Still Stuck in the Middle

At least one political cartoonist and I seem to have the same feeling. Much of America is, and has been, stuck in the middle of a political crisis that threatens the very fabric of our society. I originally wrote about the topic in 2012 and considered revisiting it at times. I didn’t for several reasons, but then I ran across this cartoon. I could not let it pass without comment.

Most folks today likely do not remember the song from which the cartoonist borrowed Uncle Sam’s thoughts, “Stuck in the Middle With You.” I have no idea what the group recording the song had in mind, but the lyrics fit the world in 2012 nicely. Today perhaps, they are even more germane. This brings us to the verse still resonating loud and clear, “Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right.”

Hold on! Before anyone gets his or her nose out of joint, left and right are interchangeable. If you are a big fan of a political figure on the left and would prefer he or she be called a joker, or one on the right and would prefer the term clown, please feel free to swap those words in your mind. Believe me! It makes very little difference. However, if you are still reading, likely, you are not a fan of either a clown nor a joker. You are stuck in the middle and trying to make sense of it all.

It is disheartening the truth of these lyrics stand the test of time. Anyone in the middle or anyone trying to be objective is bombarded by both the left and the right. If you prefer, again, your choice, the objective or centrist person takes it from all sides. Conservatives and liberals may consider the individual indecisive, while the extremists on both sides believe the person cowardly.

When this piece was first written, many claimed the country was divided. At the time, I opined that division might not be as extreme as some claimed. Today, I fear the amount of division and polarization is much worse than anyone imagined. If that is true, the blame for that division rests solely on two segments of society, the traditional media and what we now call social media.

There was a time in this country when the middle could be heard. There was a time when survey data could be trusted. There was a time in this country when the news media worked to be objective reporters of facts. There was a time when even the most partisan politicians were civil to each other, at least publicly.

Today, the same demographic groups can be targeted by different researchers concerning the same issue, and the results can be dramatically different. If there has ever been a time when the old saying, “Figures can’t lie, but liars can figure,” was more accurate than today, it would be hard to imagine.

Today, objective reporting of the news is almost impossible to find. Instead, the media practices a form of hybrid reporting blending opinions and selected facts in a way that makes it practically impossible to know when the reporting stops and opining begins. The confusion is further aggravated by the development of television programs, websites, and publications with the appearance of being news sources, but are really something else. They are, at best, comedic or satirical entertainment. At worst, they are outright propaganda.

A person who wants to make an objective decision about anything today is in trouble. Polling data is untrustworthy. News sources are suspect. Politicians believe civility and honesty are as old-fashioned as handlebar mustaches and spittoons.

The objective person’s lot in life becomes even more difficult if they express what they feel is an unbiased opinion. Unbiased opinions, middle of the road positions, or an objection to what is obviously biased information will automatically result in an attack from one or both sides of the particular issue.

In the political and public media world, the attack will come from talking heads in the television and radio communities, as well as the blogosphere. That seems to be expected and accepted. What is disappointing and more bothersome is how this same attitude has trickled down, to steal a phrase, to the every day social media user.

People using social media have no problem blasting another user’s comments. Instead of attempting a reasoned response or asking for more information, respondents will lash out at a person calling him or her a kool-aid drinker, an idiot, or worse.

Others seem to have no problem denigrating an entire group with sarcastic, or even offensive comments. At times it seems only the far (pick your poison, right or left) end of various political and social continua speak out on issues. Then, they do so either to intentionally offend or to provoke others to respond in kind.

It is not surprising this is the case, just disappointing. It is disappointing otherwise intelligent, caring individuals will lash out at an opposing view. In some instances, they lash out when there is no real view expressed. When it is the clowns and jokers on both sides of an issue who get the attention, others will follow suit.

It seems the time of reason and common sense, not mutually exclusive by the way, is long past and forgotten. Today we live in a world where the outrageous gets the attention and notoriety gives one credibility. A world in which clowns and jokers compete with each other to see who can be the biggest buffoon on the talk shows. A world in which stating your opinion can result in you being unfriended or blocked. Yet, ranting like a lunatic may make you trend up hyperbolically.

© – 2020

Posted in Civility, Daily Life, Ethics, Leadership, Political Extremes, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Traditionally Speaking

Okay, the title is a bit of a play on words. This is not about how you, me, or anyone else speaks. Instead, it is a bit of musing over the impact the coronavirus crisis may have on time-honored traditions, and how that impact may change the country.

For instance, do you remember when people talked about their Sunday best? More importantly, do you remember when people wore their Sunday best to church? If you do, you are part of a rapidly disappearing age group. In a few decades, if not sooner, no one alive will be able to answer those questions with a yes. In some ways, that may be sad, but in others, it is merely a sign of progress and social evolution.

Cultures change and evolve over time. In most cases, those changes take generations. For instance, what someone should wear to church has been debated or discussed since biblical times. In more modern times, but still for several centuries, dressing appropriately for church services was a matter of pride, stature and respect.

In the last few decades, things changed. How someone dressed for a church service became less important to many churchgoers, resulting in church services attended by many who might have just walked in off the golf course. Historically speaking, this shift took place in the blink of an eye.

With the preceding as the backdrop, let’s look at what may be happening today.  We are in the middle of cultural and societal evolution that may destroy centuries of traditions and practices. The top doctor in the United States and others are saying Americans, and others, should no longer shake hands for fear of the next virus pandemic. It is possible handshakes will become a thing of the past. Instead, we are being encouraged to find other forms of greeting or showing respect.

Only time will tell if the handshake becomes extinct. Handshake aside, other practices will undoubtedly begin to change as well. If one cannot shake hands, hugs are certainly out of the question. Then there is the meme to the left I posted jokingly the other day.

Many suspect or expect the wearing of protective masks will become common. As a retired police officer, that makes me a bit nervous. If I were a convenience store clerk working nights, it would scare the you know what out of me.

I’ll have more to say about the other forms of greeting later, but the idea that all future relationships with friends, acquaintances, coworkers, and strangers are changing is staggering. Not only are they changing, but they are changing in a few months, instead of years or decades. Happily, I will not be around when the full impact of these changes are felt.

I will leave it up to future generations to deal with the changes that may arise from the coronavirus response. Sadly, humans are called sheep in the Bible for a reason. We are followers, for the most part. Future generations, even my grandchildren, may look at handshaking, pats on the back, kisses on the cheek, or hugs in the same way many today think of such things as eight-track cartridges, cassette tapes, and your Sunday best. Ancient history.   

[i] In writing this piece, I discovered something I never knew or had forgotten. The Wright brothers are given credit for the first heavier than air powered, piloted flight, but another man claimed to have flown two years before they did. As with everything else in the world today, the “experts” are divided on who actually piloted the first airplane.

© – 2020

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Of Hoarders, Opportunists and Reality

As many have reported in one form or another, the COVID-19 problem pushed some people a bit beyond common-sense approaches to preparation.  Of course, this is nothing new, just think back to how people have responded to impending hurricanes or their pet theory of the imminent apocalypse. Empty shelves are nothing new. The only new thing is no long gas lines!

The panic buying mentality in which many engage at times, such as these, is somewhat understandable, even amusing.  The problem is the panic buying may cause severe problems for those with special needs, and the empty shelves they encounter can be heartbreaking.  Yet, as the title implies, this is not merely about panic buyers.

Opportunists and worse exist in every society and every country. They will not hesitate to profit from the fear, pain, and suffering of others. The coronavirus panic is likely a classic example of this.  For instance, during the first weeks of this emergency, I, like many others, was out shopping for supplies to carry us through the potential restrictions coming from on high.  What I saw was expected. It was also sad and illuminating.

There was the young couple in the checkout line at the local supermarket. They had two baskets loaded with food, other supplies, and two adorable boys.  The obviously embarrassed young father made a point of announcing, somewhere between his indoor and outdoor voices, that they’d been visiting grandparents, and needed to stock the pantry.

Then there was the excursion to my preferred warehouse store. You know the great thing about these places is every level of society shows up at one time or another.  Okay, maybe not the owners of the mansion on the hill, but one can see everything from day workers to CEOs at times, people who would never set foot in the big W will hang out in its warehouse derivative and its competition.

On this trip, before the establishment of “old guys” hours, the place was packed. One would have thought it was the Friday before spring break, and families were out stocking up for the coming week.  Of course, some of these people were stocking up for more than a week.

That is where things began to be interesting. Many small businesses buy supplies at warehouse stores. You can see the owners of a little hole in the wall taco place, standing behind a guy who owns a food truck.  In the next line may be the owners of my favorite donut shop, checking out just behind the owner of a maid service. On this day, those people were there, but so were many others. It was then the lightbulb went off above my head.

Opportunists and black markets exist in every society.  They may be more prevalent in certain countries than others, but they exist everywhere.  Then there are the unofficial, off the books, suppliers who do not really fit the black market label. After three decades in law enforcement and more years conducting investigations of one sort or another, I feel I am a fair judge of character. On that day and subsequently, I am sure many of the people in line with multiple baskets full of products were buying more than they needed at home.

Also, I  have visited a couple of marginal, if not third world, countries. Additionally, friends and colleagues brought back tales from their visits to places even further down the economic ladder.  In many of these places, small villages and towns do not have pharmacies, grocery stores, candy stores, and other businesses. Instead, they have neighbors who provide similar if not as expansive services.

For instance, in some places, it is not unusual to buy your candy from the candy “store” on a neighbor’s front porch.  Then, you can get your hair cut at the house across the village, or you can buy fish from the guy across the road. Of course, eggs are available from the lady around the corner. In some cases, over the counter medicines can be bought from the family living by the church.

These front room or front porch businesses make a great deal of sense in areas where transportation is limited, and the local equivalent of Sams Club, Costco, or HEB is an hour’s walk away.  They also make sense in some communities within the U. S. where there are similar circumstances.

Yes, it is possible the guy rolling out with twenty cases of bottled water just didn’t like the taste of Fort Worth’s water.  Also, it’s possible the guy with a cartload of wine was throwing a gourmet dinner to celebrate the fact he tested negative for the virus.  Yeah, and a guy wanting to buy a pallet load of sanitizer the other day just has a big family.[i]

In many areas, there are neighborhoods with limited, if any, retail outlets. The big boys do not want to do business there, and convenience or small discount stores may not fit all of someone’s needs. Is it out of the realm of possibility for someone to decide, they’ll just buy some staples from a big box store and resell them to neighbors and friends who cannot make the trek?  Add to that the normal black market, or underground market, if you prefer for tobacco and alcohol, and the idea of private enterprise of this nature is not only plausible, it is likely.[ii]

There are always vulnerable and gullible populations in any major city.  They almost guarantee some of this panic buying is not panic buying. Yes, over-enthusiastic preppers or people convinced they will not be able to leave their home for weeks may go a bit crazy. In this case, some of these folks may be stocking their sheds, extra bedroom, whatever with stuff they hope to make a buck off of in one way or another.

[i] Price gouging in Texas.
[ii] This may sound a bit far-fetched, but over the years in my law enforcement and other capacities, I became aware of all sorts of what one could call off-the-books or black market activity. From the liquor store owner who sold booze out his back door to the guys selling cigarettes to kids that kind of trade has existed as long as the laws made it illegal. Currently, I am trying to rundown the possibility some people are making money from lotto cards. I’ve seen more than one individual buy hundreds of dollars worth of cards at a time.  They either have a gambling habit such as I’ve never seen or they’re selling these to others for a small profit and are likely buying winners back at a slight discount. Then again, I may just be a suspicious old fart.



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Of Sausage Making and Politics

An old saying goes, “You don’t want to see how the sausage is made.”  The origin, and exact wording, of the adage, can be debated at length as an internet search will quickly attest.  Be that as it may, the meaning is clear; however, it is used or worded. You don’t want to know all that goes on behind the scenes, whether one is talking about meatpacking, politics, church, or many other occupations or avocations.

My first real clear understanding of the adage was shortly after high school. My roommate took a job in the sausage division of a nationally known, at the time, meatpacking operation.  His first and only job was in the sausage-making area.  I will not gross you out with the details. Instead, I will just say he lasted until lunchtime of his first day.  At lunch, he walked into the company cafeteria, took one look around and walked out. He didn’t even quit officially. He just went home and never returned.

I’ve never been behind the scenes in the sausage-making industry.  I have however, been involved in something even messier, politics and public service. As the world is finding out, thanks to social media and around the clock news, these are messy, sometimes sickening businesses. A look at the last four years in the United States, and its dealings with the world, make for a good case study of havoc behind the scenes.[i]

Before going on, here is one disclaimer or clarification.  As I wrote in “Stuck in the Middle,” each reader will see this from his or her own perspective, and readers from both sides may find fault with my reasoning. So be it! Some may think beyond their political or cultural biases and realize the mess we’ve made of the greatest political-social experiment in history.

First, let’s talk Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race. Was there Russian interference? It seems they did their best to meddle, and it is likely Russia, as well as other nations, are still attempting to influence United States politics. The problem with the Russian affair was the media scrutiny, and a new form of politics being played in the campaigns.[ii]

Whatever one thinks the 2016 election, it was a benchmark for future outsiders running for high office. Donald Trump, mostly by playing the people who hated him, showed us what a snake pit politics is, even in the United States. He pushed their buttons until the exposed just how far outside the bounds of propriety they would go in their efforts to stop his campaign.[iii]

George W faced some of this during his campaign and time in office. He even wrote a book, laying bear his sins. For the record, that is an old employment interview tactic. If someone knows the potential employer will find skeletons in the closet, put them on the table first.  That way, you get your explanation there instead of being on the defensive when they are discovered.  W’s opponents did their best to discredit him,even digging so deep they found a minor sin he forgot to confess. Sadly, it did not completely blow up in their face, but the impact was minimal.

In President Trump’s situation, the game of “we’ll find something you can’t overcome” continues through this day. It continues, and his tactics remain the same. Perhaps those tactics make you uncomfortable, but the reality is they have always been used, just not openly by the candidate.  Of course, today it is even easier to slander your opponent or a candidate you do not like.  Post almost anything anonymously claiming a candidate is the Devil and someone will report it.  Of course, as we have seen in recent times simply winning an election does not bring relief.

Old stories are recycled endlessly.  New accounts are created out of thin air.  In fact, I could blog a complete lie, get it into the right hands, and it might have the impact and the longevity of the much-ballyhooed piece of trash the Steele dossier!

Yes, behind the scenes in politics and public service can be as nasty as sausage making. Still, there are people whose perspective on life and lack of sensitivity allow them to see how the sausage is made and eat it for breakfast. The same is true in Washington and other seats of power around the country.  Politicians and bureaucrats can handle the slimiest matters, in the slimiest ways, one can imagine, and toast their actions at a $10,000.00 a plate dinner.

[i] Yes, there were other periods on which I could focus, but analyses of what happened in the ‘20s, ‘30s, ‘40s, etc. are ancient history to most people. Additionally, they were before social media.

[ii] Technically political tactics were no different. If one looks, it is possible to find political cat fights throughout history. The big difference in the 2016 race was we could see behind the curtain. The Wizard’s tactics were exposed.

[iii] Yes, former president O’bama was the subject of visious campaigns that were based on dubious so-called fact.  Still, for the most part, he had the MSM and most of Hollywood supporting him. Detractors were, for the most part, what some would consider right-wing nut cases.



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Collateral Tragedies?

As I listened to the latest news on the national and local government response to the coronavirus invasion, old times came to mind. Unless you have been totally off the grid with no access to media of any kind, you know what is happening.

What caught my attention and started my flashbacks was the discussion of family quarantines. By that, I mean the powers that be are demanding anyone living in a household with someone testing positive for COVID-19 self-quarantine, along with the victim.  That would mean everyone, father, mother, kids, and anyone else living in that residence, stay in quarantine until everyone is cleared. That could become a scary situation for all involved, including the community.

The directive took me back to early in my law enforcement career. As I learned very quickly in my street cop days, some families spending more or less forced “quality” time together do not do well.  That is why holidays are not always the happiest time of the year.

Yes, most people get together on holidays by choice. They are not forced or coerced to spend time together by the government.  Yet, even when holidays start out well, they can end in tragedy.  For instance, there was a horrible Christmas tragedy in Grapevine, Texas. A family of six came together as usual. They all ended up dead.

Admittedly, the Grapevine incident was, in some ways, the exception, not the rule.  Mass killings on holidays are not a periodic occurrence in Texas or anywhere else, as far as I know. Still, holidays often bring about the conditions leading to family violence.

As a street cop in a smaller Texas town in the 70s, you saw a bit of everything. Thankfully, small-town crime and serious incidents do not come as quickly as in larger communities.  Still, they come, and the results are not pretty. The exceptions, in some ways, are holidays. Either that or our little town was exceptional. All I know is no one looked forward to working holidays, and not because we were separated from our families.

One holiday particularly worried cops in our little bit of the North Texas plains. Christmas!  Christmas is supposed to be a happy time of the year. As the Grapevine case attests, that is not always true.  In our experience, some crimes and harmful behaviors do not recognize holidays.  In fact, some such activity seems to show up at a higher rate.

For instance, those of us working Christmas day dreaded 1400, or 2:00 pm.  That was the witching hour, so to speak.  Gifts opened, some toys broken, and, depending on the weather, kids were coming down with a bad case of cabin fever.  Worse, some of the adults were beginning to reach their maximum quotient of “family time.” From the early afternoon until the wee hours of the next morning, cops knew a family violence call was always hanging over their heads.

Yes, even the closest family can have trouble with extended family time. Add in a little eggnog or a few other adult beverages, and the number of people earning coal in their stockings for next Christmas begins to climb. Most of the time, such calls could be handled relatively easily. Still, domestics are some of the most dangerous reponses an officer can make.

A domestic or family violence complainant can demand the “No good SOB” be hauled off to jail one minute. The next, that same complainant is on your back, screaming, “Get your hands off of him (or her)!” Then the officers have two people to deal with unless the rest of the family joins in the fun.

As this is being written, Christmas is 280 days away.  Yet the Christmas like cabin fever may be staring police officers in the face much sooner.  The nature of the current pandemic means businesses are closed, people cannot gather together in many social settings, and a night out with the guys, or girls, is verboten.

In the homes with confirmed coronavirus patients, residents are to self-quarantine. This means, everyone occupying the home, is stuck there until it is certain no one in the house has or is carrying the virus. The self-quarantine could last for weeks!

Mandated self-quarantining may be necessary to defeat this virus.  Sadly, it is also a recipe for disaster in some households.  Throw in lost income, a few drinks, a bad mood, someone saying the wrong thing, and you have a 9-1-1 call in the making. The call may be for an ambulance, a fire truck, the police, or all three. For this and other reasons, I am asking that if you haven’t started praying, do so!

Pray for those with the virus. Pray for the health care workers, firefighters, ambulance personnel, and others dealing directly with people who may or do carry the virus. Pray for those losing money because of closures, quarantines, and social distancing.   Pray for your family’s sanity, including yourself.  Pray for our nation.

Finally, pray for the police patrolling our streets!  They will be risking exposure to the virus, as well as the threat of violence against them daily, possibly multiple times a day. Whenever they make contact with someone, walk into a house to investigate a complaint, work an accident, or stop to check on a stranded motorist, they are placing themselves at risk.

© oneoldcop – 2020

Posted in Daily Life, Holidays, Law Enforcement, Leadership, Medicine, National Defense, Police, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Intelligent Stupidity?

If you think about it, human intelligence is a fascinating topic. For example, depending on the source consulted, there are eight to ten different ways of classifying one’s intelligence quotient. That is why some people can solve complex formulas in their heads but have difficulty making small talk at social events. There is no mathematical formula to help them answer the question, “Do you like my new hair color?”

Yes, a high IQ does not always translate into a highly functional individual. Which brings me to the point of this piece, and the image on the left.

The graphic is a screenshot from my Facebook page. My post was, as I hope you can see, a tongue in cheek comment on the panic buying of toilet paper taking place around the United States. If you did not immediately pick up on the satire in the post, your IQ might be too high for your own good, but don’t abandon this piece yet. There is another point I want to make.

Again, if you have not already taken a good look at it, read the comment below the package of Angel Soft. That was Facebook’s response to my post.

Facebook, at least the version of artificial intelligence Facebook is using, was unable to recognize the sarcastic, hopefully humorous, message I intended. Instead, Facebook offered to help me engage in price gouging, which would likely be a crime in the middle of a pandemic.

The scary aspect of this situation is the reality we face in the not too distant future. Self-driving vehicles operating under the control of an AI have killed at least eight humans according to one source. Developers believe this issue can be overcome with time. Still, one must wonder how much damage will be done by automobiles and other devices operated by artificial intelligence before the systems are perfected.

Also, consider the comments made earlier about the highly intelligent. Sometimes, they can be as dumb as a stump outside their field of expertise. How will programmers with questionable interpersonal or social skills develop algorithms to recognize sarcasm, humor, idle threats, exaggeration, and other human idiosyncrasies?

Today, unless one disconnects all eavesdropping capable apps, limited forms of artificial intelligence monitor much of our communications. That is why mentioning a product in a social media post results in a deluge of advertising concerning products of that nature.  Even having a casual conversation within the vicinity of a voice-activated device may result in a similar situation.

Given the increasing prevalence of devices equipped with some form of artificial intelligence, our dependence on them will increase. As that happens, given the problems already encountered, more and more opportunities will arise for an algorithm to miscalculate the appropriate response to something it encounters.

One can easily envision the day, if it has not already happened, when someone’s home or business is the focus of an embarrassing or troubling incident due to an intelligent app misunderstanding what it sensed. As the big brother aspect of government increases, imagine what would happen if an intelligent app misunderstood a dramatic outburst during a quarrel. Could the app, based on its programming, notify the authorities? If it does, will the 9-1-1 operator receiving the call realize it is a real-world version of Samantha in the movie “Her,” instead of a human?

Even more likely, is the expansion of incidents, with unacceptable consequences, such as the ones inspiring this piece. One event, of course, was the post mentioned above. Another was the unexplained blocking of a friend’s daily Bible blog. After sharing his blog for years, Facebook’s algorithms decided his blog was spam. Luckily, his complaints and inquiries reached a human being, and the matter was resolved.

The question now is, how long will it be before the computers get so smart they won’t listen to their human programmers?1  Maybe “The Terminator” was not so far fetched after all.

1Okay, that was a bit of hyperbole or sarcasm. Still, the idea that we can always control the devices we build is a bit of arrogance that might cause a lot of trouble in years to come. As anyone who has been the victim of a hacker, directly or indirectly knows, there are people out there trying to find ways to take over systems, or unleash havoc within them. Theoretically, at least, it should be possible to alter an artificial intelligence system to do whatever it calculates as appropriate.

© – 2020


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Worthless: Free Advice and COVID-19

Okay! I know! I am writing a piece warning against free advice, and some will say the information I am about to give you is not worth what you paid for it. With that said, please stop reading and spreading medical advice on Facebook. It is not only worth less than nothing, but it may also be harmful, regardless of the source.

As with the run on toilet paper, there is now a run on medical advice from various sources. The one first catching my attention came from France’s Health Minister. Another came from a personal post by someone claiming to be a nurse. Another was from a second doctor in Europe building on the Health Minister’s warning.

Here is the problem! For every piece of medical advice I’ve seen on the internet there have been conflicting opinions. Take the Health Minister’s premise that NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, aspirin, similar drugs) could make coronavirus worse because some tend to impair the body’s immune system. A number of online publications have posted his comments, or the comments of others supporting his position.

Almost no one is posting comments of those who think the warnings against using ibuprofen or similar drugs may be exaggerated or mistaken. Even Snopes classifies the Health Minister’s claims as unproven. You will likely not see that anywhere, but here.

I could go on, and on probably, with my critique of this debate. Instead, I will close with the following few bits of information. The French Health Minister, and some others, say choose acetaminophen to control fever related to the coronavirus. I believe the piece from the nurse said essentially the same thing to some degree. I know she suggested using low dose acetaminophen, which I applaud to some degree.

On the other hand, I wish I could take ibuprofen if I contract COVID-19. However, on the advice of my primary care physician, I avoid NSAIDs because most of them have side effects that make them risky for me. The most concerning side effect is the damage they can do to one’s kidneys. My kidneys are marginal for some reason, so he told me to stick with acetaminophen, which I do for the most part. Also, some of the NSAIDs can damage the stomach lining, another concern based on my family history.

The problem is ibuprofen is much more effective in dealing with my pain, any fever I might have, and inflammation that can accompany them. Acetaminophen works, but not as well. Also, there is one other thing people forget about acetaminophen, it can be deadly. Okay, they all can be deadly if misused, but good old acetaminophen accounts for almost 500 acute liver failure deaths annually.

So, here’s my free advice concerning what over the counter meds someone should take if they are sick. Ask your doctor, a doc in the box, or the pharmacist if he or she will make a recommendation! Oh yeah, if you don’t have a doctor, can’t pay for a doc in the box, and don’t trust the pharmacist, you can now consult real doctors online and by telephone, at a relatively low fee.

© – 2020

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Of Donkeys, Padres and Politics

A friend shared the meme to the left on Facebook recently. It was apparently written to be a humorous, if slightly crude, allegory about not sweating the small stuff. However, it is an excellent example of one problem facing the United States and other more parts of the world where some sort of democracy still exists.

Several posts in “An Old Cop’s Place” address or touch on the issue this meme highlights. In one case, a post included two true stories about public figures who were trying to deal with falsehoods or misrepresentations in the news. In both cases, the parties involved survived the encounter, unlike the poor bishop. That is, they survived physically, but their careers and reputations were destroyed.

In the donkey story, the media did nothing wrong. Unless, of course, you feel the headlines quoted were themselves misleading or maliciously motivated. Be that as it may, malicious or skewed headlines are only part of the problem, in the meme and in the United States. The real problem, as I have stated before, is the abuse of the First Amendment allowed by a 1964 Supreme Court ruling that did not have a clue what the “news” would look like in a few decades.

Here, the bishop mostly brought the problem on himself. If he had not overreacted, he might have been able to live the matter down. Instead, his knee jerk response to the first headline led to the second. Instead of allowing the situation to die of natural causes, he kept reacting in a manner that allowed the questionable or tongue in cheek headlines to continue.

In the real world, the full range of publications included in the term media allows misrepresentation, misinformation, and outright slander to take on a life of their own. As noted in other posts, and illustrated by the satirical meme, fighting back is often a case of winning the battle and losing the war.

Again, it is only a losing battle because of a Supreme Court ruling that should probably be overruled or amended in some fashion. Famously, or infamously if you’re not a fan, President Trump fights back with the same media used to attack him. True, in other cases, he may use media to pick a fight as well.  Whether one feels his actions are unpresidential or a legitimate way of taking the fight to his critics, he has changed the game.

Free speech is an important right. It is one for which we should all fight daily. Yet, it should not be a get out of jail free card for people who use it nefariously. It is possible modifying the court decision making it open season on public figures would change the way things are done. The president might act more presidential. Members of Congress and the media might be less likely to say or publish rubbish just because they can. Society itself might become more civil.

The “moral of the story” in the meme was, “Being concerned about public opinion can bring you much grief and misery and even shorten your life. So be yourself and enjoy life. You’ll be a lot happier and live longer!”

The advice offered in the quote above may indeed be useful in some circumstances. It is not good advice in all cases, and our society is clearly shifting in a direction that makes it even less appropriate. Failing to respond to inappropriate and false accusations may lead to continued attacks and bullying.

Whether one is speaking of a country’s leader or a kid on the playground, there are times when something other than turning the other cheek is appropriate. Likewise, there are times when attempting to change the behavior of online and media bullies is necessary, as well, perhaps with a tweet.

© oneoldcop-2020

Posted in Civility, Daily Life, Leadership, Political Extremes, Politics, social media, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Of Hearsay and Public Figures

This meme popped up in social media recently. As one can easily imagine, the creator was likely poking fun at Democrats and many media outlets. Admittedly, the “Cheryl’s She Shed” meme is a one-sided attempt to satirize a serious issue. Yet, the meme points out a problem that needs to be addressed in some manner.  

The political and legal systems in the United States have never been perfect. Yet, they have been better than other models throughout history, and the envy of many. Of course, not everyone would agree with that statement. There are, and have been, those who believe the freedoms and processes inherent in the U. S. systems are impediments to orderly governance. 

In case the last sentence has you scratching your head, here are few names that might fall into that category. For instance, Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler, and Fidel Castro were never in favor of freedom of the press, due process, and innocent until proven guilty. They, as well as many current leaders around the world,  might argue that we pay way too much attention to individual rights in this country. After all, if we must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone is guilty, we may not take every bad guy, or person we dislike, off the street.

So, you ask, what does this cumbersomely and grammatically challenged meme have to do with totalitarian governments or the reality of the situation in the United States today? The answer to that is simple. A well-meaning and totally legal decision made in decades past concerning some aspects of personal liberty, due process, assumption of guilt, and related issues are being subverted and used to establish a system of prosecution based on innuendo, false statements and total disregard for the rights of the accused.

That last statement is not the beginning of some hackneyed defense of Donald R. Trump. Rather, it is a simple statement of fact the Democrat war on Trump highlights. Using the power of their positions and exploiting one of the most egregious exemptions in U. S. civil laws, the mainstream media and many politicians and their supporters on both sides of the aisle have mounted a campaign to destroy Donald Trump’s presidency.

For the record, the president made himself an easy target for this attack. Whether that was due to his political ignorance, his ego, or a belief he needed to stand up for something bigger than himself is unknown. Still, his political rivals have declared war on him, and unlike others in a position such as this, he met the attack head-on. Only time will tell who, if anyone, wins this battle. Regardless, of that outcome, the way the battle has been waged needs to be examined.

Stay tuned.


© – 2020


Posted in Civility, Ethics, Leadership, Manners, Morality, Political Extremes, Politics, social media | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Seriously Doc?!

The practice of medicine today is probably one of the most important, frustrating, and confusing professions in the world.  For example, through a series of events recently, I ended up in the cardiac unit at my local hospital. It wasn’t my first time in that hospital or unit, for that matter.  Still, no matter how many times someone deals with a medical group or issue, some aspects of the current experience can bring out the “Seriously doc?” reaction.

In this case, I held my tongue as it was a well-meaning RN named Matthew, who poked the nerve.  He was going through the ever-growing list of questions, diagnostic and just plain nosy, asked of patients today.  To be fair, my interaction with the medical community over the previous two days had me primed and ready.

First, I spent a very uncomfortable night on the last Sunday in January to avoid going to the Emergency Room.  After two similar instances in years past, I was certain this was not an ER situation.  Accordingly, I waited until Monday morning and went to my primary care doctor.  After checking me from top to bottom, he sent me to, you guessed it, the ER.

For the next twenty-six uncomfortable hours, I was confined to the ER.  During that period, my condition was “monitored,” I underwent a couple of scans, multiple blood draws, tests, and spent a lot of time twiddling my thumbs while waiting for a room. So, I was not in a great mood when I was finally rolled into a room with a real bed, a bathroom, and a window.

Matthew started down his list of questions, and I managed to answer him in a relatively cordial and coherent manner.  Then he reached the question that just about drives me up the wall every time it is asked, “On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the worst pain you’ve ever experienced, what is your pain level at this time?”

Every time I am asked that question, I want to scream, “Seriously, doc!?” Of course, Matthew was a nurse, and he had to ask the question. Still, what were the medical powers-that-be thinking when they came up with it?

All of us experience pain in different ways. I’ve known folks who would say their pain was a 10 while someone else would say a similar injury was a 2 or 3.  For example, I once experienced an injury during a rugby match that rendered me almost immediately unconscious. It was, at the time, the worst pain I’d ever experienced, and that is saying something. It was my 10 from then on, until it wasn’t.

Twenty years later, to the month, I had the pleasure of suffering pain that almost made the fact I passed out two decades earlier embarrassing. This pain occurred during a medical procedure, instead of an athletic contest.  That is why it was a med-tech who noticed my distress. Shutting everything down in the middle of the procedure, he came out of his lead-lined control area to check on me.

When he asked how I was doing, I replied through clenched teeth, “On a scale of 1-10, this is a 15, how much longer.” He replied thirteen minutes, and I managed to tell him to finish it without resorting to profanity. That may sound braggadocious and hyperbolic, but it is true. Only the slow onset of the agony and the importance of the procedure kept me from calling it quits. He finished the exam, and I had a new level 10. In case you are thinking I’m bragging or a masochistic, hold your horses.

As a former police officer, amateur athlete, life skills coach, and student of the human condition, I’ve known people who worked through pain that would have incapacitated others.

I’ve also seen people suffer through and survive injuries or pain levels that could have easily led to unconsciousness or something more severe. Likewise, I’ve seen some of those same people seemingly come to their knees with an injury many people would tape up and move on.

Within limits, pain is subjective. My 5 might be your 10. My 10 might leave you writhing on the ground, and in both cases, our emotional states might dictate our response to some degree.  That may be one reason we have the prescription of painkiller problems we have today.  We no longer expect people to “tough it out.” Instead, people expect their pain to be eliminated immediately, if not sooner. Doctor’s played into that for years, and we are reaping the rewards of that behavior today.

Is it any wonder I sometimes want to shout, “Seriously, doc!” when they start, “On a scale of one to ten…………?”

Posted in Civility, Daily Life, Medicine, Science, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment