The scary truth about marijuana’s risks

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Okay, there are some actual risks, but they really are pretty modest.  I’m pretty sure that if college students ran government, marijuana would be quite legal.  And I don’t think society would be any the worse for it.  Especially insofar as marijuana use substitutes for the much more social-damaging alcohol use.  Anyway, Aaron Carroll recently had a nice Upshot piece summarizing what we know about the actual risks of marijuana (as opposed to those imagined by Jeff Sessions and the other old white dudes watching Fox).  I’ll skip to Carroll’s conclusion:

Bottom line: Weigh pros and cons

Many of the harms we’ve discussed are statistically significant, and yet they are of questionable [substantive] significance. Almost all the increased risks are relative risks. The absolute, or overall, risks are often quite low.

We haven’t focused on the potential medical benefits here. But many people use pot — even rationally — for benefits they perceive to be greater than the harms we’ve listed.

We unquestionably need more research, and more evidence of harms may emerge. But it’s important to note that the harms we know about now are practically nil compared with that of many other drugs, and that marijuana’s effects are clearly less harmful than those associated with tobacco or alcohol abuse.

People who choose to use marijuana — now that it’s easier to do legally — will need to weigh the pros and cons for themselves.

So, should you just take up marijuana for the heck of it?  Probably not.  But if you use it in place of alcohol, it’s probably actually a good idea.  And one thing is for damn sure, it should not be a Schedule I illegal drug.

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Correlation does not equal causation; stupid Republican legislators version

I first saw the headline on this and thought, oh, man there goes another moronic Republican state legislator.  Nope, this is the level of thinking from a member of Congress.  Ugh.  CNN:

Republican Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee recently cited pornography as a contributing factor to gun violence in schools.

“How many of you when you were in school ever had an experience where a kid came to school with a gun?… Never happened. So we say, ‘Why?’ … Why do we see kids being so violent? What’s out there? What makes them do that?” Black said during a listening session with local pastors last week, according to audio HuffPost obtained and posted Tuesday.

Black, who is also running for governor in her state, went on to list “deterioration of family,” violent movies and pornography as what’s led to school shootings.
“It’s available on the shelf when you walk in the grocery store. Yeah, you have to reach up to get it, but there’s pornography there,” Black says in the audio. “All of this is available without parental guidance.”
She adds, “And I think that’s a big part of the root cause, that we see so many young people that have mental illness get caught in these places.”

Good, God– the stupid!  (And how pathetically clueless that she’s actually talking about magazines at the grocery store).  And this person is making national policy!  Anything but the damn guns.

And, such a heinous spurious correlation made me think of this website full of them.  For example:

Today in Partisanship is everything

Gallup looks at the partisan breakdown of presidential “moral leadership” under Clinton and Trump.  First this:

Hmmmm.  Yes, both sides are clearly playing metaphorical games of motivated reasoning on this one.  Though, much more notably among Republicans.

But, wow, that above.  Somehow over 3/4 of Republicans say Trump is somewhat strong on “moral leadership.”  Talk about partisanship making you delusional.  On what possible basis could you believe that?  The guy who tweeted this for Memorial Day:

Quick hits (part II)

1) Steve Saideman makes the case for disbanding ICE.  I’m increasingly inclined to agree.

2) One thing that really intrigued me in this pre-vote story on the Ireland abortion referendum was the pervasive belief that this was an issue for women to decide:

The argument over the referendum has exposed wide divisions among Irish women and has emerged to some extent as a debate among women for women.

In contrast to the United States, where male politicians, donors and social commentators have often dominated the abortion issue, many men in this Irish vote are tending to hang back, seeing abortion as a woman’s matter. That is in large part a reaction to earlier generations, when women’s issues in Ireland were solely decided by men, including leaders of the Roman Catholic Church.

3) And the post-referendum coverage which emphasizes how far Ireland has moved in such a short amount of time.  My brief take– the near-absolute power of the Catholic Church in Ireland led to obscene levels of corruption.  Once that corruption was finally revealed, the Catholic Church has basically lost all credibility.

4) Sad, sad story of heart transplant gone wrong and everything cascading from there.

5) What is wrong with people that think a man who has clearly been rehabilitated and living a great life out of prison should be sent back in over a technicality?!  Also, he should have never had 35 years in the first place for selling drugs.  This is where you need the pardon power.  But alas, the man is Black and this is a federal issue and Trump is president.

He’s going to prison. To finish out a 35-year term for selling crack to an informant in the 90’s.

Charles had already served 21 years before his sentence was cut short as a result of crack guideline changes passed by the Obama administration. But the U.S. Attorney’s office appealed his release on the grounds that Charles was legally considered a “career offender” due to a prior stint in state prison. They said the retroactive change in the law did not apply to him — and a Court of Appeals agreed.

“He’s rebuilt his life and now they’re coming to snatch it,” says “Wolf”, who met Charles at a halfway house in 2016. They’ve volunteered together almost every Saturday since, long after fulfilling their community service requirements.

6) Was pretty interested to see how Liverpool used Moneyball principles to make it to the Champions League final.

7) Party identification is everything.  The latest research:

In short, people sought and then followed the advice of those who shared their political opinions on issues that had nothing to do with politics, even when they had all the information they needed to understand that this was a bad strategy.

Why? This may be an example of what social scientists call the halo effect: If people think that products or people are good along one dimension, they tend to think that they are good along other, unrelated dimensions as well. People make a positive assessment of those who share their political convictions, and that positive assessment spills over into evaluation of other, irrelevant characteristics.

Our findings have obvious implications for the spread of false news, for political polarization and for social divisions more generally. Suppose that someone with identifiable political convictions spreads a rumor about a coming collapse in the stock market, a new product that supposedly fails, cheating in sports or an incipient disease epidemic. Even if the rumor is false, and even if those who hear it have reason to believe that it is false, people may well find it credible (and perhaps spread it further) if they share the political views of the source of the rumor.

Our results also suggest some harmful consequences of political polarization. Suppose that people trust those who are politically like-minded, even on subjects on which they are clueless. Suppose that they distrust those with different political opinions on nonpolitical issues where they have real expertise. If so, the conditions are ripe for a host of mistakes — and not just about blaps.

8) Antibiotics in meat animals is a complicated issue.  It could be damaging our own gut microbiomes.

9) Dan Balz on Trump’s Mueller strategy:

President Trump is waging a war of attrition against special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation. If his goal is to poison the reception to whatever Mueller’s findings turn out to be, as seems evident from what he and his allies have done, he is making progress.

The slow but steady separation of public opinion underscores the degree of success in the president’s strategy. Through constant tweets in which he has used exaggeration, distortion and outright falsehoods — combined with the activities of his congressional supporters in hectoring the Justice Department and the FBI — Trump hopes to turn the ultimate confrontation into one more partisan battle.

He has created diversions that have helped to reshape attitudes, primarily among Republicans. It started long ago, when he charged, without evidence, that President Barack Obama had wiretapped the phones in Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign. That proved to be false, but it did not deter him from claiming other alleged abuses without solid evidence to back them up…

The pattern continues to repeat itself. Step by step, week by week, the president and his allies cross lines that legal experts insist should not be crossed. The president’s ongoing conflict with the Justice Department and his inflammatory tweets about the Mueller investigation have become so commonplace that it can be easy for people to forget how abnormal it all is.

10) What is the responsibility of a college to let parents know one of their students may be suicidal?

11) Really good Atlantic essay on how to limit school shootings (or at least make them less lethal):

Virtually everyone I spoke with, from the FBI to academic researchers, told me it’s nearly impossible to stop a determined shooter; they’re always one creative step ahead. In one way, Dimitrios Pagourtzis broke with recent shooters: He used his father’s shotgun, rather than a semiautomatic weapon—although Pagourtzis made the shotgun far more lethal by using buckshot. In other cases—at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida; at Virginia Tech; at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut—the gunman used a semiautomatic weapon to wreak even more carnage. Stopping a young person from stealing his parents’ legally owned shotguns is impossible; but experts like Michael Caldwell say that restricting the sale of semiautomatic weapons would go some way to limiting the carnage.

“It may not decrease the number of incidents, but it would decrease the number of fatalities,” says Michael Caldwell, the University of Wisconsin professor, not just because he can get off fewer rounds, but because bullets fired from an AR-15 are so much more lethal. “You don’t have to hit the target straight on to kill a person. If you’re shot in the torso, it will kill you.”

One study tracked school shootings in three dozen countries—incidents in which two or more people died. Half of those shooting incidents occurred in the United States. Given that, according to some studies, Americans are no more emotionally troubled than people in Europe and Canada, the stark difference is guns. Children outside the U.S. “don’t have access to AR-15s or Glocks or other weapons that our kids have access to,” says Dewey Cornell. “That’s a huge glaring obvious problem. It’s obvious to scholars in the field. It’s obvious to folks in other countries. For some reason it’s not obvious to our politicians.”

12) A sad question reveals our cycles of violence:

Researchers with the Boston Reentry Study were one year into their interviews, following 122 men and women as they returned from prison to their neighborhoods and families, when they asked the kind of question that’s hard to broach until you know someone well.

They prompted the study’s participants to think back to childhood. “Did you ever see someone get killed during that time?”

Childhood violence, including deadly violence, kept coming up in the previous conversations. The references suggested a level of childhood trauma among people leaving prison that standard survey questions don’t capture. And so the researchers wanted to be methodical — to ask everyone, directly, just like this.

The answers, among hundreds of other questions the study explored, give insight into the life trajectories that precede prison, and the limitations of the criminal justice system that places people there. In total, 42 percent of the study’s participants said “yes.”…

What, then, is to be done with the knowledge that four in 10 prisoners typical to the Massachusetts state prison system saw someone killed as a child?

Mr. Western argues that this should force us to reconsider the simplified model of offenders-and-victims, and to allow more second chances to people we peg in the first category.

“The whole ethical foundation of our system of punishment I think is threatened once you take into account the reality of people’s lives,” he said. In the study, the people who had experienced the most extreme childhood trauma and violence also struggled the most in adulthood with drug addiction and mental and health problems. The line between the two is not straightforward. But it’s also not irrelevant.

13) 24 years of marriage today.  Pretty happy with it ;-).

Finally, some representation

Damn do I love good political satire.  And damn does Thomas Mills nail it here:

In all the hoopla around school safety and gun violence, one group of citizens has been unrepresented: mentally unstable gun owners (MUGOs). While victims of gun violence get undue sympathy, support and, yes, news coverage, MUGOs have almost no voice. Fortunately, House Speaker Tim Moore and the NRA are determined to change that.

Radical Democrats in the legislature proposed legislation that would allow the courts to take guns away from people who are a danger to themselves or others. The so-called Red Flag bill was similar to measures supported by RINOs like US Senator Marco Rubio and passed by liberal GOP-controlled legislatures like the ones in Indiana and Florida. The legislation, also known as Extreme Risk Protection Orders or Gun Violence Restraining Orders, would allow the courts to temporarily remove fire arms from MUGOs if family members or law enforcement could show these people might cause harm to themselves or other people. In other words, this legislation would take guns out of the hands of potentially violent offenders, violating their rights by preventing them from becoming violent offenders.

Fortunately, Moore takes the NRA and their campaign contributions seriously. He understands that the right to bear arms trumps the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Murders and suicides by MUGOs are a small price to pay for a truly free society. Moore knows that a gunshot to the head is not the scene of a tragedy but the sound of freedom.

So as soon as the proposed legislation hit the floor, Moore sent the bill to die a lonely death in the Rules Committee. Moore is one of those Republican leaders that understands there’s nothing the government can do to prevent gun violence and we certainly shouldn’t try. He also knows that the wishes of the NRA should be sacrosanct.  Moore, MAGA and MUGOs: an emerging American tradition.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Social science says you should try and get along with your siblings.  I get along well with my siblings, but undoubtedly, could do significantly better:

The quality of sibling relationships is one of the most important predictors of mental health in old age, according to The American Journal of PsychiatryResearch shows that people who are emotionally close to their siblings have higher life satisfaction and lower rates of depression later in life. In times of stress or trauma, siblings can provide essential emotional and monetary support.

2) A couple days ago, everybody was all like, “read Julia Azari on norms versus values.”  They were right.

3) Jay Willis has a terrific deconstruction of how a conservative conspiracy (spygate!) comes into being and then is zealously embraced by the president.

4) So, what I really found interesting about this is that the NBA actually has a strict national anthem policy, but everybody is okay with it because the league really is with the players.

5) And, you gotta love Steve Kerr on the matter:

“It’s just typical of the NFL,” Kerr said, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic. “They’re just playing to their fanbase. Basically just trying to use the anthem as fake patriotism, nationalism, scaring people. It’s idiotic. But thats how the NFL has conducted their business. I’m proud to be in a league that understands patriotism in America is about free speech and peacfully protesting. Our leadership in the NBA understands when the NFL players were kneeling, they were kneeling to protest police brutality, to protest racial inequality. They weren’t disrespecting the flag or military. But our president decided to make it about that and the NFL followed suit, pandered to their fanbase, created this hysteria. It’s kind of what’s wrong with our country right now – people in high places are trying to divide us, divide loyalties, make this about the flag as if the flag is something other than it really is – which is a representation of what we’re about, which is diversity, peaceful protests, right to free speech. It’s ironic actually.”

6) This teacher’s stop bullying strategy really does sound like a great idea.

7) Sure, we should let it go, but still, a good argument, “Why Comey’s October Surprise Was Pointless and Wrong.”

8) Really good Vox interview on marriage:

Sean Illing

I’ve always objected to this idea that the best wife or husband is the one who helps you become the best version of yourself. I think the best partner is the one who helps you transcend yourself, who draws you out of yourself. I guess that’s why I always hated that line from Jerry Maguire, “You complete me.” To me that’s narcissism, not love.

Eli Finkel

I agree! I would say that the Maslovian perspective isn’t the Jerry Maguire perspective because “you complete me” suggests that there is a void that has to be filled — that I have a void in me and that I need somebody else to fill it. I actually think that is sometimes the opposite of what I’m talking about or what Maslow might be talking about.

We have goals, we have aspirations. We’re reasonably proud of who we are, but we can think of ways that we can be better, more ambitious, more energetic, or maybe better at relaxing. We’re trying to achieve those goals, and the reality is that humans aren’t individual, isolated goal-pursuers. Our social relationships have profound influence on the extent to which we get closer to versus further from our ideal self.

The best marriages these days take that seriously. They take the responsibility for trying to help each other grow and live authentic lives to an extent that would have seemed bizarre in 1950.

Sean Illing

I like the idea of love as a practice that takes our attention away from ourselves — away from our needs, away from our petty desires, away from our impulses. I understand the egoistic accounts of love, but I think they’re describing something other than love, and hopefully something other than marriage.

Eli Finkel

I love that. Remember that the modern marriage is not just about what I get; it’s also, and more importantly, about what I give. We’re looking for a marriage to help us with our self-expression and personal growth. I believe that the majority of us have an understanding that that’s a two-way street.

9) Drum and NBC with a nice chart on gender and political candidates:

10) Dahlia Lithwick on the moral dilemma for conscientious Republicans in the age of Trump.

11) How to overcome your hidden weaknesses. Of course, you don’t get published without regular feedback or teach college classes with student evaluations, so that should help in my case. Also, my kids are not shy about feedback on my parenting ;-).  So, how am I doing as a blogger?

First, ask for feedback. It’s not easy, and it can sometimes be tough to hear, but outside input is crucial to shining a light on your blind spots. Here are some tips for getting and giving better feedback.

Second, keep learning. The more knowledgeable you are about something, the more you’re able to identify the gaps in your own understanding of it.

12) How to accept a compliment?  Don’t just say “thank you.”

In other words, in the United States, the compliment is a coded invitation to chitchat, and simply saying, “Thank you” linguistically slams the door in the complimenter’s face.

13) The case for treating addiction like cancer:

The surgeon general’s report defines it as a “chronic neurological disorder” and outlines evidence-based treatments. These include drugs like methadone and buprenorphine; individual and group counseling; step-down services after residential treatment; mutual aid groups like Alcoholics Anonymous; and long-term, coordinated care that includes recovery coaches.

Unfortunately, much of this knowledge isn’t being applied in doctors’ offices or even many treatment centers. “There’s a wealth of literature collected over many decades, along with a robust medical evidence base, showing what works and what doesn’t,” Dr. Anna Lembke, chief of the Stanford University Addiction Medicine Dual Diagnosis Clinic, told me. “Treatment for addiction works, on par with treatment for other chronic relapsing disorders. So, it’s not really that there’s no road map. It’s that the road map has not been recognized or embraced by the house of medicine.”

14) The NYT asks, “Is Joe Bryan an innocent man, wrongfully imprisoned for the past 30 years on the basis of faulty forensic science?”  Ummm, this is America, I’m pretty sure we know the answer.  Ugh.  Story after story after story after story like this.  Damn I wish “beyond a reasonable doubt” actually meant something in murder trials.  Unfortunately, our societal thirst for vengeance means that’s not the case.  How many innocent people are in prison for crimes they did not commit.  Almost surely thousands and thousands.  And don’t get me started on forensic “science” that’s not.

15) How asking about previous salary helps fuel the gender pay gap.  In Britain they are trying to use transparency and shame to improve the gap.

16) Of all the stuff I’ve read this week, the Vox article on why human feet keeping washing ashore has stuck with me the most.

Chart of the day

My wife and I had a conversation yesterday that had her saying, “and that’s why ‘Evangelical Christian’ is pretty much synonymous with hypocrite” these days.  I cannot even remember exactly what we were talking about, but here’s a chart and a little commentary from Drum that made me recall that conversation:

The Washington Post’s Philip Bump calls this a “fascinating detail,” but I call it totally unsurprising:

But, in all fairness, the gospels are just full of Jesus railing against abortion and homosexuality.  Seems like Jesus never had anything to say about helping out the poor, oppressed, etc.

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