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TygrBright

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Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 13,138

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I hereby propose we rename these things.

Because obviously "currency" and all the vocabulary attached thereunto is no longer fully descriptive.

Therefore, I propose we rename the dollar, the "word."

As in, "I went to the store today... yanno, a bag of groceries that used to cost me twenty-five words is close to fifty these days?"

Now, we do have some other references that need to be revamped, too.

For instance, I used to call one of those pieces of paper that had Abe Lincoln on it a "fin." Nowadays I guess it's a "remark."

"If you don't loan me a remark for gas, we're not gonna make it home."

And what used to be known as a "sawbuck" should probably be called a "comment."

It has Andy Jackson on it: Must be a "statement."

"I gotta statement. Let's go get a pizza and a 6-pack for dinner tonight!"

We used to call it a "Benjamin," but I think nowadays it's more like a "discourse."

Put up a thousand words and you gotta "harangue."

Anyway, just makes more sense to me.

But then, I guess I'm finally part of the Silent Majority.

wryly,
Bright

For Mercy's Sake, Get 'em a Coffee...

...or a Red Bull. Or a beer. Or... whatever.

It hurts just to LOOK at them!

They've tried EVERYTHING.

They tried voting against it (I've lost count of how many times...)

They refused to cooperate, in droves-- refusing Medicaid expansion, declining to set up state-based exchanges, anything-- ANYTHING they could do to monkey-wrench the mechanisms, regardless of how many of their own voters they denied security, freedom, peace of mind, health, even LIFE, in the process.

They spent vast sums (Again, I've lost count) on propaganda to convince everyone How Awful It Is.

They've spun, shaded, and outright LIED until they're blue in the face and sweating buckets with the effort.

They've willingly made asses of themselves, on every form of public stage, with frantic antics to stop it.

My god, it's been painful to watch.

And for all that-- all the effort, all the money, all the lies...

"Obamacare" still met its projected enrollment goals.

Can you imagine how many people would be enrolled right now, entitled to health care regardless of pre-existing conditions, with no lifetime maximums, and no risk of being dropped if something awful happens to their health, and even subsidies to help them afford it-- without all that painful effort from the GOP?

If EVERYTHING they've thrown at it over the past couple of years has STILL not sufficed to keep it from meeting enrollment goals-- (seriously, it's made me tired just watching the poor barstids) what would things be like now had they simply shrugged and said, "hey, let's see how it works?"

Oh, yeah... and the beauty part now?

The cherry on the Sundae?

I love this part: The only thing they can do now is point out the parts that don't work very well. Which means they themselves will be ginning up the momentum for fixing the bits that don't work very well. Which means they'll have only themselves to thank, when those bits get tweaked, and it works even better.

So... geeez, give 'em a coffee. Or a hot chocolate. Or a glass of red wine, or SOMETHING.

For mercy's sake...

humanely,
Bright

Privacy and Paranoia

Once upon a time, I shared information about myself quite willingly.

I completed forms with honest answers.

I gave out contact information that actually enabled people to contact me, directly-- as in, I picked up the phone, or answered the door, or opened the letter.

I even responded to "marketing surveys"-- hell, I participated (for free!) in some "focus groups."

So, how then did I become the reclusive, paranoid, suspicious individual I am now-- with layers of email spam buckets and tertiary addresses routed through secondary addresses for pickup and forwarding to a primary address? With Google Voice numbers, and a cell phone I rarely answer, and more than one Post Office box?

The person who declines all kinds of "free" offers and services and conveniences, offered to me merely for the price of providing "harmless" information about myself?

The person who tells survey-takers, researchers, etc. of all types, "No, thank you, I don't do that?"

The person who "masks" information on necessary forms as much as possible, and puts "N/A" in any data field not absolutely required to get what I need-- which is the only reason I'm filling up the form at all?

How did I get that way?

Look... I always knew that a certain percentage of the information I shared was of benefit to someone who wanted to make money from me or people like me. A certain amount of that didn't bother me. Because for the most part, I trusted that
  • Most of the information I was being asked to share was, in fact, strictly functional for the purposes of a mutual transaction that would benefit both parties; and
  • The 'langniappe' of unnecessary but beneficial-to-the-asker information would generally be used in fairly benign ways.

Although my socio-politico-economic views would likely be characterized by today's standards as "extreme left," yanno what? I'm seriously NOT opposed to a certain amount of regulated, monitored capitalism, a little make-a-buck incentive there, in the market, to lubricate creativity, etc. I didn't mind enabling small amounts of that, once.

Back then.

What happened?

Simple: I lost trust.

I can no longer believe that any of the demands for information about myself from any source-- government, big corporations, websites, marketers, doctors, insurance agents, bankers, etc.-- are motivated primarily by a desire to complete transactions of mutual benefit.

Some likely are.

But I still respond with my now-conditioned paranoia, under the assumption that what they're after will be used for their sole benefit, and-- more often than not-- at my expense. To my detriment.

I'm sorry about this, I really am. I'm probably blowing off a fair number of legitimate opportunities to make positive connections for real mutual benefit. Which is sad. I don't like that. But there it is. The cost/benefit ratio has flipped, and my confidence interval that such requests are made with the intent of eventually screwing me somehow has exceeded 98%.

Here's an example:

I have a nice primary care physician. A competent, caring woman. But, like many physicians, she has been increasingly squeezed between the demands of payers, the costs of suppliers, and the weirdness of the whole health care system. Like a lot of docs, she reached a point where it came down to either becoming part of a corporate machine, or making some incredibly difficult trade-offs to maintain her independent private practice. She wouldn't get rich either way, and she's not interested in being rich. She's interested in helping her patients and playing with her dogs.

Nevertheless, I can't completely trust her anymore, no matter how much I like her. Why? Here's what happened when I went in for my annual physical a couple of months ago, something I've been doing every year for the past seven years I've been her patient:

I signed in at the desk, got a smile from the office manager. I said "I guess there's no co-pay for an annual, now, with the Affordable Care Act, and all..."

She looked concerned. "Well, no... technically there's no co-pay, not for the annual visit. But we still advise you to make a co-pay at this time, because if you discuss anything with the doctor-- anything at all other than the annual visit basics-- the insurance company requires us to bill that separately, and collect a co-pay-- or else we'll have to bill you separately."

Is your bullshit detector going off yet? Mine was, but then I have some slight sophistication in the health care system. Oh. The insurance company required her to note separately, and bill them for additional services, if we talked about anything-- like management of my chronic illnesses, or the cold I was just getting over, or whether the spots on my back should be followed up for a screening-- separately! They're not part of an annual checkup any more, apparently. Although, they always used to be, included in the single annual visit co-pay I'd made for the past seven years.

BAD insurance company! They require poor doctor to tell them everything and bill everything! Because bad insurance company apparently wants to pay extra for other codes on the billing form?

Uh-huh.

Sure enough, during that annual visit, doc found something worth following up on-- with TESTS! and then another office visit (with another-- yes! co-pay! and yes! insurance claim!) to discuss the results, and then MORE tests, to determine that, well, nope, nothing wrong, really. But don't I feel better now, knowing for sure?

Not really. I knew what was going on.

I went along with it, because I DO like my doctor, and I DO want her to stay in practice. There was nothing unethical or immoral in what she was doing, but the actual benefit to me?

None. I paid extra co-pays, and endured a few weeks of anxiety (because, hey-- she IS a doctor. It MIGHT have been something, even though I suspected it wasn't.) And in the end, my benefit was confirmation that, yes, I enjoy my normal state of health.

It's one example, but a grievous one, because the physician/patient trust is one of the last barriers, and now it's been breached. I stopped trusting banks decades ago. Stopped trusting the government agency by agency, function by function, as it underwent the long, slow, takeover by our beloved Oligarchs.

As regulation after regulation, designed to provide the guard rails and promote the positive "win/win" nature of economic transactions, toppled, so did my trust.

Look, I DO trust human nature, in the individual, face to face, when we are functioning AS individuals. But when we're acting as agents of employers, corporations, our beloved Oligarchs? Even if that agency is second- or third-hand?

Gone, people. Sorry.

You want my personal information?

I'll give it to you.

But you probably shouldn't trust it.

regretfully,
Bright

Fair Warning: I WILL challenge this kind of bigotry.

It's pervasive, not just on DU but everywhere.

It's damaging, not just to those stigmatized, but to the success of the society that stigmatizes us.

It's insidious, I even catch myself doing it.

It's amorphous and easily disclaimed, which doesn't make it any less real.

I have a chronic brain disease. I am "mentally ill."

I am not a criminal, I am not crippled (other than occasional, private, temporary incapacity that causes me way more pain than it does anyone else.) I am not thoughtless, I am not dangerous.

I am not a Republican, a Libertarian, a Wingnut, a <anyone else whose beliefs offend you so much that you can't think of anything worse to attribute them to than the action of a chronic brain disorder.>

Chronic brain disorders affect nearly one in three people, at some time in their lives, at some degree of acuity. Some of us experience one temporarily, some of us live with one (or more) for life.

Mental illness, chronic brain disorders, distort our thinking by their very nature. It's our brain that is disordered, and that's where we think.

Some of us act on distorted thinking in ways that harm ourselves. A smaller percentage of us act on distorted thinking in ways that harm others. A much smaller percentage. The majority of people who deliberately act to harm others do not have chronic brain disorders, they are not mentally ill.

Many, even most of us, get treatment for our brain disorders. We are in recovery. We understand the effects our disorder has on our thinking and work to overcome them. We deal, on a regular basis, with pain, shame, feelings of inferiority, self-doubt, and self-hatred. We do not need to have those feeling reinforced, they are our familiar companions.

Mental illness is not equivalent to stupidity. It is not equivalent to moral turpitude. It is not equivalent to inferiority. It is not equivalent to criminality. It is not equivalent to evil, thoughtlessness, mental incapacity, etc.

When we here on DU post articles about " is a form of mental illness" those articles are rarely making a legitimate point about symptoms of a chronic brain disorder, and how people who suffer from chronic brain disorders experience our illness in the context of our larger humanity.

More often, such articles are an explicit or thinly-veiled way of linking "bad" to "mental illness."

If you look back in history (and not too damn' far,) you can find similar articles about the inferiority and moral turpitude of melanin-advantaged humans. You can find articles equating having two "X" chromosomes to all kinds of inferior and socially undesirable characteristics. You can find articles about the dreadful, unavoidable, social and behavioral sequelae of being sexually-oriented to same-sex or other socially-disapproved gender partners.

And of course, very often, you can find those stigmatized groups stigmatized further by being presumed to suffer from mental illness.

You know what? I'm damn' proud of the fact that every group an oppressive, dysfunctional social system feels the need to marginalize has been presumed to be like me. We are the ones who are different. We are the ones who challenge. We are the ones who provide humanity with the incentive to evolve.

If you look at the roster of humanity's greatest artists, inventors, humanitarians, and idealists, you will find a very high percentage of them with chronic brain disorders.

By assuming that a disease is all we are, you marginalize us. You dehumanize us. By dismissing anything you disapprove of as "a symptom of mental illness," you perpetuate stigma.

If all you know about me is that I'm mentally ill, you don't know me. You are then free to make assumptions about me. Most of them will be wrong, but that won't matter, because after all, the most important thing about me is that I'm mentally ill, right? If you know that, you don't need to know more.

So, fair warning: From now on, when I stumble onto an OP or a subthread that equates "mental illness" with evil, stupidity, etc., either apparently with intent, or thoughtlessly, I WILL challenge that equation. I will do so politely.

But I will do so.

firmly,
Bright

Legitimate "Safe Havens" for Bigotry

Because this is DU, let's start by defining a couple of terms:

What is a "safe haven," in this context?
Here we're talking about a venue where a bigoted individual may express their bigoted views to other individuals, without being challenged (verbally or in writing) or experiencing any negative social (as opposed to legal, financial, etc.) sanction for those views.

What does "legitimate" refer to, here?
In this case, we're talking venues where the Constitution protects your right to seek legal redress for a given sanction by any legal authority, or for a challenge or sanction by any individual who is violating your right to privacy.

If y'all want to debate the definition of "bigotry," I'd sure appreciate you taking it to another thread, because I'm going with a very rough definition, based on an old AA analogy: "If one person tells you you're being a horse's ass, laugh it off. If two people tell you, count your legs. If three people tell you, buy a saddle."

The point here being, that there are "safe havens" for bigotry. Places where the Constitution guarantees that no one can challenge your bigoted opinions, no one can sanction you, you and your bigoted pals can yuk it up and share grotesque little self-justifying circle jerks in perfect freedom, untainted by the profound ignorance, stupidity, ill-will, and inferiority of those who differ with you. Here are those safe havens:

Your own private dwelling, residential or recreational property, or any property where you are not providing an accommodation deemed "public" under the law (such as a restaurant, real estate agency, etc.) You want to invite your bigot pals along to trash <preferred "other" here> over coffee or a beer? Not only can you do so, but you can ask any dissenters to leave or refuse to serve coffee/beer/whatever to anyone who disagrees in perfect justification under the protection of the Constitution. No dissenting voices allowed: Safe haven.

Any public accommodation where no other persons except you and your bigot buddies are present, and/or where your activities constitute no conceivable denial to others enjoying the same accommodation. You go to a park, no one else is around, the Constitution guarantees your right to whoop it up and holler about how awful those <preferred "other" here> folks are: Safe haven. Other people arrive at the next picnic table? Keep yer damn' voices down and don't make any overhearable remarks, gestures, etc., that might interfere with their enjoyment of the public accommodation, period: No safe haven.

Please note, once again, the definition of "safe haven." You are free to express your bigoted views and opinions anywhere except in other peoples' safe havens; the Constitution protects your right to do so. However, you may (and hopefully will) experience challenges to those views, often by the very <preferred "other" here> you despise, and they are not obliged to shut up, be nice, "respect" your views (I love that one...) or otherwise accommodate you. If your bigotry prevents individuals from enjoying equal access to public accommodations, you can also expect legitimate legal challenges and/or sanctions.

As bigots of all varieties are increasingly learning these days, venues formerly assumed to be safe havens-- conventions, professional societies, educational institutions, sports arenas, news and entertainment media, etc.-- are NOT safe havens.

Deal with the challenge(s) and/or take your booboo lip elsewhere.

irritatedly,
Bright

The Pain Profiteers

The system that deals with Americans' health has morphed, during the course of my own lifetime, from a flawed but focused system with limited resources but admirable motivations, to a twisted, crazy, free-for-all steel cage match between greedy sociopaths scrabbling for dollars.

Context first:

In post-WWII America, the health care system was enjoying a convergence of fortuitous circumstances:

  • Decades of research based in Universities, hospitals, and government-funded laboratories was in the process of paying off, yielding serious, widespread benefits that improved both longevity and quality of life. Vaccines reduced childhood mortality by a major percentage, antibiotics, techniques and equipment developed for battlefield medicine were being adapted to improve all kinds of surgical outcomes and keep septicemia and bacterial killers at bay.

  • Expanded (government) funding of public health, among other factors, had facilitated the growth of a primary health care services network, improving the quality and availability of emergency rooms, hospital care, childhood immunization, professional training and education for health care workers, and other benefits. It wasn't enough, but it was better than America had EVER had.

  • Additional hospital and primary care capacity was largely based on nonprofit and government infrastructure- in most communities all hospitals were either "county" or "city" hospitals, or charitable hospitals run by a religious or fraternal order. They suffered chronically from underfunding and limited capacity, but they were there to heal and to improve community health. That was their purpose.

  • Health Insurance --a relatively new concept-- was largely structured either as a nonprofit (Blue Cross) or as a mutual benefit (non-shareholder, non-publicly traded) corporation. IOW, its primary goal was to balance premiums and payments across the largest possible pool of participants, to benefit those participants.

  • Maybe most important of all-- with the exception of over-the-counter nostrums and yellow pages displays for specialists? There was virtually NO advertising of health care products and services. There were public health ad campaigns about getting kids immunized, not spreading disease, good hygeine practices, etc. But no million-dollar Madison Avenue campaigns to convince everyone that they had SYMPTOMS!! That must be TREATED!! EXPENSIVELY!! NOW!!


Who was getting rich off sick people when I was a kid? Well, sure, there were some.

  • A lot of docs who got into medicine because they wanted to become wealthy and respected members of their community, with premium country-club memberships and plenty of clout.

  • Manufacturers of popular over-the-counter remedies such as aspirin, topical disinfectants, etc. were doing pretty well though by the standards of today's Pharma it was mere chicken feed.

  • Manufacturers of major durable medical equipment were doing pretty well, too, selling x-ray machines, EKGs, autoclaves, surgical suite furniture, lab analysis equipment, etc. But because most of their customers were either government or charitable hospitals, or groups of independent physicians in private practice, there wasn't a gigantic profit margin. The market, while growing, wasn't subject to the kind of hype-fueled explosion we now see whenever some expensive new technology rolls out of the R&D labs.


But our attitudes about health and health care were different, too. "Preventive care" was largely limited to an annual once-over from your doctor, plus immunizations for kids. There was less expectation that every physical discomfort was a symptom of a problem you could identify if you just kept doing tests, and solve if you just kept trying pills and surgeries.

The bad side of that was the number of people who died because they didn't get early care for treatable conditions-- gee, that happens today, too. The good side of it was less vulnerability to "over-diagnosing" and "over-treating." There was less of today's tendency to expensively pathologize normal human ills that people mostly recover from on their own anyway.

Another down side: Plenty of mediocre and careless medical professionals got away with mediocre and careless practices that we'd label malpractice today. The upside of that? A good doctor then wasn't afraid to say, "There's not much we can do except try to make the symptoms less painful while it runs its course." That saved a lot of people a lot of money, stress, and painful side effects, even while it resulted in some unnecessary deaths.

I think we had better immune systems back then. Current science is starting to agree, recommending that people lighten up on the anti-bacterial soap, allow their kids to be exposed to minor ailments, etc.

It wasn't utopia. Rural accessibility was limited to (if you were lucky) a town doctor in the town nearby, and a hospital at the county seat. There were plenty of scary diseases we had no tools for and no idea how to treat. Plenty of things were virtual death sentences, then, that (if you're lucky enough to have money and access now) are no big deal now.

But between 1900 and 1955, average US life expectancy increased from 47.3 years to 69.8 years, a gain of 22.5 years.

Between 1955 and 2010 it increased to 81 years, a gain of 11.2 years.

Currently, in comparison to other wealthy nations, we rank near the bottom in longevity as well as other significant health indicators.

So what happened?

It started in the sectors where there was already profit: Pharmaceuticals and medical equipment. A few big breakthroughs (much of the R&D for which was publicly supported or subsidized in various ways) resulted in exploding profit margins. The money attracted the bottom-feeders and remoras of capitalism: The demand producers.

You know who they are. Their job is to convince vast numbers of consumers that they NEEEEEEED something.

Never did they have an easier job. What's simpler to sell than pain relief?

Not just the pain of illness itself... but the pain of worrying about illness. The pain of not knowing whether that shortness of breath is just overweight and overexertion, or the Big One that's gonna kill ya tomorrow.

Not to mention the very real pain associated with the fully justified fear that when we do need care, when something threatens our lives, we won't be able to get the help we need.

From there it was all downhill.

As soon as the profiteers realized the magnitude of the fat pickings to be made from human pain, they started transforming the system. Insurance companies went for profit. Corporations bought out hospitals and transformed them into profit centers. Big Pharma and the Medtech industries ramped up their R&D and hired more remoras to fuel more demand.

Naturally, this escalated to a food fight as the profit pie couldn't possibly expand quickly enough to fill all of the greedy gullets. "Healthcare Misers" were invented, ostensibly to rein in the madness, but in reality to ensure that the profit shares were channeled into this sector's coffers or that. Scratch a "cost control" mechanism, and you'll find a bottom line needing black ink, mostly in the private sector.

Then the Pain Profiteers and their tame remoras and their Healthcare Miser puppets went after the dollars controlled by the public sector. Spend here, cost-control there, and buy some legislators to push your agenda.

I know of only one way to end this madness:

Put most of the Pain Profiteers out of business, and put strict limits and controls on the rest.

Until we do that, we're stuck viewing the disgusting spectacle of their grotesque banquet at our expense.

polemically,
Bright

The Tip of the Iceberg: PSH & the Opioid Epidemic

Like pretty much everyone else who's seen a few films over the last couple of decades, I was delighted with Philip Seymour Hoffman's acting skills. He racked up some amazing credits over two decades. I looked forward to seeing him mature and develop further. I thought he'd end up with one of those enduring, amazing careers like Paul Newman or Kirk Douglas, icons of my youth.

I didn't know he was 23 years in recovery from alcohol/drug addiction that overtook him at a very early age.

Twenty-three years, clean and sober.

Relapse can happen to anyone, and all too frequently does. We're starting to learn more about why, but that doesn't make it any easier to avoid.

Still... twenty-three years...

What, then?

Sometime in 2012 he began taking prescription opioids. I can't find any information on the "why" of that. A lot of people get prescribed these substances for conditions like back pain, oral pain connected to dental work, post-surgical pain, a whole raft of conditions. Ironically, we're learning now that with the exception of cancer pain, opioids may not be the best treatment strategy for chronic pain: They tend to lose effectiveness and sometimes even increase sensitivity to pain.

Maybe Hoffman was prescribed his first course of opioids. There was a great deal of hype (from pharmaceutical companies, natch!) about how "safe" they are, how non-addictive (yes, seriously, they MADE THAT CLAIM!) when 'used as directed', etc.

Maybe he wasn't prescribed them. Maybe he got them from a friend after complaining about pain. Maybe he believed the hype, assumed he could just take them for a short time to deal with a temporary condition.

Maybe he "relapsed by intent," and took them hoping/assuming the hype was true, and they wouldn't grab him as hard as "street" opiates, and he'd be able to kick them easier.

Except the hype wasn't true. Those "safe" prescription opioids are highly addictive, all too often lethally so.

Mr. Hoffman knew he was in trouble. He tried treatment in 2012.

In 2006, reflecting on the addiction that drove him into recovery in the first place, he said I think back at that time, if I had the money, that kind of money and stuff, I would have died.

This time he had the money.

He's not the only prescription opioid addict to make the switch to heroin. The painful truth about opioid addiction is that the brain adapts very quickly to the "high" sensation of any specific opiate, and it loses the ability to satisfy the craving. So they increase amounts. They look to other forms of opioids, to return to that potent "high" state.

And that quality of opioid addiction makes the struggle to quit all the more hazardous. A period of abstinence can decrease tolerance, sometimes drastically so, a phenomenon called the "kindling effect." Dosing themselves at the level they last used without even feeling the effects much becomes a lethal overdose.

The pharmaceutical industry, in its manic greed for profits, has preyed on chronic pain sufferers for a long time. In the past couple of decades they've ramped up the process, developing ever more potent tropes on the basic opioid analgesic mechanism, and carefully avoiding any research and testing that might contradict their claims of "safety." They've touted it for every kind of pain from acute cancer pain (the original justification for the medications) to chronic back pain, to temporary post-root canal pain.

We are now dealing with the consequences of the resulting opioid epidemic.

I wish I could say that the end is in sight, that we're on this one, that we're even making a dent in slowing the spread of the damage. But alas, I'm afraid that we're only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

sadly,
Bright

Not Yet vs. Not at All: Defining Woo

o~ "Please allow me
(woo-woo)
to introduce myself...
(woo-woo)
I'm a man...
of wealth and taste...
(woo-woo)"


I see we're on the topic of woo today. Well, and most days, right?

We actually have a broad range of opinions and feelings on this topic, so far as I can tell, but the loudest voices are the ones on the far ends of the spectrum.

What are those "far ends?"

Well, let's start over here, where we have the folks who passionately assert that if it can't be accurately described and reliably reproduced by existing scientific tools and perceived with our existing sensorium (augmented by existing scientific tools, of course,) it's manifest crap, perpetrated by greedy, evil people for the the furtherance of their own agendas and the delusion of the weak-minded, foolish, and/or intellectually-challenged.

Let's skip over a substantial spectrum of minutely nuanced, kaleidoscopically idiosyncratic viewpoints in between to get to the other end, way over here, where we find the folks who passionately assert that just because it can't be accurately described and reliably reproduced by existing scientific tools, doesn't mean it isn't being perceived and effective outside the documentable sensorium in ways that have real effects. And attackers of their beliefs are greedy, evil, materialistic corporate oligarchs or their close-minded puppets.

Of course, a large portion of the disagreement rests on the definition of terms.

"Woo," itself, set aside, let's look at "effective," and zero in on one of the most nebulous and troubling (to both sides) questions in relation to efficacy: the placebo effect.

Woo-sters sometimes acknowledge the placebo effect as "mind-body healing."

Rockhead rationalists sniff "placebo effect" as if that explains away and/or invalidates anything that can't be understood or measured given our current array of tools.

The fundamental question of whether invoking the placebo effect by woo-ish methods has any actual value and can or should be an end in itself is rarely discussed.

Me, I have great faith in the placebo effect. I know darn well that if my brain is convinced to pull the right physiological strings, my pain will be relieved, my symptoms will be alleviated, and my physiological well-being will increase.

I have private theories of how/why this works, none of which can be verified by current scientific tools. For instance, I believe that if my mind AND body feel a higher level of confidence, experience lower levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and other endocrines related to experiencing pain, my immune system has more moxie to fight internal enemies, and my metabolic system will find it easier to achieve homeostasis at a higher level of function. Plausible? I think so. Verifiable? Hardly.

Which is why, even though there is no reliable scientific evidence to support the efficacy of inhaling herbally-infused steam when I have a miserable upper respiratory ailment that blocks my sinuses, makes my throat sore, inflames my pulmonary system, etc., that steam inhalation makes me feel better, as in "increases my comfort level" and therefore I believe I'm healing faster.

Again, no way of verifying that.

But I think it's true. So, it works for me.

Is steam inhalation "woo?" Or is it legitimate therapeutic remedy for my upper respiratory ailment?

I tend to look at two things:

1) No one is getting rich off my steam inhalation. I do it with a $9.99 hot pot and inexpensive bottles of essential oils like camphor, eucalyptus, lavender, etc. Contrariwise, no one's being harmed by it-- there's no scientifically-validated reliable therapy for mild seasonal upper respiratory infections that I'm NOT using, because I think the inhalation is "better."

2) Given the directions science is going, it might indeed be possible someday-- maybe even someday soon (within the next century or so)-- to reliably isolate all the potential factors and make a verifiable measurement about how my beliefs influence my own physiology.

So, I dunno whether it's woo or not, but I'm gonna keep doing it, and consciously decide to believe "this is helpful." For me.

I could give half a dozen other examples of places I (so to speak) allow woo into my life, embrace its power, and admit that yeah, it's unscientific and maybe someday it'll be "proved" to be crap, but it's beneficial to me so until then, here's the bird to all you unbelievers. Go rain on someone else's parade.

I meditate.

I use Tarot cards to help provoke insight and start trains of thought that sometimes help me find connections and formulate ideas and answers about subjective areas of thinking and feeling.

I eat local honey to boost my body's ability to deal with local pollens without catastrophic histamine overload.

woo-woo-woo!

Now, let's go back to those two things, because I think they're important:

1. I'm not making anyone rich nor harming myself or others; and

2. The possibility of efficacy, either by placebo effect or by some currently unmeasurable mechanism, is within my area of "reasonable belief" (as opposed to "reasonable doubt.")

woo-woo-woo?

Back to #1, in more detail: Here's the area where we have consolidated Big Pharma and Agri Biz slugging it out with Diffuse-but-Massive Snake Oil. We can argue the moral relativism of Oligarchic griftery versus VoxPop griftery until the cows come home, but when the rubber hits the road, the net effects look pretty similar to me. Arguments based on "it's all a plot by Big Pharma to keep natural herbal miracle snake oils from putting them out of business" cut just about the same amount of ice as the arguments based on the sleazy characters and self-serving personal agendas of the snake oil salesmen and their shameless exploitation of human gullibility. They bleed on both sides, as it were.

Back to #2, in more detail: Everyone has what I think of as a "functional lacuna of credibility." We evolved to believe in unprovable stuff for a good reason. Luck, fate, religion, the abstruse and theoretical endpoints of cosmology, statistical modeling... it has a function, and any good grifter knows that the second-easiest mark is the one who can be convinced to play him/herself. The easiest mark is the one who's convinced they can't be played at all. If it does no harm (and I include in "harm" the harm done by rejecting therapies with a higher chance of success and greater weight of verified evidence, when the stakes are high-- as in, let's not bother with actual cancer treatment but head straight for the laetrile) belief may help activate that placebo effect, so belief, in and of itself, is useful.

When the folks at the far ends butt heads here on DU, it all too often looks to me like the old "I am RIGHT and you are WRONG, and EVERYONE including YOU must be brought to ACKNOWLEDGE this fundamental reality!"

And what's more futile than that?

And if part of the definition of "woo" is "futile," well...

And finally, to circle back around to #2 again: For me, my functional lacuna of credibility is defined by the title of this thread: Can we prove this? If the answer is "not yet," perhaps because we don't have the tools or the sensorium to perceive, I'll keep an open mind. If the answer is "not at all," perhaps because it's already been shown to be not only invalid but harmful, or it's so far beyond where I can EVER imagine us having tools or sensorium to perceive, then for me, yeah... that's where the line is drawn.

Your mileage undoubtedly varies.

Which is fine, too.

diffidently,
Bright

Re-Thinking Sexual Transactions: On Rape and Harassment

Where this comes from: During the ongoing national discussion about the disheartening Maryville rape case, this blowhard's opinions were aired as though they matter. This came hard on the heels of a slowly-burgeoning scandal about harassment in the Science blogging community.

When I was in my twenties, the "second wave" of gender-equity rights had swept the country and raised consciousness, the ERA had been passed (but not yet ratified,) Roe v. Wade had just been upheld by the Supreme Court, Title IX had been enacted into law, and there was real hope that the march toward enlightened, equitable sexual politics in America would continue.

By the time I was thirty, that march had stalled, and we were hanging on teeth and toenails to protect the small amount of ground gained. Decades later, toothless, I raise bleeding, nailless fingers (okay, metaphorically) to type some reflections on the backward slide, and offer some ideas about what might be needed to reset, and restart, our cultural evolution in this important area.

I do not blame individual men or women for the devolution. I blame all of us, male and female, me included, for concentrating on remedying the symptoms of our culture's fucked-up sexual politics, without putting the same amount of effort into addressing the fundamental ideology behind those politics.

I understand the dimension of that problem, "how sexual transactions work" is daunting. So much of our economy, our cultural, social, and personal identities are bound up in traditional patriarchal ideas about sexual transaction. It's a gigantic windmill; our lance is tiny. But I think it's worth tilting anyway. Especially if we start with the idea that what we need is more "How to do it right" thinking, as well as "how not to do it wrong" thinking.

Doing it Right

What should we be doing with our sexual desires and feelings? What is the correct etiquette that will both provide us with some hope of fulfillment, and keep our society healthy and positive for every person of every gender?

Let's start with a simple, unequivocal statement:

It's okay to have sex with someone when they have maturity and power equity with you, and clearly give their consent that they want to have sex with you.

Under any other circumstances, it is not okay to have sex with someone. Period.

Our society and its institutions must bend determined efforts to delegitimizing sexual activity under any other circumstances. That means no more winking and chuckling at the "Pretty Woman" scenarios, no more "happy ending" fantasies about the powerful individual who "falls in love" with the humble and powerless one and "raises" them to sexual ecstasy and social status, and likewise no more "screw your way up the ladder of success" nudge-nudge admiration/tolerance. No more "overcoming ambivalence with ardor" imagery. No more admiration for "Pickup Artists" counting coup.

Can we make enforceable laws based on this concept? Very few. But we can address it in other ways, through sanctioning the behavior of those who violate it, and using professional codes of conduct, ethics policies, etc. to affirm it.

We can also look at building a whole new cultural narrative of romance, wonder, and fulfillment around the individuals who seek out and appreciate partners sharing similar levels of personal maturity and social power. We can construct stories about how they find loving, interesting, exciting, humorous, suspenseful, etc., ways of asking for and receiving consent to share sex, form bonds, overcome challenges, find happy endings, and more.

However we go about it, it MUST become normed that it is okay to have sex with equals who give explicit consent, and not with anyone else, any time, any way.

We must teach better ways of dealing with sexual impulses, thoughts, and feelings in the presence of people we find attractive, in various situations. In school or the workplace, in social settings, in our communities and families.

It is always okay (or at least uncontrollable) to find someone attractive. It is not always okay to act on that feeling, especially when the one we find attractive is someone who clearly cannot give consent from a standpoint of equal maturity and power equity. Or when the setting is inappropriate. Let's create some positive cultural norms about what to do in such situations.

Let's make it possible for any two people who are attracted to one another, who share similar levels of maturity and power equity, and who have no ethical barriers to a relationship, to do any damn' thing they want with each other as long as they don't scare the horses. And keep it none of our business.

But let's also make it IMpossible for our young people to grow up believing that sexual impulses justify predatory, manipulative, exploitive, harassing behavior.

I do not think we will see the backward slide stop and reverse until we add this effort to the mix.

If we stick enough toothpick-sized lances into those windmill vanes, they WILL eventually grind down. I must believe this, because giving up is not an option my grandchildren can afford.

idealistically,
Bright

The Maryville Case: What It's About

Summary:
In the small Missouri town of Maryville, a 14-year old girl and her friend were gotten incapably drunk, they were raped, and the act was filmed for the rapists to distribute as proof of their... whatever.

The girl was then left, passed out, in her street clothes (no outer clothes, coat, etc.) on her parents' lawn in 22-degree (Fahrenheit) temps, in the middle of the night. She was out there for some hours- her hair and clothing were frozen, she was at risk of serious injury or death from hypothermia.

Her mother found her, saw abrasions in her genital area while caring for her, and called the police.

The police investigated, found credible evidence of rape, searched the home of her attacker (who happened to be the grandson of a MO State Senate member,) found more evidence, prepared a case they regarded as a slam-dunk for prosecution.

Some time later, the mother was told there would be no prosecution. The family's lawyers discussed the chances of a civil suit.

The girl and her family were subjected to harassment at school, in the town, at the mother's place of employment. The mother was fired from her job, with specific reference to the possibility of a civil suit requiring her to take too much time away from work, etc.

The girl and her family put their house on the market and moved to another town to escape the harassment.

Six months later, their home in Maryville, still on the market, mysteriously burned down.

Now the hacker collective Anonymous is promising "justice" for the victim.

Relevant links:

http://www.democraticunderground.com/10023846823
http://www.democraticunderground.com/10023841639
http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/10/14/anonymous-targets-missouri-town-for-refusing-to-prosecute-man-who-confessed-to-having-sex-with-14-year-old-and-leaving-her-to-die/
http://www.democraticunderground.com/10023848014

There has been considerable discussion here on DU regarding what this story is about, including the following (paraphrased by me from the DU discussion threads):

"Justice for Daisy"
"Rapists walking free because of Rape Culture and how it protects them"
"Political influence perverting the justice system"

All of those things are true.

But in my opinion, what this story is REALLY about is encapsulated in the statement just released by Anonymous:

"Most of all, We are wondering, how do the residents of Maryville sleep at night?"


I wonder this, too.

I wonder how our communities, our culture have evolved to the point where we don't even need to be marooned on an Island with our survival in doubt and without adult supervision, to turn into a "Lord of the Flies" analog?

I suspect it has to do with public education being perverted from a way of raising healthy citizens for an independent democratic community, to a way of ensuring there will be a supply of barely-literate low-wage workers unable to effectively organize against Our Beloved Oligarchs.

I suspect it has to do with a media controlled by Our Beloved Oligarchs and tasked with the objective of setting us at one another's throats for trivial differences so that, again, we are unable to effectively organize against Our Beloved Oligarchs, because we are too busy hating each other.

I suspect it has to do with a carefully-fostered cultural emphasis on "winning," on "might makes right" on xenophobia, sexism, racism, and other ways of fracturing us and making us afraid of everyone the least bit different, and believing in solutions of violence, hate, and exclusion as the remedy for our fear.

Someone prove me wrong, please.

I would love to be proven wrong.

Please, somebody?

broken-heartedly,
Bright

(P.S. I don't approve of vigilante justice, I don't condone it. However, I can't condemn the individuals in Anonymous who are taking such action as they deem appropriate in this situation.)
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