This may be one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time.

As David Carr points out in the NYT, this kind of parody is usually only seen on Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert. To watch an actual MSNBC show and host mock itself is both refreshing and obviously troubling.

Following the shameful verdict in the Trayvon Martin case in Florida, cable news outlets were filled with angry white men discussing what “we” can do about the “black criminal culture” that is “so obvious” but that “no one will talk about.” Not only does the video parody this kind of knuckle-dragging thinking, it also changes labels and throws Wall Street crime under the same banner as “white” street crime.

That so many people watch cable news shows and assume what they’re hearing is the truth is not surprising. News (and reality, for that matter) has atomized along racial, ideological and political lines. If you’re liberal and Democratic, you go here, if you’re conservative and Republican you go there. If you’re white, you watch this, if you’re black you watch that. You get to hear exactly what you want, confirming every prejudice you already have, without any shred of disagreement in the process.

But are we really that polarized, politically anyway? Worth reading is this latest column (“The Stench From the Potomac”) by Frank Rich. From a meta analysis, he explains why the politics in D.C. isn’t broken or gridlocked or hopelessly dysfunctional. It is in fact, working extraordinarily well and in harmony, just as Mills envisaged 50 years ago under the rubric “the power-elite.”

The larger point being: the appearance of discord keeps the masses distracted. Whites scapegoat blacks, the poor stay at war with the middle class, men are from Mars women are from Venus, ad nauseum.

And while you’re pounding your fists, standing your ground, red-faced with “outrage” at this or that group, the power-elite picks your pocket and laughs all the way to bank.


Cross Posted to The Power Elite (fittingly enough)

California Is Facing Prison Catastrophe:

Just six months after declaring “the prison crisis is over in California,” Gov. Jerry Brown is facing dire predictions about the future of the state’s prison system, one of the largest in the nation.

A widespread inmate hunger strike in protest of California’s policy of solitary confinement was approaching its second week on Sunday. The federal courts have demanded the release of nearly 10,000 inmates and the transfer of 2,600 others who are at risk of contracting a deadly disease in the state’s overcrowded prisons.

State lawmakers have called for an investigation into a new report that nearly 150 women behind bars were coerced into being sterilized over the last decade. And last week, a federal judge ruled that prisoners were not receiving adequate medical care.

And what has been Governor Moonbeam’s response?

Mr. Brown, a Democrat, has aggressively fought several federal court orders in the two years since the United States Supreme Court ruled that conditions and overcrowding in the system amounted to a violation of the Eighth Amendment — cruel and unusual punishment. Since then, federal judges overseeing the case have repeatedly declared that the state was not making changes quickly enough, and that conditions in the prisons remained appalling — that the state had been “deliberately indifferent.”

The judges have twice threatened to hold the governor in contempt if he does not comply with their order to release prisoners. Last week, Mr. Brown appealed to the Supreme Court to stop the order, arguing that the system had already improved drastically and that stopping the release of prisoners was essential for public safety.

Jeffrey Beard, the state corrections commissioner, said that the hunger strike was simply a sign of how powerful the prison gangs are and dismissed the notion that it indicated deeper problems.

Mr. Beard and Governor Brown have repeatedly argued publicly that medical and mental health care in state prisons have greatly improved. They have also maintained that California is being held to an unfair standard on overcrowding because many prisons around the country double-bunk inmates.

If California is being held to a different standard, it’s because California raised the bar to a bat-shit crazier level than any other state during the imprisonment binge of the 90’s. Even Texas, with whom one does not mess, has been more sane and filled with foresight than California.

James W. Marquart, a former Texas prison official who has testified for California in the court cases, said that when Texas faced similar federal lawsuits, it “made the changes and got on with it.”

“Everyone believes that California is the leader, but decades ago Texas just said, ‘To heck with it, we have to do what the court says,’ ” Dr. Marquart said. “It’s layer upon layer of problems that you either have to deal with or you are going to get bled dry on the legal fees to fight it to the death.”

BTW, Marquart is a sociologist and the same James Marquart who identified the stages of unofficial violence in prison, along with other landmark penological publications. He knows what he’s talking about.

But Governor Moonbeam and other state officials remain clueless. Long after the rest of the country has begun moving towards prison and punishment reform, the granolas on the left coast remained mired in the muddy thinking of the lock ’em up 90’s, when talking about punishment reform was enough to get you branded a communist (or a “liberal”…LOL), and releasing inmates was dubbed political suicide.

California is one of five states left who spend more on corrections than they do on higher education. And while California universities and colleges have been financially decimated by the Great Recession, suffering continuous cutbacks by Moonbeam and the rest, the prison system has remained unaffected.

Well, unaffected financially. Those in its death grip are experiencing conditions that the Supreme Court itself has dubbed a “vile” prison system and ruled unconstitutional and a violation of cruel and unusual punishment. And Cali’s officials are apparently willing to keep spending billions on lawsuits and upkeep to defend the whole mess.

I’m reminded of the words from a favorite group of mine, Halloween Alaska, from the song “Hollywood Sign”:

“California knows full well, it’s gonna fall into the sea, that’s why it never acts too serious, never gets too serious.”

And apparently hunger strikes, forced sterilization, madness and triple bunking filth are just all good, bro.

Take Cameras Out of Courtrooms:

As a courtroom junkie since my early reporting days, it is at great personal sacrifice that I suggest the following: It may be time to get television cameras out of the courtroom.

Or at least, judges might be encouraged to exclude electronic media from high-profile trials.

The excessive coverage and commentary we’ve watched in recent years may be good theater but bad for justice. Most recently, we’ve been witness to the carnival trial of George Zimmerman, charged in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin.

I’ve had several inquiries into why I haven’t written more about this story or trial. Don’t I feel it is a good statement about race relations in the 21st century? Don’t I feel like I’m missing this generation’s “O.J. moment” as one student put it? As a criminologist, shouldn’t you be giving insight into this trial or Casey Anthony’s or Amanda Knox’s or (fill in the “trial of the century” dujour)?

Uh, no. Beyond the fact that I don’t make it a habit of commenting on “true crime” stories (they are a dime a dozen and the media is saturated with them on a daily basis), the lurid spectacle that these cases always end in (wall to wall cable television coverage) does nothing to educate the public about the inner workings of the criminal justice system, or justice as a whole.

As Parker notes, they are covered only because they are entertaining. And while she gives the media the proverbial “hey, we’re just giving the public what it wants” excuse (she is a member of said MSM after all), she does admit that ratings and money are the bottom line.

Meanwhile, the notion of the public’s right to know every detail of what is essentially a show trial suffers a paucity of veracity. If our concern were truly to better understand the machinations of the judicial system, as some have argued, we would record and broadcast all trial proceedings rather than only the ones that involve key elements of modern tabloid storytelling, namely sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll — and race.

The Zimmerman trial is riveting not because two men got in a scuffle and one of them died or because one was a teenager and the other an armed adult. It is that one was black, the supposed victim of a profiling vigilante, and the other white.

Voilà: We have a potboiler.

She does, however, ere in the next statement.

Imagine if Martin had been white under the same circumstances. Some might argue that Zimmerman would not have found Martin suspicious had he been white, but we can’t know this. We can debate the point until we’re all blue, but meanwhile, we can be fairly certain that the trial would not have attracted a single camera if not for the race element.

Actually, if the victim had been white, the trial would have been even bigger. And had the assailant been black and the victim white (preferably a blond, white female or child from the middle class) we would have had a tsunami of coverage, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Juice back in the 90’s.

But mostly Parker gets it right.

The point: Media are only interested in stories involving tension, whatever its underpinnings. And, inarguably, the media are providing what people, too, most care about. One Google trends chart “of interest over time” shows that people are more focused on the Zimmerman trial than they are on Egypt or the fate of Mohamed Morsi.

I was surprised to learn (since I don’t watch cable news shows ever) that CNN, MSNBC and Fox News all kept live at the Zimmerman trial when Morsi was overthrown. Well, surprised for just a second. I would have thought something like societal revolution at least merited a break in coverage, but apparently all three stuck with the trial and completely missed his overthrow. So why did they deliberately miss it?

The media didn’t exist when Marx was around, but I would guess he’d feel the same about it as he did about religion. The mass media is the opiate of said masses, drugging and diverting and distracting us from very real social problems and keeping us entertained and in a coma with the trivial. The media are owned, after all, by the capitalist class. Why bother covering something truly “dangerous” like revolution when we can force-feed you the Zimmerman trial, localize racial problems at the individual “bad guy” level, and keep you distracted from the fact that the power-elite keep picking your pockets and screwing you all the way to the bank?

We (being the power-elite) want you to think the “problem” in society is the Zimmerman’s or Martin’s of the world; that those (fill in the blank: “vigilantes,” “thugs,) are the real danger in society. That keeps the spotlight on “those people” and off us. And it keeps you from having a revolution of social change in the meantime.

Game, set, match…the power-elite.

Cross posted to (naturally) The Power Elite

Following the good news from SCOTUS Wednesday, we need to recognize the egregious error they made the day before in Shelby County v. Holder (2013) which invalidated part of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965.

The strangest thing about Roberts’ majority opinion is that he acknowledges not only the success of Section 4 of the VRA (concerning the 6 southern states of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Virginia and parts of North and South Carolina) by noting increased minority voter participation, minority office holders and the like, but he even cites the repeated attempts of the southern states in question to erect barriers and dilute minority access to voting in response to the Act.

And because it’s all been so extraordinary and accomplished what it set out to do (he actually writes: “There is no doubt that these improvements are in large part because of the Voting Rights Act”) that now it’s time to get rid of it.

That’s like saying, “because I plugged the leak 20 years ago and it worked, it’s now time to pull the plug and move on. It’s not 20 years ago, after all.” The logic is as tortured as it is circular.

Worse, he blithely claims that the south just isn’t the same old south that it was once, dismissing outright the dissent’s eloquent list of “second-generation barriers to minority voting” that have come about (and been shot down, thanks to VRA) over the past 50 years.

From Ginsburg’s dissent:

Efforts to reduce the impact of minority votes,in contrast to direct attempts to block access to the ballot, are aptly described as “second-generation barriers” to minority voting. Second-generation barriers come in various forms. One of the blockages is racial gerrymandering…Another is adoption of a system of at-large voting in lieu of district-by-district voting in a city with a sizable black minority…discriminatory annexation by incorporating majority white areas into city limits…”

And so on. Maybe it’s because I live in Georgia, but I can cite very specific examples of each of the above that have played out in just the last few years. We go through it state-wide every ten years because of the Census, and locally, whenever they damn well feel like it. Here in Athens we just went through a very ugly racial gerrymandering of our county commission districts that ended up under DOJ review and in a flood of lawsuits. Now, such remedies won’t be available for review.

The worse thing about the majority’s “reasoning” is the naive and simplistic view they have of race today in the south. There is this head-in-the-sand belief that racial discrimination is a thing of the past (even though Roberts actually says “voting discrimination still exists; no one doubts that”) and that just because blacks and Hispanics vote and hold office today, it’s all good.

If you think that undoing section 4 of the VRA is not going to be taken advantaged of at every turn going forward, you know nothing about the deep south. This is only the beginning of an intense desire which exists in many, many circles to return to the bad old days of the past and keep “them minorities” in their place (see also: the Paula Deen brouhaha and her vociferous defenders).

I always tell my students that you don’t have to drive too far outside of metro Atlanta, or much more than 10 minutes or so from Athens, and you are entering into a different world…a world where time stopped about a hundred years ago. Here’s a quick excerpt from an AJC expose on Greene County, just minutes from Athens, from 2004:

The civil rights movement was gathering force when Dr. William H. Rhodes Jr., the son of a local druggist, returned home in 1962 to open a family medical practice. The new brick office downtown included a design feature common in the South: a “colored” waiting room accessible by a separate, backdoor entrance.

Today the segregated waiting rooms remain a fixture of Rhodes’ practice — even though, he quickly points out, black patients are free to come in the front door if they choose.

Some do. But a few older patients continue to use the “colored” entrance, as they still call it, just as they did when they were young and had no choice. 

“Some of them prefer to come to the back,” Rhodes says. 

This is life today in many parts of the rural south. And to assume that Tuesday’s decision won’t make things worse is beyond comprehension. While we have definitely made great improvements in the south over the past 50 years (and how I wish the Chief Justice were right, and it was as simple as “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is stop discriminating on the basis of race”) , the decision in Shelby County will go down as major setback for race relations in this country.

I’ll defer to William Faulkner, who apparently the Chief Justice has never read: “In the south, the past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Cross posted to the Power Elite

Same-Sex Marriage Gets Court’s Imprimatur:

As the Supreme Court issued its last-day-of-court rulings on Wednesday, nullifying the federal law that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman and effectively permitting same-sex marriage in California, what was also clear was just how rapidly much of the country had moved beyond the court. Rulings that just three years ago would have loomed as polarizing and even stunning instead served to underscore and ratify vast political changes that have taken place across much of the country.

The 5-to-4 decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, was sweeping and hardly technical, an affirmation of same-sex marriage written in broad constitutional terms that produced cheers and even some surprise among same-sex marriage supporters standing in front of the Supreme Court. And though the court declined to hear the California case on procedural grounds, the effect was to let stand a lower-court decision that threw out a voter-initiative banning gay marriage in this state.

What that means is that as of now, 30 percent of the nation’s population live in states that allow same-sex marriage.

They had a chance to run the table on the issue, but declined, ultimately, for fear of issuing another Roe v. Wade and forcing the other 37 states which “aren’t there yet” into accepting same-sex marriage. But while the California case was definitely a punt (involving the usual dodge of “standing”), the Windsor case was an unequivocal signal that same-sex marriage is heading your way soon.

From Prof. Larry Tribe at SCOTUSblog:

The pair of decisions taken together left the most contentious questions about same-sex marriage for the political process to continue grappling with – postponing to another day, when the generational wave that is moving this question to an inevitable conclusion has proceeded still further, the Court’s next encounter with the questions of equal human liberty and dignity that lie at its constitutional core. Both decisions, handed down by very different 5-4 majorities, seem to me worthy of celebration.

Kennedy wrote:

  • “Same-sex couples should have the right to marry and so live with pride in themselves and their union and in a status of equality with all other married persons”
  • and argued the original Defense of Marriage Act of ’96 “humiliates and brings financial harm to the tens of thousands of children now being raised by same sex couples”
  • and “the law degrades and demeans…disparages and injures…stigmatizes without consent” gay and lesbian couples.

Again, not a lot of ambiguity about where it’s going, and it’s hard to see (as Scalia et al wrote examples of in their dissent) how the other 37 state laws and state constitutional amendments will survive scrutiny. Kennedy’s opinion is both eloquent and foreboding: your days of discriminating against people based on sexual orientation are coming to an end.

For the knuckle-draggers like Scalia, who trotted out the same tired, worn, cliches from Lawrence v. Texas (decided the same day ten years ago, June 26, 2003) about “polygamy” and “bestiality” and “incest” and yada yada end of the world predictions, it was indeed a pathetic display. From Tribe again:

But Justice Scalia – in a portion of his dissent that Chief Justice Roberts conspicuously declined to join – couldn’t resist the temptation to use the occasion to insult the Court’s majority, and Justice Kennedy in particular, in essentially ad hominem (and ad feminem) terms. I write this comment principally to highlight the extraordinary character of this particularly vitriolic and internally inconsistent dissent.

He even insulted one of his fellow dissenters (Alito) for his arguments. It was sort of classic Scalia: foot-stomping, in-your-face, bluster with bitterness…and dead wrong, as usual.

I’m not sure U.S. v. Windsor (2013) will join the pantheon of cases like Brown v. Board of Education or Roe v. Wade that we’ll be talking about fifty years from now. But to say it’s not a historic day for civil rights in the gay and lesbian communities would be a misstatement.

Change comes both rapidly and incrementally, and for those who prefer chipping away at the walls of intolerance and discrimination rather than simply blowing the walls up, it was a very good day.

Cross-posted to The Power-Elite

America’s Broken Bootstraps:

Today, the dominant distinction defining socioeconomic class is between those with and without college degrees. Graduates earn 70 percent more than those with only high school diplomas. In 1980, the difference was just 30 percent.

Soon the crucial distinction will be between those with meaningful college degrees and those with worthless ones. Many colleges are becoming less demanding as they become more expensive: They rake in money — much of it from government-subsidized tuition grants — by taking in many marginally qualified students who are motivated only to acquire a credential and who learn little.

Lindsey reported that in 1961, full-time college students reported studying 25 hours a week on average; by 2003, average studying time had fallen to 13 hours. Half of today’s students take no courses requiring more than 20 pages of writing in a semester. Given the role of practice in developing expertise, “the conclusion that college students are learning less than they used to seems unavoidable.” Small wonder those with college degrees occupying jobs that do not require a high school diploma include 1.4 million retail salespeople and cashiers, half a million waiters, bartenders and janitors, and many more.

“Most American kids,” Lindsey concluded, “are now raised in an environment that is arguably less favorable for developing human capital than that in which their parents were raised.” America’s limited-government project is at risk because the nation’s foundational faith in individualism cannot survive unless upward mobility is a fact.

I know, right? George Freaking Will wrote this? He also drops gems like ““assortative mating” — likes marrying likes — concentrates class advantages, further expanding inequality” and “class distinctions in vocabularies are already large among toddlers,”and even “people raised in the upper middle class are far more likely to stay there than move down, while people raised in the working class are far more likely to stay there than move up.”

Uh, welcome to Sociology 1101, George. We call it stratification and inequality, and it’s something every undergraduate learns, no matter how much eye-rolling or head shaking the facts may prompt.

The family as vessel of inequality, perpetuating inequality from one generation to the next? Check. Endogamous marriages (much more pleasurable sounding than “assortative mating”) wherein society arranges relationships based on like social class or race/ethnicity? Check. Inequality in both public and higher education, which perpetuates it in the larger society? Check.

It’s always nice when someone who denies the importance (if not existence of) the social sciences suddenly has a revelation and comes over to join the socialist/communist/evil doer pointy heads in stating the obvious. But you have a long way to go, George. Your much beloved Supreme Court conservative majority is busy upending affirmative action in higher education (hint: necessary because of inequality) and gutting sections of the Voting Rights Act (also necessary because of inequality).

But for now, welcome, comrade.

Cross-posted to the Power Elite

A Conservative Case For Prison Reform:

CONSERVATIVES should recognize that the entire criminal justice system is another government spending program fraught with the issues that plague all government programs. Criminal justice should be subject to the same level of skepticism and scrutiny that we apply to any other government program.

But it’s not just the excessive and unwise spending that offends conservative values. Prisons, for example, are harmful to prisoners and their families. Reform is therefore also an issue of compassion. The current system often turns out prisoners who are more harmful to society than when they went in, so prison and re-entry reform are issues of public safety as well.

So far, so good. But then there’s this:

These three principles — public safety, compassion and controlled government spending — lie at the core of conservative philosophy. Politically speaking, conservatives will have more credibility than liberals in addressing prison reform.

Why? Because conservatives were more outrageously “get tough on crime” back in the 80’s and the 90’s, and now feel a bit of buyer’s remorse? That hardly sets up “credibility” on the issue. Not to mention, so-called liberals are just as guilty of the imprisonment binge of the 80’s and 90’s as conservatives. It was a bi-partisan wave of stupid that put us in the current bind we are in today.

The United States now has 5 percent of the world’s population, yet 25 percent of its prisoners. Nearly one in every 33 American adults is in some form of correctional control. When Ronald Reagan was president, the total correctional control rate — everyone in prison or jail or on probation or parole — was less than half that: 1 in every 77 adults.

That should read: “When Ronald Reagan became president…” because the prison population and incarceration rates doubled during the “war on drugs” 1980’s, then doubled again under Clinton during the 1990’s.

The prison system now costs states more than $50 billion a year, up from about $9 billion in 1985. It’s the second-fastest growing area of state budgets, trailing only Medicaid. Conservatives should be leading the way by asking tough questions about the expansion in prison spending over the past three decades.

Increased spending has not improved effectiveness. More than 40 percent of ex-convicts return to prison within three years of release; in some states, recidivism rates are closer to 60 percent.

Too many offenders leave prisons unprepared to re-enter society. They don’t get and keep jobs. The solution lies not only inside prisons but also with more effective community supervision systems using new technologies, drug tests and counseling programs. We should also require ex-convicts to either hold a job or perform community service. This approach works to turn offenders from tax burdens into taxpayers who can pay restitution to their victims and are capable of contributing child support.

This is all true, but again, the problem is that the community corrections programs mentioned above were the first to be cut and eliminated during the Great Recession. The author would do well to counsel his fellow conservative governors to restore some of the billions in funding that were sliced during the past five years.

As I’ve mentioned time and again over at the Power-Elite blog since 2007, corrections budgets were cut, community corrections programs were cut, and some prisons were even closed. But not one inmate in the U.S. left prison early because of the recession. Those in prisons that were closed were merely consolidated to other prisons, double and triple bunked in the process, and now are in even worse shape than before.

As this great article in yesterday’s Atlantic points out, the abuse and mistreatment of inmates that has surfaced in U.S. prisons during the past five years, namely in southern prisons where budget cutbacks were worse, is only just now coming to light. And while this is more problematic among mentally ill inmates, the point is that we’ve decimated rehabilitative programs over the past 30 years, including the last five years. Rhetoric is cheap. Put your money where your mouth is.

Right on Crime exemplifies the big-picture conservative approach to this issue. It focuses on community-based programs rather than excessive mandatory minimum sentencing policies and prison expansion. Using free-market and Christian principles, conservatives have an opportunity to put their beliefs into practice as an alternative to government-knows-best programs that are failing prisoners and the society into which they are released.

These principles work. In the past several years, there has been a dramatic shift on crime and punishment policy across the country. It really started in Texas in 2007. The state said no to building eight more prisons and began to shift nonviolent offenders from state prison into alternatives, by strengthening probation and parole supervision and treatment. Texas was able to avert nearly $2 billion in projected corrections spending increases, and its crime rate is declining. At the same time, the state’s parole failures have dropped by 39 percent.

Of course, crime rates have plunged to historic new lows everywhere, including those states that didn’t pass any reforms. In fact, the crime rate in the U.S. today is the same as it was in 1968, and yet we have 2 million people behind bars today, but back then only about 200,000.

Since then more than a dozen states have made significant changes to their sentencing and corrections laws, including Georgia, South Carolina, Vermont, New Hampshire and Ohio. Much of the focus has been on shortening or even eliminating prison time for the lowest-risk, nonviolent offenders and reinvesting the savings in more effective options.

The key phrase there is “reinvest savings,” which is a conservative euphemism for “spend money elsewhere.”

I know I should be jumping up and down in joy, welcoming all-comers, be they conservative or liberal, to the prison reform table. But my hesitancy is borne of watching crime and punishment become politicized (and bastardized) during the 80’s and 90’s. My first reaction whenever anyone of any political or ideological affiliation starts with the “we’re better or have more credibility about it than you do” rhetoric is to cringe. It’s exactly that sort of partisan chest-thumping that got us into the mess we’re in today.

But the optimist in me holds out hope, I suppose. Whatever you want to call it, Left on Crime, Right on Crime, Whatevs on Crime…if you are serious about getting Smart on Crime, then welcome to the table. Let’s put our money where our mouths are, restore community-based corrections, and get the low-level, non-violent people who don’t belong in prison the hell out of there.

Cross Posted to: The Power-Elite

Supreme Court Says Police Can Take DNA Samples Without Probable Cause:

The police may take DNA samples from people arrested in connection with serious crimes, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday in a 5-to-4 decision.

The federal government and 28 states authorize the practice, and law enforcement officials say it is a valuable tool for investigating unsolved crimes. But the court said the testing was justified by a different reason: to identify the suspect in custody.

“When officers make an arrest supported by probable cause to hold for a serious offense and they bring the suspect to the station to be detained in custody,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority, “taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”

Justice Antonin Scalia summarized his dissent from the bench, a rare move signaling deep disagreement. He accused the majority of an unsuccessful sleight of hand, one that “taxes the credulity of the credulous.” The point of DNA testing as it is actually practiced, he said, is to solve cold cases, not to identify the suspect in custody.

But the Fourth Amendment forbids searches without reasonable suspicion to gather evidence about an unrelated crime, he said, a point the majority did not dispute. “Make no mistake about it: because of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason,” Justice Scalia said from the bench.

We’ll be talking about affirmative action and same-sex marriage decisions soon and no one will remember this case, but it’s probably the most significant criminal procedure case they’ve issued in years. The ludicrous and absurd proposition that DNA swabs will help “identify” suspects already in custody is taken to task by the dissent and dissected as having no relevance to mugshots, physical measurements or fingerprints.

From Scalia’s dissent:

So, to review: DNA testing does not even begin until after arraignment and bail decisions are already made. The samples sit in storage for months, and take weeks to test. When they are tested, they are checked against the Unsolved Crimes Collection-rather than the Convict and Arrestee Collection, which could be used to identify them. The Act forbids the Court’s purpose (identification), but prescribes as its purpose what our suspicionless-search cases forbid (“official investigation into a crime”). Against all of that, it is safe to say that if the Court’s identification theory is not wrong, there is no such thing as error.

The Court asserts that the taking of fingerprints was “constitutional for generations prior to the introduction” of the FBI’s rapid computer-matching system. Ante, at 22. This bold statement is bereft of citation to authority because there is none for it. The “great expansion in fingerprinting came before the modern era of Fourth Amendment jurisprudence,” and so we were never asked to decide the legitimacy of the practice. United States v. Kincade, 379 F. 3d 813 , 874 (CA9 2004) (Kozinski, J., dissenting). As fingerprint databases expanded from convicted criminals, to arrestees, to civil servants, to immigrants, to everyone with a driver’s license, Americans simply “became accustomed to having our fingerprints on file in some government database.” Ibid. But it is wrong to suggest that this was uncontroversial at the time, or that this Court blessed universal fingerprinting for “generations” before it was possible to use it effectively for identification.

In other words, for DNA swabs to match, you already have to know who the suspect is. The circular reasoning of the majority is astonishing.

Also, you gotta love Scalia name-checking Jeremy Bentham:

I will therefore assume that the Court means that the DNA search at issue here was useful to “identify” King in the normal sense of that word-in the sense that would identify the author of Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation as Jeremy Bentham.

Solving cold cases is one thing, but creating a DNA database of the innocent, of those arrested rightly or wrongly, ushers in “brave new world” that is almost hard to fathom. And the notion that it’s only ever going to be used for “serious offenses” also laughable. Today violent crime, tomorrow we swab when you receive a traffic ticket (after all, we have to “identify” you somehow, right?).

The Court disguises the vast (and scary) scope of its holding by promising a limitation it cannot deliver. The Court repeatedly says that DNA testing, and entry into a national DNA registry, will not befall thee and me, dear reader, but only those arrested for “serious offense[s].” Ante, at 28; see also ante, at 1, 9, 14, 17, 22, 23, 24 (repeatedly limiting the analysis to “serious offenses”). I cannot imagine what principle could possibly justify this limitation, and the Court does not attempt to suggest any. If one believes that DNA will “identify” someone arrested for assault, he must believe that it will “identify” someone arrested for a traffic offense. This Court does not base its judgments on senseless distinctions. At the end of the day, logic will out. When there comes before us the taking of DNA from an arrestee for a traffic violation, the Court will predictably (and quite rightly) say, “We can find no significant difference between this case and King.” Make no mistake about it: As an entirely predictable consequence [*29] of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national DNA database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason.

The most regrettable aspect of the suspicionless search that occurred here is that it proved to be quite unnecessary. All parties concede that it would have been entirely permissible, as far as the Fourth Amendment is concerned, for Maryland to take a sample of King’s DNA as a consequence of his conviction for second-degree assault. So the ironic result of the Court’s error is this: The only arrestees to whom the outcome here will ever make a difference are those who have been acquitted of the crime of arrest (so that their DNA could not have been taken upon conviction). In other words, this Act manages to burden uniquely the sole group for whom the Fourth Amendment ‘s protections ought to be most jealously guarded: people who are innocent of the State’s accusations.

Today’s judgment will, to be sure, have the beneficial effect of solving more crimes; then again, so would the taking of DNA samples from anyone who flies on an airplane (surely the Transportation Security Administration needs to know the “identity” of the flying public), applies for a driver’s license, or attends a public school. Perhaps the construction of such a genetic panopticon is wise. But I doubt that the proud men who wrote the charter of our liberties would have been so eager to open their mouths for royal inspection.

Even the footnotes are barn-burners:

1. The Court’s insistence (ante, at 25) that our special-needs cases “do not have a direct bearing on the issues presented in this case” is perplexing. Why spill so much ink on the special need of identification if a special need is not required? Why not just come out and say that any suspicionless search of an arrestee is allowed if it will be useful to solve crimes? The Court does not say that because most Members of the Court do not believe it. So whatever the Court’s major premise-the opinion does not really contain what you would call a rule of decision- the minor premise is “this search was used to identify King.” The incorrectness of that minor premise will therefore suffice to demonstrate the error in the Court’s result.

2. By the way, this procedure has nothing to do with exonerating the wrongfully convicted, as the Court soothingly promises. See ante, at 17. The FBI CODIS database includes DNA from unsolved crimes. I know of no indication (and the Court cites none) that it also includes DNA from all-or even any-crimes whose perpetrators have already been convicted.

What an egregious decision. The genetic panopticon grows, and the brave new world intensifies. We should be marching in the streets today.

The case is Maryland v. King (2013)

Cross posted to the Power-Elite.

In Calculation of Suicide Rates, Numbers Not Always Straightforward:

An analysis of Pentagon data shows that the Department of Defense uses numbers that may underestimate its suicide rate. A different methodology, like one employed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, would result in a military rate equivalent to or above the comparable civilian rate, experts say.

Bob Anderson, head statistician for mortality statistics at the C.D.C., said the Pentagon’s approach resulted in a suicide rate that “will be lower than it should be.”

“It will underestimate the mortality rate,” he said.

The difference is about more than math. The suicide rate is perhaps the most important data point for tracking trends in suicide and comparing different populations.

To determine the rate, statisticians divide the number of suicides in a year by the total population.

The first number is fairly straightforward: for the entire military, there were 309 active-duty suicides in 2009, the most recent year for which comparable civilian data is available. (The military number includes National Guard and reserve troops who were on active duty when they killed themselves.)

But the total military population is not as simple to estimate. Not only are service members joining and leaving the military constantly, National Guard and reserve troops are also continuously flowing on and off active-duty rosters. How one estimates the number of Guard and reserve troops on active duty at any one time clearly affects the total military population.

Population discrepancies are not just limited to the military either. One of the biggest problems with the UCR and other crime statistics and suicide rate measurements is that they fail to take into account populations shifts and mobility (though the CDC does us the “one day snapshot” average in some cases as a control).

Also, this article makes it sound like counting the first part, the suicide itself, is a given. It isn’t. Law enforcement, medical examiners and other organizations (like the Military) may “unfound” reported suicides for a variety of reasons (request of the family, to make the organization look better, to downplay its extent, etc.). As Jack Douglas warned years ago, we should always be leery of “official statistics” and what methodologies are being used to arrive at these figures.

Nonetheless, the problem is worse than the official numbers have indicated for a long time.

There is no dispute on one issue: the military rate has been climbing faster than the civilian rate. According to the Pentagon, the military rate of 18.5 suicides per 100,000 service members in 2009 was up from 10.3 suicides per 100,000 in 2002 — an 80 percent increase. A comparable civilian suicide rate rose by about 15 percent in the same period.

An accompanying article in the Times makes the point even more salient, and makes it clear that after decades of research, we’re nowhere near understanding the causes of the “never ending war.”

Though the Pentagon has commissioned numerous reports and invested tens of millions of dollars in research and prevention programs, experts concede they are little closer to understanding the root causes of why military suicide is rising so fast.

“Any one variable in isolation doesn’t explain things,” said Craig J. Bryan, associate director of the National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah. “But the interaction of all of them do. That’s what makes it very difficult to solve the problem. And that’s why we haven’t made advances.”

Intersectionality (reciprocal attachments among variables) is a growing field within suicidology these days and its growth should be applauded. The only way we are ever going to get to the root cause of suicide is to recognize the fact that it’s rarely ever one single variable that causes it, but instead a perfect storm of tribulations which increase the risk of mortality.

Cross Posted to The Power Elite

Psychiatry’s New Guide Is Out Of Touch With Science:

Just weeks before the long-awaited publication of a new edition of the so-called bible of mental disorders, the federal government’s most prominent psychiatric expert has said the book suffers from a scientific “lack of validity.”

The expert, Dr. Thomas R. Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, said in an interview Monday that his goal was to reshape the direction of psychiatric research to focus on biology, genetics and neuroscience so that scientists can define disorders by their causes, rather than their symptoms.

Well, he’s half right. The DSM is completely lacking in scientific validity and has been so since the first edition came out in the 1960’s. We should not, however, be focusing more on the “biology, genetics or neuroscience” of behavioral disorders, but instead on labeling and social control.

“As long as the research community takes the D.S.M. to be a bible, we’ll never make progress,” Dr. Insel said, adding, “People think that everything has to match D.S.M. criteria, but you know what? Biology never read that book.”

Neither did sociology, because most Labeling theorists would tell you that mental illness is a subjective label applied to behaviors that violate social norms. You can dig for all the biological or genetic “causes” you want: at the end of the day, it’s the behavior that is being labeled as “mentally ill.”

But don’t expect the psychiatric-industrial complex to  roll over in the face of criticism.

Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, the chairman of the psychiatry department at Columbia and president-elect of the American Psychiatric Association, which publishes the D.S.M., said that the new edition’s refinements were “based on research in the last 20 years that will improve the utility of this guide for practitioners, and improve, however incrementally, the care patients receive.”

He added: “The last thing we want to do is be defensive or apologetic about the state of our field.”

LOL. They should be down on their hands and knees, begging for absolution and forgiveness from the millions of lives and minds ruined by unscientific diagnoses and chemical lobotomies.

But what do a bunch of sociologists know?

Cross posted to: The Power Elite

Suicide Rates Rise Sharply:

Suicide rates among middle-aged Americans have risen sharply in the past decade, prompting concern that a generation of baby boomers who have faced years of economic worry and easy access to prescription painkillers may be particularly vulnerable to self-inflicted harm.

More people now die of suicide than in car accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which published the findings in Friday’s issue of its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. In 2010 there were 33,687 deaths from motor vehicle crashes and 38,364 suicides.

Suicide has typically been viewed as a problem of teenagers and the elderly, and the surge in suicide rates among middle-aged Americans is surprising.

Not sure why it’s “surprising”. Suicide rates generally increase as one goes up the age demographic ladder. There is sometimes a small decline in the 55-64 age group, but generally rates are lowest among teenagers and highest among the elderly (especially the oldest of the old, 85+).

From 1999 to 2010, the suicide rate among Americans ages 35 to 64 rose by nearly 30 percent, to 17.6 deaths per 100,000 people, up from 13.7. Although suicide rates are growing among both middle-aged men and women, far more men take their own lives. The suicide rate for middle-aged men was 27.3 deaths per 100,000, while for women it was 8.1 deaths per 100,000.

The most pronounced increases were seen among men in their 50s, a group in which suicide rates jumped by nearly 50 percent, to about 30 per 100,000. For women, the largest increase was seen in those ages 60 to 64, among whom rates increased by nearly 60 percent, to 7.0 per 100,000.

Suicide rates can be difficult to interpret because of variations in the way local officials report causes of death. But C.D.C. and academic researchers said they were confident that the data documented an actual increase in deaths by suicide and not a statistical anomaly. While reporting of suicides is not always consistent around the country, the current numbers are, if anything, too low.

“It’s vastly underreported,” said Julie Phillips, an associate professor of sociology at Rutgers University who has published research on rising suicide rates. “We know we’re not counting all suicides.”

Exactly. Nice to see Jack Douglas’ “The Social Meaning of Suicides” dissection of official statistics get brought out in a roundabout way. The suicide taboo, as Douglas pointed 45 years ago, still leads to the deliberate misclassification of deaths that are rather obviously suicide.

The reasons for suicide are often complex, and officials and researchers acknowledge that no one can explain with certainty what is behind the rise. But C.D.C. officials cited a number of possible explanations, including that as adolescents people in this generation also posted higher rates of suicide compared with other cohorts.

“It is the baby boomer group where we see the highest rates of suicide,” said the C.D.C.’s deputy director, Ileana Arias. “There may be something about that group, and how they think about life issues and their life choices that may make a difference.”

The rise in suicides may also stem from the economic downturn over the past decade. Historically, suicide rates rise during times of financial stress and economic setbacks. “The increase does coincide with a decrease in financial standing for a lot of families over the same time period,” Dr. Arias said.

Couple of things: one, there is nothing in the historical data to suggest that suicide increases during economic downturns (see this previous post). If Durkheim is correct, and suicide increases when anomie increases, then perhaps higher unemployment could lead to higher normlessness and a jump in suicide. But it’s not the financial condition as much as it is anomie in individuals already prone to normlessness. Not to mention, the suicide rates were rising before the Great Recession hit. This isn’t to say a bad economy isn’t correlated at all, but causation seems to difficult to prove.

Second, as much as it pains me to write this (given my aversion to Baby Boomers in general), I really don’t think this is generational behavior either. From the long term vital statistics I’ve seen, there has not been an increase in suicidal behavior each time this generation moved into another phase of life. When they were teenagers in the 60’s it didn’t happen, nor in their 20’s in the 70’s, 30’s in the 80’s, and so on. Given the Boomer’s obsession with youth and hanging on way past their expiration date (in terms of work, popular culture, etc.), it would seem to be quite the opposite.

So what could it be? A myriad of things, but the article notes an increase in poisonings, which I find interesting.

Although most suicides are still committed using firearms, officials said there was a marked increase in poisoning deaths, which include intentional overdoses of prescription drugs, and hangings. Poisoning deaths were up 24 percent over all during the 10-year period and hangings were up 81 percent.

The easy availability of Big Pharma has certainly aided those who want to go out using more passive methods. Although you could also make the same argument about the availability of rope.

I think medical-related (health-related) suicides aren’t being separated here either (persons who end their lives already sick with a terminal or debilitating condition). If there is an age-related component to the increase, it’s the simple correlation that as morbidity increases, so too does mortality. People get sicker when they get older = people end their lives at a greater rate.

Technology is also playing a role in this as well. To the cyber-utopian’s dismay, the research available today shows that despite all the interconnectedness of social media, facebook, twitter and so on, people are more socially isolated than ever. And as Durkheim warned 100 + years ago, when social isolation and marginalization increase, so too does suicide.

I’ll have to dig through the report for more observations, but at first blush, the news is extremely disappointing. We’ve seen rates of suicide skyrocket among active duty and former members of the military since 2003, and now we can confirm that it is increasing exponentially in the general population as well.

When I wrote “The Never Ending War” three years ago, the post was ostensibly about suicide among returning veterans of war. But the never-ending battle to bring suicide out of the shadows of stigma and shame and educate the public about its prevalence and consequences continues, whether we are talking about veterans or just the general citizenry. And the more we conceptualize the problem as an individual phenomenon, and not the social and public health epidemic it has become, the more lives will continue to be lost.

We have wars on terror, drugs, immigration, crime, poverty, fat and every other inanimate object imaginable, is it time (forgive me) to launch a War on Suicide?

Cross Posted To: The Power Elite

Attention Deficit Drugs Face New Campus Rules:

Fresno State is one of dozens of colleges tightening the rules on the diagnosis of A.D.H.D. and the subsequent prescription of amphetamine-based medications like Vyvanse and Adderall. Some schools are reconsidering how their student health offices handle A.D.H.D., and even if they should at all.

Various studies have estimated that as many as 35 percent of college students illicitly take these stimulants to provide jolts of focus and drive during finals and other periods of heavy stress. Many do not know that it is a federal crime to possess the pills without a prescription and that abuse can lead to anxiety, depression and, occasionally, psychosis.

Although few experts dispute that stimulant medications can be safe and successful treatments for many people with a proper A.D.H.D. diagnosis, the growing concern about overuse has led some universities, as one student health director put it, “to get out of the A.D.H.D. business.”

The most surprising thing about this is the percentage…we’re talking over a third of college students amping up in some capacity with prescription amphetamines come finals time. And while limiting access to the drugs via campus health centers is a good start, this is more of a legal affairs issue than it is a campus health issue.

Changes like these, all in the name of protecting the health of students both with and without attention deficits, involve legal considerations as well. Harvard is being sued for medical malpractice by the father of a student who in 2007 received an A.D.H.D. diagnosis and Adderall prescription after one meeting with a clinical nurse specialist.

You knew this had to involve law suits in some capacity. Decisions like these have less to do with the welfare and best interests of the students, and everything to do with covering the colleges collective back sides from litigation.

But asking students to take the equivalent of virginity pledges when it comes to abusing stimulants (“I am making a commitment to myself, my family, and my Creator, that I will abstain from amphetamines of any kind before graduation”) is going to do little to stop the push back from the pro-A.D.H.D. crowd.

Still, many student health departments regard A.D.H.D., a neurological disorder that causes severe inattention and impulsiveness, as similar to any other medical condition. Eleven percent of American children ages 4 to 17 — and 15 percent of high school students — have received the diagnosis, according to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New college policies about A.D.H.D. tend not to apply to other medical or psychiatric conditions — suggesting discrimination, said Ruth Hughes, the chief executive of the advocacy group Children and Adults With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Such rules create “a culture of fear and stigma,” she said, adding that if students must sign a contract to obtain stimulants, they should have to do so for the painkillers that are also controlled substances and are known to be abused.

Which is absurd given that painkillers are not academic steroids and are not used to cheat (er, perform better) on tests, papers, and so forth. Talk about a straw man.

And are we really going to hear the cries of “discrimination” from these people? That’s like saying athletes suspected of using PED’s are being “discriminated” against, or that wanting to cut down on cheating and abuse is just a “culture of fear and stigma.”

I’m also bothered by the phrase “A.D.H.D, a neurological disorder…” It’s a behavioral diagnosis (label) with no grounding whatsoever in neurology, biology or anything that meets the scientific method. In fact, new evidence suggests that the behavior so labeled as attention deficit may actually be nothing more than sleep disorders.

For some people — especially children — sleep deprivation does not necessarily cause lethargy; instead they become hyperactive and unfocused. Researchers and reporters are increasingly seeing connections between dysfunctional sleep and what looks like A.D.H.D., but those links are taking a long time to be understood by parents and doctors.

A number of studies have shown that a huge proportion of children with an A.D.H.D. diagnosis also have sleep-disordered breathing like apnea or snoring, restless leg syndrome or non-restorative sleep, in which delta sleep is frequently interrupted.

I had forgotten about “restless leg syndrome,” better known as The Rockettes Disease. But seriously…

One study, published in 2004 in the journal Sleep, looked at 34 children with A.D.H.D. Every one of them showed a deficit of delta sleep, compared with only a handful of the 32 control subjects.

There has been less research into sleep and A.D.H.D. outside of childhood. But a team from Massachusetts General Hospital found, in one of the only studies of its kind, that sleep dysfunction in adults with A.D.H.D. closely mimics the sleep dysfunction in children with A.D.H.D.

Thakkar also notes the correlation between the rise in sleep disorders and the explosion of A.D.H.D in the 1990’s…right around the time the internets exploded as well.

And to illustrate the very subjectiveness of the diagnosis that I and others have been railing about for years, this:

As it happens, “moves about excessively during sleep” was once listed as a symptom of attention-deficit disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. That version of the manual, published in 1980, was the first to name the disorder. When the term A.D.H.D., reflecting the addition of hyperactivity, appeared in 1987, the diagnostic criteria no longer included trouble sleeping. The authors said there was not enough evidence to support keeping it in.

“The authors”…I love that, like the DSM is a work of fiction (cough).

One would also assume that the removal of the sleep criteria was based solely on money. There simply isn’t as much money to be made in sleep disorders as there is in the ever-expanding criteria for A.D.H.D.

At the end of the day, colleges and universities are fighting a losing battle here. As the first article notes, students are more likely to bring their prescriptions with them to campus. And lacking that, why bother with the health center when you can score Adderall via the underground, black market (Biff’s fraternity brother knows a dude who knows a dude who…)? It’s everywhere.

This is a classic case of the fish rotting from the head down. Until we recognize the power of the psychiatric-industrial complex and Big Pharma to keep imposing its biomedical view of madness on every single social behavior, we’re doomed.

And like mold, its spread is harder to stop the longer we wait.

Cross posted to: The Power Elite

by The Power-Elite

Rutgers Officials Long Knew of Coach’s Actions:

They first saw the video Nov. 26, the Monday after Thanksgiving, inside an office in Piscataway, N.J., but it was hardly the first time that senior Rutgers officials had heard of the troubling behavior of Mike Rice, the men’s basketball coach.

Interviews with university officials, former players and members of the board, as well as reviews of internal documents and legal records, show that when the most senior Rutgers officials were confronted with explicit details about Mr. Rice’s behavior toward his players and his staff, they ignored them or issued relatively light penalties.

The interviews and documents reveal a culture in which the university was far more concerned with protecting itself from legal action than with protecting its students from an abusive coach.

Of course, the only people who would be surprised by this are the brain-dead. A university’s first priority, especially its Legal Affairs departments (talk about your “Higher Circles”), is to protect the university at all costs. Even at the expense of its students.

University officials focused on the technical issue of whether Mr. Rice had created a hostile work environment, a potential legal justification for his firing, while paying less attention to the larger question of whether Rutgers should employ an authority figure who hurled slurs at and physically provoked its students.

The university had hired outside counsel to investigate the men’s basketball program and determine Rutgers’s legal options. Lawyers with the firm Connell Foley of Roseland, N.J., interviewed coaches, players and administrators. They reviewed text messages, secret recordings and dozens of hours of video, noting the vulgar terms Mr. Rice used to address players.

But the primary goal of the report, which was completed in January and made public Friday, was not to determine whether Mr. Rice had abused his players, or whether he was a suitable authority figure for a group of young men. Instead, it focused largely on whether Mr. Rice created a hostile work environment, which could have resulted in future lawsuits, and whether Mr. Murdock was wrongfully terminated.

Quelle surprise. Sound like Weber’s Bureaucratic Inertia? Where protecting and perpetuating the life of the organization becomes more important than doing what the organization is set up to do?

Or does it sound like Mills and the academic power-elite (university administrators, legal stooges and wealthy benefactors) whose only goal is protecting and growing their universities at all costs? Why else do university bureaucrats routinely disappear whistle blowers, academic outliers, victims of sexual assault or harassment on campus, and anyone else who threatens the college sports/wealthy donor matrix?

Sadly, it isn’t just Rutgers and it’s not just this one coach or athletic department. Behavior like this happens on scores of campuses across the country and you’ll never hear or read about it because the academic power-elite will move heaven and earth to maintain the wall of stony silence.

For more evidence, start with last year’s Joe Paterno/Jerry Sandusky story and work from there.

Cross Posted To: The Power-Elite

UPDATE: A powerful critique of the Academic Power-Elite, by two Rutgers professors, in today’s Chronicle of Higher Ed.

Public universities are not corporations. They are not sports franchises. They are not dysfunctional families in which the powerful can abuse the less powerful by enforcing silence.

As faculty members, we were deeply dismayed to learn that some Rutgers University administrators had known for months about Mike Rice Jr. and his assistant coach’s physical and verbal abuse of student athletes, yet remained silent. Homophobic slurs and physical abuse teach students a deformed version of athletic masculinity.

Administrators forgot that “Rutgers” is not a sports logo, but an avenue of upward mobility for students from a wide range of backgrounds. Unfortunately, this is not an aberration.

Read it.

By The Power Elite

I wish this post were an April Fools joke.

I have been writing extensively, from a Labeling theory standpoint, about the arbitrary and haphazard spread of psychiatric diagnoses over the past several years. From ADHD to Bi-Polar to Autism, the spread of these “diseases” and “disorders” for which there are no scientific or methodological way to prove, has been alarming. Driving all of it, of course, is Big Pharma and the increasing use of medications as a form of social control.

Which is why today’s NYT report on the explosion of ADHD and the corresponding tidal wave of prescriptions for Adderall and Ritalin is neither surprising nor unexpected.

Nearly one in five high school age boys in the United States and 11 percent of school-age children over all have received a medical diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to new data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These rates reflect a marked rise over the last decade and could fuel growing concern among many doctors that the A.D.H.D. diagnosis and its medication are overused in American children.

The figures showed that an estimated 6.4 million children ages 4 through 17 had received an A.D.H.D. diagnosis at some point in their lives, a 16 percent increase since 2007 and a 53 percent rise in the past decade. About two-thirds of those with a current diagnosis receive prescriptions for stimulants like Ritalin or Adderall, which can drastically improve the lives of those with A.D.H.D. but can also lead to addiction, anxiety and occasionally psychosis.

“Those are astronomical numbers. I’m floored,” said Dr. William Graf, a pediatric neurologist in New Haven and a professor at the Yale School of Medicine.

Really? I’m surprised it isn’t higher than that, frankly. But here’s the bad news: it’s about to get worse.

Even more teenagers are likely to be prescribed medication in the near future because the American Psychiatric Association plans to change the definition of A.D.H.D. to allow more people to receive the diagnosis and treatment. A.D.H.D. is described by most experts as resulting from abnormal chemical levels in the brain that impair a person’s impulse control and attention skills.

Or it’s a social behavior that violates cultural norms (sitting still and being quiet); a condition that exists on paper, which can’t be proven objectively, based on a set of diagnostic criteria so broad it can apply to every man, woman and child in the universe, but particularly those who step outside the behavioral norms of society.

While some doctors and patient advocates have welcomed rising diagnosis rates as evidence that the disorder is being better recognized and accepted, others said the new rates suggest that millions of children may be taking medication merely to calm behavior or to do better in school. Pills that are shared with or sold to classmates — diversion long tolerated in college settings and gaining traction in high-achieving high schools — are particularly dangerous, doctors say, because of their health risks when abused.

Academic steroids, as I dubbed it awhile back. If PED’s are illegal in sports, why is Adderall legal in an academic setting? Cheating is cheating, fundamentally, but if we medicalize the behavior, diagnose it only among white, suburban, middle class kids, and then give it the seal of approval by the psychiatric-industrial complex, well, that’s ok, isn’t it?

Experts cited several factors in the rising rates. Some doctors are hastily viewing any complaints of inattention as full-blown A.D.H.D., they said, while pharmaceutical advertising emphasizes how medication can substantially improve a child’s life. Moreover, they said, some parents are pressuring doctors to help with their children’s troublesome behavior and slipping grades.

“There’s a tremendous push where if the kid’s behavior is thought to be quote-unquote abnormal — if they’re not sitting quietly at their desk — that’s pathological, instead of just childhood,” said Dr. Jerome Groopman, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the author of “How Doctors Think.”

Fifteen percent of school-age boys have received an A.D.H.D. diagnosis, the data showed; the rate for girls was 7 percent. Diagnoses among those of high-school age — 14 to 17 — were particularly high, 10 percent for girls and 19 percent for boys. About one in 10 high-school boys currently takes A.D.H.D. medication, the data showed.

Rates by state are less precise but vary widely. Southern states, like Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Carolina and Tennessee, showed about 23 percent of school-age boys receiving an A.D.H.D. diagnosis. The rates in Colorado and Nevada were less than 10 percent.

And the cocaine (er, prescriptions) being pushed on these kids comes in all kinds of flavors and fun packs, all designed to push the rats through the standardized test maze we’ve created in the educational system. Rote memorization = social control. Critical thinking = subversive.

The medications — primarily Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta and Vyvanse — often afford those with severe A.D.H.D. the concentration and impulse control to lead relatively normal lives. Because the pills can vastly improve focus and drive among those with perhaps only traces of the disorder, an A.D.H.D. diagnosis has become a popular shortcut to better grades, some experts said, with many students unaware of or disregarding the medication’s health risks.

“There’s no way that one in five high-school boys has A.D.H.D.,” said James Swanson, a professor of psychiatry at Florida International University and one of the primary A.D.H.D. researchers in the last 20 years. “If we start treating children who do not have the disorder with stimulants, a certain percentage are going to have problems that are predictable — some of them are going to end up with abuse and dependence. And with all those pills around, how much of that actually goes to friends? Some studies have said it’s about 30 percent.”

So how’s that War on Drugs going? Remember when drug pushers were creepy looking guys hanging around the school parking lots, and not psychiatrists in lab coats? I guess the simple rule is, drugs that get in the way of a smoothly functioning capitalist economy = illegal (pot, ecstasy, hallucinogens); drugs that aid a smoothly functioning capitalist society = legal (Adderall, Ritalin, et al).

And don’t think for a minute that Big Pharma, which makes the Medellin Cartel look amateurish in comparison, isn’t laughing all the way to the bank.

Sales of stimulants to treat A.D.H.D. have more than doubled to $9 billion in 2012 from $4 billion in 2007, according to the health care information company IMS Health.

Social control, big corporate profits, and a lobotomized generation of kids drooling in the corner on its meds.

I can only quote John Mellencamp: “Ain’t that America, something to see baby? Ain’t that America, the land of the free.”

Cross posted to: The Power Elite