Sunday, May 02, 2021

May Day is celebrated by DSA, here in Wichita

  By Steve Otto

Each year I like to commemorate the events that take place in my life and just yesterday members of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) had a barbeque and get together to honor the First of May, International Workers Day (for more information on May 1 and its significance, see The Brief Origins of May Day—From IWW), here in Wichita Kansas.

The event was held at Chisholm Creek Park. While most May Day celebrations include parades or protests, it is perfectly acceptable to have some kind of memorial event to celebrate this important day. There was plenty of political discussions about the future of socialism in the US.

Here are some photos:

Sunday, April 11, 2021

The wake—Closure for Cam's family and friends

 By Steve Otto

I had a wake for Cam last night. We had delayed having it due to the Covid crises and bad weather. Mostly members of her family came, including her brothers, and one of mine, and some good friends. It was a casual affair in Linda Stoners back yard. Some of us went to Kirby's later in the evening.  We had some ham sandwiches and we had some crackers, cheese and snacks. It was a potluck and bring your own drinks. Some folks brought whisky and beer and the rest of us (yes—I'm including, me. I'm cutting down and drinking, just about quitting).[1] The rest of us drank soft drinks, tea or, as in the case of me and probably only me, fake (non-alcoholic) beer.

On Cam's side, her brothers, Fred, Clint and Brian Gentry drove down from Lawrence to be here. Her sisters presently live in Florida and couldn't come.  On my side of the family, Ethan Otto, her stepson was there. Also my brother Phil Otto and his wife Sheryl, and most of their siblings came, including Brandi Lazar, Josh Lazar, Elizabeth Lazar and Jenny Davis and her children Caden, Nolan and Emma.

We also had some friends come, including Linda's husband Michael Stoner, their daughter Shelly Stoner, Roger and Mary Peach and John Mesh.

I've probably left some one's name out, but this is just a light article, nothing more.

It was an informal affair, but it brought closure to me and the guests and I feel like Cam has now had an official funeral. Since the two of us were not religious, the event went well with our theme of atheism or agnosticism. I posted some of my favorite death quotes, meant to be up-lifting and passed them around. After reading them over, after the event, I noticed I may have missed the mark on being up-lifting. Some of them were kind of un-impressive and a bit negative. But no one complained, even though there were some religious folks there.

Here are some photos:


Here are the quotes (minus the Mao Zedong quote because I used it before in an earlier article):


"No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun - for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax - This won't hurt." - Hunter S. Thompson,  -Hunter S. Thompson's last words[2]


Since men must dread eternal pains in death.
For what the soul may be they do not know,
Whether 'tis born, or enter in at birth,
And whether, snatched by death, it die with us,
Or visit the shadows and the vasty caves
Of Orcus, or by some divine decree
Enter the brute herds, as our Ennius sang,
Who first from lovely Helicon brought down
A laurel wreath of bright perennial leaves,
Renowned forever among the Italian clans. -Titus Lucretius Carus


"Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is opinion." -Democritus (Δημόκριτος)

"Hot pitch, executioners, torture, and all those ghastly diversions the judges impose on felons scare us and let us imagine an eternity of whips, firebrands, and scourges, the effect of which is to make life on this earth a hell for those fools who cannot distinguish dreams from the truth.” - Lucretius 


[1] And yes, although I've written about my criticism of the 12 step programs, such as AA, I am trying to quit drinking. And yes I'm trying to be "California Sober."


Saturday, April 03, 2021

The debate over choosing how we treat our own bodies continues with "People Are Going ‘California Sober"

 By Steve Otto

Once again I am writing about those who reject the one size fits all approach of the 12 step programs and other outfits that simply refuse to recognize the short comings of some programs for those who want to stop drinking. 

One major problem I have with the 12 step programs is that we are not supposed to use "any mind altering drugs." To do that would be to temp the patient with what they call "triggers," that is, various things that tempt a person back into alcohol. Below is an article that discusses what people are calling " “California Sober,” that is people who are giving up booze, but not all drugs. The patients are supposed to stay away from everything that might get them high, including marijuana and psychedelics, such as magic mushrooms. To use these may give a person the call back to using alcohol. That may be the case with some people. But for those of us who are rejecting that rigid doctrine, we want to decide for ourselves what other drugs/chemicals we want to use in place of alcohol. And yes, some of us want to use other drugs/ herbs rather than the heavily destructive alcohol.

As stated by Demi Lovato, in her newly released documentary called “Dancing With The Devil,” : 


"I think the term that I best identify with is 'California sober'. I really don't feel comfortable explaining the parameters of my recovery to people, cause I don't want them to look at my parameters of safety and think that's what works for them because it might not."

For some of us, there are drugs that are far more safe than the use of alcohol. Few drugs cause the problems of alcohol. I have had liver problems and have been told that alcohol is terrible for my health, especially since I used to have hepatitis C. So there are concoctions I have developed, some are legal, such as kratom and others are not legal. And while Kratom is legal, the moral crusaders (here from the Mayo Clinic) are as adamant against this herb as those who run 12 step programs:  


" Kratom: Unsafe and ineffective

Users swear by kratom for mood enhancement and fatigue reduction, but safety issues and questions about its effectiveness abound.

Side effects and safety concerns

Although people who take kratom believe in its value, researchers who have studied kratom think its side effects and safety problems more than offset any potential benefits. Poison control centers in the United States received about 1,800 reports involving use of kratom from 2011 through 2017, including reports of death. About half of these exposures resulted in serious negative outcomes such as seizures and high blood pressure. Five of the seven infants who were reported to have been exposed to kratom went through withdrawal."


It  would be very surprising if the Mayo Clinic or any other "official health site" would endorse this product. And I am not surprised at all that health sites try to discourage Kratom's use:


" If you read health news or visit vitamin stores, you may have heard about kratom, a supplement that is sold as an energy booster, mood enhancer, pain reliever and antidote for opioid withdrawal. However, the truth about kratom is more complicated, and the safety problems related to its use are concerning."


We live in a country were those who advise us on health simply can't stand the idea that people can use mind altering chemicals without serious problems. As with the 12 step programs, the goal is sobriety and supporting life-style changes that push people into life long sobriety. The problem is that it is not what everyone else wants. I do occasionally use drugs that are supposed to be terrible and problematic no matter how they are used. My brother and I often discuss the fact that we are both elderly. I'm 66 years old and he is seven years younger than I. We both feel that our lives are our own and the practices we have regarding herbs, legal and non, are our affair and no one else's. If something works for me, it is really no one else's business.

As my younger brother said about using marijuana, "I refuse to cower and grovel over my use of pot, if I'm caught and prosecuted. I am an older man and I deserve some dignity." I totally agree with him.

We should not have to hide like little children because we have decided to use herbs that our government simply doesn't approve of. It is time that older people as myself are given the right to decide how we will live our lives.

Those who feel they are helped by 12 step programs are perfectly free to use those programs. If they work, fine. But don't force the rest of us to use those if they don't work for us.    

Again, according to Lovato's article: 


"According to Urban Dictionarywhen someone is “California Sober” the only drugs they use are marijuana and sometimes psychedelics. It’s becoming a growing trend for folks who want to drink less but still want to use other substances that may not give them the negative side effects of boozeCBDmedical, and recreational marijuana use is on the rise as more states pass laws that legalize its use. Folks tend to appreciate the benefits without the hangover effects of harder drugs and alcohol.

A semi-sober person from Colorado told Real Simple, “When I drink, even if it’s just a glass of wine or two with dinner, I definitely notice that my quality of sleep goes down. If I skip the booze and take a few hits of my cannabis vape pen instead, I sleep like a baby and wake up feeling refreshed.”


And of course there are those die hard alcoholic/ drug abolitionists who refuse to recognize a persons right to try partial sobriety:


"This is why people argue that you can’t call yourself sober if you are still drinking and drugging. As an alcoholic who has been in recovery for four years, I would agree. Attaching the word sober to anything other than, well, sober feels false.

Patrick Cronin, addiction specialist with Ark Behavioral Healthsays that this lifestyle could be detrimental to Lovato’s and anyone’s sobriety if they are in recovery. Cronin told Distractify that when addicts choose to be California Sober, “they are absolutely risking relapsing on their drug of choice.” I understand this and see the risk, but I don’t completely agree with this statement for every person."


Over all, we need more articles like this one. This is a debate whose time has come and we have needed it for a long time. It is overdue. So let's hope this is not the last article on our right to "choose" partial sobriety or selective sobriety over the rigid 12 step programs ban on ALL versions of drug use. Some of us are using various drugs for self medication. For example, kratom or other herbs can be used to prevent deep physical depression. I'm talking about the kind of depression that is entirely caused by chemicals in the person's body. It is not the kind of depression that can be talked out of. A person can no more be talked out of physical depression than a person with cancer can be "talked out of it." So we may chose to use substances that seem to work and that has value for us in itself. I have tried a lot of the chemicals that are prescribed for depression from psychiatrists and they simply don't work. So let me use something I know WILL work. 

John Otto contributed to this.

People Are Going ‘California Sober’

By Amber Leventry

Demi Lovato recently discussed her sexuality (she’s “really queer” y’all and so am I so we are pretty much besties now) and plenty of other truths in her newly released documentary called “Dancing With The Devil,” which was released on YouTube on March 23rd. And because she’s amazing and famous, folks are now offering their opinions on what she shared and how she lives her life. Lovato has been open about her addictions, overdoses, and efforts to get and stay sober; she’s been an inspiration to many people. But when she recently described herself as “California Sober,” folks weren’t comfortable with the term or her use of it for her recovery plan.

For the rest   click here.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

A look back at my brother Paul Otto, a quadriplegic and a self taught musician


The following article was written by my late father, John R. Otto. I am posting here as an article, because I believe it is a very well written and informative article. Some of his articles may end up here, others may not. My brother John Otto and I have decided to make records of my father's memoirs and other documents that can aid our family members to help them learn the history of the Otto and King family. The following is from my father, John R Otto’s Memoir’s. My father was not a professional writer and I chose not to rewrite very much of this. I chose this article because it includes both stories of my father and my brother Paul Otto. Both are now deceased:

-Steve Otto


By John R Otto


September 20, 1978-

We had just gone to bed. The phone rang at about 11:20 PM. We had been to a Marriage Encounter meeting and volunteered to be the “back-up” couple, to fill in the head couple’s absence. Paul had been in a serious accident and was at Osteopathic hospital, (now called Riverside). He had crashed into a concrete light standard on Kellogg at the bypass. He was driving our car instead of his own, for some reason I don’t recall. Joan feared he was dead, like her brother, Mick.[1] When we got there he was in a coma and not breathing on his own. After a long night’s vigil, he awoke, still not breathing, and paralyzed from the neck down.

When the doctors started using words like “quadriplegic” we were filled with fear, dread and denial. The caretakers at the hospital were loving and caring, but woefully ignorant of treatment for spinal injury. Such care was often wrought with fear and superstition. At that time, when doctors were offering hope and promise to patients with incurable cancer and such, they defined spinal injury as hopeless and incurable, and went out of their way to avoid “false hope”. The caretakers allowed the spinal cord injury to swell, causing further damage. After two or three days he was found to have some mild reflex motions in his legs, but nothing was done to enhance them and they disappeared. Also, they kept him immobilized, allowing decubitus ulcers, (bed sores), to form. His injury was diagnosed as at C2/C3. (Between the second and third cervical vertebrae). The doctors agreed that there was no visible evidence that the vertebrae had been damaged. They theorized that they were displaced, then returned to their original positions.

 After about four weeks we had him transferred to Wesley hospital’s spinal-cranial unit. They were more knowledgeable and more proactive in their treatment. The first order of business was to get his strength up, treat the “decube”, loosen his joints and muscles with range of motion and build up his body. (He was six feet tall and probably weighed less than 100 pounds.) During his ten months of confinement, I don’t believe there was a day that he didn’t have at least one of us to visit him. He would get grumpy and his mother would scold him and remind him that his caretakers did not cause his predicament. People would say, “ how can you scold him?” She would say, in effect, because I love him and he is the same person now that he always was.

When he arrived at Wesley he had several decubes including one on the end of his spine, which formed a crater about the size of a hockey puck, which was not responding to treatment. They were considering surgery, unsure of how it would turn out. That Sunday, Joan asked the priest to have the congregation pray for this special intention. The next day, when we got to the hospital they announced that the sore was beginning to heal.

Paul was on a respirator, connected to a trach, ( having had a tracheotomy),  thru a flexible tube. It was removed to “suction” him. (insert a catheter down his throat to remove mucous.) When the tube was removed for this purpose, an alarm went off. One morning we got a phone call to hurry to the hospital. Paul’s tube had popped off and no one answered the alarm. When it was finally replaced, he remained unconscious for several hours and we didn’t know if he had had brain damage, organ damage or what. Apparently there was no damage at all, but I think they expected a lawsuit and they apologized profusely. Joan often said she prayed that there would be no brain damage, and when there wasn’t any, she regretted not asking God for more.

The next half year dragged on, routine, but never boring. One of the “omnipotent” neurosurgeons inserted a phrenic nerve stimulator in his chest, intended to activate the nerves which make him breathe, but I’m not sure anyone there knew how to check it out. Doctor Snyder said he knew how to install it, but didn’t know how it works. We found out a lot about doctors during this ordeal. Some think they are God-like and some think they are God Himself. The experts said Paul would be in denial, and then depressed and suicidal. When we told him this he said it never occurred to him to try suicide, and besides, there was no way he could do himself in, in his condition.

As Paul got stronger, different things were tried. He had been fed through a stomach tube. The glop they gave him was blue. I don’t know if it was intended, but when you saw something blue leaking from his trach, you knew from whence it came. When they proposed to feed him by mouth, they warned him that terrible things could happen if it went down wrong. They didn’t know his mother had been giving him food and drink for several days. Later, when I went to St Paul, MN, to investigate the Spinal Chord Society, I met a young man who, after years of treatment, with a disability less than Paul’s, was still being fed thru a stomach tube.

As Paul progressed, he got a wheel chair with backrest and a portable respirator and battery, and got to go about the hospital and go outside for short periods. It appeared that Paul might not spend the rest of his life in the hospital. But where and how would he be cared for? In shock and disbelief, I found the answer was “at home”. While I was still in shock, Joan was making plans. He was brought home for a couple of “training” visits. Faster than I thought possible, the house was made accessible. The walk-in closet to his bedroom became a bathroom/shower, the lavatory became a hallway and the main hallway lost a wall. The stairway to the front porch became a ramp, a new sidewalk was poured, a used van was purchased, a wooden ramp built for it and equipment, (a portable hydraulic lift, a full size respirator and a modified raised water bed, etc.) was purchased with the help of the J I Case insurance plan. I surprised myself by doing much of this work myself, with the help of my sons. We were told at the hospital that people in his condition usually lived for about two years and spent much of that time in the hospital.

So Paul came home to almost 13 years of “intensive” care. I “ranged” him twice a day, Joan and the nurses a couple more times. Joan was in charge of home care and “nursing” the nurses. Every Tuesday, Joan and the nurse would hoist him in his net-like sling, wheel him to the shower, put his portable respirator behind the shower curtain, and Joan would give him a shower. In the hospital, at first, Joan would not even watch while he was being suctioned. When he was home, she not only suctioned him, but changed his trach as well. They sometimes leaked, and needed to be changed periodically to prevent infection. At first, as instructed, we took him to the emergency room at Wesley to have them replaced. About the second time we did this, we found the doctor carefully reading the instructions before starting, at which time Paul decided “we can do this”. Some of the nurses nearly fainted when Joan first announced, “Now we will change his trach”.

We had nursing help for about eight hours a day. Detailed, comprehensive schedules& procedures were setup by Joan and updated as required. We had a parade of nurses, working part time. It took at least two and preferably three to fill our needs. We learned from them and they learned from us. There was Ann, a Quaker who grew up as the daughter of a missionary in Africa. She knew some unconventional methods. Susan introduced us to Carrington lotion, (now called Carrasyn), which cured decubes about five times as fast as the beaded stuff they used at the Wesley. She went back to school to become a doctor. We think Paul sort of inspired her. Stephanie was a young “airhead” who formed a sort of brother-sister relationship with him. A typical comment: “They keep wanting me to make monthly payments on this bill. Don’t they know I’m going to pay it off, in full next month? Suzanne was a pretty redhead and mother who traveled with us when we took Paul to St Louis for a week. She remained friends with us and we still correspond.

Bernice[2] is hard to describe. She was a burly middle- aged woman who came on like a herd of buffalo. She was a very good nurse, But… Her attire was strictly Goodwill Industries. She was a “jack-of- all- trades”, Avon lady, notary public, sales rep. for other items, who charged for baby sitting her own grandchildren. When we had company, she would sit down in the middle of the group and join in the conversation. She had a tendency to “take charge” when Joan was supposed to be the “take charge” person. Dealing with all these personalities took a lot of finesse and discipline, and Joan did an outstanding job of it. Joan was good at giving advice, both medical and personal and, I believe it changed our nurses’ lives for the better.

Then there is Berdina. Berdina is a loving, caring truly good person who was often mistreated by the ones she loved the most. She was intimidated by Joan at first, but learned to deal with her and the rest of the world. She went on to become a dear friend to both of us as well as our head nurse. When Paul died, she was traumatized and ill for months. She still is one of our closest friends.

Paul’s plight was published in the newspaper also. Bob Getz, a feature writer for The Wichita Eagle did a story on our situation, and a fund was set up for contributions. We got several thousand dollars, which was spent quickly, and several touching letters, which we cherished. (It would not be an exaggeration to say his first year’s costs exceeded a million dollars.)


This was another pivotal year. I lost a job and found a job, Joan went to Denver and Phoenix, Paul went to Phoenix and I went to St Paul, MN and Las Vegas, NV.

Along about Easter, I was called into the manager’s office at Case and told; Times are tough, you are laid off, two weeks pay in lieu of notice, pick up your things and be gone. Medical coverage was to continue for the next year. (As a “pre-existing condition” he would not be covered by my new employer.) Fortunately, I was hired by Boeing, by Memorial day.

Meanwhile, we had been looking for a rehab center, which might be able to improve his condition. Joan went to see Craig, in Denver and talked to Good Samaritan, in Phoenix. Craig didn’t really want him because he was on a respirator. Good Sam welcomed him with open arms. The first problem was how to get him there. The airlines would not accept him because of the respirator. Surface travel would take too long and be a hardship for Paul. Finally, the insurance company agreed to charter a Cessna citation, at a cost in excess of

$4,000 each way. (This was Case’s insurance and I didn’t even work there anymore.)

So we went to Phoenix, Paul, Joan and I, two pilots and a female “attendant”. Joan was going to stay at the home of sister-in-law Shirley’s[3] sister Dianne and family for a few days for a “transition” period and I was to go back with the plane. The crew, not knowing that I was to return, had planned to stop at Las Vegas on the way back. So, when they asked if I would mind stopping on the way for free dinner and drinks, it seemed to be “an offer I cannot refuse”.  I called home, (from 35000 feet to let them know I would be delayed and, when Joan called to see if I had arrived, Terry[4] gave a slightly garbled version saying I was in Los Angeles, CA.

Doctor Dugan and his staff tried every trick they had to get Paul’s stimulator to work, to no avail. In the process they learned how stubborn he could be. We heard again, “can we sit on him”? We did learn one important thing from all this, which, we believe, greatly improved his health. They stimulated his bladder daily, by tapping in his lower belly, thus draining it completely, eliminating the accumulation of the foreign matter that causes infection. (Urinary infection is probably the most common reason that quads become hospitalized). We brought Paul back in July. The temperature was 108 degrees and getting him off the plane and onto his van was very uncomfortable for him. It took him days to recover from the trip.

I think it was in 1980 when I read about the Spinal Cord Society on the editorial page of the newspaper. It seemed that someone was interested in trying to find a cure instead of telling us how to “cope”. They were having a meeting in St Paul MN, and we decided to look into it. So I flew up and attended. It was interesting and amusing. About the second day I got on the elevator and a man asked a common question, “where are you from?” It turned out that they were from Wichita, too, and, to make a long story longer, they came up on a private Cessna twin belonging to Bob Love, (I think his name was Bob), of Love Box Co. in town, and they invited me to join them on the trip home. On the way, we dropped Mr. Love at Orr MN, (13 miles from Canada), where he was going fishing. After the Las Vegas episode, Joan wasn’t surprised to get a call from me from Orr MN. We are still active in fund raising for SCS.

Regarding SCS, we did stay in contact with them. Brenda Potter, who became quadriplegic when struck by a drunk driver running a red light, formed a local chapter which we joined. It deteriorated into just Brenda’s family and us. We did annual fundraising, usually a “bluegrass” concert with the help of a local country radio station, with limited success. Then, in 1990, we were contacted by Liz Sims, a fellow parishioner, who was trying to raise money for a group home for mentally disabled. With the help of the church, she was organizing a golf tournament and knew of our experiences and proposed that we go together to organize the tournament. So we did. A month or so before the tournament, Liz, who had been doing a lot of physical work at the group home, was hospitalized with a “minor stroke. While there she was diagnosed with cancer, which raced through her body, and she died the night before the tournament. So it became the annual Liz Sims Memorial golf Tournament. We had the 14th annual tournament in 2003. Brenda, who had two children after the accident, (now grown), and her family are close friends.

So we resumed the routine of caring for Paul. The first thing I did in the morning was to turn him, tap his bladder and range him. The last thing I did before going to bed was to range him again. Joan and the nurses did a lot more during the day and night. The quality of their care was attested to by the professionals. Paul had several broken bones which were not cared for when he was fighting for his life. There was a broken arm that Doctor Murphy attended to belatedly. He had a broken jaw, which was not attended to. When doctor Rensner, the Dentist, worked on his teeth, he had him anesthetized, then got on the table and pried his jaw open to work on him. Every time he did that, he uncovered him to show the nurses what good condition his skin was in, and congratulated us for same.

For a while we didn’t get to go to church together. We didn’t have nurses on Sunday so I would go to one mass, rush home, and Joan would go to the next mass. Then we got permission to keep a nurse on Saturday evening, so we could go to the evening mass, then go out to dinner. This became our special time together, a temporary escape from the responsibilities as caretakers. This may have saved our sanity. We still almost always go to mass and dinner on Saturday night and it is still a special time.

Doctor Fields had a lot of respect for Paul, and a lot of frustration dealing with him. He actually made house calls to see Paul. When Paul was on Medicaid, and Fields didn’t accept Medicaid, he finally treated him for free. Paul was always “second guessing” the Doc, and was usually right. Doc would prescribe “medicine A” for congestion and Paul would say, “no, that didn’t work last time, give me “medicine B”. Paul was very cognizant of his care and his respirator. He often told the technician what to do to fix the machine. 

Some of the other doctors didn’t understand Paul. When he had something wrong, his system often responded by exhibiting diaphoresis, profuse sweating that soaked his clothes and the sheets. An internalist, specializing in ulcers and such, tried to convince us that he couldn’t have ulcers as the symptoms were wrong. Joan had to explain to him that Paul’s body was not typical and couldn’t show the proper symptoms. The god-like doctor was embarrassed to find that he did, indeed have ulcers. There were many similar events through the years.

Another case of too much “expertise” follows. One day we brought Paul back from the hospital following treatment for an infection. When I went to range him and put him to bed at 11, I saw that his leg was swollen to about twice normal size. It was apparently Phlebitis, caused by a blood clot. A few minutes later the ambulance arrived and the paramedics seemed to be intimidated by Paul’s (disability) condition. They wanted to call a helicopter, but couldn’t figure where it could land and how they would get him there, (Of course it was winter with snow on the ground and a howling wind.) When we got to the hospital we were warned that the clot could move to his lungs and that could be very dangerous. When he was admitted, he was told what the settings would be on his MA1 respirator, the same model he had at home. He protested, knowing his own machine, but was ignored.

The phone rang at about 2:30AM. Paul was having breathing problems and wanted the MA I set his way, but nobody wanted to disturb “doctor’s orders”. We were furious. They wouldn’t take our word, or Paul’s, to reset the respirator. They finally got permission to set it right and things improved somewhat. Part of the cause of his distress, (surprise, surprise!) was that a clot had indeed migrated to his lungs.

One night to be remembered while we were at home went like this. There was a blizzard outside, with snow, howling winds and a temp of 15 degrees. The lights went out around 1AM and Paul’s respirator quit. We had to hustle to get him on the portable. About an hour later the portable quit with a dead battery. While Joan bagged him with our ambubag, I stumbled out into the cold, dark, garage to remove the battery from his van. Soon all was well, although cold and dark. We were on a priority system with the electric company. Although there were only four houses in the dark, the service men came out and repaired our transformer in the blizzard, finishing at about 4 AM. We thanked them and offered them a hot drink, but they had other calls to make.

Paul’s health and welfare got a giant boost when we bought new carpet along about 1981 or so. With a major purchase, Star Lumber was giving away a Texas Instruments computer. By today’s standards it was a pitiful 128 K capacity, but Paul latched onto it with a vengeance. With his photographic memory, he would read a page of instructions and never have to refer to it again. When he found out he could compose music on it, his world expanded mightily.

Next, Paul got a Yamaha[5] music maker computer and started composing for real. Instructing the nurses, step by step, He composed and copyrighted about 50 tunes. Some of them merged with real instruments and vocals, performed by friends. His tunes are complex, almost symphonic, using multiple “instruments”. He said he couldn’t read music, but he could write it. Once he started composing, his health improved, his attitude improved and he began to “socialize”. The internet had not been “invented” yet, but, by phone and by mail, Paul was making friends and trading information with folks all around the United States, Canada and England. When he died, many people told us they had no idea how “handicapped” he was. On a good day, Paul’s routine included getting his “care”, lunch, wheeled out on the deck for some sun and a couple hours on the computer. Dee Starkey, of Starkey Music, formed a relationship with Paul. When a new “gimmick” came along, Dee would give it to Paul to try and to evaluate to see if it was worthwhile.

I was interviewed by Boeing regarding their “good neighbor” charity campaign. When they learned of his music, they sent a musician to visit him, and the musician wrote words to one of his songs and their choir sang it on several of their recitals.  It was called “Sunshine and Shadows”. They also printed an article with pictures in the company newspaper. He was also interviewed on the TV nightly news. He was a celebrity, of sorts. He was known and treated as someone special whenever he took me shopping for musical “stuff”. (When it came to musical things, he could be a “pill’. He would “audition” a set of speakers in the store, then, if the quality was not right at home, back we would go.)

In 1991, Paul went on his first “out of town” trip. Preparing for it was something like preparing for the Lewis and Clark expedition. Paul had a full size van. Still, with clothes and accessories for four people, Paul’s chair, pillows, pads, portable respirator, battery charger, 12 volt and 110 volt suction machines, catheters and nurse Suzanne, we needed a car top carrier before we left. Then we had to find a motel with an accessible room with a waterbed. We found that at a Motel 8, near the airport with adjoining rooms and an accessible Denny’s restaurant next door, which worked out very well. Suzanne stayed with Paul and probably didn’t get much sleep, while we slept “next door”.

We went to a King family reunion, visited Bill and Shirley (Otto), visited our old neighborhood and took in some of the sights. One of them was the riverfront. There was no way Paul could go up the arch, but he did go for a short excursion on the riverboat “Huck Finn”. There was no easy access, but the crewmen lifted him bodily, respirator and all, onto the forward deck. Paul enjoyed it thoroughly. He did not much enjoy, nor did I, getting in and out of the van, parked “in the tilt” on the levee in the 95 degree heat. Driving home across Kansas was an adventure. There were tornadoes about and a high wind whistling thru the straps that held the car top carrier and we were wondering what we would do if we saw a tornado coming our way. Altogether, the trip was extremely successful.

It opened Paul’s eyes and imagination to the point that he was colleting data and planning more trips. We were preparing for a busy future. Little did we know that this first trip would also be his last. Looking back, we were so very grateful that he was able to enjoy the one trip.

For years we had tried to get Paul interested in a motorized chair, so he could have a little more independence, but he always resisted for reasons we did not quite comprehend. But after his trip he changed his mind and we arranged for one to be delivered to be adapted to his requirements. Ironically, the chair arrived in Wichita the day he died.


For some years we had been concerned about what would happen to him when I had to retire. The coverage would be a supplement to Medicare, and Medicare had no coverage for the type of care he needed. The “experts” from Medicaid and SRS carried on about what wonderful care he was getting, but sadly stated that there was no way to get help from the state.


In January of 1992 we went to an Independent Living Resources conference in Topeka to see if   we could learn if something could be arranged. In fact, we learned that there was help available for “special circumstances” like his and all the local “experts” didn’t know what they were talking about.


We left Paul in the care of head nurse Berdina and a relatively new nurse (whose name is being withheld for legal reasons). She seemed capable, but seemed to lack empathy for Paul and she just didn’t seem to “fit in”. We planned to dismiss her after the trip. What we did not know was she was having marital troubles, was taking pain medication which made her drowsy and that a previous patient, a young boy, had died while under her care.


On the morning of the second day of the conference one of us, I forgot whom, forgot a notebook and I went back to our room to pick it up. While there I saw the message light, on the phone, blinking. The message was to call home. Berdina answered, hysterical, and told me Paul was dead. I don’t know what was more painful, finding out, or having to tell Joan. I must have looked ghostly, because she knew immediately that something was terribly wrong.  We decided to drive home, instead of flying and leaving the car. We found a doctor who gave her a sedative and the long drive home gave us a chance to contemplate the reality of what had happened.


The new nurses’s story was: The alarm went off at 5:30 AM and she suctioned him, and asked if he was all right and he did not answer. She went back to bed and slept till 7:30 and went in to check him and he was dead. She called Berdina, instead of 911. Berdina rushed to the house and called the authorities and us. (In our absence, Steve took charge of the comings and goings.) 

We believe: The alarm went off at 5:30, (it was very loud).She slept thru it, woke up later to find him dead, panicked, and called Berdina, and made up a story.

We played Paul’s music at his funeral. It was attended by many whose life he had enriched. The newspaper wrote a nice obituary. (Attached).

Paul liked all kinds of music, from heavy metal to classical. (The exception is “rap”, or whatever they call it now, which we don’t consider to be music.) when his mother asked, “doesn’t it give you pleasure to have other people enjoy your music?” He replied something like “I play my music for my enjoyment”.

You will note that going “ through the years” not much is being said about the eighties. While Paul kept us abreast of music during this time, we were so busy with Paul we missed out on history, politics and entertainment of the times. The eighties were a blank spot in our memories. On the other hand, taking care of Paul gave us a sense of purpose and accomplishment that more than made up for whatever we missed. To paraphrase the quote a parent of twin adult sons with Muscular dystrophy, “Taking care of him wasn’t a task or a responsibility, it was a privilege”. As the song says, he was the wind beneath our wings.


[1] Mick King, my mother's brother who died before I was born, in a car accident.

[2] My parents` only used the first names of these nurses. I’m not sure if they had ever discussed the posting of these women’s full names. For now I have only used their first names until I can talk to them.

[3] Shirley was the wife of my Uncle Bill Otto.

[4] Shirley’s son.

[5] I wrote an article on Paul and his music, Steve Otto, "Paul Otto," Paraplegia News, July 1989, volume 43, Number 7, p.30-31.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Major battles in philosophy—whether they are ancient or recent, I love the study of philosophy

 By Steve Otto

I have studied philosophy most of my adult life and I started back in high school. Whether reading Mao TseTung's Five Essays on Philosophy[1] or a Yellow Dog[2] comic book, I could always learned something from writings on philosophy. I've read some ancients such as Titus Lucretius Carus and modern contemporaries such as Jean-Paul Sartre. Of course I like reading the Marxist classics, Karl Marx, VI Lenin and Mao.

Over the last few weeks I commented on some really important philosophers of Ancient Greece. And as long as I was writing about them, I figured I might as well write about two major Marxist leaders and philosophers from China (other than Mao), Jiang Qing and Deng Xiaoping. One of these leaders I consider to be very important and a hero of mine, and that is Jiang Qing. The other is someone I consider to be a Marxist traitor, Deng. So here are three works on epic philosophy battles.  


Epic Battles in Practical Ethics: Stoicism against Epicureanism—And yes...I have taken my side

When I started college, at Newman University, in Wichita,  had to take a course on ancient civilization. That might seem interesting but it was the ancient philosophers who had all the interesting ideas. I have to admit that I did not know that much about these ancient philosophers and their relationship to Karl Marx.

Marx had written a dissertation on the difference between the philosophy of Democritus/ Δημόκριτος and Epicurus / Ἐπίκουρος. In an introduction to his dissertation on the difference between The philosophy of Democritus and Epicurus he admits that these two philosophy, have never been given their full respect. He admitted that he had to chose one philosophy over the other because he was writing a dissertation. He said he had to chose one over  the other.

So I had read Marx's views on these ancient philosophers. I had also realized that these philosophers had developed important views on philosophy and life itself. Since that time I have found that many young Marxist find little they need in these ancient philosophies. In fact, not long ago a young Marxist wrote to me and said that modern Marxists have developed philosophy beyond the needs of the earlier philosophers that they no longer have any need for those ancient philosophies. But I'm not convinced of that. The earlier ancient philosophers laid the ground work for what we are trying to decide today.  

Now let 's fast  forward to an article I read recently, "Epic Battles in Practical Ethics: Stoicism vs Epicureanism."

It just so happens that the author's name was not on this article, so he/she/it was not someone I could find. Why it was not signed I don't know. But I haven't found the author yet.

Since reading the ancient texts of Epicurus I have considered that my religion, if there is such a thing. The author of this above article is clearly an enthusiast of stoicism.  According to Wikipedia:


Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium iAthens in the early 3rd century BC. It is a philosophy of personal ethics informed by its system of logic and its views on the natural world. According to its teachings, as social beings, the path to eudaimonia (happiness, or blessedness) is found in accepting the moment as it presents itself, by not allowing oneself to be controlled by the desire for pleasure or by the fear of pain, by using one's mind to understand the world and to do one's part in nature's plan, and by working together and treating others fairly and justly.

The Stoics are especially known for teaching that "virtue is the only good" for human beings, and those external things—such as health, wealth, and pleasure—are not good or bad in themselves (adiaphora), but have value as "material for virtue to act upon." Alongside Aristotelian ethics, the Stoic tradition forms one of the major founding approaches to virtue ethics. The Stoics also held that certain destructive emotions resulted from errors of judgment, and they believed people should aim to maintain a will (called prohairesisthat is "in accordance with nature." Because of this, the Stoics thought the best indication of an individual's philosophy was not what a person said but how a person behaved. To live a good life, one had to understand the rules of the natural order since they thought everything was rooted in nature.


I have rejected the Stoic world view, which I believe is close to the US conservative movement. In many ways people might find me a hedonist. And Epicurus, in my opinion, is simply not a hedonist. Aristippus/Ἀρίστιππος  is a good example of a hedonist. He took part in all kinds of pleasures. I have some hedonistic tendencies. But I have also insisted on trying to make the world a better place. It was Marx who said that “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.”

So perhaps I have a unique view of the philosopher's view of the world. While the author of that article clearly takes the side of the Stoics, I take the other side. So to some extent, the Marxist side does resemble Stoicism. And yet I have taken the Epicurean side. Right or wrong, I have taken a side and I do not regret that.

A few thoughts on Chiang Ching/ 江青- It was right to rebel!


Some people I know consider Chiang Ching/ 江青 to have been mean and a tyrant. She was mean at times. As she went through life a lot of people didn’t take her seriously. To them she was just some women (at times just a girl) who they didn’t have to take seriously. She started out her career as an actress. Some producers and directors did not take her seriously at all. As a communist there were many leaders and activist who dismissed her as someone they didn’t really need to have around. When she came to power, everyone who dismissed her regretted it. As a child she was not always popular with other children or the adults around her. She didn’t really become politically active until years after she married Mao Zedong/毛泽东. When she did become active, she was probably the most important woman to rise into a communist system. The only other examples of such women were Rosa Luxemburg and Louise Michel.

Not many women have risen up in a communist system and Chiang Ching had a very hard time making her way through that of China’s. Like it or not, the communist government, underneath Mao, was much like a ‘good ‘ol boy’ network of men. Despite all the talk of ‘women holding up half the sky’ the reality of the Communist Party of China (CPC) was that it was made up of comrades that were more interested in promoting men than women. Many did not like Chiang Ching. But there were some who did like her and they appreciated her politics and leadership. The highest leaders who supported her became known as the Gang of Four. When Mao was alive, he protected her and no one in the party dared to cross him or his wife. But when he died, the rightist in the party staged a coup and Chiang Ching and her followers were immediately the target of their revenge. There was a power struggle and the military backed Deng Xiaoping/ 邓小 and his right-wing followers. Deng and his followers formed the right-wing of the party and they really didn’t like Mao. They took all of their dislike out on Chiang Ching.

Chiang Ching built a powerful faction within the CPC. She was a major player in the Cultural Revolution. There have been other wives of communist leaders, who wanted to become leaders after their husbands died, such as Elena Ceaușescu, wife of Nicolae Ceaușescu, of Romania. Ceaușescu was a communist, as her husband, but Chiang Ching was probably a more dynamic leader. Chiang Ching was more than just a communist. She was a feminist and a rebel. She supported the poorest of China’s people as well as the country’s university students. Culture was a major interest to her and she was a major impression on culture during the Cultural Revolution. Her politics were different from Mao’s despite her claim that she was mostly subservient to Mao.

“I was Chairman Mao’s dog. What he said to bite, I bit.”
Jiang Qing on her role in the Cultural Revolution


Her show trial was designed to discredit her. Deng and his faction figured that she would cower before them and ask for forgiveness. They expected to make a fool out of her. They were mistaken. She fought back and at times made fools of Deng and his cohorts. They accused her of crimes against various party members and other people. She pointed out that those who put her on trial never made any efforts to stop these crimes while Mao was alive. Chiang Ching exposed them as cowards. She turned the tables on them and they came out looking like fools. Unlike a lot of her cohorts, she never gave into to her accusers. Her famous line “It is right to rebel” became a powerful slogan to those who supported the left-wing of China’s Communist Party. Even some right-wing authors who have written biographies of her admired her for standing up to the communist government.

Chiang Ching has been a big influence on my politics.  

-Some of this information came from Comrade Chiang Ch'ing, by Roxane Witke, 1977.

Some thoughts on Deng Xiaoping—That revisionist sucked!


 Deng Xiaoping邓小平 is probably my least favorite revisionist Marxist leader ever. I have heard all the arguments on how bad Nikita Khrushchev/ Никита Хрущёв was. And for a while I really did not like Leonid Brezhnev/ Леонид Брежнев. For a time I did not like Fidel Castro. But since the fall of the Soviet Union I have changed my mind about Castro and Brezhnev. That’s not to say that I really like Brezhnev now. But I don’t dislike him as much as I used to. And I now like Castro even if he is a revisionist.

I still dislike Deng and I dislike him a lot. A lot of Chinese leaders have come and gone. But none of them had the power that he and Mao Zedong/ /泽东 had. Mao was the Chairman of the Communist Party of China (CPC). He had a post and it was a powerful post.He had built up a personality cult. Deng also built a personality Cult.

Unlike Mao, Deng had a position that was supposed to be ceremonial. He was on a board of  Eight Elders. When Mao died they did away with his post because they did not want such a powerful leader. But Deng set himself up to be just as powerful. He ran China the way Al Capone ran Chicago. He did not have a powerful position as Mao did. But he ran the country anyway. And the comparison of him with that of a gangster is a fair one.

Politicians and pundits here in the US and other Western countries loved Deng. He opened his country to Western economies. Under Deng, China no longer supported revolutionaries in other countries. He introduced a lot of capitalism in China. He came up with the slogan "To get rich is glorious." Naturally leaders and pundits in the West just loved him when he said that. After all, nothing is more important to Western leaders than getting rich. That is what the United States of America and other Western nations are all about. Deng was so pro-Western that he convinced Ronald Reagan that China was no longer a threat to the Western countries and the US could now just focus on Russia and its satellites as the main cold war enemy.

To be fair, Deng was a communist. He presided over the Anit-Rightist Campain launched by Mao. And yet his economic policies caused him to fall out of favor with Mao so he was purged twice during the  Cultural Revolution.[1] However he built up a right-wing faction in China's Communist Party. Mao had designated Hua Guofeng/
华国锋 to take over after he died. However Deng out maneuvered him. Deng was shrewd and clever. However his brand of communism looked way more like Josip Tito's of Yugoslavia than anything Mao tried to do.

Deng's handling of the Tiananmen Spuare protests demonstrated just how brutal he could be. When such protests took place under Mao, the helmsman co-opted the students into a roll for the Cultural Revolution. But Deng chose to crush the students and he did it violently and brutally. He showed no sympathy for the students. Deng declared martial law.[2] He had finally done something that western leaders and pundits could not justify

While the West claimed that Deng had opened the country up, both economically and politically, it was all just smoke and mirrors. Deng did open up the economy for Western corporations and for local business people. But politically it was more repressive than life under Mao. That's right— more repressive, not less!

Under Mao, China had two factions within the party. He balanced them off each other, taking some influence from Taoism and Lao Tzu/
老子, especially from the concept of the yin and yang. He ran an anti-rightist campaign, but never actually closed down the right-wing faction. It was as if China was a two party system. When Deng took over, he completely shut down the left-wing faction that Mao had favored. He started with the Gang of Four and then he slowly purged out all the members of the left faction.

Maoism was then crushed in China. He still kept some pictures and some statues of Mao to give some tribute to the late founder of the People's Republic of China. Mao is still pictured on their money today. But all those pictures are more or less, "George Washington Mao." That is to say he is only a hollow symbol, much like Washington is today.

President Washington was against all political parties. He never joined one, even though he is often listed as being a Federalist, when all the presidents are listed in order. He is the only US president in history who did not belong to a party. He also warned people against foreign entanglements. He didn't believe in the separation of religion and state. These are all the things that US politicians ignore. But they do tell a story of him chopping down a cherry tree belonging to his dad.  When his dad asked he supposedly said "I can't tell a lie. I did it." In reality that story started in a biography written after his death. No one knows where it really came from or if it is true. The point here is that, just as Washington is more of a myth to US culture than fact, Mao today is known mostly as myth. The real Mao is gone, leaving just a hollow image.

Not everyone I consider a revisionist is bad. I consider Castro a revisionist, but I like him and I have a lot of respect for him. Since the fall of the Soviet Empire, leaders look very different to me. Castro seems like a good guy. I have mixed feelings about Brezhnev. 

There have been other leaders in China since Mao and Deng. Mostly they have amounted to clones of Deng. Most of those have reminded me of the US presidents between Ulysses Grant and Theodore " Teddy " Roosevelt. Those presidents, between them, did very little to get noticed by historians. Many people cannot even remember their names. However, Grant was a good drinker and Roosevelt was a terrible imperialist, but a pro-working class leader.

Today China is run by Xi Jinping /
习近平. He is considered to the left of the past leaders and to the left of Deng. He is not considered to the left of, and not even close to as far left as Mao. It may be many years before China has a REAL leftist leader. I have mixed feelings about Xi. Earlier in his reign he created a tribute to Marx. Such a tribute angered many Western pundits who hate Marx and everything he stands for. But I am sure of one thing. He is not as bad as Deng. He may not be a good leader, but Deng really sucked and he sucked real bad. Xi could do a much better job, but he is no Deng and we can be thankful for that.

"A good discourse is more hidden than the precious green stone, and yet it is found with slave-girls over the mill-stones." Instructions of Ptahhotep, "Thou canst learn something from everyone" (from the Middle Kingdom of Egypt) 


[1] Foreign Language Press, Bejing, 1977.

[2] Yellow Dog, Print Mint, Vol II, No. 5, 1970.

[3] I originally posted a link in this article from Wikipedia, "Cultural Revolution."
After looking at that article I realized it was not only biased against the Cultural Revolution, it was wrong. Much of what is written about that event is wrong and misleading. Any article that starts out telling the reader that the Cultural Revolution was: 
"The Cultural Revolution, formally the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, was a violent sociopolitical purge movement in China from 1966 until 1976." is pure bullshit. The link I replaced it with actually explains the Cultural Revolution.

[4] Some of the information for this article came from The Tiananmen Papers, 2002.