What Tori Hope Petersen Wants You To Know About Being ‘Fostered’

What Tori Hope Petersen Wants You To Know About Being ‘Fostered’

The foster care system gets mentioned in discussions by people who have little to no knowledge of its reality. Tori Hope Petersen gives a firsthand account of the system and how it shaped her in her debut memoir, “Fostered.”

Petersen is a wife, a mother to three, and has also been a foster parent. She is also a former foster youth and foster care advocate. Over her years in the system and working with the system, her faith and passion have given her the strength necessary to serve these less-than-fortunate children.

Petersen took the time to talk with The Federalist during a short break from helping her younger sister move in. The sisters spent their early days together in foster care before being separated. This year, they were reunited and Petersen welcomed her sister into her home where they now live together. During a follow-up conversation, Petersen’s son hung out on the side while enjoying a bowl of spaghetti as the two sat in the summer sun. It was apparent her family is her everything.

Petersen talks about her upcoming book, “Fostered,” and how her journey through the foster care system and faith journey have shaped her.

Fostered” will be available for purchase on Aug. 30, 2022 on Amazon or at Barnes and Noble, Walmart, or Target.

Why did you initially decide to write “Fostered”?

I wanted to write the book because I wanted youth in foster care to understand that they weren’t victims, that they were victors, that they could overcome the hardest things that were set up against them through Christ. As I wrote the book, and as I began to write on social media, I realized that I was educating foster parents, child welfare workers, lawyers, people who worked in the child welfare space, and just people who have an interest in foster care. I didn’t intend for the audience to be what it is now. I just really wanted to write a book that was kind of like the book that I needed when I was in care. Now knowing my audience is broader than I anticipated, I now hope that the book encourages people to step into the hard parts of foster care and to love those around them in an unbridled, fearless kind of way. As people read, they will see that’s what was done for me by others.

What is your experience interacting with your audience who’s learning about your story and about the foster care system for the first time through your story?

It’s mostly just from my social media platform. When it comes to social media in general, the people who read and probably take the most from my posts are just the general population and people who have been interested in foster care, but I think have been scared. I get a lot of messages and I mean, it’s just like, so amazing, so many messages of people saying, “We’ve been interested in foster care for a long time. We’ve been scared or we haven’t done it because X, Y, and Z. Because of your post or your story, we’re getting involved.”

One of the themes that you taught and touched on in your book is just the importance of strong mother and father figures and a strong family. Could you talk a little bit more about that?

I don’t even know what to say about it. It seems so obvious that when we have those supports, the kind of unconditional love that parents give at home, that’s what a strong family is. Then, we don’t go searching for it in other places. When we don’t have to go searching for it in other places, it feels like there’s more stability around our self-worth and who we were created to be. And research shows there’s so much that supports this. I just think that a strong faith and family is really the foundation of a person, but that doesn’t mean a person can’t be strong if they don’t have a strong family either. That’s why it’s important that we have strong communities.

In your book, you recount when you met your father’s side of the family and you felt that sense of community even though you hadn’t really known them up until then. That, along with other things that you touched on in the book, was a very emotional and personal moment. What was it like revisiting those memories?

There were moments that it was hard, but honestly, it was so healing. When people say writing memoirs is cathartic, I didn’t really know what that meant. I always used to have this recurring dream that I was locked in someplace—in the post office or my house or jail—and I couldn’t get out and my mom was yelling at me like how she yelled at me when I was a kid. I’ve had that dream since I went into foster care, probably at least once a month. After I finished writing my book, I had that dream where I was locked somewhere and my mom was yelling at me, and I walked out. I’ve never had the recurring dream since, and I feel like that encompasses what this book has done for me. It’s just been healing. I think that’s kind of what counseling does for us. It helps us process things, and I think that’s what the book helped me do in a deeper way than I already had. It helped me process things all over again.

Unfortunately, not everyone can make that same peace with the past, and some people don’t even have the resources to rehabilitate their minds after traumatic experiences. This is especially true for children in the foster care system. What’s one of the biggest changes you would like to see in the foster care system going forward?

Every foster kid has a file, and that file follows them everywhere they go. It usually says the worst things that have ever happened to them and the worst things they’ve ever done. We know that first impressions are so important, right? Like when we go into a job interview and we have a bad first impression, we think, “Oh how do I fix that?” When a kid has a file, they can’t fix that. It’s just the same things that get brought up to the person that they want to form a deep relationship with. They never get a new start. They never truly get a new beginning. I think how we see children is so valuable for how they’re going to see themselves. I think that we need to do something with the file so that children don’t have that following them around in a way that plagues their identity, because healing really begins and ends with identity.

Poor conditions in the foster care system are a big part of the pro-abortion argument. What is your response to that?

My response is that any real social justice advocacy or any real social justice movement, it aims to end the suffering, not the potential suffering.

What do you hope your readers walk away with after reading through “Fostered”?

My greatest hope behind the book is that youth who read it, parents who read it, and people who read it understand the value that each individual has, that there’s a purpose and plan for their life, and that no matter what they’ve been through, God loves them. And knowing that, they love others. People and God loving me is my motivation to love others the best I can. I want that love to just continue. I think it goes back to that piece of identity that no matter where you come from, no matter what’s been done to you, no matter how you were conceived, you have value, you can be loved, you can love. There’s a plan and purpose for your life. I just want people to know who God is and who God has created us to be.


Elise McCue is an intern at The Federalist and student majoring in multimedia journalism and professional and technical writing. She also reports on the Southwest Virginia music scene for The Roanoke Times. You can follow her on twitter @elisemccue or contact her at mccueelise@gmail.com

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Ai Weiwei’s Memoir Tries To Tell Chinese History Honestly

Ai Weiwei’s Memoir Tries To Tell Chinese History Honestly

The Chinese Community Party (CCP) never likes an honest account of history. It has spent tremendous amounts of time and resources revising Chinese history, hiding the atrocities the party committed while casting the party in the most favorable light.

For some Chinese, preserving their memories has become one of the most potent ways to hold the CCP accountable. Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei adds his voice in such an effort by publishing a new memoir, A 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows

In the book’s foreword, Ai Weiwei wrote, “Ideological indoctrination exposed us to an intense, invasive light that made our memories vanish like shows.” Ai felt a sense of urgency to provide his teenage son Ai Lao with a written record of the lives of himself and his father. 

Ai Weiwei grew up in China and is the son of a famous Chinese poet, Ai Qing. The book’s first half is about Ai Qing’s life, especially his sufferings between 1957 to 1976.

Mao Zedong launched the Anti-Rightist Campaign in 1957 to purge intellectuals who criticized the CCP’s policies. As a well-known cultural figure in China, Ai Qing was forced to undergo a spiritual and ideological “reform through labor.”

The Chinese authorities first expelled Ai Qing and his family to the cold wilderness of China’s northeast region. Then they relocated the Ai family to Xinjiang, a far western region where the CCP is committing genocide against Uyghur Muslims and minorities today. 

The Ai family suffered the most during the cultural revolution, and they were sent to the Gurbantunggut Desert, known as “Little Siberia.” Some of the best writing of this book occurs when Ai Weiwei uses almost poetic language to describe the humiliating and inhuman punishment his father had to endure.

Sixty-year-old Ai Qing was ordered to clean 13 communal toilets, “whose facilities consisted mainly of a row of squatting stations above a cesspit.” The work was labor-intensive, especially during the winter months “when the feces would freeze into icy pillars.” But here’s how Ai Qing took it, “Before he began to apply himself to each latrine, Father would always light a cigarette and size up the work, as though admiring a Rodin sculpture.” Yet Ai Qing’s health, including his eyesight, quickly deteriorated due to overwork and poor nutrition.

As difficult as Ai Qing’s sufferings were, many of his contemporaries endured far worse and some never made it out alive. Ai Qing survived the Cultural Revolution, and he and his family returned to Beijing. Later the government restored his pay and status. Many people in Ai Qing’s generation, including Ai Qing himself, chose not to talk about their experiences because they didn’t want to risk provoking the Chinese authorities and bringing more harm to their families. 

Disgust as Inspiration

The CCP has also worked overtime to revise its country’s history between 1949 to 1979. The result is that generations of Chinese born after the 1980s have no knowledge of the real history from that period. Ai Weiwei wrote that even if today’s younger generation of Chinese knew the actual history, “They might not even care, for they learn submission before they have developed an ability to raise doubts and challenge assumptions.”

But Weiwei cares because he not only bore witness to his father’s suffering but also had the front-row seat of experiencing how an authoritarian regime worked. His early life experience planted the seed of a rebellious attitude toward authorities, especially the CCP. In the second half of the book, Ai Weiwei gives a detailed account of his journey to become an artist and political activist and how the state punished him, just like his father endured decades ago.

Ai Weiwei’s artistic output spans many genres, from photos to documentary films to large installments. Ai is known for being a provocateur, and Ai’s art and his political activism often go hand-in-hand.

One of his most famous photos was is of him giving a middle finger in front of the Heavenly Peace Gate in Tiananmen Square, a place that often serves as a symbol of Communist China. Another piece of Ai’s public art was the display of 9,000 backpacks, which he used to memorialize school children who were killed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, as a result of the CCP failing to enforce adequate building codes. 

Speaking of his art and activism, Ai Weiwei wrote, “My inspiration and boldness came from disgust and exasperation. My impatience with the timidity of my father’s generation… I openly declared my opposition to the status quo, reaffirming, through the act of non-cooperation, my responsibility to take a critical stance.”

While Ai earned international fame, his art and political activism eventually got him arrested. The Chinese authorities detained him for 81 days in 2011. After releasing him, the Chinese authorities accused him of tax invasion – Ai said it was a trumped-up charge – and demanded Ai to pay more than $2 million as a fine. His passport was confiscated, and he wasn’t allowed to travel abroad for several years. Today, Ai Weiwei lives in the United Kingdom as an exile. He has said many times that if he returns to China now, he would be arrested for sure.

The best quote in the book is when Ai Weiwei explains why he would remain outspoken despite the danger. He wrote, “People asked me, How do you dare say those things on your blog? If I don’t say them, it will put me in an even more dangerous situation. But if I say them, change might occur. To speak is better than not to speak; if everyone spoke, this society would have transformed itself long ago. Change happens when every citizen says what he or she wants to say; one person’s silence exposes another to danger.” 

Preserving Memories

This book is well-written but not without shortcomings. Ai is not a Trump supporter and has issued many public criticisms of Trump, especially on Trump’s border wall. In this book, Ai compared Trump’s “late-night tweets” during his presidency with Chairman Mao Zedong’s daily directives during the early days of the Cultural Revolution. Many people who dislike Trump point to this comparison as evidence that Trump is a dictator, just like Mao. 

But Ai’s comparison of Trump and Mao was wildly misplaced because there is little resemblance between Mao and Trump. During his presidency, the corporate media united with big tech and other institutions to collectively reject Trump and undermine his policies. Trump had no other outlets to get his messages out accurately than through social media. Also, there are always many competing voices on social media, and Trump never had the power to compel any American to listen to him and social media platforms eventually banned him.

In contrast, Mao wielded absolute power. He controlled all the media in China, and his messages were the only ones that appeared in Chinese media. His voice was the lone voice Chinese people were allowed and required to listen to daily during Mao’s rule, and no alternative voices or messages were allowed. The differences between Trump and Mao are so vast that insisting these two were similar undermines Ai Weiwei’s stated goal of recording history truthfully. 

Another shortcoming of the book is that Ai Weiwei avoids discussing fair criticism of his work. Some accuse him of “using contemporary political issues” only to make a name for himself, regardless of others’ feelings.

For example, in the afterword of the book, Ai mentioned several art pieces he had done to highlight the plight of the Mediterranean refugee crisis. Yet Ai omitted to mention one particular piece, in which he posed as the drowned three-year-old Syrian toddler Alan Kurdi in a photo for an Indian magazine. The image was widely criticized because many consider it ” Lazy, cheap, [and] crass.”

Ai Weiwei said he wrote the book to tell his son who he truly is. However, by omitting fair criticism and without self-reflection, it seems his son and readers don’t get a complete picture of Ai. 

The title of the book came from one of Ai Qing’s poem written after he visited the ruins of the ancient Silk Road. Ai Qing wrote:

Of a thousand years of joys and sorrows

Not a trace can be found

You who are living, living the best life you can

Don’t count on the earth to preserve memory.

Books such as Ai Weiwei’s certainly help preserve memories for someone who may care to know the truth in the future, including his own son.


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When Politics Becomes War, The President Needs Fighters

When Politics Becomes War, The President Needs Fighters

With many pundits and political analysts speculating about Donald Trump’s possible run for the presidency in 2024, there is perhaps no better time to review his first term and determine how successful it really was. Who was the man and what was his legacy?

Of course, in order to be fair and accurate in assessing the last president, Americans must have a reliable source who offers a clear, faithful account of what exactly happened. This has been difficult to come by, as almost every official with the slightest connection to Trump has delivered biased accounts to enrich themselves, win approval from the corporate media and Democratic party, or use Trump’s presidency as a launching point for their political philosophy.

An exception to this is Gen. Keith Kellogg in his memoir War by Other Means: A General in the Trump White House. A true soldier and patriot, he aims to set the record straight, highlight the former president’s records and accomplishments, and point out the many obstacles they encountered.

Although Kellogg is heavily partial to Trump, his account is authentic and clear. He doesn’t attempt to analyze Trump or Trumpism, nor does he map out the inner workings of the military and foreign policy establishment. He just describes his own experience and impressions, somehow making potentially complicated issues – e.g., the Robert Mueller investigation, the attack on Qasem Soleimani, the first impeachment, etc. – understandable and human.

Kellogg starts with his own background, which is impressive. In reading about his experiences, which open with the Vietnam War, one can trace the evolution of the American military from the heights of the Cold War to the War on Terror. He describes the rigors of training for the Army Rangers, his early missions in Vietnam, and his time in Panama and Kuwait.

While Kellogg’s military experience could merit a lengthy tome in itself, it somehow takes up less than a third of the book. A man of action with little time for much introspection, Kellogg will note some amusing anecdotes and various moments of badassery as he races through his life.

His reflections on some of these critical moments in history are remarkably short. For instance, after discussing his part in fighting the Viet Cong and even participating in the Tet Offensive, Kellogg concludes, “I will only say that those of us who stayed in the army after Vietnam had an overriding desire that in all future conflicts to have well-articulated, achievable aims for victory.” This is interesting and indicates there will be further commentary, but less than a page later, the chapter is done and Kellogg moves on.

The pace does slow down as Kellogg covers Trump’s presidential campaign. It’s difficult to tell what exactly inspired Kellogg to join Trump’s team—“He spoke his mind—and I liked what he said.” Whatever the case, he felt compelled to join his campaign in some capacity: “Perhaps I had something to offer him as a national security advisor.”

Soon after explaining his connection with Trump, Kellogg retreats from his own story—even quoting not one, but two of Trump’s speeches at length. In one way, this makes sense, seeing that readers simply want to know what Trump was like. In another way, Kellogg’s judgments about others in the Trump administration are never really clear, nor does he say much about his own role.

Most likely, Kellogg just wants to focus on what he knows, which is foreign policy. These chapters are probably the best part of the book, since they illuminate some of Trump’s major accomplishments. Kellogg explains how Trump’s decisiveness and adaptability were key in eliminating ISIS, neutralizing Iran and Syria, brokering peace deals between Israel and formerly hostile countries in the region, and orienting America’s foreign policy towards a more realist, less interventionist vision.

Interestingly, these achievements resulted in part from a little-known mission in Yemen pushed by Gen. Jim Mattis, in which he and other insiders capitalized on Trump’s fresh arrival to DC. Two nights after Trump’s approval, this “low risk” mission resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL, the wounding of several others, and some civilian deaths, “including an eight-year-old Yemeni child.” Beyond the convictions he held prior to his presidency, it was this disaster that set Trump and Kellogg against the “conventional wisdom” aggressively proffered by the Washington elite.

Although mostly deferential and polite with the other cabinet advisors advising Trump, Kellogg does divulge some of his misgivings with their lack of loyalty and overconfidence. Besides mentioning Mattis’s blunder, he discusses in some depth the National Security Advisor Gen. H.R. McMaster, who “thought it was his job to school the president, guide him, and convince him to pursue more conventional and traditional courses of action.”

As with most of Trump’s advisors, McMaster doesn’t stay long. Frankly, it’s hard to fault Trump for making most of these moves.

In his second to last chapter, Kellogg retells the story of Covid-19, paradoxically Trump’s greatest triumph and greatest failure. At the peak of his popularity, fresh off of killing Soleimani and overseeing a booming economy, Trump was confronted by an unknown virus from China. Responding to Trump’s many critics, Kellogg is emphatic in his praise of a president who handled the challenge better than anyone could have reason to expect, acting quickly, pushing the creation of the vaccine, and banning travel from China.

Unfortunately, Anthony Fauci and so many of Trump’s opponents obscured these merits and Kellogg says as much, although anyone following this news won’t find much in Kellogg’s account. Yes, Fauci spoke out of both sides of his mouth and kept declaring doom and gloom. Yes, the media frequently mischaracterized Trump and his efforts. And yes, the Democrats politicized Covid-19 for their own gain.

The book’s final chapter about the election works the same way, with Kellogg giving more a general impression of conservative media than any relevant personal experience. Yes, the election had many irregularities, anomalies, and seemed likely rigged. And yes, the treatment of January 6, 2021 protests and the second impeachment of Trump was all nonsense. Kellogg adds to this without giving any original insight.

Through it all, what is evident in Kellogg’s account is that he is utterly committed to Trump. He stands by the America First philosophy and does not criticize its spokesman at any point.

In one way, this is frustrating since Trump’s time in office was far from perfect, and much could be gained from analyzing the mistakes and learning from them. Indeed, if Trump ran again, many voters will wonder whether he really has learned from his mistakes, particularly with his selection of personnel, his lack of followthrough for punishing corrupt bureaucrats, and his off-color tweets that offended the nation’s soccer moms.

In another way, Kellogg’s lack of criticism and unquestioning loyalty is welcome. As Julie Kelly’s book “Disloyal Opposition” documents, too much questioning and debate can lead to division, lack of purpose, and inaction. Kellogg seems to understand this, so he supports Trump faithfully to the end. He is not an obsequious yes-man, but a humble and trustworthy subordinate—a good soldier.

Moreover, Kellogg’s loyalty allows him to see Trump’s unappreciated virtues. It’s clear by the end of his book that the 45th president was a quick study with incredible energy who was surprisingly practical and responsive. Despite the many roadblocks placed in his way, he really did make Americans safer, richer, and healthier. If given another term, a better cabinet, and fewer milquetoast Republicans, it’s reasonable to expect great things.

Even if Trump decides not to run, Kellogg shows how he has set a new standard for leadership. No matter what succeeding presidents and administrations think of Trump and Trumpism, they are now expected to show the transparency, responsiveness, and energy—rest assured, incontinent dinosaurs like Joe Biden will go extinct soon.

As Kellogg’s book makes clear, even if Trump didn’t win many friends, he did win a few wars, which is what our politics has become.


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Confronting Chronic Diseases Means Confronting The Medical Establishment

Confronting Chronic Diseases Means Confronting The Medical Establishment

Thousands of Americans suffer chronically from Lyme disease, a mysterious tick-born illness that has surged in pockets of the United States since the 1970s. The symptoms are as varied as the people afflicted, and conventional treatment protocols often provide scant relief.

Despite the wide range of extremely painful symptoms, much of modern medicine dismisses these patients, often implying that mental health is the root cause, not a physical disease. So what do you do when doctors believe you have an affliction that doesn’t really exist?

You can succumb to resignation and despair, or perhaps live with the cognitive dissonance between what your body tells you and what your doctor tells you. But there’s a third path: you go down the rabbit hole of alternative medicine, into the realm of off-the-wall treatments, untested remedies, and borderline pseudoscience.

Ross Douthat, conservative columnist at the New York Times, picked path number three, and what a wild ride it became. The Deep Places: A Memoir of Illness and Discovery is his account of a years-long battle with chronic suffering.

The narrative begins as he and his wife decided to leave urban life and pursue a property in Connecticut on a homestead that appears to fulfill their dreams: an idyllic country setting, a rural plot where life can slow down, they can raise their kids in stability, and Ross can leisurely putt around and maintain the grounds. Alas, it was not to be.

His illness broke into daily life, both before and after they moved, and his chronic symptoms and attempts to treat them are interspersed with a series of property incidents that anyone with a mortgage knows intimately as Homeowner Hell. After a few years of constant struggle, they sold the property at a major loss, yet were still relieved to escape it.

The Hidden Life of the Chronic Sufferer

One observation that stood out to me is that, although the chronic pain was persistent and often debilitating, the worst of Douthat’s experience was the fear of dying, of being absent from his family.

Early the next morning I woke in the hotel with a burning sensation all around my throat, and I went to the mirror and saw that my entire upper torso was as red as a Soviet banner. Then I felt the old summertime pressure on my chest, the horrible closing-up feeling in my throat, and I was sure that I was going to die there, alone in a hotel room. I called the front desk, gagging, and begged for an ambulance. As I waited for it to come, I prayed and scrolled through pictures of my kids, the fear that I would leave them fatherless returning in a rush.

Douthat quotes and comments on writer Scott Alexander: “In the same way that ‘we filter for people who are like us intellectually and politically, we also filter for misery,’ so that the suffering around us passes unheard and unseen.”

For those who have never dealt with chronic pain, getting into Douthat’s head is a truly eye-opening experience. His reflections generate empathy and compassion for the people in our communities who suffer from various chronic ailments — whether directly or by proxy, such as watching a child with a terminal illness steadily decline. One suspects many people will find great catharsis in reading this book, and discover an eloquent painting of their own struggle.

The narrative is interspersed with insightful reflections on the difficulties of being perpetually unwell. Not just the physical and medical realities — those are obvious — but also the awkward social ones:

People [often] behave well, with great generosity, in the face of a mortal diagnosis, a mental collapse, an addict’s nadir. Not least because in those circumstances there are things you can clearly do…. But when the crisis simply continues without resolution, when the illness grinds on and on and on — well, then a curtain tends to fall, because there isn’t an obvious way to integrate that kind of struggle into the realm of everyday life.

Struggling with chronic Lyme tested but ultimately strengthened Douthat’s Christian faith. A conservative Catholic, he explicitly lays claim to the comfort afforded by a worldview where pain and suffering have meaning:

To believe that your suffering is for something, that you are being asked to bear up under it, that you are being in some sense supervised and tested and possibly chastised in a way that’s ultimately for your good, if you can only make it through the schooling—all this is tremendously helpful to maintaining simple sanity and basic hope.

He observes insightfully that philosophical complaints over theodicy have it exactly backwards:

The real Christian answer to the ‘problem’ of suffering is that we have the problem all wrong, that it’s actually more mysterious when good things happen to good people than when bad things do, because if God gave His son to the cross, then a version of the same test is what every Christian should expect.

There is much wisdom here, for those with soft hearts and a listening ear. I expect this book will be a cool balm of understanding to the chronic sufferer and an eye-opening revelation of that world for the rest of us who aren’t afflicted.

Taking the Red Pill

The most fascinating part of The Deep Places was having a front-row seat to Douthat getting red-pilled to the hypocrisies, corruption, groupthink, and obtuse idiosyncrasies of mainstream medicine. Even more importantly, his reflections bring deep and timely value to our hottest contemporary global issue, one that runs parallel to, and shares many similarities with, the Lyme experience – but more on that in a bit.

Douthat is an intellectual by trade, a reasoner and a synthesizer of information and arguments. His abundance of curiosity and relentless desire to understand truths pushed him deep into the world (one might say the underbelly) of Lyme medicine and treatment protocols. The deeper he went, and the more rocks he overturned, Douthat discovered that the polished world of Official Medicine is incomplete at best, and in some places even corrupt.

The deeper I went into the world of the chronically sick, the more people I met, the more testimonials and case histories I read, and the more I familiarized myself with the scientific background of the debate, the more impossible—and infuriating—it seemed that an entire medical establishment could be ignoring, denying, and dismissing the scale of suffering taking place all around them, not in some far-distant or exotic place but in their own hometown, their children’s schools, the street or house next door.

He experienced this himself, with at least one doctor gently offering to refer him to a psychiatrist, insinuating he needed a mental health evaluation more than physical treatment. This casual insult drove him instead to pursue unorthodox answers. Despite initial skepticism, Douthat eventually became desperate enough that he was willing to try almost anything to alleviate his pain, to fight off the elusive bacteria coursing through his blood that is impervious even to a bleach treatment in a laboratory.

His self-treatment took him to magnets, audio frequencies (with great success), acupuncture (briefly), intravenous vitamin C, tons of bottles of antibiotics and natural supplements, including various herbs. He even purchased medications of dubious quality from online pet stores so he could acquire them without a prescription.

It was his inability to relieve the chronic pain or get satisfying answers from his doctors that drove him to experiment with treatments he would have casually dismissed with a scoff prior to getting Lyme, treatments that directly contradict mainstream wisdom. And he defends the scientific and methodological validity of his tactics with refreshing eloquence:

The initial task of battling my disease with half-understood medicines, the self-doctoring that I found myself doing, was in its own way intensely empirical and materially grounded—the most empirical work, in fact, that I have ever attempted in my life. Empirical, to be clear, doesn’t mean meeting the rigorous standard for FDA approval. But neither does it mean wandering a natural-foods store with a dowsing rod and popping whatever supplement the metal points you toward, or keeping a dream journal and then parsing it for subconscious codes that spell out the herbal remedies you need. Nobody who experiments on medicine’s frontiers has to sally forth at random. They can follow the wisdom of crowdsourcing, the accumulated testimony of other sufferers, attacking their own N of 1 with the benefit of a larger sample, which, even if its results aren’t subject to placebo-controlled trials or peer review, still offers evidence rather than pure guesswork, data rather than just individual anecdote.

Douthat, ever the careful needle threader, also retained the ability to see both sides of the argument. He understood that there are multiple legitimate ways to frame and interpret data, and grasped why the natural incentives and worn footpaths of mainstream medicine would develop the way they did.

Lyme Versus the Pandemic

For the average person who has little awareness of Lyme, no knowledge of its controversial history, and certainly no formed opinions about the sharp divide it’s fomented within the medical establishment over the years, Douthat’s account and reflections provide a unique opportunity for the reader to engage deep questions of health and wellness, treatment protocols, and their intersection with politicized science.

Everyone reading this has been forced to answer similar questions as of late, thanks to the real-time global debate around COVID-19. The fact that all the topics Douthat engages with regard to Lyme also exist within the hottest contemporary controversy ripped from today’s headlines provides is certainly providential.

Douthat carefully describes the two camps that rose up around Lyme within the medical community, and the cause of the rift:

The CDC guidelines essentially ratified the split already opening in the 1980s, between an official understanding of the disease and a dissenting view, between a medical establishment that felt satisfied with how it diagnosed and treated this novel-seeming pathogen and a growing population of patients and sufferers (or self-described sufferers, at least) who felt ignored, abandoned, and betrayed. It created not just two worldviews but two cultures, two concentric circles of insiders and outsiders—the inner one confident and authoritative and buoyed by institutional support, the outer one more fluid and open-minded but also necessarily more peculiar and paranoid and sometimes, frankly, gonzo in its theories and experiments.

Douthat clearly has one foot in each camp here. He obviously prefers the more formal, regimented, and systematic approach to data collection and analysis that is (often, but not exclusively) the hallmark of mainstream science.

Yet there are some lines even he won’t cross, or at least is quick to note his position on: Vaccine hesitancy, for example, is beyond the outer ranges of what he deems acceptable skepticism of mainstream science, as is the idea that Big Pharma owns the media. Although there are certainly extremes in both of these positions, readers might be surprised he retained such a reflexive resistance to both ideas.

But he also readily affirms the legitimacy of the small-scale, trial-and-error treatments that doctors and patients in the medical wild west try out. As defended above, they may not be double-blind randomized controlled trials, but they are no less methodical or useful for developing effective personalized treatment protocols.

In some ways, Lyme and COVID are very similar. Both have an underworld of treatments that are looked down upon or ignored by orthodox medicine. But their paths diverge at a hard-to-ignore reality: COVID controversies have been treated vastly differently—scientifically and culturally—than Lyme.

It’s understandable if mainstream doctors and public health officials are skeptical of various proposed treatments for COVID-19. But what’s hard to explain charitably, is all the censorship, suppression, and propaganda against them and in favor of the vaccines.

Douthat describes two broad camps of doctors who treat Lyme patients with varying degrees of openness to unorthodox treatment protocols. Imagine if the entire public health establishment came down with an iron fist on all the Lyme treatments with which the latter camp researched and experimented.

It’s one thing to respond to unapproved treatments or experiments with silence, or even disparagement. But imagine if the bureaucracies went even further, if pharmacies and state medical boards stepped into the heretofore sacred doctor-patient relationship and blocked their ability to prescribe disapproved drugs.

Imagine if all of Big Tech and the social media companies colluded to suppress any content that questioned the Approved Narrative or expressed support for alternative Lyme treatments? What if YouTube updated its official community guidelines with reference to a drug commonly used to treat Lyme and forbade the world from discussing it on their platform? What if they deleted footage of a credentialed physician testifying to Congress about the evidence supporting his protocols?

All of these things have happened in the last 18 months with COVID-19. The level of censorship and ostracizing in the COVID-era is utterly shocking and unprecedented. Thank God it hasn’t happened with Lyme, for the sake of thousands of patients’ health and the medical freedom of practitioners. Why is it happening with COVID?

Did He Find Relief?

What fascinates and flummoxes is Douthat’s Lyme experience so clearly illustrates and confirms an insight many have had COVID and other controversial topics: The primary disagreement is almost never over facts, but over narrative and framing.

The structure, the paradigm, the context in which we place and organize facts relative to each other is the key driver of our interpretations and conclusions, not the facts themselves. In one sense, this is an obvious truism; no serious or thoughtful person disputes it. Yet that recognition gets lost amidst all the appeals to authority, the demands to “just trust the science,” to “wear the d-amn mask,” etc.

“The science” has not really ever been the main problem for the so-called COVID skeptic crowd, although there certainly are disagreements about the accuracy and relevance of the data: Can we trust the official death tallies? Are we in a “casedemic?” Do high PCR cycles inflate the numbers and generate unnecessary fear? Are hospitals classifying patients accurately? Is the VAERS data drastically under-reported?

For those who distrust the CDC, NIH, WHO, and the amalgamated, miasmic sludge of advocacy from corporate journalism, doctors, local public health officials, politicians, Big Tech and Big Social, the most offensive element of their output is not the outright lies, the deceptive nature of their unified propaganda about the science, but what is missing entirely from the public discussion. That’s the obvious profit incentives for the pharmaceutical companies combined with the liability protection provided by the state, the myriad other costs to our pandemic response – be they economic, psychological, educational, social, and medical-but-not-COVID-related – and the dedicated, fingers-in-the-ears refusal to acknowledge that official guidance seems to shift every five minutes.

Was Douthat’s descent into the medical underworld successful? Did he cure his Lyme disease and beat back the chronic pain? You’ll have to read it to find out.

And read it you should. If you suffer and need an eloquent reflection to put words to your afflictions, or if you are a blessedly healthy person who could benefit from a more empathetic understanding of your fellow man, this book is worth a read. If you tend to believe the claims of unorthodox medicine and wonder if a highly educated, wealthy, WASP of the elite intellectual class could possibly come to share that openness, read this book.

If you are in the tribe that believes whatever the CDC puts in its press releases is the sum total of objective science, you should definitely read this book, although the struggle to shed your preconceived notions may be painful. Hopefully, this won’t be a chronic affliction, but a short-term cleansing pain.

Source

Confronting Chronic Diseases Means Confronting The Medical Establishment

Confronting Chronic Diseases Means Confronting The Medical Establishment

Thousands of Americans suffer chronically from Lyme disease, a mysterious tick-born illness that has surged in pockets of the United States since the 1970s. The symptoms are as varied as the people afflicted, and conventional treatment protocols often provide scant relief.

Despite the wide range of extremely painful symptoms, much of modern medicine dismisses these patients, often implying that mental health is the root cause, not a physical disease. So what do you do when doctors believe you have an affliction that doesn’t really exist?

You can succumb to resignation and despair, or perhaps live with the cognitive dissonance between what your body tells you and what your doctor tells you. But there’s a third path: you go down the rabbit hole of alternative medicine, into the realm of off-the-wall treatments, untested remedies, and borderline pseudoscience.

Ross Douthat, conservative columnist at the New York Times, picked path number three, and what a wild ride it became. The Deep Places: A Memoir of Illness and Discovery is his account of a years-long battle with chronic suffering.

The narrative begins as he and his wife decided to leave urban life and pursue a property in Connecticut on a homestead that appears to fulfill their dreams: an idyllic country setting, a rural plot where life can slow down, they can raise their kids in stability, and Ross can leisurely putt around and maintain the grounds. Alas, it was not to be.

His illness broke into daily life, both before and after they moved, and his chronic symptoms and attempts to treat them are interspersed with a series of property incidents that anyone with a mortgage knows intimately as Homeowner Hell. After a few years of constant struggle, they sold the property at a major loss, yet were still relieved to escape it.

The Hidden Life of the Chronic Sufferer

One observation that stood out to me is that, although the chronic pain was persistent and often debilitating, the worst of Douthat’s experience was the fear of dying, of being absent from his family.

Early the next morning I woke in the hotel with a burning sensation all around my throat, and I went to the mirror and saw that my entire upper torso was as red as a Soviet banner. Then I felt the old summertime pressure on my chest, the horrible closing-up feeling in my throat, and I was sure that I was going to die there, alone in a hotel room. I called the front desk, gagging, and begged for an ambulance. As I waited for it to come, I prayed and scrolled through pictures of my kids, the fear that I would leave them fatherless returning in a rush.

Douthat quotes and comments on writer Scott Alexander: “In the same way that ‘we filter for people who are like us intellectually and politically, we also filter for misery,’ so that the suffering around us passes unheard and unseen.”

For those who have never dealt with chronic pain, getting into Douthat’s head is a truly eye-opening experience. His reflections generate empathy and compassion for the people in our communities who suffer from various chronic ailments — whether directly or by proxy, such as watching a child with a terminal illness steadily decline. One suspects many people will find great catharsis in reading this book, and discover an eloquent painting of their own struggle.

The narrative is interspersed with insightful reflections on the difficulties of being perpetually unwell. Not just the physical and medical realities — those are obvious — but also the awkward social ones:

People [often] behave well, with great generosity, in the face of a mortal diagnosis, a mental collapse, an addict’s nadir. Not least because in those circumstances there are things you can clearly do…. But when the crisis simply continues without resolution, when the illness grinds on and on and on — well, then a curtain tends to fall, because there isn’t an obvious way to integrate that kind of struggle into the realm of everyday life.

Struggling with chronic Lyme tested but ultimately strengthened Douthat’s Christian faith. A conservative Catholic, he explicitly lays claim to the comfort afforded by a worldview where pain and suffering have meaning:

To believe that your suffering is for something, that you are being asked to bear up under it, that you are being in some sense supervised and tested and possibly chastised in a way that’s ultimately for your good, if you can only make it through the schooling—all this is tremendously helpful to maintaining simple sanity and basic hope.

He observes insightfully that philosophical complaints over theodicy have it exactly backwards:

The real Christian answer to the ‘problem’ of suffering is that we have the problem all wrong, that it’s actually more mysterious when good things happen to good people than when bad things do, because if God gave His son to the cross, then a version of the same test is what every Christian should expect.

There is much wisdom here, for those with soft hearts and a listening ear. I expect this book will be a cool balm of understanding to the chronic sufferer and an eye-opening revelation of that world for the rest of us who aren’t afflicted.

Taking the Red Pill

The most fascinating part of The Deep Places was having a front-row seat to Douthat getting red-pilled to the hypocrisies, corruption, groupthink, and obtuse idiosyncrasies of mainstream medicine. Even more importantly, his reflections bring deep and timely value to our hottest contemporary global issue, one that runs parallel to, and shares many similarities with, the Lyme experience – but more on that in a bit.

Douthat is an intellectual by trade, a reasoner and a synthesizer of information and arguments. His abundance of curiosity and relentless desire to understand truths pushed him deep into the world (one might say the underbelly) of Lyme medicine and treatment protocols. The deeper he went, and the more rocks he overturned, Douthat discovered that the polished world of Official Medicine is incomplete at best, and in some places even corrupt.

The deeper I went into the world of the chronically sick, the more people I met, the more testimonials and case histories I read, and the more I familiarized myself with the scientific background of the debate, the more impossible—and infuriating—it seemed that an entire medical establishment could be ignoring, denying, and dismissing the scale of suffering taking place all around them, not in some far-distant or exotic place but in their own hometown, their children’s schools, the street or house next door.

He experienced this himself, with at least one doctor gently offering to refer him to a psychiatrist, insinuating he needed a mental health evaluation more than physical treatment. This casual insult drove him instead to pursue unorthodox answers. Despite initial skepticism, Douthat eventually became desperate enough that he was willing to try almost anything to alleviate his pain, to fight off the elusive bacteria coursing through his blood that is impervious even to a bleach treatment in a laboratory.

His self-treatment took him to magnets, audio frequencies (with great success), acupuncture (briefly), intravenous vitamin C, tons of bottles of antibiotics and natural supplements, including various herbs. He even purchased medications of dubious quality from online pet stores so he could acquire them without a prescription.

It was his inability to relieve the chronic pain or get satisfying answers from his doctors that drove him to experiment with treatments he would have casually dismissed with a scoff prior to getting Lyme, treatments that directly contradict mainstream wisdom. And he defends the scientific and methodological validity of his tactics with refreshing eloquence:

The initial task of battling my disease with half-understood medicines, the self-doctoring that I found myself doing, was in its own way intensely empirical and materially grounded—the most empirical work, in fact, that I have ever attempted in my life. Empirical, to be clear, doesn’t mean meeting the rigorous standard for FDA approval. But neither does it mean wandering a natural-foods store with a dowsing rod and popping whatever supplement the metal points you toward, or keeping a dream journal and then parsing it for subconscious codes that spell out the herbal remedies you need. Nobody who experiments on medicine’s frontiers has to sally forth at random. They can follow the wisdom of crowdsourcing, the accumulated testimony of other sufferers, attacking their own N of 1 with the benefit of a larger sample, which, even if its results aren’t subject to placebo-controlled trials or peer review, still offers evidence rather than pure guesswork, data rather than just individual anecdote.

Douthat, ever the careful needle threader, also retained the ability to see both sides of the argument. He understood that there are multiple legitimate ways to frame and interpret data, and grasped why the natural incentives and worn footpaths of mainstream medicine would develop the way they did.

Lyme Versus the Pandemic

For the average person who has little awareness of Lyme, no knowledge of its controversial history, and certainly no formed opinions about the sharp divide it’s fomented within the medical establishment over the years, Douthat’s account and reflections provide a unique opportunity for the reader to engage deep questions of health and wellness, treatment protocols, and their intersection with politicized science.

Everyone reading this has been forced to answer similar questions as of late, thanks to the real-time global debate around COVID-19. The fact that all the topics Douthat engages with regard to Lyme also exist within the hottest contemporary controversy ripped from today’s headlines provides is certainly providential.

Douthat carefully describes the two camps that rose up around Lyme within the medical community, and the cause of the rift:

The CDC guidelines essentially ratified the split already opening in the 1980s, between an official understanding of the disease and a dissenting view, between a medical establishment that felt satisfied with how it diagnosed and treated this novel-seeming pathogen and a growing population of patients and sufferers (or self-described sufferers, at least) who felt ignored, abandoned, and betrayed. It created not just two worldviews but two cultures, two concentric circles of insiders and outsiders—the inner one confident and authoritative and buoyed by institutional support, the outer one more fluid and open-minded but also necessarily more peculiar and paranoid and sometimes, frankly, gonzo in its theories and experiments.

Douthat clearly has one foot in each camp here. He obviously prefers the more formal, regimented, and systematic approach to data collection and analysis that is (often, but not exclusively) the hallmark of mainstream science.

Yet there are some lines even he won’t cross, or at least is quick to note his position on: Vaccine hesitancy, for example, is beyond the outer ranges of what he deems acceptable skepticism of mainstream science, as is the idea that Big Pharma owns the media. Although there are certainly extremes in both of these positions, readers might be surprised he retained such a reflexive resistance to both ideas.

But he also readily affirms the legitimacy of the small-scale, trial-and-error treatments that doctors and patients in the medical wild west try out. As defended above, they may not be double-blind randomized controlled trials, but they are no less methodical or useful for developing effective personalized treatment protocols.

In some ways, Lyme and COVID are very similar. Both have an underworld of treatments that are looked down upon or ignored by orthodox medicine. But their paths diverge at a hard-to-ignore reality: COVID controversies have been treated vastly differently—scientifically and culturally—than Lyme.

It’s understandable if mainstream doctors and public health officials are skeptical of various proposed treatments for COVID-19. But what’s hard to explain charitably, is all the censorship, suppression, and propaganda against them and in favor of the vaccines.

Douthat describes two broad camps of doctors who treat Lyme patients with varying degrees of openness to unorthodox treatment protocols. Imagine if the entire public health establishment came down with an iron fist on all the Lyme treatments with which the latter camp researched and experimented.

It’s one thing to respond to unapproved treatments or experiments with silence, or even disparagement. But imagine if the bureaucracies went even further, if pharmacies and state medical boards stepped into the heretofore sacred doctor-patient relationship and blocked their ability to prescribe disapproved drugs.

Imagine if all of Big Tech and the social media companies colluded to suppress any content that questioned the Approved Narrative or expressed support for alternative Lyme treatments? What if YouTube updated its official community guidelines with reference to a drug commonly used to treat Lyme and forbade the world from discussing it on their platform? What if they deleted footage of a credentialed physician testifying to Congress about the evidence supporting his protocols?

All of these things have happened in the last 18 months with COVID-19. The level of censorship and ostracizing in the COVID-era is utterly shocking and unprecedented. Thank God it hasn’t happened with Lyme, for the sake of thousands of patients’ health and the medical freedom of practitioners. Why is it happening with COVID?

Did He Find Relief?

What fascinates and flummoxes is Douthat’s Lyme experience so clearly illustrates and confirms an insight many have had COVID and other controversial topics: The primary disagreement is almost never over facts, but over narrative and framing.

The structure, the paradigm, the context in which we place and organize facts relative to each other is the key driver of our interpretations and conclusions, not the facts themselves. In one sense, this is an obvious truism; no serious or thoughtful person disputes it. Yet that recognition gets lost amidst all the appeals to authority, the demands to “just trust the science,” to “wear the d-amn mask,” etc.

“The science” has not really ever been the main problem for the so-called COVID skeptic crowd, although there certainly are disagreements about the accuracy and relevance of the data: Can we trust the official death tallies? Are we in a “casedemic?” Do high PCR cycles inflate the numbers and generate unnecessary fear? Are hospitals classifying patients accurately? Is the VAERS data drastically under-reported?

For those who distrust the CDC, NIH, WHO, and the amalgamated, miasmic sludge of advocacy from corporate journalism, doctors, local public health officials, politicians, Big Tech and Big Social, the most offensive element of their output is not the outright lies, the deceptive nature of their unified propaganda about the science, but what is missing entirely from the public discussion. That’s the obvious profit incentives for the pharmaceutical companies combined with the liability protection provided by the state, the myriad other costs to our pandemic response – be they economic, psychological, educational, social, and medical-but-not-COVID-related – and the dedicated, fingers-in-the-ears refusal to acknowledge that official guidance seems to shift every five minutes.

Was Douthat’s descent into the medical underworld successful? Did he cure his Lyme disease and beat back the chronic pain? You’ll have to read it to find out.

And read it you should. If you suffer and need an eloquent reflection to put words to your afflictions, or if you are a blessedly healthy person who could benefit from a more empathetic understanding of your fellow man, this book is worth a read. If you tend to believe the claims of unorthodox medicine and wonder if a highly educated, wealthy, WASP of the elite intellectual class could possibly come to share that openness, read this book.

If you are in the tribe that believes whatever the CDC puts in its press releases is the sum total of objective science, you should definitely read this book, although the struggle to shed your preconceived notions may be painful. Hopefully, this won’t be a chronic affliction, but a short-term cleansing pain.

Source

Hunter Biden’s memoir sold less than 11K copies in its first week, despite media hype

Hunter Biden’s memoir sold less than 11K copies in its first week, despite media hype

Hunter Biden‘s new memoir has failed to land on many readers’ nightstands after one week on the store shelves, selling less than 11,000 copies, recently released numbers show.

His book, “Beautiful Things: A Memoir,” sold 10,638 copies last week, according to Publishers Weekly. This is despite the abundant media promotion from places such as CNN, CBS News, and ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!“—especially about the memoir’s sex and drug content—in the lead-up to the book’s release.

MORE ON HUNTER BIDEN: Hunter Biden says he smoked parmesan cheese because it reminded him of crack cocaine

The book of President Joe Biden‘s youngest son debuted at twelfth place among hardcover nonfiction books. Some notable books that beat Hunter Biden’s memoir include National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country” in first place with 42,318 copies and Fox News host Shannon Bream’s “The Women of the Bible Speak: The Wisdom of 16 Women and Their Lessons for Today” in second with 32,686 copies during the same timeframe.

His memoir did have a stronger showing on The New York Times’ Best Sellers list though, finishing its debut week in fourth place in the “Combined Print & E-Book Nonfiction” category.

Notably during Biden’s media tour promoting the book, he tried to downplay the significance of his laptop scandal that The New York Post first broke a few weeks before the November 3 presidential election. He told Jimmy Kimmel—for instance—that the laptop is a “red herring,” and falsely claimed to podcast host Marc Maron that a recently published report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence had determined the laptop story to be part of a Russian-backed disinformation operation.

MORE ON HUNTER BIDEN: Hunter Biden falsely claims intel community labeled laptop story as ‘Russian disinformation’

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @DouglasPBraff.

Source

Wow, Even Obama’s Ethics Chief is Speaking Out Against Joe Biden

Wow, Even Obama’s Ethics Chief is Speaking Out Against Joe Biden

ethics

Walter Shaub, the former head of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) under Barack Obama, slammed Joe Biden in multiple tweets over his praise of his son’s upcoming book.

Calling Joe Biden Out

In the since-deleted tweets, Shaub said that Biden’s comments about Hunter’s memoir ‘Beautiful Things’ may violate ethics rules.

“It is not acceptable for the President of the United States to be part of the book promotion tour. No,” he tweeted on the afternoon of February 7.

The Washington Examiner reported:

Shaub also said it was “wonderful” that Hunter Biden, 51, was sharing his experience with addiction because it could help Hunter and other people fighting personal demons. But Shaub added the president’s comments regarding the memoir, Beautiful Things, were ethically compromised. There appears to have been other tweets by Shaub in the past 24 hours knocking Biden for the comments about his son’s book, but they were also erased.

If even Obama’s “ethics” chief is attacking Joe Biden for something, it must really be bad.

Biden Promoting the Book

Hunter’s book discusses his battle with drug addiction and alcohol abuse. Joe Biden discussed the book during an interview with CBS News.

“I bet there’s not a family you know who doesn’t have somebody in the family that had a drug problem, or an alcohol problem. But the honesty with which he stepped forward and talked about the problem and the hope that, it gave me hope reading it. I mean, it was like my boy is back, you know what I mean? Anyway, I’m sorry to get so personal,” Biden said.

Regardless of whether this is an ethics violation, the fact is that Hunter Biden is once again profiting off of his father’s name. Would this book still be promoted this much if his father wasn’t the president? It’s doubtful.

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