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Member since: 2001
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So, I've Negotiated Some Agreements for a Few of My Favorite DUers...

CaliforniaPeggy is hereby required to disclose a list of every DUer with under one hundred posts to whom she's addressed a "Welcome to DR (name)" post, since 2012. In return, EarlG will accept a payment of seven dollars and fifty cents ($7.50) from me, TygrBright, to add a bright rainbow-and-unicorn background to her Profile page.

MrScorpio is hereby required to post the 256-character Code Key for the non-existent Project Scorpio Files in the DU Lounge. In return, Skinner will accept a payment of one dollar and eighty-seven cents ($1.87) from me, TygrBright to add a "DU winner!" diagonal banner to said MrScorpio's DU avatar for the month of April.

Floyd R. Turbo is hereby required to post his entire catalog of R&B and Doo-Wop music video links in a single post, in the Video & Multimedia Forum. In return, elad will accept a payment of nine dollars and thirty-four cents ($9.34) from me, TygrBright to automatically jack the "likes" on every Floyd R. Turbo post by not less than one hundred (100) for at least twenty-four hours after the post goes live.

These agreements are of course fully binding on all parties, because I have negotiated them and the payments are in the mail.

Negotiating agreements is fun! Negotiate your own! Post 'em below!


"A source emailed me his life's work. Then, he ended his life."

By Gregory Korte, in the Columbia Journalism Review:

A source emailed me his life's work. Then, he ended his life.

By Monday afternoon — now five days after the emails — I still hadn’t heard back, which was somewhat unusual. I went to his Twitter feed and his blog and saw no recent posts. I did a Google news search and found a headline in the Rockford Register Star from Saturday: “Sheriff’s department investigates double murder-suicide at home of RVC professor P.S. Ruckman Jr.”

His sons, found shot to death in their bedrooms in Ruckman’s house outside Rockford, Ill., had not been to school since Wednesday — the day of the emails.

My heart sank. I wrapped up my work and headed home. I didn’t even tell my editor I was leaving.

On the way home, I called the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office, in case the emails helped to pin down a timeline or establish his intent. (On the advice of our lawyers, I did not provide the emails or the data set itself.) The detective said the emails were potentially significant — he seemed particularly interested in the value the data had to Ruckman. For him to suddenly give it away — something he had previously been unwilling to do — might demonstrate that he was wrapping up his affairs.

One in three American adults will have the symptoms and/or diagnosis of a psychiatric disorder at some point in their lives.

One in three.

Here are some things we know about psychiatric disorders:

1. The variety of conditions, symptoms, etiologies, and manifestations that fall under this umbrella term fill a very large book indeed, the "DSM-5" or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition. More than 900 pages worth of description, speculation, and accumulated documentation on conditions that range from neurodevelopmental disorders to paraphilic disorders.

2. Disorders may last anywhere from days or weeks to lifelong.

3. Many, even most, psychiatric disorders produce no easily-recognizable physiological alterations, and many, even most, have NO physiological "markers" that are reliably diagnostic by means such as blood tests, brain scans, etc.

4. The extent to which psychiatric disorders may impair an individual's ability to function can range from imperceptible (except to the individual suffering from the illness) to profound, and the nature of the impairments varies across an enormously broad spectrum that includes perceptual, sensory, cognitive, and behavioral elements.

And that, frankly, is pretty much all we KNOW about psychiatric disorders in the aggregate.

What is truly shocking, given the incidence of psychiatric disorders in the U.S. adult population and the levels of suffering they cause, including the mortality risks to those with the disorders and those around them, is how little we know about most specific disorders.

Most of the research being done in connection with psychiatric diorders is focused on finding pharmaceutical substances and other treatments that will alleviate, control, or eliminate particular symptoms. In comparison, the amount of research being done on the causes of various disorders, their specific physiological/neurological processes, methods to reliably diagnose them, understanding how various disorders interact with each other, etc. is grossly underfunded.

In the mean time, people with disorders suffer the stigma related to "mental illness" and have oceans of inaccurate and degrading propaganda to cope with, in addition to their own suffering. Which is mostly done alone.

Why Professor Ruckman chose to commit a heinous crime before he ended his own life, we may never know. The question of how to treat the crimes committed by people with psychiatric disorders is a thorny one, to say the least (see "Mental Illness, Evil, and Blame").

However, it's clear that Professor Ruckman had better access to a gun than to treatment and support for psychiatric disorders. Or at least he felt there was less downside, perhaps less stigma? to using the gun to end three lives, than there would be to examining the source of his own pain and getting treatment for it.

May I humbly suggest that until such time as we can actually destigmatize 'mental illness' in this culture, spend the resources needed to adequately understand psychiatric disorders, diagnose them reliably, and provide treatment and support for those who suffer from them, we make GUNS JUST A LITTLE LESS AVAILABLE?

The tragedy of this story is quantitatively smaller than the seventeen youngsters killed at Parkland, but qualitatively it is no less agonizing.

And it's going to keep happening. Until we do something about the guns. Or the mental health infrastructure, or (preferably) both.


First Use Them, Then Destroy Them: GOP's Third Party Strategy

And every voter of every Party needs to be aware that the candidate identification mechanism in many states is porous as all get out, rendering third party identifications "up for grabs" to unscrupulous candidates:

Green Party candidate was on state GOP payroll

A man who registered as a Green Party candidate for Montana's U.S. Senate race was on the state Republican Party's payroll and heads a newly formed anti-tax group, according to a review of election documents.

Timothy Adams filed as a challenger Monday against Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, who faces a tough re-election campaign, in a race where a Green Party candidate could siphon votes from the Democrat.

The Green Party qualified as a political party in Montana on Monday, which was also the state's deadline for candidates to file for office. Green Party officials blasted an email that morning to solicit candidates who could register by the day's end.

Adams was one of six people to file as a Green Party candidate for the races on the ballot this fall. A total of seven people are looking to unseat Tester, including four Republicans vying for their party's nomination.

In all too many cases, a third-party vote is worse than not voting.

While there is, and should be, a place for viable third parties to operate within the system (especially for local and state jurisdictions), and possibly even rise to the level of major party, the candidate certification systems in many states don't keep this kind of game-playing from happening.

Until they do, third parties do more harm than good.


How Wild Man Wally Helped Me Figure Out the Mueller Investigation

Don't bother to Google it: "Wild Man Wally" is an alias, one of those name-changed-to-protect-something designations.

More or less three decades ago, before we even met, my Beloved Esposo (BE) got a job working for Wild Man Wally.

The summary the BE most often uses to explain Wally is "Reader's Digest used to have a recurring feature about 'The Most Unforgettable Character I Ever Met' or something like that. Wild Man Wally outdid them all."

He was working for Wally when we got married and for a coupla years after, and I spent a fair amount of time in Wally's company. So that description stands up to my fact-checking compulsion: TRUE

Wally shoulda been a Texan, in some ways. He had that you-bought-lunch-so-I'll-buy-the-cadillacs expansiveness when he was in a good mood with his posse.

Good things about Wally first: He cared deeply about helping the suffering alcoholic. He'd been that road himself. Like everything else about him, his drinkin' days mistakes had been vast and in Technicolor, and they'd done him and everyone around him a lot of damage. And he tried hard to make amends for that.

He was a 12-Stepper, what's called in the XA community a "black belt" who could always be relied upon to respond to that 2 am call from a frantic family member or friend of someone who'd just plowed nose-first through the bottom of the barrel. And his response was usually a two-fer: tough-but-compassionate program wisdom, plus a step-up-and-make-it-happen offer of help with treatment.

Wally'd started out as a real estate developer. It's a field that attracts, encourages, and potentiates grifters of all stripes, and Wally's no exception. He was never deliberately malicious about it but he never saw any reason to let trivia like, you know, ethics, laws... stuff like that... get in the way of making a bundle.

At some point in his recovery he decided to put his two passions (making money from real estate deals, and helping suffering alcoholics) together, and back in the late 1980s, early 1990s, he got into the treatment business himself. Since he didn't know much about actually providing treatment services, he pulled in some experts, which was how the BE entered his orbit.

Wally understood the real estate end of the business, though. He was the one who'd buy up the properties, then lease them to the treatment-providing-business entities, or bid on contracts to 'improve', set-up, and run publicly-owned facilities as treatment programs, etc. He had plenty of enterprises, plenty of financial partners overt and shady, and a keen sense of exactly how to get money out of all kinds of banks.

At one point, he told the BE "I like you, you do great work, but I can't ever really trust you, yanno? You're too damned ethical." He said it like a joke, of course, and at the time he sort of meant it that way, but ultimately, that's why the relationship ended. In the mean time, though, being part of Wally's posse was a real education for us.

And one thing he told the BE has stuck with us through the years, and is now helping me make sense of the whole Mueller investigation. Here's how it came about:

Wally never used his own money for a project if he could avoid it. He was into leverage. He'd always get the banks or investors to pony up the cash for a project, sometimes in surprising, even shocking, amounts. Amounts far beyond what the BE, who knows the operating economics of treatment programs intimately, could ever imagine a project would return or support.

But Wally explained that it was always necessary to go for the BIG loan, rather than the small loan.

"See, it's like this: If you owe a guy ten thousand dollars, he owns your ass. But if you owe him ten MILLION dollars, you own HIS ass."

I've been thinking a LOT about that as snippets of information have come out about the people and things being drawn into the Mueller investigation. And the topics and questions apparently being asked of various witnesses.

And I've been adding that up with Mueller's own history of what, who, and how he's investigated large-scale crime and chicanery in the past, and the results of those investigations.

I believe Mueller knows exactly how people like Wild Man Wally think. Writ a bit larger. "When you owe some guy/oligarch/emir/government/mob boss five million dollars, they own your ass. When you owe them five BILLION dollars, you own theirs."

So. What happened to Wild Man Wally?

Well, about what you'd expect, operating on that principle. Eventually the web collapsed. Most of his grand enterprises are gone, the private planes and fancy cars sold, the word on the street has gotten around that he's untouchable as far as legit and even semi-legit financing goes. He still manages to grift a few projects in a small way. He's avoided jail time so far, as far as we know. But he's playing in a much smaller league where the damage is comparatively minimal. And, as noted above, Wally had his own kind of code- he drew the line at bilking widows and orphans, tried to at least do some good with some of the money he grifted. He was genuinely likable, and had a lot of real friends, even when they had to back off and keep their distance from the toxic stuff.

Mueller's investigating something much, much bigger, almost infinitely more complex, and way, WAY darker than Wild Man Wally and his little network of rehab real estate grifts.

But you scale up that kind of freewheeling griftery and I bet you find the same underlying assumptions. Follow those assumptions where they lead, and eventually that web, too, will collapse.

They're gonna be writing books and teaching college classes about this one well into the 22nd Century, assuming the human species survives that long.


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