Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Medical’ Category

We Need to Normalize Drug Use in Our Society

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Stanton Peele has an interesting article in Pacific Standard:

Drug use was never considered to be in a special category of human experience until we medicalized addiction—and that idea has been disastrous. Drugs are now returning to their life-sized status as part of the range of normal human behaviors. And they are ubiquitous. Realism about drugs and addiction must dictate drug policy.

HOW WE DISCOVERED, THEN REJECTED, ADDICTION

There is a myth that narcotics cause addiction, a myth created early in the 20th century. Yet both Americans and Brits used copious amounts of opiates in the 19th century—think laudanum, a tinctured opiate, given lavishly to infants and children—without any thought that they caused addiction.

How was it that people so familiar with the use of opiates were so unfamiliar with addiction to them? According to social historian Virginia Berridge, in Opium and the People, despite the liberal dosing of much of the British population with opium and then morphine, “There is little evidence that there were large numbers of morphine addicts in the late nineteenth century.”

But then, at the turn of the century, we made the brilliant discovery that narcotics caused a unique, irresistible, pathologic medical syndrome. As Berridge says: “Morphine use and the problem, as medically defined, of hypodermic self-administration were closely connected with the medical elaboration of a disease view of addiction.”

And so, by the 1960s, when many drugs burst on to the American scene, pharmacologists constructed lists of drugs and their dangers. These lists had two columns—drugs that cause addiction (or physical dependence), and those that merely cause psychological (“psychic”) dependence: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 October 2014 at 2:11 pm

Posted in Drug laws, Medical, Science

Capitalism vs. The public

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Sometimes the drive to charge people for everything—particularly those who have fallen on hard times—is somewhat sickening.

Here are some examples:

How Insurers Are Trying To Get Around Obamacare And Avoid Covering Sick Patients

That article explains the primary tactics and provides more detail under three headings:

1. Offering skimpy plans to workers that don’t cover all their needs.

2. Making drugs too expensive for sick patients to afford.

3. Forming narrow networks to discourage sick people from enrolling.

Of course, these things could be easily fixed were it not for the absolute opposition of the GOP, which does not want healthcare to work.

A Dallas Company Finds Profit in Video-Only Jail Visitations. The article begins:

There’s nothing nice about jail. The food stinks. There’s nothing to do. People are in a bad mood. The best you can hope for is to get out quickly with minimal hassle. One of the few things you have to look forward to is a visit from a friend or a loved one—a brief face-to-face connection to remind you that the world is waiting on the other side of the glass. But some Texas jails are eliminating in-person visitation and requiring instead the use of a video visitation system sold by Dallas-based Securus Technologies. Critics say it’s an outrageous profiteering scheme that has no policy rationale and could actually deteriorate security at jails.

Securus markets its video system as a cost-saver for jails and a convenience for family members who live far from their incarcerated loved ones. But the structure of the deals suggests there are powerful financial incentives for jails to curb or eliminate face-to-face visitation. Securus charges callers as much as a dollar a minute to use its video services, and jails get a 20 to 25 percent cut. For big-city jails, that could mean millions in extra money. . .

The article concludes:

. . . A report released this morning by Grassroots Leadership and the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition found that disciplinary infractions, assaults and contraband cases all increased within the year after the video-only policy was put in place. The report concedes that the trends may be an aberration or temporary but cites social science and long-standing prison policies holding that visitations improves jail security and lowers recidivism rates. One studyof 16,420 offenders commissioned by the Minnesota Department of Corrections, for example, found that “prison visitation can significantly improve the transition offenders make from the institution to the community.” Even one visit lowered the risk that a person would re-offend by 13 percent.

“Video-only visitation policies ignore best practices that call for face-to-face visits to foster family relationships,” the report argues. “They advance arguments about security that are dubious, not rooted in research, and may be counter-productive.”

Grassroots Leadership and the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition report found 10 counties in Texas that have already deployed video-only systems, with more considering the option.

Because cutting taxes means less money for government services, many police departments look for other sources of revenue, such as civil asset forfeiture in addition to things like the cash-up-front video-only visitation system. Indeed, Ferguson MO’s criminal justice system had a nice little racket going, constantly extorting money from the poor.

Turning Public Education Into Private Profits

One excellent way to destroy public education is to turn it over to private, for-profit companies. It may start okay, but pretty quickly the drive to grow profits will result in cost-cutting, and the schools will go downhill, short of teachers, short of supplies, short of maintenance, and so on. The article at the link is worth reading, particularly if you will at some point have children that will attend schools. Take a look at the start of that Pacific Standard article by Marian Wang:

In late February, the North Carolina chapter of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation—a group co-founded by the libertarian billionaire Koch brothers—embarked on what it billed as a statewide tour of charter schools, a cornerstone of the group’s education agenda. The first—and it turns out, only—stop was Douglass Academy, a new charter school in downtown Wilmington.

Douglass Academy was an unusual choice. A few weeks before, the school had been warned by the state about low enrollment. It had just 35 students, roughly half the state’s minimum. And a month earlier, a local newspaper had reported that federal regulators were investigating the school’s operations.

But the school has other attributes that may have appealed to the Koch group. The school’s founder, a politically active North Carolina businessman named Baker Mitchell, shares the Kochs’ free-market ideals.  His model for success embraces decreased government regulation, increased privatization, and, if all goes well, healthy corporate profits.

In that regard, Mitchell, 74, appears to be thriving. Every year, millions of public education dollars flow through Mitchell’s chain of four non-profit charter schools to for-profit companies he controls.

The schools buy or lease nearly everything from companies owned by Mitchell. Their desks. Their computers. The training they provide to teachers. Most of the land and buildings. Unlike with traditional school districts, at Mitchell’s charter schools there’s no competitive bidding. No evidence of haggling over rent or contracts.

The schools have all hired the same for-profit management company to run their day-to-day operations. The company, Roger Bacon Academy, is owned by Mitchell. It functions as the schools’ administrative arm, taking the lead in hiring and firing school staff. It handles most of the bookkeeping. The treasurer of the non-profit that controls the four schools is also the chief financial officer of Mitchell’s management company. The two organizations even share a bank account.

“This isn’t as if one of the board members happens to own a chalk company where they buy chalk from, and he recused himself from buying chalk. This is the entire management and operation of the school.”
Mitchell’s management company was chosen by the schools’ non-profit board, which Mitchell was on at the time—an arrangement that is illegal in many other states. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

23 October 2014 at 4:03 pm

Campaigns of malicious falsehoods

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We know that “I read it on the Internet” is not the most convincing way to substantiate a fact: many postings may contain errors, show ignorance of facts, and so on. But one also must contend with deliberate malicious deception not just of individual posts or message, but of coordinated serious efforts to deceive and destroy. I already mentioned the fake-news site that tries to create fear and, I suppose, panic (if they can).

Now I found one that’s even worse: a hate group (identified as such by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Tara Culp-Ressler describes it at ThinkProgress:

A misogynist group is attempting to co-opt a well-known international campaign against domestic violence, setting up a fake website intended to confuse visitors who may be trying to donate to the cause.

The new website is attempting to divert supporters looking for the White Ribbon Campaign, a nonprofit group in Canada that engages men in the effort to stop intimate partner violence. It was founded in 1989 in response to the “Montreal Massacre,” in which a 25-year-old gunman shouted “You’re all a bunch of feminists, and I hate feminists!” before opening fire and killing 14 female students. Since then, the White Ribbon movement has spread to other countries like Scotland and Australia. It also has a relatively popular Facebook page.

The real sites have international URLs, like http://www.whiteribbon.ca. The fake campaign, however, is hosted on http://www.whiteribbon.org — something that may trick Americans into thinking it’s the United States’ official chapter. There’s a fake Facebook account to go along with it.

The fake site urges people to be wary of “false White Ribbon initiatives” dedicated to addressing “violence against women,” telling them to donate to its group instead.

“There are numerous attempts by other entities to corrupt the message of the White Ribbon Initiative by inserting dishonest and sexist messages into this movement,”claims a post on the fake White Ribbon site. “Hopefully this message, and the other content on this website (which is provided to you by the world’s foremost experts on family violence), will help you see through the corruption and dishonesty being furthered by other programs.”

But the dishonesty is actually being furthered by http://www.whiteribbon.org itself. As reported by We Hunted The Mammoth, a blog dedicated to tracking anti-feminist online groups, the fake site was set up by A Voice For Men — an infamously misogynist forum dedicated to “men’s rights activists.” Indeed, when you click on the “One-Time Paypal Donation” button on the fake White Ribbon site, it leads to a donation page for A Voice For Men.

The men’s rights movement believes that feminism harms men, and is primarily fueled by resentment over the women’s rights movement. That’s why MRAs take issue with the real White Ribbon Campaign, which seeks to challenge “harmful ideas of manhood that lead to violence against women.” A Voice For Men’s fake site makes it clear that this framing is offensive to them, writing that “family violence is a serious problem that knows no gender” and “we cannot address this complicated, critical problem by pointing the finger at one sex as the default perpetrator and at another sex as the default victim.”

But the members of A Voice For Men — which has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center — aren’t simply interested in a conversation about how violence affects both men and women. They have a well-documented history of manipulating facts, accusing feminists of encouraging domestic violence to make money, and even making violent threats against women. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 October 2014 at 2:28 pm

“Shaken-baby” syndrome: Bad science

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Interesting article by Lee Scheier in the Boston Globe, providing an example of how strongly prosecutors resist admitting error. From the article:

AFTER COMING under attack in an political ad for not doing enough to protect children, Martha Coakley, the Democratic candidate for governor, defended her record. In a large above-the-fold photograph published in the Globe Oct. 3, Coakley is seen standing next to Deborah Eappen, mother of Matthew Eappen, the baby whom Louise Woodward was charged with shaking to death in 1997.

Coakley, the prosecutor in that infamous trial, set up the photo op ostensibly to remind the public of her commitment to protecting children. If so, Coakley must think Massachusetts voters have short memories.

Although Woodward was found guilty of second degree murder by the jury, trial judge Hiller Zobel reduced the sentence to manslaughter and set Woodward free. Zobel’s skepticism of the justice of Woodward’s murder conviction was prescient: Dr. Patrick Barnes, Coakley’s chief expert witness in the case, later publicly renounced his own trial testimony as based on flawed scientific assumptions.

And another brief article on Coakley, this one by Radley Balko. The conclusion of that article:

It’s probably not surprising, then, that as DA in Middlesex County, Coakley opposed efforts to create an innocence commission in Massachusetts, calling the idea “backward-looking instead of forward-looking.” Of course, that’s sort of the point — to find people who have been wrongfully convicted. So far, there have been at least 23 exonerations in Massachusetts, including several in Coakley’s home county.

I had my own exchange with Coakley in the letters section of The Boston Globe a few years ago over the issue of prescription pain medication. Coakley had told the paper that “accidental addiction” to opiate pain medications such as OxyContin was a common problem among chronic pain patients, despite considerable medical evidence to the contrary. Such wrongheaded statements by law enforcement officials and the policies that go with them are a big reason why doctors have become increasingly reluctant to treat pain patients. Coakley conceded that she’s “no medical expert” but then went on to question the body of medical literature showing accidental addiction to be a myth. Coakley cited only her own experience as a DA to contradict the litany of peer-reviewed medical research.

As a member of the Senate, not only would Coakley be creating new federal criminal laws; given her record as a prosecutor, there’s a good chance she’d serve on committees with oversight over the Justice Department and the judiciary. She’d also be casting votes to confirm or deny federal judicial appointments. Advocates for criminal justice reform should be wary. Coakley may share Kennedy’s opposition to the death penalty, but her record as a prosecutor leaves plenty of doubt about her commitment to justice.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 October 2014 at 12:47 pm

Politicians who cannot comment on climate change because they are “not a scientist” speak out about Ebola

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Inconsistency, thy name is Politician. Emily Atkin reports at ThinkProgress:

On Saturday, political blogger Lee Papa made an interesting observation about Republicans who widely recommend panicking about Ebola. “Does any Republican talking about Ebola say, “I’m not a scientist” like they do with climate change?” he tweeted, referencing the long list of political figures who claim to not know the science behind climate change, even though they actively oppose any policy to fight it.

On Monday, Papa answered the question for us with a resounding “no.” As might be expected, most prominent Republican politicians who are not willing to talk about climate change because they lack qualifications are willing to talk about Ebola, despite the fact that they lack qualifications. As might also be expected, all those politiciansfavor strict policy measures to deal with the disease, even though most scientists say Ebola is not easily transmittable and does not pose a widespread threat to Americans.

“Republicans are glad to tell you that either the evidence is inconclusive or that they are too dumb to understand the science when it comes to climate change, so they think it’s wrong to act like it’s a crisis and refuse to do anything to slow or halt it,” Papa writes at his blog Rude Pundit. “However, they will go bugnuts crazy and try to cause panic when it comes to the science around the spread of Ebola, even when they have it wrong.”

The list of perpetrators is long. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 October 2014 at 4:09 pm

A scathing indictment of the (highly artificial) sports culture

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Somehow it reminds me of nothing so much as factory farming: playing music to the cows to increase milk production in the “whatever it takes” spirit. Or the way slaughterhouses are now designed by animal behaviorists to minimize problems due to the cattle becoming fearful or angry: soothing and reassuring environments right up until the hammer falls. Or how casinos have no windows, no clocks, and seating only at the game tables. Free/cheap booze, though…

All examples of how the behavior of animals must be managed to improve corporate profits.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 October 2014 at 5:32 pm

Interesting idea: Who you are lies not in your memes but in your decisions

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I sort of like that simply from a process viewpoint; perhaps it is more accurately stated, “We are the residue of our decisions.” Here’s the article.

Carla Needleman, in her excellent book The Work of Craft, writes… well, this is your assignment: go to the link, click the “Look Inside” link, and start reading. (The specific thing that brought it to mind is her anecdote about finishing a pot too quickly because she wanted certainty too much: she aborted the incubation period.)

Written by LeisureGuy

18 October 2014 at 4:56 pm

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