Gopher Padfoot

I am a mammal whose understanding is grounded in standing underground.


Gov. Scott Walker ends his term with an objectively undemocratic act

I want to share an episode of The Daily that provides a concise summary of what the Republican Party and Scott Walker have done in the last week to undermine democracy in the name of partisan politics:


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Beethoven’s “Appassionata”

I hope everyone is having a lovely Sunday afternoon. My Sunday was made more lovely after listening to this sonata by Beethoven. Apparently he wrote it shortly after accepting that his hearing was in irreversible decline. It makes me think about the human spirit, our ability to sing a beautiful song along the tortured road of life. Click below to listen and watch:

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Recommended reading, ‘A Plea for Self-Delusion’

Hi everyone. A friend of mine, Blaken Wamsley, wrote an article that I recommend you read: ‘A Plea for Self-Delusion’ (click the title). Blaken is a child and family therapist, chess wizard, and amateur philosopher like myself.

In this article, he recommends that you adopt the following belief for a day, even if it isn’t true: I make choices, but others do not. He argues that if we understand the behavior of others as determined by the environment, and our own behavior as not determined by the environment, we can position ourselves to be more accepting, effective, and helpful human beings.

Check it out!

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Voices From the 2016 National Harm Reduction Conference

Last November I went to the 11th National Harm Reduction Conference in San Diego, CA. While there, I interviewed folks asking: Why is harm reduction important to you? How does harm reduction relate to social justice? What do people need to know?

The result is this video, a collage of the different shapes harm reduction can take including:

  • the need to decriminalize drug use, as the drug war is a national disaster
  • the principle of Housing First, which means putting a roof over a person’s head no matter what
  • the practice of harm reduction therapy, which is person-centered and does not do people further harm through shame, stigma, or coercion
  • a critique of the treatment industry, which charges people tens of thousands of dollars while not providing them the basic tools to prevent fatal opioid overdoses

Hope you enjoy… Join us!

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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Refuse

Jaclyn Wegner has a PSA: avoid single-use plastics! Fund the EPA!

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Trump is unifying America- against him

People whose family emigrated to the United States the old fashioned way, through Ellis Island, and who are wary of undocumented immigration from places like Mexico and Central America, will often say, “My family came here legally. Why can’t they?” There are several counterarguments against this. But for now I don’t even need to do that, because President Pussy Grabber just signed an executive order that has led to the detention of legal residents- one of whom worked for the U.S. military as an interpreter. How would you feel if your grandparents were separated from each other and interrogated because they were Catholic and spoke funny?

“But we have to think of national security.” I’m glad you brought that up. Because of the seven countries Trump has banned immigrants and refugees from, none of them have been involved in a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. The only thing those countries have in common is that the Trump Organization has no business dealings with them. Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Indonesia- all countries where Trump does business- were not on the ban list, even though they are Muslim-majority countries.

“But about about the Boston Marathon bombing?” I’m glad you brought that up, too! They were from Russia. But based on Trump’s warm stance toward Putin, we know he won’t ban anyone from there.


Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…

You might think I’m feeling pessimistic, but I’m not. Thousands of Americans flooded O’Hare and JFK airports tonight. With them were a legion of lawyers who worked on the behalf of the detained people pro bono, resulting in the release of some of the detained. And as I write this, a judge in New York is suspending part of Trump’s order.

Just like the Women’s march last week, Trump is unifying Americans- against him. Now we just need the Paul Ryans and Mitch McConnells of the world to join us. They claim to not be Islamophobic, just as they claim to not be racist or misogynistic. That may be true, but it’s certainly not a deal breaker for them- yet.


Duterte Shouldn’t Be Condoned

Based on my personal and growing professional experience, the best approach to substance abuse is “harm reduction,” which means treating people who use drugs with compassion rather than punishing them. It’s not only humane, it works.

The exact opposite is happening in the Philippines, where president Rodrigo Duterte has waged a “war on drugs” that includes killing suspected drug users in the street. At least 2,000 people have been killed since June by police with no due process.

Earlier this week, Duterte and Trump spoke on the phone. Duterte reported that Trump endorsed his actions, and even floated the idea that Duterte come visit him in New York.

Click this link and scroll down if you want to see what Trump has endorsed (warning- graphic images):

You might say to yourself: that’s far away, nothing like that can happen here. You’re probably right, to an extent. Trump has appointed Jeff Sessions to Attorney General, a man eager to escalate the war on drugs and further criminalize drug use. “Law and order” doesn’t stop addiction. It breaks up communities and causes suffering, which is often why people abuse drugs in the first place.

Those of us who have watched someone struggle- or struggled ourselves- know that the best medicine for addiction is love and tolerance. Not brutality.President Duterte should not be condoned, let alone by the president-elect.

Where do we go from here? There’s no use in feelings like guilt or despair, unless they motivate action:

  1. Love people in your life who struggle with substances and support them in making changes they initiate
  2. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, talk to others about how he should not be endorsing the actions of Rodrigo Duterte (sharing this article is an easy way to do that)
  3. Contact your local legislator and let them know you believe in compassionate and pragmatic approaches to substance abuse
  4. Educate yourself
  5. Last but not least: take care of yourself, because you can’t give away what you don’t have

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How I’m feeling

I walked into the school where I’m interning and several children were crying. The staff looked subdued. The Hispanic cleaning crew wouldn’t make eye contact with me.

Many Christians model themselves after Jesus, a man who served lepers, prostitutes, and the outcasts of society. Now they support a billionaire who mocks disabled people because of a single-minded obsession with abortion and the supreme court.

I watched the election with a black friend who fears for her own safety, that cops will act with even more impunity. I have a Muslim neighbor who thinks she can’t visit her family in Egypt because she might not be allowed back home or worse.

I have family who supported Trump. I struggle identifying with them because I’m with everything under target by Trump. I’m with queers, Black Lives Matter, Muslims, people who rely on government programs (because we all do, in one way or another), Mexicans, and radical feminists.

I’m not going to say this is like Germany in the 1930s because I can’t even consider that a possibility, but it’s a helluva lot like Germany in the 1920s when a man told a country: you’re not as great as you used to be and it’s their fault.

No checks and balances. Republicans have the senate, the house, and a majority of state governors. Get ready for Paul Ryan to slash and burn programs, replacing public schools with for-profit ventures that will fail to cultivate critical thinking.

Some people compare Trump to Andrew Jackson as if that were a good thing. Check out the Indian Removal Act  and tell me it’s a good thing.

Today was a victory for Corrections Corporation of America, a business that makes money putting people in cages.

Pence is even scarier than Trump. This is the man that tried to legalize discrimination against the LGBTQ community (to which I’m a part, by the way) and signed a law requiring funerals for fetuses. 

In more ways than one, this was a huge blow to the field of mental health.

White people, white men especially, got it good. But they feel threatened and that they don’t got it as good as they used to. These people who for years demanded that others take responsibility now display no responsibility themselves.

I spit on white supremacy. I commit to doing everything I can to dismantle my own privilege.

Fox News has poisoned the well of too many minds with fear, hatred, and misinformation. They have conditioned millions of otherwise good people to react with fear and hate when they hear the words “Benghazi” or “Islam.”

My generation is going to have to clean up this mess. This is beyond partisan politics.

The worst part is everything Trump has said and done seems vindicated. I assure you that me and people like me will never let that be the case. I’m feeling sad and motivated as hell.

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Election Day! (An argument for Clinton based on one issue, treatment for drug abuse)

We all know who is at the top of the ballot. But if you’re looking for information about who is running in your more local contests, visit It’s a really neat website. Type in your address and see everything from state races to appellate judges. Who knew 9 people were running for Cook County Water Reclamation District Commissioner!?

Now back to the top of ballot. I early voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton weeks ago. If you haven’t voted yet, I really hope you vote for her, too. Especially if you’re my family in Wisconsin, a swing state. I could belabor every reason why I think it’s absolutely imperative to vote Democrat, but instead I’m going to focus on one issue that is important to me. Substance abuse. 

Trump alluded to his stance during the speech in which he announced his candidacy. He stated that Mexico is sending “drug dealers” to America. He expanded upon his position since then, arguing that the epidemic of fatal heroin overdoses is due to drugs poring over the southern border.

For those of you who know me, you know I know this topic. And let me state unequivocally: Trump is absolutely wrong.

Data suggests that 4 out 5 people addicted to heroin got started with prescription drugs prescribed by doctors. That means Trump is right if and only if 100% of doctors came illegally from Mexico, which we know isn’t true.

What is Hillary’s stance on drug abuse? It’s not perfect, but it’s a hell of a lot more grounded in reality.

On her campaign website, she uses the language of addiction being “a disease.” Calling drug misuse a medical disease instead of a moral failing or criminal problem is a huge step from the dark ages, but it is still not as progressive as I would like. We should drop the language of “disease” and describe problematic substance use as a challenge fueled by biological, psychological, and social factors (what mental health professionals call the bio-psycho-social approach). This is a huge topic for another day, but suffice it to say that this means drugs aren’t automatically addictive; according to research, drugs are more likely to be addictive when people are also struggling with isolation, other mental health challenges, financial deprivation, situational stressors, and/or other psycho-social issues. Therefore, it shouldn’t be called a “disease” as that’s too reductionist.

But that’s splitting hairs! And that aside, Clinton’s website mentions naloxone, the medication that REVERSES opiate overdoses. As I’ve previously written, naloxone is fucking important. The Chicago Recovery Alliance, an organization I volunteer for, saved almost 6,000 lives in 2014 thanks to Naloxone.

Did Trump mention naloxone on his website? No, he repeated his complaints about Mexico. 

Now, abstract this one problem- drug abuse- to every other issue in this campaign. Trump is uniquely uninformed, racist, and unhelpful for those of us trying to address serious, complex problems with serious, complex solutions. Clinton is far from perfect, and far ahead of Trump.

Hillary Clinton is imperfect, but leaning in the right direction. It’s not just the lesser of two evils. It’s a B+ compared to an F.

And if the emails or Benghazi are still bothering you, just forget it. These pale in comparison to someone who won’t release his tax returns, is on trial for fraud, and has been involved in nearly 3,500 lawsuits. 


I hope everyone puts country over party (or allegiance to Bernie) and votes for Hillary Clinton. Whatever the outcome, we have a lot of rebuilding to do.



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What I learned from Donald

There’s a saying from Confucius: when walking with a sage and a fool, you can learn as much from both. Indeed it’s true, for Donald Trump taught me a few things in this week’s debate. What may surprise you, dear readers, is that he taught me something about myself.

I have always prided myself on being able to think on my feet, to improvise ingeniously, to barter in bullshit. I have passed college classes without doing the work, navigated situations for which I had not prepared via charm and wit. More often than not, the world has responded warmly, affirming my actions. Looking back, in a few instances I really did deserve to fail. The question is: how much of this is a function of being a white male? A whole lot.

The notion was succinctly expressed by a coffee mug I saw recently: “God, give me the confidence of a mediocre white man.” Exactly! How many white men behave in ways that would lead others to be called lazy, shallow, or disrespectful; to be suspended, fired, or jailed; to have their negative traits attributed to their race and/or gender? Alas! many a white men are overvalued as they underperform.

That’s the first thing I learned: that it looks really bad when you do not do the work that others (e.g., Hillary Clinton) do. If Ms. Clinton was as ill-prepared as Trump, we might be talking about how maybe women are not ready to be president. Instead, we write it off as Donald’s own foibles.

The second thing I learned was that I need to step back and listen. By some estimates, Donald interrupted Hillary Clinton 40 times to her 1. But this is larger than Donald. As one commentator tweeted, “To the men amazed Clinton hasn’t snapped: Every woman you know has learned to do this. This is our life in society.”

The day after the debate I was in class. A female student was making a point when a male student began talking over her. Everyone started listening to him. We’re so accustomed to men talking over women that it takes a fool like Trump to show us the way. I brought up the presidential debate in class and commented how a “manterruption” was happening in real time. It led to a discussion of how (white) men are socialized to be arrogant and self-promoting, whereas women are expected to play nice.

I promised the class that for the sake of equity I would shut up more often. They said I didn’t have to but appreciated the intent. The fact remains that unless I censor myself, it’s unlikely that anybody will because we’ve all been conditioned to accept and respect white men in a way other identities are not. My goal here isn’t to feel guilty; rather, I plan to use my white male privilege to call myself and other white men out.

By the way, Confucius didn’t recommend voting for the fool.

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