Friday, February 23, 2018

Dr. Thug M.D.

“Homegrown drug dealers behind the veil of a doctor’s lab coat, a medical degree and prescription pad are every bit as bad as a drug dealer or heroin trafficker from Detroit or elsewhere.”    U.S. Attorney Michael Stuart 

This quote is from an article published in the Charleston Gazette-Mail. On Tuesday, February 20th, a 69-count indictment against 12 doctors was unsealed in a Beckley U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. When I finished reading the article I jotted down some questions about the Opioid epidemic I felt needed to be addressed: If wholesalers are shipping excessive amounts of drugs into rural areas shouldn’t there have been sales reps mentioned in the indictments? The wholesalers weren't shipping the drugs on a whim, so who else, besides the doctors and sales reps, should be investigated? 

The indictments we know about were part of a four-year investigation. There is a chance more shoes could drop, but this is a much needed first step towards punishing someone other than the victims of the medical and pharmaceutical malfeasance that has ravaged these communities. Charging doctors is a great start, but the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture and distribute these drugs should be seen as equal participants or co-conspirators in this crisis. If law enforcement doesn't get serious about locking up executives and sales reps the citizens of Appalachia will continue dying from the drugs that are flooding their communities.

Local law enforcement agencies haven’t been able to deal with this problem. They arrest users on possession charges. Every once in a while, a street level dealer is busted, but nothing they have done has slowed down the flow of opiate based drugs. In many areas, Opioids are easier to get than Marijuana. Tuesday’s indictments were the first major action taken against the white-collar criminals profiting from this misery.

This is eerily similar to what happened during the Vietnam War. U.S. soldiers were the victims of a nefarious get rich quick scheme. They were isolated, depressed, and drowning in a pool of readily available heroin. How did heroin from Central America, South America, and the middle east find its way into a war zone? Answer: the CIA partnered with warlords, drug growers and manufacturers. (For those interested, research the Golden Triangle and Air America.)

Rural America, like Vietnam, is a drug dealer's heaven: highly stressed people with incomes plus depressed people with no regards for the future equals a great drug market. In 2016, an investigation by the Charleston Gazette-Mail found that drug wholesalers shipped over 780 million doses of Hydrocodone and Oxycodone to West Virginia. This fact sits at the root of this problem.

Now that the doctors have been put on notice, I’m eager to see how far up the corporate ladder these investigations will go. I can’t believe in this version of the war on drugs until I see raids on corporate offices, pharmacies, and country clubs. When executives are frog marched off golf courses and out of board rooms I'll know America is taking this seriously. Until then, I’ll watch what passes for justice.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

A Few Quick Thoughts

There are times I want to write, but can't focus on a single theme. When this happens I jot down some thoughts and try to figure out which ones would be the most enjoyable to research and write about. Here are some of today's topics.

1. Paul Manafort's crimes would have never been discovered if he didn't accept a job from Donald Trump. This is true for Rick Gates, General Flynn, George Papadopoulos, and the rest of the good folks who have already plead guilty to the crimes they were indicted on.

2. Many of the same people accusing kids from Parkland High School of being "crisis actors" also thought Obama was trying to spread Ebola. Coincidentally, they also thought he was going to usher in Sharia law, take their guns, and send them to FEMA camps. They have been wrong about everything.

3. Benjamin Netanyahu is probably guilty of the corruption and bribery charges levelled against him, but like former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell: he will walk. Power has and always will be treated differently by the law.

4. On the low, I'm glad the Feds have started investigating and indicting doctors for the part they have played in creating Opioid addiction. If America really wants to send a message they will start conducting raids on country clubs where the big drug deals happen.

5. I'm not impressed with the Black Panther critiques​ offered by a majority of the overly "woke" community. They have found fault in every aspect of this movie. I wish this film would have been released in print: that would have cut the social media noise traffic by 90%. Yes, Wakanda is fictional. We know Disney and Marvel are getting paid. If you can make a better movie do it. We will buy a ticket.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Writing As Therapy

We're all wounded, but some hide it better than others. 

I write everyday hoping to find the right words to articulate the roots of my pain. I do this because it's therapeutic. I don't drink or do drugs, so writing is the only outlet I have from the soul crushing weight I feel at times. I try to choose my words carefully, even when I'm being provocative, but draining the venom from them is hard. Every time I press publish or send I know I risk alienating people I care about. This sucks!

Getting over the vulnerability that comes with exposing your deepest feelings is what separates great writers from really good writers. People who understand your message or relate to the subjects you write about don't care about grammatical errors or switches between passive and active voices. Those are details. If you are telling your truth, the people who follow your work will show up for the fire. If you have heat flowing through your pen or keyboard they will support you.

I choose to write about issues others would rather pretend don't exist. People who are deeply committed to remaining silent about important issues chastise me for writing about politics, racism, police brutality and a host of "controversial" topics. When someone accuses me of spreading hate it reminds me how disconnected I am from what passes as normal.

What some see as hate under the guise of philosophical and theological critique is actually me attempting to love my way through the darkness. On any given day I'm somewhere between throwing a brick and forgiving my enemies: I envy those who have made their choice in either direction. I sing take my hand precious Lord, but struggle to relax the fist my hand reflexively finds itself balled into. If you take words from people committed to non violence what are they left with?

Friday, February 16, 2018

Laura Ingraham: Ann Coulter Wants Her Shtick Back

"shut up and dribble" -Laura Ingraham

Laura Ingraham is very displeased with Lebron James. She channeled her inner Ann Coulter to challenge the intellect of a man who has shown himself to be a better person than the president she can't find any fault in. She doesn't like multimillionaire athletes using their platform to critique the reality show host she helped get elected president. How dare these uneducated thugs express their opinions about anything other than basketball? They need to stick to entertaining us. 

This sentiment gets recycled every time athletes and entertainers offer opinions the conservative media dislikes. Conservatives hate celebrities unless they agree with them. These are the same people who were silent when Ted Nugent told President Obama to, "suck on my machine gun." 

Laura "Susan" Ingraham's comments typify the hypocrisy of Donald Trump's most ardent supporters. For years, Donald Trump was a regular guest Fox and Friends. He used his time to tell any unchecked lie about President Obama that popped in his head. This phenomena didn't end. The president lies and spews hateful venom every time he finds himself in close proximity of a microphone. His lies are consumed as easily as oxygen. His rancor is passed off as straight talk. The profanity he uses is understood as passion. Conservatives have defended every offensive thing that has come out of his mouth and attacked anyone who dares call him out on his bigotry and ignorance. This is no different. 

Just for the sake of reference, I want to point to some important numbers about Donald Trump and Lebron James. Maybe Laura is ignorant about their record.

Sexual assault allegations:          Donald Trump 19 Lebron James 0  
Domestic violence allegations:   Donald Trump 1 Lebron James 0          
Pu$$y grabbing" confessions:    Donald Trump 1 Lebron James 0
Payouts to Porn stars:                  Donald Trump 2? Lebron James 0

Laura Ingraham constantly defends one of these men.

Donald Trump is on a 23-0 run. I stopped keeping track to avoid an even bigger blowout. This is who Lebron James was talking about when he questioned our current president's level of concern for average Americans. If Donald Trump never said any of the offensive things he has publicly said about Blacks, Muslims, or Mexicans his track record with women would qualify him as a trash human being. Yet, the right circles the wagons to protect a man who has attacked every thing they claim to hold sacred.

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Filth We Are Becoming

"We wait and think and doubt and hate. How does it make you feel? The overwhelming feeling is rage. We hate ourself for being unable to be other than what we are. Unable to be better."  Irvine Welsh

The divisions in our society couldn't be any clearer if someone physically surveyed them and chalked them out. Basic notions about right and wrong are debated as if there's some new, secretly agreed upon standard in place a majority of us weren't aware of. Morality isn't whimsical. Ethics change, societies change, but morality is divine. When good people allow the parameters of decency to be moved for their own interests we all lose. We are all currently losing.

There's a segment of our society comitted to willfully ignoring what's right in front of them. They don't engage; they are afraid of the consequences. Almost every day, seemingly good people choose to work overtime to diminish, excuse, and tolerate behavior they would never accept directed towards their loved ones. They have chosen to be complicit in this assault on decency. They are co-conspirators. Their silence screams as it scratches jagged fingernails down the chalkboards of their conscious. 

We can nod and wink as we play games with each other, but we can't fool the Universal force that sits high and looks low. In the words of Dick Gregory, "The moment we tolerate filth we become filthy." There is a poisonous brew of wickedness, greed, arrogance, and indifference filtering through our collective souls. We can pretend it's not there until we have to deal with its consequences.

I foolishly thought buying a bunch of books and diving into other worlds would drown the silent noise around me: I was wrong. It made me feel empty. There are far too many words worth writing, dissents worth registering, and causes worth fighting for. Having spent so much of my life physically separated from the people I love, the choice to live and die alone with a clear conscious is a lot easier than going along to get along. I would love to be the Danny that was the life of the party and loved, but if that means I have to be part of this mess it's a price I can't afford to pay.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Puppet Master?

Dr. Boyce Watkins deserves every bit of scrutiny he is receiving. The Charles Wu video is damaging, and no amount of vitriol the Dr. aims at those asking questions makes this go away. Boyce broke the trust he has built with some of his strongest supporters, but more damaging than that is the harm he will continue to do to those semi-conscious brothers and sisters who refuse to open their eyes. We need to view these secular saviors the same way we view pulpit pimps and other conmen praying on the Black community.

Every good con is built on trust. The most fruitful cons take a long time to develop. Charles Wu found someone (Dr. Boyce Watkins) who was running a similar hustle and used him to expand his brand. Charles Wu was on video bragging about his ability to sell dreams to "niche markets" (Black people). He admitted he was selling a "religion". The most damning part of the video is when Wu pulls up Dr. Boyce Watkins' image on his screen and parrots his whole pitch almost word for word. Boyce might not be at the end of Charles Wu's puppet strings, but one would have to try awful hard not to see this for what it is: Charles bragging about his "plug" into the Black community.

I've written about the "Conscious Pharisees" a lot the last few years. It is almost worthless. The war for the soul of the Black community isn't between those who are "woke" and those who are asleep. The real war is fought between honest intellectuals trying to build and those who use their gifts to exploit. The most ardent supporters of these hope peddlers spend more time attacking the people trying to wake them up than questioning the actions of the folks trying to separate them from their money. Some of the most ignorant people in the conscious Community are the "Stans" who choose ad hominem attacks over critical thinking. These folks can give you a hundred reasons why Creflo Dollar is a crook- he probably is, but can't recognize similar behavior when exhibited by Umar, Boyce, and their minions.  

The only math these folks care about is division and subtraction. They seek to divide vulnerable portions of the Black community from their friends and family and then subtract what little money they have from them. Boyce might not be Charles' puppet, but the people buying their overpriced products should check themselves for strings.


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Seriously, We Can Pray Away The Flu?

"Listen, partners, we don't have a flu season. We've got a duck season, a deer season, but we don't have a flu season."     ~Gloria Copeland

If you belong to a church that promotes this kind of anti-intellectual, anti-science thinking you need to run. Anyone trying to convince you that praying the flu away is an effective medical strategy doesn't understand the reason God gave us a brain. 

Gloria Copeland didn't misspeak. The fact that this video is still on the Kenneth Copeland Ministries Facebook page proves the church stands behind her statement. The current flu strain has killed over 2,000 people nation wide: 53 of those who died were children. This isn't something to play with. If the church can't correct this kind of faulty theology what are we good for? This kind of hermeneutical malpractice can kill people. We need to do better.

Thoughts On Education

Last July, I got an email from a friend who was in the process of finishing a Master’s degree in Special Education. She asked if I would complete a survey related to her research. I didn’t hesitate. A few days later she sent me a list of questions about my past experiences and my current thoughts about public school education. Listed below are some of my experiences, observations, and suggestions educators might want to consider.

Looking Back
  1. I had a few teachers who were indifferent to the plight of poor kids and a few who were outright hostile towards us.
  2. Classroom hostility creates fear and anger, but indifference is much more damaging.
  3. Students can tell when they aren’t a priority: it does something to them.
  4. Looking back, some teachers were better than others when it came to hiding their lack of attentiveness.
  5. Students, not the faculty or parents, are the first to recognize when a teacher has given up.
  1. Public education is one of the highest achievements of mankind.
  2. Privatizing public education will cause more problems than it fixes.
  3. Market sensibilities force educators to ask how profitable something is instead of how much value it adds.
  4. The ability of a nation to advance rests squarely on the shoulders of its youth.
  5. Education is the process of self actualization.
Looking Forward
  1. The three R’s are essential, but critical thinking is just as important.
  2. There has to be more focus on the humanities.
  3. Teachers, regardless of the subjects they teach, should use as much technology as possible in their classes.
  4. Students should be required to write in every subject.
  5. All students should have an apprentice level skill set in one service industry trade.

“Thoughts On Education” @Thoughtwrestler

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Striving Over Surviving

Danny Cardwell

By Simba Sana
Agate Publishing, 260 pp.,

It would be easy to categorize “Never Stop” as a postmodern Horatio Alger novel set in an urban community. This memoir has all the ingredients of a rag to riches story. But such a reading has the potential to render all of the pain, failure, and life lessons chronicled throughout its 260 pages invisible. This isn’t fiction. Each shattered life and every violent death can be traced to an easily locatable time in place in our not too distant past.

Simba Sana’s childhood could be described as catastrophic. His father was a no show. He was raised by a single mother with mental health issues. He grew up in Washington, D.C., at a time when crack was replacing PCP as the drug of choice, and guns were replacing fistfights as the preferred method for settling disputes. He survived a gauntlet of racial and socioeconomic pitfalls that consumed many of his peers. Any of these obstacles could have derailed or ended his life before he attended Gonzaga College High School and then Mount Saint Mary’s University.

Simba’s escape from inner-city violence and poverty is inspiring. If the book had ended with him getting a college degree it would have been a story worth telling, but it didn’t. Simba shares the mistakes he made during his time in corporate America, his successes and failures as co-owner of Karibu Books: the largest independent Black owned chain of book stores in America, and his mostly negative experiences managing boxers.

The money and prestige that came with entrepreneurship couldn’t fill the gaping holes in his life. At no point during his socioeconomic ascension did Simba “have it all”. His professional endeavors were periodically hindered by his militant Pan-African ideology and inability to maintain meaningful relationships with the opposite sex. He was driven to succeed, but at times unable to enjoy his success.

Simba had to lose everything in order to rebuild his life around love. He made a conscious effort to critically think about and challenge his personal philosophy and spirituality. When he finally found his place in the world, he chose to, In the words of John Hope franklin, “Use his history and ingenuity, his resources and talents, to combat the forces that isolate[d] him and…contribute to the solution of the problems that all Americans face in common.”

“Never Stop” belongs on a shelf beside the Black existentialists works that helped foster its creation. Alex Haley’s “Autobiography of Malcolm X” guided a young Simba Sana through his undergraduate years at Mount Saint Mary’s University, but it was close readings of James Baldwin that forced him to cultivate a self instead of replicating one. Near the end of the book Sana writes:

Contemplating the life and work of Malcolm X helped me understand the risks of trying to emulate someone else, no matter how great that person may be. If discovering who I am is the way to fulfillment, then by continuing to follow Malcolm, I ran the risk of making my hero’s issues my own.

“Never Stop” is about self-actualization, love, and inner-peace. There are times when it meanders, but not enough to distract from its narrative thrust. Sana shares all of the pain and shame it took for him to recognize and ultimately address his personal shortcomings. If Nathan McCall’s “Makes Me Wanna Holler” resonated with you in your teens or twenties, then “Never Stop” will speak to you in your thirties and forties.