Bipolar Disorder in a Time of Hate


square836Shortly before my hospitalization for a mixed state came the 2004 election. I crashed and crashed hard after the results. Politics is a fascination of mine but obsessing about it is not my friend. When my expectations are high as they were in 2004 and the hope I feel is unrealized, I take it very hard. The mix of anger and disappointment plus certain medications I was taking for depression at the time pumped me up into a mixed state. One day, when I had enough of it and of other life issues, I texted my last will and testament to my wife and sat down on a log to study my veins for the right place to cut. A timely phone call from my psychiatrist saved me.

The 2004 election was cordial compared to what has happened since 2008. Elements on both side but especially the right have been whipped into a frenzy by their respective leaders. We hear stories of blatant racism and sexism, two faults that have been hidden until the recent elections. We see them not only in the political arena but also in the news media and on the streets of our cities. Some such as Fox News are instigating their viewers to greater and greater heights of denial and fear while others just give the demagogues air time by covering them without comment. We see black men strangled or shot dead with no justice leveled against their killers. And respect for the police — even the good cops — sinks lower and lower.

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Only One Election

square783I believe pre-election polls should be outlawed. There is no reason for them other than to provide a bit of puffery for the news. And I think they have the effect of lowering participation in elections. People see that their candidate is, according to the poll, slated to lose, so they don’t show up.

This is a constitutional amendment I would get behind. There should be only one election, not several.

What Businessman Running for President?

square782Honestly, please show me. A businessman is someone who makes a product, sells a product, keeps the economy going. He struggles with the day to day of keeping afloat so that he can keep serving consumers. That describes Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. It described Steven Jobs. But Mitt Romney? Give me a break.

Mitt is a corporate raider. He doesn’t care about making products or selling them. He seizes control of companies and sells off their assets. If anything, he is an anti-businessman.

Real businessmen know that he is bad for business and for the economy in general.

The Real Depravity of 2012

square781Let me get this clear: I am not gay. But according to the Radicals of the Tea Party (who really don’t care about gay marriage except to excite the fear-driven) I must be homosexual because I support same sex marriage. And I have supported it for many years — about 24 to be precise.

To tell you the truth, the idea of sleeping with a man repels me. I much prefer checking out women — adult women. But I accept that there are people who are drawn to their own sex and that it is innate to them, not the result of rape or poor parenting or whether they drink lattes at Starbucks. I do not accept marriage as a child-producing union, though it is probably a better idea that you have a partner when you start having children. This idea categorically places Lynn and I out in the cold, yet we have remained partners for 25 years.

Marriage is about choosing a person to be a relative that transcends blood relations. It cannot change facts of fatherhood: one DNA test can undo the presumption of parenthood. But what it does is ensure that my wife and I can form a financial corporation of a sorts together. It lets me say that Lynn can make medical decisions for me — recognize the fact that I trust her before most of my own blood relatives in these affairs. When I die, it ensures that my share of the wealth generated by our household goes to her. Where do there need to be children in this?1

Why not let people of the same sex have these same contracts without resort to legal legerdemain? Homophobia — which is hatred and fear, nothing more — just isn’t a reason.

But let’s get back to the real issues: we have a candidate for office who is a corporate raider. To hide his moral depravity, he trots out this issue. He has put people out of work, destroyed companies, and wrecked communities for the purpose of amassing wealth. Mitt Romney is a dangerous man and he is playing a dangerous game by playing the gay card.

Focus on him for what is he is: the champion of the 1%, the man who picks your pocket and wrecks your home life with his financial manipulations and favors to the rich and corporations.2

  1. Though marriage does help recognize children and preserve family wealth for them, too. []
  2. And if you are religious, God does not like the rich. And He expects the state to protect the poor. Read the prophets like Jeremiah, Isaiah, and the minor prophets. To believe otherwise is heretical and unChristian/unJewish/unMuslim. []

Mitt Romney and the “Politics of Envy”

square778My city consists of a variety of economic communities. In my neighborhood alone, we have one bedroom condos, two bedrooms, townhouses, regular houses, and fine mansions on the hill. What you don’t see is the condo owners griping about the better circumstances of the people with the best houses. Most of us accept our fate. We don’t necessarily feel life is unlivable without a mansion. That, I dare say, is a fault of the weathiest of the wealthy.

Yet when we complain about the way the wealthy have manipulated our Supreme Court and our Congress to serve their ends above ours, we are accused of “envying” the wealthy. Let’s evaluate this:

  • They don’t like it because we feel that everyone should have a vote. Wanting a vote for every citizen is envy. Only the rich should have a vote.
  • They don’t like it because we feel that our office holders should care most about the people they represent and serve, not some plutocrat with a huge checkbook living in a distant state. Wanting fair representation is envy. Only the rich should have audiences with these.
  • They have apoplexy when we declare that we want a say in what happens in our neighborhood. Saying that we want to control the quality of the air and the water that we breathe and that we drink is envy. Clean air and clear water is only for the rich.
  • They don’t like it because we want health insurance for everyone. Giving everyone access to a doctor when they are sick is envy. Only the rich deserve to prolong their lives.
  • They don’t like it that we can talk about our grievances and organize using the Internet. Having easy access to one’s peers is envy. The rich should control who gets to say what on the Internet.
  • They don’t like our calls for a fair tax rate for those who gain wealth by stock market manipulations or the luck of having wealthy parents rather than hard work and the production of goods made in America. Only the rich deserve to have money.

Fairness is always envy in their book. Never mind that they envy gods and do everything they can to ensure that they become like them.

Mitt Romney stands for the top 1%. He appeals to those of the 99% who think they might become part of the 1%. Look, he hints. “They want what you have. They want your house, your car, your swimming pool. They will take it away from you if you don’t vote for me.”

He is another agent of the politics of Fear, as insidious as the Tea Party who he appeases.

And this message makes him the most divisive politician in America today, more than the racialists and faux libertarians. He is at best, no better than them. He represents greed and lies.

Bachmann’s Migraines: New swing on stigma

square761Once again, I find myself in the position of having to run to the defense of someone who I detest. Michelle Bachmann has migraines. This has instigated widespread tweeting on her fitness to be president. Never mind that Thomas Jefferson and John F. Kennedy both suffered from these headaches1 . Now people who would just shrug their shoulders if this were Obama suggest that this disqualifies her for office.

There are plenty of reasons to want Michelle Bachmann at any address other than 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She is mean-spirited. She hates gays and women who want control over their bodies. She rails on about pornography but has no workable plan for ending unemployment in this country. She takes her marching orders from her husband who we will not get to vet2 . She has lied about her qualifications for the job and about her relationship with the 23 foster children who marched through her house. She eagerly hopes that she will lead our nation into the Apocalypse. The list goes on. But migraines should not be one of them simply because we should not be in the habit of disqualifying people for every little sniffle that plagues them. Either there will be no one to elect or we will elect liars.

Stigma should not be the basis of an electoral decision. Did we not end a fight to put a black man in the White House in 2008? Are we progressives and liberals the ones who fought the hardest for the Americans with Disabilities Act — to put the disabled into the workforce? I can think of no reason to disqualify a migraine sufferer from office. If John F. Kennedy could get us through the Cuban Missile Crisis with the threat of migraines hanging over him, this issue should be dead, cremated, shot into space, and buried in a black hole.

But there’s another reason that my progressive and liberal allies can better understand: it has to do with the average voter. Our aim must be to get the average voter to concentrate on whether Bachmann will make a good president. If we raise the hype about migraines, all she needs do is assert that they don’t affect her. So what message does the average voter get? That nothing should bar Bachmann from becoming president. That’s not a message we should allow to develop. We must emphasize the issues that make Bachmann and the rest of her Tea Party host a very dangerous proposition for this country. It’s not about migraines, it is about destroying the government. Bachmann has voted repeatedly to steer us toward default and collapse of the central government. She wants to end Medicare and Social Security. I do not doubt that she would like to see the Americans with Disabilities Act repealed in full or in parts. These don’t disqualify her, but they amount to solid reasons for voting her out of any kind of government job. Michelle Bachmann is one of the worst candidates for the presidency at this time. If her migraines miraculously disappeared, she would still be. Her politics should be what we focus upon, not the pains in her head.

  1. And what about Lincoln’s depressions? []
  2. If he wants the power so badly, why isn’t he running for office? []

Diagnosing Jared Lee Loughner for Political Gain

square674They’re doing it all over again: jumping to the conclusion that Jared Lee Loughner is mentally ill because he is violent. Tea Party minions have been ordered via email to label him as a “liberal lunatic”. Keith Olbermann labeled him a “disturbed person”. I have yet to see a psychiatric report on him, but I have heard plenty of people state with the authority that comes from watching Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street that he is a “paranoid schizophrenic”.

You know me: I live with bipolar disorder. It is there every hour of my day, stilled by [[carbamazepine]] and [[lamotrigine]]. So you know I have a stake in this. Others I know with the disorder also are concerned about the publicity. If they’re new to the diagnosis, they may fear beyond reason that they might go insane like Loughner did. If they’ve known for some time, they are taking a silent breath and saying “Here we go again.” Here comes the need for secrecy, for hiding their illness from the world. Some will not attend support groups out of fear of being seen and others will come, distraught from the fear of what Society will do with them. There are those out there who will say that we have to find the Jared Lee Loughners before they hurt another and that means throwing out the advances of the last fifty years and reopening the mental hospitals. These are reckless times and our fear is not unfounded.

Slate ran an excellent article, cautioning its readers and newsmen not to jump to the conclusion that Loughner is “mentally ill”. In part the article says:

A 2009 analysis of nearly 20,000 individuals concluded that increased risk of violence was associated with drug and alcohol problems, regardless of whether the person had schizophrenia. Two similar analyses on bipolar patients showed, along similar lines, that the risk of violent crime is fractionally increased by the illness, while it goes up substantially among those who are dependent on intoxicating substances. In other words, it’s likely that some of the people in your local bar are at greater risk of committing murder than your average person with mental illness.

Of course, like the rest of the population, some people with mental illness do become violent, and some may be riskier when they’re experiencing delusions and hallucinations. But these infrequent cases do not make “schizophrenia” or “bipolar” a helpful general-purpose explanation for criminal behavior. If that doesn’t make sense to you, here’s an analogy: Soccer hooligans are much more likely to be violent when they attend a match, but if you tell me that your friend has gone to a soccer match, I’ll know nothing about how violent a person he is. Similarly, if you tell me your friend punched someone, the fact that he goes to soccer matches tells me nothing about what caused the confrontation. This puts recent speculation about the Arizona suspect in a distinctly different light: If you found evidence on the Web that Jared Lee Loughner or some other suspected killer was obsessed with soccer or football or hockey and suggested it might be an explanation for his crime, you’d be laughed at. But do the same with “schizophrenia” and people nod in solemn agreement. This is despite the fact that your chance of being murdered by a stranger with schizophrenia is so vanishingly small that a recent study of four Western countries put the figure at one in 14.3 million. To put it in perspective, statistics show you are about three times more likely to be killed by a lightning strike.

It’s the usual case of the media and politicians finding the explanation for the Saturday’s horror in Tuscon everywhere except in themselves. We need confront the media for its violent imagery and its pandering to the worst in American society. We must stand up to demogogues who employ violent rhetoric, saying “Enough of this talk of Second Amendment remedies and hit lists of liberal politicians. Tone it down. Cool it. The buck stops with you.”

Lightning probably did not strike in Arizona, but hatred did.

Obama’s Blunder

square686Obama has been a disappointment lately. He has not yet figured out the importance of not alienating his progressive base. California governor Jerry Brown understood this when he faced defeat after the passage of Proposition 13. But instead of calling his true followers idiots as the President seems inclined to do, he appealed to a populist notion: the voters have said that they want a change in how property taxes are assessed.

He won the election handily that fall despite the fact that he was up against the “unbeatable” Everelle Younger. His followers stayed behind him and many who supported 13 joined the procession. Never once did Brown belittle those who had knocked on doors to put him in office. Here is Obama’s big mistake.

How might he better handle things? He might simply say this: The voters want to give the Bush tax cuts another try. So in exchange for unemployment benefits, we’re going to give it to them. Then when things fall apart, he can say “We went the Republican way and the Republican Way has failed. It is time to apply some real economics to pull our country out of debt and to put people back to work.”

But for some reason, his advisers are adverse to giving progressives a little credit for understanding the complexities of economics or clout in determining who gets to be president.

My only question is “Jerry Brown? Won’t you run?”

Return of the Wimpocrats

square681I think Rachel Maddow said it best: Democrats, if you don’t campaign on your accomplishments, the Republicans will. Once again, however, the Wimpocrats appeared and acted as if all they had done was something to be ashamed of. And that lost them the House.

Here are the elements that did the Democrats in this time:

  • They pissed on the progressives. Get it through your head, Democrats, you don’t win elections without the progressives. If they don’t like you, you lose the people who will go door to door for you and make calls. Register the case of Blanche Lincoln who would not give an inch on health care. Even when progressive leaders made up, she still would not give ground and she lost. Those who had the love of progressives won.
  • Rahm Emmanuel. Good riddance. Obama and Congress LOWERED taxes, but somehow this information wasn’t getting out. Instead, everyone just wonked into the Oval Office and said nothing in their own defense. When you say nothing, the word doesn’t get out.
  • Tim Kaine. We need another Howard Dean in this role.
  • Harry Reid. He couldn’t keep his party in line and badly misread Joe Lieberman. Harry, please step down.
  • As suggested by the first paragraph, the Democrats utterly failed to take credit for the good they had done.
  • They ran scared of corporate America. They figured that there was nothing to be done about scare ads and big money. Yet here in California, Jerry Brown shellacked Meg Whitman by running a campaign that promised to put corporations in line. Maybe we understand these things better than they do elsewhere having endured the disaster that was AHnold, but the rest were utterly silent on the matter. Brown’s campaign needs to be studied and emulated elsewhere.

The Democrats got to stop being the Chicago Cubs.

Progressives, we will be back. I just hope to live to see it.


square677Politics is a topic forbidden to me by my psychiatrist. Especially in times like these, I depend on others to put out the facts. It discourages me when people write off the Tea-baggers as mentally ill because not only are they not this, but it allows people to not take the election itself seriously.

The Tea Baggers are not mentally ill, but they are intent on causing mental illness, specifically anxiety and depression, among their opponents. It is often said that the heart of their objection to Obama is racism, but I suspect something very different. We can apply here the viewpoint of a British site on bullying:

Bullying is persistent unwelcome behaviour, mostly using unwarranted or invalid criticism, nit-picking, fault-finding, also exclusion, isolation, being singled out and treated differently, being shouted at, humiliated, excessive monitoring, having verbal and written warnings imposed, and much more.

I suggest that the Tea-Baggers like other members of the conservatively politically correct squad do these things to annoy and hurt. Why choose the Democrats? It has nothing to do with their positions (other than no tax breaks for the wealthy), but with the fact that they strive for integrity and truth. It annoys the Tea-Bullies (as they could properly be called) that Obama is competent, that people like him, that he has a well defined set of values that defend women and other non-rich members of society, that he makes up his own mind. It enthralls them that he happens to have an exploitable feature in his race. In true bully style, they refuse to discuss what they actually stand for aside from tax breaks and refuse to understand other points of view. At the heart of it is a deep fear of their own inadequacy as evidenced by their relentless pursuit of money and defense of the possession of large amounts of it as an indicator of human value. They belittle because they lost the election. They do not compromise (observe the Republican lock-step which only recently gave way when five of the party voted for a jobs-bill) because they find the sharing of power unsettling.

They, too, are part of America, but the problem is that they want to be the only definition of America. It is important to vote them down in the election to come not only because their values are out and out evil and predatory, but also because it is important to send the message that this kind of politics — backed as it is by corporate interests who are widening the gap between the rich and the rest of us — does not make for a United States, but a fragmented one easily susceptible to the viruses of jingoism and despair. They want an unhappy America so they can feel valued. We must not let their sickness become our governance in the years to come.

Flaming Fog and a Red Sports Car

square677 Yesterday was as momentous as being wedged against a smooth, unshatterable pane of glass: forever in the sight of the world but engaging with none of it. Went out to find the stars using Google Sky Map. For the second night in a row, however, a crazy, burning thatch-roof of orange-tinted fog prevented me from seeing Vega.

The mist had cleared by late afternoon when I took Drake hiking. On our way back from the Point, I saw two men standing in the fire road. They walked down the hill as soon as they saw me, leading me by a couple of hundred yards. They could not get to their red sports car and drive away fast enough. I took stock of a meadow strewm with pale cream Weed’s Mariposa tulips and stop counting the hurts.