Sunday, February 20, 2022

Informed Consent

The Omicron variant has begun to subside but a variant of it has begun to gain traction which means we are not out of the pandemic woods yet. People have tired of it all -- media coverage, statistics, mask wearing, social distancing, hand-washing, avoiding large groups of people, shortages, distribution issues, and on and on. It's been over two years after all. But the virus neither knows time nor abides by it. I think of it as an alien that has invaded earth and knows nothing about our existence. Putting the virus in that context helps me to deal with it. Imagination can be a blessing or a curse.

Imagination, I believe, has also overtaken the people who have grasped at any kind of drug that medical science says doesn't work but they know protects humans from or treats humans with Covid-19. First it was Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine) that Donald Trump and his cohorts touted the first year of the pandemic. Sure, if you have Lupus, it's a great drug, but SARS-CoV-2? That frenzy got so bad that people who had Lupus began to see a shortage of the drug they genuinely needed for treating their disease. It still pops up occasionally on social media. But it seems to have gone the way of Donald Trump's other idea -- drinking bleach.

The most recent drug that has been swept up by imagination is Ivermectin. In fact, I've had several people approach me about taking it to protect me from SARS-CoV-2. Well, first, Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic drug, not an antiviral, and it's not used to prevent the parasites, usually several types of worms, but to get rid of them. Second, I've been vaccinated and boosted against SARS-CoV-2. Third, I believe in the power of informed consent. 

Informed consent? Yes. The American Medical Association says on its website: "Informed consent to medical treatment is fundamental in both ethics and law. Patients have the right to receive information and ask questions about recommended treatments so that they can make well-considered decisions about care." Please note that it's not only fundamental in ethics but also in law. Doctors are required to obtain informed consent from a patient before proceeding with any kind of treatment. According to the AMA, doctors need to :

  1. Assess the patient’s ability to understand relevant medical information and the implications of treatment alternatives and to make an independent, voluntary decision.
  2. Present relevant information accurately and sensitively, in keeping with the patient’s preferences for receiving medical information. The physician should include information about:
    1. The diagnosis (when known)
    2. The nature and purpose of recommended interventions
    3. The burdens, risks, and expected benefits of all options, including forgoing treatment

Back to Ivermectin. Those who have pushed this drug for the treatment and/or prevention of Covid-19 in my personal experience have not attended medical school or gone through the series of clinical practicals required to obtain a medical degree, have not been licensed to practice medicine, and are not practicing physicians. I could see them saying to me that because of that, informed consent is not a requirement. But wait. It's against the law to practice medicine without a license, and by pushing a drug as a treatment they are essentially practicing medicine. 

My questions to these people are as follows: 

  • Please show me your license to practice medicine
  • Please show me the evidence that this drug has passed clinical trials for the treatment/prevention of Covid-19 and how effective it is.
  • Please tell me how this drug works in the human body.
  • Please tell me what the side effects of this drug are.
  • Please tell me what the warnings are connected to this drug.

I could not care less what two states in India are doing. If you can find a licensed physician who will write a prescription for Ivermectin for you to prevent Covid-19, be sure to have a conversation with that doctor that includes the above bullet points. Every individual has the right to decide what is done to or put into his or her body.

That right includes, if the individual so chooses, ignoring warnings and evidence against the use of a drug. This is where imagination tends to rule. If a good friend says, "Hey, Ivermectin is successful in two states in India in preventing Covid-19" why not try it for yourself? I personally would not recommend doing it, but other people seem to believe that if a friend recommends it, it must be OK. Just don't drink alcohol while you're taking Ivermectin or you could experience intensified and nasty side effects. But your friend probably won't clue you in to that little tidbit about alcohol, right?

The whole point of informed consent is that the patient knows what the treatment or drug is, what the benefits are, what the risks are, and any warnings connected to the treatment. And if the treatment is for whatever the patient is suffering. Each person needs to think about her own body, what medications she is already taking, possible drug interactions, and how it will affect her life. Each person needs to not let the imagination take over, but stay grounded in fact, real facts, not misinformation facts that yes, unfortunately do exist in this age of conspiracy theories and Covid-as-a-hoax.

So, please stay safe, continue to be diligent about protecting yourself against Covid-19, the flu, colds, etc., and insist on informed consent.



Sunday, January 17, 2021

How I Will Remember Donald J. Trump


Before 2015, I paid little attention to Donald Trump. I thought he was a buffoon and a grifter, as well as a spoiled rich boy who liked to tell people, "You're fired." He loved being the center of attention, and often said things to draw attention to himself. I often wondered how much of what he said he actually believed. If all of it, the man was delusional.

Now, I know he's delusional. I feel that he's taken the American people on a deeply unsettling journey through the terrified landscapes of his mind full of imaginary enemies, threats, conspiracy theories, and lots of fast food and golf. I know him better than I want to know him. And in fact, I wish I never had to endure the trip he's taken us all on the last four years. I am not sorry to see him leave.

How will I remember Donald J. Trump? 

The first thing will be his face: the orange skin, tiny eyes, fish mouth and thick jowls topped by thin blondish-white hair. I will remember his tremendous girth, revealed on the golf course as he took a swing at a golf ball. 

The second thing will be his total lack of curiosity, and demonstrated average (if that) intelligence. When I first heard that he'd won the presidential election in 2016, I was willing to give him a chance despite his appalling behavior during the campaign, because I believed that anyone who becomes president will aspire to do his or her best to serve the American people. I was wrong. DJT did nothing to learn the job, to fulfill the responsibilities of the position, or to respect historical norms and procedures. He plunged right into being a gangster and thug, turning the presidency into a mafia-like family enterprise, demanding loyalty to him personally, requiring complete obedience, and conducting business as if he were a street thug dealing in quid pro quos.

The third thing I will remember is his lack of respect for other people. In fact, I believe he doesn't really comprehend the existence of others because he is the only person that matters. And if his family members believe they are immune, it is only because they know nothing else and can conceive of no other way. They live to acquire money and power. They couldn't care less about anything or anyone else. And so, DJT thinks nothing of "grabbing pussy" or making fun of the disabled, thinks nothing of pronouncing himself a "great genius" and "the best president America has ever seen." As long as people adore him, he'll treat them fine. But challenge him and you are worthless to him.

The fourth thing I will remember is his dishonesty in all aspects of life. He lies in business as easily as he lies in politics because to him, what he says can only be the truth because he's said it. This, more than anything else, I'll remember as a sign of his complete disconnection from reality. The world according to DJT is a fantasy world in which he is good, powerful, all-knowledgeable, all-wise, wealthy beyond expectation, admired and desired by everyone. The reality is far different.

The fifth thing I'll remember is the fear that permeates everything DJT says and does. Especially the fear of losing, because in his world, he can only win. So in 2016, he lost the popular vote to Clinton by 2.9 million votes and he immediately claimed those votes were fraudulent and really belonged to him. In 2020, he lost the election to Joe Biden by 7 million popular votes and his response was to repeat over and over that the election was rigged, that those 7 million votes were his, that he'd won by a landslide. In his fantasy world he won, and reality must terrify him. 

The sixth thing I'll remember is his projections. He was actually quite reliable about them. Whenever he attacked someone for doing something -- lying, cheating, stealing an election, etc. -- you can be assured that in reality he was doing what he accused the other of doing. I used to think of it as deflection, but now I really think it was projection. Psychology Today defines projection: "Projection is the process of displacing one’s feelings onto a different person, animal, or object. The term is most commonly used to describe defensive projection—attributing one’s own unacceptable urges to another. For example, if someone continuously bullies and ridicules a peer about his insecurities, the bully might be projecting his own struggle with self-esteem onto the other person." 

The seventh thing I'll remember is DJT's total failure to lead the country at a time of crisis: the COVID-19 pandemic. We now have 400,000 Americans dead, and over 24 million infected. He could have saved lives from the beginning by addressing the public health emergency immediately (not calling it a hoax) and putting scientists in charge but instead he was more concerned about his re-election and TV ratings.

                                    DJT Addresses his Supporters on January 6, 2021

The last thing I'll remember about DJT is his speech encouraging his supporters to attack the U. S. Capitol at the time that Congress was meeting to certify the Electoral College votes in the 2020 election. He encouraged violent action in one way or another for four years, and this was the culmination. It was also sedition. I know that no one wants to say that word and DJT in the same breath, but if his supporters could be charged with sedition or treason, then I believe DJT could be too. He created the conditions for an insurrection, i.e. a rebellion against Congress and the U. S. government. How is that not sedition? How is that not treason? 

This coming Wednesday at 12:01 p.m., Joe Biden becomes the 46th President of the U.S. I welcome this with great relief tempered with the knowledge and certainty that it will take a lot of work and bridge-mending to repair the damage done in the past 4 years by DJT. I hope also that following the House of Representatives impeachment of DJT, the U. S. Senate will convict him of the one count of impeachment against him and he is forever barred from holding public office.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Where are the Cream Soups?

In Minnesota, we are now 8 months into the COVID-19 pandemic. Teleworking continues but there are people who return to their offices one or two days a week as well -- I am one of those people. I work from home three days a week. Face masks have become a fashion statement. Hand washing has given a boost to hand lotion products to soothe the resultant dryness. Businesses have opened to 50% capacity. I'm getting my hair cut for the second time today. No one shakes hands or hugs anymore, and standing a minimum of 6 feet away from people has become the norm. In fact, my nerves sizzle when I see someone who's not wearing a face mask, or who sits down on the train too close to me. I no longer need to order my groceries 3 weeks in advance to be delivered on the weekend. 

But there are still shortages. In the beginning, it was a shortage of toilet paper, paper towels, disinfecting cleaning products, hand sanitizer, liquid soap, and of course, Clorox wipes. While I've heard that we won't be seeing Clorox wipes in the stores anytime soon, everything else has gradually caught up with demand. Except cream soups.

Cream soups?

Yes, especially Campbell's cream soups. Week after week I've ordered cream soups along with my other groceries, and week after week the store doesn't have them. Why? What's going on here?

A friend suggested that we try a different store, so one Saturday we drove to a different grocery store, still big, still a chain, still extremely busy. I found Campbell's cream soups at this store, in some cases, a great quantity of them for sale. But they didn't have Cream of Asparagus or the Gumbo soup that a fellow shopper asked me about. The shelf was empty. Another shopper asked her if she planned to make a certain casserole. Yes. The second shopper then suggested an alternative that was available, and commented that the Gumbo soup cannot be found anywhere. She had tried. 

I wondered at that point if Campbell's cream soups had become a favorite ingredient for casseroles, and perhaps other dishes. During the pandemic, with restaurants closed for so long and take-out only available, more people were cooking for themselves at home. They wanted recipes both fast and convenient. I thought of the baked chicken and rice casserole I make with cream of chicken or celery soup. Maybe that's the reason the cream soups are so scarce -- people are cooking more and using them as an essential ingredient. 

But you'd think Campbell's could keep up with the demand, right? Who knows. Normally, I don't eat cream soups often, but right now I'm on a doctor-ordered low residue diet and cream soups are an essential part of that diet. I would not have imagined 8 months ago that there would be a continuing shortage of Campbell's cream soups as a side effect of the pandemic.

I guess I'll have to return to a hunt for them at other grocery stores. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Whose Lives Matter?

Photo: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday, I happened to catch a little news on TV early in the evening and I heard a reporter asking Vice President Pence if he supports Black Lives Matter. He adopted a cloying tone of voice and responded that for him, he would always believe that all lives matter.

My first reaction was to think, "Oh, yeah. He just betrayed his ignorance." But then I had to stop myself. The very first time I heard the name "Black Lives Matter" for the anti-violence against Blacks movement, I was annoyed and thought, "But all lives matter, not only Black ones." I missed the point back then, but I learned to open my ears and listen hard to the Black voices who are patiently explaining to white folks what they mean by "Black Lives Matter" and the reason they feel so strongly that they must repeat it and repeat it.

I think rather than to say "all lives matter" or to ask "why don't all lives matter?" it's better to ask the question: Why do Blacks today feel the need to say Black lives matter? After all, that is what white folks need to be asking, not ignoring it altogether and insisting that all lives matter.

George Floyd
Because the answer is plain to see if they'd been paying attention. George Floyd is just the latest in a long list of Black lives that didn't matter to white cops. Reform has been promised over and over in the past, and you can be certain that if white lives were at stake, that reform would have been accomplished years ago. But because Black lives don't matter, white folks have dragged their feet in getting the reform done. It wasn't important in a society in which systemic racism exists and teaches that Black lives do not matter. This is the reason Blacks feel the need to declare over and over that Black Lives Matter.

By evening public ledger - [1], Public Domain,

Recently, the president of the US held a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, initially scheduled for June 19, or the day that Black Americans celebrate Juneteenth. This was a double offense against Black Americans -- first that the rally would be in Tulsa, a city renowned for having burned to the ground in 1921 the prosperous Black neighborhood called Greenwood, killing hundreds of Black Americans in the process; and second, that the president would celebrate the re-opening of his re-election campaign on a Black American holiday in Tulsa. And then for the president to claim that no one knew about Juneteenth and he made it famous was absurd. Well, as Americans have learned when listening to this president, when he says "no one" he means "I" and he will take any opportunity to steal the limelight away from anyone. This is the reason Black Lives Do Matter. I believe Juneteenth needs to be a national holiday.

White Americans will never be free of racism until they take that first step in recognizing that Black Lives Matter. It's not about saying that Black lives matter more than any other lives, or that other lives matter just as much. It's about saying that finally, White America recognizes that it did not accept and treat Blacks as if their lives mattered to them. It's about saying that "Yeah, I get it. People who are oppressed and discriminated against by other people feel as if their lives do not matter. White people have oppressed and discriminated against Black people." It's only one step, but it's a crucial one.

Black Lives Matter.

Monday, June 29, 2020


There's a saying that disasters bring out the best in people. That's been true in Minnesota at times (not always), and I'd hazard a guess that you could probably think of times in your lives when it was true, also. The US is currently enduring a political disaster, a disaster for democracy, and although I never thought Donald Trump was qualified to be president, he's turned out to be even worse than I ever imagined. He is a disaster of a president.

Having said that, there seems to be a movement within the Republican Party that has been taking advantage of Trump the demagogue in order to consolidate the party's power. Beginning with Ronald Reagan, the GOP has sought to establish a permanent majority in federal and state governments. A permanent majority means that opposition and dissent are not tolerated, and there is only one political party. A permanent majority means a dictatorship. What kind of dictatorship would depend, I suppose, on the people in office at the time they achieved their goal. Newt Gingrich, during his time as Speaker of the House of Representatives, helped the process along by destroying the processes and attitudes in government that allowed for consensus building and good governance as well as civil discourse. All Gingrich cared about was winning and power. He helped to set the stage for what America has today in Washington, D.C. as well as in states with majority GOP legislatures and governorships.

On Tyranny

Here we are, June 29, 2020, 40 years after Reagan was elected president, and we have another GOP president who is now following the script for establishing fascism almost to the letter.

I've also been working on a novel set in America in 2050 and it is a fascist America. In an effort to review what a fascist society is like, I turned to an expert, Timothy Snyder, Levin Professor of History at Yale University. Snyder has written extensively about fascism, totalitarianism, and oppressive regimes and what makes them tick. I've been reading his deceptively short book, On Tyranny, to familiarize myself with the methods of fascist oppression as well as how people can resist them.


The subtitle of the book is "Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century." Snyder utilizes history of the last century for his examples illustrating his ideas, and they include Stalinist Russia, Nazi Germany, and Mussolini's Italy. He doesn't include Putin's Russia, but Putin has been leading Russia back to totalitarianism.

If you think this means heavy reading and boring reading, you'd be wrong. Snyder has a clear, precise prose style with a voice that is like reading along while someone is speaking. He published this book in 2017, and he discusses Trump's presidential campaign and how it fits into the steps to tyranny as well as the Trump administration's actions since the inauguration. In addition, and importantly, Snyder writes about what people can do to resist tyranny before it is established.

 Table of Contents: On Tyranny

 As I've been reading Snyder's book, I've been thinking primarily about my novel and what I want American society to look like in 2050 in that novel. But I've also been thinking about everything that the Trump Administration as well as Trump himself have been doing in the last 3.5 years and how closely they've been following the fascism playbook. It's been scary. But I suspect that Trump has not been dreaming it all up on his own. I really don't think he has the political intelligence. I think he's had the same help he had in 2016.

While the media hasn't been paying all that much attention to the Trump-Putin relationship, I think it is a student-teacher relationship. Trump admires Putin -- he's made no secret of that. He has done the extraordinary action of meeting with Putin without any witnesses which is unheard of for a president to do. So no one knows what they talked about. That alone makes me wonder, but I think there are other things that should make everyone wonder and want to know about their "special" relationship. I think there needs to be an investigation into their relationship. Is it based in Trump's business dealings in Russia?

Snyder doesn't write much about Putin, but he does write about Trump's campaign and the role the Russians played, helping him get elected. It would not surprise me if he'd asked Putin a long time ago to help him this year, too. Working with a foreign power to undermine the American election process would definitely meet the definition of treason, I think.

One thing that Snyder doesn't mention, at least not as far as I've gotten in his book, is how Trump projects onto others what he's been doing or what he's done. So when he calls someone a liar, it's because Trump's lying. When he says someone's committed treason, chances are it's because Trump himself has done so. Watch what he says. It's very revealing, and certainly not in the way he would want.

I encourage everyone to read Timothy Snyder's On Tyranny as soon as they can get their hands on a copy. It's not expensive -- $5 or $6 at Amazon. Think about America and American democracy. Your future living in a free society could depend on it.