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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

You Think Michelle Obama Shouldn't Say, "A House Built By Slaves"?


After Michelle Obama gave a tremendously inspiring speech to the Democratic National Convention Monday night (July 25, 2016), she has been met with great disbelief and even scorn for citing a little-discussed fact that dramatized her unique African-American family’s place in history. Here is the context and the quote that so many are holding up to scrutiny:

"That is the story of this country, the story that has brought me to this stage tonight, the story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, but who kept on striving and hoping and doing what needed to be done so that today, I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves -- and I watch my daughters –- two beautiful, intelligent, black young women –- playing with their dogs on the White House lawn. And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters –- and all our sons and daughters -– now take for granted that a woman can be President of the United States." 

Some said the First Lady's choice to mention this fact amounted to an attempt to divide the country along racial lines. I guess these people think by saying “the White House was built by slaves,” they contend Michelle Obama meant slaves, alone, did all the construction. As you can clearly see in the citation above, she did not say that.

First of all, let's establish the facts.

1. Yes, the White House had been built by slaves.

“There is little dispute among historians that slaves had a role in the building of the White House. According to the White House Historical Association’s website, planners had initially intended to import workers from Europe but had trouble recruiting any, so they 'turned to African-American — enslaved and free — to provide the bulk of labor that built the White House, the United States Capitol, and other early government buildings.'

“The association said slaves had worked at the government’s quarry in Aquia, Va., to cut the stone for the walls of the White House. The construction team included white laborers from Maryland and Virginia and immigrants from Ireland, Scotland and other parts of Europe, the association said.

“Jesse Holland, a Washington-based journalist who wrote The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slaves in the White House, said that most people never thought about how the president’s house and other important government buildings had been constructed, but that historians had long acknowledged the role of slaves.”

(Julie Hirschfeld Davis. “Yes, Slaves Did Help Build the White House.” The New York Times. July 26, 2016.)

“If you think about it, it would be pretty obvious: The White House is a neo-Classical mansion that was built in the South during slavery, and a majority of the mansions that were built in the South during slavery used slaves,” Mr. Holland said in an interview.

2. When she used the White House in her speech as symbolic of a noble structure and of an ideal democracy, Michelle Obama also pointed to the changes in the official residence and workplace of the President of the United States – changes in the beliefs and changes in the policies of its inhabitants. 
In 2016, President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their daughters Malia and Sasha are the first Afro-American residents of the White House. The historical significance of this achievement must not be forgotten. Why?

Actually, three Southerners – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison – were most instrumental in locating the national capital, Washington, DC, in slave territory. The first capital in New York City, a free state, then moved to Philadelphia. Yet, in Philadelphia a slave-owner could only keep a slave for six months before freeing him, unless he was temporarily sent into slave territory, which was inconvenient to the owner. So the fathers set aside land around a slave town, Alexandria, Virginia, to be the capital of the new nation.

Most of the "founding fathers" were slaveholders and rich plantation owners including Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Paine, John Hancock and James Madison to name a few. Plantation owning and slave owning went hand in hand. The biggest challenge the founders failed to confront was the existence of slavery on American soil.
The most radical proposal in the early days of the republic was to ship slaves and other blacks back to Africa. Jefferson, himself, believed that blacks would eventually have to be removed from the U.S. or else whites would live in perpetual dread that the slaves would rise up in rebellion. Such fears prompted a later president, James Monroe, to support the creation of the American Colonization Society (founded 1816-1817). 

(“Thomas Jefferson And Other Presidents Who Owned Slaves.” Journal of American History. October 12, 2014.)

Twelve American presidents have owned slaves and eight of them owned slaves while serving as president.

Following is the number of slaves each of the 12 slave-holding presidents owned. (CAPS indicate the president owned slaves while serving as the chief executive):
-GEORGE WASHINGTON (between 250-350 slaves)
-JAMES MADISON (more than 100)
-JAMES MONROE (about 75)
-ANDREW JACKSON (fewer than 200)
-Martin Van Buren (one)
-William Henry Harrison (eleven)
-JOHN TYLER (about 70)
-JAMES POLK (about 25)
-ZACHARY TAYLOR (fewer than 150)
-Andrew Johnson (probably eight)
-Ulysses S. Grant (probably five)
(Rob Lopresti. “Slaveholding Presidents.” White House Historical Association. Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies. Grand Valley University. 2016.)

Yes, the irony of Ulysses S. Grant owning slaves must be noted. Grant actually owned a slave named William Jones, whom he freed in 1859. Between 1854 and 1859 Grant worked and lived on an 850-acre farm in Missouri, near St. Louis, that was owned by his father-in-law. Grant’s wife, Julia, also owned slaves, and during Grant’s management of the farm he worked along with one of them, a man named Dan.  

(Brooks Jackson. “Slavery at White Haven. National Park Service Web site.

I contend that First Lady Michelle Obama understands the meaning of waking up in a house that was built by slaves like no other wife and mother in the history of America. Her understanding of that house and its construction in clear. It is a house constructed by slaves.

But, even more importantly, her comprehension of American history and her understanding of an incomplete commitment of the government to liberty, freedom, and justice is accurate. Michelle Obama, like no other female, understands just how far the country has come since the days of Washington, Jefferson, Taylor, and Grant – those among the American presidents who owned slaves while living in the United States and while serving as the chief executive.

How can anyone question Mrs. Obama's judgment or call her invocation of the slaves who built the White House “playing the race card” as an attempt to divide the country? The twelve slave-holding presidents “built” the symbolic foundation for the once-prejudiced White House without even laying a brick or pounding a nail. They willingly propagated slavery in the United States of America for well over 100 years.

Now, I know this all has changed, and I understand that many would prefer to bury the significance of this wicked bondage and servitude. But, we should not cover it up. In fact, we must be sure future generations know the real chronicle of our past. We would do well to listen carefully to Michelle Obama and walk the proverbial “mile in her shoes.” In a nation that seems willing to support politics over substance, our children and grandchildren are confronted daily by those who wish to use falsehoods and half-truths to gain power, position, and prestige.

The "house" of America must be kept in order, never again to be occupied by those who would enslave others. Bondage today is concealed by a cloak of deception founded in ignorance. Our nation will never reach its lofty ideals until we realize that an evil master can and will use everything in his toolbox of dirty tricks to oppress those who remain uniformed and misinformed. People who refuse to research the facts and reach logical conclusions will be reduced to slaves, even in the land of the free. There are plenty of slave-holding leaders ready to turn back time.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Benghazi Mother and Sister: "Stop Trump Blaming Hillary Clinton"


"I know for certain that Chris would not have wanted his name or memory used in that connection. I hope that there will be an 
immediate and permanent stop to this opportunistic and cynical 
use by the campaign.” 

 --Mary F. Commanday, The New York Times

Mrs. Commanday, the mother of slain U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, is calling on Donald Trump's campaign and the Republican Party to stop using her son's name and death in Benghazi as fodder for political attacks.

In addition, Dr. Anne Stevens, the sister of Ambassador Stevens and the chief of pediatric rheumatology at Seattle Children’s Hospital, believes using Chris’s death as a political point is not appropriate. She said …

"It is clear, in hindsight, that the facility was not sufficiently protected by the State Department and the Defense Department. But what was the underlying cause? Perhaps if Congress had provided a budget to increase security for all missions around the world, then some of the requests for more security in Libya would have been granted. Certainly the State Department is underbudgeted.

“I do not blame Hillary Clinton or Leon Panetta. They were balancing security efforts at embassies and missions around the world. And their staffs were doing their best to provide what they could with the resources they had. The Benghazi Mission was understaffed. We know that now. But, again, Chris knew that. It wasn’t a secret to him. He decided to take the risk to go there. It is not something they did to him. It is something he took on himself.

(Robin Wright. “Chris Stevens’s Family: Don’t Blame Hillary Clinton for Benghazi.”  The New Yorker. June 28, 2016.)

Dr. Stevens fondly recalled that her brother had been fascinated by the Middle East since childhood, when he dressed up as Lawrence of Arabia, with a towel and a pot atop his head. He served in the Peace Corps, in Morocco, before joining the Foreign Service, and he served twice in Libya before his final posting there, as well as in Damascus, Cairo, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. 

When asked what she thought about Secretary Clinton's conduct on Benghazi, Stevens said ...

“She (Clinton) has taken full responsibility, being head of the State Department, for what occurred. She took measures to respond to the review board’s recommendations. She established programs for a better security system. But it is never going to be perfect. Part of being a diplomat is being out in the community. We all recognize that there’s a risk in serving in a dangerous environment. Chris thought that was very important, and he probably would have done it again. I don’t see any usefulness in continuing to criticize her. It is very unjust.... 

“I know he (Christopher Stevens) had a lot of respect for Secretary Clinton. He admired her ability to intensely read the issues and understand the whole picture.”

The New Yorker reported that some Republicans, including senators John McCain and Mitch McConnell, supported U.S. action to help the Libyan rebels, and that would also have meant dropping the Benghazi investigation once it became clear that there wasn’t any evidence tying Clinton directly to security failures.

South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy and his colleagues in the House preferred to use the incident to “tar Hillary Clinton in 2016, rile up the G.O.P.’s base, and help the party to raise money even when it was obvious that they didn’t have the goods.” It was mudslinging which caused John Cassidy, staff writer at The New Yorker to conclude ...

“Most ordinary Americans, after following the hearings online or watching the coverage on the evening news, will have been wondering what all the fuss was about. Setting aside the basest form of partisan politics, the answer was not very much at all.”

(John Cassidy. “Where the Benghazi Committee Went Wrong.”  
The New Yorker. October 22, 2015.) 
The truth of Benghazi is this:

FALSE: Administration officials watched the attacks unfold in real time but did nothing to intervene.

The audio feed of the attack was being monitored in real time in Washington by diplomatic security official Charlene Lamb. CBS News learned that video of the assault was recovered 20 days later from the more than 10 security cameras at the compound.
FALSE: Requests issued by U.S. personnel for military back-up during the attacks were denied.

The White House flatly denied that President Barack Obama withheld requests for help from the besieged American compound in Benghazi, Libya, as it came under on attack by suspected terrorists on September 11th. "Neither the president nor anyone in the White House denied any requests for assistance in Benghazi," National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor [said].

And the CIA has denied that anyone in its chain of command rejected requests for help from the besieged Americans.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, asked why there had not been a quicker, more forceful response to the assault, complained of "Monday-morning quarterbacking." Panetta said he and top military commanders had judged it too dangerous to send troops to the eastern Libyan city without a clearer picture of events on the ground.

FALSE: The body of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens was "dragged through the street" following the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi.

Stevens' body was not dragged through the street, at least not in the degrading way some suggest, multiple accounts and three official reviews make clear.

"Local Libyans found the Ambassador at the Mission Facility and brought him to a local hospital. Despite attempts to revive him, Ambassador Stevens had no heartbeat and had perished from smoke inhalation."

Two other government bodies said much the same thing. An Accountability Review Board, headed by former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen and veteran diplomat Thomas Pickering, declared that Stevens was brought to the hospital by six civilians. "To the best knowledge of the Board these were ‘good Samaritans’ among the hordes of looters and bystanders," the review concluded.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee – controlled by Republicans -- reported that "local Libyans found the remains of Ambassador Stevens in the main diplomatic building at the Benghazi Mission and transported him to the hospital. The Libyans apparently did not realize who the Ambassador was, but they alerted the State Department of his location by using the cell phone that was in the Ambassador’s pocket. Libyan doctors tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate Ambassador Stevens upon his arrival at the hospital."

(Jon Greenberg. “Laura Ingraham: U.S. ambassador 'was dragged through the street' in Benghazi.” May 05, 2014.)

The House Republicans final report on Benghazi contained no positive proof of Hillary Clinton's fault in the Benghazi tragedy, but the haters don't need “new” information or factual information to condemn wrongfully an opponent. They simply want to repeat the sick incantation of “Kill-ery” in hopes that a majority of the public will believe Clinton caused American officials' deaths.

Retired General Wesley K. Clark, the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, praised the e-book, The Benghazi Hoax by David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt, explaining how the right-wing media turned a night of terror -- but also of valor -- into a phony scandal geared at damaging the Obama administration

Clark said, "David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt peel back layer after layer of partisan deceit to reveal the truth about Republican motives and methods in the aftermath of Benghazi - and in so doing offer a strong warning to America and our media to focus on the facts - not partisan rhetoric."

Democrats have noted, the Republican-run probes into Benghazi have gone on longer than did the inquiries into the Sept. 11, 2001, assault, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

With respect and honor to those who lost their lives, it is time people put the Benghazi controversy to rest. Ambassador Chris Stevens, information officer Sean Smith, and former navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty died in the service of their country on September 11, 2012. They gave the full measure of their devotion for freedom and liberty, not for political campaigns or partisan gain.

For her part, Hillary Clinton has admitted the tragedy occurred on her watch. We can also show reverence for the tremendous responsibility borne by an American Secretary of State, and we can refuse to condemn her for unfortunate circumstances beyond the reach of her control. I believe that regard is the duty of those in a nation that employs ambassadors of democracy serving in danger zones filled with constant risk. 

Ambassador Chris Stevens


Monday, July 25, 2016

Voices That Support Violence: Aggrandize and Blame "Those People"


The propensity of seemingly knowledgeable people to commit violent acts is appalling. Victimization of innocent people has created a present environment of fear in America – fear of terrorists, fear of criminals, and a general distrust of strangers. No doubt, victims of violence suffer tremendous physical injury and psychological distress. Bureau of Justice statistics (2014) reported , overall, 68% of victims of serious violence experienced socio-emotional problems as a result of their victimization.

"What's wrong with these people? Why is there 
so much violence in our world?"

It seems every day more and more violent tragedies sweep the nation, leaving in their wake a questioning nation asking “Why?” The roots of violence run deep and reach toward many directions. Still, although it may be impossible to determine exactly why people turn to violence to settle disputes, arguments, and simple concerns, Dr. Lisa Firestone – clinical psychologist, author, and the Director of Research and Education for the Glendon Association – has developed The Firestone Assessment of Violent Thoughts, a screening instrument to measure the "voices" that incite violence.

In her research, Firestone found that voices that contribute to violence include those that support social mistrust. She explains her belief …

“These paranoid, suspicious thoughts encourage people to assume a self-protective and defended posture from a perceived danger. Because the paranoia and misperception makes the threat seem real, people feel justified in acting out violence to protect themselves. The paranoia is supported by negative voices about other people being different, strange and bad. It is easier to hurt someone who is perceived as 'not like you.' These voices contribute to a person's suspicion and mistrust of the world at large. An example of these types of voices is: They are out to get you. Don't trust them.”

(Lisa Firestone, Ph.D. “The Inner Voices Behind Violent Behavior.”
Psychology Today. March 03, 2011.)

Other voices that lead to violence include the following:
  • Voices that support people feeling victimized and persecuted – supporting blame by others
  • Voices that are self-depreciating voices – supporting feelings of being unlovable
  • Voices that are self-aggrandizing – promoting a view that a person is superior to others and deserving to be treated as such
  • Voices that are overtly aggressive – encouraging taking violent action

It may be true that many risk factors for violence can't be changed, but Firestone says, “A person's thinking is a risk factor that can be. By monitoring the decrease in a person's violent thoughts during treatment, we are able to assess their improvement. Moreover, in offering violent people an understanding of the thoughts that underlie their tortured thinking, we are providing them with a means by which to take up arms against the voices that lure them into acts of violence.”

When do these voices reach a tipping point and act out with violence?

Dr. Kathryn Seifert -- an expert in the areas of violence, mental health, criminal justice and addictions – says, “Each factor of a person's life or make up can affect and be affected by another factor. When the accumulation of negative factors (such as maltreatment, chaotic neighborhoods, or psychological problems) and the absence of positive factors (such as opportunities to be successful, adults who provide encouragement, or a resilient temperament) reach a threshold, that's when violence is more likely to erupt as a means of coping with life's problems.”

(Kathryn Seifert, Ph.D. “Why Do People Resort To Violence?”  
Psychology Today. December 23, 2011.)

Violent tendencies often reveal themselves in childhood and continue to escalate as a person ages. At some point, dark forces become uncontrollable. Yet, Seifert believes that “sometimes the adjustment of a few factors such as establishing a close relationship with a supportive adult, receiving pro-social peer encouragement, or getting protection from a violent family, is what makes the difference between whether a person becomes a violent offender or a mentally-stable contributing member to society.”

I hear people complaining about social services and the money spent on programs to improve mental health and living conditions. I would much rather see taxpayer money put into expanding social programs that cut the need for large budgets for penal institutions and elaborate weaponry. We have a violence problem largely because the family unit ignores the demands of guiding children and monitoring their positive interpersonal growth. Abusive and indifferent environments breed violent individuals. We all – yes, even those with wonderful, loving, and non-violent families – must deal with this problem.

Isn't it evident that we should not victimize people, not shun those different from us, not preach that one segment of the population causes all the ills, and not encourage anyone to believe that violence is the answer to meeting violence? All good faiths and positive creeds preach equality, justice, and, above all, love. None acknowledge the acceptance of animal-like behaviors and violent actions.

However, just listen to the rhetoric of many leaders and spokespeople who actually encourage violence through their constant scapegoating and fear mongering. They do this in the name of security and protection, yet these smokescreens are nothing but excuses so that they do not have to face the real issue – cutting violence by reducing fear and distrust.

This can only be accomplished by “getting to know” our own people in an ever-changing society – all of them. Understanding differences among those with which we live and improving trust are tall orders. But once great efforts are expended, we can not only accurately expose problems but also work positively together to find solutions – solutions other than taking violent actions against each other.

If we conclude that violence is just genetic behavior, we commit the greatest injustice. We cannot afford to keep mouthing phrases like “bad guys are always going to be around” or “those people are worthless scum.” The refusal to better understand all environments that breed violence in order to effect needed change perpetrates a cycle of violence that will surely continue through countless future generations. America is only as good as its poorest ghettos and its worst hovels of rural poverty.

Voices that blame, attack, humiliate, and promote isolation may sound as if they are justified in their “Make America Great” bluster. But, the emotions these voices seek to ignite are filled with revenge, distrust, and violence. The voices that have healed our nation have used words of reason and understanding to speak out against inhumanity, not to encourage division and strife. We need leaders with such voices and such visions now in these very violent times.

"Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars... Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

--Martin Luther King, Jr.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Trump Proclaims Himself "Law and Order" Candidate: Using Fear and Lies


Be afraid, be very afraid!

"Our convention occurs at a moment of crisis for our nation," Donald Trump said. "The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life."

Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, has painted a grim picture of life in the United States, blaming seemingly all of the crime and terrorist attacks on both President Obama and Hillary Clinton. Though people know Trump's speech is meant to be politically divisive, it is also dangerous because he incites fear in the American public with lies and half-truths.
As he accepted the party's candidacy, Trump proclaimed himself the "law and order" candidate while angrily tugging at the emotions of disaffected Americans who feel vulnerable from attacks within our borders.

Trump evoked the "law and order" phrase at least four times in his acceptance speech. The subjective nature allows the idiom to mean many things to different people. What does the phrase mean?

“In politics, law and order refers to demands for a strict criminal justice system, especially in relation to violent and property crime, through stricter criminal penalties. These penalties may include longer terms of imprisonment, mandatory sentencing, three strikes laws, and in some countries, capital punishment.

"Supporters of 'law and order' argue that effective deterrence combined with incarceration is the most effective means of crime prevention.

"Opponents of law and order argue that a system of harsh criminal punishment is ultimately ineffective because it does not address underlying or systemic causes of crime.

"'Law and order' is a recurring theme in political campaigns around the world. Candidates may exaggerate or even manufacture a problem with law and order, or characterize their opponents as 'weak' on the issue, to generate public support. The expression also sometimes carries the implication of arbitrary or unnecessary law enforcement, or excessive use of police powers.

("law and order." STANDS4 LLC, 2016. Web. 23 Jul 2016. < and order>.)

Trump's law and order invocation reminds many older Americans of its use by conservatives in the 1960s to stamp out protests and political rebellion. The conservative initiative on these issues was actually initiated much earlier as part of a larger effort to forge a new Republican electoral majority following the collapse brought about by the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Katherine Beckett -- Professor in the Department of Sociology and the Law, Societies, and Justice Program; faculty affiliate of the West Coast Poverty Center and Clowes Center for the Study of Conflict and Dialogue; and faculty associate and steering committee member of the Center for Human Rights at the University of Washington – explains the roots of the movement ...
“Doing so involved reaching out to formerly Democratic, white voters who had been alienated by the (belated and reluctant) Democratic embrace of the civil rights cause. Rhetoric about the collapse of law and order, crime in the streets, and the need for strength in the face of chaos proved to be a successful means of doing so.

“Conservative initiative on the crime issue has also been aimed at shifting the government’s role and responsibilities from the provision of social welfare toward the protection of personal security....

“The get-tough policies that have resulted from this campaign are not supported by the findings of most sociological research, which suggest that severity of punishment does not have a significant deterrent effect and that welfare spending reduces rather than increases crime.”

(Katherine Beckett. “Conservative Agendas and Campaigns: The Rise of the Modern
 'Tough On Crime' Movement.” From The Politics of Injustice: Crime and Punishment
 in America. 2004.)

In the '60s, “law and order” rhetoric was undoubtedly a ploy to gain voters with racial fearas the GOP targeted white southerners – voters who had formerly composed the Democrats’ “solid South” – as potential “swing voters.”

Some conservative political strategists even frankly admitted that appealing to racial fears and antagonisms was central to this strategy. For example, political analyst and consultant Kevin Phillips argued that a Republican victory and long-term realignment was possible primarily on the basis of racial issues, and therefore suggested the use of coded anti-black campaign rhetoric.”

Similarly, John Ehrlichmann, Special Counsel to the President, described the Nixon administration’s campaign strategy of 1968 in this way: “We’ll go after the racists. That subliminal appeal to the anti-African-American voter was always present in Nixon’s statements and speeches.” 

(Katherine Beckett. Quoting John Ehrlichmann in Making Crime Pay. 1997.)

Trump seems to be using the same coded “law and order” appeal to draw votes while taking advantage of people's fears, and he continually points the blame at those living in areas that suffer from poverty and other social dislocations. He repeatedly shows a tendency to use prejudice disguised as political speech.

Race baiting? In the late ’80s, Trump took full page newspaper ads to call for the death of the so-called Central Park Five, the black and Latino men wrongfully convicted of raping a woman while she was jogging in the park.

(Marcela Garcia. “Donald Trump galvanized the Latino community into action.” The Boston Globe. June 30, 2015.)

Let's not forget that Trump tweeted in June, 2013, that the “overwhelming amount of violent crime in our major cities is committed by blacks and [H]ispanics” and invited his Twitter followers to discuss the “tough subject.”

(“Donald Trump Blames Crime On Blacks, Hispanics. Huffington Post. June 05, 2013.)

And, how about Trump's remarks in kicking off his GOP presidential candidacy? He said Mexican immigrants are bringing drugs and crime. “They’re rapists,” he said. “They’re sending us not the right people... It’s coming from all over South and Latin America.”

Trump is attempting to validate the use of this prejudiced hatred with lies concerning law and order. What is the truth about the state of crime in the United States? His words do not reflect a trend of declining crime that has been unfolding over 25 years.

Crime figures can be used to tell a tale of progress or setbacks. It is true that some places are experiencing more crime, but there is not a need to claim “law and order” have vacated the country. Here's a look at some of Trump's recent statements and how they compare with the facts:

TRUMP: "Crime is out of control, and rapidly getting worse. Look what is going on in Chicago and our inner cities. Not good!"

TRUMP: "Violent crime has increased in cities across America."

THE FACTS: Violent crime has dropped dramatically since the early 1990s. According to FBI data , the national violent crime rate last peaked in 1991 at 758 reported violent crimes per 100,000 people. In 2014, the latest year for which full data is available, the rate was 366 per 100,000 people.

Even so, Trump has some statistical support for claiming violent crime is up in big-city America.
"It is a mistake to say crime is out of control and rapidly getting worse," Darrel Stephens, executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, told AP. "We do have increases in many cities and it should be of concern to people, but the rate is well below the early '90s when it was at its peak."

Said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum: "I would not say that crime is out of control everywhere or anywhere for that matter, in comparison to where we were 25 years ago."

(Eileen Sullivan and Chad Day. “AP FACT CHECK: Crime stats don't back Trump's dire view.” Associated Press. July 13, 2016.)

TRUMP: “Homicides last year increased by 17% in America’s 50 largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years. In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50%. They are up nearly 60% in nearby Baltimore.” 
THE FACTS: The raw numbers are true, according to a Washington Post analysis. But they paint a misleading picture by looking at 2015 in isolation. Since Obama took office, homicides have actually dropped 13% — a continuation of a 25-year trend spanning all large cities across the U.S. since the early 1990s. In 1991, an average of 27 people were killed in large cities every year; in 2015, the average was 11.

Criminologists fiercely disagree over whether the recent spike in homicides is a statistical anomaly or the result of short-term factors, or whether they point toward a more distressing longer-term trend.

TRUMP: “The number of police officers killed in the line of duty has risen by almost 50% compared to this point last year.” 
THE FACTS: The number is true but it lacks context. The vast majority of officers are killed by illnesses, heart attacks, or accidents — drowning, weather, car and motorcycle crashes — an average of about 50 to 60 officers are killed on-duty every year. In 2014, 60 police officers were killed by gunfire, assault or explosives. In 2015, 56 police officers were killed in the same way. So far in 2016, 42 officers have been killed by gunfire or assault.

According to data compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, between 2009 and 2015, under Obama, there were 17% fewer police officer fatalities that there were between 2002 and 2008, under George W. Bush.

(Haley Sweetland Edwards. “Fact-Checking Donald Trump’s Acceptance Speech.”  
Time. July 22, 2016.)


Donald Trump's declaration of himself as the “Law and Order Champion” is pointed and calculated – it seeks to justify the sad reality that playing on people's emotions by using particularly prejudice intent, not by delivering the facts, stirs the public to distrust and to surrender to fear mongering. If Trump is the law and order candidate, he is using the term to weave a web of deceit without support. That is a view of law and order that must not be believed.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Wondering About Women Supporting Pence/Trump Ticket: Giving Up Your Rights?


Mike Pence, the governor of Indiana, is Donald Trump's choice for Vice President. He is reported to be an ultra conservative, anti-Planned Parenthood crusader who has signed into law every anti-abortion bill that has landed on his desk

In March Pence signed into law a bill that expanded Indiana's restrictive laws. He said then, "By enacting the legislation, we take an important step in protecting the unborn, while still providing an exception for the life of the mother. I sign this legislation with a prayer that God would continue to bless these precious children, mothers and families.”

The law prohibited women from having an abortion due to fetal abnormalities, did not allow for donation of fetal tissue obtained from an abortion and required doctors that perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital.

And, perhaps most drastic, he new law also mandated that the remains of an aborted fetus be interred or cremated. This requirement also applied to miscarriages -- even early in a pregnancy when the fetus is the size of a pea.

(Ariana Eunjung Cha. “Mike Pence has made no secret about his views on abortion. Will this help or hurt Trump?” The Washington Post. July 15, 2016.)

Many of the most conservative Indiana lawmakers thought HB 1337 went too far. “Today is a perfect example of a bunch of middle-aged guys sitting in this room making decisions about what we think is best for women,” said state Representative Sean Eberhart, a self-described “pro-life as they come” Republican.

(Prachi Gupta. “Indiana Passes Anti-Abortion Bill So Egregious That Even Anti-Choice Republicans Are Outraged.” Cosmopolitan. March 10, 2016.)

This caused women to call the Republican governor’s office and inform his staff about their menstrual cycles. They've posted the conversations on the “Periods for Pence” Facebook page, which has over 34,000 likes.

"I would certainly hate for any of my fellow Hoosier women to be at risk of penalty if they do not 'properly dispose' of this or report it. Just to cover our bases, perhaps we should make sure to contact Governor Pence's office to report our periods," the anonymous founder of the page wrote.

(Associated Press. “Women calling Indiana Gov. Pence to describe periods, in abortion law protest.” Fox News. April 08, 2016.)

A court in Indiana has stopped the law from taking effect, after the Supreme Court ruled that similar restrictions on abortion in Texas were overly burdensome to women seeking access to the procedure.

If you are a woman, you may want to think long and hard about supporting Mike Pence's beliefs and protecting your rights. In 1999, when Pence was a radio talk show host, he wrote an editorial that criticized the Disney movie Mulan for giving young girls the idea that they can serve combat roles alongside men. In his editorial, Pence said ...

“Many young women find many young men to be attractive sexually. Put them together, in close quarters, for long periods of time, and things will get interesting. Just like they eventually did for young Mulan.”

And, if you a woman in the LGBTQ community, Pence may be your worst enemy. In the past, he has supported conversion therapy for gays.

In 2006, as head of the Republican Study Committee, a group of the 100 most-conservative House members, Pence rose in support of a constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman. Citing a Harvard researcher, Pence said in his speech, “societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family.”

Pence also called being gay a choice and said keeping gays from marrying was not discrimination, but an enforcement of “God’s idea.”

In addition, Pence voted against The Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2007. The act would have banned discrimination against people based on sexual orientation. He later said the law “wages war on freedom and religion in the workplace.”

And, Pence favored the longtime military policy of not letting soldiers openly identify as gay. In 2010, Pence told CNN he did not want to see the military become “a backdrop for social experimentation.” The policy ended in 2011.

Naturally, Pence opposed President Obama’s recent directive to schools to allow students to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify.

Governor Pence did recently approve changes by lawmakers to a controversial state law on religious freedom, essentially conceding defeat to a concerted alliance of liberal interest groups and large corporations over gay rights. Still, he believed the law wasn't necessary. And, still, no Indiana state law explicitly bars businesses from discriminating against gay customers.

(Will Drabold. “Here’s What Mike Pence Said on LGBT Issues Over the Years.”  
Time. July 15, 2016.)


Freelance journalist, writer/editor, adjunct professor and artist-in-residence Jennifer Sabin recently wrote ...

“Mike Pence likes to say on a regular basis, 'I'm a Christian, a conservative and a Republican... in that order.'

“According to The New York Times, Mike Pence gave himself to Jesus when he was a college student. As Jonathan Mahler and Dirk Johnson write, “His evangelical Christianity is now the driving force behind his political agenda, whether he is working to deny funds to Planned Parenthood or to make it legal for religious conservatives to refuse to serve gay couples.”

(Jennifer Sabin. “Mike Pence Could Be Your Worst Nightmare.” The Huffington Post. July 21, 2016.)

One must wonder how the Trump/Pence ticket advances women's rights. You must remember Donald Trump said women who undergo abortions should be punished if the procedure is made illegal. And, after all, Trump’s misogynistic shot at Fox News host Megyn Kelly was not an isolated incident -- he his a long history of offensive comments about women. He claims to “love women” and yet his mouth speaks otherwise. For example, consider these Trump utterances ...

* In 2012, he tweeted that Arianna Huffington “is unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man—he made a good decision.”

* On Celebrity Apprentice: All-Stars in 2013, he contemplated the “pretty picture” of former Playboy Playmate Brande Roderick “dropping to your knees.”

* He once called an opposing counsel in a deposition “disgusting” for wanting to break to pump milk for her 3-month-old daughter.

* In his book, How to Get Rich, he wrote: “All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me—consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.”

* In a 1991 Esquire interview, he said: “You know, it doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of [expletive].”

* And most famously, in a 2006 feud involving Miss USA, he called Rosie O’Donnell an “animal,” an “extremely unattractive person,” and a “slob.”

(Nina Easton. “The history of Donald Trump's insults to women. Fortune. August 09, 2015.)

If you are a women who has fallen into the Trump camp (And, by the way, most tell me they do so simply because they believe the Republican propaganda about Hillary Clinton – her “lies.”), you may want to consider your life under a President Trump and a Vice-President Pence. Denying the first woman president could be fraught with risk.

I'll close with a quote from a New York Times article by Michael Barbaro and Megan Twoheymay about Donald Trump's private exchanges with women ...

“The New York Times interviewed dozens of women who had worked with or for Mr. Trump over the past four decades, in the worlds of real estate, modeling and pageants; women who had dated him or interacted with him socially; and women and men who had closely observed his conduct since his adolescence. In all, more than 50 interviews were conducted over the course of six weeks.

“Their accounts … reveal unwelcome romantic advances, unending commentary on the female form, a shrewd reliance on ambitious women, and unsettling workplace conduct, according to the interviews, as well as court records and written recollections. The interactions occurred in his offices at Trump Tower, at his homes, at construction sites and backstage at beauty pageants. They appeared to be fleeting, unimportant moments to him, but they left lasting impressions on the women who experienced them.”

(Michael Barbaro and Megan Twoheymay. “Crossing the Line: How Donald Trump
Behaved With Women in Private.” The New York Times. May 14, 2016.)

Ladies, you can do your own research about these candidates. I have done mine.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Kasich's Refusal to Attend GOP Convention -- You Say "Sore Loser"; I say Personal Commitment


In a recent editorial, Frank Lewis of the Portsmouth Daily Times expressed an opinion that I have heard from many other people about Governor John Kasich's refusal to attend the GOP convention and his stubborn resistance to dropping out earlier in the race for the Republican presidential candidacy.

Lewis said, “Kasich looks like the classic case of a sore loser and someone who does not keep his word if it doesn’t benefit him, and that is not the description of a leader.”

I want to take this opportunity to disagree respectfully with Frank Lewis and his evaluation of John Kasich's actions.

I understand the logic of people who take a position that Kasich is a “sore loser.” That is a common reaction to anyone who takes a strong stand of protest through non-participation. And, yes, the convention is being hosted in the governor's state. Perhaps Kasich might have extended some form of courtesy to the party without his actual participation.

Yet, so-called “winning and losing” must be judged by certain conditions that can make both perfectly acceptable. The most effective form of nonviolent protest involves strong will and a firm commitment to conscientious beliefs – an unyielding stand for substance over party in this particular case.

Yes, Kasich and other candidates did vow to support the Republican nominee for president, and true, Donald Trump gained the nomination.

However, to me, breaking of that vow seems to have been precipitated much more by Donald Trump's incessant name calling and degradation than by John Kasich's insincerity. For example, Trump stated this about Kasich: “What people don’t know about Kasich -- he was a managing partner of the horrendous Lehman Brothers when it totally destroyed the economy!”

Also, Donald Trump falsely claimed that while he has had “55,000 negative ads” run against him, and John Kasich has “never had one negative ad against him.” In fact, Trump himself ran an ad in Ohio attacking Kasich. It ran 755 times.

Trump, the front-runner for the Republican nomination, criticized Kasich, who trailed in third place, for staying in the race. Kasich, meanwhile, Trump pointed out that he, not Trump, beat Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in polls on a hypothetical general election matchup.

According to a Real Clear Politics average of polls from March 24 to April 14, Clinton led Trump nationally by 9.3 percentage points, while Kasich led Clinton by an average of 7.8 percentage points.

Trump says that’s only because Kasich hasn’t been tested yet with negative ads, a point he made during a rally in Ocean City, Maryland, on April 20.

“As far as Kasich is concerned, he will get slaughtered by Hillary,” Trump said. “He’s never had one negative ad against him. I’ve had 55,000 negative ads. Kasich hasn’t had one negative ad. As soon as he has the first 10 ads against him, he will drop like a rock, believe me.”

Trump repeated the claim in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show the following day (at the 40-second mark).

“I’ve been hit by 55,000 ads,” Trump said. “I saw it on your show, 55,000 negative ads, and nobody else has. You know, you look at a guy like Kasich. He’s never been hit by an ad because nobody cares, frankly. No, it’s true. It’s so true.”
(Robert Farley. “Trump Wrong About Ads Attacking Kasich.” April 22, 2016.)

During the campaign for nomination, John Kasich fought hard to be the candidate with optimism. He often spoke of substance and logic amid other candidates' bickering attacks. He made consistent efforts to bring real political experience and a good track record to the fore. Governor Kasich strongly disagreed with Trump on many issues, and he sincerely believed Trump's toxic tone would hurt the nation. With strong determination, he held out hope that a contested convention might point to his candidacy.

Even after he met continued opposition, Kasich still held hope that the GOP would listen to reason … his moderate view. And, it is true that Kasich did finally declare Trump was not prepared to be president of the United States, but this is still a claim held by millions of Americans.

So, in March, Kasich's opinion began to change. In a town hall with NBC News' Chuck Todd, he said "I have two 16-year-old twin daughters. And if he (Trump) happened to be the nominee, I would have to tell them why I would endorse him if I did.” Some time after that, Kasich decided not to endorse Trump and not to attend the convention.

If you judge Kasich harshly by his absence in Cleveland, you must also apply that judgment to others. Former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush plus recent Republican presidential nominees John McCain and Mitt Romney are on a “no show” list that reads like a role call of the party's “Who's Who.”

Lewis writes in his editorial …

“I have met John Kasich on several occasions and found him to be, while intense, a very kind and thoughtful man. When he announced for the Republican nomination for President of the United States, I felt he was the most qualified in the Republican field. He took a state that was, for all intents and purposes, going broke, and turned it around. He cut taxes and raised revenue and jobs came back. It was a great formula.

“Then, out of nowhere came a side of him I frankly had never seen. His insistence upon staying in the race when he had no chance and even advocating for some kind of Trump take-down at the convention made me question my views of his leadership qualities.

“Now, the icing on the cake is his abject failure to make an appearance at the Republican National Convention in one of Ohio’s greatest cities, Cleveland. It boggles the mind to know he puts his own political ambitions above the people of Cleveland, and yes, the state of Ohio.”
(Frank Lewis. “The good is oft interred...” Portsmouth Daily Times. July 20, 2016.)

I have also met John Kasich and hold him in high regard. I found him to be a leader who took responsibility while spelling out specific, workable strategies for success. I, too, like Frank Lewis, believed him to be “the most qualified candidate in the Republican field.” I felt terrible that he did not get the nod as the GOP candidate.

The difference between my view and the view of Mr. Lewis is that I respect the man for breaking his initial vow of support in the face of such overwhelming, ridiculous acidity from the choice of his party. He is not alone in this decision to protest the nomination of Donald Trump. I agree that Kacich is a politician with ambition, and he may be thinking of his future if and when Trump takes a long political fall. Still, I strongly believe John Kasich is doing what he considers best for his state and for his country, not necessarily what is best for the GOP.

And, I would like to include a little insight on the use of quote from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.

Mr. Lewis says …

“This last act may be John Kasich’s legacy and it is unfortunate when you consider all that he has accomplished in both national and Ohio politics, but Shakespeare put it best in Julius Caesar – “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”

This quote in question is part of Antony's oration at the funeral of Caesar. Remember, at this point in the play, Antony sarcastically reveals how Brutus has brutally assassinated Caesar and still claims to be an honorable man while doing so. Antony reminds the crowd that Brutus had been “Caesar's angel” who turned upon his loved one with the greatest ingratitude and the “unkindest cut of all.”

The quote in question (Act V) is as follows:

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest--
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men”

Of course, with this, Antony stirs the crowd to hate Brutus, and the rest of the story, as they say, is theatrical history. And, it is also a history based on fact: Mark Antony successfully turned the tide of Roman popular opinion against the conspirators and, allied with Octavian, defeated the forces of Brutus and Cassius at the Battle of Philippi in 42 BCE.

The truth is that Brutus is viewed as the true tragic hero of the play. His decision to enter into the conspiracy to kill Caesar does not originate in ambition but rather in his inflexible belief in what the Roman government should be. His ideal proves too rigid in the political world of the play – a world where one succeeds only through underhanded bargaining – a skill that Antony displays.

Brutus’s mistake lies in his attempt to impose his private sense of honor on the whole Roman state. And, again, history shows in the end, killing Caesar does not stop the Roman republic from becoming a dictatorship, for Octavius assumes power and becomes a new Caesar.

“The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones” is used by Antony as a reference to Julius Caesar, a Roman general who declared himself dictator for life after defeating Pompey who had viewed Caesar as a national threat. Yet, Antony cleverly implies that the same may be true of Brutus, whom Caesar deeply trusted and believed to be honorable. “Good” and “evil” just as “losing” and “winning” are subjective terms.

Shakespeare's theme is that Brutus agrees to kill Caesar because he believes it will be best for the country, while the other conspirators want to kill Caesar because of envy and jealousy. 

Perhaps John Kasich's true intentions in his refusal to endorse Donald Trump and in his refusal to attend Trump's GOP coronation are also motivated by good, honest beliefs. And, just maybe, in a symbolic gesture, Kasich's character assassination of Donald Trump is something he believes may help prevent a threat to democracy. "Evil"? "Good"? Each person must look into his or her own heart, mind, and soul to find answers.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Deadly Heroin with Elephant Tranquilizers? Smoking Cigarettes? Comparing Addictions


I make daily trips to a health facility nearby to visit my 95-year-old mother. While there, I can't help but notice employees who smoke making a fairly long walk to some tables at the edge of the facility to have a cigarette. The traffic back and forth to the smoking area is busy all the time. 

I am not making judgments on those with bad habits. Lord knows I have my own shortcomings. However, every day I feel so fortunate not to feel the need to smoke because I don't have to deal with the considerable threats to my health and the high cost of the product. I believe refraining from smoking has been one of the smartest decisions in my life.

I am able to say this as the 65-year-old son of a father who sold cigarettes and other tobacco products for thirty years. I was the only member of my immediate family who never smoked, and, ironically, I remember my dad begging me at a very early age never to start smoking. Many years ago when he sold cigarettes, little was known about the horrible effects of smoking cigarettes. Still, common sense made solid connections -- even in those days when smoking was "cool."

I understand the addictive qualities of nicotine. As a primer for those who don't understand how the substance works, here is a brief explanation from the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

Nicotine activates reward pathways of the brain. A key brain chemical involved in mediating the desire to consume drugs is the neurotransmitter dopamine, and research has shown that nicotine increases levels of dopamine in the reward circuits. This reaction is similar to that seen with other drugs of abuse and is thought to underlie the pleasurable sensations experienced by many smokers. For many tobacco users, long-term brain changes induced by continued nicotine exposure result in addiction.

Nicotine’s pharmacokinetic properties also enhance its abuse potential. Cigarette smoking produces a rapid distribution of nicotine to the brain, with drug levels peaking within 10 seconds of inhalation. However, the acute effects of nicotine dissipate quickly, as do the associated feelings of reward, which causes the smoker to continue dosing to maintain the drug’s pleasurable effects and prevent withdrawal.”

(“Is Nicotine Addictive?” National Institute on Drug Abuse. July 2012.)

Tobacco has always been a part of American history and heritage. Before research on the risks of smoking made it clear that smoking cigarettes caused many serious health problems, people accepted smoking as casual stimulation. Although it is now commonly accepted more as a nuisance habit than as a slow killer, the long-term effects of smoking are devastating.

How deadly can smoking be? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says more than 10 times as many U.S. citizens have died prematurely from cigarette smoking than have died in all the wars fought by the United States during its history.

The U.S. Surgeon General says about 480,000 Americans die each year as a result of smoking. But a new analysis suggests the true figure may be closer to 575,000.

The 21 causes of death that have been officially blamed on smoking accounted for 83% of the actual deaths among smokers who were tracked in a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (2015).

Additional diseases – including breast cancer, prostate cancer, hypertensive heart disease and renal failure -- were responsible for most of the rest of the observed deaths. A very small number of deaths were due to things such as accidents and suicide, which have a more tenuous link to smoking.

(Karen Kaplan. “Cigarette smoking is even more deadly than you think, study says.”
 Los Angeles Times. February 11, 2015.)

I can only imagine how the need to smoke becomes a dominant force in a smoker's life. People who have stopped smoking tell me that the withdrawal make them very anxious, irritable, physically ill, and even extremely depressed.

Isn't the public perception about drugs and their effects amazing? We are shocked about those who choose to use substances such as opioid prescriptions and heroin that can cause immediate death, yet we tend to soften our attitudes about smoking cigarette.

I am guilty of this judgment. The latest extremely deadly substance is carfentanil, a substance used as an elephant tranquilizer. It is said that it’s 10,000 times more powerful than morphine. In fact, Dr. Kimberly Cook, director at the Akron Zoo says of it use,“It’s an incredibly dangerous drug. We’re concerned that even a drop could get in an eye, so we wear eye protection. We wear long sleeves. We wear gloves.”

The drug, itself, can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin, which means it may affect family members, passerby, and even emergency respondents.

As unbelievable as this may sound, in Ohio a current overdose spike has been attributed to a new combination of carfentanil and heroin. The mix makes the drug more potent, intensifies its effect, and therefore makes it so much more dangerous. Since July 5, 91 overdoses have been reported in Akron, of which eight had been fatal. Another person is currently on life support.
(Joe Hennessy. “Carfentanil and Heroin Overdose in Ohio.”  
The Monitor Daily Dayton. July 17, 2016.)

Hamilton County officials have started to see the drug as a serial killer. Public health surveillance of emergency rooms visits in Hamilton County revealed a significant increase beginning July 13. The following day, the Greater Cincinnati Fusion Center issued a warning that carfentanil was present in street drugs in Hamilton County, as well as in the Akron and Columbus areas.

"Our community has been devastated by heroin and fentanyl abuse,” says Hamilton County Coroner, Dr. Lakshmi K. Sammarco. “So many families have lost loved ones to this scourge. The fact that there is a new lethal drug that has been found on the streets of Hamilton County is frightening. Take this as a dire warning to all, if you choose to purchase and use any forms of heroin. No one knows what other drugs may be mixed in or substituted and you may be literally gambling with your life. Don't count on Narcan to be able to reverse the effects of carfentanil," she warns.

(Mike Samet. “Heroin Adulterant Creating Deadly Combination.” 
Hamilton County Heroin Coalition. July 15, 2016.)

Authorities warn that the life of every person that is a street drug consumer is now threatened by the new mix. Individuals who buy heroin off the streets have to take into consideration the fact that it may be combined with carfentanil, and they should stop and think of the possibly fatal consequences.

To make matters worse, health officials warn that Narcan, the overdose medicine that is sold in pharmacies without a prescription, may not be efficient in the case of this obscure combination. 
Where does carfentanil originate?

The current theory is that the drug originated from China, a country that is often used as a source of research chemical substances. However, Ohio state representatives said the drug could also be manufactured locally inside the community.

Yep …

People are knowingly or unknowingly taking heroin mixed with elephant tranquilizers. Shocking! Amazing! Unbelievable! How could those people take such substances and risk their lives? They are at great risk of dropping dead. These junkies are a scourge to society with their overwhelming addictions and risky behaviors … well, aren't they?

But, wait …

How many addicts will you see today drawing in smoke and nicotine from a cigarette and choosing to ride the slow train to destruction … to death? Maybe their “high” is vastly different from the effects of shooting heroin, but the addiction is real and could be just as detrimental.

I am in no way defending heroin addiction or taking substances containing unknown chemical mixtures. And, I don't like to see people smoke because I know they are hurting themselves. I accept it, but I don't like it. 

Furthermore, I think there is a lesson about drug addiction in this comparison of cigarette and heroin dependency. That lesson is this: “The risk for addiction you take is too great to begin experimentation or casual dependency – whether the substance is perceived as acceptable like nicotine or illegal like heroin. Whatever rewards you believe you derive from these drugs will eventually cause permanent damage.”

I beg you, young people, don't allow yourself to be injured by the thrill of risk or by the hype of peer pressure. Don't smoke and don't use opiates like heroin. In the long run, your rewards will come.