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Friday, August 12, 2016

"What the _ _ _ _ ?" FDA and DEA Still Consider Marijuana a Schedule 1 Substance



In their seemingly nonsensical way, the DEA and the FDA recently continued to support the classification of marijuana as a Schedule l controlled substance (which keeps intact a 1970 law) – in other words, considering marijuana has "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” This ruling keeps the drug in the same category as heroin and cocaine.

DEA acting administrator Chuck Rosenberg wrote: “... we will remain tethered to science, as we must, and as the statute demands. It certainly would be odd to rely on science when it suits us and ignore it otherwise." What is the “statute” that “demands” this absurdity?

Rosenberg said designating marijuana a Schedule I drug does not necessarily mean it is as dangerous as other drugs.

"It is best not to think of drug scheduling as an escalating 'danger' scale — rather, specific statutory criteria (based on medical and scientific evidence) determine into which schedule a substance is placed," Rosenberg wrote.

The Food and Drug Administration said agency officials reviewed more than 500 studies on the use of medical marijuana, identifying only 11 that met the agency standards for "legitimate testing." For various reasons, none of the trials demonstrated "an accepted medical use," the agency concluded.

The FDA last evaluated marijuana for medical use in 2006 and said in its latest review that the available research "has progressed," but does not meet federal standards of safety or effectiveness

(Alicia A. Caldwell. “US government won't reclassify marijuana, allows research.” WRAL Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville. August 11, 2016.)

Do not think of marijuana on a “danger scale” but place it in the same category as heroin and cocaine because of “specific statutory criteria”? What in the hell does this mean? Here is the DEA classification of a Schedule 1 substance – “considered the most dangerous class of drugs with a high potential for abuse and potentially severe psychological and/or physical dependence” ...

Schedule I

Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are:
heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote 
 
My concern is the negative effect of the ruling upon the legitimate uses of medical marijuana, especially in the cases of treatment of pain associated with many serious conditions and the use of cannabidiol for treating children with epilepsy.

For God's sake, oxycodone (OxyContin and the like) is considered a Schedule II controlled substance along with Vicodin, fentanyl, hydromorphone, methadone, morphine, and oxymorphone. How could such substances be considered to have a lower potential for abuse and a higher value for medical use than marijuana? 

No single organization tracks all research studies of medical marijuana and marijuana-based drugs and herbs. But, controlled studies since 1990 found the following:

Alzheimer's Disease: One 1997 trial found that synthetic THC could ease symptoms of Alzheimer's. Patients were less agitated and ate better after treatment.

Autism: Two animal studies show that chemicals in marijuana may help symptoms of some forms of autism. A study of children with autism is underway at the University of California Irvine Medical Center.

Cancer: Several studies on animal and human cells and a small study on 9 people suggested THC and other cannabinoids (chemicals derived from cannabis) might slow the growth of brain cancer. Multiple lab studies in human cells have also shown the potential for them to slow other kinds of cancers, such as breast cancer and leukemia; no studies in people have taken place.

Chronic Pain: More than 45 studies have looked at marijuana and pain related to chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, HIV, rheumatoid arthritis, and spinal injuries. The studies have included smoked marijuana, along with herbal and man-made forms. The majority of the studies showed an improvement in pain relief in comparison to a placebo or to other traditional pain medications. About a quarter of the studies showed no improvement.

Epilepsy: Personal stories and animal studies have shown that cannabidiol, one of the chemicals in cannabis, may help seizures in children with epilepsy. New York University just announced it will do a study of children with epilepsy and marijuana.

Digestive Disorders: Personal stories and several early studies have shown that smoking marijuana can help people with digestive diseases such as colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and Crohn’s disease. Some of the results included a reduction in bowel inflammation and reduced acid reflux. Further, some patients were able to retain more nutrients in their bodies, and the disease went into remission.

MS: More than 24 studies have looked at smoked marijuana, cannabinoids, and MS. Most reported that it helped relax patients’ rigid muscles and helped with pain. Sativex is approved to treat MS in 24 countries, but not in the U.S.

Schizophrenia: Two clinical trials showed that THC and cannabidiol could help with psychotic and other symptoms. The National Institutes of Health is funding a small clinical trial that also aims to show whether THC and cannabidiol can ease symptoms.

(Research provided by NORML, the marijuana legalization advocacy group; and data found in PubMed, the National Institutes of Health’s RePORTER; and a database maintained by the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines, a medical marijuana research organization based in Cologne, Germany.)

(Bara Vada. “Medical Marijuana: What the Research Shows.” Pain Management Health Center. WedMD. 2016.)

Christine Gregoire, the former Democratic governor of Washington state, said, “While I haven’t read it (the ruling), the outcome puts the DEA totally out of touch with the Justice Department, current research, the medical profession, patients and the public.”

(Rob Hotakainen. “DEA says marijuana has no medical value, will remain Schedule 1 drug.” Duluth News Tribune. August 11, 2016.)

Despite two recent petitions asking the agency to reconsider this designation for the benefit of scientific research, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration made this decision based on what they call a “scientific and medical” evaluation.

"The DEA and the FDA continue to believe that scientifically valid and well-controlled clinical trials conducted under investigational new drug (IND) applications are the most appropriate way to conduct research on the medicinal uses of marijuana," said a statement from the DEA.

The agency is taking a step to make the plant more available for research. Now, more universities will be able to grow the plant for research. The DEA said this "will allow additional entities to apply to become registered with DEA so that they may grow and distribute marijuana for FDA-authorized research."

The agency said it has never stood in the way of a researcher conducting an FDA-approved study using marijuana from the NIDA-approved supply of the plant. According to the DEA, as of June, there there were 483 researchers registered with the agency to conduct FDA-approved research with schedule I controlled substances, not just marijuana.

The agency maintains its "commitment to work together with the FDA and NIDA to identify ways of streamlining research on marijuana and its extracts."

At least 25 states and the District of Columbia have approved the use of medical marijuana for conditions ranging from epilepsy to arthritis.

"In reality, marijuana should be descheduled and states should be allowed to set their own policies," said Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, which supports marijuana policy reform. Collins said he considered the DEA's decision to be one that puts "politics above science."

I understand “going slow” with marijuana reform. That is why I think Federal agencies should approve medical marijuana legislation before considering recreational use. What I don't understand is the politics that puts the FDA, Big Pharma, political lobbyists, and politicians in cahoots. It's a power game grounded in huge profits, and it has been inconsiderate of real danger for decades. All one has to do is study the history of the prescription drug epidemic in America to see the horrible outcome of failed policies and inept leadership.

Nothing benefits society when Federal agencies mislabel foods and drugs just as nothing benefits society when enforcement branches use their limited resources to pursue petty, even questionable criminal activities in the face of more serious concerns. Politics, indeed … collaborations of the worst kind.

 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Truth About Trump Rant: "Hillary Wants to Abolish Second Amendment"


 

Great controversy still rages over GOP Presidential nominee Donald Trump and the meaning of his comments at a recent rally in Wilmington, North Carolina. Without any embellishment or connotation concerning meaning, let's look at the reality of the disputation.

Trump said ...

"Hillary wants to abolish -- essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know. But I tell you what, that will be a horrible day, if Hillary gets to put her judges in, right now we're tied."

This Hillary Clinton's stance on gun control ...

Republicans, Democrats, gun owners and non-gun owners”–feel divided when “in reality, we’re not divided on [the issue of control. Americans know that we can respect the rights of responsible gun owners and enact commonsense gun reforms to keep our communities safe.”

Clinton is calling for a “national movement” to “stand up to the NRA” and lambasting Republicans for voting against gun control legislation.

What is wrong with us, that we cannot stand up to the NRA and the gun lobby, and the gun manufacturers they represent? This is not just tragic. We don’t just need to pray for people. We need to act and we need to build a movement. It’s infuriating.”

Clinton has called for an array of gun control measures, including holding gun manufacturers liable for gun violence, closing a loophole that allows gun sales to proceed after three days if a background check is not completed in that time and taking administrative action to require background checks at guns shows and gun stores. This week, her campaign released an ad calling for gun control measures.

So, regardless of your interpretation of Trump's intentions for raising the possibility that gun rights
supporters could take matters into their own hands if Hillary is elected and appoints judges who favor stricter gun control measures, you must acknowledge that Donald has generated a great controversy that requires explaining exactly what he meant.

Most importantly, Donald Trump's intentions, whatever they were, are based on a lie. Hillary Clinton does not want to abolish the Second Amendment … not even “essentially.” This is an emotional appeal from a candidate behind in the polls who seeks to convince a bloc of voters to support him. Plain and simple, Trump's claim is a lie.

Does Hillary Clinton support new measures of gun control? Absolutely. But, in doing so, she does not want to divide America into two camps: the “Second Amendment people” and the Constitutional anarchists who “take away your guns.” This is a false dichotomy posited by Donald Trump that unjustly polarizes camps of intelligent gun owners.

Does Hillary Clinton stand against the rigid, no compromise policy of the National Rifle Association in an effort to stop gun violence? Of course. Remember, this is the group that after the attack on Newtown, which killed 20 children, put out a statement that was full of lies, accusing the White House’s gun task force of an “agenda to attack the Second Amendment” and of blaming “law-abiding gun owners” for the “acts of criminals and madmen.”

The present NRA represents first and foremost, the multibillion dollar gun industry. With tremendous financial backing, the NRA defends an extreme view – a view that encourages staunch resistance to even the most sensible regulatory and public safety efforts. Their apparent goal is to ensure the country is awash in as many guns as possible. Just consider Wayne La Pierre’s now infamous statement: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

Perhaps Donald Trump manufactured his falsehood about the Second Amendment from this NRA source. Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, said this in October, 2015 about Clinton's support of gun control measures:"This validates what the NRA has said all along. The real goal of gun control supporters is gun confiscation. Hillary Clinton's extreme views are completely out of touch with the American people."

What did Trump imply in his North Carolina comments? Was it supposed to be a sick joke, a threat against Hillary Clinton, or some kind of “wink, wink” moment full of reckless implications that might later be explained away? I have my own opinions, but let's stick with the facts.
  1. Donald Trump told a lie that generated a controversy.

  2. All Americans that support the Constitution, not just NRA advocates, are “Second Amendment people” – that includes Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives.

  3. Trump's assumption of a President Clinton being blocked from selecting Supreme Court judges by gun supporters is veiled, aggressive division, to say the least.
You know, many of us at first thought Donald Trump was an amusing novelty. Then, we marveled at how many people began to respect his loose comments and derision. And finally, we realized that the real Trump was an ambitious politician, that he was a master manipulator, that he was a consummate  liar, and that he was a dangerous narcissist coveting power and control at the expense of anyone not sharing his views.

 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Role Model Ibtihaj Muhammad -- American, African-American, Muslim Woman With a Hijab and a Sword

 

“You're not Muslim or American, you're Muslim and American.” 

--President Obama visiting a mosque in the suburbs of Baltimore in 2016 

There once was a young girl from New Jersey whose parents encouraged her to play sports. While growing up, she tried many different sports including softball, tennis and track. But, given the young lady's beliefs about proper wardrobes – the tenants of her faith required covering her body – the family found it challenging to make clothing adjustments their daughter needed to participate in many of the sports she tried. It was cumbersome to say the least.

Then, her mother drove past a local high school and saw students practicing fencing. Her mother knew nothing about the sport but upon seeing the participants' uniforms, she thought it might be a “good fit” for her daughter. So, the youth began the sport at age 13, and she has never looked back.

Later the girl described the experience to CNN ...

My mom just so happened to discover fencing. She was driving past a local high school and saw kids with what she thought was like a helmet and like long pants and long jacket. She was like, ‘I don’t know what it is, but I want you to try it.'” 

The girl I am speaking of is Ibtihaj Muhammad. By the way, her name means “joy.” She was born in Maplewood, New Jersy, and she is a Muslim growing up in America who has remained unwavering in her commitment to her faith. She attended Duke University, where she received an academic scholarship.

Ibtihaj went on to be an NCAA All-American from Duke. In addition, she became a five-time Senior World team medalist and 2014 Senior World Team Champion. She has won both individual and team medals on the World Cup circuit, and she ranked as high as number seven in the world during the 2015-16 season.

Of course, recently the 30-year-old Muhammad attracted great attention and helped put the world spotlight on fencing, a sport that typically garners little publicity, when she made history in Rio as the first U.S. woman to compete in the Olympic Game wearing a hijab – a veil or headscarf worn by some Muslim women to cover the hair and neck.

Muhammad defeated Olena Kravatska of Ukraine 15-13 in her opening bout at Carioca Arena 3 in Rio de Janeiro before bowing out 15-12 to France's Cecilia Berder in the round of 16, missing out on a spot in the quarterfinals.

Ibihaj Muhammad is much more than an Olympian. She is an advocate, an outspoken supporter of diversity, and an entrepreneur. Through it all, her message is clear: Believe you can do anything. She told CNN ...

"I remember as a kid, people telling me as a kid that black people didn't fence. I remember people telling me that Muslims didn't fence. Without that belief and that drive in having strong athletes like Muhammad Ali or like Serena (Williams) and Venus (Williams), without having strong people to look up to when I was a kid and to really face adversity head on, I wouldn't be where I am today, so I'm really appreciative of that.

"When I heard that there had never been a Muslim woman on the U.S. team to wear the hijab, that is when I made this conscious decision to go for 2016. I knew that I had it in me to qualify for the Olympic team, and I wanted to hopefully be that change, that other minorities could see that with hard work and perseverance, anything is possible...

“It means a lot to me to be able to represent the United States and be an ambassador not just to the sport but also to our country and show the diversity. One of the special things that I hold near and dear to my heart at being an American is how diverse our community and our society is.”

(Jill Martin. “Muslim fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad set to make U.S. Olympic history in Rio.” CNN. August 03, 2016.)

Muhammad recognized it's not always easy being different, even in a modern world. After all, she is a woman, an African-American, and a Muslim. Yet, in her drive to excel, Ibtihaj feels no bounds. She said, “I am excited to change the stereotypes and and misconceptions people have about Muslim women. I'm hopeful, in my efforts to represent our country well as (being) an athlete – that they change the rhetoric around how people think and perceive the Muslim community.”

Muhammad and her siblings have also created their own clothing line called Louella – named after their grandmother. The company features a wide array of options including dresses, sweaters, jumpsuits, skirts and pants. The line is described as “a new fresh and vibrant look to the modest fashion industry.”

Why did Ibtihaj and her family begin the clothing line? “There weren’t things that me or my friends would wear. We wanted something not that just was modest, we wanted something that was affordable,” Muhammad said.

 

This sports ambassador, who serves on the U.S. Department of State’s Empowering Women and Girls Through Sport Initiative, is a role model, a flesh-and-blood image image that inspires Muslim American women.

Yet …

After Muhammad said the following about feeling unsafe in New York due to the country’s increased anti-Muslim rhetoric led by Donald Trump and others, her comments drew xenophobic reactions from many local Facebookers.

Ibtihaj said ...

“[I feel unsafe] all the time. I had someone follow me home from practice and try to report me to police And this is right on 28th and 7th in New York City. I’m very vocal about these things because I want people to know I’m not a novelty, I’m not special in any way. I’m a woman who wears hijab and these are my experiences."

(Jessica Chasmar. “Muslim-American Olympian feels unsafe ‘all the time’ in U.S.” The Washington Times. August 04, 2016.)

Here are some of the posts from local Facebookers about her genuine fear:
  • “If that's what she thinks I fell it would be better for her to fly to Saudi Arabia after the games where she will be safe among her "own people" as she says.”
  • “If you don't like it here, then leave! You are free to go!
  • “No one is stopping her from leaving.”
  • “GIT”
  • “There are many times that I haven't felt safe in this country but if I was representing my county in Rio I would never say that trying to bring negative attention to my nation--because no matter how she says it people are automatically going to assume you are referring to how you are treated because of your religion which I do not believe is the case.”
  • “She lives in a city that saw the biggest terrorist attack ever on American soil-that was perpetrated by people who wear hijabs. When people wearing yamakas or Amish dresses begin beheading people on YouTube or when their spiritual texts say to kill or make war with unbelievers then I'm sure it would be difficult for them to live in New York City too.”
  • “Why is she trying to make a political statement at the Olympics? Why the negative Trump rhetoric from her. She is there to represent the USA not to deface it with her plea for attention. Your sword fight is over and so is your 15 minutes of fame. Now have fun going back to the place you live and hate so much after saying all that crap. I doubt it will be any better for you now. “
  • “I had never heard or seen her before this article. Secondly Islam is controversial in World Politics, not just the US. What people is she supposedly representing that does not have voices? Surely not women muslims, that's all I hear about since Hillary decided to run.”
  • “Oh I see she is representing women, who in the Muslim Religion aren't afforded the freedom to speak. You would think she would be thankful to be in the US where we have a Constitution that permits that. “

     
I am appalled that people feel so much anger toward a minority female American, especially one so accomplished and so driven to activism. It is a fact that many people still feel First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and expression apply only to those with a certain view or with a certain faith. This obvious prejudice towards Muslims – as couched in divisive, falsely patriotic “Love it or leave it” terms – is reprehensible. And yes, the comments also exhibit that prejudice extends to African-Americans and to women in general.

Shouldn't we be praising those who uphold our dearest freedoms of liberty and justice instead of judging their honest fears as faults of their beliefs and heritage? A woman who wears a hijab in New York City surely faces danger and derision from those who equate Muslims with terrorists. But, this is not Ibtihaj Muhammad's intention to create division or fear; rather, she wears her dress to be the American individual she is in a democratic country that must embrace diversity.

Muhammad is a proven champion – a world-class athlete and a tireless crusader for equality. If Americans choose to limit her advancement in any way with unfair criticism of her unique message, then we all lose a portion of the soul of our country. The fabric of America continues to grow stronger through our changing population. Why? Freedom. And freedom knows no dress code or no religion.


Monday, August 8, 2016

Ohio -- Second in Nation in Drug Overdose Deaths in 2014: Why?


 

Look at this illustration from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The red states have suffered the most significant increase in deaths from drug overdoes in 2013 to 2014. Notice the centralization of drug overdose deaths in states including and bordering Ohio.

Ohio had the second-highest number of drug overdose deaths nationwide in 2014, a number that's soaring – nearly one death every three hours. Heroin and prescription pain relievers took many of those 2,744 lives in Ohio.

The CDC analyzed recent mortality data from the National Vital Statistics System to track trends and characteristics of the crisis, including the types of drugs associated with these cases. "Opioids – primarily prescription pain relievers and heroin – are the main driver of overdose deaths," the report stated. Heroin, painkillers and the like accounted for more than half of those deaths.

More people died from drug overdoses in the United States last year than any other year on record. It’s an epidemic that claimed the lives of more than 47,000 Americans – more people than the Great American Ball Park (the home of the Cincinnati Reds) can seat.

Do the statistics shock you? They should. Now, back to the location of the states in red. You may ask why this cluster of states is so vulnerable to overdose deaths. Just look at the cluster including Ohio. Here is the dramatic increase in these states:

Percentage of Change from 2013-2014

Ohio 18.3
Virginia 14.7
Michigan 13.2
Pennsylvania 12.9
Indiana 9.6
Illinois 8.3

Let's examine the heroin problem. 

The epidemiological report of 2014 “Increasing Heroin Overdoses in Ohio” stated that contributing factors to increasing heroin overdose rates is due to a number of factors such as the following:

* The increasing availability of heroin throughout Ohio – increased supply 

* The shutdown of southern Ohio pill mills 

* The dissemination of prescribing guidelines on appropriate use of prescription opioids

* The decreasing cost of heroin makes a cheaper alternative for prescription opioid users. 

* The increasing purity of heroin as well as changes in the formulation of some prescription opioids to make them tamper-resistant

What Ohioans are in the highest risk categories for heroin overdose?

* Users with decreased tolerance from periods of abstinence (such as those leaving jail or treatment)
* Users who use multiple drugs, especially multiple nervous system depressants
* Users with health problems, especially those impacting the respiratory system
* New users of long-acting opioids, especially methadone
* High dose users of prescription opioids (>80 MED/day)
* Heroin users, as the purity of heroin in Ohio increases

(Orman Hall, M.A. Rick Massatti, Ph.D., M.S.W., L.S.W. Laura Potts, M.A. Christy Beeghly, M.P.H. and Mbabazi Kariisa, Ph.D. Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Governor’s Cabinet Opiate Action Team. April 2014.) 

Len Paulozzi, MD and medical epidemiologist in the Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, and Wilson Compton, MD and deputy director of National Institute on Drug Abuse, say in tackling the opioid abuse problem, health officials have to look upstream.

In particular, Compton said prevention strategies need to take a long-term approach, such as reducing the kinds of early childhood trauma that often lead to risky behaviors in adulthood. But often the most immediate need — beyond prevention and treatment — is helping those addicted to opioids prevent a fatal overdose.

In response to prevention, lawmakers and officials across the country are widening access to naloxone, a prescription drug that can be injected or given nasally to reverse an opioid overdose.

(Kim Krisberg. “Fatal heroin overdoses on the increase as use skyrockets: Health officials battling opiate epidemic.” The Nation's Health. 2016.)

What is common to the area of the United States so devastated by increasing overdose?

Some suspect high unemployment, a great number of work-related injuries, the trend toward children as young as 13 experimenting with opioids, “pink heroin” – heroin laced with fentanyl, doctors over-prescribing prescription opioids, and Mexican cartels seeding the low-cost heroin in susceptible “depressed” rural towns.

And, surely, all of these things do contribute to the crippling effects of addiction in Ohio country.

But …

I believe the biggest threats to people concerning overdose death are simply their absolute misconceptions of 

(1) taking substances to avoid all pain, and 
(2) taking drugs to escape all unwanted reality. 

And, it is true many underlying causes for these behaviors unfortunately exist, but the fact remains that the public demand is so high because taking opioids – legal and illegal substances – allows people to feel better temporarily. The life or death reality is that eventually many become dependent and do not care about the risk of addiction that leads to rehab, to jail, or to the morgue.

Who's going to fix it? Writer and reporter Zachary Siegel has an opinion ...

“Cops can do one of two things, arrest in these big operations and investigations or don’t. And my feeling is, given the problems they face, that they have to arrest. But the problem is this is not a police or criminally caused problem. This really came out of modern medicine. Because there are so many more doctors across America than there are ever going to be drug traffickers, that means this problem is all over the country. To say that the police are in charge of dealing with it is a cop out.

“And it’s really deeper than that. It’s us, as in Americans, as in medical patients, saying we will find other ways to treat our own pain. We will make better life choices. We will not smoke, we will walk more and eat less crap. That is part of the solution.

“We tried to deal with pain with one solution, which was with pills. What we need is a wide panoply of options that can be adapted for the enormous variety of human beings that exist. People are different. We tried to treat pain one way and that didn’t have a good result. I don’t believe that one way to treat addiction is going to be any more successful.”

(Zachary Siegel. “How Did Middle America Become Hooked on Heroin?.  
The Fix. July 03, 2015.)

And so it goes – everyone has pain and everyone has an idea about how to handle it. Your pain is not my pain and your cause of pain is not my cause of pain. To expect a substance or a pill to relieve all of this pain – from the slightest discomfort to the most excruciating hurt – is something we have been conditioned to believe. Experiencing pain or distress is not always meant to be relieved with a magic potion.

Yet, now, to many people, demanding a life without any pain does lead to a drug addiction. In other words, the panaceas for physical and emotional distress meant to relieve suffering often creates agony and even death. We must stop having an unguarded trust of anything that chemically alters our bodies, and, instead, question both what we take and why we take it. Sometimes, whether it's heroin or oxycodone, and whether it's for legitimate pain or for recreational escape, the investigation saves a life. God knows we need more life-saving help in the State of Ohio. We must learn to "know better."


 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Trump: A Narcissist Blames the System For His Failure


 

“Blame is a natural place to go when confronted by a narcissist 
being a narcissist.”

--Melissa Schenker

In an effort to change his falling voter approval ratings, Donald Trump is now casting doubt on the prospect of fair elections in November. This past week he has been predicting that the election could be “rigged” against him. He's labeled the mounting polls showing him trailing Clinton as "phony" and warned that voter fraud could steal the election from him.

Donald Trump is a desperate narcissist. He hopes this criticism will prompt his supporters to reject the possibility of a Hillary Clinton victory in the fall as fraudulent. Instead of blaming himself for the offensive comments and missteps he seemingly makes on a daily basis, he shows the true colors of his narcissism – he blames, blames, and blames over and over and over. Trump spews caustic comments without thinking of the consequences. There is no cure for his narcissistic behavior.

Sam Vaknin, author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician, explains the actions of the narcissist ...

“To put it plainly, the (average) narcissist is unable to answer the question: 'Why did you do what you did?' or 'Why did you choose this mode of action over others available to you under the same circumstances?' These decisions are taken unconsciously. 

“But once the course of action is (unconsciously) chosen, the narcissist has a perfect grasp of what he is doing, whether it is right or wrong and what will be the price others are likely to pay for his actions and choices. And he can then decide to reverse course (for instance, to refrain from doing anything). On the one hand, therefore, the narcissist is not to blame – on the other hand, he is very guilty.

“The narcissist deliberately confuses responsibility with guilt. The concepts are so close that the distinctions often get blurred. By provoking guilt in responsibility-laden situations, the narcissist transforms life with him into a constant trial. Actually, the continuous trial itself is the punishment. 

“Failures, for instance, induce guilt. The narcissist always labels someone else's efforts as 'failures' and then proceeds to shift the responsibility for said failures to his victim so as to maximise the opportunity to chastise and castigate her. 

“The logic is two-phased. First, every responsibility imputed to the victim is bound to lead to failure, which, in turn, induces in the victim guilt feelings, self-recrimination and self-punishment. Secondly, more and more responsibilities are shifted away from the narcissist and onto his mate – so that, as time goes by, an asymmetry of failures is established. Burdened with less and less responsibilities and tasks – the narcissist fails less. It preserves the narcissist's sense of superiority, on the one hand – and legitimizes his sadistic attacks on his victim, on the other hand.”

(Sam Vaknin. “Narcissistic Blame Game - The Guilt of Others.” selfgrowth.com.)

Melissa Schenker, principal of the Work/Life consulting firm and MBA from M.I.T., puts the blame in perspective. She says ...

“Blaming a narcissist for behaving like a narcissist is like blaming a tree for behaving like a tree. If you get angry that the tree drops it’s leaves in fall, who suffers — you or the tree? If you get frustrated that the tree is late in budding in spring, who suffers — you or the tree? Of course, you.”

In my opinion, trying to reason with a narcissist like Trump is wasted time. GOP leaders have attempted to rein in their presidential candidate with no success. They understand he will continue to act predictably like the narcissist he is. Managers of Trump's campaign realize that letting him continue his abrasive and sarcastic actions is inevitable. So they figure why not intensify the only course available and heighten the blame game to question the very foundations of democracy.

"They are setting up a 'throw your hands in the air' scenario, saying that winning the election is just unattainable because it's rigged in favor of Hillary Clinton, therefore preserving the support of millions of voters that like him to keep them motivated for another race or whatever comes in the future," GOP strategist Ron Bonjean said.

(Ben Kamisar. “Trump casts doubt on electoral system.” MSN News. August 07, 2016.)


Of course, many Republicans have dismissed Trump's claims entirely, arguing that Trump's biggest stumbling block is his own campaign missteps.

At the same time, Trump's irresponsible blame has the potential for violence. There is already a history of Trump predicting such behavior while washing his hands for the blame even after he instigated it. In March, he told CNN that if he didn't win the Republican nomination "I think you'd have riots," warning that a contested convention would lead to chaos in the streets.

"Given the history of Trump rallies there is some potential for violence. I don't think that's unreasonable to worry about," said Claremont McKenna College Professor John Pitney, a former Republican campaign operative. "To some extent we're in uncharted waters. What happens when the loser is calling millions of followers to deny the legitimacy of the outcome? It's hard to tell what will happen but nothing good can come of that."

Other Republicans aren't worried so much about violence but more about what damage Trump is causing to American's trust in government and faith in fair elections.

"The system is hurt when people like him constantly degrade it," said former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), who doesn't plan to vote for Trump."But I'm not worried about rioting in the streets. Americans are better than that. We'll get through this election, one way or the other, and democracy will continue."

(Cameron Joseph. “Donald Trump ‘afraid the election’s going to be rigged’ after his poll numbers plummeted since Gold Star family attacks.” New York Daily News. August 06, 2016.)

Without a doubt, Donald Trump has problems with feeling guilt. His narcissism causes him to place blame for his shortcomings on other people instead of upon on himself. This also causes him to cross lines and to be abusive to innocent people, often those with little ability to defend themselves. When confronted with his bad behavior, Trump employs the narcissistic tactic of telling opponents he “can't believe how upset some people can be over such a trivial thing.”

Trump feels any opposition is dangerous because it wounds his inflated ego. He believes that these injuries are inflicted by “bad people” and that such insolence requires an aggressive, impulsive response, no matter how injurious the consequences. On rare occasions, Trump will accept blame but only if it can be seen as a magnanimous gesture. This is classic, text book narcissistic behavior.

The Mayo Clinic’s definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is: “A mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. This description fits Donald Trump. Now, once again, he is using blame for his own inadequacies -- only this time he is irresponsibly lashing out at the system he claims to have allowed him win after win. In short, this is desperation.

Trump lives not just for approval but for adoration, and he is willing to damage the electoral system to gain power and prestige. Oh, he will tell people he is an “outsider” and the playing ground is not level, but shouldn't a self-professed underdog be fighting any perceived injustices rather than blaming the system in which he has so willingly immersed himself?

Charles Krauthammer – American Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist, author, political commentator, and physician – says “to understand Trump, you have to grasp the General Theory: He judges every action, every pronouncement, every person by a single criterion -- whether or not it/he is 'nice' to Trump.”

Krauthammer continues ...

“Trump's greatest success -- normalizing the abnormal -- is beginning to dissipate. When a Pulitzer Prize-winning liberal columnist (Eugene Robinson) and a major conservative foreign policy thinker and former speechwriter for George Shultz under Ronald Reagan (Robert Kagan) simultaneously question Trump's psychological stability, indeed sanity, there's something going on (as Trump would say).”

(Charles Krauthammer. “Beyond-narcissistic Trump lives for adoration. Sioux City Journal. August 07, 2016.)

Why does Trump do what he does? Why does he now recklessly blame the electoral system? As his success wanes, Trump is doing exactly what is expected of a narcissist. He is going to his “natural place” of blame. He confuses responsibility with guilt and blames everyone else for his own failures.

 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Government and Religious Advocacy: "The Good, the Bad, and the Dogmatic"

 

Do you ever feel people use religion too frequently to ridicule differing opinions? I believe today so often religious groups employ self-righteous doctrines of faith in an attempt to control important issues of government such as immigration, capital punishment, women's rights, and gender equality. Regardless of the safeguard of separation of church and state established by the founding fathers, these folks use religion in an effort to “beat down” their political opponents.

The religious lobby is growing and growing very quickly. A recent Pew Research Center study found ...

The number of organizations engaged in religious lobbying or religion-related advocacy in Washington, D.C., has increased roughly five-fold in the past four decades, from fewer than 40 in 1970 to more than 200 today. These groups collectively employ at least 1,000 people in the greater Washington area and spend at least $350 million a year on efforts to influence national public policy. As a whole, religious advocacy organizations work on about 300 policy issues. “

(“Lobbying for the Faithful.” Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. May 15, 2012.)

Religious advocacy is broadly defined in this study to encompass a wide range of efforts to shape public policy on religion-related issues. It includes “lobbying as strictly defined by the Internal Revenue Service – attempts to influence, or urge the public to influence, specific legislation, whether the legislation is before a legislative body, such as the U.S. Congress or any state legislature, or before the public as a referendum, ballot initiative, constitutional amendment or similar measure.”

It also includes “other efforts to affect public policy, such as activities aimed at the White House and federal agencies, litigation designed to advance policy goals, and education or mobilization of religious constituencies on particular issues. The issues may range from inherently religious matters (such as promotion of religious freedom and support for parochial schools) to social and political issues on which religious groups seek to promote their perspectives (such as abortion, same-sex marriage, hunger and HIV-AIDS).”

Religious advocacy has always been present in American Politics. In fact, it may be enlightening to hear a voice from the past speaking of religious advocacy in the 1960s. These are the words of Barry Goldwater, American politician and five-term U.S. senator from Arizona (1953–65, 1969–87) and the Republican Party's nominee for President of the United States in the 1964 election. Goldwater stated ...

On religious issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being.

But like any powerful weapon, the use of God's name on one's behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position one hundred percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both.

I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in A, B, C, and D. Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?

And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of conservatism.”

These words come from a man credited for sparking the resurgence of the American conservative political movement in the 1960s. To think that the efforts to influence political thinking have increased five-fold is rather remarkable, especially when religious interests often bemoan the loss of Godliness in state institutions. 

“This is the true spirit of insolent dogmatism: We have proved to the satisfaction of every honest man, that we are right, and that you are wrong; and therefore, if you are not convinced, it must be owing to your own perversity. When a man's shot is exhausted, he will try to terrify his adversary by firing off powder.”

~Julius Charles Hare, The Mission of the Comforter and Other Sermons, With Notes, 1846

Who are the lobbyists?

Roman Catholic, Protestant and Jewish advocacy groups are the most numerous in the study (a total of 124 groups); together they make up 57% of the religious advocacy groups. About one-in-six of the advocacy groups in the study represent faiths with smaller numbers of adherents in the U.S., such as Baha’is, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, as well as other Christian and secular groups. The remaining quarter of the groups in the study (57) represent the views of multiple faiths or advocate on religion-related issues without representing a specific religious tradition, which is more than the number of groups representing any single faith.

(“Lobbying for the Faithful.” Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. 
May 15, 2012.)

I am certainly not offended by religious groups defending their beliefs and positing views on religious matters. Also, I applaud their important roles in enhancing democratic participation and in increasing public policy deliberation such as efforts to help the poor, the sick, the persecuted and the helpless, often by means that include educating the public or raising awareness.

However, groups that take Bible-thumping, dogmatic stands on social and political issues often do inject particular judgment. The power of their large lobby effectively exerts control – conduct that stifles progressive movements. In an ever-changing America, the government must defend and respect all religions while catering to no particular special interests.  

 

Questionable Influences

In 1995, Congress passed the Lobbying Disclosure Act. It provided for a few exceptions, including lobbying communications made by a “church, its integrated auxiliary or a convention or association of churches that is exempt from filing a federal income tax return,” as well as a “religious order. 

The only instances in which a church must disclose their lobbying is if spends a “substantial” amount of money on lobbying, if more than 20 percent of its lobbyist’s income is from direct lobbying on behalf of the church or if it hires an outside lobbying firm. Then, the hired firm is required to disclose that it has lobbied on behalf of a religious institution. The “substantial” test is a murky one, with little enforcement of it, and as is the 20 percent rule, unless attention is drawn to the organization.

(Zachary Newkirk. “God’s Lobbyists: The Hidden Realm of Religious Influence.” opensecrets.org. July 13, 2011.)

Zachary Newkirk, editor for the Cornell Progressive, reports Frank Guliuzza, professor of government and dean of academic affairs at Patrick Henry College, a Christian institution, told OpenSecrets Blog “the law treats those who wish to lobby motivated by their religious beliefs the same way it treats those who wish to lobby motivated by their feminist beliefs, their socialist believes, their support for Tea Party ideas and the like. They can raise money to speak out; they can contact elected officials; they can contact heads of regulatory agencies; they can submit amicus curiae briefs — all of the many forms of lobbying — without registering as professional lobbyists.” 

However, if a church or religious organization sets up an outfit that will employ professional lobbyists, the lobbyists must register like other professionals,” he continued. “That distinction seems both reasonable and fair.”

So then some organizations that aren't themselves churches come on board. Newkirk reports that one such group that knows how to lobby is the National Association of Evangelicals. As an association of churches, it is also exempt from lobbying disclosure rules. An association publication, For the Health of the Nation, implicitly refers to lobbying ...

“Evangelical Christians in America face a historic opportunity,” the preamble begins. “We make up fully one quarter of all voters in the most powerful nation in history. Never before has God given American evangelicals such an awesome opportunity to shape public policy.”

“The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause is directed only at government and restrains its power,” it continues. “Thus, for example, the clause was never intended to shield individuals from exposure to the religious views of nongovernmental speakers. Exemptions from regulations or tax burdens do not violate the Establishment Clause, for government does not establish religion by leaving it alone.”

In other words, the National Association of Evangelicals believes that lobbying disclosure exemptions is not a violation of the First Amendment.

(Zachary Newkirk. “God’s Lobbyists: The Hidden Realm of Religious Influence.” opensecrets.org. July 13, 2011.)

“Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion — several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother's path to happiness and heaven.”

~Mark Twain

Lobbying to guarantee religious freedom and lobbying to force particular religious agendas on social and political issues are two different things. Like Goldwater stated long ago, I believe that today “They (religious factions) are trying to force government leaders into following their position one hundred percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both.”

Religious lobbyists used to be like subsistence farmers, and now it’s like agribusiness,” said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State

There is cause for concern in the increased activity of religious lobbyists when they insist on defining delicate, important issues in strict terms of “right” and “wrong.”

Zoe Robinson, Associate Professor of Law at DePaul University, if “the pursuit of religiously bound interests as a legislative end results in the religious interest being pursued as an end in and of itself, (it) consequently imposes significant costs on the values of religious liberty and democracy.” She claims ultimately, when considering the place of religion in the political process, “it is incumbent on scholars to consider both the institutional design question of how religious participation in politics is operationalized, as well as take into account both the costs and benefits of that involvement.”

It seems logical that any evaluation of religious involvement in political life should attempt to balance both what is gained and lost though the presence of religious interest groups in the legislative process. One must question such groups' religious claims of supporting constitutional goals because the complicated outcomes for their underlying values can compromise democracy.

Robinson argues that these mixed results mean that “rather than according unmitigated praise to religion in public life, it is essential to rethink the role of religious interest groups in politics in order to appropriately balance the competing outcomes for religious liberty and democracy.”
(Zoe Robinson. “Lobbying in the Shadows: Religious Interest Groups in the Legislative Process.” Emory Law Journal. December 17, 2015.)

“I like the silence of a church, before the service begins better than any preaching.”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, August 4, 2016

"I," The First Person Singular, and Narcissistic Trump

 

Many people consider personal pronouns as relatively unimportant parts of speech. These pronouns are a small set of words whose purpose is to “stand in place” for more illustrative and descriptive nouns. Well, the truth is these substitute placeholders are uniquely significant in their ability to project different points-of view: they are powerful expressions of personal voice rivaling more celebrated, emotive classifications of words such as descriptive adjectives, adverbs, and verbs.

The first-person point of view is used primarily for autobiographical writing, such as a personal essay or a memoir. The first-person POV has certain limitations. First and most obvious is the fact that the author is limited to a single point of view, which can be narrow, restrictive, and awkward.

Less careful or inexperienced writers and speakers using first-person may also fall to the temptation of making themselves the focal subject – the sole subject – of the essay, even in cases that demand focus and information on other subjects, characters, or events.

Let's examine the overuse of the first person pronoun “I.” It carries a great danger of projecting a narcissistic point of view.

Some people – often those hampered by inexperience – constantly use the first person “I” to attack and to counterattack others. These people may feel as if they are the “big fish,” or the smartest people, who must be admired and praised by others. When things aren't working out, they start a campaign of projecting themselves as prodigies while blaming others they see as less important beings for any problems, hoping that the “I” point of view will solidify their self-appointed sole authority stance.

In actuality, this shows a definite narcissism and a lack of awareness that many others contribute to any one person's success or lack of it.

“I don't like losers.” --Donald Trump

“I own buildings. I'm a builder; I know how to build. Nobody can build like I can build. Nobody. And the builders in New York will tell you that. I build the best product. And my name helps a lot.” --Donald Trump

“I'm a bit of a P. T. Barnum. I make stars out of everyone.” --Donald Trump

"I alone can fix it." --Donald Trump

Narcissists actually believe there is no boundary between themselves and others. This attitude actually helps narcissists think people should serve them and allows them to intrude and shamelessly exploit the concerns of others. They avoid the “we” point of view because they want to claim all the credit for their own successes. Often, they love to brag about their self-proclaimed acquisition of physical assets such as money.

"The beauty of me is that I'm very rich." --Donald Trump

“I don't make deals for the money. I've got enough, much more than I'll ever need. I do it to do it.” --Donald Trump

“I'm the No. 1 developer in New York, I'm the biggest in Atlantic City, and maybe we'll keep it that way.” --Donald Trump

“I rely on myself very much. I just think that you have an instinct and you go with it. Especially when it comes to deal-making and buying things.” --Donald Trump

Or, when narcissists do acknowledge the help of people with the pronoun “we,” they compliment others in order to group themselves with certain individuals that portray an attractive extension of themselves. They do so to convince people that their self-interest aligns with the beliefs of influential others. But, let the “we” even slightly disagree with “I,” and the narcissist will instantly deem others' opinions wrong.

“I've been dealing with politicians all my life. All my life. And I've always gotten them to do what I need them to do.” --Donald Trump

“I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And do you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me.” --Donald Trump

"I love the old days, you know? You know what I hate? There's a guy totally disruptive, throwing punches, we're not allowed punch back anymore. ... I'd like to punch him in the face, I'll tell ya." --Donald Trump about a protester at his rally.

Narcissists love to feel insulted. They will take a philosophical discussion not aimed at anyone in particular and make it about them or someone they know being offended or getting overly emotional about it.

“I have women working in high positions. I was one of the first people to put women in charge of big construction jobs. And, you know, I've had a great relationship with women.” --Donald Trump

“I deal with foreign countries. I made a lot of money dealing against China. I've made a lot of money dealing against many other countries.” --Donald Trump 

“I understand the military. I know the military.” --Donald Trump

"I think I am, actually humble. I think I'm much more humble than you would understand” --Donald Trump

"I’ve been treated very unfairly by this judge. Now, this judge is of Mexican heritage. I'm building a wall, OK? I'm building a wall." --Donald Trump

Narcissists detest those who don't admire them. They have to be the center of attention, and no one can have or be better than them.

“I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things." --Donald Trump 

"I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters, okay? It's, like, incredible." –Donald Trump

“I was a great student. I was good at everything.” --Donald Trump

"Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest -and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure,it's not your fault." --Donald Trump

“My whole life is about winning. I don't lose often. I almost never lose.” --Donald Trump

"I think the only card she has is the women's card. She has got nothing else going. Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don't think she would get 5% of the vote. And the beautiful thing is women don't like her, ok?" –Donald Trump

"My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well been documented, are various other parts of my body." --Donald Trump


Narcissists use other humans without accessing the cost of doing so.

"There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down." --Donald Trump

I wouldn't mind a little bow. In Japan, they bow. I love it. Only thing I love about Japan. --Donald Trump

"I think I've made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard." --Donald Trump, rejecting the assertion made at the Democratic convention by Muslim lawyer Khizr Khan, whose son died in Iraq in 2004, that Trump had "sacrificed nothing and no one." Trump was unable to name a single sacrifice when pressed to elaborate. 

"I'd like to hear his wife say something." --Donald Trump, smearing Ghazala Khan, the mother of a fallen American soldier, by implying that she was not allowed to speak, despite the fact that she has spoken publicly about her son's death.

"I always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier." --Donald Trump
“I know where she went – it’s disgusting, I don’t want to talk about it. No, it’s too disgusting. Don’t say it, it’s disgusting." --Donald Trump on Hillary Clinton taking a bathroom break during a Democratic presidential debate.

“Now, the poor guy — you've got to see this guy, ‘Ah, I don't know what I said! I don't remember!'" --Donald Trump, mocking New York Times investigative reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has a physical disability.

So, if you like the first-person “I” point of view, Donald Trump is your champion. His narcissism is unbounded by influences of friends or foes. He forgets the other first-person plural reference “we” when he speaks of his successes. This, he believes, strengthens his superhuman image. In reality, he reinforces his own self-admiration while showing the world he pretends to be more than he really is.

Those who take too much credit while caring little about others do not represent leaders who understand community and effective policy. They use the guise of fighting political correctness and tearing down the establishment for their personal gain. I, I, I, I, … Donald Trump lacks one of the most essential skills in discourse. He doesn't understand or believe in anything but the first-person singular reference. His conceit, his lack of substance, and his lack of civility spell “n-a-r-c-i-s-s-i-s-t.”