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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I ran out, half-naked and bleeding. I tell my story because Kasi cannot tell hers.

I do not need to add anything, Goldie says it all, quite eloquently.  It is up to each of us to be our sister's help, saviors, listeners, because all too many times we hear stories like Kasi's and we wonder why? Could it have been stopped? What could we have done to help?  Be aware, listen, look for signs, offer help, offer comfort, encouragement, we need to make a difference, lives depend on how we react. 


Goldie Taylor

Analysis: Obama could risk going over 'cliff'

President Barack Obama, flanked by National Governors Association (NGA) Chairman, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, and NGA Vice Chair, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, meets with the NGA executive committee regarding the fiscal cliff, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is at right. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)Associated Press/Charles Dharapak - President Barack Obama, flanked by National Governors Association (NGA) Chairman, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, and NGA Vice Chair, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, meets with the …more 
WASHINGTON (AP) — It may be just a bluff or a bargaining ploy, but the White House is signaling that President Barack Obama is willing to let the country go over the "fiscal cliff," a hard-line negotiating strategy aimed at winning concessions from Republicans on taxes
If Washington really does fail to avert the looming series of tax hikes and spending cuts, the White House will portray Republicans as the culprits for insisting on protecting tax cuts for the wealthy, an effort the administration is laying the groundwork for now.
"This is a choice of the Republican Party," said Dan Pfeiffer, White House communications director. "If they are willing to do higher rates on the wealthy, there's a lot we can talk about. And if they are not, then they'll push us over the cliff."
But going over the cliff also would be full of risk for a president fresh off re-election and facing at least two more years of divided government.
Ending the year without a deal could roil financial markets and dent consumer confidence just as the economy is strengthening. It could make it harder for Obama to get Republican help on his second-term priorities like overhauling the immigration system and the nation's tax code, or in getting potential Cabinet replacements confirmed.
And it would signal to the country that the president's campaign prediction that the GOP "fever" would break following his re-election was a pipe dream.
House Speaker John Boehner says Obama is playing a risky game. "If the president really wants to avoid sending the economy over the fiscal cliff, he has done nothing to demonstrate it," the speaker said.
White House advisers say the president wants to avoid going into next year without a tax and spending deal, a scenario they say would hurt the economy. Obama, addressing business leaders Wednesday, said the White House and Republicans could reach an agreement "in about a week" if the GOP drops its opposition to raising taxes on families making more than $250,000 a year.
"If we can get the leadership on the Republican side to take that framework, to acknowledge that reality, than the numbers actually aren't that far apart," Obama said.
But with few public signs that Republicans are close to taking that step, administration officials are hardening their warning that Obama willing to risk going over the cliff.
Of course, the White House warning could be a bluff, offered in the belief that Republicans are unlikely to back down on taxes unless they believe Obama is willing to go over the cliff.
The White House says Obama's firm stand on tax rate increases for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans is driven by economics. The debt-saddled country can't afford to continue with the George W. Bush-era tax cuts, the president and his advisers argue.
Obama has made that case to Republicans before only to back down in the final stages of negotiations. But this time around, the president and his team believe they hold the political leverage.
There is some evidence to bolster that notion. Taxes were a centerpiece of the presidential campaign, with Obama running on a pledge to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and return their rates to where they were in the 1990s, when the economy was thriving.
Exit polls showed that 60 percent of voters supported that position, an even higher percentage than backed Obama's re-election.
A new poll also suggests a majority of Americans would blame Republicans if the government goes over the fiscal cliff. Just 27 percent of those surveyed said they would blame Obama, compared with 53 percent who said they would point the finger at the GOP, according to the Washington Post-Pew Research Center Poll.
Seeking to cement those impressions, the White House is casting Republicans as willing to forgo tax cuts for the middle class in order to protect lower rates for wealthier Americans. Rates for all income earners will go up at the end of the year if both sides can't reach a deal.
In turn, Republicans say Obama is acting like a stubborn partisan who will put the economy in peril in order to get his way.
"My sense is the White House wants to go over the cliff," said Tony Fratto, a former Treasury and White House official under President George W. Bush. "That may be the only way they get rates they want."
Going over the cliff could mark a new low in the relationship between the president and congressional Republicans. While the contentious debates earlier in Obama's first term over funding the government and raising the nation's borrowing limit went right up to the edge, both sides were always able to reach a deal.
As Obama ran for re-election, he sought to assure voters weary of Washington's bickering that things would be better if he won a second term.
Speaking to supporters in June, he said, "I believe that if we're successful in this election — when we're successful in this election — that the fever may break."
"My hope, my expectation, is that after the election, now that it turns out that the goal of beating Obama doesn't make much sense because I'm not running again, that we can start getting some cooperation again," he added optimistically.

Syria loads chemical weapons into bombs; military awaits Assad's order

  

So far, intelligence sources say, bombs loaded with the components of sarin haven't yet been loaded onto planes. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski reports.

The Syrian military is prepared to use chemical weapons against its own people and is awaiting final orders from President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials told NBC News on Wednesday.
Andrea Mitchell, Robert Windrem, Courtney Kube and Catherine Chomiak of NBC News contributed to this report. Follow M. Alex Johnson on Twitter and Facebook.
The military has loaded the precursor chemicals for sarin, a deadly nerve gas, into aerial bombs that could be dropped onto the Syrian people from dozens of fighter-bombers, the officials said.
As recently as Tuesday, officials had said there was as yet no evidence that the process of mixing the "precursor" chemicals had begun. But Wednesday, they said their worst fears had been confirmed: The nerve agents were locked and loaded inside the bombs.
Sarin is an extraordinarily lethal agent. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's forces killed 5,000 Kurds with a single sarin attack on Halabja in 1988.
U.S. officials stressed that as of now, the sarin bombs hadn't been loaded onto planes and that Assad hadn't issued a final order to use them. But if he does, one of the officials said, "there's little the outside world can do to stop it."
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reiterated U.S. warnings to Assad not to use chemical weapons, saying he would be crossing "a red line" if he did so.
Speaking Wednesday at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Clinton said the Syrian government was on the brink of collapse, raising the prospect that "an increasingly desperate Assad regime" might turn to chemical weapons or that the banned weapons could fall into other hands.


Kevin Lamarque / AFP - Getty Images
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaking Wednesday, Dec. 5, at NATO headquarters in Brussels,, said the fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad's government was 'inevitable.'

"Ultimately, what we should be thinking about is a political transition in Syria and one that should start as soon as possible," Clinton said. "We believe their fall is inevitable. It is just a question of how many people have to die before that occurs."
Aides told NBC News that Clinton was expected next week to officially recognize the main opposition movement, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, with which she is scheduled to meet in Morocco. Britain, France, Turkey and some key Arab leaders have already recognized the opposition.
Fighting intensified Wednesday in the 21-month civil war, which has left 40,000 people dead. The U.N. withdrew its personnel from Damascus, saying conditions were too dangerous.
The government said this week that it wouldn't use chemical weapons on its own people after President Barack Obama warned that doing so would be "totally unacceptable."

But U.S. officials said this week that the government had ordered its Chemical Weapons Corps to "be prepared," which Washington interpreted as a directive to begin bringing together the components needed to weaponize Syria's chemical stockpiles.
That process would involve mixing "precursor" chemicals for the deadly nerve gas sarin, which could be used in artillery shells, U.S. officials told NBC News, stressing that there was no evidence that process had as yet begun.

U.S. officials had long believed that the Syrian government was stockpiling the banned chemical weapons before it acknowledged possessing them this summer.
NBC News reported in July that U.S. intelligence agencies believed that in addition to sarin, Syria had access to tabun, a chemical nerve agent, as well as traditional chemical weapons like mustard gas and hydrogen cyanide.
Officials told NBC News at the time that the Syrian government was moving the outlawed weapons around the country, leaving foreign intelligence agencies unsure where they might end up.
Syria is one of only seven nations that hasn't ratified the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention, the arms control agreement that outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of such weapons.
Bombshells filled with chemicals can be carried by Syrian Air Force fighter-bombers, in particular Sukhoi-22/20, MiG-23 and Sukhoi-24 aircraft. In addition, some reports indicate that unguided short-range Frog-7 artillery rockets may be capable of carrying chemical payloads.
In terms of longer-range delivery systems, Syria has a few dozen SS-21 ballistic missiles with a maximum range of 72 miles; 200 Scud-Bs, with a maximum range of 180 miles; and 60 to 120 Scud-Cs, with a maximum range of 300 miles, all of which are mobile and are capable of carrying chemical weapons, according U.S. intelligence officials.


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed President Obama's recent vow to take action if Syrian President Bashar Assad uses chemical weapons during the ongoing clashes within his country. U.S. officials are also concerned about the rising influence of extremist groups within Syria. NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports.


More world stories from NBC News:

Kansas City Fire Department releases two chilling Jovan Belcher-related 911 calls


By | Shutdown Corner – 5 hours ago
Arrowhead Stadium, 12/1/12. (Getty Images)
The Kansas City Fire Department has released the audio of 911 calls received in the midst of the Jovan Belcher/Kasandra Perkins tragedy. Calls were received both from Belcher's mother at the scene of Perkins' murder and from Arrowhead Stadium, the scene of  Belcher's suicide.

Audio from Belcher 911 calls (click to hear). (six minutes of confusion, terror, hopelessness)

Transcript:
Dispatcher: You did the right thing. [Simultaneous talking] We need the address.
Caller: The address is [redacted]. Yes. Please get the ambulance here. Please. [redacted] Oh God, Kasi.
Dispatcher: We have a shooting at [redacted]. It sounds like. Ma'am, her name is [redacted]? Is it an apartment?
Caller: It's a house! [Inaudible] Please hurry!
Dispatcher: Ma'am? Let me see if I can help you. Are you with the baby now? [Simultaneous talking] We're on the way. We've been on the way the whole time. How old is the patient?
Caller: 22.
Dispatcher: Male or female?
Caller: Female.
Dispatcher: Is she breathing?
Caller: She's still breathing but barely. Please hurry. I don't know how many times he shot her. They were arguing.
Dispatcher: So she's been shot?
Caller: Yes. (To victim) The ambulance is on the way! You hear me? You hear this? Fight!
Dispatcher: Is she awake? Does she hear what you're saying?
Caller: Yes. She's moving when I talk to her.
Dispatcher: Is she bleeding?
Caller: Yes, she is. (baby crying in background)
Dispatcher: Where is she bleeding from?
Caller: I can't tell - in the back, it looks like.
Dispatcher: OK. We don't want - Go ahead. Where is your son at?
Caller: (Inaudible) Just get the ambulance here, please.
Dispatcher: We're on the way. Where is your son at?
Caller: He left.
Dispatcher: He left?
Caller: Yes.
Dispatcher: OK, they were arguing and he shot her?
Caller: Yes, yes, they were arguing.
Dispatcher: OK. What's your son's name?
Caller: [Redacted] Please just get the ambulance here.
Dispatcher: Ma'am...
Caller: I have to get the baby.
Dispatcher: What kind of car did your son leave in? Or is he on foot? ... Sounds like she disconnected. She doesn't want to answer questions. Ma'am, are you there? ... Ma'am?


Shortly afterward, a call came from Arrowhead Stadium, where Belcher had apparently already committed suicide.
Partial Transcript:
Caller: Hello. We need a Code One ambulance although they think he's probably dead. Number 1 Arrowhead Drive - that's the practice field at the Chiefs Stadium. It's a self-inflicted shooting. It's a done deal. They've got a player that shot himself.
Dispatcher: A player?
Caller: Yeah.
Dispatcher: What parking lot?
Caller: They still need you.
Dispatcher: We're on our way.
[Internal department communications regarding scene security and cleanup follow.]
[Via CNN], TMZ

More Jovan Belcher coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
The timeline of the Kansas City Chiefs tragedy
Police report shows new details in murder-suicide
Chiefs try to make sense of the impossible after Jovan Belcher suicide

In KC, it's no time for a game

Jovan Belcher, Kasandra M. Perkins, and child

KANSAS CITY, Mo.
Editor's note: This story was written on Saturday night, and is the piece referenced by Bob Costas during NBC's airing of Sunday Night Football.

Football is embarrassingly tone deaf.


Jovan Belcher, a starting linebacker for the Chiefs, murdered the mother of his child shortly before 8 a.m. Saturday. He hopped in his car, drove to the Kansas City Chiefs practice facility, thanked Romeo Crennel and Scott Pioli — and shot himself in the head in front of his coach and general manager around 8:10 a.m.
Within two hours, the NFL instructed the Carolina Panthers to travel to Kansas City as scheduled in preparation for Sunday’s noon kickoff. By 3 p.m., the Chiefs announced that Crennel and team captains had decided to play Sunday’s game as planned.

Short of terrorist attack and weather disaster, nothing slows the NFL.

A 25-year-old kid gunned down his 22-year-old girlfriend in front of his mother and three-month-old child, and all he could think to do in the immediate aftermath is rush to thank his football coach and football employer. Belcher’s last moments on this earth weren’t spent thanking the mother who raised him or apologizing to the child he would orphan. His final words of gratitude and perhaps remorse were reserved for his football gods.

It should come as no surprise that Crennel, Chiefs players, Pioli, owner Clark Hunt and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell quickly agreed not to delay Sunday’s football congregation at Arrowhead Stadium.

Football is our God. Its exaggerated value in our society has never been more evident than Saturday morning in my adopted hometown. There’s just no way this game should be played.

Twenty-eight hours after witnessing one of his starting linebackers take his life, Crennel will stand on the sideline as young men play a violent game. Twenty-eight hours after one of their best friends killed the mother of his child and himself, Chiefs players will take the field and play a violent game.

Football is a game of emotion. Football is a game in which the coaches and players preach about treating each other as family.

How can they play Sunday? Why should they?

Belcher and his girlfriend didn’t die in a car accident 30 minutes away from Arrowhead Stadium. This isn’t some tragedy Crennel and Pioli heard about. Belcher crashed his car through the gates of the Chiefs practice facility. He pointed a gun to his head in front of Crennel and Pioli. He killed himself within a quarter of a mile of Arrowhead Stadium, where the players and coaches work.

I just don’t get it. And I’m not trying to vilify the Chiefs for choosing to play Sunday’s game. It shouldn’t be their decision. Roger Goodell should’ve made this call. Crennel, Pioli and Kansas City players are justifiably still in a state of shock.

You may argue that we all grieve differently. You may argue that playing the game is the best way to move on and heal. You may argue that canceling or delaying the game would serve no purpose and would be unfair to the fans who traveled to Kansas City to see Cam Newton and the Panthers play the Chiefs.

I would argue that your rationalizations speak to how numb we are in this society to gun violence and murder. We’ve come to accept our insanity. We’d prefer to avoid seriously reflecting upon the absurdity of the prevailing notion that the second amendment somehow enhances our liberty rather than threatens it.

How many young people have to die senselessly? How many lives have to be ruined before we realize the right to bear arms doesn’t protect us from a government equipped with stealth bombers, predator drones, tanks and nuclear weapons?

Our current gun culture simply ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy, and that more convenience-store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead.

In the coming days, Belcher’s actions will be analyzed through the lens of concussions and head injuries. Who knows? Maybe brain damage triggered his violent overreaction to a fight with his girlfriend. What I believe is, if he didn’t possess/own a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.

That is the message I wish Chiefs players, professional athletes and all of us would focus on Sunday and moving forward. Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments, and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it.

But we won’t. We’ll watch Sunday’s game and comfort ourselves with the false belief we’re incapable of the wickedness that exploded inside Jovan Belcher Saturday morning.

Bacteria in antiseptic skin prep? FDA ponders sterility


Kothari family
Harrison Kothari, 2, of Houston died two years ago after a meningitis infection his parents said was caused by alcohol prep wipes tainted with bacteria. Now, federal officials are asking whether antiseptic skin preparation products should be required to be sterile.
Two years after the death of a Texas toddler that focused national attention on the contamination of alcohol wipes used widely in hospitals and homes, federal health regulators are considering whether such skin prep products should be required to be sterile.

The Food and Drug Administration will hold a public hearing next week to discuss ways to reduce potentially dangerous bacteria in antiseptic wipes, swabs, pads and solutions, which have been linked to massive product recalls -- and infections blamed for illness and death.

“We think a sterile wipe should be used in health care,” said Susan Dolan, a registered nurse and epidemiologist at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora. “I’m thrilled that FDA is getting people to the table.”

Under current rules, the prep products used to swab the skin before shots or surgeries are not required to be sterile. When the regulations were written in the 1970s, experts thought the antiseptic solutions were strong enough to kill any bugs. But recent reports of contamination in widely used antiseptics have raised new worries, said Dr. Christina Y. Chang and Dr. Lesley-Anne Furlong of the FDA.

“Since that time, there have been sporadic reports of unusual bacteria that are able to live and grow in these products,” the doctors wrote in a statement to NBC News. “These reports are the reason we are moving forward to discuss this sterility issue.”

One of the most high-profile reports of bacterial contamination in prep products followed the Dec. 1, 2010 death of Harrison Kothari, a Houston 2-year-old who developed lethal bacterial meningitis after surgery. His parents, Shanoop and Sandra Kothari, sued the Triad Group and H&P Industries of Hartland, Wis., claiming that the alcohol wipes used on the boy transmitted the Bacillus cereus bacterium that caused his infection.
More than 25 others nationwide also sued the sister companies for harm they said was caused by tainted Triad and H&P products.

The Kotharis settled their claim in April and the shuttered Wisconsin companies filed for bankruptcy in August. But for more than a year, the case riveted attention on the possible contamination of tens of millions of recalled sterile and non-sterile wipes and swabs, the firms’ failure to follow safe manufacturing practices and the FDA’s lax oversight of the firms, all detailed in an NBC News investigation.

“The Triad episode supports our concern,” the FDA experts said.
However, the Triad case was only one among dozens of outbreaks involving infections tied to tainted swabs, pads or solutions dating back decades.
Antiseptics made with alcohol, iodine, CHG or cholorhexidine gluconate, and ammonia have been contaminated with a range of bacteria – including Bacillus cereus -- and implicated in problems ranging from injection site infections to death.

Existing reports probably vastly underestimate the scope of the problem, the experts say.

“Reports of these infections are rare, but we don’t know how common the infections may be,” said Chang and Furlong, who addressed the question in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine. 

That’s because consumers and even clinicians may assume, wrongly, that the antiseptic products can’t be contaminated because they kill all bacteria.
“They don’t always think to test these products when someone develops an infection days after surgery or injection,” the experts said.

Also, some single-use products, like the wipes used on Harrison Kothari, are discarded, so there’s no way to test them. Although Bacillus cereus was confirmed in some Triad wipes, no direct link could be made between the pads used on the boy and the bacterium that caused his infection.

Some infection control experts believe it’s high time the FDA required that antiseptic products be sterile. Dr. Ann-Christine Nyquist, a Colorado infection control director who blew the whistle on the Triad problem, has said there’s no place in any hospital for non-sterile prep pads.

Her colleague, Susan Dolan, a said she’s excited that the FDA is talking about the problem. “We were pleased that someone is listening,” she said.

This isn’t the first time the FDA has tackled the issue of whether to require that antiseptic skin prep products be sterile. In 2009, an FDA advisory committee tabled a vote on sterility after members couldn’t agree about the costs and benefits of a new regulation and wondered if there was enough of a problem to warrant such broad change. There were questions, too, about whether requirements for sterility might affect the purity and potency of the finished products.

Manufacturing experts at the time voiced vigorous opposition, according to a meeting transcript. “Going all the way to sterile is a huge jump,” said Patricia Tway, an analytical chemist for CMC Technical Navigator who was speaking on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry.

One of the goals of the new discussion is to encourage manufacturers to move to sterile products voluntarily, the New England Journal piece points out.
While regulators sort out the issue, the FDA experts are urging health care workers and consumers to consider antiseptic pads and solutions as possible source of unusual infections.

Meantime, Harrison Kothari’s father said the FDA should also focus on enforcing the existing regulations. “It could have prevented a lot of pain if they made them adhere to the standards they had,” he said.

The FDA public hearing is set for Dec. 12-13. Requests for oral presentations will be accepted through Friday. Comments can be submitted through Feb. 12, 2013. 

For more information, click here.

Jovan Belcher’s Family Releases Statement Following Murder-Suicide

video
Family members of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher speak about their loss, "sadness and confusion." Videojournalist: James Carbone (Dec. 3, 2012)

Posted: December 3, 2012

In a statement released to TMZ, the family writes:
“As a family, no words can express the sorrow we feel over the loss of Jovan and Kasandra.
“The impact that this inconceivable tragedy has had on our heart is immeasurable; we are overwhelmed with both sadness and confusion.
“Jovan was our son, brother, uncle, cousin, nephew, grandson, and friend and we will miss him and Kasandra dearly.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the Perkins family as they mourn.
“We loved Jovan.  His kindness, humility, respect and gratitude for family and friends were steadfast.  The man we know and loved for 25 years embraced life and excelled at all he put his energy behind.  Jovan was overjoyed when Kasandra gave birth to their daughter, Zoey.
“He was happy to be a new father both he and Kasandra loved Zoey greatly.  The immense outpouring of sympathy and support from Jovan’s friends, teammates, coaches and fans have been a reflection of the impact he had on so many people.  Like them, we will cherish the wonderful memories we have of Jovan and we pray that those memories will bring us peace as we grapple to understand the unpredictable and tragic ending of his life and the life of Kasandra Perkins.
“As we attempt to grieve in the aftermath of this tremendous loss we ask that you please respect our privacy in doing so.  Only GOD can mend our hearts.”

Jovan Belcher
Jovan Belcher appeared to show at least some remorse for his actions. While talking to his former coach and general manager, he thanked them for their leadership before turning the gun on himself in the parking lot of the team’s facilities.

A former friend of Belcher blames his tragic actions on head injury sustained during his playing time in the NFL as well as substance abuse.








Ryan Grim

Posted: June 29, 2009 09:55 AM
This post is adapted from Ryan Grim's This Is Your Country On Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America, on sale today. He was also online for a live chat to discuss the book and other aspects of drug policy. For info on events and reviews, see theFacebook page or follow him on Twitter.


* * * * *

One day in the fall of 2001, I realized that I hadn't seen any LSD in an awfully long time. I was living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland at the time, where the drug had been a fixture of my social scene since the early-nineties. Most of my peers had continued dosing through college or whatever they chose to do instead. Even some watermen and farmers I knew had tripped on occasion.
Because most acid users don't take the drug with any regularity--a trip here or there is the norm--its absence didn't immediately register. It's the kind of drug that appears in waves, so the inability to find it at any given time could be chalked up to the vagaries of the illicit drug market.
I began asking friends going to hippie happenings to look for the drug. Eventually, I had a network of people poking around for it at concerts and festivals across the country, as well as in towns where you'd expect to find it, such as Boulder and San Francisco. They found nothing--and no one who'd even seen a hit of LSD since sometime in 2001--even at Burning Man, a gathering of thousands in the desert of Nevada. Strolling around Burning Man and being unable to find acid is something like walking into a bar and finding the taps dry.
At some point, I decided that the disappearance of acid was nearly, if not totally, complete. I was in grad school by then and went to see a professor in my University of Maryland department, Peter Reuter, one of the most well-respected drug-policy researchers in the nation.
"Acid is gone," I told him.
"How'd you come to this theory?" he asked.
"I can't find it," I said, "and none of my friends can, either." I knew I sounded like a fool, but that was all I had.
"That's not how we do things in this field," he said. "Drug availability goes in cycles. That's not really a series of trends--that's just how it is." He pointed to a book behind me. "Here, hand me that."
He opened the 2002 Monitoring the Future report, which is produced by the University of Michigan and tracks drug use among American teens. "As you'll see," he said, running his finger across the LSD table, "use has been fairly steady over the last . . ."
He paused and looked up. "That's interesting," he said, looking at the data for high school seniors. "LSD use is at an historic low: 3.5 percent." He then regrouped and continued with his lecture, telling me about supply and demand and peaks and valleys--and that he was certain the numbers for acid would rise in the 2003 survey.
Drug cycles are widely presumed to be the result of a combination of cultural shifts and the effectiveness of drug interdiction, but they're generally not well understood. Supply and demand, however, inarguably play a large role. When a drug becomes scarce, its price increases, enticing producers and distributors to invest more heavily in it, which increases supply, Reuter explained.
I told him that I wasn't so sure. There simply was no acid out there, and there hadn't been for several years. I rambled on about the end of the Grateful Dead and the collapse of giant raves. He was unmoved.
"Check the 2003 numbers," he said. "They may be online by now. If levels remain the same, then you've got something."
The 2003 numbers had just come out. I checked annual LSD use: it was at 1.9 percent, nearly a 50 percent drop. I checked a few other sources. Evidence of acid's decline could be found practically everywhere--in the falling statistics in an ongoing federal survey of drug use, in the number of emergency-room cases involving the drug, in a huge drop in federal arrests for LSD. I took the numbers back to Reuter.
"This isn't a trend," he said. "This is an event."
Evidence of acid's decline was everywhere: in the number of emergency room mentions of the drug; in an ongoing federal survey of drug use; in a huge drop in federal arrests; and in anecdotal reports from the field that the once ubiquitous psychedelic was exceedingly difficult to score. In major cities and college towns where LSD was once plentiful, it couldn't be had at all.
I turned the research into an article for Slate magazine, but continued to wonder: What is it that makes drug rise and fall in popularity and availability? The result was this book.
Like all drugs, acid is a bellwether of American society. Its effect on our culture in the sixties and seventies was immeasurable, and its disappearance in the early years of the twenty-first century was limited to the United States. Cultural commentators who look for trends in unemployment numbers, presidential-approval ratings, or car and housing purchases are missing something fundamental if they don't also consider statistics on drug use. Little tells us more about the state of America than what Americans are doing to get high.
Life in the United States, of course, is similar in many ways to life anywhere in the developed world. But our nation diverges sharply from the rest of the world in a few crucial ways. Americans work hard: 135 hours a year more than the average Briton, 240 hours more than the typical French worker, and 370 hours--that's nine weeks--more than the average German. We also play hard. A global survey released in 2008 found that Americans are more than twice as likely to smoke pot as Europeans. Forty-two percent of Americans had puffed at one point; percentages for citizens of various European nations were all under 20. We're also four times as likely to have done coke as Spaniards and roughly ten times more likely than the rest of Europe.
"We're just a different kind of country," said Bush drug czar' spokesman Tom Riley, when asked about the survey. "We have higher drug-use rates, a higher crime rate, many things that go with a highly free and mobile society.''
Different, indeed. There may be no people on earth with a more twisted and complex relationship to drugs. Much of our preconceived self-image turns out to be wrong: libertine continentals have nothing on us in terms of drug use, and American piety hasn't prevented us from indulging--in fact, it has sometimes encouraged it. Much of our conventional wisdom about American drug use--that the Puritans and the members of our founding generation were teetotalers or mild drinkers, that the drug trade is dominated by huge criminal organizations such as the Mafia and the Bloods, that crack use has declined significantly since the eighties--turns out to be wrong, too.
If there's one certainty about American drug use, it's this: we're always looking for a better way to feed our voracious appetite for getting high--for something cheaper, faster, less addictive, or more powerful. Drug trends feed themselves as word spreads about the amazing new high that's safe and nonaddictive. Then we discover otherwise--and go searching for the next great high. We often circle back to the original drug, forgetting why we quit it in the first place.
The decision to get high is always a personal one. Ask a fan of psychedelics about drugs and he'll generally tell you that done responsibly, a regimen of recreational mind alteration aids one in living an examined life. But drug use has consequences for others, too, be they the children of the neglectful user or the doctor who handles highs gone wrong. The battle between common good and individual liberty has long defined the American story, and it has always been fought especially hard over inebriation of any kind.
American values are what you get when you mix democracy with America's fervent Christianity. The idea of the American republic as a self-perfecting phenomenon has blended with our religious idealism to shape the way that we've viewed drugs and insobriety throughout U.S. history.
When it comes to drugs, Americans have put precious little stock in the concept of pleasure, at least officially. Speed is acceptable as long as it boosts a kid's attention span and isn't just a good time. "Euphoria" is listed a negative side effect of pharmaceutical drugs. Ours is a nation in which medical professionals who prescribe narcotics face the real prospect of prison time even when staying within accepted medical boundaries. Ronald McIver, a doctor from North Carolina, is now doing thirty years in a federal prison for reducing more pain than the government thought appropriate, though his prescribing habits were well within accepted medical practices. Paul Volkman, a Midwest pain doctor, faces years in prison and financial ruin for the same, as do a number of other doctors. (The problem's so bad a nonprofit has launched to defend doctors against drug war prosecution.) When pleasure is suspected, American drug use gets tricky, particularly when that high might do some real good, as in the case of medical marijuana.
Thus it was in drugs that sixties radicalism found its most visible form of cultural disobedience. While mainstream America took prescription uppers and downers and drank eminently legal martinis, the counterculture dropped a new drug that gave it a perception of reality that matched its revolutionary hopes. "There are the makings here of a complete social division: revolution is in the head, along the highways of perception and understanding. The psychedelic experience, being entirely subjective, is self-authenticating," argues Colin Greenland in his book The Entropy Exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the British New Wave in Science Fiction, which posits sixties youth culture as an "alien" society. "It gave its first advocates an inexorable sense of rightness in opposing their holistic, libertarian ethos to the discriminatory and repressive outlook of their elders. In legislating against cannabis and LSD, the governments of America and Europe were not only outlawing drugs that encouraged disaffection among the young but . . . were reaffirming faith in Western materialism and a single objective reality."
Psychedelic drugs give one a very real feeling that there's some type of intangible divide between those who've turned on and those who haven't. The psychedelic experience--with LSD's being perhaps the most powerful--defies credible characterization, largely because accounts of it strike the uninitiated as highly unbelievable and seem to the initiated incomplete. "Non-acid takers regard the LSD trip as a remarkable flight from reality, whereas cautious devotees feel they've flown into reality," writes Richard Neville in his 1970 "guide to revolution," Playpower. "After an acid trip, you can reject everything you have ever been taught."
LSD didn't disappear after it was criminalized. The American government wasn't toppled, either. Rather, the nation was able to absorb acid and the counterculture into mainstream consciousness--probably because there was something fundamentally American about both from the beginning. LSD is for the questers, and Americans have always been on a quest, whether it's to go West, to go to the moon, or to spread democracy around the globe. Timothy Leary, who spent years in prison and was once called "the most dangerous man in America" by President Richard Nixon, went to his end a respected cultural figure in the employ of Madison Avenue. Jerry Garcia's death was commemorated by congressional tributes and fawning cover stories in big-time glossies.
When Barack Obama solicited questions from the public on his presidential-transition Web site and allowed users to vote on the most popular, sixteen of the top fifty questions had to do with liberalizing drug policy. In the midst of war and financial collapse, the question voted most pressing asked whether Obama would legalize marijuana. The media ridiculed the result, but in doing so, they showed how much they misunderstand the importance we currently place on getting high in America. Today, huge majorities support legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, and almost half of Americans support legalizing it for everybody twenty-one and older.
America, we like to boast, is an amalgamation of many different cultural strains. One class or community--say, impoverished southern manual laborers--might be doing something completely different to get high from what another group--say, well-heeled northeastern hipsters--would do. Or it might not be: meth has been popular at the same time with both the trailer-park set and the urban gay community. Such odd similarities and stark differences reveal both something particular about a given socioeconomic milieu and something of the essential character of the American people.
In the late sixties Andy Warhol's New York scene was openly driven by meth; the drug only later infiltrated LSD-centered San Francisco. In the spring of 1966, Warhol's performance-art extravaganza/troupe of speed freaks, the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, accepted an invitation to play the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, a legendary hippie venue. The result was a collision of drug cultures, reports Martin Torgoff in his book Can't Find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age, 1945-2000.
"We spoke two completely different languages because we were on amphetamine and they were on acid," Warhol follower Mary Woronov told Torgoff. "They were so slow to speak, with these wide eyes--'Oh, wow!'--so into their vibrations; we spoke in rapid-machine-gun fire about books and paintings and movies. They were into free [love], the American Indian and going back to the land and trying to be some kind of true, authentic person; we could not have cared less about that. They were homophobic; we were homosexual. Their women--they were these big, round-titted girls; you would say hello to them, and they would just flop on the bed and fuck you; we liked sexual tension, S&M, not fucking. They were barefoot; we had platform boots. They were eating bread they had baked themselves--we never ate at all!"
That disparity had more to do with cultural differences than with drug availability. Warhol and his band had ready access to all the LSD they could have digested, but it didn't fit as well with their lifestyle and values as meth did. The same type of choice was evident among the hippies: bennies and other forms of meth were there for those who wanted them, but the egoism and aggression that those drugs provoke didn't fit the counterculture ethos. Although drugs are often given credit for creating or driving a culture, sometimes it can be the other way around. When a culture can freely choose one drug over another, it will pick the one that fits best with its worldview.
So much has been written on drug use and American culture that it would take weeks to roll all of that paper up and smoke it. In much of that writing, the story of American drug use goes something like this: The party started in the sixties, got crazy in the seventies, and got out of control in the eighties, as greed and addiction took over. That was followed by a period of recovery and maturity. Yet America is not a rock band, and its real history wouldn't neatly fit on VH1. Very few popular authors bother to look at what drugs Americans themselves say they're on--which is a shame, because that information isn't hard to get.
What the numbers reveal is that although things were indeed crazy in the seventies, things stayed crazy even after Americans supposedly sobered up. And while the standard drug narrative begins in the oh-so-wild late sixties, let's not kid ourselves. Future Americans were getting obliterated on their way to the continent, and perhaps no decade has witnessed as much better living through chemistry as the 1890s, a time when the movement against alcohol ushered in a buffet of modern highs.
And because drug use is at once a private and a social affair, drug trends can tell us a lot about where we've been, where we are, and where we're going. A lot of smart people have spent careers poring over these numbers, and the insights they've come to have often been overlooked. But the data have frequently been presented as if they had no cultural or social implications--as if, for example, cocaine just appeared out of nowhere or LSD simply vanished. A lack of cultural or historical context allows partisans on both sides of the drug-policy debate to fill the void with their own stories: the CIA introduced crack to the ghetto; take acid and you'll jump out a window.
In reality, there's no such thing as drug policy. As currently understood and implemented, drug policy attempts to isolate a phenomenon that can't be taken in isolation. Economic policy is drug policy. Healthcare policy is drug policy. Foreign policy, too, is drug policy. When approached in isolation, drug policy almost always backfires, because it doesn't take into account the powerful economic, social, and cultural forces that also determine how and why Americans get high.
Cultural movements change our drug habits; our drug habits alter our culture. In both cases, the results might not be apparent for years. Yet a sober look at them makes it clear that America's twisted relationship with chemically induced euphoria has left a trail of consequences that have been as far-reaching as they've been unintended.

 July  17, 2009
 Ryan Grim talked about his book This Is Your Country On Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America (Wiley (June 22, 2009). In his book he presents a history of drug use and culture in the United States from opium dens in New York in the 19th century to drug experimentation in the 1960s, and the current debates about the legalization of marijuana. Mr. Grim presents his research on why certain drugs are popular at certain times in history and his thoughts on the government’s war on drugs. He read passages from his book and responded to questions from members of the audience Ryan Grim is the senior congressional correspondent for the Huffington Post. His writings has appeared in several publications, including Rolling Stone and the Washington Post.

Highlights of White House, GOP budget plans

President Barack Obama, flanked by National Governors Association (NGA) Chairman, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, left, and NGA Vice Chair, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, meets with the NGA executive committee regarding the fiscal cliff, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is at right. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)Associated Press/Charles Dharapak - President Barack Obama, flanked by National Governors Association (NGA) Chairman, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, left, and NGA Vice Chair, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, meets withthe NGA executive committee regarding the fiscal cliff, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is at right. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) 


The Obama administration and House Republicans have unveiled their opening offers in talks to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff. Details are scant but the White House estimates its plan would carve $4.4 trillion from the deficit over the coming decade, including previously enacted cuts ($1 trillion) and savings from reduced costs for overseas military operations ($800 billion), as well as interest payments on the national debt ($600 billion).

House Republicans say their plan would cut deficits by $2.2 trillion over 10 years, but they don't claim previous cuts, war savings or interest costs toward that total. Both plans would block automatic spending cuts set to hit the economy in January and renew Bush-era tax cuts set to expire at the end of the month.

The two plans both draw upon ideas from 2011 talks between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, including a secret plan by top Obama aide Rob Nabors that was made public by author and Washington Post writer Bob Woodward.

Some highlights of all three approaches:
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TAXES
Obama: Increase taxes by $1.6 trillion over 10 years, raised by permitting tax rates on individual income exceeding $200,000 and family income over $250,000 to return to Clinton-era levels of 36 and 39.6 percent, up from 33 and 35 percent now. Increase taxes on dividend income and reduce the value of deductions and exemptions for those earning above $200,000 and 250,000. Renew the 2 percentage point payroll tax holiday or a similar tax cut for workers. Return taxes on large estates to 2009 levels. Permits tax reform to replace the existing code so long as it maintains the $1.6 trillion tax hike.

House GOP: Increase taxes by $800 billion over 10 years, raised through a comprehensive overhaul of the tax code that would curb various unspecified tax breaks while lowering tax rates overall. Extend all expiring Bush-era tax cuts on income, investments, married couples and families with children. Maintains the estate tax at current, more generous levels exempting estates up to $5.1 million from tax and sets a top rate of 35 percent. Permits payroll tax cut to expire.
Obama 2011: Raise taxes by $1.2 trillion over 10 years through overhauling the tax code along similar lines advocated by House Republicans, including lowering each tax rate by reducing tax breaks and deductions.
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HEALTH CARE

Obama: Cut $350 billion over 10 years from federal health care programs Medicare and Medicaid, including lower Medicare drug costs and other cost curbs on health care providers.

House GOP: Cut $600 billion over 10 years. Includes unspecified cuts to health care providers and assumes an increase in the eligibility age for Medicare and increased Medicare costs for higher-income beneficiaries.

Obama 2011: Cut $360 billion over 10 years, including at least $250 billion from Medicare, in part through savings from raising the eligibility age and increased premiums for doctors' visits and the Part D prescription drug program.
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OTHER SPENDING CUTS

Obama: Cut the deficit by $250 billion through other spending cuts and new fees. Options include requiring federal workers to contribute more to their retirement, cut farm subsidies, increase airline security fees, overhaul Postal Service operations, and increasing fees on some enrollees in the military's Tricare health care plan. Leaves in place existing "caps" on agency budgets passed by Congress each year.

House GOP: Deficit cuts of $300 billion through such cuts and fees from miscellaneous programs. Cut another $300 billion over the decade from agency operating budgets.

Obama 2011: Cut $200 billion from such programs. Several items on the list have been subsequently used to pay for other legislation.
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GOVERNMENT INFLATION MEASURE:
Obama: No proposal.
House GOP: Reduce deficits by $200 billion over 10 years by replacing the current inflation adjustment for Social Security and income tax brackets with a less generous "chained CPI" that, on average, is 0.3 percentage points less than the current measure. Doing so would reduce Social Security cost-of-living increases and cause a greater portion of taxpayer income to be taxed at higher rates.
Obama 2011: Apply less generous inflation measures to both Social Security and tax brackets, but boost benefits for the oldest Social Security beneficiaries with low incomes.
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NEW SPENDING

Obama: $200 billion in new economic "stimulus" initiatives, including payroll tax cuts, continued write-offs of business equipment purchases, extended unemployment benefits, help for borrowers "under water" on their mortgages, and new spending on infrastructure.
House GOP: No proposal.

Obama 2011: $43 billion to extend unemployment benefits to the long-term jobless.
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DEBT LIMIT

Obama: Permit the president to obtain increases in the government's borrowing cap, currently set at $16.4 trillion, without approval by Congress.
House GOP: Retain longstanding requirement that debt limit increases be enacted by Congress.

Obama 2011: Immediate unspecified increase in the debt limit and additional increase not subject to congressional approval.