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Part of “The Withered Arm” rises from the ashes

On Saturday November 20th, a significant railway system event will occur in North Devon. Passenger train services will resume from Okehampton through Crediton to Exeter. The route from Coleford Junction, West of Crediton, to Okehampton will be re-opened for the first time since 1972.

The line from Coleford Junction to Okehampton was part of the original LSWR railway main line from Exeter to Plymouth, the rival to the GWR line from Exter to Plymouth via Dawlish. The route was opened in 1865, when competition between different railway companies was heating up. The LSWR route ran North-West out of Exeter, through numerous towns to Crediton, and then snaked around the Northern edge of Dartmoor, through Okehampton, then on to Lydford, through Tavistock, Bere Alston and down the valley of the River Plym into Plymouth. It was a steeply graded route, rising to 1000 feet above sea level at the highest point West of Okehampton.

The route’s main engineering feature was Meldon Viaduct, constructed to carry the line over the West Oakment valley West of Meldon. Meldon Viaduct is a wrought iron pier viaduct, an impressive structure, which is in reality two sets of viaduct structure bound together. The line, like so many routes in the 1860s, was originally single track, and when it became clear that it needed to be double track, the LSWR simply erected a second set of piers in the valley next to the original single-track viaduct, and created a second track platform at the top, tying everything together with string, tape, baling wire and Mrs Smith’s underwear.

The entire route from Crediton through to Okehampton became part of the Western Region in the post-war British Railways region re-shuffle. It also was one of the many hundreds of lines that appeared in the infamous Beeching Report as being uneconomic. The Western Region already had one main line to Plymouth. Why have two?

At around this time, the entire former LSWR rail line network West of Exeter was dubbed “The Withered Arm” by…nobody knows who, and the name stuck. The Western Region stopped investing in the former LSWR lines, since most of them were uneconomic, and axed all through services, including the famous Atlantic Coast Express, a unique train that ran from Waterloo, with coaches for the many Cornwall and Devon coastal towns originally served by the Southern Railway.

The Beeching Report listed nearly all of those lines and station for closure. Crediton through Okehampton to Plymouth was in the list, partly because local traffic was sparse, and partly because if it was no longer a through route, there was no compelling rationale for it to exist except as a diversionary line for the ex-GWR main line via Dawlish.

A complicating factor was the condition of Meldon Viaduct, which had not been constructed well, and used old-generation materials. The Heath Robinson nature of the viaduct caused problems, as locomotives became heavier. The viaduct was strengthened in the 1940s, but the lack of engineer confidence in the viaduct led to a speed restriction being imposed on all traffic. By the Summer of 1966, the line over the viaduct was singled to reduce the load. At the same time, since the line was slated for closure in the Beeching report, all through services were withdrawn, and single-car diesel multiple units served the stations, many of which were located miles from the communities they purported to serve because the original line engineers had tried to save money by straight-lining sections of the line.

One factor in the line’s favour was the existence of Meldon Quarry, started in the 1930s as a source of railway ballast for the Southern Railway. The quarry was built before the Dartmoor National Park was created, which meant that its extraction license was grandfathered to the present day. The current owners can still extract rock from the quarry in perpetuity. The stone traffic from Meldon required several trains a day.

The axe fell on the section between Okehampton and Bere Alston via Tavistock in May 1968. The entire section was closed, and grass grew on the tracks and weeds filled the platform crevices. Towards the end of 1969, the demolition crews moved in and dismantled the line. Stations were sold off into private ownership or demolished. Meldon Viaduct became a headshunt for Meldon Quarry, and the line from Meldon down to Crediton was singled. A 2-hour service with bad time-keeping, plus several stone trains a day, was not going to justify double track.

After much to-and-fro, the passenger services from Okehampton to Crediton ceased in January 1972. Stone trains continued to use the line, sometimes 4 trains a day would rattle down from Meldon, through the closed Okehampton station and down the gradient to Crediton.

I travelled the line in 1978 as part of an Atlantic Coast Express special train. At the time it was a well-maintained route, still with a 60mph speed limit, and Okehampton Station was still in good repair.

For several decades, the line saw regular stone trains. So much so, that British Railways eventually sold the entire line from just past Coleford Junction to Aggregate Industries, the owner of Meldon Quarry. In turn, Aggregate Industries allowed the Dartmoor Railway, a preserved railway group, to use the line alongside the stone trains, and they restored Okehampton Station and ran tourist trains using a variety of motive power. SouthWest Trains also began to run occasional weekend trains on the line from Okehampton to Exeter. However, the trains were not popular since the deterioration of the line meant that speeds were too low for the journey times to be competitive. The line had needed investment in the years before it closed to passengers, but no money was spent, and there had been no investment in new track or infrastructure since closure.

Meldon Quarry closed in 2011, as cheaper sources of stone were found in Eastern Europe, and the line was silent except for Dartmoor Railway activity at weekends. The Dartmoor Railway services only ran from Okehamption to Meldon, since the stations East of Okehampton were all in private ownership, and the rights to use the line stopped short of Coleford Junction, beyond which the line was owned by Network Rail, who were not interested in allowing interlopers to use the section into Crediton.

After the closure of Meldon Quarry, Aggregate Industries sold the line to a subsidiary of Iowa Pacific. That sale made no sense, and Iowa Pacific later lurched into bankruptcy. The line was no longer being maintained by professionals, the Dartmoor Railway volunteers doing essential maintenance to keep it open.

However, 2 years ago a lot changed, with the creation of the Beeching Reversal Fund, an implicit admission that many of the 1960s line closures under the Beeching Report had not been at all smart. The impetus came from the massive success of the re-opened Borders Railway, using part of the old Waverley Route. The re-opened line exceeded all traffic forecasts.

One of the lines listed at or near the top of the list of lines to be re-opened was…Crediton to Okehampton. The plan was to reinstate services to Exeter. Network Rail spent 2019 and 2020 surveying the line, and estimated it would cost 45 million pounds to reinstate passenger services. Government approval was given, and in December 2020, work kicked off with large amounts of new track being brought up the hill from Exeter and deposited in Okehampton Station yard. No new track had been laid on the line since the early 1960s, apart from a section that had been replaced after a stone train derailment in the 1980s.

Network Rail bought the line back from its current owners (the receivers of Iowa Pacific) to take legal charge of the line for the first time in 20 years. A large percentage of track has been replaced with CWR (some of the track was 100 years old), bridges and other structures have been repaired or overhauled, drainage replaced, and a lot of other detail work performed. Okehampton station will be an unstaffed self-serve station initially.

There is a plan to build a new station East of Okehampton named Okehampton Parkway. The current station is not ideally placed, high on the hill overlooking the town on the South side, and more recent housing developments are to the East.

The closed section of line from Bere Alston to Tavistock has also been under review for reinstatement, the main issue there being that the site of Tavistock station is now a local government building. That project has been under discussion for years, but nothing has happened yet, mainly because until the Beeching Reversal Fund was created, everybody agreed that it was an excellent idea, but nobody really wanted to pay for it.

The key question to be answered is whether the reinstated Okehampton service will be popular enough to persuade the railway companies to invest more money in improving the line further, or even reinstating the section from Okehampton through to Bere Alston. The entire line from Crediton to Plymouth is in the Beeching Reversal Fund shortlist. There has been a lot of genuine interest in re-instating the entire Northern Route via Okehampton to Plymouth, mainly because the Southern route via Dawlish runs next to the sea for 4 miles in the Dawlish area, and that section of the line is vulnerable to storm damage. A section was washed away in 2014, and it took several months for repairs to complete. The big issue is Meldon Viaduct, which is now a Listed Building and is a cycle path. The viaduct is unlikely to be re-instated for train use, so a new bridge will have to be constructed across the West Oakment valley, and that carries a large price tag.

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A letter from a School District superintendent

Dear Parents,

As you reach the exciting day when your child starts to attend one of our schools, I would like to explain the philosophy that our school district adopts when dealing with you.

As local taxpayers, all paying your share of school taxes, you deserve to know about our philosophy when it comes to education. You deserve to know it because you need to feel confident that your child will end his or her time at one of our schools in a place where they are sufficiently educated to move on to their next phase in life.

You also deserve to know because you may determine, after hearing about our philosophy, that you do not want your child to be educated in one of our schools. In this fine country of ours, you do have other options. You can use private tutors, or you can homeschool your children. That is your right and choice.

Let’s talk fundamentals.

  • You are not our customers

Yeah. The big one.

No, you are not our customers. You provide funding for the district by paying school taxes (although I should point out that single people and people without children also pay school taxes, so don’t forget about them, they also have skin in the game), but we are not educating YOU. We are educating your children. If we do a bad job of educating your children, and (for example) they go to college and flunk out, because they were poorly or incompletely educated by us, and were unprepared for that next step in life, that is on us. We directly failed them, not you.

This means that we are not going to always take direction from parents. We will consult with people who are, surprise, surprise, experts on child education. We may also consult with the children themselves. No, that is not the same as letting the children run the show. Remember how annoyed you get when you’re not consulted about something by your family or partner before they may a decision or do something? How that feels? Think about that and apply it to the children. They may be small, but inside that sometimes-confused head of theirs is the brain of an apprentice adult, which often thinks and feels the same way.

  • Education is not just about teaching, and does not include obedience training 

Many of you seem to think that our primary  job (in some worldviews, our only job) is to ensure that your child passes all of the right exams, ticks all of the right boxes, and sails through essential education and on into life.

The truth, as many of you well know, especially those of you who did not pass a lot of exams, is that passing exams, to a fair extent, is a skill, just like learning to ride a bicycle or learning to read music. Some people just happen to be good at passing exams. (In my youth, jealous or resentful people who were not good at passing exams used to call those people “swots”). Some people are just not good at passing exams.

There is a more interesting truth hiding behind the obsession with exam performance, namely that all that matters is the information that we cram into your child’s head over a limited period of time.

We have a much more expansive view of the word “education”. It is not about your child being able to remember most of the 10,000 things that Miss Smith taught you in History. Sure, remembering stuff is important. But one day, your child will no longer be in school, and they will then need new skills. As in, teaching themselves new skills and self-learning, especially when those skills apply to the whole of their lives, and not a narrow area that fits into a box or zone covered by education systems.

Education, for us, is about giving a child the tools and processes so that they can teach themselves as they move through life. Many successful people have little in the way of a formal education, and they are largely self-taught.

We also regard an integral part of education tools as including skills such as logical analysis and critical thinking. As you know, the world out there is full of what might politely be called Bullshit. Separating useful information from bullshit is a task that we all have to perform on a daily basis. Giving your child the tools to perform that fundamental task is, we believe, rather important, which is why you will find it on our curriculum as its own learning stream.

One item you will not find on our learning stream is Obedience Training. We are not in the business of forcing children to behave like well-behaved domestic pets or chattels, obeying any order, no matter how asinine. As you will no doubt know, many bad events in human history occurred when large groups of people did Bad Things collectively, because they had been told to do those Bad Things, and they automatically obeyed. We intend to reinforce respect, politeness, and honest inquiry. We are not in the business of mandating unquestioning obedience. We use various words and phrases to describe those kinds of societies. The most commonly used word is totalitarian, and it is not intended as praise or as a compliment.

Your child is not simply going to be shuttling between classes, forever learning Stuff. The school is also a social system, and your child will be learning social skills, many of which we do not explicitly teach, although we can provide help and guidance. Those social skills also include fundamentals like how to not be an ass.

  • It is not our job to create a clone of you and your worldview

Your children are likely to be heavily influenced by you, because they will grow up in your household, and will spend more time with you than they do with us. For that reason, we do not consider our task as being one of ensuring that your child ends up as a clone of you. Education is not an a la carte menu where you get to choose which worldviews your child is to be exposed to, and which attitudes you wish your child to be taught.

Respectfully, if your desire is that your child exactly matches your personal worldview, preferences and behavior, then I would suggest that you consider home schooling.

  • We will not prioritize your parental rights over the needs and requirements of the education process

While we value input and feedback from parents, we do not structure our curriculum around their needs, collective or individual. There is a state curriculum that we have to adopt or adapt, and that is legally required. As I said earlier, you cannot choose your child’s education from some a la carte menu where you get to discard all the bits you don’t like or which you consider to be irrelevant. Some of what we teach is non-negotiable. Some of it is a matter of customer choice (i.e. the child).

if you consider the curriculum to not meet your needs, then I would again, respectfully urge you to consider home-schooling.

  • We will not tolerate anti-social behavior or bullying

Lots of school districts say this. They (and we) have to, because our lawyers demand it. Then we usually get down to the business of ignoring bullying, because it’s a rite of passage, right? Stand up for yourself etc. etc. Plus, it is messy. Too much he said she said, “he made me do it”, and all of those other bullshit excuses or evasions that children learn from their parents or from other children.

We actually have a different practical approach. We simply do not tolerate it. If a child is found to be bullying, we will apply any necessary and appropriate sanction, up to and including expulsion, and, if necessary, activating law enforcement. If your child is behaving like a jerk or an ass, they will be held accountable. That’s part of the learning process, otherwise known as actions have consequences.

  • We will not change policy or strategy based on public meetings

Having seen the horrible results when school districts try to implement policy changes or make personnel decisions based on the excited or angry rantings of a small number of parents in a public forum, I am informing you that we do not intend to practice decision that way.

The members of the Education Committee and the School Board are elected by the electors (who, I would remind you, do include taxpayers who may not be parents at this point in time) to represent the electorate in school district policies, strategies and decisions. This is not a direct democracy. The school board meetings are not a policy-making or policy-changing forum.

We will not be taking input on school board decisions and actions from people who do not live in this district. They may have interesting views, but if they are education professionals, there are other avenues for them to express those views. If they happen to be citizens, they should be paying attention to what is going on on their own school district, not ours.

We will treat attendees and speakers at meetings fairly and in an adult manner. That will involve terminating their involvement in the meetings if they cannot or will not behave like sensible adults. You wouldn’t tolerate an asshat crashing your meeting or gathering and disrupting it. We are not going to tolerate it either.

We owe it to you to treat your children as well as possible as they move through childhood and adolescents. We also require you to move beyond the limiting idea of you as customers, and us as providers, towards an enlightened partnership to provide an environment where your children can learn to be themselves in a socially advantageous way for them and those around them, while acquiring both the knowledge and the tools to allow them to make their own way in life. At some point, they will leave your home, and our oversight, and they have to be as ready as we can make them for that time in their lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dear Grapevine-Colleyville ISD

Dear GCISD,

Well, my my my.

You seem to be in a bit of a hole.

No, I take that back.

You are in a big hole. A deep, big, embarrassing hole. It is, at the very least, a major PR black hole. It may also be a legal hole.

You have a school principal now suspended (albeit on full pay) because you may have been paying attention and listening to the wrong people.

One of the enduring myths of service in the USA (although the myth does exist elsewhere) is that the Customer Is Always Right.

Logical, huh? After all, without customers, many businesses would cease to exist. So, if they need customers to survive and thrive, then those customers deserve the best service and deserve to be treated well.

However, as you will discover after a while, there is a difference between treating people well, and obsequiously catering to their every desire, need or want, even when that desire, need or want is batshit crazy, stupid, or, worse still, damaging to your business.

That is not catering to needs, or engaging in great customer service. That’s called pandering.

If you do not understand the road you are heading down, pandering leads to spineless capitulation to increasingly stupid and dangerous demands from people.

Based on what I have read, you are in this hole partly because you have been pandering to stupid, racist and irrelevant demands, either from parents, or from people purporting to represent parents.

This is stupid on several levels.

Firstly, it is stupid, because your parents are NOT your customers. The customers are your students. Your parents may be paying the bills for your students, via their school taxes, but your primary duty of care is to the students. If they flunk out of college because you gave them a shitty high school education, that’s on you. The parents have flunked nothing. You failed to prepare their children for that next phase of their education. You might want to remind the next parent that storms into your office and starts ranting about some real or perceived injustice that they are not your customer, their children are. Will it shut them up? Probably not. Entitled parents usually only shut up when they are breathing in, or when they are gagged. But it might make them think for a wee second.

Secondly, it is stupid, because, by essentially terminating the career in GCISD of the first African-American principal in the district (let’s not be cute here, by suspending him, you have made it impossible for him to continue in his role), you are begging the asking of all sorts of awkward questions. Question #1 is Why. Absent a compelling, legally viable answer to that question, Question #2 will show up really quickly. Question #2 is “how come this just happened to the first African-American principal?”.

As politicians are fond of saying, amidst their massive collection of in-group cliches, Question #2 has terrible optics. You and I both know what the subtext is, and it is a bad subtext. Really bad.

So what is the answer to Question #1?

Well, that is where you start to look even more stupid. Based on what I have read, (and here is an article from NBCDFW), in 2019 you decided to criticize the principal, based on the discovery of pictures of him and his wife on the beach…on social media. This was not a nude beach, both the principal and his wife were wearing clothing, and several of the images, clearly taken by a professional photographer, seemed to comprise a re-enactment of the famous beach seduction scene from the movie “From Here To Eternity“. A movie that these days is regarded as classic, good old fashioned entertainment.

The word seemingly used in communications about the photos was “questionable”. If that is what you think, then OK. What questions do you have about them?

I think you should have to answer. You don’t get to use ambiguous words in a statement and not have to explain them. That’s not how the world works. You’re accountable to the citizens of Grapevine and Colleyville.

But, since the photos were clearly taken in the principal’s private time (on vacation), I think I already have a question for you. Whose damned business is it anyway?

You employ (or in reality, you did employ) James Whitfield to lead and manage a middle school. You do not own him. He is not a slave or an indentured servant. You have no control over his life outside of school time. You do expect him (as is your right) to uphold the standards of the district in his life, but photos of him with his wife on vacation cannot be said in any way to be a bad reflection on the school district.

So, my question stands. Who in the school district leadership thought this was any of your damned business? Because from where I am viewing this, any admonishment to him about the visibility of the photos was irrelevant, vexatious and way out of line. It was, quite simply, an abuse of power.

But continuing with Question #1 (Why?), it now seems that you suspended James Whitfield, not for this supposed infraction, but possibly because some parents, in July 2021, accused him of teaching Critical Race Theory in the school.

This is even more stupid. First of all, as a principal, I would be surprised if he actually does any significant teaching. So if Critical Race Theory was (or is) being taught, he probably wasn’t teaching it.

Secondly, your job is not to pander to the curriculum demands of a few parents. They are not your customers (remember what I said earlier?) There is also an old saying that empty vessels make the most noise. If you did not poll all of the parents at the middle school (and no, you do not ask parents from other schools, and you especially do NOT listen to people with no skin in the game, like non-residents) to determine if these parents are at all representative of the views of all of the parents, you were professionally negligent.

A few loud, yelling parents does not mean anything in the grand scheme of things. You know as well as I do that there are always unhappy parents, for many different reasons, and you cannot please everybody all of the time. That is NOT your job, partly because it is impossible, and partly because it elevates the loud whinings of the few to a higher level of importance than the quiet of the many.

You also should not be paying attention to and readily accepting hyperbolic claims being made by former candidates for School board positions, like Stetson Clark. Hyperbole is a poor basis for credible argument. You should also be putting accusers on the spot. If you were an observer in a court room, you would expect to see prosecution witnesses being cross-examined in order to validate or expose flaws, inconsistencies and inaccuracies in their statements or testimony.

If an angry parent gets up in front of me and accuses one of my leaders of teaching Critical Race Theory, I am going to want to see if that person can answer one or two fundamental questions:

  1. What is your definition of Critical Race Theory (HINT: A lot of people cannot define it, because they are using it as a weaponized slogan)
  2. What compelling evidence do you have that it is being taught in a school in this district

Answers to (2) that are hearsay or speculation, like “some people told me that they think that the school might be teaching it” need to be filleted up and tossed back on the ground. Preferably buried underground where they belong.

You have to perform due diligence, otherwise you start to look credulous, gullible and professionally negligent. If you didn’t do that sort of due diligence, shame on you.

Oh yes. You should have gaveled Stetson Clark off the podium immediately, the second time he violated the meeting rule by mentioning Dr. Whitfield’s name. You warned him once, he ignored the rule and the warning, which showed that he was not acting in good faith. That cancels any obligation on your part to let him continue speaking. The rules are there for a reason.

The fact that you suspended James Whitfield with no explanation is just…optically bad. There is no good way of explaining that event. You suspended him on full pay, which suggests that you currently lack any case to terminate him for cause, or presumably you would have already done so.

Your failure to articulate any reason for the suspension, given the fact that he is African-American, is, given the recent allegations and other past events, the equivalent of sending up a large hot-air balloon with “pandering to race-based fear” stenciled on the side of it in very large letters. Optics. Abysmal. There are good legal reasons for staying silent, but that is not a good place for a school district to be for any length of time.

If you had evidence that the school was teaching Critical Race Theory, where is it? If you had any other evidence of malfeasance, where is it? You should have, at the least, had all of this sorted out before the news leaked out that he has been suspended. Instead, right now James Whitfield can play the aggrieved party. He is actually being very restrained, probably because he is already being advised by lawyers.

The prior abuse of power over his family images means that, in my humble opinion, James Whitfield is probably sitting at home right now, trying to decide exactly which prestigious firm of employment lawyers will represent him in his upcoming lawsuit against the GCISD. I suspect that your options, unless you have a compelling non-public reason for action, might center around how many zeroes to the left of the decimal point his compensation check will prevent him from dragging you all the way through discovery. Discovery would result in the reasons for his suspension becoming public domain.

There is going to be collateral damage. Like appearing at the top of Google Search for the wrong reasons. Instead of your glorious football teams, the search results will show lines like “terminated principal wins settlement after suspension following Critical Race Theory allegations”.

You could have avoided this mess, if you had actually engaged in proper dialogue with ranting parents, and then thought long and hard before reacting. Parents are not always right, and you should not be pandering to their worst behavioral impulses.

My message to the School board:  Those of you who supported this train-wreck have dragged down the name of the entire GCISD, and have sent the message to the outside world that both Grapevine and Colleyville have dysfunctional school districts, where scurrilous rumors and abusive speculation can override sound, ethical and visionary leadership. The school district and the cities now look like repositories of casual suburban racism. You’re culpable for helping to convert the school district to a poster child for that, a place where no sensible leader is going to want to work. If there is any justice in the world, you need to be voted out of office at your next election.

My message to the School district leadership that made these decisions: If you worked for me, I would give you all 24 hours to resign, or I would terminate all of you for cause. The causes would be: abuse of power, gullibility, pandering, and total failure of leadership.

My message to the parents who did not want James Whitfield removed:  This is what happens when a loud and malevolent minority seizes control of the dialogue. The school district leadership and the school board did not represent your interests, and you need to be much more vigilant. Crackpots and wackaloons can easily be elected to or influence school boards. You will have to make sure it does not happen in future.

UPDATEThe school district has issued this statement which seems to list all of the reasons that were not causes for the suspension of Principal Whitfield.

I am not sure exactly why they did this, but I have to assume that it is part of a legal CYA process for them. It would have been better for them to have said absolutely nothing. The statement cannot answer the question of why they suspended him. The reasons will not be revealed unless the district has no choice, but if he decides to sue the district, and there is no settlement, that will end up being revealed in discovery.

I would bet that any lawsuit, if there is one, will be settled confidentially. The complaint, if there is one, will probably be some form of hostile work environment complaint, based on the abuse of power over the photos and the failure to defend him and his school from the rush to judgement on the allegations of the teaching of Critical Race Theory.

UPDATE 2A Twitter user who thinks that Principal Whitfield is playing the race card and whining about white fragility directed me to this website.

This website is new, having been created on or shortly after April 7th 2021. The domain creator is hidden, and the site, superficially, tries to look like a non-partisan site that covers events and policy in the school district.

That only lasts until their page on Critical Race Theory, which is a distorted strawman collection, pushing all of the white fear and resentment buttons. It contains the usual slew of allegations, with several cut-and-paste polemics, including one from the Heritage Organization, containing lines like “Critical race theory is an ideology which maintains that the United States is a fundamentally racist country”. It is the usual theme of “people need to stop talking the country down and instead talk it up, and stop trying to make us look and feel bad”.  The writer of the web page even shows the cover of the book “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo at the top. I am not sure how they think that makes their complaints about CRT any more credible, because to my reading eye, what is on the rest of the page kind of proves most of the point she was making in the book. (Not that the book is that good, since, as many reviewers pointed out, it is long on diagnosis and short on suggested solutions).

UPDATE – The GCISD board has, by unanimous vote, proposed not renewing Dr. Whitfield’s contract, which expires at the end of the school year. Based on this article from CNN, it seems that the board, aware that violation of due process will likely result in legal action, are attempting to obey a formal administrative process of asking Whitfield to respond to the allegations against him.

The meeting was, by all accounts, dominated by supporters of Dr. Whitfield, who all spoke in his favor in the public comments period. Dr. Whitfield was also there and spoke briefly. The list of accusations against him does not look substantive. When I read that the allegations against him include claims that he was “insubordinate”, “unreasonable” and “disrespectful”, my BS detector is triggered. I have heard these phrases used in the past in a post hoc justification of terminations. They are allegations largely based on perceived style, and without specific examples, they end up sounding to many neutral observers like “we didn’t like the person on a personal level”. To an African-American person, this also reads like a variant of the classic complaint of white racists about AA people being “uppity” and “not knowing their place”. Whitfield has apparently requested that as much as possible of the process be held in public. This, to me, suggests that he intends to try and put the school district in a hole of their own making over his imminent non-retention.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram points out the obvious; that the public falling-out with Dr. Whitfield is going to have a negative impact on the district’s ability to recruit teachers and administrators.

 

 

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Healthcare delivery systems and chronic non-diagnosable illnesses

Sigh.

I became involved in a discussion about the problems that healthcare systems have with patients with long-term chronic, difficult-to-diagnose conditions. I don’t know if a satisfactory discussion is ever really possible on Twitter, with its 480 character limit placing a severe constraint on how much information can be conveyed in a single response.

I already had one person stomp off and Block me because I told her that her responses were wild and not helpful. She converted my observations about the limitations of the healthcare system in coping with long-term chronic conditions into an allegation that I was ignoring the issue altogether, because I noted that what we least need, at a time when medical professionals are under attack from the twin pincers of anti-vaccination activists and Covid deniers, is another campaign against the medical profession. This was apparently me ignoring the issue. At that point she was off and running on a predictable rant about how I was part of the problem. Nope. Next discussion time.

What I left unsaid because of lack of space was that the healthcare delivery systems that we have created in the USA and elsewhere have incentives built into them that militate against the correct levels of investment and attention to both mental health issues, and long-term chronic conditions that in many cases have no obvious root cause.

The medical profession operates to a classic paradigm:

Evaluate –> Diagnose –> Treat

The ultimate end point is a healthy satisfied customer. (Unfortunately, as we all understand, this is not always possible. Some people, despite the best efforts of the medical profession, leave this life. The profession may, however, be able to facilitate them leaving this life in a peaceful and painless fashion).

The challenge is when step 2 (Diagnose) fails to find an obvious cause. Instead of a narrow range of treatments (relatively), an unclear diagnosis leads to potentially hundreds or thousands of possible treatments. This is confusing enough for doctors and specialists. The entire treatment regimen becomes a crapshoot, with low chances of initial success.

At that point, however, in the USA, the insurers also insert themselves into the equation. Sometimes payment for certain treatments is denied, then a tussle develops between the the patient, the doctor and the health insurers, which leaves the doctor stuck in the middle, with both of the other parties unhappy. I once talked to a PCP about this, he was getting ready to retire rather than continue to be “caught in the middle” as he put it.

The incentives in the system, in short, work in favor of easily diagnosed issues, with clearly defined outcomes. Everybody benefits. The medical profession and the hospital systems get happy smiling patients who are cured of whatever malady ailed them, and the health insurers get clean closure, and all bills paid (until the next illness).

Chronic unexplainable maladies are usually not amenable to quick fixes, either pharmaceutical or surgical. Patients may require years of care. This upsets doctors, who see those unhappy patients over and over again, hospitals are largely out of the picture, and insurers see open-ended treatment plans that cost them more money than they can recover.

The result is that many chronic long-term afflictions, many of them with probable auto-immune origins, and now (recently) what is known as “Long Covid”, are not well-served by the healthcare delivery system. People presenting with chronic fatigue and other real but non-diagnosable symptoms are, in some cases, being referred to psychologists and psychiatrists because their primary care physicians are unable to locate a physical cause for the problem. Unsurprisingly, the reaction from most patients to this idea is not a favorable one. No matter how tactfully presented, it is difficult to process the message “the root cause is in your brain”. It feels like a kiss-off.

Unsurprisingly, many unhappy people with chronic but not-treated conditions adopt a cynical mindset, best summarized by this actual quote from my earlier discussion:

Of course there are outliers, but many many doctors hate the idea that they can’t have a obvious win and so would rather deny the existence of chronic illness all together.

The inevitable result of (as they see it) being ignored by the conventional “Western Medicine” system leads many people to DIY remedies, based on OTC drugs, or cannabis, or other naturally occurring substances. More dangerously, some seek help from the fringes of the medical profession, that world inhabited by a motley collection of amateurs with big ideas, cranks, charlatans and outright deceitful criminals. Run-down, depressed and vulnerable people are often easily persuaded that a new and exciting sounding treatment will cure that affliction that those damn doctors have been no help in addressing. Quite often, people spend lots of money for poor outcomes, but failures are often not discussed. The patients often have no recourse, because those shadow areas are unregulated or poorly regulated, and, equally importantly, it is difficult for anybody to admit “I was conned”. The mainstream medical profession is, by contrast strictly regulated, despite what some conspiracy-dazzled cranks would tell you.

At this point I can offer my own personal recent experience. I am a recent observer of the limitations of the healthcare system with respect to what is now known as “Long Covid”. I contracted Covid-19 in late December 2020, and despite only being mildly affected (it was like 12 days of intermediate flu, and I was never sick enough to need medical attention or hospitalization) I have since been impacted by a number of consecutive maladies, none of which I previously ever suffered from. In nearly all of these cases, despite my informing the doctors that I had contracted Covid, the doctors listened, nodded sagely, and then appeared to default to the standard approach of their specialty and looked at my malady through their standard evaluate–>diagnose–> treat lens.

The positive result is that some parts of my body (notably my entire GI tract) have been thoroughly inspected this year. This is good. I know that those parts of my body are basically in good shape. However, I have been left with the uncomfortable feeling that the medical profession is very slow at “joining the dots” on the impacts of Covid-19 on the human body. It was only recently, on a follow-up GI appointment, that I sat and heard a GI specialist say “yes, your GI issues have probably been caused by Covid-19”. Up until that point, I felt that the medical professionals I was consulting with saw the malady as “here is a guy who has X for some undetermined reason” instead of “here is a guy who has X, has had Covid-19, therefore this might be an after-effect of that virus”.

I hesitate to classify myself as a Long Covid sufferer, because it is less than 7 months since I was infected, and my current health seems to be good. I was not hospitalized, and I have only had 2 diagnostic procedures since. However, nobody yet knows what the long-term effects of Covid-19 infection are on the human body. There simply has not been enough elapsed time to evaluate that. Has my lifespan been shortened? I don’t think we have any way to know that. Were my maladies all the result of Covid? After all, I am now moving towards the end of middle age. There is no easy answer to the question, without me becoming some sort of laboratory test subject.

IMHO, the initial failure to take Long Covid seriously, and instead treating sufferers as suffering from a conventional affliction spectrum, has held back detail examination and research of the possible effects of Coronaviruses on the human body, medium-term and long-term. It is also a very real exposure of the limitation of the current 3-stage medical treatment model, which dominates the profession at this time, and which is reinforced by incentives all throughout the healthcare delivery system.

Is there any easy fix to this? Nope. The healthcare delivery system, dominated by insurers in the USA, is also not a great place to start. I suspect that innovative solutions will come from a country that has a well-run government healthcare system and wants to address the two endemic blind spots of the healthcare world – Mental illness and Chronic (sometimes lifetime) health issues with no immediate and obvious cause.

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The pathologies of the rich – 1

Many years ago, when I was a member of Riverside Racquet Centre in London, I played regular doubles tennis 3 evenings a week with different groups of people.

One of the guys I played with, I found out, ran an interior decorating and kitchen remodeling business. We were talking about clients one evening, and he mentioned that he had once done work for Andrew Lloyd-Webber. He then, without any further questioning, said “never again”. Long story, but he met Lloyd-Webber only once, at the beginning of the work, and thereafter had to deal on daily basis with one of his assistants, who behaved like a chiseling asshole, arguing over anything and everything, constantly acting as though Andrew Lloyd-Webber was doing him a massive favour by even deigning to use his services in the first place. When the work was completed, they refused to pay him, inventing an irrelevant dispute over scope of work, and only paid up after he threatened them with a default court judgement.

This fits with a number of stories that I have heard over the years about how many wealthy people are chiseling assholes. There is a common thread to the pathology. They justify it with glib cliches like “if you look after the pennies the pounds will take care of themselves”. I guess when you are worth squillions of pounds, then 20,000 on a kitchen remodel does indeed, in the grand scheme of things, look like pennies.

From what I can gather, the underlying pathology is that they are indeed driven people, but not necessarily in a good way (otherwise I would not have the material for this blog posting), and in many cases, it is a narrow materialistic view of success as measured by possessions and how many zeroes you have after your name in your asset balance. Nobody, for example, is going to convince me that a person needs $15m a year to live on. The premise is ridiculous, and deserves only ridicule. Once you get into that zone, money becomes a measurement device, a way of keeping score.

Many wealthy people, especially those who did build a large fortune, genuinely believe that the only factor that determines success is how hard you are prepared to work. I have worked with at least two entrepreneurs in my time in I.T. and both of them genuinely believed that that was the main factor. One of the guys used to say to us “anybody can do this if they are prepared to put in the work”. He appeared to genuinely believe that.

In their world, the rich and wealthy are rich and wealthy because they earned it. This leads to two obvious conclusions that get baked into their value systems: (1) the poor must be poor because they are feckless and lazy (2) taxes are confiscation from them of money that they worked to accumulate and are therefore entitled to, to be given to those people who do not deserve money because they do not work hard.

The idea that there are millions of people for whom success, in their value systems, is not measured in net worth, never seems to occur to them, or if it does, they dismiss it as stupid and, well something that only the feckless and lazy would think anyway.

As you move through life, you can find a lot of evidence that, as the old saying goes, money will not buy you happiness, but it can buy you a better class of misery. There is plenty of obvious evidence that a lot of highly driven and successful people are unpleasant, dysfunctional train-wrecks of humans. They might be worth a lot of money, but it certainly didn’t make them a better class of human. In fact it might be the other way round.

Quite why rich people like to chisel is another question entirely. One might naively expect them to be a bit more generous. I have to conclude that it is due to their need to win at all times. Realistically, making serious money is a tough competition, not a hobby, and people whose life is devoted to making money tend to see every activity where money changes hands as a competitive event, and often a win:lose scenario. If they have to hand over money to anybody without getting more money in return, that looks like a failure to them. So actually paying regular folks for anything is…eeek, why do I have to do this?

The attitude of the Lloyd-Webber flunky, that the regular guy should be grateful that Lloyd-Webber chose him at all, is symptomatic of that mindset. It is not uncommon in business, though. Another one of our friends once worked for the Dallas Cowboys on live sound (he eventually quit after his recommendations were consistently ignored). One thing he told us was that many medium-sized businesses were told that they could acquire the title of “official supplier of X” to the Dallas Cowboys, but only if they were prepared to essentially supply goods or services for free. Same attitude, just in a large commercial business. (In that situation, those businesses had to make a commercial decision as to whether losing money supplying the Dallas Cowboys would be compensated for by the marketing bragging rights and networking opportunities bringing in other profitable business).

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GB News – misunderstandings

GB News, the new UK news network, launched this week.

There has been a lot of comment on social media, most of it based on witheringly negative assessments of the studio, the production values and other aspects of the channel. There is also already a campaign to persuade corporations to pull advertising.

The old era of media outlets being owned by corporations and hands-off old-money owners is over. The new generation of newspaper owners are not in it for higher ideals. They are a mixture of hedge funds, which expect a quick return on investment, or they will revert to slash and burn management, and oligarchs operating via front companies.

Oligarchs expect their media properties to be their personal mouthpieces. Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas-based casino mogul, bought his local paper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, for $140 million in 2015 via News + Media Capital Group LLC, a front company. The newspaper promptly became his personal mouthpiece. Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post for $250m in 2013, which for one of the richest men in the world, was chump change. There is a pattern here.

In the current world in which we live, with the ease of creating internet-based TV streaming channels, a newly-minted oligarch with $100m a year to burn can easily afford to fund an entire operation the current size of GB News. As I am fond of saying, disinformation networks are a lot cheaper to run than an aircraft carrier with a squadron of F-35s. The real world war is the Information War, and the West is currently losing. Some of the oligarchs and plutocrats operating in the disinformation space are almost certainly acting as fronts for governments.

The funding for GB News should be a big Tell as to its intended positioning. The majority of the funding is from corporations not domiciled in the UK, and a lot of the funding comes from the “front” corporations of oligarchs and plutocrats. This is not a benign news channel, trying to thread the needle down the middle, or engaging in fearless investigate reporting. It was intended as a propaganda channel for pluto-populism. Its presenter roster is dominated by a combination of established UK tabloid blusterers, and newer internet-based provocateurs, long on mouth and short on information.

As for the crappy production values…the cynic in me says that GBNews doesn’t mind having YouTube production values, since it is appealing to people who mostly get their news from YouTube.

GB News is not competing with the BBC, Channel 4, Sky or any of the other established UK news channels. It is a propaganda outlet largely funded by oligarchs, designed to generate dopamine clickbait for nativists and fans of plutocrat-controlled fascism. Comparing it with those channels is tempting and easy, but misses the entire picture in terms of its underlying objectives and market positioning.

The campaign to pull advertising may well succeed. However, like Fox News in the USA, the funding model of GB News is not dependent on advertising. If all they have are gold and crypto-currency snake oil salesmen as advertisers, they won’t care. The purpose of the network is not to be a commercially successful news channel with blue-chip corporate advertisers. This is already obvious from the decision by the network to launch a smear attack on Ikea, one of the corporations that pulled its advertising. Ikea is a European corporation headquartered in an EU country. Attacking a European corporation ticks all the right boxes when your intended audience is nativists, and nationalists.

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Property Market notes – local

The property market in our subdivision is…bonkers.

There is very little property for sale anywhere in the USA right now. I have been looking at Hawaii and California at intervals, and our across-the-street neighbor is a realtor.

She confirmed my suspicions a few weeks ago when we briefly discussed the state of the market. Normally, in a price boom, there is a lot of inventory as lots of people are trying to move up or cash out, but there are also a lot of buyers, so prices are being bid up.

Right now, prices are booming, but there is no inventory to speak of. There are very few properties coming onto the market, but there are willing buyers. So any time even a half-way decent property comes onto the market, there is an unseemly stampede and, quite often, a bidding war. This results in many properties, even sub-standard ones, going for way more than the initial asking price. This has been happening in Hawaii, where even tired condos from the 1960s and 1970s have been selling significantly over the asking price. (Quite why a 367 square foot tower block box should attract such interest is not clear to me, unless speculators are buying, which is very possible).

Here in our subdivision, a very nice 4 bedroom 3000 square foot 1978 house went up for sale 8 days ago, and is now Under Offer. Not sure if it is under offer for more than the asking price, but we saw lots of people visiting it last weekend immediately after it hit the market. The house is well looked after, with an excellent frontage, but no pool, and the interior is dated. (All medium color wall wood, typical of many houses here built in the mid-to-late 1970s).

2 doors down, a property with not much kerb appeal, also appears to have sold, after being on the market and vacant for 3 or more months. We saw evidence of people moving in this weekend.

We have mentally upped the value of our house based on watching local price trends in this area. It may not help if we stay in the USA, because prices are rising everywhere, but if we move to Costa Rica, it might give us the ability to buy a better house there.

UPDATE – The latest feature of the market is apparently that sellers are demanding that prospective buyers waive their right to an inspection in order to even be considered as buyers.

From a safety perspective, this would be unacceptable to us. When we lived in a rented house in 2009, we found out that the property company that owned it had filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which meant that the house was up for sale. We actually attended a court hearing in Fort Worth to validate this. When the trustees confirmed that the house was for sale, we ordered up an inspection. When we both returned from work, the inspector was finishing his report on his laptop in the kitchen. He said “you will have a 30 page report in a few minutes, but I can sum up my findings in one word. Run”. The report detailed a long list of issues, which would have cost upwards of $70k to fix before we could even be sure of getting a mortgage. We passed, and found our current home a few months later.

Asking buyers to waive an inspection is understandable from people who want a quick sale. It enforces information asymmetry, with the buyer being less informed than the seller. This is favorable to the seller. Some people will take the gamble. We won’t.

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The art and science of Kompromat and Jeffrey Epstein

It is clear by now that the late Jeffrey Epstein, over a period of over 20 years, operating behind the front that he was a hedge fund owner and money manager (and it was a front with little substance to it, as this article makes clear), was running some sort of covert operation to befriend, flatter, and ingratiate himself with a large number of plutocrats, oligarchs, businessmen, academics and other sorts of celebrities.

Epstein had an expansive and expensive lifestyle with no obvious means to finance it, and traveled wide and far on personal jets with all manner of people. Logically, the only tenable explanation was that Epstein was collecting money (and lots of it) from people who suddenly found themselves either indebted to him, or people who controlled him and were paying him for the influence that he was exerting on those indebted people.

The list of people who Epstein befriended and ingratiated himself with is a long one, and the extent to which some of those people interacted with Epstein is slowly becoming clearer by the day.

The most recent burst of re-examination has been triggered by the news that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda French Gates will be divorcing. Gates, it is now clear, was spending a lot more time with Epstein than was previously known or publicly admitted. Allegedly, the relationship between Gates and Epstein, dating back to 2011, was the root cause of Melinda French Gates initiating the divorce. (It now seems that Bill Gates was also playing away with other women during their marriage, an ironically unsurprising event when you consider that his marriage originally started as a workplace romance with Melinda).

Since retiring from Microsoft, Bill and Melinda Gates have been devoting their time to their charitable foundation. Gates, richer than Croesus, probably had no need of basic financial advice, and as this article points out, it is unclear why Bill Gates thought that Jeffrey Epstein should be any better as a source of philanthropic advice than any one of hundreds of other well-connected people. The excessive contact with Epstein led to Gates resigning from the Microsoft board in 2020, under the pretext that he needed more time for philanthropy.

The general public’s conspiracist worldview of Jeffrey Epstein, who, it is well-established, had a liking for girls well under the legal age of consent, has coalesced around the conviction that his strategy was to ingratiate himself with the rich and famous (always men, you will notice) and then entrap them by offering them female juveniles as sexual playthings. Epstein’s arrest and extraordinary plea deal in Florida, when he eventually pleaded guilty in 2008 to state charges of procuring a person under 18 for prostitution and felony solicitation of prostitution, was essentially an escape from what could have been many years of incarceration. He served 13 months, most of it on work release in a private wing of a county jail. The deal has been criticized ever since it was revealed, and the States Attorney who agreed to it, Alex Acosta, has taken the brunt of the criticism, ultimately resigning from his role as US Secretary of Labor in the Trump Administration.

Epstein’s arrest on further sexual abuse charges and his mysterious death in jail have cemented him in the public gaze as primarily a pedophile and pimp for would-be pedophiles. However, that seems way too simplistic. Not every adult male is a pedophile-in-waiting. Some, after all, are gay or bisexual, which are also traits making them vulnerable to entrapment.

If Epstein’s business was entrapment and capture of assets for his controllers (who, I believe, were Russia and Israel, with Ghislaine Maxwell as the intermediary for the Israel connection), then there were plenty of other behaviors, many related to business, that Epstein could have facilitated, that would provide leverage to make people compliant and willing accomplices.

Money laundering is the main alternative explanation. Ever since the collapse of the USSR in the 1990s, Russian oligarchs and business leaders have been adept at moving large sums of money out of Russia to other countries for investment and enjoyment purposes. This is particularly true in locations like the UK, which appeals to Russian oligarchs because of its low taxes and plaintiff-friendly libel laws. There is plenty of evidence that wealthy Russians have been laundering large sums of money into and via the USA, often using a well-established process of buying apartments or property using cash instruments from overseas corporations, often paying well above market rate for the property, in which case a later-kick-back occurs to the buyer, moving cash into the buyer’s US bank account. Once you have engaged in money laundering, you are highly vulnerable to prosecution if that scheme is revealed.

In due course, I expect that it will be revealed that large parts of Donald Trump’s business empire were maintained by money laundered from Russia. There are all manner of businesses and business transactions inside Trump’s empire that in pure business terms, make no sense, but which do make sense in the presence of money laundering. The connection between Trump and Epstein was probably part of a web of people all working covertly to move money around the world, mostly in defiance of local and international laws.

My verdict is that Epstein wasn’t too concerned about how he entrapped people. He would get to know them, discern their vulnerabilities and primitive desires, and create a scenario which capitalized on those vulnerabilities and desires to get them to engage in activities which were highly illegal. If the activity was recorded in detail, with Epstein in possession of the evidence, then that person was now beholden to Epstein, and he could call in one or more favors from them at a later date, or get them to support covert activity on behalf of his controllers…or else…

Epstein was smart and cunning enough to realize that he needed to create a fig-leaf of intellectual heft for his activities. He also befriended academics and intellectuals, even if, in most cases, it is not likely that he was going to get any RoI from them for his controllers. Most likely he wanted to burnish his credentials as a mover and shaker, and provide a veneer of sophistication for his activities. Many intellectuals are vulnerable to flattery, and being sat next to world leaders in business or technology at dinners at posh venues would inflate their egos significantly. Ditto world leaders. The likes of Bill Gates would no doubt be flattered to be able to converse with leading intellectuals, as a form of validation that they had ideas of substance, and were not simply driven assholes who had been ruthless enough and/or lucky enough to accumulate large piles of money.

The underlying purpose of Epstein’s social strategy remained the same; to seduce wealthy and influential people who could be manipulated for the benefit of his underlying client controllers. Intellectuals like Steven Pinker were a bit of glitter dust to provide a veneer of sophistication and class, and occasional help in the form of testimonials as to Epstein’s probity (cough).

Was Jeffrey Epstein murdered in jail? Given how much information he must have possessed on hundreds of people, it is safe to assume that many of those people desperately wanted him to be silenced. His controllers would also not have wanted his role for them to be revealed. The two prime suspect nations have a track record of eliminating people who might threaten the security of the state. Never mind the individuals whose predilections for under-age girls would prove deeply awkward. (Including a certain member of the UK royal family). Quite simply, too many people would have benefitted greatly from Jeffrey Epstein’s demise. So, he obligingly died.

Whether enough evidence has survived Epstein’s demise, we do not really know. However, Ghislaine Maxwell is still alive and is in custody, and she may, to use an old phrase, know where many of the bodies are buried.

Ghislaine Maxwell is probably also terrified of being eliminated in jail. However, if she is released, I expect that she will disappear, and then show up either dead, or in Israel, which has no extradition treaties with any other countries. I am still puzzled about why she did not flee to Israel when she first disappeared. It may be because Trump and Netanyahu had, by all accounts, a tenuous relationship, with Trump pissing off Netanyahu with some of his clumsy attempts at Middle East power plays. Or it may be that with Trump still in power in the USA, she considered herself safe in the USA, or likely to be pardoned (which would be a tribute to her hubris, since as we are now seeing, Trump pardoned few people. Narcissists regard people who are no longer useful as totally expendable).

We will continue to see more revelations about more people who were, even transiently, in Jeffrey Epstein’s orbit. I expect that in due course some of them will end up in receipt of felony charges. I also expect that politicians of both parties will be found to have been pulled into the Epstein circle. Epstein was shrewd and calculating, and if politicians of both parties were beholden to him, then he and his controllers would have influence, no matter which party held power in the USA.

The recent plea deal by Joel Greenberg has led to excited talk that Matt Gaetz is due to be indicted any day now. My suspicion is that the plea deal by Greenberg may turn out to be more related to Jeffrey Epstein. Both men had homes near each other in Florida. Greenberg, superficially, looks to have been engaging in similar (albeit lower-budget) activities to Epstein, but there might be more of a connection between the two men than many people realize. (Although Greenberg probably doesn’t want to suffer the same fate as Epstein). The fact that Greenberg bargained 33 felony charges down to a guilty plea to only 6 suggests that he must have offered a LOT of information (translation: Names) to trade away to make those other 27 felony charges disappear.

None of this will unfold on the timeframe that people want. The wheels of justice do grind exceedingly slow. But they grind.

 

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Long Covid – my saga continues

Without going into too much detail, I am a Long Covid sufferer.

I contracted Covid-19 at the end of December last year, and although I was never sick enough to require medical treatment or hospitalization, I have been impacted since mid-January by an array of medical conditions and symptoms, none of which I have previously encountered. While none of the issues has been remotely life-threatening, the fact that I am now suffering from at least 4 conditions that I never previously suffered from is, at the very least, concerning, and on a practical level, worrying or worse. Quite simply, I am having to face the possibility that my quality and duration of remaining life may have been shortened by exposure to Covid-19. That is forcing a re-appraisal of what I want to do on several different levels.

One of my frustrations is that it is clear that the medical profession currently has no effective process for dealing with Long Covid. At the moment most medical professionals seem to treat the symptoms as disconnected from Covid, as if they were somehow random events. When I explain to medical professionals that I was infected by Covid in December 2020 the reaction is “meh”. There seems to be no willingness to take seriously the concept that a seemingly transient viral infection can cause numerous medium-term (and possibly long-term) symptoms. The medical process of observe–> investigate –> determine –> treat breaks when exposed to Long Covid patients, since in many cases there is no obvious root cause, and the possible culprit (the Covid-19 virus) seems to have disappeared from the body. As a result, many Long Covid sufferers are reporting that doctors are deciding that their symptoms have mental causes, so they are being referred to psychologists and psychiatrists. When you have a physical ailment, being referred to a psychologist is going to be seen by most people as a rather unsubtle message of “I don’t really believe you”.

Can I prove that my medical issues since January 2021 are caused by exposure to Covid-19? Maybe, maybe not. I am in my mid-60s, so my body is getting older, and with age comes deterioration in some fundamentals of the operation of the human body, especially the immune and circulatory systems. Could this deterioration have coincided with my exposure to Covid? That is possible. However, when a formerly very healthy person like me suddenly suffers from at least 4 different medical conditions that I previously never suffered from, I start to regard coincidence as a low-probability explanation.

 

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Briefs – Monday 30th June 2020

  1. Covid-19

Covid-19 is running up exponentially in Dallas County.

We need another lockdown IMMEDIATELY. We are staying locked down. I wish I could say the same for other people, but not only are a lot of people swanning about without a care in the world, some of them are still not wearing masks.

2. A week of UK government ineptitude in a Thread

Yes, it really is this bad. The government is incompetent, venal and corrupt. And way too many electors in the UK voted for it. Buckle up kiddos, it’s going to be a wild ride. Especially after 1st January 2021, when the full impact of the UK’s departure from the EU is felt for the first time.

The government’s decision to invest up to £500 million in a bankrupt satellite internet service provider looks more foolish the more you examine it. 

Tonight the deadline for the UK to request a Brexit extension passed. The UK is now on the clock and on the path to the original wet-dream outcome of many Brexiteers – a No Deal crash-out at the end of the year.

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