TAKING A SMALL BREAK FROM BUDO.

When I’m not doing Martial Arts, or ranting about something that pisses me off, I have all kinds of fun, all kinds of ways.  One of those ways is deejaying.

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AN OPEN LETTER TO THE UNDECIDED BY TIM WISE.

This is what I was talking about.  Policies aside, this was the main thing that I was trying to impart to anyone that would listen as to why I was voting for Obama.  My dear friend Cheryl reminded me this, and I wish I could have found this sooner.  The people have spoken, and that alone is amazing.  Nothing that anyone can do or say will ever take that away from us.  If you want to read more about this, please go to Tim’s site.

by Tim Wise

November 2, 2008, 10:21 am

To Whom It May Concern,

With so little time remaining before election day, and with so many things running through my mind–things that I’m hoping might, if presented correctly, somehow influence your vote–I hardly know where to begin. I guess I could speak to you about one or another public policy issue–perhaps health care, or education–and try to convince you that Barack Obama is the better choice. But I’m not going to do that. Not because I doubt that it’s true, but because there’s something more important to think about. It’s about you, and who you are, and what you want to stand for and associate with come election day.

I won’t try and change your mind about issues. My own ideological commitments are decidedly to the left, far more so than Barack Obama by the way (which is why I actually find it funny when folks suggest he’s some far-out radical or socialist). I actually wish Obama were more bold in his progressivism, but many years ago I learned that when it came to presidential elections, I’d likely have to settle for voting for the candidate who I felt was better, even if they were far from my own ideal. I could spend the other 364 days fighting for what I believed in, without apology or compromise. Election day, for me, has always come to be about harm reduction: a political equivalent of the hippocratic oath. And that’s OK.

I’m asking you now to make that same leap: to relinquish the need to be totally behind the person you vote for, and instead to make the best out of a situation that you may see as less than ideal, but which nonetheless posits a very serious choice in terms of which direction this nation travels, less so in terms of policy than in terms of tone, demeanor, and its overall political culture.

Because this election isn’t just about taxes, or the war in Iraq, or energy policy, though it is all of those things. Honest and decent people can disagree about those subjects, as with any political issue. But this election is about the public face of the United States of America in the early twenty-first century. And when it comes to such a matter as this, the difference between an Obama and McCain vote couldn’t be clearer.

If you don’t believe me, I implore you to take a look at the numerous video clips of McCain and Palin’s hardcore supporters (links embedded at the end of this letter) as they scream words of anger and hatred at Obama supporters who are merely standing with signs announcing their preference outside one or another McCain rally. These mobs, and that is what they are, are not merely people who disagree about issues with Senator Obama–which would be fine–but rather, they are persons who seem incapable of even seeing the humanity of their opponent, or his supporters. They are people whose vitriol and venom know few if any bounds. They are people who call him names that are only thinly-veiled racial slurs, who threaten him with violence, and who suggest that he is a “baby killer” whose election would destroy America. These are dangerous people, and what’s important here, is that they are not like you.

If you agreed with this kind of rhetoric, I suspect you wouldn’t be undecided, or perhaps merely leaning towards McCain. You would be a full-blown acolyte. That you are not suggests that you are trying to avoid the trap of overblown emotionalism. For that, I thank you. And for that reason I am asking you to consider that if you vote for McCain, you will not merely be voting for policies that you may prefer, but you will also be empowering some of these very forces visible in the videos. You will be casting your lot with them, making common cause with persons whose anger and rage threatens to tear the country apart at a time when we desperately need to come together to solve common problems. These forces, if victorious, would think their triumph a signal event, one that would give them a green light to ramp up the volume of their hatred even louder.

Although most McCain supporters are not like the thugs attending these rallies, surely it must give you pause to think that you could vote as they vote, that you might contribute to the election of a man whose base includes such persons as these. People who have verbally abused Obama campaigners canvassing door-to-door or on the phone, who suggest that we should “Bomb Obama,” and who have spread vicious rumors about the candidate with no basis in fact. And through it all, Obama himself has sucked it up, smiled through it and tried to take the higher ground.

And so we return to that notion of the public face of our nation, which is on the line in two days. Do you want this nation to elect a man whose victory would be dependent on the kind of persons as you can see in these videos? People whose sole commodity is fear, contrasted with Obama supporters whose mantra of hope–however simplistic you may think it, and however vague it may indeed be–at least appeals to the better angels of our natures, and to the positive, constructive impulses that have animated the nation’s people in their better moments.

Perhaps you think it unfair to link John McCain to the yahoos attending many of his events. Perhaps you feel that his status (self-proclaimed at least) as a maverick, would mean that, if elected, he would clearly distance himself from fringe wingnuts such as these. But you know what a real maverick would have done by now? A real maverick would already have distanced himself, clearly and repeatedly, from these folks. And John McCain has not. These videos have been bouncing around for weeks, and with the exception of one tepid comment about how both sides need to tone down the hostile rhetoric–which seemed to imply an equivalence between Obama supporters and the folks on those tapes that simply doesn’t exist–McCain and Palin have said nothing. Rather, McCain said he was “proud” of the people at his rallies, including, apparently the kinds of people we can all witness spewing their bigotry for the world to see.

A real maverick would have said the following: “My friends, I want your vote, and I sincerely believe that I am the best man for this job. But if you are supporting me because you are afraid of having a black president, or because you believe my opponent to be a terrorist, or a Muslim (and you believe Muslims are evil and unqualified to hold office), or because you believe the long-since discredited rumors about him that have been bouncing around the internet, or if you wish him harm, either now or in the future, I am asking you not to vote for me. More than that, I am telling you not to. I am asking you to stay home on election day, because I don’t want the support of people like you. If the only way I can win the presidency is on the backs of bigots, I’d rather not win.”

Now THAT would have been a maverick move. It would have been a bold move, one filled with courage and honor and character. It would have cemented McCain’s place in history as a man of principle. But he never said this, or anything remotely like it. He knows he can’t win without the support of two groups: the crazies, and the undecideds. The first of these he feels confident he can hold. The second of these? Well, that’s for you to decide. But for my money, I think you are not only smarter, but fundamentally more decent than that. On election day, please show the nation and the world that my faith in you was not misplaced.

Sincerely,

Tim Wise

THE RACIST TEST.

I’ll spare you the details.  This guy comes up to me and tells me story about some recent crimes, and says

I’m not trying to sound racist, but…

Followed by a racist statement.

Just so you know, you do in fact sound racist.  And the fact that you did it without even trying is truly a testament to your ability.  With practice, you be a wonderfully well-spoken racist.

Just sayin’.

HMO versus Objectivist Doctor

I found this here.  The only thing that I don’t like is the second to last sentence.  Enjoy.

Dr. Ablow is a forensic psychiatrist living in Chelsea, Mass. His novel, Denial, was recently published by Pantheon Books.

It was a bad combination, I’ll allow that. The call from the emergency room reached me the Saturday morning after I had finished reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. I hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep, partly because I finally reached page 1,168 around midnight, partly because I couldn’t get my mind off John Galt, Hank Rearden, Francisco d’Anconia, Dagny Taggart and the rest of Rand’s characters. Before I drifted off, I was already drawing parallels between the current state of psychiatry and Rand’s fictional world in which the mind is denigrated, and autonomy and free will nearly stamped out.

“We have a problem,” the crisis worker in the emergency room informed me. “There’s a young man here who came in with serious suicidal ideation, but the HMO won’t authorize hospitalization.”

“You mean they don’t want to pay,” I said wryly.

“They don’t want to pay,” she chuckled.

“Tell me the history,” I said. I got out of bed and went to the den. Long calls early in the morning disturb my wife. This sounded to me like the beginning of a long call.

The history, with minor changes to protect confidentiality, is as follows: A 23-year-old African American male had been brought to the emergency room by his aunt about 5 a.m. The young man, jilted by a woman he loved, had rented a hotel room. Alone. There, after writing a suicide note and drinking an entire bottle of vodka, he called friends to say “good-bye,” that he would be dead by morning. He planned to suicide by leaping out his 22nd story window. It was the second time in as many weeks that he had expressed his desire to do away with himself. Only after his family and his friends begged him for hours did he agree to let his aunt bring him to the hospital. His blood alcohol level was nearly .300.

I asked whether the patient were on any medications and learned that a week earlier he had been placed on a starting dose of an SSRI, but that he had complained that the medicine made him feel more agitated, not less depressed. He described feeling as if he were “jumping out of his skin.”

“What’s the insurance company’s reasoning for not authorizing the admission?” I asked.

“I made the mistake of telling them that he ‘contracts for safety.’ So they want him treated in ‘intensive outpatient therapy.”‘

“What’s that?”

“I don’t know. I assume it means we should get him an appointment very soon.”

“Ask for a doc-to-doc,” I told her.

The HMO doctor paged me, and I returned his call. “I think we have a fairly simple situation,” I started. I told him the details of the case. “So,” I concluded, “given the fact that the patient is male, suffering with major depression, not responding well to his antidepressant, at risk for continued substance abuse and expressing serious suicidal ideation for the second time in just two weeks, I was hoping we could admit him to a locked unit.”

“But I was told the patient came willingly to the emergency room and is contracting for safety.”

“He came with his aunt,” I allowed. “He desperately wants to go home and did pledge he wouldn’t do himself in. Those things are true. But we can’t know, of course, whether he’ll have a change of heart-another wave of grief, perhaps a disappointing phone call from his ex-girlfriend-that would send him over the edge. And he has every risk factor for suicide: his gender, his Axis I condition, the fact that his medication isn’t helping and is causing him side effects, his substance abuse.”

“Wrong,” the reviewer said. “He has every risk factor but one.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“He hasn’t actually tried to kill himself.”

“True,” I allowed. “Not yet.”

The “not yet” probably rankled the HMO doctor. It was, I suppose, a bit contentious on my part. “It’s my position that he doesn’t merit hospitalization,” he said crisply. “Now, if you’d like to examine him personally and call me back with more data, perhaps something might change. But, given what I’ve heard, he should be seen in ‘intensive outpatient.’ That’s my best clinical judgment.”

That last statement was the trip wire that explosively connected the moment with my reading Ayn Rand the night before. It was John Galt who came to mind, the man who orchestrates the departure of the world’s intellectual and industrial leaders from the world stage, leaving behind a society without creativity or commitment. I thought particularly of one line in his soliloquy to the world: “Do not help a holdup man to claim that he acts as your friend and benefactor…Do not help them to fake reality. That fake is the only dam holding off the terror, the terror of knowing they’re unfit to exist; remove it and let them drown; your sanction is their only life belt.”

“You don’t have clinical judgment,” I told the HMO doctor, the holdup man.

“Excuse me?”

“You can’t hear the case impartially because you’re motivated to not spend money. If this young man were your son, or anyone you cared about, you would hospitalize him. You would be very worried about his safety. You know that. I know it.”

“I resent…”

“I have nothing more to say to you.” I hung up. It was the right thing to do, but I was worried. I was speaking for the hospital and speaking my mind at the same time. There could be repercussions. Needing reassurance, I went back to the bedroom and picked up my copy of Atlas Shrugged. I flipped to Hank Rearden’s speech to a panel of judges trying him for his refusal to surrender Rearden Metal to the state.

“If you choose to deal with men by means of compulsion, do so,” Rearden told them. “But you will discover that you need the voluntary cooperation of your victims, in many more ways than you can represent. And if your victims should discover that it is their own volition-which you cannot force-that makes you possible. . . I will not help you to disguise the nature of your action.”

My beeper went off again 15 minutes later. A female physician informed me that she was an out-of-state reviewer called in when a physician reviewer from the HMO and the psychiatrist-on-call disagree. “It’s a little like mediation.”

“Except you’re paid by the other side,” I said, trying to put humor in my voice.

“Let’s stick to the case, if we can.”

I described the patient in detail for her.

“I’m afraid I agree with the last reviewer,” she said. “If you feel differently, you’re free to admit the patient. We’re not saying you shouldn’t. We’re just saying that, at this time, we can’t assure you reimbursement. In fact, payment would be unlikely.”

The Rand philosophy was so fresh in my mind, I couldn’t resist applying it. “We’re not in the business of giving away our services,” I said. “We offer free care to indigent patients regularly. This patient has insurance. You would have to pay for his treatment.”

“Whether you admit the patient is up to you,” she repeated.

“No,” I said. “I don’t think so. I think when the insurer refuses payment that is tantamount to deciding that the individual ought not be admitted. I don’t want to participate in that kind of shoddy care. I won’t be part of it. Where should I send your patient?”

“What?”

“Tell me where to send him. I’ll put him in an ambulance to any facility you choose. If you shop him around, eventually you’ll come up with the answer you’re looking for. You’ve got mine. He needs admission. And you’d have to pay for it.”

This time, the reviewer was the one to hang up.

I felt energized. I was telling the truth to an insurance reviewer. I wondered whether I might lose my job. About an hour passed before my beeper chirped again. It was the emergency room. “They’ve approved the patient for a 23-hour holding bed,” the crisis worker said.

“We have those?” I asked.

“It’s just a bed on the regular locked unit. But I think they pay less for it. Or maybe they’re just saying we shouldn’t expect to get paid for it for very long.”

“Oh.” I felt I had won a partial victory. “I was pretty firm with the out-of-state reviewer,” I said. “I guess they figured better safe than sorry.”

“Maybe. I also called the HMO with another piece of information. It seemed to get them more anxious.”

“What was that?”

“There’s a family history of suicide. The patient’s uncle and cousin both took their own lives.”

I shaved, worrying all the while what would happen if the administration of the hospital learned of my battle with the HMO. Perhaps I could have found some middle ground. I picked up Atlas Shrugged again. John Galt lectured me:

There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil. The man who is wrong still retains some respect for the truth, if only by accepting the responsibility of choice. But the man in the middle is the knave who blanks out the truth in order to pretend that no choice or values exist, who is willing to sit out the course of any battle, willing to cash in on the blood of the innocent or to crawl on his belly to the guilty…who solves conflicts by ordering the thinker and the fool to meet each other halfway. In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit. In that transfusion of blood which drains the good to feed the evil, the compromiser is the transmitting rubber tube…When men reduce their virtues to the approximate, then evil acquires the force of an absolute.

I felt better. I had shrugged off an HMO this once. But a sense of melancholy took hold during the days that followed. For the truth is I am still Galt’s man in the middle. I indirectly (by virtue of my hospital salary) take money from insurance companies who do not have the best interest of my patients at heart. I am still available to talk on the phone with physician reviewers who have “sold out” and pretend to continue doctoring while actually scamming money from people in pain. I usually even manage to address them with feigned respect. I fill out forms to get permission to treat patients from professional looters directly responsible for the increased rate of suicide in my state.

What we should do, all of us, is shrug. We should collectively refuse to accept HMO insurance for our good services. That would preserve the integrity of our profession, take us out of the middle and put us on solid moral ground. If other specialties followed suit, no consumer would pay for managed care coverage. We would stand for the truth-in individual lives and in society. Ultimately, we would force a reengineering of the health care delivery system in the direction of conscience. But it would be a long, terribly risky and costly journey.

I don’t pretend we are about to take it. We are not prepared to tell the complete truth or act on it. That level of moral courage, I suppose, is truly the stuff of fiction.

I’ve never read The Fountainhead. I think I’ll pick it up.

An Open Letter to The World

I want to save the world.  I really do.  So far, I thought I had a very simple plan.  First, I had to develop certain desirable attributes.  Principles.  The best word for this is I had to operate from a functional Philosophy.  A Philosophy that will allow me access all of the power, energy, charisma, intelligence, respect, and anything else that I need to live and to live well, right here on Earth, right here in Jacksonville, right now.  I figured that, if I could be that person, and talk to people about it, let them see a human behaving in an amazing manner, and then let them know how amazing that they are, and that they should share that with others, it would be simple.  It would be simple to save the world.  I would do it one day at a time, one person at a time, one conversation at a time.  So when you see me out, and I’m teaching a martial arts class, baby sitting for you, having a drink with you, cooking dinner for you, working for you, playing chess with you, inviting you over for a hookah, making you a cd, protecting you, defending you, questioning you, listening to you, provoking you to think, that’s what I’m doing – I’m trying to save the world.

Frankly, my angle of attack is to focus on the strengths of a person, and not their flaws.  Everyone that I know is simply amazing.  I like to talk with people about their strength, and how it feels.  I ask people all of the time, “What can I do to help you with that?”  “How can I help you grow?”  “How can I help you share?”  I really want to see people do well.  I want to treat people well.  I want to be treated well.  I know that that has to start with me.  I have to put it out there.  I have to remind people to always be aware what they do, how they do it, who they do it with.  I remind people that in your everyday actions, one has to be aware of what and who they encourage, as well as discourage.  I make a point to reward people that treat me well the best way that I can; I encourage being treated well.  When I feel I have been treated poorly, usually, I don’t empower those individuals with a response.  I simply remove my sanction; they no longer have me around to treat that way.  Left to their own devices, and, for their sake, out my my way, hopefully, they will reflect on their actions.  If not, it’s not my problem.  It’s theirs and theirs alone.

Recent events have caused me to reconsider my posture on evil, and my response towards it.  So let me say this to the reader, and let the reader pass this on to anyone they think needs to read it: This is an Open Letter to anyone that thinks that they can continue to dominate with hatred, bigotry, and violence.  I am so over all of you.  When you come at me and my friends and family with you random acts of violence, hatred, bigotry, -phobias, deceit, “police” brutality, whatever it is, here is what you can expect in response from me: An ass-beating.  Obviously, for you to behave towards me in anything but the most respectful manner, the message is “I don’t want to access Autrelle’s charisma and intelligence.  I want him to kick my ass.”  Well, you got it.  Of course, certain people will read this and have a problem with my attitude.  To those people, I don’t even wonder why.  We both know why.  The difference is, I will tell that person in their face that they really shouldn’t be beating up their spouse, molesting children, using racial slurs, raping people, or whatever crime against humanity you have committed that got you on the top of my shit list.  Yeah, I will say it, just like that.  This is also an open challenge to all of those people:  The next time you feel like being a complete waste of flesh and bone, instead of continuing to victimize others, please just find me so I can kick your ass.  I really, really mean that.  I’m over it.  Something has to change.  So I guess from now on, in order to save the world, I have to proactively be the most brilliant person to those that I meet and enjoy, while proactively putting my foot in the ass of anyone that would see the world I love so much destroyed.  To those destroyers out there: Come.  I’ll be the one running towards you screaming “AUTRELLE FUCKING HOLLAND.”

Don’t worry, be HAPPY

Apparently, i just like to have fun all of the time. I don’t see what’s so bad about that. That’s how you can keep saving the world folks. Living is about your life, here and now, on earth. It makes no sense to prep for some ethereal afterlife happiness, but not have any fun while you’re here. Life is about pleasure, joy, love, beauty, and seeking those things. It’s more that just avoiding pain and discomfort. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. Focus on what you want in life, and how you want to live, how you want to feel. The bad in life, the pain, the suffering, it never matters, at all – trust me.

Here’s a tune for you all – Happy Weekend

Dream Attack by New Order

Are you kidding me?

Well, I finally got accused of “looking like Jihad” by some random guy on the street. Really, I heart Jacksonville. To death. Blah. I’m here to save you all, I swear!