Fires and Floods and Knockout Games? Happy Thanksgiving!

colorado flooding

Colorado Flooding

We got a triple sucker-punch from Mother Nature’s own “knockout game” in Colorado:  a double dose of Dante’s Inferno with the Waldo Canyon fire  and the Black Forest fire , and then Apocalyptic Floods the likes of which have never been seen, aptly called the “Thousand Year Flood.”  Roads, towns, homes, livestock, property, pets, and people lost.    This year we’ve been deluged with images ranging from charred, black foundations where life-long homes once stood, to flooded pastures strewn with drowned cows.

waldo-canyon-wildfire-2

Waldo Canyon Wildfire

It’s not just the catastrophic Colorado weather, though.  Eventually almost everyone will experience catastrophic illnesses, catastrophic episodes, catastrophic losses.  Yet here we are at the Thanksgiving Day weekend.

For those of us who woke up today with our homes and lives intact, we have much to be thankful for.  For those in the midst of catastrophes, not so much.  For them, it’s perfectly sane to ask, “Why me?”

No one has the answer to “Why me?”  But reflecting on things in our life for which to be grateful – even in the midst of calamity – is among the most healthy, life-affirming acts humans can do.  It’s like a vaccine against a putrid evil.  It’s like a miracle fertilizer for growing a spiritual outlook.  Acts of gratitude are what we do because we suffer, almost like taking an antibiotic.

Suffering with gratitude ranks high in God’s mysteries, almost as high as living forever.  It’s part of the ironic Christian calling to regard death and catastrophe as veils to the truth.  Don’t believe what you see.  Don’t.  Christianity asserts that every person is going to live forever, period.  And clearly, that is not what you see.

Here’s the good news about what you may not see in the midst of tragedy:  people who consciously reflect on gratitude show an increase in joy, happiness, and life satisfaction (see Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness).  In scientific psychological terms, this is a measurable phenomenon (and, naturally, there are those who take these data and try to apply them to increasing productivity in the work place, re: Shawn Achor in the Happiness Advantage).

Here’s more good news about this phenomenon.  All you need to do is try it.  Trying it is so much easier than believing deep in your heart that you and your loved ones never die.  So try it.  Try it like you are taking a new antibiotic to fight a chronic infection.

This  new antibiotic  combines with your mind and spirit’s natural defenses to kill those evil intruders.  Do regular doses for two weeks and see if that nasty pus doesn’t start to clear up.  It also has the pleasant side effect of causing unexpected growth in other parts of your psyche.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Why White Girl Need a Gun

If you need another reason to get yourself a concealed weapon permit, pay close attention to the scant media coverage of the “knockout game ”  — sometimes called “polar bear hunting” and “wig-clocking” – spreading throughout the country.  Don’t expect a competition like the Hunger Games.  This game involves groups of young people – mostly black – stalking and randomly attacking defenseless people – women, elderly, guys carrying packages and trying to catch the bus, all mostly white, Asian, or Jewish – by punching them without warning as hard as possible in the head or face.

The goal is to knock the person unconscious in a single punch – called a “one-hitter quitter” – while a thug buddy video-records it and posts it to You Tube.  It’s a contest.  A few thugs call themselves “knockout kings.” Some victims have died, some have had severe injuries.

The target is always someone who is defenseless.  Preferably someone who doesn’t even see it coming.  The “knockout kings” don’t want the risk of getting hurt by an unwilling victim.

I watched some deeply disturbing videos, not the worst of which showed a black kid sneaking up behind (yes, behind) a white woman who was walking down a sidewalk, and then the kid, with the full weight of his body, swung his arm and fist into the side of her head.  She never saw it coming, and with the impact she collapsed unconscious to the ground.  The young man trotted away, grinning.

Are these isolated incidents?  No.  Read journalist Colin Flaherty’s recent book, White Girl Bleed A Lot: The Return of Racial Violence to America and How the Media Ignore It.  Flaherty documents the accumulating video evidence of this phenomenon.  Just recently on Fox and ABC news the coverage is beginning to seep out.

This much is clear:  the perpetrators are stupid, violent, and thus dangerous. It’s like being attacked by a pack of rabid stray dogs.  According to Flaherty, these predators laugh at the victims, and say “It’s not our fault you can’t fight.” So in the absence of Katniss and her bow to defend the streets, if white girl is gonna bleed a lot, white girl need a gun.

She needs to  practice a lot on the shooting range, practice until she can tack six rounds through the center through the same hole.  She needs to relish the recoil.  It’s her power. She should take an NRA course on tactical shooting.  Problem is that the knockout kings  stalk you, sneak up on you, and then without provocation punch you in the head as hard they can.  And unless you have Katniss, those six metal jackets are the only friends you have.

Don’t feel bad about it.  One mother of a victim called these guys “Foul, cowardly, fatherless pack beasts.  Why God ever stretched a patch of skin over these soulless animals is beyond me.”

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Ariel Castro – Pain Recycled or Original Evil?

In “Inside the mind of Ariel Castro,” (Fox News opinion, May 10, 2013) Dr. Keith Albrow says there is no original evil left in the world, everyone is just recycling pain.

Albrow says Castro endured as a child crushing abuse – physical, emotional, sexual – at the hands of relatives, and the key to understanding him is to understand that his ability to empathize was killed. Thus Castro’s mind creates a house of mirrors, reliving over and over again the abuse, unable to escape the “dehumanized recreation of his own destruction.”

A man who loves his mother cannot brutalize women and violently force abortions. Did Castro deny and suppress at five and at thirteen years year of age  a murderous rage toward his mother, when it was too psychologically threatening, and then as an adult allow that rage to explode out of him at all females?

Dr. Albrow states that Ariel Castro is neither monster nor devil, but a small boy ruined.  But as an adult he failed to fight the darkness within so, in the light of the world, the horrors of his basement chambers are now exposed.

Albrow’s opinion that there is no original evil left in the world is thought-provoking, empathic in itself, and the keystone to his article, albeit somewhat doubtful. Hasn’t it been true that at least since Cain and Abel there have been plenty of criminals with decent parents? Hasn’t it been true through recorded history that everyone is born with innocence, the capacity to reason and yet at the same time the capacity to do evil? Hasn’t this been named “original sin”?

Indeed, while Castro had a small, quiet, inner voice telling him his behavior was monstrous, he didn’t stop. Why not? Come now the slow wheels of justice, finely grinding.

If some monsters are born freshly into the world, or if all monsters are grown of recycled pain, the distinction is important only to the society trying to determine the just disposition of each case. The distinction is meaningless to the brutalized and dead victims.

I close with this memorable truth from Dr. Albrow’s article:

“It is popular to speak of children as resilient. It is a complete and utter myth. Children are exquisitely emotionally sensitive. The seeds of major depression and panic disorder and PTSD and borderline personality disorder and, yes, antisocial (psychopathic) personality disorder are most often sown in childhood and adolescence. And while someone may be born gifted by God with a hardy brain chemistry, with serotonin and norepinephrine and dopamine aplenty, many are not, and are, therefore, even more vulnerable, from birth.”

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/05/10/inside-mind-ariel-castro/#ixzz2SzChVW3G”

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Don’t Say a Word, a Review of Helen Cochran Coffey’s Book About Her Daughter’s Suicide

Anubis, jackal-headed god of mummification and protector of the dead

Death of a loved one by suicide changed the orbit of Helen Cochran Coffey’s life.  That her daughter Heather died in such a way exposed Coffey’s raw frustration with a mental health system  that, according to Coffey, for twenty years misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and mistreated her child.  How could this happen?

Coffey believes that this tragedy was the result of the incompetence of mental health evaluation and treatment, and she wants the system repaired so others do not suffer the same.  So with the support of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill and the Survivors of Suicide, Coffey wrote a book about her daughter’s journey through the dark forests of depression, borderline personality disorder, serious substance dependency and treatment.

Is this book worth reading?  It depends on what you’re looking for.  If you’re looking for definite signposts of mental illness in the early years of life, you won’t find them here.  In fact, the first several chapters describe what seems like a normal childhood lived by a very likeable child up until high school.  They provide a sunny backdrop in stark contrast to the black storms coming.  But it also raises a question about Coffey’s reactions to typically stupid adolescent behaviors, reactions including having Heather arrested at school and subjected to an inpatient emergency psychiatric evaluation.  Heather was “diagnosed” as possessing stupid adolescent behaviors and over-controlling parents, and was released.

By chapter five, though, Heather’s life unglues.  Read this book if you want see how a hard-working, conscientious young woman and mother begins to wobble on her axis and careen into an ugly universe of addiction, depression, divorce, failed treatment efforts, failed liver, job loss, and then ultimately alone  in her garage one cold February morning uses a leather belt to hang herself.

If you are interested recognizing mental illness and getting direction for it, fortunately Coffey’s book doesn’t end with suicide.  In an effort to help others recognize impending mental illness, she includes lists of “symptoms” or behaviors  as possible indicators demonstrated by Heather from her earliest years.  Some of the behaviors listed might unnecessarily alarm.  The fact that Heather kept her room neat, for example, doesn’t give her a compulsive disorder.  Some of the behaviors, however, are concerning and worth reading.

Coffey recounts the numerous treatment facilities Heather attended although this book is not much of an endorsement of those services.  Coffey lists other support groups as well.

Finally, Coffey runs through a series of idealized scenarios questioning the law enforcement system, the legal system, the mental health system, the laws, treatment professionals, treatment facilities, treatment plans, and almost anything peripherally related to mental illness.  The question is, basically, if all of these things were different (perfect?) would Heather’s outcome have been different?  The implication seems to be, “yes, so shame on everyone.”  Her point is advocacy for change.

But whether the outcome would have been different is hard to say.  All the systems, even operating at perfection, depend on scientific knowledge about mental illness, the ability to diagnose it, and having tools to treat it.  Frankly, we just don’t know that much yet.  Heather’s case in particular seemed extremely difficult to name, especially as complicated with depression, substance dependency and life-threatening alcoholism.  Somewhere along the way someone threw in “borderline personality disorder,” too.

Could Heather’s outcome have been different?  We can only hope. This book, if nothing else, is thought-provoking.

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Do people with borderline personality disorder usually go for people much less attractive than them? – Yahoo! Answers

I’ve never thought about this, but I saw the question on Yahoo Answers today and wondered.  I especially wondered if a pick of a “5” or a “6” on the “pretty” scale might have nothing to do with borderline personality disorder?  What do you think? See the full question below:

Do people with borderline personality disorder usually go for people much less attractive than them?

I was dating a guy with BPD and he was very very cute. I am cute, too. I would say he is a 9 and I’m an 8. I used to see all these girls on his FB page, but most of them were like 6s or 5s, so I never worried about them. But I just recently (unfortunately) found out he was seriously talking to some of those girls, which shocked me. I guess looks don’t matter to some people. But I was wondering if this is typical of people with borderline personality disorder. Do they date down in the looks department to try to ensure that their partners don’t leave them when they misbehave? I may have been close to him in the looks department, but I am 5 years older. I’m wondering if he did that for the same reason as he did in dating less attractive girls (i.e. thinking I didn’t have many options at the age of 30, which couldn’t be further from the truth btw lol). Any thoughts on this?

via Do people with borderline personality disorder usually go for people much less attractive than them? – Yahoo! Answers.

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Bipolar Disorder Family History Risk Factor for Recurrent Hypomanic/Manic Episodes in Major Depressive Disorder

Published on October 1, 2012 at 9:15 AM

By Ingrid Grasmo, medwireNews Reporter

A family history of bipolar disorder increases the likelihood of recurrent episodes of hypomania or mania (H/M) in individuals with prior major depressive disorder, suggest findings published in Bipolar Disorders.

The research also shows that these patients have a lower risk for subsequent H/M if the first episode occurred within 8 weeks of initiating an antidepressant or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

Discussing the proposed revisions for DSM-V, Jess Fiedorowicz (University of Iowa, USA) and colleagues say the findings “do not support the predictive validity of treatment-associated mania and also fail to support the proposed relevance of an H/M episode ‘persisting beyond the physiological effect of that treatment.’ “

However, the findings offer some support to practitioners who distinguish treatment-associated hypomania as a distinct disorder on the bipolar spectrum.

This prospective study of 108 patients diagnosed with unipolar major depression at intake found 21 of 60 patients who developed H/M had a family history of bipolar disorder. Indeed, a family history of the mood disorder was associated with a two-fold increased likelihood of repeat episodes of H/M.

The researchers say this is consistent with previous study findings showing that individuals with bipolar disorder and a family history of the condition have more episodes than those without this genetic predisposition.

Twelve patients developed H/M within 8 weeks of starting to take an antidepressant or undergoing ECT, of whom 33% reached the threshold for mania while the remainder had only hypomania. Furthermore, only 27% of the 96 patients with spontaneous episodes met the criteria for mania.

The study also showed that compared with 60% of patients with a spontaneous episode, only 17% with treatment-associated H/M developed a subsequent H/M. Notably, patients with treatment-associated H/M had a significantly later age of onset for mood disorder and were more likely to have been experiencing depressive symptoms in the 8 weeks prior to the index H/M episode.

The authors say it remains unclear whether the findings reflect true differences between a hypothetical population vulnerable to antidepressant-associated H/M and those prone to spontaneous H/M.

They call for a prospective study of mood disorders to resolve nosological issues concerning the position of antidepressant-associated H/M. “Nonetheless, our data suggest that duration of H/M in weeks does not have any predictive validity, nor do specific thresholds of 2 or 4 or more weeks,” add the researchers.

via BD family history risk factor for recurrent episodes in MDD.

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Well, Fatwa You Too, Buddy

Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah issued a fatwa calling on young Muslims in Western countries in particular to carry out the death sentence of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the “Innocence of Muslims” film’s creator and an Egyptian-American Coptic Christian, as well as the film’s actors and all those involved in its making. The film ridicules Mohammed.

You will remember the same kind of thing happened to British-Indian author Salman Rushdie, whose writings were considered blasphemous, and Taslima Nasrin, a Bangladeshi writer who expressed critical views of Islam, particularly regarding the status and treatment of women.

This was no small matter for Rushdie or Nasrin, forcing both into hiding due to death threats over their expressions critical of Islam.

But why make a film?

Egypt had a revolution in Jan 25 2011.  Now Christians have been killed all over Egypt at an alarming frequency.  In the latest massacre of Coptic Christians in front of the Maspiro building, more than 24 were killed and 250 injured. Reports say that video shows the military taking part in this massacre, using armored vehicles to crush Christians.

I’ve read that Islamist leaders justify special fines against Christians for being non-Muslim.  The fact is Christians in Egypt are being persecuted by Islamists, and are being driven out.  Christian churches are disappearing, are virtually gone, being exterminated like vermin.

And no one apologizes for this.

No one issues a fatwa over this.

The President of the United States does not mention this.

So, unknown individuals, including a Coptic Christian, make an awkward, bumbling, 15-minute movie expressing their disdain of Islam, and post it on the internet.

The reaction:  Bring out the Death Squads.  Destroy all of Western Civilization.  Death to America!  The reaction makes me mad as hell.

It makes me made because if someone in Western Civilization issued a “fatwa of death” they would go to prison for conspiracy to commit murder.  They belong in prison.  In this country we call a “fatwa of death” putting out a “hit” on someone.  Mobsters do that.  We don’t tolerate mobsters, we don’t respect mobsters. We put mobsters in prison.  We put them there because they are a threat to humanity and to civilization.  They belong there.

Here’s the point:  Rushdie, Nasrim, and Nasrallah all employed legal, civilized means of personal expression.  Islamic extremist show their disagreement by employing murder and attempted murder, all toward the end of intimidating and killing expression.

Here’s our prayer: Islamist extremists realize sooner than later the world is filled with human minds equipped with videos, cell phones, blogs, tablets, computers, television, books, and every other form of communication that allows their brothers and sisters to say what they think about religious terrorists.

Here’s our fatwa: We hereby issue our own fatwa on intimidation.  Every free person has an obligation to kill the use of intimidation in every form, including religious tyranny, with whatever artistic, legal, literary, or other humanly civilized tool he or she has.

May peace be with you.

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