Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Once upon a time, most Americans had never even heard of "flash mob robberies" or "organized looting".  Now they are considered to be a part of normal life in America.  On Saturday, more than 20 teens stormed into a trendy clothing store in Chicago and stole more than $3,000 worth of jeans, but it barely made a blip on the national news because this kind of thing has become so common.  After all, we just saw the exact same kind of thing happen in Jacksonville, Detroit, Baltimore and a whole bunch of other places...when I first started writing about this phenomenon a couple of years ago, hardly anyone knew what "mob robberies" were.  In fact, I had to explain what these "flash mobs" were doing to a couple of radio hosts because they had never heard of such a thing.  But now everybody knows about the flash mobs.  Another disturbing trend that we are seeing all over America is "organized looting".  Groups of desperate criminals are going into empty or abandoned buildings and stripping out copper wire, copper pipes and anything else that they can sell for money.  At one time these kinds of thefts made the news, but now they have also become so common that they don't get much notice anymore.

The sad truth is that the streets of America are changing.  They are becoming a lot more hostile and a lot more dangerous.

Young people in America today do not have respect for authority, they do not have respect for those that are older than them and they do not even have respect for themselves.

What in the world is happening to us?

Part of it can perhaps be explained by the rampant growth of gangs in America.

Today, there are approximately 1.4 million gang members living inside the United States.  That number has risen by 40 percent just since 2009.

Often these gangs take the place of the family unit.  With so many broken families in America today, there are literally millions of young people that are looking for someone to accept them and take care of them.

Another factor is economic desperation.  There are far more workers than there are jobs in America today, and an increasing number of Americans are turning to crime in an attempt to survive.

Monday, July 30, 2012

America is still No. 1

I was born with a bit of a redneck side. It’s what happens when you’re from Oklahoma.

It doesn’t mean I sit on my porch playing “Dueling Banjos,” camp out for NASCAR events or even talk funny. What it does mean is that I’ll eat just about anything fried, go black while you “Go Green” and, most importantly, I’m patriotic as all get-out.

That’s not saying I have a problem with other countries — I’ve been to a few, and some are great — but to think for a moment that one of them is better than the United States is downright insane.

Commercials air on my TV at night about how the U.S. ranks 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math — which are all true, according to the latest Programme for International Student Assessment. But what I want to know is where is the advertisement that says, “sure, our public school systems might not be providing the best education, but in athletics, we still whoop everyone’s rear end?”

The 2012 London Olympics are here, and this is the greatest time in all of sports...For the next few weeks we, as Americans, get to showcase why we’re still the best country in the world.

Did you know that since the Dream Team made international basketball fun at Barcelona in 1992, the U.S. has never lost an overall medal count at any Summer Olympics?

We dominate in everything.

We have Olympic records in men’s 400 meters, 400 hurdles, 4x400 relay, high jump, long jump and triple jump. We also have Olympic records in women’s 100 meters, 200 meters, 100 hurdles, long jump and heptathlon.

Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh can’t lose in beach volleyball; basketball has rolled since the addition of professional players; and softball, one of my favorite sports, was completely dropped from the Olympics this summer because the U.S. was so dominant. The only countries with any excuse to compete were Australia and Japan.

Obviously, there are more important things out there...

Too many residents live on the street, our national economy is in the toilet and we’re forced to spend the next four months listening to two grown men call each other “liar liar.” All of that sucks.

But for about two weeks every other year, we get to put all of that in the back of our heads and watch the best athletes in the world wear the red, white and blue to represent this country — represent us. Two weeks to remember we really do live in the best country on Earth.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

In the past few days, I’ve received several emails that explain the shootings in Aurora, Colo., from various perspectives, including by way of the literal truth of the Bible (which also, apparently, informs us that global warming is a left-wing myth) or as a false-flag operation mounted by shadowy forces aimed at discrediting gun ownership and seizing Americans’ firearms.

We live in a country, after all, where significant pluralities of the population refuse to accept the worldwide scientific consensus on climate change and continue to believe in the superiority of a private-sector health care system despite ample evidence that Americans spend more for medical care, and have poorer outcomes, than people in any other major Western nation. The cultural and geographic isolation of the United States has a lot to do with this, as do the failures of our education system, but those explanations aren’t quite sufficient. One aspect of the paranoid worldview is a sense of immense self-importance: The CIA has chosen you for secret experiments, or you and your Internet friends are the only people who can see that the Obama birth certificate seen and touched by independent experts is an obvious fraud. In the United States, we cling to this sense of specialness on a manic, nationwide, tautological scale; the way we do things in America is clearly superior because we know we live in the greatest country in the world.

This week brings us a new Hollywood comedy currently called “The Watch.” It’s a mildly amusing study in American paranoia...what I most appreciate about this rather silly movie is that it accidentally makes the claim that Americans are paranoid about the wrong things, which is precisely true. Stiller’s character says that the purpose of the neighborhood watch is to monitor “any and all suspicious activity and generally get to the bottom of things,” and his suspicions extend to the crazy old coot with a shotgun (noted Obama-hater R. Lee Ermey), the possibly gay guy across the street who keeps checking him out, and the town’s mustachioed, incompetent cops.

Like the characters in “The Watch,” most of us don’t notice, most of the time, what’s really going on.

I am saying, rather, that successive Democratic and Republican administrations, with the help of Supreme Court justices, have eagerly collaborated in gutting the Constitution and creating a technology-driven national security state with super-secret executive powers, which isn’t something that anybody on the left or right ever consciously voted for. Almost all of us carry devices that allow us to be tracked by the government or unknown private interests wherever we go. Of all the social changes the Internet age has wrought, perhaps the biggest is the complete abandonment of any expectation of privacy, which was considered an unassailable personal right even 20 years ago. I could suggest that this situation threatens to make democracy untenable, or even irrelevant — but that might sound paranoid.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

One hundred-and-fifty-four years ago, Abraham Lincoln said "a house divided cannot stand." These words aptly fit today’s political environment and our do-nothing Congress, whose goal is to block everything President Barack Obama puts before it — even if it leads to ruin.

We saw more damning evidence recently when Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., warned the chairman of the Federal Reserve that this year Congress will not be able to get its act together to prevent an economic disaster. It’s up to the Fed to do whatever is necessary. ("Bernanke: Recession likely if Congress doesn’t act," Tribune, July 18)\

This stalemated state of affairs dashes any hope that our elected leaders can pull together for the good of the county.

How is it that Congress can so easily spend a trillion dollars on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — doing little more than crippling the economy — yet ignore the longtime crisis brewing on its home turf? To our dismay, politics continues to trump problem-solving.

Throughout the world, Americans are known for our ingenuity and pioneering innovations, yet in Washington, D.C., we find ourselves unable to put solutions to work. It’s a sad day in America.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The ranks of America's poor are on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century, erasing gains from the war on poverty in the 1960s amid a weak economy and fraying government safety net.

The news report is so disturbing that it has already been reprinted in multiple publications and on any number of social media feeds. It also invokes many possible responses -- dismay that more people living in poverty; concern that our safety net is crumbling; alarm that children will be poorer than their parents; and distress over the future of our nation as a result.

Those are not my immediate responses. I think about the day-to-day reality of being poor. One recent evening, I went to Wal-Mart with my husband and my 14-year-old son. My son needed something for school the next day, but had forgotten to tell us until that evening so we ran to Wal-Mart to get it. In front of us in the checkout line was an older man buying food. He had Vienna sausage, Spam, day-old white bread, and canned beans. Nothing in his basket needed to be cooked, and nothing cost more than a dollar.

The 2010 poverty level was $22,314 for a family of four, and $11,139 for an individual, based on an official government calculation that includes only cash income, before tax deductions.

It's very easy to look at this number and think only in abstract terms. But I prefer to think in concrete terms -- what do those figures mean when considering what someone needs to live? The poverty level presumes a family of four can live on less than $22,314 a year, but how? Let's assume rent is low -- say $500 a month (and I don't know anywhere a family of four can find a place for that) -- rent alone has already taken up more than a quarter of the year's money. And that rent may not include utilities like gas, electric and water -- let's add another $200 a month for that. Have we talked about transportation? A car with gas, insurance and maintenance can take a significant portion of the remainder, but even public transportation such as buses and subways require money -- travel is not free. What else is essential? Food, clothes, insurance, insurance co-pays, over the counter medication (insurance does not pay for aspirin or Benadryl) child care, not to mention cleaning supplies and hygiene products. Even if a family receives some assistance from the government, that assistance is minimal and limited to food, rent subsidy, or small amounts of cash that usually comes tied to conditions such as work or training programs.

And I also think about the disadvantages people without money face in getting a good education or otherwise breaking free from the cycle of poverty. I think about these things because these are the concrete realities of poverty. The numbers are disturbing in the abstract, but when you bring them to a personal level, like the man shopping in Wal-Mart, they are downright heartbreaking.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) at 22 Groundbreaking Law Celebrated by Rights Advocates

WASHINGTON, July 26, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), perhaps the single most important piece of legislation to improve the lives of people with disabilities, will turn 22 today. The anniversary is particularly poignant for Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans), an organization that helped lead the charge for the groundbreaking act back in 1990 and the ADA Amendments in 2008.

“The Americans with Disabilities Act is one of our nation’s most important pieces of civil rights legislation. Its passage marked a major step in a process that is yet unfinished–that is, to make our nation completely barrier-free for all people with disabilities,” said Bill Lawson, National President of Paralyzed Veterans of America.

From delivering curb cuts to tackling employment discrimination, the ADA has had an enormous impact on advancing rights for people with disabilities in the areas of employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation and telecommunications. Paralyzed Veterans also has fought against efforts to weaken the ADA since its enactment.

“The ADA is a great example of American leadership and should serve as an inspiration for the world in improving the lives of individuals with disabilities,” Lawson said.

Paralyzed Veterans of America was founded by a group of seriously injured American heroes from the “Greatest Generation” of World War II. They created a nonprofit organization to meet the challenges that they faced back in the 1940s — from a medical community not ready to treat them to an inaccessible world. For more than 66 years, Paralyzed Veterans’ national office and its 34 chapters across the nation have been making America a better place for all veterans and people with disabilities. (

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Over the past few decades, America has locked up more and more people. Our prison population has tripled. Now we jail a higher percentage of people than even the most repressive countries: China locks up 121 out of every 100,000 people; Russia 511. In America? 730.

“Never in the civilized world have so many been locked up for so little,” The Economist says.

Yet we keep adding more laws and longer jail terms.

The rules that bind us now total more than 160,000 pages. The Congressional Research Service said it was unable to count the number of crimes on the books. Yet last week the feds added or proposed another thousand pages. States and cities have thousands more. Have you read them all? Have our “representatives” read them all? You know the answer.

Most of us won’t be victimized by mandatory minimums or the countless ambiguities in today’s laws, but if you are the kind of person America needs most — an inventor who creates something or someone who builds a business — there is a bigger chance that you’ll fall victim to the incomprehensible maze.

Then there’s the so-called war on drugs — a war on people, actually. Lots of politicians admit that they used drugs in their youth — even presidents. Barack Obama wrote in his memoir, “Dreams From My Father”: “Pot had helped … ; maybe a little blow (cocaine) when you could afford it.”

And, yet in office, these same politicians preside over an injustice system that jails a million Americans for doing what they did. Don’t they see the hypocrisy? Give me a break.

I want my government to arrest real criminals — ones who violate our rights — and to lock them up so we’ll be protected. But our politicians go way beyond that. Governments at all levels have long been in the business of forbidding conduct that violates no one’s rights and piling on complex laws to govern conduct that might harm someone. And they keep passing more.

They have created a byzantine maze of criminal law that is so incomprehensible that even legal specialists don’t agree on what the rules specify. Then ambitious prosecutors ruin lives enforcing those laws. The prosecutors and lawmakers say this is for our own good.

No, it’s not.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Why Business Can't Save America

From Jim Koch's Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream to Andrew Yang's Venture for America, there is a wave of initiatives focused on funding small businesses in the name of economic revival, job creation, and general social good. Indeed, writes Aaron Hurst in a Stanford Social Innovation Review blog, there is an increasingly popular perspective that supporting business is a charitable act.

But here's the rub, Hurst says. While job creation is important, there is a much greater need for employee creation. By 2016, four out of ten jobs will require advanced education or training, and many hiring managers are already finding that the talent they need is hard to find. "If we want to see more Americans gainfully employed — not in jobs, but with living-wage careers," he writes, we need to invest more in the nonprofit sector and in government programs like our educational system to advance science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) outcomes. STEM skills are marketable and will lead to sustained employment. While these investments don't create the short-term gains that business leaders have been trained to seek, they will create the supply of talent needed for our economy and society to thrive.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Truly unacceptable in the 21st century

Shame on the Boy Scouts of America. Not only do they produce overconfident, dangerous outdoorsmen, but they perpetuate a legacy of militarism and bigotry.

The mission of scouting is at heart to provide support, fellowship, instruction to all boys — something which the BSA has consistently failed to do. Rather, it has retreated into the refuge of “tradition,” as if the prejudices of today are in any way less repugnant due to their acceptability in the past.

The refusal to accept homosexual or nonreligious scouts is truly unacceptable in the 21st century. These boys have as much passion for the outdoors, as much need for support and friendship, as any other. What should be a place for all, has become a place for the few; and woe betide the scout who questions or strays from this path.

In an increasingly diverse, increasingly changing America, to seek the safety of homogeneity is to die, and the numbers reflect this. Membership numbers of the Boy Scouts have been in decline, in part due to increases in other opportunities for recreation, as well as an increasing awareness of the culture of intolerance and silence within the organization.

I have spent the last six years of my life deeply involved in outdoor recreation, and it truly saddens me that I cannot support what should be an integral part of the American outdoor community; the potential for good within this institution is immense. Instead, the BSA has become a place of indoctrination and hatred.

There already exists a model of scouting which need not have these issues; overseas scouting organizations make few distinctions between religion, sexuality and even gender. This is the path to the future.

At this moment, the BSA stands on the wrong side of history; they must change, or find themselves increasingly irrelevant, increasingly an artifact of the reactionary past. It is my hope that they may do so before it’s too late.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Remarks by the President on the Shootings in Aurora, Colorado

THE PRESIDENT:  And I know many of you came here today for a campaign event. I was looking forward to having a fun conversation with you about some really important matters that we face as a country and the differences between myself and my opponent in this election.  But this morning, we woke up to news of a tragedy that reminds us of all the ways that we are united as one American family. 

By now, many of you know, many of you have heard that a few miles outside of Denver in a town call Aurora, at least 12 people were killed when a gunman opened fire in a movie theater, and dozens more are being treated for injuries at a local hospital.  Some of the victims are being treated at a children’s hospital. 

We’re still gathering all the facts about what happened in Aurora, but what we do know is that the police have one suspect in custody.  And the federal government stands ready to do whatever is necessary to bring whoever is responsible for this heinous crime to justice.  (Applause.)  And we will take every step possible to ensure the safety of all of our people. 

We're going to stand by our neighbors in Colorado during this extraordinarily difficult time.  And I had a chance to speak with the Mayor of Aurora as well as the Governor of Colorado to express, not just on behalf of Michelle and myself, but the entire American family, how heartbroken we are.

God bless the United States of America.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The French celebrated Bastille Day last week, 219 years after beheading Marie Antoinette in the French Revolution's Reign of Terror. To this day, she's the poster child for upper-class excess, entitlement and insensitivity — the ultimate “1 percenter.”

However, Think Again before believing every demonization you hear. In fact, though a privileged aristocrat, Marie Antoinette was not only a faithful Good Samaritan — she actually never uttered the notorious catchphrase “Let them eat cake.” Never mind — social justice was at stake!

French revolutionaries declaring “liberty, equality and fraternity” ushered in an anti-democratic period of unlimited governmental power, civil strife and economic despair. Eventually, Enlightenment principles transformed France into a vibrant democracy.

Today, France has Europe's most state-directed economy and among its most stagnant and indebted. Prioritizing “the collective interest,” the French prefer government to free-market solutions, spending more on social welfare than any other developed country.
While the French were sticking dissenters' heads on bayonets, Americans enacted a Constitution designed to disperse authority in order to protect the moral promise in our Declaration of Independence: that every individual is born with equal and inalienable rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. Thus, the American Revolution facilitated the creation of the freest and most prosperous society on earth.

Over the past century, while America's free economy boomed, attracting immigrants to our opportunity society, politicians were busy encumbering it, à la Française. They instituted the income tax, asserted extra-constitutional powers to regulate, dabbled in cronyism and instituted entitlement programs that now consume 65 percent of the federal budget. Once 3 percent of gross domestic product, government spending is now 25 percent, crowding out the private economy and producing daily deficits of $4 billion.

Consequently, we suffer French-size economic stagnation, unemployment and debt (up 50 percent since January 2009). Poverty rates are the highest since tracking began in 1959, food-stamp dependency is exploding, and the percentage of Americans with jobs is the lowest in decades. Not surprisingly, two-thirds of Americans say we're on the wrong track and that there's too much government power and too little individual freedom.

Meanwhile, clueless that government policies influence economic decisions, politicians now propose increasing taxes. “Taxmageddon” — the toxic mix of year-end tax increases — is causing businesses to defer hiring and investment. Even if limited to the top 2 percent with incomes of more than $250,000 (which includes small businesses responsible for half of private-sector jobs and $720 billion in earnings), tax increases would create serious recessionary headwinds while funding only 8.5 days of federal spending, per the Congressional Budget Office. This is a blueprint to cripple job creation and 23 million job-seeking Americans.

Having migrated toward French values and practices and even their anti-wealth rhetoric, it's hard to recall our founders' belief that government's role is to protect — not grant — individual rights and property. To reinvigorate our free society and market economy, we need a true “fairness agenda”: a simpler tax code with fewer special-interest loopholes, no more handouts to corporate cronies, and reforms that preserve entitlement programs for future generations.

Most importantly, we must recover the private initiative that French historian Alexis de Tocqueville found exceptional in 1830s America: “In every case at the head of any new undertaking, where in France you would find the government, ... in America you're sure to find an association.”

By renewing our commitment to individual liberties and the ethic that each of us — not government — is our brother's keeper, Americans “have it in our power to begin the world all over again,” as American revolutionary Thomas Paine wrote.

Wouldn't our founders want us to Think Again?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

At the senior levels, the alleged leaders of America’s diplomacy, the number is 36 percent vacant or filled with “stretch” assignments, people of lower rank and experience pressed into service.

The most obvious sign of State’s irrelevance is the militarization of foreign policy. There really are more military band members than State Department Foreign Service Officers. The whole of the Foreign Service is smaller than the complement aboard one aircraft carrier. Despite the role that foreign affairs has always played in America’s drunken intercourse abroad, the State Department remains a very small part of the pageant.

At the same time, Congress continues to hack away at State’s budget.

As Stephen Glain wrote in his book, State vs. Defense: The Battle to Define America’s Empire, the combatant commands are already the putative epicenters for security, diplomatic, humanitarian and commercial affairs in their regions. Local leaders receive them as powerful heads of state, with motorcades, honor guards and ceremonial feats. Their radiance obscures everything in its midst, including the authority of US ambassadors.

The increasing role of the military in America’s foreign relations sidelines State. The most likely American for a foreigner to encounter in most parts of the world now, for better or worse, carries a weapon and drives a tank.

Among the many disclosures made in the alleged 250,000 alleged State Department alleged documents dumped on to Wikileaks was the uber revelation that most of State’s vaunted reporting on foreign events is boring, trivial and of little practical value (though well-written and punctuated properly). Apart from a few gossipy disclosures about foreign leaders and sleazy US behind-the-scenes-deals with crappy MidEast dictators, there were few dramatic KABOOMs in those cables.

That leaves for the understaffed Department of State pretty much only the role of concierge. America’s VIPs and wanna be VIPs need their hands held, their security arranged, their motorcades organized and their Congressional visits’ hotels and receptions handled, all tasks that falls squarely on the Department of State and its embassies abroad.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A new study has found that YouTube has become a major platform for news, one where viewers are turning for eyewitness videos in times of major events and natural disasters.

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism on Monday released their examination of 15 months of the most popular news videos on the Google Inc.-owned site. It found that while viewership for TV news still easily outpaces those consuming news on YouTube, the video-sharing site is a growing digital environment where professional journalism mingles with citizen content.

More than a third of YouTube’s most-watched videos came from citizens. Than more half came from news organizations, but footage in those videos sometimes incorporated footage shot by YouTube users.

The results depicted both reasons for concern and encouragement for traditional news outlets. While citizen journalism accounts for a large slice of viewership on YouTube, its users are also eager distributers of professional news video. The study shows YouTube as a global news arena where professional and amateur video bleed together, and is made consumable in on-demand style.

That kind of atmosphere also makes for issues of authenticity. Though YouTube has guidelines for news video, they aren’t always followed and some videos go viral despite uncertain sources.

“This is a young platform and there’re certainly aspects of this interplay and the way information is going to flow that’s still being worked out,” said Mitchell.

A relatively nascent new organization, Russia Today, a network founded in 2005 and backed by the Russian government that often reports rumor, had easily the most videos among the most-viewed. The second most-viewed news organization among the top videos was Fox News, although the study pointed out that more than half of those videos were posted in criticism of the network.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Why is the heartland of the United States experiencing such a horrific drought right now?  At the moment, approximately 61 percent of the entire nation is experiencing drought conditions, and this is absolutely devastating farmers and ranchers all over the country.  Less than two weeks ago I wrote an article asking what would happen if these drought conditions persisted, and now we are finding out.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture has created the largest natural disaster area in U.S. history.  The USDA has declared 1,016 counties in 26 U.S. states to be disaster areas. The USDA declaration basically covered about half of the nation, and there is now no denying how horrible this drought really is.  You can see a map of this disaster area right here.  This endless drought is being compared to the nightmarish drought of 1988, and if it persists into August it could become perhaps the worst drought that America has ever seen.  The USDA says that approximately 60 percent of all corn in the country is experiencing "moderate to extreme" drought conditions.  If this drought does not end soon, the losses are going to be mind blowing.  Already, it is estimated that farmers and ranchers have suffered billions of dollars in damage.  How much worse can things get?

At the beginning of July many were hoping that we would soon see some rain and that we could still see a decent corn harvest.

Unfortunately, the drought has gotten even worse since that time. 

It is being projected that in some of the major corn growing areas as much as 60 percent of the crops could be lost.

Many farmers that had been desperately hoping for rain are now becoming resigned to the fact that their crops are not going to make it. 

So is there any hope that things are going to turn around?

Unfortunately, things do not look promising right now.  It is being projected that the Corn Belt will experience extremely high temperatures and very low rainfall all the way through mid-August. 

So what does all of this mean for the rest of us?

It is going to mean higher food prices.

On Friday, the price of corn hit $7.50 a bushel.

It had been thought that the price of corn would only be about $5.00 a bushel this year.

At this point, the price of corn is up 48 percent since mid-June, and it could go a whole lot higher.
Some analysts are projecting that if this endless drought persists, we could see ten dollars for a bushel of corn and 20 dollars for a bushel of soybeans.

And yes, you will notice this at the supermarket.

This all comes at a really bad time.  We are already on the verge of a global financial catastrophe.  Agriculture was supposed to be one of the few bright spots in the U.S. economy.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Prozac is no longer considered to be so transformative—or even so effective. According to the research of Harvard Medical School’s Irving Kirsch, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), the broad category of drugs including Prozac, Zoloft, and Lexapro, are more effective than placebos only in cases of severe depression.

But 10 percent of the American population continues to take them because the message from psychiatrists and from the culture more broadly is, “Why not?”

We still don’t have a conclusive answer about whether antidepressants work, or about their long-term effects.

Wonder drugs or not, it is now considered culturally acceptable to take SSRIs indefinitely. Psychiatrists often prescribe them without an endpoint, and this attitude toward prescription has changed the way depression is conceptualized. Only two weeks of symptoms are required for a diagnosis, but then—somewhere along the line—depression becomes a lifelong disease that requires lifelong drug treatment. When it comes to therapy, insurance companies are moving in the opposite direction, often paying only for short-term treatment. So we are left wondering: does depression last forever, or can it resolve itself in 20 sessions? Can the drugs do the trick?

Am I a different person on antidepressants? Is life without antidepressants somehow more authentic?

These questions are especially pertinent and confounding when they are asked by people who began taking SSRIs in adolescence. While adults can make an informed decision about whether they want to subscribe to the narrative that SSRIs will restore them to their pre-depression selves, adolescents have not yet fully developed the personalities that could serve as points of comparison. The self on antidepressants becomes the only self they know.

There is a widely accepted but never conclusively proven idea that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. The rise of this biomedical model of depression was used by “big pharma” to reassure consumers that SSRIs were designed to treat a disease not unlike, say, diabetes. The key date in the story is 1997, when the FDA removed the regulation against direct-to-consumer advertising, making it possible for large numbers of people to go to the doctor specifically to request SSRIs.

The idea of a psychopharmaceutical as a quick fix is nothing new, but the ease with which antidepressants are now prescribed is carrying over into yet another, more troubling class of drugs: atypical antipsychotics, designed to treat diseases like schizophrenia. Sharpe mentions the rise of these drugs as a means of managing childhood behavior problems, but she doesn’t discuss the fact that they are increasingly used in the general population to supplement antidepressants, often with serious side effects.

After 25 years, the chemical treatment of depression may just be getting started. And if SSRIs are changing who we are, we’re still figuring out how.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Penn State child sex story is America's story

In the age of Jerry Sandusky, how safe are America's children from predators who roam Happy Valley or the woods much closer to home? How safe are our children from molesters who lurk, online, in the streets, at our churches and in our schools?

Now is the time to talk about these questions. The nation's attention focused this week on child molesters, with the release of a report showing how Penn State officials put their football program and the university reputation ahead of the safety of children. By purposely ignoring the horrors committed by Sandusky, they allowed more children to suffer, physically and mentally, at his hands.

While we're all thinking about the crimes of Sandusky and the reprehensible decision-making at Penn State, we should also take a lesson from it. It's a simple lesson: Let's protect our kids.

Yet another might be to look at the messages we give to our children about sex. In this country, we've managed to sexualize everything, including our children. We have surrounded them with images of sexuality. We are a commercially sexualized nation rife with parental absenteeism. We're making it too easy for our children to become victims, to be seduced.

It's easy to point fingers at Penn State. Officials there should be ashamed of themselves. And it's easy to castigate the late coaching legend Joe Paterno. It turns out he was a moral fraud.

But what about the destruction of childhood innocence happening in ZIP codes much closer to home? Every time we turn the page of the newspaper or flip channels during the news hour, it seems, we hear of another adult in Northeast Ohio who has molested another child. My bet is that adults in the lives of those children could have stopped the abuse if they had paid closer attention.

Let's get more wary. Let's perform better legal, social and familial patrols of areas that pose the possibility of sexual intersections between adults and children. In this third generation of latchkey children, children who are vulnerable to manipulation through social-media portals that instantly connect predator to prey, we need more controls to protect them.

Take a look at the children in your life. Are they safe? Are we really naive enough to believe that what happened in State College, Pa., ranked in a 2010 survey as one of America's safest towns, isn't happening much closer to home?

Trust me, it is.

We can shake our heads in disgust at what happened in State College.

But the Penn State story is, sadly, the American story.

Friday, July 13, 2012

When I was a young man, there were a lot of commercials suggesting that we all BUY AMERICAN. Keep the money in the economy was the sell. And I remember thinking, "instead of buying American and keeping money in the economy, how about I keep the money in my pocket and buy Japanese?"

Later, as I got older and companies began outsourcing the manufacturing as fast as they could, I learned that it would be okay because first world economies like the US were going to be all about "ideas" and we would all be "thought workers" anyway. 

Well, I think we got it wrong back then when we sent so much manufacturing offshore. And since then we've all had friends and family members that had a hard time finding work during this most recent downturn. 

Any business is going to create jobs, even a business that offshores production.

So why would Made dedicate itself to companies that manufacture domestically? There are a bunch of reasons: 

1. It's estimated that if the average American bought just 1% more US made product each year it would create 250,000 new jobs. I think we can do that. 

2. Or should I say 1.4? There is a simple equation that makes manufacturing jobs the kind you MOST want to create if you're going to revitalize an economy. When a dollar is spent on a product or good that has been made in the United States, on top of that dollar it generates $1.40 in revenue or output from surrounding sectors of the economy.  

3. Red, white and blue is the new green. American-made goods require less shipping and have a smaller carbon footprint.

4. No exploitation of workers.

5. America makes great stuff. As you dig in and find the things that are made here you also rediscover a level of quality and durablilty that seemed to have been lost. 

6. It's fun.  

To call Made an agency is to sell it short. It is better described as a marketing group dedicated to the resurgence in American Manufacturing. And, yes, Made does all the things a full-service agency does but the coolest part to me is that Made is actually participating in the American-made movement by building tools and community. 

In that spirit, the first is and the BOOM Score. It's the first flash-sales site for premium American-made stuff. And the BOOM Score helps buyers keep track of the jobs and communities their purchases are impacting. 

Lots more to come. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

1. Few People Are Impressed By Us

Unless you’re speaking with a real estate agent or a prostitute, chances are they’re not going to be excited that you’re American. It’s not some badge of honor we get to parade around. Yes, we had Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison, but unless you actually are Steve Jobs or Thomas Edison (which is unlikely) then most people around the world are simply not going to care.

As Americans, we’re brought up our entire lives being taught that we’re the best, we did everything first and that the rest of the world follows our lead. Not only is this not true, but people get irritated when you bring it to their country with you. So don’t.

2. Few People Hate Us

Despite the occasional eye-rolling, and complete inability to understand why anyone would vote for George W. Bush, people from other countries don’t hate us either. In fact — and I know this is a really sobering realization for us — most people in the world don’t really think about us or care about us. I know, that sounds absurd, especially with CNN and Fox News showing the same 20 angry Arab men on repeat for ten years straight. But unless we’re invading someone’s country or threatening to invade someone’s country (which is likely), then there’s a 99.99% chance they don’t care about us.

3. We Know Nothing About the Rest Of The World

For all of our talk about being global leaders and how everyone follows us, we don’t seem to know much about our supposed “followers.”

4. We Are Poor At Expressing Gratitude And Affection

5. The Quality of Life For The Average American Is Not That Great

If you’re extremely talented or intelligent, the US is probably the best place in the world to live. The system is stacked heavily to allow people of talent and advantage to rise to the top quickly.

The problem with the US is that everyone thinks they are of talent and advantage.

6. The Rest Of The World Is Not A Slum-Ridden Shithole Compared To Us

If there’s one constant in my travels over the past three years, it has been that almost every place I’ve visited (especially in Asia and South America) is much nicer and safer than I expected it to be. As Americans, we have this naïve assumption that people all over the world are struggling and way behind us.

7. We’re Paranoid

Not only are we emotionally insecure as a culture, but I’ve come to realize how paranoid we are about our physical security. You don’t have to watch Fox News or CNN for more than 10 minutes to hear about how our drinking water is going to kill us, our neighbor is going to rape our children, some terrorist in Yemen is going to kill us because we didn’t torture him, Mexicans are going to kill us, or some virus from a bird is going to kill us. There’s a reason we have more guns than people.

8. We’re Status-Obsessed And Seek Attention

I’ve noticed that the way we Americans communicate is usually designed to create a lot of attention and hype. Again, I think this is a product of our consumer culture...

9. We Are Very Unhealthy
Unless you have cancer or something equally dire, the health care system in the US sucks. The World Health Organization ranked the US 37th in the world for health care, despite the fact that we spend the most per capita by a large margin.

10. We Mistake Comfort For Happiness

Depression and anxiety disorders are soaring within the US. Our inability to confront anything unpleasant around us has not only created a national sense of entitlement, but it’s disconnected us from what actually drives happiness: relationships, unique experiences, feeling self-validated, achieving personal goals.