AA Does Not Work for Most People

It has been awhile since I have posted. But this book review prompted me to end my silence.

My primary profession has been, for forty years, that of psychotherapist, helping people overcome emotional distress and sometimes their habitual proclivities. Often this has included addictions for alcohol and other addictive substances. All that experience has taught me that the most overblown treatment of addiction is the Twelve-Step approach, epitomized in Alcoholics Anonymous. The success rate of AA is stated in this book as 5-10%, but AA’s own website, in one article reports that only 5% of those who come to their first meeting are sober at the end of one year. Of course some may have quit AA and still are sober, but there is no way to account for that.

Yet AA has the almost unalloyed imprimatur of this society. In 1970, I had a client who was drinking. In our talks he told me that he was one of the original “Friends of Bill” AA group. Further investigation revealed that he was indeed. He had lasted about four years sober, but for the next 30 years he went back and forth, each time he began drinking, he saw himself as even more of a failure in life.

Another book that I recommend is AA: Not the Only Way–Your One Stop Resource Guide to 12-Step Alternatives by Melanie Solomon

This article originates with AlterNet.com and can be read in the original by clicking the headline below.

 

There’s a better way to treat addiction than Alcoholics Anonymous, new book argues.

Photo Credit: Kamira / Shutterstock.com

Excerpted fromThe Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industryby Lance Dodes, and Zachary Dodes. Copyright 2014. Excerpted with permission by Beacon Press.

Alcoholics Anonymous is a part of our nation’s fabric. In the seventy-six years since AA was created, 12-step programs have expanded to include over three hundred different organizations, focusing on such diverse issues as smoking, shoplifting, social phobia, debt, recovery from incest, even vulgarity. All told, more than five million people recite the Serenity Prayer at meetings across the United States every year.

Twelve-step programs hold a privileged place in our culture as well. The legions of “anonymous” members who comprise these groups are helped in their proselytizing mission by hit TV shows such as “Intervention,” which preaches the gospel of recovery. “Going to rehab” is likewise a common refrain in music and fi lm, where it is almost always uncritically presented as the one true hope for beating addiction. AA and rehab have even been codified into our legal system: court-mandated attendance, which began in the late 1980s, is today a staple of drug-crime policy. Every year, our state and federal governments spend over $15 billion on substance-abuse treatment for addicts, the vast majority of which are based on 12-step programs. There is only one problem: these programs almost always fail.

Click to enlarge.

[Source: Beacon Press; Copyright 2014, All Rights Reserved]

Peer-reviewed studies peg the success rate of AA somewhere between 5 and 10 percent. That is, about one of every fifteen people who enter these programs is able to become and stay sober. In 2006, one of the most prestigious scientific research organizations in the world, the Cochrane Collaboration, conducted a review of the many studies conducted between 1966 and 2005 and reached a stunning conclusion: “No experimental studies unequivocally demonstrated the effectiveness of AA” in treating alcoholism. This group reached the same conclusion about professional AA-oriented treatment (12-step facilitation therapy, or TSF), which is the core of virtually every alcoholism-rehabilitation program in the country.

Many people greet this finding with open hostility. After all, walk down any street in any city and you are likely to run into a dozen people who swear by AA—either from personal experience or because they know someone whose life was saved by the program. Even people who have no experience with AA may still have heard that it works or protest that 5 to 10 percent is a significant number when we’re talking about millions of people. So AA isn’t perfect, runs this thread of reasoning. Have you got anything better?

There are good answers to these objections, and they will take up a considerable portion of this book. For now, I will simply say that there are indeed better treatments for addiction—but the issues with AA’s approach run far deeper than its statistical success rate. While it’s praiseworthy that some do well in AA, the problem is that our society has followed AA’s lead in presuming that 12-step treatment is good for the other 90 percent of people with addictions.

Any substantive conversation about treatment in this country must reckon with the toll levied when a culture encourages one approach to the exclusion of all others, especially when that culture limits the treatment options for suffering people, ignores advances in understanding addiction, and excludes and even shames the great majority of people who fail in the sanctioned approach.

THE AA MONOPOLY

AA began as a nonprofessional attempt to grapple with the alcoholism of its founders. It arose and took its famous twelve steps directly from the Oxford Group, a fundamentalist religious organization founded in the early twentieth century. It came to life on the day that its founder, Bill Wilson, witnessed a “bright flash of light” in a hospital room.

Although the fledgling organization lacked any scientific backing, research, or clinical experience to support its method, AA spread like wildfire through a country desperate for hope at the end of Prohibition and in the midst of the Great Depression. It soon became immaterial whether AA worked well or worked at all: it had claimed its place as the last best hope for beating the mighty specter of addiction. It had become the indispensable treatment, the sine qua non of addiction recovery in the United States. And science looked away.

AA has managed to survive, in part, because members who become and remain sober speak and write about it regularly. This is no accident: AA’s twelfth step expressly tells members to proselytize for the organization: “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these

Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” Adherence to this step has created a classic sampling error: because most of us hear only from the people who succeeded in the program, it is natural to conclude that they represent the whole. In reality, these members speak for an exceptionally small percentage of addicts, as we will see.

Beyond these individual proselytizing efforts, AA makes inflated claims about itself. Its foundational document, “Alcoholics Anonymous” (commonly referred to as the “Big Book” and a perennial best seller), spells out a confident ethos regularly endorsed by AA members:

Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.

In other words, the program doesn’t fail; you fail.

Imagine if similar claims were made in defense of an ineffective antibiotic. Imagine dismissing millions of people who did not respond to a new form of chemotherapy as “constitutionally incapable” of properly receiving the drug. Of course, no researchers would make such claims in scientific circles—if they did, they would risk losing their standing. In professional medicine, if a treatment doesn’t work, it’s the treatment that must be scrutinized, not the patient. Not so for Alcoholics Anonymous.

WALKING THE TWELVE STEPS

More than anything, AA offers a comforting veneer of actionable change: it is something you can do. Twelve steps sounds like science; it feels like rigor; it has the syntax of a roadmap. Yet when we examine these twelve steps more closely, we find dubious ideas and even some potentially harmful myths.

Step 1: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.”

This step sounds appealing to some and grates heavily on others. The notion of declaring powerlessness is intended to evoke a sense of surrender that might give way to spiritual rebirth. Compelling as this is as a narrative device, it lacks any clinical merit or scientific backing. I’ll examine this more closely in the chapters ahead.

Step 2: “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

Many scholars have written about the close bond between AA and religion. This is perhaps inevitable: AA was founded as a religious organization whose design and practices hewed closely to its spiritual forerunner, the Oxford Group, whose members believed strongly in the purging of sinfulness through conversion experiences. As Bill Wilson wrote in the Big Book: “To some people we need not, and probably should not, emphasize the spiritual feature on our first approach. We might prejudice them. At the moment we are trying to put our lives in order. But this is not an end in itself. Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God.”

Religion can have a salutary effect on people in crisis, of course, and its strong emphasis on community bonds is often indispensable. But do these comforting feelings address the causes of addiction or lead to permanent recovery in any meaningful way? As we will see, the evidence is scant.

Step 3: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.”

For an organization that has expressly denied religious standing and publicly claims a secular—even scientific—approach, it is curious that AA retains these explicit references to a spiritual power whose care might help light the way toward recovery. Even for addicts who opt to interpret this step secularly, the problem persists: why can’t this ultimate power lie within the addict?

Step 4: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

The notion that people with addictions suffer from a failure of morality to be indexed and removed is fundamental to Alcoholics Anonymous. Yet addiction is not a moral defect, and to suggest that does a great disservice to people suffering with this disorder.

Step 5: “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

Step 6: “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”

Step 7: “Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.”

These steps rehash the problems of their predecessors: the religiosity, the admission of moral defectiveness, the embrace of powerlessness, and the search for a cure through divine purification. The degradation woven through these steps also seems unwittingly designed to exacerbate, rather than relieve, the humiliating feelings so common in addiction.

If moral self-flagellation could cure addiction, we could be sure there would be precious few addicts.

Step 8: “Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.”

Step 9: “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

There is nothing inherently wrong with apologizing to those who have been harmed, directly or indirectly, by the consequences of addiction. The problem is the echo once more of the fundamentalist religious principle: that the path to recovery is to cleanse oneself of sin.

Yes, apologies can be powerful things, and there’s no question that reconciling with people can be a liberating and uplifting experience. But grounding this advice within a framework of treatment alters its timbre, transforming an elective act into one of penance.

Step 10: “Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”

People suffering with addictions as a rule tend to be well aware of the many “wrongs” they have committed. Awareness of this fact doesn’t help the problem.

Step 11: “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.”

If AA were simply presented as a religious movement dedicated to trying to comfort addicts through faith and prayer, the program would not be so problematic. What is troubling is how resolutely—and some might say disingenuously—AA has taken pains to dissociate itself from the faith-based methodology it encourages.

Step 12: “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

AA’s emphasis on proselytizing, a basic tool through which recognized religions and certain fringe religious groups spread their message, is an essential part of its worldwide success, and it’s a big reason that it has been nearly impossible to have an open national dialogue about other, potentially better ways to treat addiction.

THE CONSEQUENCES OF BAD TREATMENT

I have been treating people suffering with addictions in public and private hospitals, in clinics, and in my private practice for more than thirty years. In that time, I have met and listened to a very large number of people who have “failed” at AA and some who continue to swear by it, despite repeated recidivism.

Dominic’s case is just one example (I have changed the names and nonessential details in the passage below and whenever I discuss patients in this book). Dominic began drinking heavily as a junior at a good college. Weekly binges soon turned to daily abuse, with predictable results: his grades plummeted; his attendance vanished. By the time he arrived home for winter break, Dominic’s family was deeply concerned about his deterioration. They advised him to seek counseling at the university health center.

Advisors there recommended that Dominic begin attending AA, which he did. He became fond of his sponsor and felt included for the first time in years—no small feat for a suffering young man. But he also found himself increasingly resentful of the “tally system” that

AA uses to measure sobriety: every time he “slipped” and had a drink, he “went back to zero.” All the chips he’d earned—the tokens given by AA for milestone periods of sobriety—became meaningless. This system compounded his sense of shame and anger, leading him to wonder why he lacked the willpower or fortitude to master the incredible force of his alcoholism.

By spring, Dominic had dropped out of college. His parents turned to the family doctor for advice. She told him to double down on AA—to attend ninety meetings in ninety days, which is a common AA prescription.

It worked. Although many of the faces at the meetings kept changing and Dominic constantly felt the urge to drink, he found a few “oldtimers” who believed wholly in the program and who encouraged him to dismiss the great majority of people who fell through the cracks. They just weren’t ready to stop, he was reassured. Dominic soon learned to distract himself from thinking about alcohol and to call his sponsor when the urge arose.

Four months into the program, Dominic became frustrated during a call with his bank. He bought a fifth of vodka and drank so much that he fell down the stairs, suffering three cracked vertebrae. A series of increasingly expensive stints in rehab followed throughout his twenties, with poor results. During this time, he was hospitalized twice and lost every job he held. A brief marriage ended in a bad divorce, and Dominic was deeply depressed by the time someone in his life recommended that he try something other than a 12-step program. Maybe talk therapy was worth a try.

When Dominic entered my office, he had accepted as empirical truth that he was a deeply flawed individual: amoral, narcissistic, and unable to turn himself over to a Higher Power. How else to explain the swath of destruction he had cut through his own life and the lives of those who loved him? His time in AA had also taught him that his deeper psychological life was immaterial to mastering his addiction. He had a disease; the solution was in the Twelve Steps. When he was ready to quit, he would.

It took eight months of psychotherapy before Dominic stopped drinking for good. Although he remained in therapy for several years after that, the key that unlocked his addiction was nothing more complex or ethereal than an understanding of what his addiction really was and how it really worked.

Dominic had felt enormously pressured all of his life, consumed by a suffocating need to excel in every activity. He was driven by a hunger to be “good enough”—accomplished enough, successful enough—to please his demanding father and blameful mother. Whenever he felt he was not performing up to his potential, his old sense of being trapped by implacable demands arose, and with it came a deep sense of shame and an equal fury at the awful helplessness he felt about this burden. Those were the moments he had to have a drink.

Eventually he came to realize that this odd coping mechanism made a certain kind of sense. By making a decision to drink, he was empowering himself—he no longer felt helpless. Once he understood the connection between his lifelong feelings and his urges to drink, he was able to view them with some perspective for the first time. He found that he was able to predict when his drive to drink would return, since it always tended to surface right after that old, unbearable pressure to perform. He developed enough awareness into what was beneath these urges that he could take a step back and deal with those issues more directly and appropriately. Over time, he was also able to work out the underlying narrative forces that had led him to feel so helpless throughout his life. He had, in other words, supplanted the notion of a Higher Power with something far more personally empowering: sophisticated self-awareness.

THE REHAB FICTION

Dominic’s history follows the same contours as thousands of others. But one part of his story warrants special attention: the series of failed attempts at rehabilitation. Dominic’s family lost close to $200,000— their total retirement savings—on this string of ineffectual programs.

Rehab owns a special place in the American imagination. Our nation invented the “Cadillac” rehab, manifested in such widely celebrated brand names as Hazelden, Sierra Tucson, and the Betty Ford Center. Ask the average American about any of these institutions and you will likely hear a response tinged with reverence—these are the standard-bearers, our front line against addiction. The fact that they are all extraordinarily expensive is almost beside the point: these rehabs are fighting the good fight, and they deserve every penny we’ve got.

Unfortunately, nearly all these programs use an adaptation of the same AA approach that has been shown repeatedly to be highly ineffective. Where they deviate from traditional AA dogma is actually more alarming: many top rehab programs include extra features such as horseback riding, Reiki massage, and “adventure therapy” to help their clients exorcise the demons of addiction. Some renowned programs even have “equine therapists” available to treat addiction—a fairly novel credential in this context, to put it kindly. Sadly, there is no evidence that these additional “treatments” serve any purpose other than to provide momentary comfort to their clientele—and cover for the programs’ astronomical fees, which can exceed $90,000 a month.

Why do we tolerate this industry? One reason may sound familiar: in rehab, one feels that one is doing something, taking on a life-changing intervention whose exorbitant expense ironically reinforces the impression that epochal changes must be just around the corner. It is marketed as the sort of cleansing experience that can herald the dawn of a new era. How many of us have not indulged this fantasy at one time or another— the daydream that if we could just put our lives “on pause” for a while and retreat somewhere pastoral and lovely, we could finally make sense of all our problems?

Alas, the effect is temporary at best. Many patients begin using again soon after they emerge from rehab, often suffering repeated relapses. The discouragement that follows these failures can magnify the desperation that originally brought them to help’s door.

What’s especially shocking is how the rehab industry responds to these individuals: they simply repeat their failed treatments, sometimes dozens of times. Repeat stays in rehab are very common, and readmission is almost always granted without any special consideration or review. On second and subsequent stays, the same program is offered, including lectures previously attended.

Any serious treatment center would study its own outcomes to modify and improve its approach. But rehabs generally don’t do this. For example, only one of the three best-known facilities has ever published outcome studies (Hazelden); neither Betty Ford nor Sierra Tucson has checked to see if their treatment is producing any results for at least the past decade. Hazelden’s follow-up studies looked at just the first year following discharge and showed disappointing results, as we will see later.

Efforts by journalists to solicit data from rehabs have also been met with resistance, making an independent audit of their results almost impossible and leading to the inevitable conclusion that the rest of the programs either don’t study their own outcomes or refuse to publish what they find.

Lance Dodes, M.D., has been treating people with addictions for more than three decades. He is the author of “The Heart of Addiction” and “Breaking Addiction.” He is a Training and Supervising analyst emeritus with the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute and recently retired assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He lives in Southern California.

Zachary Dodes is a freelance writer based in Southern California. He earned a B.A. from Yale University and an MFA from the University of Southern California.

Dehumanization

Even though immigration is now about even with slightly more undocumented people leaving the United States as are entering without documents, the political pressure to harden the border with Mexico continues unabated. Outrageous claims are made by congresspeople, mostly older white men and mostly Repulsican, that have nothing to do with reality. Undocumented immigrants contribute their energy and their economic power to this nation. They pay taxes, often at a higher rate than citizens. (They pay sales taxes at a greater rate because they are forced to consume most of their paychecks, unlike the wealthy who can invest a large portion of their income in low-tax investments.) and they commit crime at a lower rate than non-immigrants.

Just as the TV shows exhibit more young black criminals than older white-collar criminals, the same is true of Latino young people.

That we are a nation of racism is indisputable. That we are a nation of racists on the way to becoming even worse, is a possibility. And the Border Patrol is leading the way, as this article from Alternet shows.

 
Published on Alternet (http://www.alternet.org)
 
 By Aaron Cantú
 
February 28, 2014  |  
On the eve of World War II, the Nazis began to describe the European Jews as “Untermenschen.” The word literally means “subhumans”—a creature that resembles a person, but is nevertheless a bestial humanoid aberration.
 
This was a way to dehumanize them in preparation for a statewide programm of mass extermination. Since the Holocaust, scholars have recognized the process of dehumanization as a central part of genocidal campaigns, one that erases the moral dilemmas normally associated with hurting others by sanding down innate empathic capacities.
 
In any campaign of hatred, dehumanization is not the final endpoint; rather, it is a milestone that must be reached in order to enable a desired degree of violence. Dehumanization doesn’t always end in ethnic cleansing. It can take other forms, which, while they may be less extreme, are equally sordid, like teaching children how to shoot at effigies of people who are different from them.
 
At a community event to honor fallen agents in San Diego last year, the local Customs and Border Patrol outfit facilitated an activity in which children were given less-than-lethal rifles and shotguns and instructed by agents on how to fire at cut-out targets resembling adolescent migrants. One of the targets is even wearing a “Tapout” t-shirt, a common article of clothing donned by young people on either side of the border. In one of the images, a youth seems to be aiming his gun at the target’s head.
 
For its part, CBP San Diego absurdly justified the event as a part of a community-wide expo meant to “build relationships and increase awareness about law enforcement.” The agency has reportedly claimed that they will continue to host the event in the future, but will use neutral targets to assuage public outrage.
 
It’s bad enough that the CBP fails to connect the dots between its showy display of mock violence and the renewed controversy in the media over its agents’ slaying of migrants. But even worse, the fact that CBP defended the activity as a community-building event indicates they see an aggressive disdain for migrants as a way to strengthen communal bonds. United in dehumanization we stand.
 
Activist Pedro Ríos of the American Friends Service Committee said that the incident is indicative of how border communities have become areas of low intensity conflict, where the specter of violence is something expected and even sanctioned. “When violence becomes normalized to the extent that civil society stops questioning it, you stop seeing how wrong it is,” he said. He mentions how the Border Patrol in San Diego possess a coveted space as leaders in the community, even visiting elementary schools to hand out good citizenship awards. “Could be that one day, a Border Patrol agent gives out a [citizenship] certificate to a kid, while next day he might be involved in a beating?”
 
Since 2004, the number of Border Patrol agents has doubled, and with such a rapid expansion the quality of recruits has suffered. Agents with less training are more likely to employ crude means of handling people they view as problematic. At least twenty unarmed have been shot and killed along the border by the Border Patrol since 2010, some of them in the back. None of the agents implicated in the murders have faced any form of retribution.
 
Green shirts are even allowed to fire on migrants who throw rocks at them, whereas such excessive retaliation would be completely reprehensible if committed by a domestic law enforcement group. There is a reason for this discrepancy: Migrants are viewed as less than human. Instead, they are imagined as desperate, free-moving hordes infiltrating from a strange land, shouting and chattering in foreign tongues; subhumans, Untermenschen.
 
Agents operate in a broader society that automatically presumes the criminality of undocumented people. Their most doltish opponents freely call them “aliens,” but even mainstream sources describe them with the slippery term “illegal.” As if all of that didn’t make it difficult enough to attain value in the eyes of society, undocumented people are mostly relegated to bottom rung jobs with low pay and respectability. Although Americans value hard work, we don’t necessarily value the work of the lower class. We are a nation of aspirers, holding up the livelihoods of the super rich as ideals for which to strive, while giving little consideration—let alone respect—to the men and women who package our food and stich together our clothes.
 
The subhuman characterization of undocumented people becomes even more dangerous as the prospect of a hyper-militarized border grows inevitable. The immigration bill sitting in Congress would nearly double the number of border patrol agents to 40,000—the size of Serbia’s entire army—and create “the most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall,” as Senator John McCain boasted last year. Even if the bill doesn’t end up passing, defense and surveillance corporations have such a vested interest in a dumping their war technology from overseas onto the southern border that any future iteration of the bill will likely look much the same.
 
It’s in the context of enhanced militarization and an already dehumanized perception of Latin American migrants that the San Diego’s obtuseness about their “community event” is so worrisome. It doesn’t matter their intention; history has shown, again and again, what happens when you simultaneously strip a person of their humanity and promote fatalistic solutions to social problems.
 
It’s unfortunate that any armed, aggressive agency can rise to such prominent civic stature in a community, but at the very least, the Border Patrol in San Diego and everywhere else could avoid teaching children how to violently dispense with people who are different from them.
 
Even that might be too much to ask for. Just last week, another unarmed migrant was shot dead across the border from San Diego.
 

Depression Medication

Peter Breggin is the favorite whipping boy of the big Big Pharma, the drug industry, which makes billions of dollars by encouraging addiction to anti-depressants. The illness insurance industry is an aider and abettor. It is cheaper to pay for medications than to do real, effective psychotherapy–even though psychotherapy has been demonstrated to be equally effective.

Breggin is one of a growing body of psychiatrists and neurologists and other researchers who have been describing the king’s lack of clothing. I arrived on this scene late, having ignored the issue for years. But having seen the disturbing results in my own clients, I have joined the chorus of skeptics.

Increasingly evidence of the disastrous results of the anti-depressant epidemic are showing up in research and even getting past the censors of popular publications.

This article is from Science Daily.

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Psychological side-effects of anti-depressants worse than thought

Date:
February 25, 2014
Source:
University of Liverpool
Summary:
Thoughts of suicide, sexual difficulties and emotional numbness as a result of anti-depressants may be more widespread than previously thought, a researcher has found. In a survey of 1,829 people who had been prescribed anti-depressants, the researchers found large numbers of people — over half in some cases — reporting on psychological problems due to their medication, which has led to growing concerns about the scale of the problem of over-prescription of these drugs.

“While the biological side-effects of antidepressants, such as weight gain and nausea, are well documented, the psychological and interpersonal effects have been largely ignored or denied. They appear to be alarmingly common,” the lead author states.
Credit: © Photographee.eu / Fotolia

A University of Liverpool researcher has shown that thoughts of suicide, sexual difficulties and emotional numbness as a result of anti-depressants may be more widespread than previously thought.

In a survey of 1,829 people who had been prescribed anti-depressants, the researchers found large numbers of people — over half in some cases — reporting on psychological problems due to their medication, which has led to growing concerns about the scale of the problem of over-prescription of these drugs.

Psychologist and lead researcher, Professor John Read from the University’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, said: “The medicalization of sadness and distress has reached bizarre levels. One in ten people in some countries are now prescribed antidepressants each year.

“While the biological side-effects of antidepressants, such as weight gain and nausea, are well documented, the psychological and interpersonal effects have been largely ignored or denied. They appear to be alarmingly common.”

Each person completed an online questionnaire which asked about twenty adverse effects. The study was carried out in New Zealand and all of the participants had been on anti-depressants in the last five years. The survey factored in people’s levels of depression and asked them to report on how they had felt while taking the medication.

Over half of people aged 18 to 25 in the study reported suicidal feelings and in the total sample there were large percentages of people suffering from ‘sexual difficulties’ (62%) and ‘feeling emotionally numb’ (60%). Percentages for other effects included: ‘feeling not like myself’ (52%), ‘reduction in positive feelings’ (42%), ‘caring less about others’ (39%) and ‘withdrawal effects’ (55%). However, 82% reported that the drugs had helped alleviate their depression.

Professor Read concluded: “While the biological side-effects of antidepressants, such as weight gain and nausea, are well documented, psychological and interpersonal issues have been largely ignored or denied. They appear to be alarmingly common.”

“Effects such as feeling emotionally numb and caring less about other people are of major concern. Our study also found that people are not being told about this when prescribed the drugs.

“Our finding that over a third of respondents reported suicidality ‘as a result of taking the antidepressants’ suggests that earlier studies may have underestimated the problem.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Liverpool. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. John Read, Claire Cartwright, Kerry Gibson. Adverse emotional and interpersonal effects reported by 1829 New Zealanders while taking antidepressants. Psychiatry Research, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.psychres.2014.01.042


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Venezuela, Phony “Popular” Protests and the US

The protests continue in Venezuela. I hear so much nonsense from conservatives in that country and their spokespeople in this one. They have been fighting reform for many years with the help of the U.S. government. Then with the Bolivarian revolution, the U.S. has unleashed its full effort to overturn the will of the Venezuelan people. Unfortunately, the people of Venezuela not only continued supporting Chavez but, on his death, passed their allegiance to his successor, Maduro.

Some of the uplifting of the poor and middle-class has been at the price of U.S. and international corporations and the Venezuelan elite. Their answer is to put paid agitators in the streets to pretend to be legitimate protestors.

This article comes from Democracy Now and is by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez. Click on the headline/link to go to the original.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

In Venezuela, at least six people have died in recent days during a series of anti-government protests. The latest casualty was a local beauty queen who died of a gunshot wound. The protests come less than a year after the death of Hugo Chávez and present the biggest challenge to Venezuela’s new president, Nicolás Maduro. Earlier this week, right-wing opposition leader Leopoldo López turned himself in to the National Guard after authorities issued a warrant for his arrest last week, accusing him of inciting deadly clashes. On Monday, Maduro ordered the expulsion of three U.S. consular officials while claiming the United States has sided with the opposition. Our guest, George Ciccariello-Maher, looks at the recent history of the U.S. role in Venezuela opposing both the Chávez and Maduro governments. He is author of “We Created Chávez: A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution” and teaches political science at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to Venezuela, where at least six people have died in recent days during a series of anti-government protests. On Wednesday, a local beauty queen died of a gunshot wound. The protests come less than a year after the death of Hugo Chávez and present the biggest challenge to Venezuela’s new president, Nicolás Maduro. Earlier this week, right-wing opposition leader Leopoldo López turned himself in to the National Guard after authorities issued a warrant for his arrest, accusing him of inciting deadly clashes. On Monday, Maduro ordered the expulsion of three U.S. consular officials while claiming the United States has sided with the opposition.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, to find out more, we go to Philadelphia to speak with George Ciccariello-Maher, author of We Created Chávez: A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution. He teaches political science at Drexel University in Philadelphia, previously taught at the Venezuelan School of Planning in Caracas.

What is happening in Venezuela today?

GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER: Well, there’s a great deal happening, and I think you’ve got your finger on the fact that this is a crucial test for the Maduro government. And I think it’s our obligation to put it in its broad historical context to understand who’s acting. And I think there’s a tendency—there’s an unfortunate tendency, if you follow Twitter or if you’re on the Internet, that, you know, in this sort of post-Occupy moment and in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, every time we see—every time we see protesters in the streets, we start retweeting it, and we start to sort of, you know, feel sympathetic, without necessarily knowing what the back story is. And I think we’re obligated to do that here. And once we look into this back story, what we see is yet another attempt in a long string of attempts of the Venezuelan opposition to oust a democratically elected government, this time taking advantage of student mobilizations against—you know, ostensibly against insecurity and against economic difficulties to do that.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, George Ciccariello, who is Leopoldo López? The Washington Post describes him as a 42-year-old, Harvard-educated, left-leaning moderate. What do you know about his history?

GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER: Left-leaning moderate would be quite a stretch. Leopoldo López represents the far right of the Venezuelan political spectrum. In terms of his personal and political history, here’s someone who was educated in the United States from prep school through graduate school at the Harvard Kennedy School. He’s descended from the first president of Venezuela, purportedly even from Simón Bolívar. In other words, he’s a representative of this traditional political class that was displaced when the Bolivarian revolution came to power.

In terms of his very specific political history, his first party that he came to power as a representative of, Primero Justicia, was formed through the—at the intersection of corruption and U.S. intervention—corruption by his mother purportedly funneling funds, you know, from Venezuela’s oil company into this new party and, on the other hand, funding from the NED, from USAID, from U.S. government institutions, to so-called civil society organizations. Now, after—as Chávez came to power, the traditional parties of Venezuela collapsed, and both the domestic opposition and the U.S. government needed to create some other vehicle through which to oppose the Chávez government, and this party that Leopoldo López came to power through is one of those—is one of those vehicles. So this is really where he’s coming from.

In this moment, though, even his former compatriot from that party, Henrique Capriles, who was the unified presidential candidate for the opposition in April, has realized that the line of taking street action in an attempt to oust a democratic government is simply not going to work. And Leopoldo López, as well as other far-right leaders like María Corina Machado and Antonio Ledezma have really gone all-in with this attempt to oust the government.

AMY GOODMAN: So, shortly after Leopoldo López’s arrest, his opposition Popular Will party released a video of him speaking that was apparently filmed before he surrendered to Venezuelan government troops. This is part of what López said.

LEOPOLDO LÓPEZ: [translated] I would like to tell all Venezuelans that I do not regret what we have done thus far, like the call we put out for the protests, which is what we’ve been doing for some time. But on the 12th of February, on the Day of Youth, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Venezuela, not only in Caracas like in the past, but in all of Venezuela, in the cities and in the towns. There were 10 or 50 or a thousand or 10,000 or even 70,000, but the people came out. The people woke up. Venezuela today, more than ever, needs you, who are watching this, and that each one of us takes on the commitment to want change. But that commitment cannot be passive. That commitment has to be active.

AMY GOODMAN: So that’s Leopoldo López. Also, President Maduro has thrown out three consular officials, U.S. consular officials, saying they’re involved with supporting the opposition. Can you talk about this, George Ciccariello-Maher?

GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER: Sure. Well, the Obama government continues to fund this opposition even more openly than did the Bush—than did the Bush regime. If you look at the budget there, you know, Obama specifically requested funding for these Venezuelan opposition groups despite—you know, despite anti-democratic activity in the past, despite the fact that López and others were involved in signatories of the coup in 2002 and engaged in violent actions that they were brought up on charges for in 2002. And so, for López to come now and to claim that he’s an actor for democracy in the streets is really quite—you know, quite laughable. But what he is trying to do is to really seize control of this opposition away from the more moderate elements.

And there’s an interesting question here, namely the fact that the Venezuelan government, if we listen to the words of Leopoldo López’s wife, her recent statements—the Venezuelan government acted to protect the life of López, who was under certain threats, you know, threats to his life. And the Venezuelan government, if we look at the way that López was arrested, was very generous, and indeed much more generous than López has been in the past, during the coup, for example, when he led these sort of witch hunts for Chavista ministers who were brought out and beaten publicly on the way to being arrested. And you may wonder—López was allowed to speak the other day when he was arrested for several minutes on a megaphone by those—by the troops who were arresting him. And you may ask why—you know, why is the Maduro government being, in many ways, so gentle with this leader? And the reality is, they may prefer him as the leader of the opposition because he’s someone that simply can’t be elected president in Venezuela, because he really does represent that upper, upper crust of Venezuelan elites.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, the pictures that we’re getting in the commercial media here in the United States is of a Venezuela that is spiraling out of control with rising crime, with scarcities of food, with high inflation. What is your assessment of the actual situation in the country right now?

GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER: To be perfectly clear, food scarcity has been a problem, and insecurity is a massive problem in Venezuela. And both of these are really deep and intractable problems that have—you know, that have some relationship to government, government failures to confront them in certain ways, but also to the action of various other actors. In the case of crime, the infiltration of mafias has been a powerful force in recent years. And in the case of scarcity, the role of private capitalists in withholding and hoarding goods, as well as currency speculation, has been a massively destructive force that really echoes the kind of Chile scenario of helping to destroy an economy as a preparation for the government being overthrown.

But the reality is, these do not—these two factors, which the students are claiming are driving these protests, are really—they don’t explain why these protests are emerging now. Why? Because crime is actually going down, as we speak, and because food scarcity is not nearly as bad as it was earlier in the year. Rather, what explains what’s going on now is that this is the moment in which—after December elections, in which the opposition fared very poorly, this is the moment in which the right wing of that opposition has said, “Enough. You know, once again, enough. We’re done with elections. We’re going to go to the streets, and we’re going to try to topple this government.”

But, you know, in the meantime, the Venezuelan revolutionary movements, the popular organizations, that are, after all, the foundation of this government, this is never—this was never about Chávez, the individual. It is not about Maduro, the individual today. But it’s instead about millions and millions of Venezuelans who are building a better democracy, a deeper and more direct democracy, who are building social movements and organizations and workers’ councils and student councils and peasant councils, and as well as local communes. These people are continuing to struggle and are continuing to build. And while they’re certainly coming out to defend the Maduro government, they’re sort of focused on a much broader horizon. And this distraction, that’s largely confined to the wealthiest areas of Caracas, the sort of Beverly Hills of Caracas, is not going to sort of push them away from that task.

AMY GOODMAN: And the U.S. role?

GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER: The U.S. continues to fund this opposition. I think we’ll probably find out afterward, as we usually do, to what degree the U.S.’s hand has been actually involved in these processes. But the reality is this is a—this is a miscalculation by the opposition. I think it’s doubtful that the United States has told the opposition to take this tack, because it’s not a very strategic tack. But, you know, we know that this is an opposition that’s been in direct contact with the embassy, that it receives funding from the United States government. And so, this is—against the broad backdrop of U.S. intervention and the funding of the Venezuelan opposition, this is the action of an autonomous Venezuelan opposition that is going to, once again, it looks like, tear itself apart.

AMY GOODMAN: George Ciccariello-Maher, we want to thank you for being with us, author of We Created Chávez: A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution, teaches political science at Drexel University in Philadelphia. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute, going to the border, Tucson, to talk about the latest killing of a person on the border by border control agents. Stay with us.

 

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The Case Against Privatization

Just worth reading, but confirms what I’ve observed and it makes logical sense as well. The most egregious example has been the crooked private prison industry, but the for-profit colleges have also shown to be generally of less quality and more expensive. Some even worse than the ubiquitous (iniquitous) University of Phoenix.

Published on Alternet (http://www.alternet.org)

 By David Morris [2]

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February 14, 2014  |  

Minneapolis will soon vote to shift nearly 180 privately owned bus shelters to public ownership following numerous complaints about the lack of maintenance and upkeep. When it does it will join the burgeoning ranks of cities that have discovered when it comes to public services, government knows best.

In the post-Ronald Reagan era, Americans take as indisputable that the private sector is more nimble and more innovative and the profit motive commands efficiency. But a mountain of evidence points in the other direction. The government is highly competitive. Indeed, privatized services often come at a higher price and lower quality.

The examples are legion. Medicare boasts a tiny overhead cost compared to that of private insurance companies. Federal unsubsidized student loans are cheaper and more flexible than private bank student loans. Private contractors cost Washington almost twice as much as federal employees for the same tasks. 

Evidence of government excellence is equally abundant at the state and local level. In a growing number of jurisdictions governments are reassessing the value of privatizing services.

In the Public Interest reports that in 2010 the Hernando County, Fla., sheriff’s office took over management of its jail from the Corrections Corporation of America after the CCA failed to adequately maintain the facility and engaged in practices that compromised safety and increased the chance of escapes and incidents of violence. The sheriff increased annual salaries of corrections officers by more than $7,000 to attract the highly qualified, significantly improved the quality of the facility and saved $1 million the first year of public operation to boot.

In 2011, Tulsa mayor Dewey Bartlett considered outsourcing many city services, including the maintenance of fleets, facilities and streets but had the good sense to open the bidding process to public workers. The public proposal was chosen over local and national firms for its significant taxpayer savings.

In 2012, San Diego sought to sell its landfill to a private corporation. Several companies submitted bids. Once again the city had the foresight to allow public service workers to submit a bid. The review board concluded the city would save money and get better service by keeping the operation of the landfill in-house.

In 2012, Illinois awarded the Maximus one of country’s largest private social service providers a $77 million contract to review Medicaid eligibility. A 2013 independent investigation found errors in almost 50 percent of the cases. Illinois terminated the $77 million contract last December. One analysis found state employees would save Illinois more than $18 million annually while replacing unqualified call center hires with trained caseworkers.

Every year, the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s eight districts solicit bids from private contractors as well as MnDOT’s own striping division to paint lane stripes on every highway in Minnesota. Without fail, MnDOT’s public striping crew beats the private competitors by a large margin.

Outsourcing not only tends to cost more and provide lower quality services; it also has unquantifiable but very real other costs. After Minneapolis outsourced its information management system to Unisys about 10 years ago it found it had lost much needed in-house expertise, including the ability to properly oversee the Unisys contract.

Last fall the Jonesboro Sun asked the CEO of Tiger Correctional Services, a company that contracts for jail commissary services with the Craighead County Arkansas Sheriff’s Department for financial information that was public when the services were operated by that department. Tiger’s attorneys asserted that because it is a private company none of the company’s records were subject to public open records laws.

With regard to private military contractors, Major Kevin P. Stiens and Lt. Col. (Ret.) Susan L. Turley observed that, “Not only did the cost savings fail to materialize, outsourcing caused other tangible losses. The government lost personnel experience and continuity, along with operational control, by moving to contractors.” Air Force Colonel Steven Zamperelli added, “Private employees have distinctly different motivations, responsibilities and loyalties than those in the public military.”

One city shifting 180 bus shelters back into public hands is a minor development with a one-day news life. But it reflects a much larger story—that increasingly, governments are reevaluating the efficacy of privatizing public services.

Volkswagen in Tennessee

Some of you may be surprised and troubled about the loss of unionization even though Volkswagen supported it. And that is troubling. But it is another example of Rethuglican manipulation of the political system.

Thom Hartman, on his blog, exposes the little reported facts. You can read it by clicking the headline below.

Lawmakers Intimidate VW Workers.

Lawmakers Intimidate VW Workers.

Submitted by Thom Hartmann A… on 17. February 2014 – 8:55

It’s illegal for an employer to intimidate workers trying to form a union, but apparently it’s just fine when a lawmaker does it.  On Friday, workers at a Volkswagen Plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee voted against joining the United Auto Workers union.  However, that vote may have turned out differently if workers weren’t pressured by Republican Governor Bill Haslam and Senator Bob Corker.  

In the days leading up to that vote, Governor Haslam warned that he would take away Volkswagen’s state tax incentives if workers unionized, and Senator Corker claimed that a “no” vote would lead to the production of a new SUV at that plant.  Volkswagen flatly denied Corker’s claim, and expressed their support for the workers, but that wasn’t enough to relieve the fear created by these powerful Republicans.  

The UAW issued a statement saying, “We’re outraged by politicians and outside special interest groups interfering with the basic legal right of workers to form a union.”  And, they may ask the National Labor Relations Board to overturn Friday’s vote.  For decades, we’ve seen corporations fight to block workers from organizing, but these extreme anti-worker tactics are a new low for politicians.  

Hopefully, the NLRB will overturn this vote, and give workers a chance to make their decision without intense pressure and lies from those in public office.  Either way, it’s clear who Governor Haslam and Senator Corker really work for, and every voter should remember that during the next election. 

- See more at: http://www.thomhartmann.com/blog/2014/02/lawmakers-intimidate-vw-workers#sthash.Cf5AHNxf.dpuf

No Sex for Conservative

Of course it is called The Liberal Democratic party, but the conservative party in Japan is not really either. Despite Fukushima, they support more dependence on dirty nuclear energy, reinstituting a robust military, destroying unions and workers rights, and the tradition of full employment which has brought prosperity to Japan.

This article was found in Huffington Post.

In Japan, Women Launch Sex Strike To Protest Yoichi Masuzoe, Tokyo Governor Candidate

Posted: 02/06/2014 5:19 pm EST Updated: 02/06/2014 5:59 pm EST
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In Japan, a group of women have announced a sex strike against anyone who votes for the leading candidate in Sunday’s election for governor of Tokyo.

The boycott was launched after a series of misogynistic comments attributed to the gubernatorial front runner, Yoichi Masuzoe, came to light last week.

A former health minister, Masuzoe is the ruling party’s candidate and leads most polls on who will win this weekend’s election.

But a movement against the candidate, called the No Masuzoe campaign, was launched when an opposition politician’s blog quoted him as saying women are not equipped for national politics because of their strange behavior during the menstrual cycle. The blog cites a 1989 article for the diatribe against female leadership.

The campaign against Masuzoe includes a petition and poster campaign arguing Masuzoe is not fit for public office.

Masuzoe’s relationship with women has been scrutinized by the Japanese press before, including a court battle over child support payments. One of his ex-wives even tried to stand against Masuzoe for the party’s gubernatorial nomination, but he eventually won the president’s endorsement.

The latest scandal just adds to an already tumultuous voting process — this election was called when the previous governor, Naoki Inose, resigned in December after admitting to accepting money from a hospital chain under investigation for vote buying.

Yet at the heart of Sunday’s election is a battle over the future of nuclear power in Japan, after the Fukushima nuclear disaster of March 2011.

Masuzoe’s Liberal Democrat party is largely pro-nuclear, whereas his main opponent, Morihiro Hosokawa, is fiercely opposed to nuclear power. Mizuho Fukushima, the politician whose blog post on Masuzoe prompted the sex strike, is also opposed to nuclear power.

Fast Internet for All

There are many reasons that fast–really fast–internet would contribute to the well-being, economics and future of this country. At least as a minimum, it would let us catch up to many other countries, where multi-megabit speeds are the norm and prices cheaper than ours are also.

 By The Thom Hartmann Show

February 4, 2014  |  

It’s time for high-speed internet access for all!

This morning, President Obama spoke to a crowd at a middle school in Adelphi, Maryland about the importance of high-speed internet access for America’s students.

But while high-speed internet access may still seem out-of-reach for many Americans, down in Chattanooga, Tennessee it’s been a reality for a long time.

That’s because Chattanooga is home to “The Gig,” a taxpayer-owned, high-speed fiber-optic network.

According to The New York Times [3], back in 2009, Chattanooga received a $111 million stimulus grant from the federal government, which allowed that city to get “The Gig” up and running.

Maintained and operated by Chattanooga’s publicly-owned utility company EPB, “The Gig” allows Chattanooga’s residents to surf the web at lightning-fast speeds.

For less than $70 per month, residents browse the World Wide Web on a high-speed fiber-optic connection that shoots data back and forth at one gigabit per second – that’s 1000 megabytes per second. Where I live in Washington, D.C., you have to pay a lot just to get a 20 megabit-per-second connection.

As The New York Times points out, one gigabit-per-second is 50 times faster than the average internet speed for homes in the rest of the US, and is just as fast as internet service in Hong Kong, which has the fastest internet on the planet.

Someone in Chattanooga can download a full-length movie in high-definition in under 35 seconds.

In the rest of the country, downloading that movie would take around 25 minutes.

But “The Gig” isn’t just good for downloading movies and shopping online. It’s good for business too.

Chattanooga officials say that “The Gig” has helped to create at least 1,000 jobs over the past three years.

And, internet-based businesses are moving to Chattanooga from high-profile cities like New York and San Francisco because of the lightning-fast internet speeds.

In the years since “The Gig” went live, other cities across the country have jumped on the publicly-owned internet bandwagon.

Lafayette, Louisiana and Bristol, Virginia also have rolled out publicly-owned high-speed networks.

So why are more and more cities copying the Chattanooga model, and putting control over the internet in the hands of the people?

Because they realize that the internet has become a natural monopoly in our country, just like water and electricity, and therefore should be in the hands of We The People, rather than in the hands of a for-profit corporation that just wants to squeeze money out of its users.

Today, Americans are paying hundreds of dollars to internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon, for so-called “high-speed” internet access that’s slower than much of the developed world.

In fact, the United States isn’t even in the top 25 [4] when it comes to internet speeds. We come in at 31, behind countries like Bulgaria, Estonia, and Romania.

Chattanooga has realized that natural monopolies like the internet function best when they’re run by We the People for the benefit of the people, rather than by a big corporation for the benefit of profits and stock-holders.

Somebody needs to tell the rest of America.

Lightning-fast internet speeds shouldn’t just be in Chattanooga, Tennessee; they should be everywhere in this country, urban and rural.

The internet was developed by universities and the military and brought into being by an act of Congress. It was never meant to be controlled by giant corporations.

It should be a public utility, run by and for We the People, not just another profit line on a giant corporate balance sheet.

Free the internet from corporate control!

Single Mother Budget

This is from Huffington Post. I live in an apartment complex with many single mothers–in fact two of my three next-door neighbors are single mothers. (The third neighbor is an elderly disabled woman.)

 
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Single mothers comprise more than just teen moms and those women whose children’s fathers chose not to be involved. Single mothers can also be widows, divorcees, single women by choice, and single women whose children’s fathers are unable to contribute or unknown. Single women face exceptional challenges, especially when we aren’t receiving support financially or emotionally from the father of our children. Public assistance through the form of WIC, food stamps, Medicare and TANF, not only helps us make ends meet, but also give us added means to allow us to save a small amount of money, and provide ourselves a safety net should an emergency arise. There has been a lot of talk about entitlements lately. As a single mother, I have never felt “entitled” to the few benefits that I receive. I have only felt grateful.

But to help shed some light on exactly what it would take for a single mother with a single infant and an hourly job to make ends meet without entitlements, I have composed this sample budget. It accounts for the things that many people expect lower income families to maintain, and maintain without the benefit of public assistance. This budget doesn’t account for saving for college for our children, saving for retirement, or saving for much of anything at all. The list accounts for the bare minimum that all parents and children should or are expected to have access to.

The budget is as follows:

Rent for a one bedroom: $500 (Rent gets more expensive as the rooms go up in number, and more expensive depending on where you live.)

Child care: $400 a month. This is a bare minimum, for somebody who works a normal 9-5 job (I don’t; my hours are long and tend to run late into the evening) and often times it’s more expensive for an infant. Most licensed child care facilities cost upwards of $125 a week. I forwent licensing in favor of affordability.

Electric utilities for a one bedroom home: $85/mo. This is assuming you are a single mother with one young child and can share your room. Hopefully you are also fortunate enough to not have to pay a water bill, or trash bill. My electric bill for a one bedroom apartment last month was upwards of $150, and my thermostat was set at 68 degrees all month.

Cell phone: $75. Landlines are not a viable option in this day and age. You have emergencies away from home, especially with a child, and you need a cell phone. If you are job searching, it is helpful to be able to answer your phone when a prospective employer calls. People survive without these, but it’s difficult. At the absolute bare minimum, $25 a month for a landline.

Health insurance: $300 on the cheap end for one adult and a child. (I am fortunate enough to have my health insurance paid through my employer, and my daughter’s paid through the state, but many people aren’t so fortunate.)

Vehicle: $150 a month on the cheap end. If you’re lucky, you’ve bought a cheap one and paid cash, so you don’t have this monthly payment. Some people are also fortunate enough to live downtown and be able to rely on the bus route, but generally speaking, everybody should own a reliable form of transportation. Unless you live in a big city, buses often do not operate on holidays, or late at night, and in many cities are very limited as to where they travel. I knew one woman who had to leave at 6 a.m. to take the bus to drop her child off at daycare, then be at work by 9 a.m. That’s a three-hour commute, to a job 15 miles away.

Vehicle insurance: $60 a month, for a good driver.

Fuel: $200 a month (assuming $50 a week for a four-week month). I only work five miles from home, but none of my friends or family live nearby, nor are there any quality affordable grocery stores nearby, so there are times I go over this budget.

Basic groceries: Includes healthy meals, toilet paper, soap, medicines, basic odds and ends. I spend around $300 a month, and I’m pretty careful with what I buy (I shop at discount stores like Aldis), though I’m trying to be even more frugal by cutting back on treats like coffee and ice cream. Also included in this is clothing/toys, etc. for you and your child (bought at the Goodwill, because “basic necessities” dictates that these things don’t have to be new).

Infant’s groceries: Diapers run about $35 ($16 and some change every two weeks for a box of the store brand diapers. And that’s for the weeks the baby doesn’t have diarrhea or diaper rash and can go more than an hour without a diaper change.) Plus any diaper rash cream, jarred baby food, or other baby necessities you may need.

Formula: $120. Most low-income single women qualify for WIC, which provides formula. I wasn’t able to breast feed, and formula costs about $30 a week for two cans on the cheap end (one can a week for home, one can a week for daycare), and that’s only if your kid doesn’t eat like a hog like mine does.

Internet: $60. This isn’t technically a necessity, and it requires a computer to use, which is another thing that is often just beyond many parents’ budgets. Many women I know do without and go to the library or a friend’s home to utilize their computer and Internet. But I still feel it is something everybody should have access to in their home, especially for single mothers who likely don’t get out much, to feel connected to the world and their community. But if you don’t feel this is important, feel free to trim the $60 off this budget.

TOTAL: $2,285

Considering the average single mother makes around $10 an hour, or $400 a week/$1,600 a month, pre-tax, that’s pretty much impossible. Factor in hourly wages lost due to a child’s illness, or lack of child care, and they’ve lost their ability to make paycheck-to-paycheck work. Not all single mothers make $10 an hour. Not all single mothers only have one child to provide for. Add up the statistics, and the prospects look pretty austere.

Now, I am fortunate. A cherished family friend donated a car to me while I was pregnant, when my old car tanked, so I don’t have a car payment. My health insurance is free, but it is a high-deductible account, with a $2,500 deductible, which is almost as useless as being without. I had a trip to urgent care a few weeks ago for severe chest pains. It cost me over $300, which I won’t be able to pay off until I get my tax return). I’m fortunate that I qualified for Medicaid during pregnancy, because there is no way I would have been able to afford $5,000 ($2,500 towards the deductible for each year, because I was pregnant between 2012-2013) while also saving up for my unpaid maternity leave. My daughter qualifies for state health care as well, for her first year of life, so I don’t have that expense. Yet. My daughter’s formula is (mostly) paid for through WIC, though our formula options were limited, so we had to suffer through a couple weeks while her body learned to tolerate Gentlease, after switching from Similac’s gentle formula. Breastfeeding would have also been a better option, but one that was unsustainable for me due to the demands of my work schedule. It breaks my heart that I wasn’t able to stay home longer than eight weeks so I could have breast fed my daughter for a longer period of time.

I use an at home child care provider, who (fortunately for me) is very VERY cheap at only $375. This is the cheapest I could find, and I luckily adore the woman who cares for my daughter. She is wonderful. I am so grateful for her. When times get tough, when my car breaks down, when I don’t have enough money left for rent, I have a supportive family that is able to assist me, both emotionally and financially. But there have been times I’ve been too ashamed to turn to them for money, so I’ve used payday loans, or missed payments instead.

I do not qualify for food stamps or child care assistance. I miss the cut-off by only a couple hundred dollars. Fortunately I’m able to make ends meet without them. I have a very low rent one-bedroom apartment. I share my bedroom with my daughter, which works well for now. I worry what will happen when she gets older and needs her own bedroom. I also live in a city I would rather not reside in. It’s a relatively safe area, for which I’m grateful, but it’s far away from my close friends and my favorite parts of the larger metro area which offers free museums, beautiful parks to walk and exercise in, and additional support for single mothers like myself. My car has only been broken into once since I moved here. It could be worse.

I also have some 55k in student loans I have to repay. Without the income-based repayment plan that I qualify for, I would be paying over $700 in loans each month, which is absolutely not feasible. My dream is to someday work a salaried job where I will be able to make these payments on a standard repayment plan, but that dream seems so far off. Despite multiple internships where I gained an impressive network of contacts in my field, plenty of hands-on experience, and decent grades, college has turned out to be a poor investment.

Without the little public assistance we receive I would have a difficult time making ends meet. I work a job that I enjoy, in public service helping child victims of domestic violence, but the wages are low, even for somebody like me with a college degree. Still, I know and work with women who live on much less than I make. They take the bus, they use government phones, they feed multiple children on $300 worth of food stamps each month, and the state pays for their children’s care while they work dead end jobs or go to school. They struggle to make ends meet like I do. We struggle between being a whole and present family for our children, and being a sole bread winner. We can’t pick up the tab when we go out with friends, and we can’t drop $200 on designer jeans or a new purse, though sometimes we receive them as gifts. These gifts are appreciated, but I’ve had to turn around and sell a beautiful Coach purse I received from a close friend as a gift in order to make ends meet one month. Our kids wear second hand clothes, and store brand diapers, and we shop at Walmart, instead of Babies R Us. We follow extreme couponing blogs, and know which store has the cheapest produce, and which pharmacy has the cheapest prescriptions.

And still, we struggle. But we are mothers. We recognize that our struggle extends beyond us into two parent households. We know we are not alone, even though we aren’t paired up and don’t necessarily have the additional support that some women are blessed with. It’s a bittersweet comfort knowing we’re struggling the same as families with two incomes and twice as many mouths to feed. We daydream about being stay-at-home wives and mothers with time to exercise and cook full meals and play with our children and maybe even take a bubble bath. We find cheap sources of entertainment, through a $5 bottle of wine shared with a visiting friend, or a good book, or wasting an hour on Pinterest after the baby has gone to sleep. We show up. We shower our children with all the love we have to give. And we get by.

There has been a lot of criticism lately of entitlement programs, and public assistance programs, and drug testing of welfare recipients. People like to think that poor and working class people really don’t need all the help we get, or that we squander what we have on petty things that people without public assistance can’t afford. I won’t deny that this occurs, but when it does it’s the exception, not the rule. We know that society expects us to work two jobs and go to school and do everything we possibly can to better our situation, but it’s never so easy as “just work harder.” Most of us are already maxed out physically and emotionally. Some of us don’t have the internal dialogue that says we’re capable of doing better, or that we deserve better. Some of us take Celexa and Xanax just to be able to breathe through the opening the bills and face what so often feels like a bleak future. Some of us drink wine or smoke blunts. We try not to focus on how much better things could be, because we’ve all had our hopes dashed before. We instead focus on how thankful we are that our situation is what it is. And we cling to the notion that it could always be worse.

Pete Seeger Passes at 94

Pete Seeger was an icon. He was a symbol of the face of humanity. I first heard his music in the days of the Civil Rights marches in the 1960s and then throughout the struggle to get out of Vietnam. But he was not so much anti-war or anti-anything as he was pro-human, pro-peace, pro-justice, pro-joy, pro-love.

This came from the AP by way of Huffington Post.

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Pete Seeger Dead: Famed Folk Singer, Songwriter And Political Activist Dies At 94

By MICHAEL HILL 01/28/14 02:05 AM ET EST AP

Pete Seeger

NEW YORK (AP) — Pete Seeger, the banjo-picking troubadour who sang for migrant workers, college students and star-struck presidents in a career that introduced generations of Americans to their folk music heritage, died on Monday at the age of 94.

Seeger’s grandson, Kitama Cahill-Jackson said his grandfather died at New York Presbyterian Hospital, where he’d been for six days. “He was chopping wood 10 days ago,” he said.

Seeger — with his a lanky frame, banjo and full white beard — was an iconic figure in folk music. He performed with the great minstrel Woody Guthrie in his younger days and marched with Occupy Wall Street protesters in his 90s, leaning on two canes. He wrote or co-wrote “If I Had a Hammer,” ”Turn, Turn, Turn,” ”Where Have All the Flowers Gone” and “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine.” He lent his voice against Hitler and nuclear power. A cheerful warrior, he typically delivered his broadsides with an affable air and his banjo strapped on.

“Be wary of great leaders,” he told The Associated Press two days after a 2011 Manhattan Occupy march. “Hope that there are many, many small leaders.”

With The Weavers, a quartet organized in 1948, Seeger helped set the stage for a national folk revival. The group — Seeger, Lee Hays, Ronnie Gilbert and Fred Hellerman — churned out hit recordings of “Goodnight Irene,” ”Tzena, Tzena” and “On Top of Old Smokey.”

Seeger also was credited with popularizing “We Shall Overcome,” which he printed in his publication “People’s Song,” in 1948. He later said his only contribution to the anthem of the civil rights movement was changing the second word from “will” to “shall,” which he said “opens up the mouth better.”

“Every kid who ever sat around a campfire singing an old song is indebted in some way to Pete Seeger,” Arlo Guthrie once said.

His musical career was always braided tightly with his political activism, in which he advocated for causes ranging from civil rights to the cleanup of his beloved Hudson River. Seeger said he left the Communist Party around 1950 and later renounced it. But the association dogged him for years.

He was kept off commercial television for more than a decade after tangling with the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955. Repeatedly pressed by the committee to reveal whether he had sung for Communists, Seeger responded sharply: “I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent this implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, or I might be a vegetarian, make me any less of an American.”

He was charged with contempt of Congress, but the sentence was overturned on appeal.

Seeger called the 1950s, years when he was denied broadcast exposure, the high point of his career. He was on the road touring college campuses, spreading the music he, Guthrie, Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter and others had created or preserved.

“The most important job I did was go from college to college to college to college, one after the other, usually small ones,” he told The Associated Press in 2006. ” … And I showed the kids there’s a lot of great music in this country they never played on the radio.”

His scheduled return to commercial network television on the highly rated Smothers Brothers variety show in 1967 was hailed as a nail in the coffin of the blacklist. But CBS cut out his Vietnam protest song, “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy,” and Seeger accused the network of censorship.

He finally got to sing it five months later in a stirring return appearance, although one station, in Detroit, cut the song’s last stanza: “Now every time I read the papers/That old feelin’ comes on/We’re waist deep in the Big Muddy/And the big fool says to push on.”

Seeger’s output included dozens of albums and single records for adults and children.

He also was the author or co-author of “American Favorite Ballads,” ”The Bells of Rhymney,” ”How to Play the Five-String Banjo,” ”Henscratches and Flyspecks,” ”The Incompleat Folksinger,” ”The Foolish Frog” and “Abiyoyo,” ”Carry It On,” ”Everybody Says Freedom” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.”

He appeared in the movies “To Hear My Banjo Play” in 1946 and “Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon” in 1970. A reunion concert of the original Weavers in 1980 was filmed as a documentary titled “Wasn’t That a Time.”

By the 1990s, no longer a party member but still styling himself a communist with a small C, Seeger was heaped with national honors.

Official Washington sang along — the audience must sing, was the rule at a Seeger concert — when it lionized him at the Kennedy Center in 1994. President Clinton hailed him as “an inconvenient artist who dared to sing things as he saw them.”

Seeger was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 as an early influence. Ten years later, Bruce Springsteen honored him with “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions,” a rollicking reinterpretation of songs sung by Seeger. While pleased with the album, Seeger said he wished it was “more serious.” A 2009 concert at Madison Square Garden to mark Seeger’s 90th birthday featured Springsteen, Dave Matthews, Eddie Vedder and Emmylou Harris among the performers.

Seeger was a 2014 Grammy Awards nominee in the Best Spoken Word category, which was won by Stephen Colbert.

Seeger’s sometimes ambivalent relationship with rock was most famously on display when Dylan “went electric” at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.

Witnesses say Seeger became furious backstage as the amped-up band played, though just how furious is debated. Seeger dismissed the legendary tale that he looked for an ax to cut Dylan’s sound cable, and said his objection was not to the type of music but only that the guitar mix was so loud you couldn’t hear Dylan’s words.

Seeger maintained his reedy 6-foot-2 frame into old age, though he wore a hearing aid and conceded that his voice was pretty much shot. He relied on his audiences to make up for his diminished voice, feeding his listeners the lines and letting them sing out.

“I can’t sing much,” he said. “I used to sing high and low. Now I have a growl somewhere in between.”

Nonetheless, in 1997 he won a Grammy for best traditional folk album, “Pete.”

Seeger was born in New York City on May 3, 1919, into an artistic family whose roots traced to religious dissenters of colonial America. His mother, Constance, played violin and taught; his father, Charles, a musicologist, was a consultant to the Resettlement Administration, which gave artists work during the Depression. His uncle Alan Seeger, the poet, wrote “I Have a Rendezvous With Death.”

Pete Seeger said he fell in love with folk music when he was 16, at a music festival in North Carolina in 1935. His half brother, Mike Seeger, and half sister, Peggy Seeger, also became noted performers.

He learned the five-string banjo, an instrument he rescued from obscurity and played the rest of his life in a long-necked version of his own design. On the skin of Seeger’s banjo was the phrase, “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender” — a nod to his old pal Guthrie, who emblazoned his guitar with “This machine kills fascists.”

Dropping out of Harvard in 1938 after two years as a disillusioned sociology major, he hit the road, picking up folk tunes as he hitchhiked or hopped freights.

“The sociology professor said, ‘Don’t think that you can change the world. The only thing you can do is study it,’” Seeger said in October 2011.

In 1940, with Guthrie and others, he was part of the Almanac Singers and performed benefits for disaster relief and other causes.

He and Guthrie also toured migrant camps and union halls. He sang on overseas radio broadcasts for the Office of War Information early in World War II. In the Army, he spent 3½ years in Special Services, entertaining soldiers in the South Pacific, and made corporal.

Pete and Toshi Seeger were married July 20, 1943. The couple built their cabin in Beacon after World War II and stayed on the high spot of land by the Hudson River for the rest of their lives together. The couple raised three children. Toshi Seeger died in July at age 91.

The Hudson River was a particular concern of Seeger. He took the sloop Clearwater, built by volunteers in 1969, up and down the Hudson, singing to raise money to clean the water and fight polluters.

He also offered his voice in opposition to racism and the death penalty. He got himself jailed for five days for blocking traffic in Albany in 1988 in support of Tawana Brawley, a black teenager whose claim of having been raped by white men was later discredited. He continued to take part in peace protests during the war in Iraq, and he continued to lend his name to causes.

“Can’t prove a damn thing, but I look upon myself as old grandpa,” Seeger told the AP in 2008 when asked to reflect on his legacy. “There’s not dozens of people now doing what I try to do, not hundreds, but literally thousands. … The idea of using music to try to get the world together is now all over the place.”_

Associated Press writer John Rogers in Los Angeles and Mary Esch in Saratoga Springs in contributed to this report.

 
 
 
 
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