Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Crisis of Character, Gary J. Byrne - Book Review

Crisis of Character presents Gary Byrne's take on a variety of situations in the White House including its former residents, the Uniformed Secret Service Division, James J. Rowley Training Center, (JJRTC), Federal Air Marshall Service (FAMS) and FBI Criminal investigations of alleged wrongdoing. His memoirs paint a portrait of comparisons between those individuals who exude character and those who fail in that regard.

At times, rambling, yet unnervingly revealing, the story engenders a deep loathing toward those who miss the mark when it comes to personal and professional integrity. His expose is riveting and eye-opening for anyone who has not lived through the numerous and ongoing scandals which plagued the Clinton administration. Known by some as the Arkansas Mafia, scandals like Filegate, the unauthorized background investigations of 900 Travel Agency Personnel to the strange and suspicious suicide of former White House Aide, Vincent Foster. Combined with a host of nefarious activities, his story inspires the reader to shake their heads at the allegations of corruption, whether real or imagined.

In 1995, Officer Byrne stood guard outside the door to the Oval Office, a Uniformed Officer of the Secret Service Division hired to protect the leader of the free world*, the President of the United States (POTUS). From that vantage point, he claims to have witnessed actions by elected and appointed officials, visitors, interns, staff and other guards which call into question the lack of integrity and values in people who supported that administration. He identifies many well known characters as complicit in corruption and abuse of power including the First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS) whose tirades of foul language, well-executed schemes, webs of deceit and shifts of behavior compare to any Machiavellian actor that Hollywood could possibly create. 

He speaks of those who served whose “careers were made or broken on the whim of her ‘wrath’,” including that of Mrs. Clinton’s personal attaché, a lawyer from Arkansas named Vince Foster whose suicide led to unproven conspiracy theories. Rumor has it that his suicide weapon failed to function when found causing a great deal of speculation. He mentions boxes of files (removed and ) missing from Mr. Foster's office along with a ripped up suicide note, the last line which read, “I was not meant for the job or the spotlight of public life in Washington. Here, ruining people is considered sport.” He labels Hillary Clinton's leadership style as one based on “fear and loathing,” whose “scheming” was ever foremost in her actions.

Mr. Byrne describes a “culture of corruption” by “professional scandal makers” and provides elaborate detail on how an intern named Monica Lewinsky wormed her way into areas of the administration, such as the Oval Office, where she had absolutely no valid business or appropriate security clearance. He doesn’t hold back on terms like “liars”, “demeaning and manipulative” and cautions Americans to wise up to this slice of documented history. He makes the allegation that if Americans are “too dumb to learn from the history of the Clinton machine of the 90s” that we are doomed to repeat it. 

He gives numerous examples where a lack of integrity ran clearly through the White House and its occupants – who, chosen by vote, were elected to lead as well as follow the long-standing oath of office – to protect and defend the Constitution and its principles. He says, what we got instead was a scandal-filled legacy of lies, mistrust (“I did not have sexual relations with that woman…”) and abuse of power.

It’s said that a person’s true character can be ascertained by the manner in which they treat the lowest level of employee (or intern) within their circles, from dignitaries to security guards. The Clinton-esque method of disposable servants ran all the way to the top – affecting even their marital interactions (reference to Bill’s black eye and the shattered vase). It trickled down to their departure when 200,000 dollars of furniture was unlawfully removed upon their leaving office. It prevailed in the constant undercurrent of scandal and lies, cover-up and concealment.

Although Gary Byrne’s story veers off from the focus of the book cover featuring a relatively attractive photo of the Clintons, it demonstrates the sacrifices and compromises that duty places on the Agency’s hired people. His story portrays the bureaucracy’s approach to issues of fairness in employment, training, compensation and duty expectations.

Mr. Byrne reminds us of our short-lived memories of terrorism and despite our chants of “We will never forget” the fact is, we have. For many millennials in particular, who were too young to remember the implications of “semen stains on a blue dress” and for those too naïve to understand the protocol of entering the Oval Office – and the breach of security that enabled such behavior to take place, it will serve as an eye-opening reminder that our chosen leaders must be beyond reproach – unimpeachable in their character and must exhibit behavior that is exemplary.

The book begs the question; Will our short memory spans lead us into another reign of leadership by people who are morally without character or integrity? Whether his story is truth or fiction, the story imparts a thought-provoking introspection of those in whom our futures reside.

The "Leader of the Free World" is a colloquialism, first used during the Cold War, to describe either the United States or, more commonly, the President of the United States of America.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Overcoming Opioid Dependency is Tough

Physical dependence happens when the body adapts to a particular drug and gets used to receiving regular doses of that medication 

Opioids are a class of painkillers with high addictive potential, typically used for the short term for treating severe pain following surgery generally prescribed for durations of less than seven days. 1
Unfortunately, injured workers who suffer with chronic pain often have little recourse other than taking pain killers long-term. "When the medication is abruptly stopped or the dosage is reduced too quickly, the person will experience withdrawal symptoms."2

One patient, who was injured on the job nearly fourteen years ago, waited two years to get approval for spinal fusion surgery, while his pain continued to get worse. Most of his daily activities, walking, bending, carrying things, even sleeping became impossible without agonizing consequences. 
During this time, the Pain Management Specialists continually added stronger prescription narcotics while the injured party fought a battle with Worker's Comp to be approved for surgery.

After surgery, the hardest part of the journey began with the challenge of getting off extremely high doses of prescription drugs. This is the true story of how, "J" overcame his dependence on opioid type narcotics.
Although the patient tried to reduce his prescribed medications under the guidance of his Pain Management Specialist, it was nearly impossible due to the side effects of withdrawal. 
The most difficult medication to stop taking was the 75 MG Fentanyl patch which provided direct cutaneous absorption of the strong drug (directly into the skin). Stepping down to 50 MG patches every other day led to insomnia, extreme agitation and psychotic episodes of paranoia including the shakes. The next level of reduction to 25 MG proved too much to bear. J worked through the problem by cutting the remaining 75 MG patches in half to receive a dose of 37.5 MG to ramp down the medication with less duress.

Once he was able to step back to 25 MG of Fentanyl, he began cutting those patches in half.The process had its drawbacks and didn't happen overnight.

Only when J felt confident taking the next step, was he able to cut back further, eventually, quartering the patches and adhering the patch to his skin with paper tape.
Once off the Fentanyl patch, he started the rigorous attempt at reducing the daily doses of Oxycodone Acetaminophen 10-325 tablets. By this time, the drug had reversed its relaxation effect and had transformed into a powerful stimulant causing insomnia. Attempts to further reduce the number of daily tablets left him agitated, suffering involuntary leg twitching, sleeplessness and ongoing depression. At this point, it became clear that he would need help to get off the remaining narcotics.
An important note is that no method will work for everyone. A structured plan, discussed in detail with a Doctor is the only remedy suggested. Never, ever try to go off these medications without consulting a medical specialist or serious consequences are likely to occur.

The final piece of the puzzle came from a reputable rehabilitation program in Dallas named PRIDE, an acronym for Productive Rehabilitation Institute of Dallas for Ergonomics. After years of taking exceedingly strong doses of Class Two narcotics, J broke through and no longer needs the drugs his body once strongly craved. For this, he thanks the dedicated team at the institute who provided encouragement, guidance, physical and nutritional training and counselling during his rehabilitation.
“PRIDE’s novel approach to chronic pain, known as Functional Restoration is a medically directed, interdisciplinary treatment that emphasizes measurement, mobilization, and re-activation supported by education, counseling and stress management.”3
The program consisted of one hundred and sixty hours of guided exercise, treatment and counselling designed to “provide measurable improvement in function, medication management or in helping patients return to productivity.

The most amazing thing was the speed at which he was able to quit all the drugs completely. This followed a one-week dose of an effective medication (also opioid based) called buprenorphine.
Buprenorphine (Subutex) treats withdrawal from opiates, and it can shorten the length of detox. It may also be used for long-term maintenance, like methadone. Buprenorphine may be combined with Naloxone (Bunavail, Suboxone, Zubsolv), which helps prevent dependence and misuse.
Workers' Comp fought hard to deny this program. Approval was gained only by the persistence of PRIDE's knowledgeable medical staff whose experience in these cases proved to be the key factor.

Completing the PRIDE experience, provided a deep sense of relief for this long-time, chronic pain sufferer who feels it was well worth the incredible effort needed to endure the program.
The impetus that pressed J forward through the most difficult times was the hope of returning to a life where his long-neglected hobbies could be resumed. He pushed through those times when he would rather have slept in after a night of insomnia and episodes of extreme anxiety.
"PRIDE (Productive Rehabilitation Institute of Dallas for Ergonomics) was established in 1983 as an alternative to chronic pain management programs with a mission to empower and assist patients to return to work, improve their quality of life, decrease dependence on medication and health providers and avoid recurrent injuries by increasing physical capacity to the highest level possible through functional restoration." 4
Please remember to consult your doctor when undertaking any sort of changes to your medication especially those which may have addictive properties.
Only your physician can assess your health and wellness and prescribe the best plan for reducing an Opioid dependence.

  1. Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School, Article, Avoiding Addiction, Nov 13, 2013 
  2. Drugs dot com, Fentanyl Side Effects
  3. Health Central, Remedy Health Media, Christina Lasich, MD, Health Pro. Sept. 24, 2012, 
  4. PRIDE, 5701 Maple Ave. Dallas, Texas 75235 http://www.pridedallas.com/

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Robbery in Progress

Bait Sandwiches, our Specialty
Shopping at a convenience store can sometimes bring drama. This is a true story told to me by the person involved written from his point of view. © Peg Cole.
"The management of the disk duplication company where I worked was doing their best to make me quit," he paused for a moment of reflection as he told the story. 

"All the signs were crystal clear with their cruel tactics of isolation and denigration, but their latest effort was the one that nearly got me killed." He scratched his head and continued.
"Things at work seemed like an ongoing battle between the old school faction and the young entrepreneurs who owned the business. They wanted us to believe that they knew it all. You couldn't tell them anything. That was just they way it was where I worked. That's just the way it is...

"Of course, these guys probably never tested a component to the board level in their lives. It all came to a head that day I repaired their outdated duplication equipment which served to add fuel to the growing animosity. The owners had apparently told everyone the machine was beyond repair, which naturally, put them in a bad light when I got it running better than before. 
Rather than being pleased with my innovative solution that cost them pennies, my repair didn't set well with either partner.
Old SEAC Computer, Wikimedia Images, Public Domain
Sure, I was probably as arrogant as either of these dudes that seemed dead set on running the company into the ground. They were quick to mock those of us with a few years of experience under our belt, calling us geezers and the like. The way I saw it, they couldn't diagnose their way out of a paper bag.
Their vendetta began almost immediately after my repair job and escalated from there.
To begin with, they removed me from all tasks having to do with technical or computer related equipment. Instead, they put me on a special project assembling wood cabinets in the blistering hot warehouse. The task was easy but I certainly wasn't putting my years of computer experience to use.
That wasn't important. I'd taken this entry level job out of desperation following a layoff at the computer company where I'd been working for twelve years. I had started working there right out of tech school, after graduating at the top of my class. I never had to look for a job - they had recruited me. 

Still, I was grateful that this new job provided enough money to pay the basic household bills, although my confidence and my ego suffered a bit during the transition.

Vintage Disk Duplication Equipment
Isolating me from the other workers by putting me in the warehouse apparently wasn't enough to suit them. When that wasn't enough to make me quit, they decided to up the ante and have me report in to work at four in the morning. The normal first shift clocked in at seven am.
I was headed to the warehouse to work my new schedule when I stopped by a Seven-Eleven to pick up some coffee and a snack. The store was quiet, empty at that time of the morning. It was still dark outside, so that came as no surprise. I helped myself to a large regular coffee in a Styrofoam cup and went up to the register to pay, but there was no cashier around. While I was looking at my watch and growing impatient, I heard a noise coming from behind the counter. Someone was moaning.
"Help me," the nearly inaudible voice whispered.
Now, that is definitely a sound that will get the heart pumping and the blood flowing. Then, I noticed the telephone was off the hook, its cord dangling to the floor. My eyes followed the twisted wire downward where I saw the receiver lying next to a body. He'd been shot.
Frantically, I looked around the store seeking who knows what - a doctor, an ambulance, better yet, some indication that I was still sleeping quietly in my nice warm bed at home. Instead, my eyes rested on an array of automatic weapons pointed in my direction.
The entire parking lot was jammed with patrol cars, their flashing lights sending eerie rays of red and blue strobes into the darkness of the early morning sky. Officers held their positions behind the cover of their vehicles. They had arrived on the scene silently with sirens turned off.
"Put your hands on top of your head and don't move!" the officer closest to the door shouted.
I managed to raise my hands above my head when the lead officer told me to sit down. There were cases of canned Coke stacked behind where I stood. Legs trembling, I took a seat on the display. In one hand, I still held the steaming cup of coffee whose purchase had taken me on this detour. Hot liquid dribbled down my arm from my shaking hand. Beads of perspiration covered my face. I felt like I might faint.
"It took little time for the officers to secure the building and confirm that the robbery suspect was not on the premises. They wrote down my personal information, asked me a few questions and told me I could leave. I was shaking so badly all I could do was sit in the car for a few minutes, saying a prayer of thanks to God.
"When I finally calmed down enough to drive, I headed to my workplace, arriving about the same time as one of the partners who was there to see if I showed up on time. He entered the building and stomped across the wooden floor with his muddy boots.
"You're late," he yelled, inches from my face.
"Yes, boss, I sure am." Before I had a chance to explain the reason for my delayed arrival, he screamed.
"You're fired!"
" 'Thank you,' I said, and I genuinely meant that. It was all I could do to leave the warehouse without hugging him. My mantra of Thank you, Jesus carried me all the way home where I counted my blessings and smiled at the brand new day ahead."
1 Old Computer equipment that used punch cards, By Tshrinivasan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By National Institute of Standards and Technology (National Institute of Standards and Technology) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons