Issue # 74 - June/July/August 2013
We hope you find the articles in this issue of TAR not only useful, but intriguing and mind-altering, without benefit of psychotropic drugs. If you like what you read, please pass the issue along in its entirety to friends, family and associates—and suggest they subscribe. Also, we could use some more current-dated reviews of the books on which the ideas in this Report are based; please check out all four books—along with a brand new—and marvelous—review by “Deb.” Thanks Deb, and anyone else who cares to share!
The Top Story in this issue is especially timely, with multiple references to “the madness of crowds.” Please read and enjoy!
Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report in which we interpret the news through the lens of alcohol and other drug addiction. Each month, we bring you several sections, including:
1. Top Story of the month along with runners up, persons under watch, enablers, disenablers and more
2. Review or Public Policy Recommendation of the month
3. Dear Doug in which a recent letter to "Dear Annie" or other "help" column is rewritten, with responses given from the unique perspective that alcohol or other drug addiction best explains the misbehaviors described
4. Alcoholic Myth-of-the-Month
5. Alcoholic Antic-of-the-Month, usually where someone deserves the Darwin Award, but lived.
There is something for everyone!
Addiction Report Archives here
© 2013 by Doug Thorburn
The blog is open to your comments. We’ll be interested in any thoughts you, our loyal readers, may have.
How Addicts Help Trigger Riots: the Case of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman
In the criminal justice system, both perpetrator and victim—and others, including supporters of one side or the other who are most adept at fomenting rage, which can lead to mob violence/riots*—are frequently addicts. The George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin case is no exception. Let’s look at the odds of addiction in each of those involved in this case.
In 2005, George Zimmerman was charged with "resisting [an] officer with violence" and "battery of [a] law enforcement officer." The charges were reduced and waived when he entered an alcohol education program. Around the same time, he was accused of domestic violence and fired as a private bouncer for being too “hot-tempered.” Because nearly all cases of domestic violence are committed by alcoholics and a reduction in charges was predicated on his attendance at an “alcohol education program,” there’s virtually no question of Zimmerman’s alcoholism. However, the absence of subsequent reports of trouble suggest Zimmerman may be clean and sober since the mid-2000s.
On the other hand, one of the key accusations against Zimmerman, racism, indicates very high odds of active alcohol or other-drug addiction even without other “trouble.” Alcoholics are much more likely to lie than are non-addicts. Therefore, to determine the veracity of Zimmerman’s story, it would be helpful to determine whether he is, in fact, racist.
An NBC edit of the 911 call made by Zimmerman made him out to be racist, suggesting that Zimmerman, a Hispanic, was not only profiling but looking for battle. The NBC version of the audio quoted Zimmerman: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.” However, the actual recording (released later) sets a radically different tone: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.” The 911 operator responds, “Okay. And this guy, is he white black or Hispanic?” Zimmerman responds, “He looks black.”
Two years earlier Zimmerman came to the defense of a black homeless man (Sherman Ware) who was beaten by the white son of a cop. He tried to get the black community to do something about the fact the cop’s son wasn’t charged, even though the attack was caught on videotape. He publicly accused the police department of corruption, saying the agency covered up the beating. (And, despite this, many in the media not only accuse him of racism, but also that he was “in the pocket“ of local law enforcement.)
Zimmerman’s actions comprise evidence he was neither a racist nor a practicing alcoholic, and certainly not under the influence at the time of the shooting. ** Therefore, although Zimmerman shows some indications he could be a bit of a dry drunk *** (he initially tracked Martin in an arguably aggressive manner), the addiction-aware would be inclined to believe Zimmerman’s story and support acquittal.
On the other hand, there are several clues suggesting high odds that Trayvon Martin was an active substance addict and, therefore, may have acted as Zimmerman has claimed. Behavioral evidence of Martin’s addiction includes:
- While he looks terrific in some pictures, he arguably has “thuggish” looks in others. Check out the photos, where you’ll find the 13- and 17-year old Martin (along with an image of the back of Zimmerman’s head before it was cleaned up at the scene). Those who think that just a few bad pictures shouldn’t count when there are so many good ones might consider the pictures of Erin Brockovich linked in the “Retrospective look of the month,” below.
- He was kicked out of school for graffiti.
- He was caught with what a school security staffer described as a “burglary tool” and a bag full of women’s jewelry (very likely stolen—take a look here; if half of the assertions made in this article are true, the media has really sold the country a bridge to nowhere).
- He was on suspension from school at the time of the shooting, after officials found him with a “marijuana pipe” and a baggie with drug residue.
- A metabolite of THC (THC is the active component of marijuana) was found in Martin’s system.
- Alkies tend to hang out with alkies and druggies tend to hang out with druggies, and the evidence is overwhelming that witness # 8, his friend Rachel Jeantel, has the disease of alcohol and other-drug addiction. She admitted to drinking and driving and needing “a lot of drinks” in her now-deleted Twitter posts, in which it’s apparent her life revolves around alcohol and “getting high.” A Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) friend concurred with my opinion that she appeared high as a kite when she gave her court-room testimony (possibly Xanax or another sedative, and possibly a narcotic pain reliever such as Oxycodone). She also was caught in several lies.
While Martin was no doubt a good, even a great kid when sober, if he had triggered alcohol or other-drug addiction, by definition he acted badly at least some of the time. Since the argument that he was an active addict is convincing, it’s entirely plausible that Zimmerman is telling the truth when he claims he feared for his life and the shooting was in self-defense.
There is also compelling evidence of alcoholism in many media personnel. Someone at NBC engaged in selective editing in a blatant attempt to falsely imply racism and to foment rage. As pointed out in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics, attempts to unduly enrage, especially by making false accusations, are nearly always associated with addicts. Therefore, this strongly suggests that particular someone at NBC has alcoholism.
The media have seriously questioned whether a neighborhood watch is appropriate in a gated community where there have been eight felony thefts during the twelve months leading up to the shooting. Instead, they mock the idea, calling gated communities “problematic” and “racist,” and the police that try to protect citizens from thugs “prejudiced” and engaged in profiling. And the media, quick to accuse Zimmerman of racism, failed to publicize his efforts to help the black, homeless man referenced above.
The media’s portrayal of Martin as an innocent-looking 13-year-old even convinced President Barack Obama, who famously said, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” Perhaps he hadn’t yet seen Martin as the 17-year-old he’d become. False portrayals suggest alcoholism, at least in those who first posted a picture of a cute-looking 13-year-old if not those who continued to perpetuate such a fraud. Incredibly, the media continues to use the picture of the 13-year-old Martin.
Addicts are cunning, brilliant liars who tell very believable tall tales; their lies are often more convincing than the truths of the sober. Those in the media who have lied via half-truths, false innuendos and false accusations qualify as such—especially if they had access to the facts, which they most certainly did.
There are multiple addicts surrounding this case. I don’t know whether addiction in subjects of a trial can help to precipitate a need for addicts in crowds to cause riots; however, it’s interesting that at least two major riots were indirectly started by the actions of addicts (the 1964 Watts riots, discussed below under “codependent of the month,” and the 1992 L.A. riots, indirectly started by Rodney King, the topic of the Top Story in issue # 70 of TAR). Addicts often set off chains of events that other addicts can use to inflame others. To comprehend why riots are possible in the event George Zimmerman is acquitted, one must understand mobs and mob mentality—the alcoholic mindset. As I wrote in an article entitled, “How do Alcoholics Get Away with Financially Abusing Others?” in my tax and financial letter, Wealth Creation Strategies # 31, Winter 2007-2008:
“Addicts suffer damage to the frontal lobes of the brain, the seat of reason and logic. The lower brain centers, responsible for survival, instinctual actions and reactions, emotions and herding, are undamaged. We might hypothesize that this allows the primitive brain to override the restraints of the logical brain, allowing alcoholics to better connect with others at an emotional level. This should be helpful to a con-man when attempting to tap the primal instincts, including greed, and bilk the mark.”
This ability to connect with others at an emotional level is also helpful to those attempting to wield power capriciously by inciting others to commit acts of violence.
The leaders of mobs are able to connect with followers at an emotional level because they are nearly always alcoholics. This does not require all followers to be afflicted with this disease; by no means are all members of mobs addicts. Not all of the Nazis doing the amphetamine-addicted Hitler’s bidding, or even the henchmen working for the alcoholic Stalin, were alcoholics, but many in key positions were. Because of a need to “belong” (third most important in psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs), many sober people willingly follow alcoholics, who connect at that emotional level referred to in the quote (they can, by their own testimony, sell refrigerators to Eskimos).
Such leaders are superb at inflaming rage. Already, the New Black Panther Party offered a bounty for Zimmerman’s “capture.” Thousands marched through the streets of Sanford, Florida, where the shooting occurred, demanding “justice,” by which they presumably mean that Zimmerman should be presumed guilty before trial. Zimmerman was in such fear for his life he went into hiding for a period of time after the shooting. The idea that someone is guilty before his trial, especially when the facts are so murky, smacks of mob mentality and hints at the possibility that mob violence could follow if the alcoholic—er, mob—doesn’t get what it wants—Zimmerman’s head on a stick.
* Note that no one suggests any possibility of riots if Zimmerman is found guilty. While violence wouldn’t surprise a Socionomics-aware addictionologist, we may get lucky—even if George Zimmerman is acquitted on charges of murdering Trayvon Martin—but only because the social mood has not declined sufficiently. (Civil unrest is much more likely closer to the bottom of the next downturn in social mood.) On the other hand, you never know.
I’ve long observed that human-caused destruction in all its forms, from theft and fraud to rape, murder and war, is nearly always initiated by alcohol and other-drug addicts. Addiction in supporters of those initiating especially destructive events can turn the severity of these incidents into catastrophes far worse than they would otherwise be, and more quickly. Such “madness of crowds,” found throughout history from the Crusades and Salem Witch Trials to the Holocaust, may manifest as mob violence.
** Immediately after the shooting, Sanford, Florida police found a very compliant Zimmerman. The police report stated:
“While I was in such close contact with Zimmerman, I could observe that his back appeared to be wet and was covered with grass, as if he had been laying on his back on the ground. Zimmerman was also bleeding from the nose and back of his head.”
Blogger Karl Denninger, who has studied this case from the start, asks, “If Zimmerman was the aggressor how did he get injured on the back of his head with sufficient force to cause bleeding? Further, if he was on top of Martin how did Zimmerman’s shirt get grass stains on the back?” He goes on to ask, “Exactly how many times will you consent to having your head slammed on concrete by someone who knocks you down and then gets on top of you before you conclude that you have the right to defend yourself, including through the use of deadly force? Is that threshold reached before or after your skull is cracked open like a coconut and your brains are splattered all over the sidewalk?” He points out that if Zimmerman was mounted by Martin and his face was pounded and head slammed into concrete, the shooting was justified. Presumably because these facts were apparent, the DA initially declined to prosecute and brought the case only because political pressure compelled her to do so.
*** The misbehaviors of dry drunks are rarely (if ever) as awful as those of practicing alcoholics.
Runner-up for top story of the month:
Aaron Hernandez, 23, former tight end for the New England Patriots, charged with first-degree murder of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd. The heavily-tattooed Hernandez (the more tattoos, the higher the odds of substance addiction) has also been charged with five firearms-related violations and is being investigated for multiple other murders in Florida and Massachusetts. Despite having received the lowest possible score, 1 out of 10, in the category “social maturity” on a personality test and psychological profile given by an NFL scouting service and being selected in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft, the Patriots recently signed him to a five-year extension, which included the largest signing bonus ($12.5 million) ever given to an NFL tight end. The fact that it was conditioned on his continued “good behavior” demonstrates some acknowledgment of his prior misbehaviors by the Patriots.
Overachievement and lack of social maturity, while apparently contradictory, are entirely consistent with alcoholism and, therefore, misbehaviors, including the commission of murder. Alcoholics stop growing emotionally the day they trigger alcoholism—average age, 13—and yet can be extraordinary overachievers due to their need to wield power over others. The psychological profile also reported Hernandez “enjoys living on the edge of acceptable behavior and that he may be prone to partying too much and doing questionable things….” Since “partying” is a euphemism for “drinking alcoholically,” this appears to be a classic case of undiagnosed and untreated alcoholism, ending very badly for everyone involved.
Codependent of the Month:
Rena Price, who inadvertently contributed to the start of the 1965 Watts riots, died recently of natural causes at 97. Her son, Marquette Frye, had been stopped by officers after driving erratically. After he failed sobriety tests, his mother, who had been summoned by a neighbor, scolded him about drinking and driving. Frye suddenly turned from being “good-humored and cooperative” to uncooperative, as he suddenly blew up at the officers. Accounts vary as to subsequent events, but after Frye’s arrest someone shoved Price, Frye was struck on the head by a patrolman’s baton and Price and her stepson (who was in the car with Frye) jumped on an officer. After rumors of the arrest and police abuse spread, mobs turned the area into a war-zone. Six days later 34 were dead, thousands injured and tens of millions of dollars of property destroyed.
Frye, described as “the man who started the riots,” drifted from job to job and was arrested dozens of times before he died in 1986 at 41 from pneumonia, often a symptom of alcoholism (especially at that age). He “struggled with excessive drinking,” which is a euphemism for alcoholism. All of this confirms the Watts riots were precipitated by an alcoholic and that Price was, therefore, a codependent—and a serious one at that.
The effect on her was enormous. In the subsequent court case, Price was found guilty of interfering with police officers. Although later exonerated, she couldn’t get a job for years. No one would hire someone who the prosecution accused of helping to cause the riots. And she couldn’t bear living life believing her son was the indirect cause for the death of dozens, injury of thousands and property damage in the millions, with hundreds of small businesses literally going up in smoke—so she went into denial. While according to officers she initially believed her son was drunk, she later recanted, saying the officers lied, no doubt thinking of the good son she knew lay underneath the muck of addiction.
She likely had no idea her son’s affliction was genetically rooted and that it caused him to act badly some of the time, including drinking while driving. She couldn’t have had a clue that arguing and scolding was senseless, as it is with every practicing alcoholic. She couldn’t have understood the only proper method of dealing with such misbehaviors is to promise logical consequences and, when the rules are broken, administer them without delay or compromise. She no doubt lived life thinking she could have done better—with no understanding of how she could have done so. Fortunately, time erased the memories; Price found work sometime after her husband died in the ‘70s and, in 2005, when asked about the riots, said, “Oh, it’s been years. I’m through with it.” She was fortunate: she lived long enough for time to cause the pain to diminish. How many codependents aren’t that fortunate?
Quotes of the month:
“The star regularly lavished castmates and crew with expensive perks to make up for his maddeningly odd behavior.”
So wrote Rebecca Rosenberg, Jamie Schram and Dan Macleod for the New York Post, describing actor James Gandolfini’s attempts to make up for his alcoholic antics like disappearing from the set of “The Sopranos” for days at a time. “All of a sudden, there’d be a sushi chef at lunch,” one crew member told reporters. “Or we’d all get massages.” These are classic alcoholic-on-bended knee attempts at reconciliation, promising “I’ll never do it again.” Alcoholism must be at the top of likely explanations for “maddeningly odd behaviors” that make us shake our heads and wonder, “what is he thinking?”
“There is not a good reason in the world for why I did the horrible things I did.”
So said Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, 39, as he pleaded guilty to the March 2012 rampage in which he murdered 16 innocent Afghan civilians, thereby avoiding the death penalty. While there wasn’t a “good” reason, there was a reason, which he may not grasp: he was in an alcoholic blackout. During such times, addicts are capable of atrocities, yet can’t remember anything, because the events don’t enter the memory. This is one of the most tragic cases of military malfeasance ever: as discussed in the Top Story of issue # 69 of TAR, his alcoholism should have been obvious to everyone around him. His employer, the U.S. Army, should long ago have given him a choice between sobriety and a court martial. Having systems in place to recognize addiction in law enforcement personnel, including the military, is important to everyone’s safety and security. If such appropriate action had been taken, Staff Sgt. Bales wouldn’t be asking why he did these horrible things, because the horrible things would not have happened.
Retrospective find of the month:
Numerous clues revealing likely addiction are disclosed in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics. Clue # 16, “Has ever knowingly made a false accusation” in the chapter, “A Supreme Being Complex,” describes how false accusations, an especially vile subcategory of lying, are often made by addicts. Turning facts and reason on their head, addicts “play an instigating and continuing role in most crowd psychology,” turning crowds into mobs, which can result in riots and witch-hunts*. These include the spate of daycare sex abuse “witch-hunts” of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
While the hysteria had largely died down by the time I began researching addiction, I thought it would make a fascinating study and add to the massive amount of evidence that alcoholics have a disproportionate impact on history. I hypothesized that such witch-hunts require several addicts: the original accuser(s), at least one prosecutor and at least one therapist who talks children into making the accusations. The odds of a witch-hunt resulting in a grotesque miscarriage of justice increase when the judge, police who are directly involved and defense attorneys are also alcoholics.
Bernard Baran was the first person convicted in the wave of hysteria comprising the daycare sex-abuse and satanic-ritual abuse trials in the mid- to late-‘80s. Baran, an openly gay man, began working at an Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, as a teacher’s aide in 1983. In September, 1984, the parents of a boy who had recently been placed at the Center by social workers told the Center they “didn’t want no homo” near their son and insisted that Baran be fired.
When the board of directors of the ECDC refused to fire Baran, by all reports an exemplary worker, the parents—who were known drug addicts and police informants—removed their child from the Center. A few days later the parents called their connection at the local police department drug control unit and alleged that Baran had molested their son at the Center that day—when they had removed the child three days earlier. Police began an investigation and, incredibly, not only validated the claim of sexual abuse, but also charged Baran with multiple counts of rape and indecent assault against several other (no doubt coached) children. Three months later, Baran was on trial. In violation of Baran’s 6th Amendment right to a public trial, the proceedings were convened in closed court; he was positioned so couldn’t even hear the children’s testimony. One week after the mockery of a trial began, he was convicted and given three life sentences.
After more than 20 years in prison, his conviction was finally set aside and, in 2006, Baran was released. In 2009, the Massachusetts Appeals Court vacated the convictions, deeming the case “notorious” and stating the behavior of the original prosecutor was “troubling” (a gross understatement). In 2010, Baran’s lawyers reached a (pathetically stingy) $400,000 settlement with the state, which still denies liability and refuses to expunge Baran’s record. (The documentary film Freeing Bernie Baran, covers the entire 25 years of this horrific case.)
The original accusers were known addicts. The complicit police were likely alcoholics. The assistant District Attorney, who used the case to advance his career and is now a judge, was probably alcoholic, as was the original judge on the case. This miscarriage of justice was made possible by a perfect storm that placed alcohol and other-drug addicts in positions of power, in just the right place at the right time. Bernard Baran is one of the most tragic victims ever of such a storm.
* As explained in Drunks, Drugs & Debits, when such accusations “stick” it’s because addicts frequently tell much more convincing lies than the sober among us tell truths.
Retrospective look of the month:
When I first saw the 2000 feature movie Erin Brockovich, with Julia Roberts playing the “environmental” activist, I speculated that the real Erin Brockovich might be alcoholic. I don’t recall what led me to this tentative diagnosis based on a mere portrayal and what would, for many, seem to be flimsy evidence. It could have been the willingness to (arguably) stretch the truth, which is often rooted in alcoholic confabulations; it might have been her foul mouth and cigarette-smoking —hypocritical for a purported anti-cancer crusader. Because alcoholism is often locked behind closed doors, I’ve learned patience is a virtue and things take time to see the light of day. In the case of the real Erin Brockovich, that time has come: she was recently arrested for DUI while trying to dock a boat on Lake Mead, with a blood alcohol level at “more than twice the legal limit of .08.”
Brokovich released this statement:
“At no time was the boat away from the dock and there was no public safety risk. That being said, I take drunk driving very seriously, this was clearly a big mistake, I know better and I am very sorry. After a day in the sun and with nothing to eat it appears that a couple of drinks had a greater impact than I had realized.”
This is classic alcoholic “spin.” She makes excuses for her drinking: the boat wasn’t away from the dock so there was no risk; yet the police report shows she was trying to dock it when she was arrested. While admitting it was a “mistake” and superficially apologetic, she lies about the number of drinks she had (unless they were 28-ounce Long Island Ice Teas). The truth can be calculated: if she weighs 130 pounds, she consumed nearly 12 drinks over 12 hours, almost 10 drinks over 8 hours or 8 drinks over 4 hours. Any way you cut it, that’s not “a couple of drinks.” And when someone lies about drinking, is 53 and is not flat on her face with a blood alcohol level of anything much over .12, alcoholism is a given.
Like most alcoholics, Brockovich likely triggered early-stage alcoholism in her early teen years. She would have been, then, deep into alcoholism by the age of 30, when she began her quest to prove that residents of the small town of Hinkley, California developed high rates of cancer due to chromium VI in drinking water. The chromium, used to fight corrosion in a natural gas pipeline cooling tower, was released into unlined ponds by Pacific Gas & Electric before the 1970s. Brockovich made the connection between that and a “cancer cluster” in Hinkley in the mid-‘90s. This didn’t, however, stop her from smoking cigarettes through which she inhaled chromium VI, even though inhaling the chemical is much more dangerous than drinking similar quantities of the stuff (lung absorption through inhalation is much higher than absorption into the stomach, liver and pancreas via ingestion).
Other than the smoking and propitious use of foul language (either of which yields an estimated 30-50% odds of alcoholism for California residents in this demographic), there was little other evidence of alcoholism in this very public figure until recently, when her third husband left her. The odds of alcoholism increase with each divorce; as reported in Drunks, Drugs & Debits, after four divorces the odds of addiction are about 85%.
Isn’t this helpful? Someone was divorced four times—or three times, and also smokes and uses foul language. Knowing nothing else, we can ascribe very high odds of addiction and conclude the person can’t be safely trusted—for anything. Such clues give tremendous ability to protect oneself from the capricious misbehaviors of addicts in our personal and professional lives. They also give us the ability to quickly determine whether we should take special precautions in analyzing the veracity of such people’s claims.
It’s possible Brockovich is simply wrong regarding Hinkley. The findings here and here are interesting in this regard, as is the analysis here and here. We must always silently ask the possible alcoholic, “Are you telling and perpetuating a lie because of your egomaniacal need to capriciously wield power? And, if such need is unconscious, is your belief rooted in confabulated thinking?” On the other hand, if perceptions are distorted and one truly believe one’s incorrect assertions, the need to inflate the ego can make one blind to the truth. This alone should cause us to consider Bruce Ames’ arguments at the links above and to question the ideas for which Brockovich has helped to gain common acceptance.
Victims of the month:
Michelle Kane, 43, who was stabbed to death while trying to flee her estranged husband Michael Kane, 46, on a suburban street in the West San Fernando Valley, CA. While she was granted a restraining order a couple of months earlier, to an addict this is like poking a stick in the eye, which may cause him to react and lash out in much more destructive ways. Kane, a teacher at a Los Angeles Unified School District elementary school (in the process of protecting worthy members, unions enable the worst ones), had already committed a number of malicious acts and made numerous threats, including a promise to cut her throat. While she knew enough to describe her husband’s “long history of drug abuse” (he’d used heroin and methamphetamine), she was under the impression he had an “undiagnosed bipolar disorder.” This may have kept her in the marriage for 12 years—“oh, I’m sure some sort of prescribed medication will help him,” and we just don’t want to leave someone who is sick. The trouble is, there is no way to diagnose most mental disorders (i.e., bipolar, sociopathy, narcissism) until the afflicted is long sober, when we usually find that substance addiction merely mimicked the disorder. Michelle Kane was clearly a victim of addiction and, worse, she was a victim of the all-pervasive myths and misunderstandings surrounding the disease.
Pamela Devitt, 63, who died while taking a morning stroll through her neighborhood when a pack of pit bulls mauled her, dragged her 50 yards, scalped her and removed her arm. The alleged owner of the dogs, Alex Jackson, 29, is charged with murder. This is not the first incident involving his dogs: he was also charged with assault with a deadly weapon, stemming from an earlier altercation in which he is accused of throwing a rock at a horse rider after his dogs attacked the rider’s horse (yes, you read that right: the horse didn’t attack anyone, the dogs attacked the horse and then Jackson threw a rock at the rider). After Devitt’s death, homicide investigators found six dogs and two mixed breeds at Jackson’s home, along with a marijuana-growing operation, leading to additional charges on various drug-related offenses. As regular readers of TAR might surmise, I doubt Jackson was doing only pot; meth is very popular in this area (the Antelope Valley, north of Los Angeles). Regular readers also know that bad pets, including pit bulls (which I understand can be wonderful pets), are usually raised by people turned bad by alcohol or other-drug addiction.
Gabriel Fernandez, 8, dead after his mother’s boyfriend admitted he beat Gabriel repeatedly for lying and “being dirty,” following six investigations into abuse allegations involving the mother over nearly a decade by the Los Angeles County’s Department of Children and Family Services. Gabriel died of injuries from his latest beating, which resulted in a cracked skull, three broken ribs and bruised and burned skin. All but one of the investigations found prior allegations to be “unfounded,” despite the fact that his teacher told authorities he often appeared bruised and battered at school. Gabriel’s death is not the only instance of gross malfeasance on the part of Social Services: no workers have been fired in 15 instances where children died, even when errors on their part were found to be “egregious.”
Gabriel’s mother, Pearl Fernandez, first came to the attention of social workers a decade ago when another son suffered a head injury resulting from a car accident; he was not wearing a seat belt. A year later, after beating the same son she told a relative she didn’t want him; while social workers found that complaint was unfounded, he (along with other siblings) went to live with relatives soon after. Despite an admission to being involved with gangs and drugs and a subsequent conviction for using an unspecified weapon in a reckless manner, Fernandez was able to reclaim Gabriel, along with two other children, when he was 2 years old. Fernandez told social workers she was concerned about the treatment of her children by relatives; a cousin told authorities “it was for the welfare money.” Less than a week later, despite the fact that social workers confirmed new allegations of physical abuse, she was allowed to enter counseling and keep her children. Several more instances of confirmed physical abuse followed in quick succession, including numerous bruises, a busted lip and bruised dots all over his face from being shot with a BB gun by his mother.
The problem in nearly all (if not all) such cases—and there is a current backlog of 3,450 of them in L.A. County—is alcohol and other drug addiction in a parent. Rather than being coerced into abstinence, which is the starting point for sobriety, social workers counsel, cajole and otherwise do nothing (and possibly may not be allowed to do what’s right by L.A. County rules, a topic for a future article). This is a recipe for ensuring the abuse continues, at untold cost to innocent children and society at large—which has to pay for human beings made and kept less than worthless by their drugs of choice.
Story of the month:
An article, “Friend unable to prevent killing,” in The Los Angeles Times reported that Michael and Michelle Kane, whose tragic tale is reported above under “victim of the month,” declared bankruptcy in 2012. The article, written by Jean Merl and Joseph Serna, claimed the Kane’s financial problems stemmed from the purchase of their home in the San Fernando Valley in 2002, which needed “landscaping, appliances and various other improvements,” paid for with credit cards. The story claimed, “When the housing market crashed, it also doomed their plan to tap their home equity to pay the bills.”
The trouble with this narrative is that the real estate bubble had barely begun in 2002. Prices nearly doubled in the San Fernando Valley from that point to the peak in 2005-2007. The fact that either they didn’t refinance when they could have or refinanced and already took equity out for other purposes shows an appalling lack of financial common sense and judgment. Such poor judgment is a great clue to addiction. We could easily have ascribed high odds of addiction in one or both, even if we knew nothing else about the couple.*
Worse, Merl and Serna repeated the claims in the Kane’s bankruptcy declaration without any discussion, skepticism or questioning whatsoever: “We didn’t use the cards to buy expensive toys or take extravagant trips around the world. The charges were for our general living expenses, such as mortgage payments, auto payments, food, insurance and utilities.”
HUH?!!! They paid ordinary and necessary living expenses by piling on more debt?!!! The so-called journalists merely repeat the claim as if there’s nothing wrong with using debt to pay “general living expenses,” including mortgage and auto payments—which are themselves repayments of debt!**
Merl and Serna further enable the Kane’s miserable financial behaviors by repeating Michael Kane’s claim that he spent “a significant amount” on school supplies and gifts to “incentivize” students. They also repeated his assertion that “because I taught in an underprivileged area, I even bought some of the students clothing when I noticed some students coming to class wearing the same thing every day.” As an Enrolled Agent tax professional the most significant amount I’ve ever deducted for such expenses was maybe $2,000-$3,000, and for teachers who could afford it. Someone who owes $166,000 on credit cards is not that person. Oh, and that “underprivileged area” he taught in? Tarzana, California, with a median income of nearly $70,000 in 2011.
The fact that Merl and Serna make excuse after excuse for an estranged husband who murders his wife in cold blood and who was at large at the time they wrote the article is nothing less than astounding. To repeat such bald assertions without even noting flagrant incongruencies in their bankruptcy claim is appalling journalistic malfeasance.
* With limited information, addictionologists would distrust this couple and avoid initiating any kind of relationship, whether personal, business or professional—and certainly wouldn’t lend them money.
** Similar to how the entire country is being run, isn’t it?
Disenablers of the month:
Richard Stannell and his K9 named Joe, who work for RK Agency Investigations in Granbury, TX. Parents can call on Joe to sniff out heroin, marijuana, meth and cocaine to see if their kids (or spouses) have drugs stashed in and around the house. Some parents say they’ve found some drugs and want Joe to see if there are others in locations ordinary trusting humans wouldn’t think of—in air conditioning vents, under carpets, in linings of clothes and beds and anywhere else young addicts dream up to protect their perceived “right to use.”
Once Joe “locates” the drugs, it’s up to the parents to either turn in the kids or deal with it privately. Firms all over the country now offer services similar to Joe’s.
BTW, I’m all in favor of your right to use at your own expense, so long as it’s in your own home—not your parents’ home, and so long as society stops trying to feed you, house you and provide your medical care after injuring yourself or suffering medical problems due to addictive use.
Sometimes, it takes an addict:
James Gandolfini, best known for his role as Tony Soprano, dead of a heart attack at age 51. Whenever someone dies so young, addiction should be suspected. I knew little about him and his alter-ego (I was not a fan of The Sopranos), but quickly found a history of substance addiction in the actor (not to mention the character). During a nasty divorce in the early 2000s, Gandolfini went public about his drug use. However, he was arguably in damage-control mode, deflecting accusations by his then-soon-to-be ex-wife, Marcy Gandolfini, that he was a cocaine and booze binger who had “kinky sex with multiple mistresses” during their brief marriage. His chief enabler and representative, Dan Klores, claimed that “to bring [up the drug problem] now, as an attempt to gain leverage and a better settlement during the divorce, is just reprehensible.” We might instead suggest it is reprehensive to claim the use was “something from years ago…that he’s taken care of it,” as Klores put it, when he was married for only three years. Court papers filed by Marcy included “more than two dozen names of those she believes James did drugs with, including a number of Sopranos buddies.” Since court papers on James’ side portrayed Marcy as unhinged and threatening suicide after he moved out of their apartment barely 2 ½ years into their marriage, she also could be an addict and her claims could, therefore, be false. Of course, the claim that she was unhinged and threatened suicide may be a false accusation, so who the hell knows. The lives of addicts are so intertwined with lies and half-truths, the actual truth can be very difficult to discern.
One truth that is self-evident is Gandolfini’s ability to perform well while using, even if disappearing from The Sopranos set for days at a time. The show premiered on HBO in January 1999 and ran until June 2007. It was, at the time, the most financially successful series in the history of cable television and has been called by some the greatest TV series ever. It won 21 Emmys and five Golden Globes. It catapulted careers of both cast and crew, including Gandolfini’s, even though (or because?) he was likely drinking or using during most of the show’s filming. In 2003, Gandolfini’s manager Mark Armstrong stated he was “having a casual cocktail with a cast member,” yet maintained (apparently with a straight face), “As far as I know, he’s been sober.” We knew from Gandolfini that he’d been in rehab and was, therefore, a confirmed alcoholic. Alcoholics can never drink without risking a full-on relapse and, if they are drinking, they’ve relapsed. The only question with a relapse is how bad it will get—this time. Oh, and he was reportedly drinking Stoli straight, which isn’t even a “casual cocktail” (not that it would matter).
The New York Post reported Gandolfini’s final meal included at least eight alcoholic drinks. People who saw him at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings (apparently recently) said they didn’t think “he was serious about getting sober,” and these are folks who know who’s serious and who’s not. Another source said, “I can confirm he has been known to blow lines [of cocaine] and drink like an Irish sailor on weekend leave.” Photos show him looking haggard, drink in hand, in the days immediately preceding his death. Although the direct cause of death was a heart attack, the underlying cause was likely alcoholism and possibly cocaine use, which some claim he was using again in the days leading to his death (cocaine can trigger heart attacks). Gandolfini’s demise is yet another example of the tragic results of enabling by wealth, fans, managers and very likely well-meaning family and friends.
Note to family, friends and fans of the above: the benefit of the doubt is given by assuming alcoholism (they are either idiots and fundamentally rotten, or they are alcoholic/other drug addicts—which would explain the misbehaviors). If alcoholic, there is zero chance that behaviors, in the long run, will improve without sobriety. An essential prerequisite to sobriety is the cessation of enabling, allowing pain and crises to build. Thus far, many have done everything they can to protect the addict from the requisite pain, making these news events possible. The cure for alcoholism, consequential bad behaviors and, ultimately, tragedy, is simple: stop protecting the addict from the logical consequences of misbehaviors and, where possible, proactively intervene.
“Why She Drinks”
An article in The Wall Street Journal entitled “Why She Drinks,” which is an adaptation from the new book, Her Best Kept Secret by Gabrielle Glaser, begins by pointing out there is a profound difference between how men and women “abuse” alcohol and the purported reasons. While the ideas in the article may have been taken out of context, the myths they extol are dangerous for those looking for real reasons. That the genders are biologically different does not mean the common thread of abuse is any different between the sexes.
According to the article, women are the primary drinkers of wine. Additionally, the number of women arrested for DUI in the decade ending in 2007 rose 30%, but are still fewer than that of men, despite men’s arrests for DUI having dropped by 7%. In the decade ending in 2008 the number of young women landing in emergency rooms for being dangerously intoxicated rose by 52%, still less than that of young men, the percentage for which rose by just 9%. The piece explains that women have more fat, which retains alcohol, and less water, causing women to become intoxicated more quickly. She states that this could explain why alcohol-related liver and brain damage occur more quickly in alcoholic (my word) women than men.
So, women drink their alcohol in a form different from that of men—as if the alcohol in wine is different from that in beer or whiskey (!)—and DUIs and emergency room admissions are becoming more equal. That leaves a biological difference, which has nothing to do with any purported differences in how genders “abuse” the drug.
The article then turns to psychologist Mary Ellen Barnes, examining her ideas as to why women drink “differently” than men and, implicitly, agreeing with them.
“The baby’s crying, they’re not getting paid,” Barnes says. This results in boredom, anxiety and guilt, and of course drinking makes those feelings recede.
That’s preposterous. If that worked for even a few hours, we’d all drink addictively.
Worse, Barnes believes the alcoholic women she’s interviewed. She repeats their claim that “a few glasses [sliding] into a whole bottle…[is] an embarrassing habit that needs to be concealed.” Ms. Barnes, with all due respect, it’s not a “habit;” please save us from repeating the claims of practicing addicts, or even recovering ones without a decade or more of sobriety. It’s addiction. And it wouldn’t need to be concealed unless the behaviors are so awful they can be connected to the drinking—just like in men.
Worse, the article cites Ms. Barnes as claiming that the AA approach, which requires that members “tame their egos…may not be perfect for women whose biggest problem is not an excess of ego but a lack of it.” Ms. Barnes confuses ego, an inordinately large sense of self-importance, with self-esteem, or having a favorable view of self. Early-stage alcoholism causes egomania, which impels behaviors that gradually result in the implosion of self-esteem. Behaviors rooted in egomania may not be readily recognized, because they can rotate with depression and anxiety. They often masquerade as a need to wield power in subtle ways, such as by whoring oneself out to men—which is a terrific way to wield power over those men. Barnes claims that “women need to feel powerful, not like victims of something beyond their control,” such as becoming victim to sexual abuse and suffering from eating disorders. You’re confused, Ms. Barnes: they are victims of sexual abuse because they are children of alcoholics, or come from families filled with alcoholics, where sex is used as a means of wielding power over others. They inherit the biochemical predisposition to alcoholism and it looks like they drink because they were abused—which doesn’t explain similar children who grow up and drink normally (or not at all).
Glaser then claims that “studies show that after drinking, men report feeling more powerful…while women say it makes them feel more affectionate, sexy and feminine.” Never take anything an alcoholic says with more than a grain of salt. Many alcoholic women control men with sex; they simply don’t admit it until they are long in recovery, just as Don Juan types won’t admit they engaged in serial sexual conquests until they are clean and sober for years.
Finally, Glaser claims that “studies around the world have found that for those who are not severely alcohol-dependent, controlled drinking is possible.” The studies reported in Alcoholism Myths and Realities conclusively show that controlled drinking is impossible over extended periods. One study had such awful results that it had to be called off after four years because “it would be unethical to continue”; another, conducted by Mark and Linda Sobell at Patton State Hospital in California, seemed to have good results at the two-year mark but utterly failed by the 10th year, proving that while alcoholics can control their drinking for periods of time, they cannot do so forever. The author of Moderation Management, Audrey Kishline, who founded a group by the same name, relapsed and killed two innocents six years into her “controlled drinking” at a blood alcohol level of .28, three and one-half times the per se legal limit for driving.
Glaser even suggests that AA can be dangerous—after all, in Hawaii in 2010 an AA member with a history of violence who had been ordered to attend meetings met a woman in AA and killed her and her 13-year-old daughter. How many people do un-sober alcoholics kill? That’s like saying we should never imprison anyone because he might kill someone in prison.
I love The Wall Street Journal. However, this article is not only trash—it’s dangerous in that it perpetuates not just one or two, but numerous myths of addiction.
Biological mom is no mom at all
I’ve been involved with a wonderful man who has three children from a previous marriage. I love these kids and don’t mind serving the role of their biological mother, who’s rarely around.
I have a problem with a mother who doesn’t act like one. She had her driver’s license pulled because of her refusal to pay court-ordered child support (the father has full custody). She has had no contact with the kids for nearly a year, while the kids are continually asking when they will see her.
If she ever calls should we tell her to leave us all alone?
Concerned would-be step-mother
Other columnists would tell you your role is to offer emotional attachment and a mature attitude towards their chronically disappointing mother. The kids have been abandoned; you should help the children handle her absence appropriately. If she ever calls, you don’t need to tell her to leave you alone—she’s already done that. Such columnists would make a number of other suggestions, including helping the children grieve. This is all good counsel.
However, the one thing other columnists wouldn’t say, at least overtly, is perhaps this abandonment is for the good. For a mother to abandon her children, substance addiction in the mother is almost always the culprit. A relationship with the bottle (or pills or powder) trumps those with other human beings, even one’s children.
If she does have addiction, contrary to the common belief that mothers and children shouldn’t be separated, because she’s potentially dangerous while using—consider the “victims of the month,” above—the kids should not be in contact with her until she’s sober. Keep in mind the stories of codependents in Drunks, Drugs & Debits: until I interviewed them, they were usually blind to the possibility of addiction even in those closest. Find a counselor who understands addiction, how dangerous addicts can be and how to counsel children who have been subjected to abuse by their mother.
(Source for story idea: Ask Amy, June 11, 2013.)
“Unchecked emotions can lead to irrational behavior.”
So said reporter Julian Kimble in a piece entitled, “Pennsylvania Man Tries to Shoot Wedding Ring Off After Argument with Wife,” in reporting how Alfredo Malespini III, a Federal Correctional Institution guard nearly severed his finger in his failed attempt to shoot off his wedding ring (the subject of TAR Lite # 25). This is yet another half-truth. While “unchecked emotions” can lead to irrational behavior, this doesn’t shed light on the causes of such emotions and, therefore, the source of irrational behavior. As readers of my books know and understand, such behavior is nearly always rooted in alcoholism.
Malespini had been “drinking heavily” the day of the shooting. “Drinking heavily” is a euphemism for “drinking alcoholically,” especially when the drinking occurs during daytime hours. Practicing alcoholics can’t be treated for “unchecked emotions,” including anger, because such emotions are a symptom of the underlying cause of nearly all rage—substance addiction. If “anger management” classes worked, they wouldn’t be utter failures. To correct Kimble’s assertion: alcoholism can lead to unchecked emotions, which can (and often does) result in irrational behavior, such as attempting to shoot rings off fingers.
Story from “This is True” by Randy Cassingham, with his “tagline:”
“A SOBER ASSESSMENT: When Tom Stilwell, 20, woke up in a hospital, the British man living in Auckland, New Zealand, was told what brought him there. He had arrived at his apartment after a night out with friends to discover he was locked out. Stilwell, who lives on the 14th floor of the building, knocked on the door of the woman who lived directly above him. Despite the hour — 2:00 a.m. — and despite him being ‘a little bit tipsy,’ Geraldine Bautista, 28, let him in. Stilwell's plan: ‘Can you please let me jump off from the balcony? I will not bother you just let me use your balcony.’ He figured he could let himself into his apartment from his own balcony just below. ‘I never thought he would really do that,’ Bautista said. ‘In my mind I thought 'OK, I'll just let you see that it's really impossible.’ ’ But, she said, without saying a word he went over the rail — and fell 13 storeys to the roof of an adjacent building. He survived with internal injuries and multiple fractures, including his back and neck. Once a nurse in intensive care explained what happened, she handed Stilwell a board and a pen — he couldn't talk thanks to tubes in his throat — and he wrote his reaction: ‘What an idiot.’ (RC/New Zealand Herald) ...Funny: those are the very words of everyone who just read this.”
Bautista doesn’t understand alcoholism and, therefore, what alcoholics are capable of: anything. If she understood this, she might have stopped Stilwell. However, since the problem is alcoholism, if she had said “no” he might have simply gone next door and gotten someone else to let him jump from the balcony.
The larger problem is this and similar “idiots” wreak havoc on health systems all over the world. With most of them either socialized or government controlled, everyone pays for such follies either in higher taxes or higher insurance premiums.
How would something that hasn’t been tried in decades—a free market in health care—handle such issues? The price of coverage would be commensurate with risk—which would be much higher for those who “drink excessively,” i.e. alcoholics. Some might object such a system would unduly punish those having a genetically-rooted disease that is no fault of their own. This libertarian, one of the few who understands alcoholism as a disease and not a question of “willpower,” would respond that it’s a disease for which logical (often financial) consequences are the cure. When able to dig deep enough, every recovering alcoholic admits pain from consequences for misbehaviors got him or her to “try sobriety.” Such consequences would properly include the imposition of appropriate costs. (Therefore, the cure is a libertarian one.)
In a market in which insurers were free to try different pricing arrangements and different solutions to keeping their customers safe from disease and injury, some of the more ingenious entrepreneurs might try regular and random alcohol and other-drug testing. In the few areas in which this has been tried, rates of relapse have plunged, such as in drug courts. Should a relapse occur, either insurance coverage would end or its price would skyrocket. The power of the pocketbook should not be underestimated.
The ultimate goal is to get and keep addicts sober, which reason can’t do. Drawing lines in the sand usually works—but because we are not God and can’t read inside their drug-damaged brains, we cannot know which line will do the trick. Is it one or three DUIs? Is it loss of license—or freedom? Is it loss of friends, family or job? Is it loss of wealth and, if so, how much? Ratcheting up a price or ending coverage contractually (the customer knows the rules ahead of time), is yet one more line in the sand that would reduce the number of “idiots” who decide to go over rails and fall 13 stories.
For those who worry that some addicts will, as a result of having no insurance, die—they already do die with and without insurance. Truly free markets would reduce the number of addicts dying of their disease by reducing the number of un-sober addicts. And by the way, the backstop for insurance are charitable organizations such as the Salvation Army, which are more capable of reminding addicts of the rules (and much more effective in doing so than one-size-fits-all government will ever be). They would get care—even if they have to lose everything to get that care. On the other hand, losing everything helps to deflate their massive egos, a crucial step in bringing about a long-term cure.
(Story and tagline from “This is True,” copyright 2013 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission. If you haven't already subscribed to his newsletter—the free one at least, or the paid one I get, with more than twice the stories—I highly recommend it: www.ThisIsTrue.com.)
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