Sunday, December 10, 2017

Slouching toward apocalypse

We can take it as a given that, in order to encourage his white evangelical Christian supporters to turn out for aspiring-Senator Pedophile in Alabama, President Predator decided to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the U.S. embassy there. For his evangelical Christian base, this was even more attractive candy than anti-abortion federal judges. Ever since the Israelis occupied the city fifty years ago, the U.S. and Europe have been refusing to confer this mark of legitimacy on that conquest. The "peace process" between expansionist Israel and their subject Palestinian population has long been a sham and the U.S. claim to be an "honest broker" nothing but hegemonic flimflam. Still Trump was ready to roil multiple unstable countries and get some number of protesting Palestinians killed for domestic political gain.

Harry Enten at 538 lays out Trump's political math:

Today, Israel is a voting priority for many evangelicals. A 2015 poll noted that 64 percent of evangelical Christian Republicans say that a candidate’s stance on Israel matters “a lot,” compared with 33 percent of non-evangelical Republicans and 26 percent of all Americans.

And evangelical Christian voters, unlike Jews, represent a significant percentage of Republican voters. Some 26 percent of the electorate identified in the 2016 elections as born-again or evangelical Christian, and 81 percent of them voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton. Capturing evangelical support is essential for Republican candidates; as of 2014, evangelical and born-again voters represented the plurality (45 percent) of voters who are Republican or who lean Republican.

Those of us who are not part of this particular Christian subtribe, "dispensational pre-millennialists," may not realize why advancing Israel's power matters so much to these people. They believe that they are seeing Biblical prophecies of end-times being played out right now, that Jesus will return only when the Jews retake Jerusalem, destroy the Islamic holy mosque which has occupied what was the Temple Mount for centuries, and then rebuild King David's temple. Bloody battles will ensue (no kidding!) and the Jews will accept Christ and all will be hunky-dory for a 1000 years. This is the lovely fable which some 50 million Americans absorbed from such texts as The Late Great Planet Earth and the Left Behind series. They believe it with all their hearts and unhappy souls. And they believe that a serial liar and sexual predator can serve as God's instrument to make it all happen.

Diana Butler Bass, a scholar who writes on U.S. culture and religion, grew up in this tradition though she long ago left it. She's good at conveying how it feels:

When I was a teenager in the 1970s, I attended a "Bible church," a nondenominational congregation that prided itself on a singular devotion to scripture. We read the Bible all the time: in personal Bible study and evening Bible classes. We listened to hourlong Sunday morning sermons. For us, the Bible was not just a guide to piety. It also revealed God's plan for history. Through it, we learned how God had worked in the past and what God would do in the future.

Central to that plan was Jerusalem, the city of peace, and the dwelling place of God. It was special to the Jews because it was the home of Abraham and David. It was special to us because it was where Jesus had died and risen. We believed that ultimately, Christ would return to Jerusalem to rule as its king. We longed for this outcome -- and we prayed that human history would help bring about this biblical conclusion.

Jerusalem was our prophetic bellwether. God's plan hung on its fate. Whenever Israel gained more political territory, whenever Israel extended its boundaries, it was God's will, the end-times unfolding on the evening news. Jerusalem, as the spiritual heart of Israel, mattered. Jerusalem was God's holy city, of the ancient past, in its conflicted present, and for the biblical future.

Almost a decade ago, the documentary Waiting for Armageddon followed an evangelical pastor on a congregational bus tour through holy sites in Palestine; various teachers make sure the tourists understand they are seeing arenas of fortunate future carnage.

"There will be an ultimate final battle and it will be a lot of fun to watch ..."

"Christ will come back with a sword at this side ... we're going to be behind him with swords in our hands ... we're going to be his army ... the blood from this battle will be as high as a horse's bridle..."

When not anticipating such jubilant slaughter, this chilling film shows the group belting out the "Star Spangled Banner" under a U.S. and an Israeli flag while riding on a boat on the Sea of Galilee.

Though some references show when it was made (in the film, rumors of war look to Babylon in Iraq, not Gaza and Sana'a), the documentary holds up frighteningly well. Many (most?) evangelicals still believe this ugly stuff; they still want to make it happen; and now they have a friend in the White House.

Here's the trailer. The entire film is available on YouTube and well worth watching.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Rerun

Take it from somebody who has seen this play out:

... the Republican Party has not learned from the mistakes of the Catholic bishops. True, some Republicans are appalled by Moore’s candidacy, but the leader of the party and its national committee have publicly endorsed Moore.

Moore supporters are operating out of the same playbook as the bishops did before they wised up and changed their policies. The accusations are denied. The credibility of the victims is challenged. “Why did they not come forward earlier? Why did they wait so long?” Then the actual offense is minimized. “She was consenting.”

Bishops, because of the shortage of clergy, were often persuaded to keep a priest in ministry because there was no one to take his place. Likewise, the Republicans faced with a narrow majority in the Senate are willing to compromise their ethics in order to maintain their power.

Jesuit Father Thomas Reese, Religious News Service

Friday, December 08, 2017

I didn't need this


It's time to start trying to get in shape again after months of travel and too little exercise. So I headed off this week to run over the delightful little mountain just south of San Francisco: 5 or more trail miles and 1000 vertical feet. It's a pretty isolated place; often I don't see anyone else on my usual circuit.

So I encounter this posted by the parks department:
Apparently this guy has been molesting women who run these trails. Two attacks were reported in October and November. There's no indication the authorities have caught the perp.

Yes, I decided to run my usual circuit anyway. And all was well. But I am mightily annoyed that I have to carry this anxiety. I am not willing to let this guy keep me away from one of my favorite routes. So far, he's done nothing worse than grope; my calculation would almost certainly be different if he'd been violent. Am I crazy?

Sweet!

Motivated by seeing our elections hijacked by some combination of the Koch brothers, Putin, Donald Trump and a bunch of rightwing knuckle draggers, unexpected candidates are joining the fray all over this year. David Ermold is running against Kim Davis to be the county clerk in Rowan, Ky. The long serving incumbent refused to issue a marriage license to Ermold and his male partner in 2015, defying the Supreme Court decision legalizing same sex marriage. I have no idea if the challenger has a chance, but it's a gutsy move.

Friday cat blogging

Reflections almost hide this noble creature surveying the street. Does the animal know she's nearly invisible?

Encountered while Walking San Francisco.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

A reckoning is coming ...


And that reckoning has become partisan. That's a good thing. In order for a social change to take root, at least one of our major political parties has to adopt it. Change doesn't emerge from political position papers; it bubbles up among constituencies. Parties take up formerly unthinkable causes -- think racial integration, or transgender rights, or sensible gun control, or even what I think are crackpot nods to "religious liberty" -- when the change has already percolated through parts of their base. Leaders find they have no choice and "evolve." After awhile, the novelty becomes just part of what we expect from Democrats (somewhat frequently) or Republicans (less frequently -- who needs novelty when you have plutocrats?).

So John Conyers had to go despite his record as the longest serving Congressman and Black Caucus groundbreaker. Al Franken has to go, despite being a pretty darn good Senator with a sense of humor. I would expect Congressman Kihuen to go soon enough. Men who think it their right to impose their sexual desires on women will discover such conduct is an impediment for career advancement among Democrats. Women who want to work in politics will be more likely to be believed when one of these guys violates their limits. Given the deep, deep extent of male certainty that men are entitled to women's attractiveness and availability, there will be back-sliding, awkwardness and actual transgressions. But gradually, we'll all learn the new dance. It's worth demanding that Democrats get serious about this because after this amazing moment, it can happen.

Meanwhile Republicans are yoked to President Predator and (most likely) Senator Pedophile. They are in no position to respond to this social change, even if they wanted to, and even when it bubbles up from some of their base, as it certainly must. In this moment of change, GOPers may still be able to win elections. But having the Democrats draw the contrast to their newfound principles will still help peel off some doubters.

But, but, Republicans sputter, what about that last Democratic predator president, Bill Clinton? Sorry guys, but the electorate is outgrowing its anchor in the Clinton era. Here's Ronald Brownstein explaining the transition we're living through:

The baby-boom generation, which has voted reliably Republican in recent years, has been the largest generation of eligible voters since 1978. But in 2018, for the first time, slightly more Millennials than baby boomers will be eligible to vote, according to forecasts from the Center for American Progress’s States of Change project. Higher turnout rates among baby boomers will preserve their advantage among actual voters for a while. But sometime around 2024, Millennials will likely surpass them. The post-Millennials, Americans born after 2000 who’ll enter the electorate starting in 2020, will widen the advantage. This generational shift will trigger a profound racial change: While about 80 percent of the baby boom is white, over two-fifths of Millennials and nearly half of the post-Millennials are not.

Where boomer women of all colors thought aggression from powerful men was just something you had to put up with, younger cohorts are learning higher expectations. They can certainly sometimes be cowed or silenced, but they have far more peer and social support for "silence breaking."

Meanwhile, a few conservatives even realize they have their own ancient skeleton in their closets; read Jay Kaganoff calling on Justice Clarence Thomas to resign. Change is happening at a most unexpected moment.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

The bill is too damn high: the medical market fails us

Why didn't the Affordable Care Act (ACA) -- that's Obamacare -- rapidly earn more fans when it managed to add 20 million people to the number covered by some kind of health insurance? Because, from the point of view of many (most?) of us who have tried to access medical care whether or not on Obamacare, that necessary good still cost an arm and leg -- or at least too damn much!

Elisabeth L. Rosenthal's An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back dissects the grim truth:

In the past quarter century, the American medical system has stopped focusing on health or even science. Instead it attends more or less single-mindedly to its own profits.

Rosenthal is a physician with a degree from Harvard Medical School and and journalist with twenty-two years experience working for the New York Times on a variety of beats including Beijing, bird flu, and environmental degradation. Back in New York, she covered adoption of the ACA and moved on to researching the cost of U.S. medicine. (She's now editor-in-chief at Kaiser Health News.)

In this utterly readable volume, Rosenthal lays out through anecdote and expertise what has gone wrong in the delivery of medicine. Separate chapters explain how all facets of the system have organized themselves over the last 25 years to extract maximum cash from largely defenseless patient/consumers. We're being ripped off every which way -- by insurance companies, hospitals, doctors, drug makers, medical device vendors, lab testing and other ancillary service contractors, and increasingly by monopolistic health conglomerates.

The second half of the book is as deep and detailed as Rosenthal's description of the problem. She is full of ideas about how to fix this foul cesspool of exploitation of human helplessness. She explains what individual patients should question and what they should protest; she even provides sample letters. She makes suggestions for how play various parts of the system off against each other, such as insurance companies, doctors, and pharmacists; make 'em work for your business. She has solid suggestions for collective political remedies, particularly in the area of strengthening and making responsive the various state-level insurance commissioners. (This caught my attention because California made this an elected position by initiative in 1988 and some subsequent occupants been quite useful to patients.) There are numerous state and regional regulatory tweaks that could help some.

But ultimately the federal government is going to have to root out the greed that defines the healthcare system. Obviously with the party representing the One Percent in power, that's not currently happening. But we can and will demand better; it is our lives at stake. Rosenthal reminds us, patients do have allies within the system:

There are many great doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and others working their hearts out, even in these troubled and troubling times. Even as the healthcare sector faces a future of great financial uncertainty and humiliating bureaucracy, many of the best and brightest students are flocking to medical school. They're doing it because they want to take care of patients ... We have to remind everyone who has entered our healthcare system in the past quarter century for profit rather than patients that 'affordable patient-centered, evidence-based care' is more than a marketing pitch or a campaign slogan. ... When the medical industry presents us with the false choice of your money or your life, it's time for us all to take a stand for the latter.

Here are Rosenthal's Rules for understanding the U.S. medical system to ponder; click to enlarge:
***
Want to think about how serious this is? We understand what is happening. Today in a discussion of how Republican tax cuts aim to undermine Medicare, one elder offered a suggestion:

I was discussing this legislation with my younger sister, and pointed out the obvious, which is that I probably will not survive long since I am facing a 9K copay on my cancer drug alone when I go on Medicare in a couple of months (this is not hyperbole). She suggested that when the time comes to expire, maybe I could plant myself near an entrance to the Senate chamber. I know the timing would be difficult, but I am intrigued by the idea. Could be my last act as a public educator.

Rosenthal would recognize this sentiment and this determination.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

As Southern California burns, remembering a friend

These apocalyptic scenes from the fire near Ventura last night put me in mind of my friend Hattie who succumbed to metastasizing cancer last month.

Optimism was not her thing.

We are obviously a species that has outsmarted itself.

Hattie was well read, well educated, well traveled, kind, and thoughtful. She made her art, raised orchids, struggled with the League of Women Voters newsletter, and loved her friends, family and her husband.

She raged at the damage that people she unhesitatingly labelled "foolish" and "greedy" were doing to her country.

Sure people are terrified, I understand that, but thinking that not protecting others will save them is foolish. The worst consequences of capitulating are to the soul as even I, an atheist, understand.

OK. I guess I have to out myself as a person who knows a lot about stuff.  I studied the history of the rise of the Third Reich during the Weimar period, and I studied the history of the Third Reich and the aftermath of WW II in Germany.  My Masters' thesis was about the way young Germans experienced the period.  ...

A few day later in November 2016:

I am giving a lot of credit to myself and all the people of goodwill who are the backbone of this country, the real people of substance. We can be proud. And we will prevail, ultimately, as we have already done in our personal lives. People like me have fought against fascist tendencies all our lives, including within our families, in schools, at work. We are not done yet. We have a lot of strategies and most of the brainpower in the country and most of material assets,too. We are not going to flee, since there is nowhere to go;  we will stay here and save our country. So, although we do have to mourn, this is not a time to despair.
In fact, when I think about my fortunate life, I am filled with gratitude today. I can feel, I can reason. I don't believe stupid things.

Living on a knife edge between between hope and despair is hard. Hattie chose to balance there.

We only met twice, but we stayed aware of each other through our blogs for many years. I miss her and can only imagine what her absence means to her family and friends for whom she a vibrant presence.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Called to choose a side

Bishop Gene Robinson (retired bishop of New Hampshire and the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican Communion) preached at our little San Francisco parish of St. John the Evangelist yesterday. This photo of the Bishop giving communion to two of our current crop of little girls is cribbed from my friend Susan Hansen. What a wise, brave man the Bishop is!

After the service, Robinson answered questions from quite a crowd of parishioners. He admonished those of us LGBT people living in the protected environment of this city to remember that in 29 states we queers may have a constitutional right to get married -- but we can be fired the next day for our sexual orientation. Here's a current map showing the state of employment discrimination law:
In all those gray states we have no protection at all; only the deep purple states offer wide protection to queers of (most?) flavors. From Fortuynist at Wikipedia.

He was asked where is the Church in these dire times. Like so many of us, he's mighty unhappy with attacks on poor and marginalized people from the President and the Republican Congress.

But he hastened to add gently that he was sure there were Republicans among us ... I'm not so sure about that in this congregation. We're a pretty radical bunch even in a radical city.

And I do wonder about how people claiming to be followers of Jesus can also be followers of Trump, Pence, Ryan and McConnell. There is little about which the Bible is more clear than this: "... do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another." Zechariah 7:10.

Denouncing oppression is not something to be carefully polite about.

I think that wonderful escaped evangelical the Slacktivist has it right about how faithful people and churches must orient themselves toward our current regime; he takes direction from the abolitionist Frederick Douglass in calling out blasphemy.

“Blasphemy” is not hyperbole there. It is a term of acute theological precision. It is the correct and apt and necessary term. It is the word we need to be using now, today, to describe the blasphemous champions of oppressors with their so-called piety ...

... Many white churches support white nationalism and Trumpism.

Other white churches allow the option of not supporting it. But it is only that — an option, one that is permitted and tolerated, but never demanded.

This, too, is blasphemy.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

After the Steinle verdict: the decent, the losers, and the winners

Kate Steinle is still tragically dead. The 32 year old woman was just walking on the Embarcadero with her father in July 2015 when a bullet punctured her heart. The apparently dim-witted homeless man who randomly fired a found weapon was acquitted of responsibility for her killing by a San Francisco jury on Thursday, though held guilty of being a felon in possession of a gun.

And much of the country is up in arms. Rightwing Twitter wants a boycott of the City by the Bay. I kind of suspect they weren't coming here anyway, and wouldn't enjoy the place if they did, so that's not so worrisome. President Cheato is raving that this has something to do with San Francisco's welcome to immigrants and we should build his wall. Just as in the 2016 campaign, he's using other people's pain for his gain and inflaming racial fears.

I don't have any special knowledge of the case beyond what I read in the papers, but I have observations that I haven't seen brought together in most sources.

Devastated and decent
The Steinle family. The Chronicle recorded a short video, Mending the Heart, in which Steinle's father conveys his dignified determination not to participate in a blaming circus. He tries very hard to keep focus on the real harm, his daughter's death. And he stays away from vengeance-filled vituperation against the shooter or the city. (Kate's brother isn't so measured, but her father is the main spokesman.) Watch this soon at the link and weep; Chronicle links aren't always durable.

Losers
District Attorney George Gascon. Gascon's job is to decide who is to be charged with what crime in this city. He routinely throws the book at very young men rounded up on drug charges. He routinely exonerates police officers who shoot unarmed suspects. Presumably feeling political pressure to appear tough, he charged Jose Ines Garcia Zarate with intent to kill, including first degree murder. No wonder the charged didn't stick; the evidence showed Steinle was hit by a ricochet and Garcia Zarate seemed to lack both motive and capacity. If Gascon had dared to charge what the facts as found by the jury seemed to indicate, he might have gotten a conviction on some level of accidental manslaughter. But by going for broke, he chose to make a weak case unsustainable. (See Tim Redmond's devastating description of Gascon's failure here.)

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It gets lost in the fog, but Garcia Zarate was on the street that fatal day because ICE neglected to get a warrant to pick him up from San Francisco County custody. San Francisco's "sanctuary" status means we don't just turn over inmates because someone at the Feds calls the jail and asks for a prisoner. Our law enforcement officers are required to follow the rules. In this country, it takes (or should take) a legal warrant to hand someone into custody. ICE didn't do its job and get the right judicial order; the SF Sheriff's Department merely followed the rules. Garcia Zarate became yet another homeless San Franciscan.

Winners
Matt Gonzalez. Gonzalez's past political career didn't make me a fan; a guy who would run as Ralph Nader's VP choice in the 2008 election demonstrated a complete lack of seriousness about U.S. politics. But in his role as lead public defender in this case, he did his job masterfully, enabling the jury to get beyond the noise and stick to the evidence. And his subsequent warning to the Cheato and company was timely:

“For those who might be critical of this verdict, there are a number of people that have commented on this case in the last couple of years — the attorney general of the United States, the president and vice president of the United States — let me just remind them that they are themselves are under investigation by a special prosecutor in Washington, D.C.,” Gonzalez said outside court.

“They may themselves soon avail themselves of the presumption of innocence and beyond a reasonable doubt standard,” Gonzalez said. “And I would ask them to reflect on that before they comment or disparage the result in this case.”

SFGate

The jury. Mostly criminal cases never get as far as being heard by a jury of fellow/sister citizens (much less a jury of their peers.) In 2012, 94 percent of state cases never reached trial. Most charges end in a plea deal with the defendant agreeing to guilt for some offense in order to receive a lesser sentence. But in the rare cases in which defendants do face a jury, ordinary people can prove thoughtful and discerning as I've written here from personal experience. Jurors often end up taking the momentous task they've been stuck with very conscientiously. Somehow it doesn't surprise me that a San Francisco jury made up of people who've likely seen quite a few individuals like Garcia Zarate on their streets needed more evidence than raw prejudice to make the man a deliberate murderer.

I have jury behavior on my mind as I'm on the hook for such service myself next week. I'm confident that nothing will come of it, as no attorney on either side would put me on a panel, but going through the motions is a welcome citizenship task.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Game change? or not?


Washington pundits are agog that Robert Mueller's investigation has flipped President Trump's former National Security advisor Michael Flynn. The crew at 538 thought Flynn's guilty plea merited a special podcast. #NeverTrump Republican Jennifer Rubin writes "Flynn could deliver a knockout blow to Trump." Both the New York Times and the Washington Post have blaring stories.

I'm not feeling it. Flynn is pleading guilty to something we've known since last February: he talked with the Russian ambassador during the transition about sanctions and lied about it to the FBI. For an Intelligence guy he's not too bright; didn't he know that the U.S. almost certainly would be listening in on the Russian?

And as for Flynn's boss, the Orange Cheato, he publicly solicited help from a hostile foreign power (that would be Putin's Russia) during the campaign. I heard it myself when trapped in front of a cable news feed on a ferry in late July 2016. We know that. I happen to think Trump's behavior was (and is) treasonous; his disavowal and destruction of the more decent elements of our polity give aid and comfort to our enemies. But a sizeable minority of us -- well distributed -- thought not and put him in the White House.

Mueller can prove Trump's misdeeds -- mostly done in the full light of day -- and still achieve nothing unless Republicans decide the con man has outlived his usefulness and impeach him. Perhaps they might get around to that when they've given their rich donors their tax cut? We'll see.

Friday, December 01, 2017

What happened to give us the opioid epidemic?

These days you'd have to live under a rock not to know that the U.S. has a raging opioid addiction crisis. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse,

Every day, more than 90 Americans die after overdosing on opioids.

Over half a million U.S. residents are hooked on heroin and a couple of million more are hooked on prescription pills.

(For anyone curious, as I was, about terminology: heroin and morphine are derived from the opium poppy and thus are opiates. However pharmaceutical industry chemists have come up with synthetic compounds that act on the same receptors in our bodies, the opioid receptors, including hydrocodone [Vicodin], oxycodone [OxyContin, Percocet], and fentanyl. These drugs, as well as the opiates, are termed "opioids.")

Sam Quinones' Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic is a vivid journalistic account of what got us into this sorry situation. The emphasis here is on "what happened" -- he's not attempting to answer "why" so many people might have been vulnerable, though the book is a catalogue of hints. But we can't try to make sense of the "why" without a firm grip on "what happened" -- who, where, and when -- this is terrific reporting in that vein.

Quinones relates how by the 1990s doctors came to believe they ought to prescribe more drugs to relieve pain, how pharma companies, especially Perdue which invented Oxycontin, marketed to maximize profit from that worthy medical impulse, and how other unscrupulous doctors set up pill mills and made fortunes dispensing vast quantities of opioids to addicts who had started on prescriptions. Ordinary capitalist greed teed a plague up to explode.

During the '00s, public health authorities and cops gradually realized something had gone terribly wrong and that the ready availability of addictive medicines had to be curbed. New regulations reduced over-prescription. But as Quinones puts it, the change only meant that decade was "a great time to be a heroin dealer." A brilliantly organized entrepreneurial illicit drug distribution system out of the town of Xalisco in the Mexican state of Nayarit was ready, willing, and able to import their black tar heroin into areas where Oxy and fentanyl had created a plentiful supply of buyers. Their story, culled from interviews with imprisoned and/or deported drug distribution peons, is where Quinones' reporting really shines; heroin came to the heartland not through the Mafia, Central American gangs, or violent drug cartels, but by way of enterprising small businessmen originally united by family ties who thrived on offering reliability and practicing customer cultivation.

Quinones concludes with stories of what came after addiction mushroomed: of children who overdosed, of parents who retreated into shamed silence, and of other parents who became evangelists warning of the danger of drugs. And he shares stories of cops, judges and communities which fought back, which began to treat addicts as sufferers from a disease that required treatment and rehabilitation, and where some pride of place began to return.

Quinones writes a blog where he continues, beyond the Dreamland reportage, to try to explore what this plague means in our national life. He's acutely aware that the addiction epidemic is haunting our national debates, even when it's not in the foreground for many of us.

Politicians would do well to better understand the deep well of pain and anxiety surrounding, and thus the political power within, this issue. It’s not something expressed easily in polls. People aren’t likely to admit to a pollster on a phone that a loved one is an addict.

But it’s there and dims the view of the future of so many people, the prospects of so many towns and counties, the economies of so many regions, and thus is of paramount importance to them. Right up there with jobs – connected inextricably with jobs, in fact. In so many depressed areas, huge numbers of folks can’t pass an employer’s drug test.

Nor does it take many addicts for that foreboding to spread. A few cases in a small town, I think, are all that’s needed. People see it hit almost anyone and seemingly at random – like a plague – including families who before had no connection to the drug world or the criminal justice system. Soon everyone’s view of the future turns negative.

***
The opioid addiction crisis is treated in our public life as peculiarly a contemporary "heartland" phenomenon. Certainly that's the story Quinones tells. But it doesn't seem so far away to this city dweller.

I have friends who came back from being drafted into the Vietnam war who have never overcome drug using habits acquired in that imperial folly. And I have seen a friend get so hooked on opioids prescribed by a high end pain doctor that, whenever she checked into a hospital for treatment of ongoing injuries, she was in danger of suffering through withdrawal because medical personnel would not believe she actually could tolerate the volume of drugs she was habituated to.

Addiction is not solely the story of sad white people in Ohio -- we are an addiction-prone society in which we are taught to hope we can get happiness from a bottle or a pill. It's always worth asking, who benefits when drugs are the available answer to fear, disappointment, and pain?

Friday cat blogging

Meeting Jack through this snapshot, you might think he's a pensive, even dignified, gentleman.

But then, you might encounter this.
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