Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Dysfunction Junction

No, this isn't going to be a post about politics, at least not in the usual sense.  The article which is prompting my thoughts is The Queen Bee in the Corner Office in the current issue of Atlantic Magazine:
It discusses whether women are worse bosses than men, or whether they are only perceived this way because of stereotypes. The subheading of the article is "Research suggests that conditions in the workplace might be to blame."  To me that is the problem in a nutshell.  Oddly, however, the article only delves into that in passing.  It seems to be mainly about how women tear down other women in the workplace.
In my opinion there are toxic people and toxic workplaces.  Which came first is a chicken-and-the-egg kind of question.  A workplace is toxic if it tolerates, or actively rewards, bullying or abusive behavior. Consider this passage:

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Look Out for the Liberal Label

 This started as a comment on Crystal’s post aimed not at changing the subject but at getting back to it.  But then it wandered out of control, and it seems more like a separate post.

  My point was to be that this country has never had ideological parties, and when we talk as if we do – as, for example, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have been lately – we are playing right into the hands of people who know what they are doing and who are neither left nor right, just greedy.

  European party ideologues will see a wall and march right into it if their ideology tells them the wall isn’t there, or shouldn’t be. We never had parties like that -- before now. They aren’t a good idea for a country with our kind of sprawl.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Elizabeth Warren - let's move left

For those who might be interested, I have a longer post at my blog about Elizabeth Warren's recent speech in which she urges the Democratic party to move to the left, not to the center ... Amid 2020 buzz, Warren urges Democrats to reject centrist policies and move leftward. And here's a link to a supporting article: To Win, Democrats Don’t Need Trump Voters. This is in the wake of the pro-life effort to gain a foothold in the DNC. I think Warren is right.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Two old movies on addiction

Thinking more about the recent posts here on the opioid problem. Some of the comments to those posts brought up the way we feel about addiction and addicts. My own feeling about addiction is that it is not a moral failure but instead a tragedy, an illness, and one that could happen to any of us given the right circumstances (Surgeon General Vivek Murthy: Addiction Is A Chronic Brain Disease, Not A Moral Failing).

I haven't personally known a seriously addicted person unless you count my mother's addiction to cigarettes, so what probably helped to form my belief about addiction was the movies. There are a lot of movies on this subject, but I particularly remember two terribly sad films from when I was young: Days of Wine and Roses and The Panic in Needle Park. Perhaps it's not just written fiction which can teach us empathy.

1) Days of Wine and Roses ...

is a 1962 drama film directed by Blake Edwards with a screenplay by JP Miller adapted from his own 1958 Playhouse 90 teleplay of the same name. The movie was produced by Martin Manulis, with music by Henry Mancini, and features Jack Lemmon, Lee Remick, Charles Bickford and Jack Klugman. The film depicts the downward spiral of two average Americans who succumb to alcoholism and attempt to deal with their problems.

I saw this on tv as a kid. Here's a trailer which also has Jack Lemmon speaking to us about the film. Ironic that as he's doing that, he's smoking ...

2) The Panic In Needle Park ...

is a 1971 American romantic drama film directed by Jerry Schatzberg and starring Al Pacino, in his second film appearance. The screenplay was written by Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne, adapted from the 1966 novel by James Mills. The film portrays life among a group of heroin addicts who hang out in "Needle Park" (then-nickname for Sherman Square on Manhattan's Upper West Side near 72nd Street and Broadway). The film is a love story between Bobby (Pacino), a young addict and small-time hustler, and Helen (Kitty Winn), a restless woman who finds Bobby charismatic. She becomes an addict, and life goes downhill for them both as their addictions worsen, eventually leading to a series of betrayals.

I saw this at the theater as a teen. Here's a trailer ...

Film critic Roger Ebert gave this movie 3.5 stars in his review of it.

BTW, Ebert understood addiction from the inside - My Name is Roger, and I'm an alcoholic

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Opioid Epidemic and Lake County Ohio

Rising Morbidity and Mortality Rates in Midlife Among Non-Hispanic Whites

is the original research article which I read in April. Angus Deaton, one of the co-authors is a Noble prize winner so it was unlikely to have many flaws. Anne Case and he are both at Princeton which now has an easy read version here.

The findings are pretty well summarized by the abstract which I have abridged as follows:

1) A marked increase in the all-cause mortality of middle-aged white non-Hispanic men and women in the United States between 1999 and 2013. This change was unique to the United States; no other rich country saw a similar turnaround. It reversed decades of progress in mortality.
2) This midlife mortality reversal was confined to white non-Hispanics. Black non-Hispanics and Hispanics at midlife, as well as those aged 65 and above in every racial and ethnic group, continued to see mortality rates fall.
3) This increase for middle aged whites was largely accounted for by increasing death rates from drug and alcohol poisonings, suicide, and chronic liver diseases and cirrhosis. Those with less education saw the most marked increases.
4) Rising midlife mortality rates of white non-Hispanics were paralleled by increases in midlife morbidity. Self-reported declines in health, mental health, and ability  to conduct activities of daily living, and increases in chronic pain and inability to work, as well as clinically measured deteriorations in liver function, all point to growing distress in this population.
The authors comment that the epidemic began with an increase in prescription drug use, that migrated to heroin use, augmented recently by stronger drugs. It is possible the increased drug use followed the increased morbidity and distress, however all these preceded the financial crisis. Nevertheless, it might be related to increasing despair of the economic future. The distress includes physiological (joint pain and sciatica) and psychological aspects, e.g. greater number of suicides. There are an increasing number of people on social security disability for these issues. In the paper, the authors write that "a serious concern is that those currently in midlife will age into Medicare in worse health than the elderly of today."

On June 24th there was an expert panel presentation on what is going on in Lake County. Below the break is my summary and comments on that meeting.What is going on in your part of the country, both in terms of the problem and the response?

“Heroin, Fentanyl, and Carfentanil: The Triple Threat on Our Doorstep”

The Opioid Crisis: How the Hype Can Hurt

The bandwagon has been making the rounds noisily, with trumpets and tubas, raising consciousness about the Opioid Crisis.  It's just my nature; I tend to take bandwagons with a grain of salt. Not to mention pendulums swinging.  Don't get me wrong, the Opioid Crisis is real, and I'm glad it's getting attention.    However my fear is that pain sufferers, particularly those with severe or chronic pain, are going to be thrown under the bandwagon.
This article states that "... the problem in part on the opioid epidemic began in the 1990s, when doctors became increasingly aware of the burdens of chronic pain. Pharmaceutical companies saw an opportunity, and pushed doctors — with misleading marketing about the safety and efficacy of the drugs — to prescribe opioids to treat all sorts of pain."  Pain was spoken of as the "5th vital sign" and patients were asked to assign a numerical value to it (for instance on a scale of 1 to 10).  Research indicated that chronic pain actually changed the way the brain worked. Now this is being called into question.  However nowhere have I seen studies indicating that the research was wrong.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Web Site Relaunches Continue!!!

First it was America, then Commonweal, lately it has been the National Catholic Reporter and PrayTellBlog

All of them have made finding what is on the website more difficult, and in general the overall appearance of the website less appealing.

For the National Catholic Reporter one has to scroll way down the page to find articles. I don't like to do that. I like to quickly size up what is there, see what I have read, pick what I want to read, and ignore the rest.

PrayTellBlog has the worst new web design of all.  As a regular reader, I would always read the articles back until where I had stopped reading the last time. How do your figure out what were the last (e.g. five) articles? If you find the way to do that, please let me know.

PrayTellBlog has made finding the comments a lot more difficult. Little respect for commenters. As someone who now gets to post and comment, I still enjoy commenting, and look forward to comments on my own posts.

I did find one redeeming feature at PrayTell. As someone who posted there about a dozen times, I checked to see if my posts were still there. Low and behold they are not only there but they are more  readable and interesting! 

I always like my post on Television, Time Use, Lent and the Divine Office
when I wrote it, but never liked it when I read the post. There is a lot of data that has to be absorbed by the reader. The new web design makes that easier. Of course it might all be easier if I could have edited my own post. The post now looks much more like my original Word document.

Maybe the new web designs generally increase readably of articles. Is this what is driving all this changing that is going on across websites? It is a lot harder to find anything, but maybe everything is more readable and enjoyable when you find something?