Thursday, August 24, 2017

POLITICAL THEATRE, PHOENIX: EXPECTING SOMETHING SQUALLIER




On August 22nd, President Trump spoke at a Republican rally at the Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona.  Thousands of his supporters attended, and at least two thousand Antifa protesters showed up outside.  The city was ready for them;  shopkeepers in the area closed early and shut their security-gates, and a very large (undisclosed) number of police came early too – to keep the protesters well separated from the attendees.  Trump, as it turned out, didn’t have that much to say, and the rally itself soon grew boring.  The real show was outside.

Despite common stereotypes – yes, spread by the major news media – Arizona is not a “red state”;  it’s a weird state.  Among other things, it has no racial majority.  Its base population averages a little over 30% White, a little under 30% Indian (mostly Navaho), roughly 30% mixed White and Indian (which is exactly what a “Latino” is, and most of those are Old Spanish, not Mexican – long story), a little over 5% Black and a little under 5% Asian.  This demographic spread is not precisely reflected in the police department (Asians usually have much better-paying jobs, and Indians who go into police work prefer to take jobs as Tribal Police on the reservations), but there are a lot of non-White cops in Phoenix.  This means that Phoenix police can’t afford to be racist. 

Also, this is a “Constitutional carry” state, which means that any non-felon can carry a firearm within the state, concealed, without a permit.  Anybody you pass on the street could be armed, at any time, and everybody knows it;  this means, as Heinlein once noted, that Arizonians tend to be very polite in public.  People who are visibly impolite in public promptly brand themselves as foreigners at best, dangerous at worst – and easily identifiable to the police.

It should not surprise any Arizonian that the police stood calmly, shoulder to shoulder, blocking access roads and keeping the readily-identified Antifa protesters (BLM stayed away;  there were almost no Black faces among the protesters) safely away from the Convention Center and its attendees – no matter how the protesters stamped and waved and yelled – or that the attendees, Arizonians themselves, also remained calm and polite despite the provocation.  And the Antifas did do their best to provoke – but only verbally, until the sun went down.

Now remember, all of this was extensively videotaped by a lot of reporters from a lot of different local TV stations, and shown on those same stations that night.  They rivaled each other to show different angles, physical and political, of everything that happened – and what happened was remarkably revealing.

First, after Trump had left, and the crowds were quickly informed by loudspeaker from overhead circling helicopters, the attendees got up to leave – and that was when the Antifa crowd started its action.  The protesters who had simply come to wave signs and be noticed began to walk away, leaving the serious Antifa crowd – who surged toward the departing attendees, yelling insults at them.  The departing attendees very nicely refused to be provoked – one woman, being railed at by a man claiming to be “Hispanic”, archly asked: “Can you show us your legal immigration papers?  Can you show us your ID?” – before the police gently but firmly pushed the man away.  There was only one man, in an SUV, who responded rudely;  he drove past the Antifas, flipping them a Nazi salute out the window.  The Antifas took after him on foot, throwing those loaded bottles, but police on motorcycles went after him faster and chivvied him out of the neighborhood.

This left the Antifas no target except the police themselves, who were politely but firmly ordering the crowd to disperse.  The Antifas let loose with those loaded bottles, rocks, and hand-cannister pepper-spray, which the police handily deflected.  The Antifas, or course, refused to disperse, but threw more bottles, at al.  The police tossed a few tear-gas canisters, one of which a protester kicked back, whereupon the police kicked it aside and started shooting “pepper-balls” – small balls which break open on impact, scattering powdered tear-gas – much harder to pick up and throw back.  The police also formed arm-in-arm barriers fronted with plastic shields, and moved slowly but steadily forward, pushing the Antifa crowd down the streets and away from the Convention Center.  The Antifas retreated, but formed tight defensive knots from which to hurl their missiles and shoot their own pepper-sprays.  There are no reports that they used lighted hair-spray as small flame-throwers.  The police responded with smoke-grenades and flash-bangs, which spoiled the Antifas’ aim, and continued to push them down the street.  Eventually the Antifas gave up and departed.  Afterward, of course, the Antifas complained to the media about police “excesses” and “brutality”, but the videos didn’t back them up.

The two remarkable things about this incident are, first, how intelligently the police were deployed, and second, how the Antifas’ tactics mirror those which BLM and friends used in Ferguson, Missouri, three years ago.  Back then, for day after day, the local protesters marched in the streets complaining about the police, then gathered at a rally where local preachers spoke, then scattered around sundown to their homes or various churches.  That was the point when the BLM “activists” would peel off from the church crowd and run about the city’s streets, smashing windows, robbing stores, and setting fires – not caring how many of the stores were Black-owned.

The Antifas in Phoenix were thwarted in their hopes of copying BLM in Ferguson because the Phoenix shopkeepers closed and secured their stores, and the police did not abandon the area once Trump had left.  One can almost pity their disappointment.  The media certainly did.  Even the supposedly-impartial New York Times concentrated its attention on the poor protesters who were chased off with tear gas:  “Hundreds of people ran off, streaming into the surrounding streets, coughing and wiping tears from their eyes” after “Trump’s divisive speech”. 

At his speech Trump lambasted the media for lying and bias.  The media – outside of Phoenix, anyway – returned the favor.  The inhabitants of Arizona, who had seen the whole thing, were unimpressed by both of them, and particularly unimpressed with Antifa. 

--Leslie <;)))>< 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Sabotaging Medicine


First, a bit of information that every nurse, EMT, or first-year Biology student is supposed to know by heart: antibiotics must be taken for their full course.  Usually this is two weeks of three doses per day, sometimes it's weeks longer, and rarely it's only ten days.  This is because bacteria have several defensive strategies, just as the antibiotics have several attack strategies, and it can take a long time to deal with them all.  It's vitally important that the bacteria all be killed, because if even one survives, it will pass on the trick/immunity of its survival to its descendants.  This is how bacteria become immune/resistant to antibiotics, and particular antibiotics become useless.  The problem with giving antibiotics too much, too freely -- such as, to livestock -- is not that the livestock get too little, but that small amounts of the antibiotics get passed on to whoever consumes the milk or meat, and kill off only the weaker bacteria while leaving the stronger/resistant bacteria alive.  Under-dosing, by any means, with antibiotics creates bacteria resistant to those antibiotics.  That's what happened to the original form of penicillin.  All healthcare professionals are supposed to know this.  Keep that in mind.

Now my case was just the opposite;  when I was a little kid I got a severe case of pneumonia, bad enough to put me in the hospital, and the doctors shot me up with massive doses of penicillin.  The penicillin killed the pneumonia bacteria completely, but left me permanently allergic to penicillin.  Ever afterward, I had to rely on tetracycline to clear up all my bacterial infections.  That was all right;  tetracycline worked well with my personal chemistry.

The problem was that, over the past ten years or more, it's grown harder and harder to find doctors willing to prescribe tetracycline.  When I asked why, I got dozens of different excuses -- mostly revolving around a theme of "We have much better antibiotics these days".  A few personal experiences showed that those "much better antibiotics" cost about ten times as much as tetracycline, or even classic old penicillin.  Uhuh.

A little more research (gods bless the Internet!) revealed a few more interesting facts about both of those old standbys.  First, both of them were developed so long ago that their patents have run out;  this means that anybody can produce and sell them without paying royalties to the original -- or the last -- patent-holder, which makes them cheap.  Second, both antibiotics are easily found in nature -- penicillin derives from blue bread mold (I wrote a song about that), and tetracycline from an African beer-yeast;  it was only the refining process that could be patented.  The basic breeding-stocks can be readily found, collected, bred and refined -- just about anywhere, by anybody with the knowledge, which is likewise commonly found.  Third, both remain reliable killers of most kinds of bacteria, despite sloppy over-use by everyone from incompetent medics to corner-cutting factory-farm managers.  So, they're cheap, easily made and reliable: everything that big pharmaceutical companies hate.  No wonder doctors are discouraged from prescribing them.

However, I found that by insisting -- and maybe claiming "allergy" problems with the shiny-new expensive antibiotics -- I could still get prescriptions for tetracycline, which still worked just fine, thank you.

Then, about six years ago, I discovered at least one doctor at my local clinic using a new tactic.

I'd gone there with a pesky jaw infection, gave the usual explanation about my allergies, and asked for a "full course of tetracycline".  The doctor frowned, but wrote up a prescription and handed it to me, and started to head out of the exam room.  Fortunately I'm a very fast reader and have a habit of always reading my prescriptions as soon as I get them, so I caught the anomaly before the doctor could escape.

"Hey!" I snapped, "This is wrong.  This is enough for only one week;  a full course of tetracycline takes two weeks.  You'll have to change it."

He didn't like that, and he used the Argument From Authority: "Who's the doctor here?"

"Who's the doctor's daughter?" I countered, "And who's been taking tetracycline all my adult life?  It's never prescribed for less than two weeks."

He retreated to the second line of Argument From Authority: "I've could show you where it's ordered in the Official Publication."

I called his bluff: "Yes, please show me that exact page."  I didn't mention that I intended to xerox it as soon as I got my hands on it.

He shifted to: "It's not convenient.  If you don't like that prescription, give it back, and go see another doctor."  And he grabbed for the paper.

I snatched it out of his reach and replied: "You know perfectly well that it'll take me a week to get another appointment, so I'll make do with this for that long."  And I hurried out before he could come up with another excuse.  I also didn't mention that I wanted to have his signature on that prescription, in case he tried to squirm out of the clear malpractice.

First thing I did on my way home was stop at a copy-shop and get several xeroxes of that prescription.  Second thing I did was stop at a drug-store and get the original filled.  Third thing I did was take the best xerox copy, touch it up a little to make it look like a genuine original, take it to another pharmacy and get that one filled too, just in case (no, I'm not afraid that the DEA or somebody like them will come after me, these long years later, for illegally purchasing antibiotics).

Fourth thing I did was look up the phone numbers of the city health department, the county health department, the state health department, and finally the CDC in Washington, DC.  I spent the rest of the day phoning those various Expert Authorities, asking if anyone knew about this new -- and dangerous -- tetracycline policy, and who had ordered it.  All I was able to reach were various secretaries, none of whom had a clue about any policy of under-prescribing tetracycline, and somehow none of them were able to reach anybody who did know anything about it.  A few more days of phonecalling brought no different results, so eventually I phoned the biggest newspaper in town, told them my tale, and asked if they knew anybody who knew anything.  The reporter I talked to had an eager note in his voice when he promised he'd "look into it", so I guessed that he actually would do a bit of investigating.

He must have raised enough questions with enough of the right people, because the next time I needed to get a prescription for tetracycline, the doctor (a different one) had no trouble writing me a scrip for a full two-week course.  I thought that was the end of the problem.  Silly me!

A couple years later, troubled with another bacterial infection, I went to my local clinic here in Arizona, and tried to get a prescription for tetracycline again.  This time the doctor claimed that tetracycline had been "discontinued", supposedly because so many bacteria were now "resistant" to it, and nobody was even making it anymore.

Surprised by this, I made more phonecalls and Internet searches.  I found that tetracycline was really still being manufactured -- but only for "veterinary" use, and not much (just one company in the US) of that.  Nowadays, you can only find tetracycline -- and penicillin, for that matter -- sold for use in tropical fish tanks.  Other pet owners have advised me on how to calculate the dosage for other animals, but you have to mix the powder in distilled or boiled water yourself.  The interesting part is that these supposedly-useless old antibiotics still work on the majority of bacterial infections.

What I see happening here is a years-long deliberate campaign of sabotaging two old reliable -- and cheap -- antibiotics.  Now, who would have the ability to pull off a campaign this widespread and this effective?  And who would have motive?  Think.     
           
--Leslie <;)))><