8-26: Parrots and PTSD (4/7)

By CHARLES SIEBERTJAN. 28, 2016

nytimes.com | Jan. 28, 2016

Part 4

Animal-assisted therapy is hardly a novel prescription, having been employed at least since the 18th century, when the York Retreat for the mentally ill opened in England in 1796 and began allowing patients to roam the outside grounds among farm animals. At his office in Vienna, Sigmund Freud regularly had his chow Jofi on hand during psychoanalysis sessions to reassure and relax his patients, allowing them to open up more readily. The U.S. military used dogs as early as 1919 as a therapeutic aid in the treatment of psychiatric patients at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington. Still, what distinguishes the mutually assuaging bond that the veterans and parrots are forming at Serenity Park is the intelligence — at once different from ours and yet recognizable — of the nonhuman part of the equation.

There is abundant evidence now that parrots possess cognitive capacities and sensibilities remarkably similar to our own. Alex, the now-deceased African gray parrot studied for years by his longtime companion, Dr. Irene Pepperberg, a psychology professor, is regularly held up as the paragon of parrot intelligence. His cognitive skills tested as high as those of a 5-year-old child. He mastered more than 100 words, grasped abstract concepts like absence and presence (Alex excelled at the shell game) and often gave orders to and toyed with the language of researchers who studied him, purposely giving them the wrong answers to their questions to alleviate his own boredom. Alex was also given to demonstrating what we would characterize in ourselves as ‘‘hurt feelings.’’ When Pepperberg returned to Alex one morning after a three-week absence, he turned his back on her in his cage and commanded, ‘‘Come here!’’

Stories like these are, in fact, legion among those who keep and work with parrots. Dr. Patricia Anderson, an anthropologist at Western Illinois University, told me that her expertise in anthrozoology, the study of human-animal relations, is daily tested by her own cadre of adopted, orphaned parrots, including the first bird she decided to take in nearly 30 years ago, a Quaker, or monk, parrot named Otis.

‘‘He was so bright,’’ Anderson told me. ‘‘I taught him to say ‘thank you.’ Very anthropocentric of me, I know, but he generalized it appropriately to anything I ever did for him. He never said it randomly. He only said it when I did something for him, so it appeared to have meaning to him. There appeared to be some cognition going on, and this totally blew my mind.’’ Anderson read extensively about parrots and learned that anytime she left, she should say, ‘‘I’ll be right back.’’ ‘‘I started saying that, and then whenever I began to put my shoes on in the morning to get ready to go to work, he’d say: ‘Right back? Right back?’ ’’

 

8-25: Parrots and PTSD (3/7)

By CHARLES SIEBERTJAN. 28, 2016

nytimes.com | Jan. 28, 2016

Part 3

Lindner, a 59-year-old native of Queens, N.Y., knew little about parrots when she first came to Los Angeles in 1976 to finish college and go to grad school in behavioral sciences at U.C.L.A. Then one day in 1987, a week before Christmas, she received a call from a friend who knew of her deep affection and affinity for animals. ‘‘He was looking for someone to take this female parrot he heard about named Sammy,’’ Lindner recalled. ‘‘She was living alone in a Beverly Hills mansion. The owner had put the house up for sale and decided to leave Sammy behind. The bird matched the place’s décor, and he thought the new owners might like that. He was sending his driver over once a week to feed her. When I went to get her, the feces in her cage were piled up in a pyramid that reached her perch.’’

The following year, Lindner started a private practice in Westwood and began to do pro bono work with the increasing number of homeless veterans she encountered in the community, many of them living at that time in encampments under the nearby 405 freeway while awaiting appointments at the West Los Angeles V.A. medical center. Overwhelmed by their stories, she began devoting herself full time to veterans, eventually enlisting the backing of the state to head a nonprofit homeless-veteran-rehabilitation program, known as New Directions, at a residential treatment center.

Spending more and more time at work, Lindner soon decided to take in another orphaned cockatoo named Mango as a ‘‘flock mate’’ for Sammy. Before long, she was tending to both New Directions, which was relocated in 1997 to a newly refurbished building on the grounds of the V.A. center, and a sanctuary for homeless parrots that she started that same year with a friend on a four-acre plot an hour-and-a-half drive north in Ojai. One morning, near the end of 1997, Lindner found herself leading yet another veterans’ group-therapy session that was getting nowhere.

‘‘The guys are sitting around, all stoic, arms crossed, not saying anything,’’ she recalled. ‘‘They’d been like that for a number of weeks. So for a change, I took them up to Ojai to help build some new aviaries there. All of the sudden these same tight-lipped guys are cuddling up to the parrots and talking away with them.’’

Lindner was soon repeating the same exercise with other veterans. The transformations she saw in both species were so pronounced that she promptly set about persuading the V.A. to allot her the grounds of an old outdoor basketball court just down the hill from the medical center so she could move the birds from her Ojai sanctuary and start a work-therapy program there. (Veterans are paid a stipend to work in the sanctuary; some, like Love, volunteer their time.) She began with two 25-foot-high aviaries; there are now nearly two dozen. Some hold as many as three or four birds, like Kiki, Phoebe and Dino (a.k.a. the Three Stooges), a now inseparable troika of umbrella cockatoos who spend their days cuddling and grooming one another. Others contain just one bonded pair like Mandy and Kookie, a female and male eclectus parrot couple, a species native to the Solomon Islands, or Jester and Tango, one Harlequin and one green-wing macaw, who never leave each other’s side. And then there are the quarters of the inveterate loners, birds still caught somewhere between their inherent, wild selves and their captive ones: Cashew, Bacardi or Julius, who is afraid of other parrots because, as Lindner explained, ‘‘he doesn’t think he is one.’’

As I stood talking that day with Lindner, who is warm and effusive, with long blond hair and bangs, I watched Jim Minick, a former Navy helicopter-squadron member who did three tours of duty overseas and suffered severe upper-body injuries in a fall from his chopper, get his fingernails cleaned by Bacardi, the blue-and-gold macaw. In another enclosure, Jason Martinez, a wheelchair-bound Army veteran, sat alongside Molly, an African gray, resting on her perch, the two of them just staring at each other.

Love approached. She was holding an elderly Goffin’s cockatoo named Bobbi, a bird kept most of her life by her owner in a kitchen drawer. She looked like a tiny plucked blue chicken, her only remaining plumage some straggly wing and tail feathers and a frayed skull cap of the ones she couldn’t reach with her beak to mutilate. Love held Bobbi aloft on her index finger and then went dashing down the path between the compound’s two rows of aviaries, shouting, ‘‘Fly, Bobbi, fly,’’ giving her fruitlessly flapping charge at least the semblance of flight.

‘‘You can look in their eyes,’’ Love said, returning with Bobbi, ‘‘any of these parrots’ eyes, and I myself see a soul. I see a light in there. And when they look at you, they see right into your soul. Look around. They’re all watching. They notice everything. It’s intense.’’

I turned to take in a multitiered array of stares, feeling at once beheld and uplifted by creatures a fraction of my weight. I couldn’t place it at first, the slow-swiveling sideswipe of their gazes, the way they’ll dip their heads below their own bodies and then crane smoothly upward, like a movie camera pulling focus. And then it came to me: They reminded me of those C.G.I. velociraptors in films, except that the scales have turned to feathers and the stunted forelimbs to vibrant wings. Time, all at once, lurched wildly backward and ahead, depositing me right back where I’d been, in that moment, and yet deeper and more present.

‘‘God is a parrot,’’ Love said. ‘‘I know that now. God supposedly interprets and mimics what we do on earth, right? Is a reflection of us? So I believe God, if she exists, must be a parrot.’’

8-24: Parrots and PTSD (2/7)

What Does a Parrot Know About PTSD?

By CHARLES SIEBERTJAN. 28, 2016

nytimes.com | Jan. 28, 2016

Part 2

Abandoned pet parrots are twice-traumatized beings: denied first their natural will to flock and then the company of the humans who owned them. In the wild, parrots ply the air, mostly, in the same way whales do the sea: together and intricately. Longtime pairs fly wing to wing within extended, close-knit social groupings in which individual members, scientists have recently discovered, each have unique identifiable calls, like human names. Parrots learn to speak them soon after birth, during a transitional period of vocalizing equivalent to human baby babbling known as ‘‘subsong,’’ in order to better communicate with members of their own flocks and with other flocks. This, it turns out, is the root of that vaunted gift for mimicry, which, along with their striking plumages and beguilingly fixed, wide-eyed stares, has long induced us to keep parrots — neuronally hard-wired flock animals with up to 60-to-70-year life spans and the cognitive capacities of 4-to-5-year-old children — all to ourselves in a parlor cage: a broken flight of human fancy; a keening kidnapee.

There were 34 parrots at Serenity Park when I was there last summer — representing a range of the more than 350 species in the psittaciformes order — a majority of them abandoned and now deeply traumatized former pets that had outlived either their owners or their owners’ patience. A parrot separated from its flock will flock fully and fiercely to the attentions and affections of its new human keeper. And when that individual, for whatever reason, fails to uphold his or her end of such an inherently exclusive relationship, the effects are devastating.

Up and down the aviary-lined corridor of Serenity Park are the winged wreckages of such broken bonds. On and on they go: the ceaseless pacing and rocking and screaming, the corner-cowering, self-plucking and broken-record remembrances. And yet at Serenity Park, the very behaviors that once would have further codified our parrot caricatures — ‘‘birdbrained,’’ ‘‘mindless mimicry,’’ ‘‘mere parroting’’ and so on — are recognized as classic symptoms of the same form of complex post-traumatic stress disorder afflicting the patients in the Veterans Administration Medical Center. They’re also being seized upon as a source of mutual healing for some of the most psychologically scarred members of both species.

‘‘The problem with parrots is that they’re so intensely attuned,’’ Lorin Lindner, the psychologist who founded Serenity Park, told me one afternoon as we stood watching Julius pace back and forth, speaking in Korean. ‘‘Parrots have so many social neurons. Their brain is filled with the capacity to mirror their flock. It’s so crucial for survival to be able to know what the flock is doing, to know what the danger signs are, when they have to get together, when night is falling and they are called to roost. They’re so attuned to being socially responsive that they can easily transfer that to us. They have the ability to connect, to feel this closeness with another being, another species.’’

Listening to Julius that day reminded me of a story I read not long ago in the journal Current Biology about a 22-year-old male Asian elephant named Koshik that resides at the Everland Zoo in Yongin, South Korea. Separated from the two female Asian elephants he was raised with in captivity, Koshik lived alone at Everland for seven years, a period during which he construed a way of speaking perfectly intelligible Korean words by sticking his trunk in his mouth and then using his tongue to shape his own plosive trumpetings into the language of the zoo’s workers and local visitors. Such ‘‘vocal learning,’’ the researchers who wrote the paper concluded, isn’t an attempt to directly communicate with us so much as it is a way for a highly social species like the elephant ‘‘to cement social bonds’’ with the only other species available.

It’s one of those unlikely natural outcomes of the so-called anthropocene, the first epoch to be named after us: the prolonged confinement of intelligent and social creatures, compelling them to speak the language of their keepers. And now, in yet another unlikely occurrence, parrots, among the oldest victims of human acquisitiveness and vainglory, have become some of the most empathic readers of our troubled minds. Their deep need to connect is drawing the most severely wounded and isolated PTSD sufferers out of themselves. In an extraordinary example of symbiosis, two entirely different outcasts of human aggression — war and entrapment — are somehow helping each other to find their way again.

8-23: Parrots and PTSD (1/7)

A relative passed along this serious article from the New York Times. Due to length, I will post it in seven installments.

What Does a Parrot Know About PTSD?

An unexpected bond between damaged birds and traumatized veterans could reveal surprising insights into animal intelligence.

By CHARLES SIEBERTJAN. 28, 2016

Nearly 30 years ago, Lilly Love lost her way. She had just completed her five-year tour of duty as an Alaska-based Coast Guard helicopter rescue swimmer, one of an elite team of specialists who are lowered into rough, frigid seas to save foundering fishermen working in dangerous conditions. The day after she left active service, the helicopter she had flown in for the previous three years crashed in severe weather into the side of a mountain, killing six of her former crewmates. Devastated by the loss and overcome with guilt, Love chose as her penance to become one of the very fishermen she spent much of her time in the Coast Guard rescuing. In less than a year on the job, she nearly drowned twice after being dragged overboard in high seas by the hooks of heavy fishing lines.

Love would not formally receive a diagnosis of severe post-traumatic stress disorder for another 15 years. In that time, she was married and divorced three times, came out as transgender and retreated periodically to Yelapa, Mexico, where she lived in an isolated cabin accessible only by water. She eventually ended up living on a boat in a Los Angeles marina, drinking heavily and taking an array of psychotropic drugs that doctors at the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration Medical Center began to prescribe with increasing frequency as Love proved resistant to traditional treatments like counseling and group therapy. One night, after her fifth stay in the center’s psych ward, she crashed her boat into a sea wall. Finally, in 2006, she was in the veterans’ garden and happened to catch sight of the parrots being housed in an unusual facility that opened a year earlier on the grounds of the center.

‘‘This place is why I’m still here,’’ Love, now 54, told me one day last summer as I watched her undergo one of her daily therapy sessions at the facility, known as Serenity Park, a name that would seem an utter anomaly to anyone who has ever been within 200 yards of the place.

Inside one mesh-draped enclosure, Julius, a foot-high peach-white Moluccan cockatoo with a pink-feathered headdress, was madly pacing, muttering in the native tongue of the Korean woman who, along with her recently deceased husband, had owned him. Next door, a nearly three-foot-tall blue-and-gold macaw named Bacardi, abandoned by a truck driver who was spending too much time on the road, kept calling out for someone named Muffin, before abruptly rising up and knocking over his tray of food to surrounding squawks of delight. Across the way, Pinky, a Goffin’s cockatoo, the castoff of a bitter custody battle between his original female owner and the husband who threatened to spite her by cutting off her beloved pet’s wings, was mimicking a blue jay’s high-pitched power-saw plaint. More screams rang out and then, in the ensuing silences, random snippets of past conversations: ‘‘Hey, sweetheart!’’ ‘‘Whatever.’’ ‘‘Oh, well.’’ ‘‘Whoa! C’mon man!’’ Soon, from a far corner, came the whistling, slow and haunted, of the theme from ‘‘Bridge on the River Kwai.’’

‘‘They had me loaded up on so many kinds of medications, I was seeing little green men and spiders jumping out of trees,’’ Love continued, as a six-inch-tall female caique parrot from the Amazon Basin named Cashew dutifully paced across her shoulders. Back and forth she went, from one side to the other, in determined, near- circular waddles.

For the next 10 minutes, Love, her eyes closed, her arms still at her sides, continued to engage in one of the many daily duets she does with each one of Serenity Park’s winged residents, listing her shoulders up and down like a gently rocking ship, Cashew’s slow, feather-light paddings all the while putting Love further at ease. Now and again, Cashew would pause to give a gentle beak-brush of Love’s neck and ear, and then crane her head upward toward Love’s mouth to receive a couple of kisses. She made a few more passes, back and forth, then abruptly climbed atop Love’s head. Smiling broadly, Love let her loll around up there on her back for a time, Cashew using the same upward scooping wing flaps that caiques employ to bathe on wet rain-forest leaves.

In the wild, caiques, diminutive dollops of luminous yellow, white and deep blue-green, fly in huge, tightly knit flocks whose collective wing feathers make a singular whirring sound above the rain-forest canopy. Cashew, however, for reasons unknown, had her wings overclipped by her former owner, who had bought her as a pet and then abandoned her. So each day now, Love helps her learn how to take to the air again.

The flight lessons are usually administered at the end of Love’s daily rounds. Each morning at dawn, she arrives at Serenity Park from her boat at the marina. For the next four to five hours, she, like the six other veterans in the work-therapy program there, brings food and water to the parrots, cleans their cages and nuzzles and coos and talks and squawks with them. Love, by far the most animated of the veterans that I met at the park, flits from enclosure to enclosure, miming each bird’s movements, mimicking their individual voices and attitudes and, as with Cashew, tries to restore what was taken from them.

She had only to say her student’s name once that day and Cashew was upright in Love’s right palm, a knowing head tilt signaling her readiness. Love set Cashew on a nearby perch and with the thumb and forefinger of both hands took hold of each wing by the tip and moved them up and down a few times as though priming a pump. She then extended an index finger, held Cashew briefly aloft and with a quick thrust upward let her fall free. Some frantic flailing quickly morphed into firmer flaps, Cashew’s wings finally gathering just enough air for her to gain the netting on the far side of her large mesh home. ‘‘You see,’’ Love said, beaming. “She can actually go a little distance.”

Taking hold of Cashew once again, she cupped her against her cheek. ‘‘Their spirit gives me the will to get up and do it another day. They’re all victims here. Kind of like what the veterans have been through, in a way.’’ Love lowered her hands and watched Cashew roll over once more on her back, a play position known as wrestling that is peculiar to caiques. ‘‘They don’t belong in captivity,’’ Love said, rubbing Cashew’s white breast feathers. ‘‘But they have a real survivor’s mentality. These forgotten great beams of light that have been pushed aside and marginalized. I see the trauma, the mutual trauma that I suffered and that these birds have suffered, and my heart just wants to go out and nurture and feed and take care of them, and doing that helps me deal with my trauma. All without words.’’

8-22: PTSD and Pot Part 2

[I write about politics because of the direct link I see between the words and actions of politicians and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. America’s political class manipulates our military as though they were pawns in a global game of chess. To them, PTSD is merely an unfortunate cost of war.]

Last week I posted an article that posed the question: Can PTSD be cured? The article below was written by the same person, Matthew Tull, PhD. I guess he thinks it can, to a degree at least, but I also think you will find the title of this article a bit misleading. Let me know what you think.

What to Do after Successful Treatment of PTSD

Some people wonder what they can do after successful treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Just because you have successfully completed treatment for PTSD does not mean that your work is over. PTSD symptoms can come back if you don’t continue to engage in the healthy behaviors and coping skills that you learned during treatment. Therefore, it is very important to take steps to make sure that the skills you learned in treatment stay fresh in your mind.

Here are some ways you can accomplish this.

  • Spend some time thinking about your goals, and if you haven’t done so already, clarify what your goals are. Imagine yourself taking action to move toward your goals. In addition, identify behaviors that might be inconsistent with achieving your goals. As important as it is to be aware of how you can reach your goals, it is also just as important to be aware of actions that would be inconsistent with your goals (for example, avoidance).
  • Read over any material that you were given during the course of your treatment for PTSD. Even if you feel as though you are very familiar with it all, there is no harm in reviewing it again. This keeps it fresh in your mind, and you may catch something that you missed before. The more familiar you are with the material, the easier it will be to enact certain skills if needed.
  • If you were taught specific coping strategies during your treatment for PTSD, choose one to practice each week, regardless of whether or not you need to use it. Practice it when you are not stressed out, but also at times when you are feeling a little overwhelmed or anxious. The more you practice these skills, the better able you will be in using them during a time of crisis.
  • Identify a source of support. Support is great when you are attempting to address your PTSD symptoms; however, it can also be helpful after you have successfully completed treatment for PTSD. Make sure they are aware of signs that your PTSD symptoms might be coming back. They may be able to help you become aware of “slips” or early warning signs that some PTSD symptoms are coming back. The sooner you address these symptoms, the easier it will be to overcome them.
  • Reducing PTSD symptoms is just one part of the puzzle. It is also important to start building the life that you want to live after PTSD treatment. Identify goals and each week come up with behaviors or steps you can take that are consistent with those goals and building the life you want to live.
  • Buy a self-help book on PTSD and just read through it from time to time. It can introduce you to skills that you never thought of before and can also keep material that you learned in therapy fresh in your mind.
  • You might even consider staying in therapy. Even though your PTSD symptoms have reduced, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t more that you can gain by meeting with a therapist. A therapist can help you identify goals and ways to meet those goals. A therapist can also be an additional source of support that can help in times of need.

Maintaining recovery from PTSD can take some work. However, although the steps listed above may help keep your PTSD symptoms at bay, they may also help other areas of your life.

The goal is to not just eliminate PTSD symptoms but to also build a meaningful and fulfilling life for yourself.

8-19: Can PTSD Be Cured

[I write about politics because of the direct link I see between the words and actions of politicians and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. America’s political class manipulates our military as though they were pawns in a global game of chess. To them, PTSD is merely an unfortunate cost of war.]

I ran into this article written by Matthew Tull, PhD.  I have transcribed it below in its entirety. Tell me what you think. On Monday, I will present another article by the same author.)

Is There a Cure for PTSD?

When people are seeking out treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), many wonder if treatment will provide a cure for PTSD. Mental health disorders are often viewed in the same way as other medical problems, such as cancer or some other physical disease. Many medical problems or diseases can be cured. That is, the problem can be eliminated through some type of medical intervention, whether it is surgery or medication.

Given that there are a number of effective treatments for PTSD, such as exposure therapy, as well as some evidence that medication may be useful for people with PTSD, it would make sense that people might also wonder if their PTSD can be cured through these methods.

Although a number of effective treatments for PTSD have been developed, this question remains difficult to answer. In many ways, the answer depends on how you define the term “cure.”

Treatments for PTSD can reduce and even eliminate many symptoms of PTSD. That is, following treatment, people may no longer experience intrusive thoughts. They may learn how to better manage their emotions and reduce their avoidance behavior. Symptoms of hyperarousal and hypervigilance may also go away. In this sense, PTSD can be “cured.”

However, treatments for PTSD will never take away the fact that a traumatic event occurred. Treatments for PTSD cannot erase memory of those events.

Consequently, although you may no longer experience frequent intrusive thoughts or memories of a traumatic event, there may be times in which certain places, situations, or people trigger memories or thoughts of the traumatic event.

Although memories cannot be eliminated, what treatment can do is take away or reduce the extent to which those memories bring about tremendous distress and anxiety, as well as unhealthy behaviors focused on avoiding or preventing those memories.

In doing so, treatment can help you regain control over your life from the symptoms of PTSD. It can help reduce the extent to which symptoms of PTSD interfere with a number of different areas in your life, such as work, school, or relationships.

That said, it is important to remember that symptoms of PTSD can come back again. Once you successfully complete treatment, it does not mean the work is done. It is important to continue to practice the healthy coping skills you learned in treatment, as well as keep an eye on warning signs that could indicate symptoms are coming back. However, with a commitment to using the healthy coping strategies you gained in treatment, there is no reason that you should not be able to live a long and meaningful PTSD-free life. PTSD and the effects of a traumatic event can definitely be overcome.

8-18: Pot for PTSD

[I write about politics because of the direct link I see between the words and actions of politicians and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. America’s political class manipulates our military as though they were pawns in a global game of chess. To them, PTSD is merely an unfortunate cost of war.]

Military Pot Mythology

This is simply a statement of fact: I have never smoked pot. This is not intended to reflect my thoughts or opinions on the matter of lighting up a joint, nor is it intended to cast aspersions on anyone who chooses to smoke weed. For the record, I was a drinker which, by my non-scientific observation, causes the greater addiction and greater mayhem in our society. Anyway, let’s stick to the pot issue.

Pot in Combat

I served in the combat infantry as a squad leader. No one, and I mean no one, under my authority ever left base camp (e.g., for an ambush) under the influence of any impairment-inducing substance. My time in Vietnam was 1966-67 and maybe that has something to do with the minimal use of marijuana. I don’t know. And because the combat infantryman is the guy on the ground, in the jungle doing the fighting, drug use would be suicidal.

That is speaking for me. I’ve read and heard that later on in the war there was more drug use than when I was in Vietnam. I accept that on face value, but I can’t relate to it. I cannot fathom going on a mission with guys who were high.

Pot in Camp

Now, I would be a liar if I said there was no pot use in Vietnam while I was there. A few guys in my outfit smoked during down time in base camp. But many more drank–I among them. I remember bringing my beer with me into a trench during a mortar attack … Hell, I reasoned, if a mortar hits close enough to kill me, I’m dead anyway. Likewise, if a mortar does not hit close enough to kill me, I may as well enjoy the buzz.

Pot at Home

Unfortunately, too many people link combat veterans with drug use. From the anti-war protests of the ’60s onward Vietnam vets were assumed to be drug abusers, at least, and at worst, baby killers. The guys I knew who smoked in Vietnam had picked up the habit in the States before arriving at my tent. It was not an acquired taste.

Medical Marijuana

Today there is a growing movement in New Jersey, my home state, to medicate PTSD sufferers with weed. Here’s the kicker:  “… a Phoenix doctor is preparing to recruit volunteers with PTSD to smoke two joints daily at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and the Scottsdale Research Institute in Phoenix in the next few months as part of a $2.2 million research project.” (Jan Hefler, www.philly.com/burlcobuzz)

Hefler writes

Military veterans and New Jersey lawmakers are lobbying Gov. Christie with new vigor to approve a bipartisan bill that would allow marijuana use to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. In the past, the Christie administration had rebuffed requests to add the condition to the list of ailments that qualify for cannabis use.

But Christie did not rule out signing the bill when asked about it two weeks ago at a news conference. “I’ll read it,” he said, softening a bit from his oft-repeated previous statements that he would veto any expansion of the six-year-old medical marijuana program.

This should be a medical issue, not a political one. Currently, there are 25 states with legal marijuana programs–17 of them include PTSD as a qualifying condition. Governors come and go, as should all of the political class. PTSD is forever. I do not see pot as a panacea for all that ails us. But if smoking a joint gives even temporary solace to those who suffer, lighten up.

 

 

8/17: Slime Time

[I write about politics because of the direct link I see between the words and actions of politicians and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. America’s political class manipulates our military as though they were pawns in a global game of chess. To them, PTSD is merely an unfortunate cost of war.]

[I pinched the title from the Huffington Post.]

Michael Moore, Oscar award winning director for Bowling for Columbine believes he has Donald Trump all figured out. First, his title for an open letter to “friends”:

Trump Is Self-Sabotaging Campaign Because He Never Really Wanted the Job in the First Place

Moore argues:

Donald Trump never actually wanted to be president of the United States. I know this for a fact….

“For a fact.”

Trump was unhappy with his deal as host and star of his hit NBC show , “The Apprentice” (and “The Celebrity Apprentice”). Simply put, he wanted more money….

There is more, of course, but Moore is just putting to paper what many political observers have been opining all along. Somewhat ironically, another HuffPo headline and story appears on the same day as Moore’s letter.

SLIME TIME: Ailes ‘Advising’ Trump on Hillary Debate

Roger Ailes, the influential former Fox News chairman who resigned from the network less than a month ago amidst widespread accusations of sexual harassment, is helping Donald Trump prepare for the presidential debates, according to the New York Times.

Ailes will be in the awkward position of helping to prepare Trump, who has made misogynistic remarks throughout his career, to debate the first woman to earn the presidential nomination of a major party.

For my money this is a bromance made in blogger heaven. If this report is true, the question will become, who has the bigger, stronger ego? Ailes has always slithered in the background of national politics away from the direct heat of the spotlight, but a major power broker nonetheless. Trump is a moth before klieg lights; he cannot avoid a spotlight and microphone.

I hope all this is true, because I want to see the name calling and shouting matches when Trump loses.

Trump: It is all your fault, Ailes.

Ailes: My fault? If you would have listened to me in the first place …

etc., etc., etc.

I can dream it now.

Trump Trounced … by a Woman; Ailes No Help

Yes, folks, there is a God.

 

8-16: The Company He Chooses

[I write about politics because of the direct link I see between the words and actions of politicians and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. America’s political class manipulates our military as though they were pawns in a global game of chess. To them, PTSD is merely an unfortunate cost of war.]

An Irish Ditty, or How I Learned Everything About Life

Some wisdom from an old Irish folk song:

You can tell a man who boozes

By the company he chooses;

And the pig got up and slowly walked away.

Should Donald Trump be held accountable for any/all actions of his staff, past and present? No! But his chief advisor Paul Manafort has enough in his closet to fill a laundromat–and lots of it needs cleaning. Like it or not, the titular head of the GOP has lots of explaining to do.

The New York Times reports that

Mr. Manafort’s involvement with moneyed interests in Russia and Ukraine had previously come to light. But as American relationships there become a rising issue in the presidential campaign — from Mr. Trump’s favorable statements about Mr. Putin and his annexation of Crimea to the suspected Russian hacking of Democrats’ emails — an examination of Mr. Manafort’s activities offers new details of how he mixed politics and business out of public view and benefited from powerful interests now under scrutiny by the new government in Kiev….

I am sure Donald Trump would/will classify Manafort as a “winner.” In sort of Machiavellian terms, best portrayed by Mel Brooks, “It’s good to be the king.” It matters not how one comes to that power. The NYT continues:

 “He understood what was happening in Ukraine,” said Vitaliy Kasko, a former senior official with the general prosecutor’s office in Kiev. “It would have to be clear to any reasonable person that the (former president) Yanukovych clan, when it came to power, was engaged in corruption.”…

Handwritten ledgers show $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments designated for Mr. Manafort from Mr. Yanukovych’s pro-Russian political party from 2007 to 2012, according to Ukraine’s newly formed National Anti-Corruption Bureau. Investigators assert that the disbursements were part of an illegal off-the-books system whose recipients also included election officials.

Politics is a profitable business worldwide, it would seem. Judy Kurtz of The Hill looks at Trump’s financial situation from the “refusal to show his tax forms” POV. She cites erstwhile Republican shill and current Fox News contributor George Will as saying that “Trump will not release his tax returns because they may show ‘he is deeply involved in dealing with Russia oligarchs.'” Will cites no proof of that allegation.

I honestly do not believe that that bomb will ever explode … although a lefty like myself certainly hopes so. Trump, I am sure, would agree with me that he is way out of his element in politics. He never thought the whole thing through, from loud-mouthed bragger who wins at all he tries to daily defender of every bon mot he utters as his party’s elected nominee for the presidency. In addition to himself, he now bears ultimate responsibility for his entire campaign.

Connection to PTSD

Soldiers are taught how to be then they are ordered to be responsible individuals. Somewhere up the military/civilian chain, a link is broken and irresponsible actions occur. Oh, somehow they are disguised in favorable terms, but at the bottom of the chain the grunt is dehumanized. McNamara called us assets in Vietnam. And so they, whoever they are, rained Agent Orange on us and the lush jungles and rice paddies Mother Nature had planted among the peasants.

It is difficult to remind oneself that he (I) was a guinea pig for some unnamed military-industrial complex corporation. Nothing more than a lab rat.

And so I fear a Trump presidency because of his lack of understanding of world affairs and his cavalier use of language. He is not a responsible person. How could he ever be trusted as Commander-in-Chief?