social dislocation. “The counties with the biggest increases in inequality also reported the largest increases in divorce rates,” reports Frank. Children of divorce are more likely to become a societal burden, committing crimes against everyone, including the wealthy.
Frank argues that our quality of life is suffering across the board due to income inequality. For example, traffic jams are getting worse: “Families who are short on cash often try to make ends meet by moving to where housing is cheaper—in many cases, farther from work. The [U.S.] counties where long commute times had grown the most were again those with the largest increases in inequality.” Everyone sits in traffic, even millionaires.
The “middle-class squeeze,” Frank explains, pressures voters to vote against higher taxes that would support improvements in public infrastructure. We all pay: “Rich and poor alike endure crumbling roads, weak bridges, an unreliable rail system, and cargo containers that enter our ports without scrutiny. And many Americans live in the shadow of poorly maintained dams that could collapse at any moment.”
Is it wrong to giggle at the thought of selfish millionaires being washed away by a flood?
Citing the work of the British epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, Kristof blames just about every societal ill on income inequality. Among the highlights: infant mortality, drug abuse, teen pregnancies, heart disease, even higher obesity among people who don’t eat more than others. This may be why high-unemployment Michigan has some of the nation’s fattest people. (The hormone cortisol, released when humans are stressed, increases fat retention.)
Porter notes that the income gap is increasing across the spectrum—including among high earners. One study shows that in the 1970s the top ten percent of corporate executives earned twice as much as the average exec. Now they get four times more. “This has separated the megarich from the merely very rich,” he says.
Rising income inequality means trouble. Not just for our waistlines, but for the system that has created the problem: corporate capitalism.
“If only a very lucky few can aspire to a big reward,” Porter warns, “most workers are likely to conclude that it is not worth the effort to try.” That would lead to less legitimate innovation, fewer new businesses. The best and the brightest will conclude, as they have in post-Soviet Russia, that crime is the only economic activity that pays.
So what is to be done?
Here the income-inequality-is-bad crew falls flat on its collective face.
Kristof’s prescription: “As we debate national policy in 2011—from the estate tax to unemployment insurance to early childhood education—let’s push to reduce the stunning levels of inequality in America today.”
Porter’s solution: “Bankers’ pay could be structured to discourage wanton risk taking.” But bankers aren’t the only culprits. How would this restructuring take place? Who would force bankers to accept it?
Frank’s answer: “We should just agree that it’s a bad thing—and try to do something about it.”
Workers of the world, try to do something about uniting!
I’m going to climb out on a limb here: The guys I’ve quoted are all smart. They know exactly what is causing this relentless increase in income inequality. Ruling elites have exploited globalization and technological advances to increase corporate profits through deregulation, union busting, and lobbying for federal subsidies and tax benefits. We’re witnessing exactly what Karl Marx predicted at the dawn of industrialization: capitalism’s natural tendency to aggregate wealth and power in the hands of fewer people and entities, culminating in monopolization so complete that the system finally collapses due to lack of consumer spending.
The pundits are also smart enough to know that there’s only one way to equalize income: revolution.
Increasing riches leads to increasing influence. No matter how nicely we ask, why would the rich and powerful give up their wealth or their power? They won’t—unless it’s at gunpoint.
Nothing short of revolution stands a chance of building a fair society. Not “pushing.” Not “restructuring.” If working within the Democratic Party and the election of Obama prove anything, it’s that reform within the system is no longer a viable strategy for progressives.
We’re way past “trying to do something about it.”
The sooner we start talking about revolution, the closer we’ll be to a non-BS solution to the social and political ills caused by inequality of income.
(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)
COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL