Sunday, November 23, 2014

Pssst. Might I have a word with you, Sen. Inhofe...?

by Meteor Blades for Daily Kos
Sun Nov 23, 2014 at 12:00 PM PST

Sorry I'm a few days late giving a nod to you on your 80th birthday, Sen. Inhofe. I suspect you had an extra-special celebration this year since you'll soon be getting back to the chairmanship of the Environment and Public Works Committee after eight years putting up with its Democratic leadership. Not to mention the eye-rolling directed your way every time global warming made it onto the agenda. I'll bet you're all fired up to be in charge again.

Congratulations. You got the power.

Now, how about showing the nation you got a brain?

Look, I know it's a great, long-running gig you've got going. Being on the spigot end of the fossil fuel money pipeline certainly makes it easier to pay the freight for getting re-elected. And all you had to do to keep it flowing was reject the deeply considered conclusions of just about every scientist in the world whose skills matter a damn when it comes to understanding the behavior of the planet's climate.

I'm not saying you didn't once believe the shillery you are engaging in. After all, when you first came to the Senate two decades ago, scientists had only been saying much to the general public about global warming for five years. The loudest voices on the subject were, then as now, those lovingly funded by the coal, oil and gas corporadoes and tended by PR image shapers and meme inventors. You know these guys, the ones who make money fabricating unforgettable and politically damaging catch-phrases like "war on coal."

You got bamboozled. Just like a whole bunch of other Americans got bamboozled. Buried in an avalanche of propaganda that made it conventional wisdom to believe the bamboozlers were telling the truth when they said Arctic ice wasn't melting faster or atmospheric greenhouse gases weren't soaring out of the range of anything since several hundred millennia before the first Homo sapiens took a step on the savanna.

The bamboozlers used sophisticated techniques and primitive ones. All united around raising doubt to generate opposition to any kind of climate-related policy choices that might affect the bottom line of the bamboozler funders. The money poured out the door into campaign funds and the wallets of credentialed prevaricators and scientific outliers. The media cooperated by giving this cabal equal time with the people who actually knew what they were talking about. Their scheme worked.

Just look around you. You're surrounded by colleagues—more of whom will show up in six weeks—who say human-caused global warming ain't happening. Senators determined to stand in the path of any attempt to curtail greenhouse gas emissions. True believers and opportunists alike.

None of them, of course, has gone so far as you. I mean, wow! An entire book that from the title onward claims a huge conspiracy invented global warming. That it is all a giant hoax. Not the first time you've made that claim, of course. You even went Godwin in an interview eight years ago during an Oklahoma heat wave when you said of scientists speaking out on global warming:
It kind of reminds ... I could use the Third Reich, the big lie. You say something over and over and over and over again, and people will believe it, and that's their strategy.
Do you know what projection is, Senator? But I digress.
 You probably believed what you were told in 1994 when you were first elected. A youthful misjudgment back when you were a mere 60. And you maybe even believed it in 2004 when you chaired the committee previously. But in 2014?

Sorry, I don't believe you still believe it. If you ever truly did. Because you've had plenty of time to read and interview and follow the ever-grimmer assessments of the International Panel on Climate Change. You know what's really going on. You know this is no put-up job. Oh sure, I realize your The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future was only just published in 2012.

I know how eager you must be to get back to leading hearings to trash greenhouse gas emissions regulations by the EPA, the agency you once compared to the Gestapo.

I'm sure you enjoy rubbing elbows and comparing stock tips with your pals in the oil biz.
And you probably get a kick out of the adoring letters you receive from people who gobble up every bit of baloney you offer them about climate change.

But—gimme a wink here, Senator—you know that human-caused global warming is for real. You know its consequences are going to be devastating and  that that word won't half describe the ongoing results unless a broad range of actions are taken and quickly. You know this because if you didn't know it after all your experience, you'd have to be stupid. And we all know that you can't be stupid and get to be a United States senator. Right?

So, do us a favor, okay? All of us. Your wife and 20 kids and grandkids. Your fellow Oklahomans. The nation. The whole planet. Come January, when you gavel that first EPW committee into session, 'fess up. Come clean. Tell everyone you had a revelation. Say that you did some reading and thinking over the holidays—and some praying—and that, consequently, you now accept the scientific consensus on global warming. Tell the nation you plan to use your whole remaining time in the Senate advocating ambitious programs to limit greenhouse gas emissions and build green infrastructure.

And then do it.

I know that you don't believe in bipartisanship except as a means to prank Democrats who keep letting themselves get played on that hoax. I realize you're eager to continue doing what Rush Limbaugh urged you and the rest of the GOP to do in January 2009: Block everything the Obama administration tries to do to make it fail. I get it. But you need to bite the bullet now and tell everyone you're going to make an exception for global warming. After all your previous obstructionism, you should now epitomize cooperation and far-sightedness. Maybe show up to applaud your committee colleagues Barbara Boxer and Sheldon Whitehouse when they deliver their frequent climate change speeches on the floor of the Senate.

Perhaps you can even get a piece of legislation with your name on it to spur rooftop solar, electrify a portion of the nation's rail lines or ban coal exports.

This change of direction certainly will shock most of your constituents and campaign contributors. But don't worry. If you decide to run again when you're 85, you will find plenty of financial support that isn't dependent on the fossil fools. Let the Koch Bros. bring it on! A match made in heaven. Your legacy will be heroic. Generations of your offspring will praise your name.

Before you say "no way, I have a reputation to keep up," please recognize that taking this step doesn't mean you have to give up the nuttiness comprising the rest of your politics. Not at all. I'm not suggesting a personality transplant. But come January, please, just sit down, lean into the microphone and tell everyone you've seen the light. Play it right and your epiphany will get more attention than Jesus' did.

You're 80 now, Senator. How about demonstrating some of the wisdom that is supposed to come with all those years?

"Ignorant, out of touch, or crazy"

In the case of Sen Jim Inhofe, these characteristics that Sen. Whitehouse names are not mutually exclusive.

Tennis [elbow] Anyone?

My left elbow hurts like hell! It's not tennis elbow. I don't play tennis. It's not golf elbow. I haven't played golf for almost 2 years. I think it must be iPad elbow.

When I'd see kids playing games on their hand-held devices, thumbs flying across the tiny keyboards, I'd tell anyone who'd listen -- and that was usually no one -- that some time in the not-too-distant future, children would be born with over-sized thumbs and skinny little vestigial fingers. Sort of like the foreclaws on a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
The advent of the cell phone, or 'mobile' and the felt need of the modern homo sapien to inform as many people as possible about what one is doing, thinking of doing, or watching someone do, in less than or equal to 40 characters, as further exacerbated the use of hands and thumbs, and the prevalence of bad posture, to say nothing of inattention to one's on-going actions and surroundings in real space and time. This has lead not only to accidents, but, according to ergonomics specialists and orthopedics surgeons, aliments.

The musculoskeletal and other problems our preoccupation with our smart phones, tablets, and laptops, can range from the uncomfortable (like carpal tunnel syndrome, which can make triceps dips and other wrist-bending activities very unpleasant), to the more serious, like weakened vision, or something called De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, which is apparently when your thumb joints become so worn out, it becomes difficult to make a fist or hold things.

If you are experiencing:

  • Pain or tenderness in the outer part of your elbow (lateral epicondyle)
  • Gripping something with your hand causes slight discomfort in your outer elbow
  • You have difficulty keeping your arm straight
  • Your outer elbow muscle twitches when you keep your arm still
  • Weak grip strength
  • Threatening stares and/or gestures from people around you

  • You might do well to give yourself a break from your digital devices and take a long walk in the woods, listen to the bird song, feel the warm breeze on your cheek, and let your mind wander along with your body. After all, you can always go back and tweet about this unusual experience to your 'followers.' They might even retweet or favorite your tweet. Then you can place a bar of frozen peas over your aching hand, and later have them for dinner with mashed potatoes and roast chicken.

    Tuesday, November 18, 2014


    The man in the scrubs looming over me on the examining table had a youngish, open face, framed by a baby blue surgical cap. He told me in a soft, even voice that he was going to numb my chest with a local anesthetic, and promised me it wouldn’t hurt. It didn’t. Then he reached down and came up with what looked almost exactly like the old bit brace manual hand drill my father had hanging over his tool bench back in Huntington Park. My eyes got wide.

    Leaning over me and placing the drill point in the middle of my chest, he told me he was going to extract some bone marrow from my sternum, and leaning hard into my chest, he began turning the drill. I gritted my teeth and tried not to think about the possibility of the drill bit piercing the sternum and plunging into my heart. He finally stopped drilling and changed out the bit brace for some other tool that looked nothing like what my father had at his tool bench. He told me something like “this might hurt a little,” and then pulled a plunger up and sucked bone marrow out of my sternum. It felt like he was pulling major arteries out of my chest. The pain was astounding, but it was over quickly, to be replaced by a dull ache.

    The bone marrow extraction was done fifty years ago as part of the work up that was done to determine the cause of my recurrent pericarditis. There were many, many other tests and procedures done over the course of two years before my military doctors gave up their detective work and simply removed my pericardium. But I’ll always remember vividly the bone marrow extraction. It’s a reference point for me on how to measure pain.

    With rare exceptions, and those involve research rather than practice, pain is measured subjectively by observing and/or interrogating the patient. The most common measurement technique is the use of the ‘faces’ self-rating scale. Donna Wong, a pediatric nurse consultant, and Connie Morain Baker, a child life specialist, developed this scale in 1981. I’d venture to say we’ve all seen it at one time or another. When stuff hurts, we start pointing to the ‘frowny faces.’

    But what we’re conveying is only one pain dimension -- severity, i.e., our subjective judgment of how intense is the pain we're experiencing. However, pain is multidimensional and doctors need additional information in order to better identify the source and cause of the pain. Without such information, treatment progresses by trial and error, at best. One of the tools that's been designed to capture additional dimensions of pain is the McGill Pain Questionnaire, shown below.
    The McGill Pain Questionnaire
    A multidimensional approach to the assessment of pain considers:
    • Chronicity
    • Severity
    • Quality
    • Contributing and/or associated factors
    • Location and distribution or etiology of pain, if identifiable
    • Mechanism of injury, if applicable
    • Barriers to pain assessment
    The McGill Pain Questionnaire (MPC) attempts to get at chronicity, i.e., when the pain occurs and how it changes over time; its severity; the quality of the pain, e.g., sharp, stabbing, burning, aching, etc.; and the location of the pain, including its distribution or how it radiates from its primary source.
    The doctor or pain management specialist will ask the patient to elaborate on his/her MPQ answers, and in addition, will ask about what may have caused the pain. The doctor will also assess the patient's ability to understand the questions and answer appropriately -- an important judgment when patients are impaired mentally due to age or physical/mental condition.

    It is possible to describe different types of pain, or its etiology. The history and physical examination help to identify the etiology, which is critical, because different types of pain tend to respond to different treatments. Pain etiology can be:
    The pain I felt in my chest when my pericardium was inflamed was "referred." The pain I felt recently when I wrenched my back was "radicular," and it was excruciating!

    Radicular pain is a type of pain that radiates into the lower extremity directly along the course of a spinal nerve root.  In my case it was due to the impingement on the sciactic nerve by a lumbar herniated disk. This turns out to be the most common symptom of radicular pain and is usually called "sciatica" or sometimes radiculopathy, which is pain that radiates along the sciatic nerve down the back of the thigh and sometimes into the calf and foot. Radicular pain can sometimes be treated effectively with conservative (non-surgical) means, including physical therapy, medications, and epidural injections.

    The onset of my sciatica or radiculopathy put me in the emergency room at 0200 one cold Friday morning. I was given something to boost my heart rate, which had dropped precipitously, pumped full of pain killers, and sent home with a prescription for hydrocodone, a muscle relaxant, and a referral to a pain management specialist.

    After trying several injections, including nerve blocks and piriformis muscle injections, I was given an epidural. My pain gradually subsided after the epidural, which included a corticosteroid.

    My point in this is to qualify the pain I've experienced in my long and eventful life. The most severe pain was an injection into my heel when I was five years old. It's about the only thing I remember from that period in my life. I even remember the tongue depressor the pediatrician put in my mouth to bite down on before he struck that needle in. That pain lasted a few seconds. The ice cream I got afterwards made it go away.

    I've been knocked unconscious several times in my life and as I remember, the immediate pain wasn't bad -- and then I was unconscious! I don't remember what I felt like when I came to, but presumably I didn't suffer too much. I don't rate being knocked unconscious high on the severity or quality scale.

    I've also had the breath knocked out of my on several occasions. This was a painful and quite distressing experience. Not being able to intake air is an awful feeling. But the severity of the pain upon having my breath knocked out of me was not that high. I rate this painful experience moderate on severity, but somewhat higher on quality.

    The pain I experienced as a result of my chronic pericarditis varied considerably, but because my bouts with the disease lasted for five years, and involved tests like the above described bone marrow extraction, and because the constrictive nature of the disease was life threatening, I rate the experience one of the more painful and distressing of my life ('knock on wood'). That being said, one must rate pericardial pain in association with the onset and progress of a particular episode or attack, not with the overall course of the disease and its ups and downs. At the height of my pericarditis, the pain I felt (a referred pain from the inflamed pericardium rubbing against its inner and outer membranes) was stabbing, burning, aching, crushing, suffocating, and terrifying. And during these attacks, the pain was more or less (depending on how medicated I was) constant. So, this was the worst pain I've experienced.

    But there's nothing like back pain for severity. I've had instances of back pain that are so excruciating that they incapacitate me. I've been collapsed on the floor unable to raise my head to drink the water my wife is offering me to help swallow the pill she is putting in my mouth. The onset of my sciatica was so painful that I became nauseous and faint. My heart rate dropped and I broke out in a cold sweat. The EMTs had a hard time finding a vein to start an IV. And after I was stabilized and released, I had many days of severe, debilitating pain, that required more narcotic pain killers than I care to think about. So on the severity scale, I rate sciatica at the top. We'll see how things develop. I hate to think this painful experience will ultimately take over first place on my PPQ -- personal pain questionnaire.

    Sunday, November 16, 2014

    The Secret History of Lead (Pt-2)

    by Jamie Lincoln Kitman | March 2, 2000
    (This piece appeared originally in The Nation

    Alfred Sloan, ca 1920
    You can choose whether to smoke, but you can't pick the air you breathe, even if it is contaminated by lead particles from automobile exhaust. Seventy-five years ago, well-known industrialists like GM's Alfred Sloan and Charles Kettering (remembered today for having founded the prestigious Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center) and the powerful brothers Pierre and Irénée du Pont added to their substantial fortunes and did the planet very dirty by disregarding the common-sense truth that no good can come from burning a long-known poison in internal-combustion engines.

    The steady emergence of improved methodology and finer, more sensitive measuring equipment has allowed scientists to prove lead's tragic toll with increasing precision. The audacity of today's lead-additive makers' conduct mounts with each new study weighing in against them. Because lead particles in automobile exhaust travel in wind, rain and snow, which know no national boundaries, lead makers and refiners who peddle leaded gasoline knowingly injure not only the local populations using their product but men, mice and fish tens of thousands of miles distant.

    GM and Standard Oil sold their leaded gasoline subsidiary, the Ethyl Gasoline Corporation, to Albemarle Paper in 1962, while Du Pont only cleaned up its act recently, but all hope to leave their leaded gasoline paternity a hushed footnote to their inglorious pasts.

    The principal maker of lead additive today the Associated Octel Company of Ellesmere Port, England) and its foremost salesmen (Octel and the Ethyl corporation of Richmond, Virginia) acknowledge what they see as a political reality: Their product will one day be run out of business. But they plan to keep on selling it in the Third World profitably until they can sell it no longer. They continue to deny lead's dangers while overrating its virtues, reprising the central tenets of the lead mythology chartered by GM, Du Pont and Standard lifetimes ago.

    These mighty corporations should pay Ethyl and Octel for keeping their old lies alive. They'll need them, in their most up-to-the-minute and media-friendly fashion: Because of the harm caused by leaded gasoline they have been joined to a class-action suit brought in a circuit court in Maryland against the makers of that other product of lead's excruciating toxic reign: lead paint. Along with the makers of lead paint and the lead trade organizations with whom they both once worked in close concert, suppliers and champions of lead gasoline additives--Ethyl, Du Pont and PPG--have been named as defendants in the suit.

    Though the number of cases of lead poisoning has been falling nationwide, the lead dust in exhaust spewed by automobiles in the past century will continue to haunt us in this one, coating our roads, buildings and soil, subtly but indefinitely contaminating our homes, belongings and food.

    The problem with lead

     Lead is poison, a potent neurotoxin whose sickening and deadly effects have been known for nearly 3,000 years and written about by historical figures from the Greek poet and physician Nikander and the Roman architect Vitruvius to Benjamin Franklin. Odorless, colorless and tasteless, lead can be detected only through chemical analysis. Unlike such carcinogens and killers as pesticides, most chemicals, waste oils and even radioactive materials, lead does not break down over time. It does not vaporize, and it never disappears.

    For this reason, most of the estimated 7 million tons of lead burned in gasoline in the United States in the twentieth century remains--in the soil, air and water and in the bodies of living organisms. Worldwide, it is estimated that modern man's lead exposure is 300 to 500 times greater than background or natural levels. Indeed, a 1983 report by Britain's Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution concluded that lead was dispersed so widely by man in the twentieth century that "it is doubtful whether any part of the earth's surface or any form of life remains uncontaminated by anthropogenic [man-made] lead."

    While lead from mining, paint, smelting and other sources is still a serious environmental problem, a recent report by the government's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry estimated that the burning of gasoline has accounted for 90 percent of lead placed in the atmosphere since the 1920s. (The magnitude of this fact is placed in relief when one considers the estimate of the US Public Health Service that the associated health costs from a parallel problem--the remaining lead paint in America's older housing--total in the multibillions.)

    Classical acute lead poisoning occurs at high levels of exposure, and its symptoms--blindness, brain damage, kidney disease, convulsions and cancer--often leading, of course, to death, are not hard to identify. The effects of pervasive exposure to lower levels of lead are more easily miscredited; lead poisoning has been called an "aping disease" because its symptoms are so frequently those of other known ailments.

    Children are the first and worst victims of leaded gas; because of their immaturity, they are most susceptible to systemic and neurological injury, including lowered IQs, reading and learning disabilities, impaired hearing, reduced attention span, hyperactivity, behavioral problems and interference with growth. Because they often go undetected for some time, such maladies are particularly insidious.

    In adults, elevated blood-lead levels are related to hypertension and cardiovascular disease, particularly strokes, heart attacks and premature deaths. Lead exposure before or during pregnancy is especially serious, harming the mother's own body, affecting fetal development and frequently leading to miscarriage. In the eighties the EPA estimated that the health damages from airborne lead cost American society billions each year.

    In Venezuela, where the state oil company sold only leaded gasoline until 1999, a recent report found 63 percent of newborn children with blood-lead levels in excess of the so-called safe levels promulgated by the US government.

    Next, learn how a cheap, easily accessible additive to prevent 'knock' was abandoned by industry in favor of a more profitable, if deadly alternative.