Friday Reads: Put on a Happy Face!!!Posted: June 8, 2018
Good Morning Sky Dancers
I wish I could be your little ray of sunshine this morning but I don’t know how that’s possible given the utter daily chaos and destruction that the 2016 election brought us. The chickens are definitely coming home to roost and the banty rooster is a crazy and mean little bird.
I woke up today to the sad news of a second celebrity suicide. First, we had Kate Spade whose handbag designs were wonderful. Now, it’s Anthony Bourdain. Both have left behind young daughters.
Celebrity suicide always starts a conversation that never reaches the ears of the our policymakers who could provide necessary things to solve problems but instead choose to exacerbate them. But more about Trump and the Republicans in Congress and the yanking of funds from the Children’s Health Program last night in a stealth, decidedly one sided vote. Any one with young ones in their life should spend time with them now.
According to several studies, publicity surrounding a suicide has been repeatedly linked to a subsequent increase in the act, particularly among young people.
After Marilyn Monroe died in August 1962, the cause listed as probable suicide, the nation mourned — publicly. In the month that followed there was sweeping news coverage, public memorials and a 12% increase in suicides. That month saw an additional 303 suicides in comparison to the year prior, according to a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.
When Robin Williams died in 2014, the world reacted similarly. The comedian’s image was everywhere, details of his untimely passing spawned countless news articles and think pieces. His death is also similarly associated with a 10% increase in suicide across the United States in the five months after his passing, according to a study published in the journal, PLOS ONE, in February.
The phenomenon is often referred to as “suicide contagion,” defined by the Department of Health and Human Services as an increase in suicides due to “the exposure to suicide or suicidal behaviors within one’s family, one’s peer group, or through media reports of suicide.”
And the overwhelming influence of a celebrity or high-profile suicide is far from a new discovery. Following the 1774 publication of Wolfgang Goethe’s “The Sorrows of Young Werther” — a book in which a young man ends his life after a failed love affair — Europe also saw a spike in suicides, particularly in men the same age as the protagonist.
The outbreak prompted the novel to be banned in several European locations.
Suicide, however, has been on the rise in the US since 1999. Like most mental illnesses, it receives less preventative attention than it should. It does, however, generate a lot of revenues for pharmaceutical companies. It’s less likely the pills are accompanied by human help and counselling.
I’ve struggled with depression for like 50 years. Some of my youngest memories are of my dad, my baby sister, and me in Kansas City waiting in the car outside a small hospital while my mother sat with her mother during her shock treatments. My mother lived with it too. They put her on antidepressants the last year of her life and I saw a happy, cheery woman I had never known before. I personally rely heavily on my Buddhist practice which grew from my adult-in-process practices of the relaxation response and positive affirmation. I hurl mantras like I live in a gompa some where up in the Himalayas with shaved head and nun vows. I only wish more people had access to learning meditation. It also helps me to stay away from mean, nasty people which is proving challenging in the Trump era.
But, actual science and properly funding and staffing the CDC is not a priority at all right now.
Suicide rates increased by 25% across the United States over nearly two decades ending in 2016, according to research published Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twenty-five states experienced a rise in suicides by more than 30%, the government report finds.
More than half of those who died by suicide had not been diagnosed with a mental health condition, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC.
“These findings are disturbing. Suicide is one of the top 10 causes of death in the US right now, and it’s one of three causes that is actually increasing recently, so we do consider it a public health problem — and something that is all around us,” Schuchat said. The other two top 10 causes of death that are on the rise are Alzheimer’s disease and drug overdoses, she noted.
In 2016 alone, about 45,000 lives were lost to suicide.
“Our data show that the problem is getting worse,” Schuchat said.
Bourdain is just the latest in a string of prominent celebrities suffering from depression who have taken their own lives. Last week, Kate Spade committed suicide; she was reportedly fixated on Robin Williams’ suicide. And suicide rates across America have been spiking: as of 2014, American suicide rates had skyrocketed to their highest rate in three decades, all the way to 13 people per 100,000, even as death rates from other causes declined markedly. Suicide was particularly common among middle-aged white people. The overall suicide rate climbed 24 percent from 1999 to 2014; in 2014, over 14,000 middle-aged white Americans committed suicide. Between 2006 and 2016, the suicide rate for white children jumped 70 percent, and the suicide rate among black children (while lower than that of white children overall) jumped 77 percent. According to USA Today:
A study of pediatric hospitals released last May found admissions of patients ages 5 to 17 for suicidal thoughts and actions more than doubled from 2008 to 2015. The group at highest risk for suicide are white males between 14 and 21.
What’s causing this uptick? Traditional theories regarding poverty don’t seem to hold much water – the economic recovery was well underway by 2014, and more poverty-stricken demographic groups in the United States had lower suicide rates than whites did on a consistent basis. And theories regarding bullying don’t seem to solve the question either – bullying isn’t worse in 2017 than it was in 1999, and studies seem to show that once depression and delinquency are factored out, bullying does not rate as an independent variable changing suicide rates.
Suicide is a complex social phenomenon, and it’s difficult to pin down cause and effect. Surely rising rates of opioid abuse have contributed to the suicide increase, but that wouldn’t explain the jump among young people. There’s a case to be made that decline of religiosity in wealthier societies has led to an uptick in suicide(poorer societies tend to have far less of a suicide problem than wealthy societies, so religious differences matter less statistically). We are suffering a crisis of meaning in the West, and it’s having a significant impact on suicidality.
I don’t think religiosity necessarily connects to leading a meaningful life. But, I’d say constantly be sent off to war is one factor because suicide rates for Vets is off the wall. I’d also say feeling helpless to change things in your work life and community leads to some of that too. (From Foreign Policy, September, 2017)
Veterans are about 20 percent more likely than nonveterans to kill themselves, according to a Veterans Affairs press release issued on Friday afternoon at the close of business. (Traditionally, that’s when Washington public affairs types put out bad news they don’t wish to discuss. Mainly they hope to see it tucked into Saturday newspapers that no one reads.)
Also, the suicide rate for female veterans is 250 percent that for female non-vets.
Then, there’s death by abhorrently racist federal policy. There’s a surge in that. From the daily paper of my childhood days The Des Moines Register: “Des Moines DREAMer dies within weeks after being sent back to Mexico’s violence.”
Manuel Antonio Cano Pacheco should have graduated from high school in Des Moines last month. The oldest of four siblings should have walked across a stage in a cap and gown to become a proud symbol to his sister and brothers of the rewards of hard work and education.
Instead, Manuel died a brutal death alone in a foreign land, a symbol of gang supremacy in a country plagued by violent drug cartels. It happened three weeks after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement returned him to Mexico, a country he had left at age 3 when his parents brought him here without a visa.
The fact that America was the only home he has known made Manuel eligible to apply for and be granted DACA status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program initiated by former President Barack Obama. It exempted from deportation certain young people, referred to as DREAMERS, who were brought to the U.S. without papers as children.
But that status didn’t protect Manuel when he came to immigration authorities’ attention after being stopped for speeding last fall and charged with driving under the influence. An ICE spokesperson said in a statement that ICE officers arrested him in Polk County Jail and a federal immigration judge terminated his DACA status because of two misdemeanor convictions.
The statement from Shawn Neudauer, ICE public affairs officer, also said Manuel wasn’t technically deported, but was escorted to Mexico by ICE deportation officers at the Laredo, Texas border this past April 24. He called it a voluntary departure process that doesn’t carry the penalties of a formal deportation. But the impact was the same: Manuel had no choice but to go back, either as a deportee or in a “voluntary departure.” He chose the “voluntary” route.
You may read more about this young man’s short life at the newspaper’s link.
Other Republican policies will be cutting the lives of children short if this bill passes the US Senate. It moved through the House like a stealth fighter. Funny, how Republicans can get it done when it involves propping up their give-aways to the rich and powerful.
The House voted along party lines late Thursday to pass a White House proposal that would claw back nearly $15 billion in previously approved government funding.
The House approved the measure in a vote of 210-206, with conservatives calling it a step in the right direction after they ripped into the price tag of the $1.3 trillion spending bill President Trump signed earlier this year.
“President Trump and this Administration are fully committed to protecting taxpayers, and Senate passage of this legislation is critical to reducing wasteful, unnecessary spending and making our Federal Government more efficient, effective, and accountable,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement late Thursday.
Trump had pushed lawmakers earlier this week to vote in favor of the clawback plan, known as the Spending Cuts to Expired and Unnecessary Programs Act, which GOP leaders have been working on for two months.
“The HISTORIC Rescissions Package we’ve proposed would cut $15,000,000,000 in Wasteful Spending! We are getting our government back on track,” Trump tweeted Tuesday.
The push to slash spending stemmed from conversations between Trump and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in April, weeks after Trump signed the omnibus into law.
“The President’s rescissions request is a straightforward approach to begin cleaning up a bloated federal budget and respecting hardworking taxpayer dollars,” McCarthy said in a statement Wednesday.
While the move was welcomed by fiscal hawks, Democrats and a handful of moderates argued it could hinder future budget negotiations and drain unused funds that may prove necessary for programs down the road.
Opponents blasted the administration’s decision to target unobligated funds within the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) –– which make up nearly half of the $14.7 billion in rollbacks –– alleging the cuts could lead to a loss of coverage if enrollment is higher than expected.
“The nearly $15 billion in rescissions cut numerous efforts to create jobs, grow our economy, and strengthen our communities. It cuts funding for the economic development administration, and for community development financial institutions. Both of which create jobs in rural areas and distress communities,” Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, said on the floor.
Then, there’s a stab at Obamacare again. This time it’s by the Oldest Living Confederate widow as she attempts to get people with preexisting conditions thrown out and re-establish womanhood as a preexisting condition. From Forbes Magazine: “The Trump Administration Is Using a New Tactic to Dismantle Obamacare. What You Need to Know About It”
The Trump administration is trying out a new tactic to get rid of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare): calling at least one provision of it unconstitutional.
In a brief filed Thursday, the Justice Department sided with Texas and a coalition of other Republican-led states that had filed a suit challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare. While it is uncommon for the Justice Department to go against federal law, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that he acted with the “approval of the President of the United States.”
Here’s their argument, and what they want.
The filing declares unconstitutional the so-called individual mandate—which requires almost all Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a “tax” if they don’t—and calls for several elements of ACA to be invalidated. These include a “ban on insurers denying coverage and charging higher rates to people with pre-existing health conditions.” The Justice Department reportedly also wants to repeal limits on insurance costs based on gender and age.
Nevertheless, the Justice Department’s position did not go quite as far as the Texas suit. In it, the states deem the entirety of Obamacare and its regulations invalid.
The DOJ will not defend the cases brought by GOP state. This why we have a spate of crazy obviously unconstitutional shit coming up from the states. The DOJ is deciding which cases to defend based on religious and ideological whims instead of actual legal grounds.
The Trump administration said Thursday night that it will not defend the Affordable Care Act against the latest legal challenge to its constitutionality — a dramatic break from the executive branch’s tradition of arguing to uphold existing statutes and a land mine for health insurance changes the ACA brought about.
In a brief filed in a Texas federal court and an accompanying letter to the House and Senate leaders of both parties, the Justice Department agrees in large part with the 20 Republican-led states that brought the suit. They contend that the ACA provision requiring most Americans to carry health insurance soon will no longer be constitutional and that, as a result, consumer insurance protections under the law will not be valid, either.
The three-page letter from Attorney General Jeff Sessions begins by saying that Justice adopted its position “with the approval of the President of the United States.” The letter acknowledges that the decision not to defend an existing law deviates from history
but contends that it is not unprecedented.
Stacking the benches with unqualified judges is a good way to get a decision based on total ignorance of law and precedent and even the Constitution.
Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee released a report Friday accusing their Republican colleagues of conspiring with President Donald Trump to reshape the federal judiciary by appointing judges whose only qualifications are youth and conservative ideology.
“President Trump and Senate Republicans are stacking our courts at record-breaking speed,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the committee and one of several signatories on the report. “Nominees have been largely controversial and incredibly young, allowing them to shape our courts for generations.”
The 61-page report titled “Review of Republican Efforts to Stack the Federal Courts” details both the pace and volume of the nomination and confirmation process, as well as the obstruction and filibustering of President Barack Obama nominees that afforded Trump the opportunity to shift the balance of federal courts.
“President Trump entered office with 112 judicial vacancies, compared to just 53 vacancies when President Obama entered office,” the report states. “To fill these vacancies and change the nature of the federal judiciary for decades, President Trump and Senate Republicans have been rushing nominees through the Senate at a breakneck pace by changing the process for consideration and eliminating traditions that had been followed for over a century.”
The “blue slip” tradition referred to in the report is an unwritten rule in the Senate process, honored by both parties for decades, meant to simultaneously preserve a more bipartisan approach to the judicial nomination process and make sure both home-state senators approve of judicial nominees.
The tradition is named after a blue form that is given to the two home-state senators asking for their assessment of the nominee. If the senator has no objection, the blue slip is returned to the committee chairman with a positive response. If they don’t approve of the nominee, the blue form is withheld or returned with a negative response.
Friday’s report says Republicans used blue slips to block 18 Obama court nominees, including six nominees for federal appeals courts, which rank just below the U.S. Supreme Court and have a huge hand in determining some of the most important matters of law in the nation.
After Trump was elected, Senator Charles Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, eschewed the blue-slip tradition, according to the report.
Michael Brennan was confirmed to the Seventh Circuit on Thursday over the objection of Tammy Baldwin, the home-state senator from Wisconsin. Similarly, Ryan Bounds was nominated to fill a vacancy on the Ninth Circuit over the objections of Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, Democratic senators from Oregon.
Republicans can only get things done by sneaking stuff through in thoroughly undemocratic and crooked ways.
And here’s why Germaine Greer is trending.
Speaking in a BBC documentary that will be aired on Saturday, called Germaine Bloody Greer, and reported in the Sun and the Mirror, she says: “Someone like Beyoncé – who I think is a fantastic musician, a beautiful voice as true as a bell – why has she always got to be fucking naked and have her tits hanging out? Why?
“I’m not saying you have to keep your clothes on, but why is sexual display part of the job? I might as well ask that question to a barmaid who says she doesn’t get any tips if she doesn’t show cleavage.”
Greer also criticises female athletes, saying: “Why do women athletes have to be naked? I watched bloody figure skating and the woman is virtually naked. She has got a few wisps of cloth and the man is in evening dress. You think nakedness is usually a sign of submission, it’s a sign of inequality.”
She describes her own nude photos, taken for Suck magazine in 1971, as “revolutionary” and a “disruptive gesture”.
Accused of transphobia having repeatedly declared that people who have undergone gender reassignment surgery are not women, Greer caused further outrage recently when she said that “most rapes don’t involve any injury whatsoever”.
Oh, yeah there’s more. She’s written a book “Rape” due out in September. I actually think she and Bernie Sanders should take up knitting. Oh, and Susanne Sarandon can join them too!
I think I’ve had enough sunshine for one day! Did the paintings help?
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?