Trying to reduce opioid deaths in construction fields by taking the masculinity out of them could make matters worse, not better.
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Trying to reduce opioid deaths in construction fields by taking the masculinity out of them could make matters worse, not better.
The headline that the Providence Journal gave to a Washington Post story, “Fueled by drug crisis, US life expectancy declines for a second straight year,” hides the key point:
Overall, life expectancy dropped by a tenth of a year, from 78.7 to 78.6. It fell two-tenths of a year for men, who have much higher overdose death rates, from 76.3 to 76.1 years. Women’s life expectancy held steady at 81.1 years.
American women now have five full years of additional life, on average, than American men. You better believe that if the sexes were reversed that would be not only the headline, but a theme for national coverage everywhere for a week.
Looking at a leading cause of the change only amplifies the point:
Men of all ages (26 deaths per 100,000) are twice as likely to die of a drug overdose as women (13 per 100,000).
In Rhode Island, where female Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo hosts an annual student contest that discriminates against boys, the number of overdose deaths among men is almost three times that of women:
The most important antidote to drug use and overdose isn’t a government program, it’s hope. Unfortunately, that’s only a word on our flag in Rhode Island.
Remake RI DOH Despite claims of her ‘resignation’, the more likely January firing of Nicole Alexander-Scott as Director of the RI Department of Health (RI DOH), quickly followed by the departure of her top capo, Thomas McCarthy, presents a major opportunity for Governor McKee to remake the crumbling health organization, which completely missed the target […]
Although the bureaucratic experts who continue to suppress our lives (and the journalists who enable them) might believe differently, numbers showing that compliance rules had little, if any, effect on the pandemic aren’t some interesting abstract datapoints on a page.
Eight months into the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, let’s examine the goal of the lockdown, the critical matter of its effectiveness and the collateral damage it has caused.
Graph by epidemiologist Dr. Andrew Bostom basis State of R.I. data
At her press conference currently ongoing, Governor Gina Raimondo is announcing new restrictions, including reduction from fifteen to ten at social gatherings; no spectators at any sports for next two weeks; and fines, including fines on households, saying she doesn’t want cases to “explode”.
You’d reasonably conclude from these serious measures and language that Rhode Island’s case positivity rate, the newest panic-promoting selling point of the lockdown, was at a recent high, wouldn’t you? In fact, as epidemiologist Dr. Andrew Bostom said yesterday on the R.I. Center for Freedom and Prosperity‘s “Mikes with Mics” and shows in his graph, above, the current, very modest rise in case positivity is actually lower than the modest rise of August 1.
What does perhaps the most important COVID-19 data point show and say about the case for continuing Rhode Island’s lockdown?
As Ed Achorn reminds us, the Constitution is only as strong as the people’s willingness to enforce it, and too many Rhode Islanders apparently believe our founding document can be waived if they’re scared or can claim that lives will be saved.
Across all of the various measures, COVID-19 is on the decline in Rhode Island, reminding us that the next question is what our thresholds for faster reopening should be.
The positive trends continue. All that can really be said is that my simplistic model seems to expect that things would be improving a little more quickly than they are, but that’s a good problem to have.
As COVID-19 numbers in Rhode Island continue to improve, we should note that those at risk from the disease are different from those at risk from an economic shutdown and realize that we may have made a terrible mistake in our response.
Various bits of news are making the case that government COVID-19 statistics are now inflating the numbers, but even so, today’s report for RI has some good news.
WPRI Channel 12’s Eli Sherman and Walt Buteau reported on April 17 that 80% of COVID-19 deaths in Rhode Island have occurred in nursing homes. (All deaths from a pandemic are awful but somehow a nursing home setting is especially horrifying both because of the vulnerability of the residents and the perception, normally correct, that nursing homes are safe places.)
This disturbing pattern continues with the most recent COVID mortalities announced by the state yesterday: 10 of 13 were nursing home residents.
If we’ve found the steady rate of COVID-19 infections for our current level of lockdowns, that would point to the differences in models as well as the need to figure out what government is supposed to be for.
If models projecting the hospitalizations and deaths in Rhode Island from COVID-19 keep being revised down, they’ll start to get into the range at which deaths from our response are a larger number.
Here’s a clip from WPRI’s coverage of Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s latest daily COVID-19 statement that shows an absolutely unacceptable attitude from the governor:
Asked about the latest projections from the University of Washington — which now predict nearly 1,000 Rhode Islanders will die due to COVID-19 and the outbreak will peak in the state later this month — Raimondo said the school’s model has been updated after conferring with Rhode Island officials. She again declined to share the state’s own predictive modeling, but indicated she thinks the peak could be as late as mid-May.
“If anyone tells you they know exactly when Rhode Island’s peak is, and what the number of hospitalizations will be at that peak, they’re not being honest with you,” she said.
The governor is making decisions that have profound effects on our lives, including the exercise of direct executive authority to do things that would not normally be permitted in a representative democracy. She has an obligation to explain herself to the public. “Take my word for it; I’m the boss, and I have the best of intentions” is not good enough. (That’s a characterization, not a quotation, if you weren’t sure.)
How many deaths does the governor project Rhode Island will experience, and how many does she expect to avert by taking this or that action? These aren’t idle questions from a Don’t Tread on Me enthusiast. Every new restriction on our activity comes with a price-tag in health and lives. In rough numbers, Rhode Island experiences just under 400 suicides and drug overdoses each year; how much is poverty, isolation, and idleness going to drive up those numbers? Does the governor have a model for that?
Tough-gal talk about driving around the state and “you’re not going to want to be in that group” if she has to “break up any crowds” is (maybe) how you manipulate teenagers, not how you communicate with adults. Declaring a slow-rolling state of emergency for months on end does not make us subjects, and the governor’s legitimacy requires complete transparency so we can evaluate for ourselves whether her actions are justified.
Of course, it doesn’t help that our legislators are proving that they lack the courage to fulfill their role in our government during this tricky time.
The well intentioned but hasty, ill formed Opioid Stewardship Act passed by Rhode Island lawmakers last session is now creating medication shortages and chaos within our healthcare community instead of properly addressing the problem.
The opioid epidemic is a widespread, complicated problem, and only a collective effort will begin to solve it. The healthcare community and lawmakers need to work in tandem to find policies that effectively lessen opioid abuse while still keeping our state’s economic health as well the health and safety of the patient in mind. It’s unfortunate, however, that Senate Bill S0798, the Opioid Stewardship Act, fails on both accounts.
Expanding rights and liberties is an important goal, but we can’t pursue it without taking due consideration of the ground on which our society finds itself.
On the surface, this looks like a great thing:
New data show younger couples are approaching relationships very differently from baby boomers, who married young, divorced, remarried and so on. Generation X and especially millennials are being pickier about who they marry, tying the knot at older ages when education, careers and finances are on track. The result is a U.S. divorce rate that dropped 18 percent from 2008 to 2016, according to an analysis by University of Maryland sociology professor Philip Cohen.
The problem is that the improving divorce rate results from a shrinking denominator:
Many poorer and less educated Americans are opting not to marry at all. They’re living together, and often raising kids together, without tying the knot. And studies have shown these cohabiting relationships are less stable than they used to be.
The article leaves no way to know the ultimate result, but it could be that more couples in a marriage-like situation, including with children, are separating. They just aren’t filling out all the paperwork their elders did, and children are the ones who’ll suffer.
As I’ve been arguing for years, marriage was an institution in which responsible couples invested their expectations for the benefit of less-responsible couples. Our society brushed that responsibility aside, and we’re seeing the results all around us (public turmoil, suicides, opioid overdoses, inequality, and so on). What the lower divorce rate indicates, therefore, may be that those “poorer and less educated Americans” have learned an unfortunate lesson from those who have more resources.
Unfortunately, having fewer resources makes it more difficult to deal with the consequences.
The Cranston Herald has run a post of mine defining the flawed thinking in our society’s current approach to boys’ being boys:
The crisis we’re now facing is that our feminized society forecloses many of those channels. Boys with too much energy are drugged in schools. Sports that seem aggressive have come under fire, and we’re now several generations into the Title IX project to require bean-counting equality in the number of sports on college campuses.
A kid who wants to turn his boyish frustration into an intellectual pursuit and the heroism of curing some disease or something might find that – sorry, pal – the mission of the moment is promoting women in STEM. Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo has an annual “Governor for a Day” writing contest from which Rhode Island boys are excluded.
Most of all, far too many homes have no father to provide the subtle example that boys need to follow. We see the result in school shootings, but also in suicides and drug overdoses, all of which disproportionately involve boys and men.
Sometimes the legislation flowing through the Rhode Island General Assembly each year takes the form of series, with tweaks and additions to particular areas of law building on each other. One such series involves opioid abuse and overdose, with a subset for increasing (even mandating) the availability of emergency drugs to save people from overdoses. Unfortunately, Robert VerBruggen reports for National Review that this trend may have an undesired outcome:
Are Anti-Overdose Drugs Backfiring?
Yes, says an incredibly depressing new study. It suggests that opioid abuse rises when overdose-reversing drugs are easily accessible.
This could happen through two different mechanisms: “(1) saving the lives of active drug users, who survive to continue abusing opioids, and (2) reducing the risk of death per use, thereby making riskier opioid use more appealing.” (1) isn’t a bad thing, even though we would obviously prefer that addicts quit after nearly dying. But (2) is a serious problem, as it could mean that overdose-reversing drugs don’t actually save lives on balance.
Obviously, this finding (if further study validates it) doesn’t prove that we shouldn’t strive to save lives, but it should lead us to be humble as we attempt to use government to fix society’s problems. I mean, think of the choices that pile on each other: We decide that we’re going to use government to make anti-overdose drugs more readily available, and that increases drug abuse. This can get very expensive for other people very quickly, whether through taxes or health insurance premiums. Those resources necessarily have to come from elsewhere.
Perhaps to mitigate the financial and human cost, somebody will propose that anybody whose life is thus saved must be committed to a facility for recovery. Now, suddenly, we’re saving lives only to institutionalize people who may relapse once they’re let out, and when they do, they’ll have incentive to take their drugs in a more concealed environment. What then? Further erode their privacy? Or create safe places in which they can do their drugs, thus increasing the ease of drug usage?
Frankly, I’m not sure where I land on this series of questions, but it wouldn’t be irrational or inhumane to go back to the start of it and suggest keeping government out altogether. At least that would focus our attention on the social arena in which the solution to the problem ultimately lies.
On multiple issues, the Rhode Island news media seems either to inhabit a different universe or to be deliberately skewing Rhode Islanders’ perspective of reality.
Mark Meckler highlights on Patheos an important commonality among school shooters:
Fatherlessness is a serious problem. America’s boys have been under stress for decades. It’s not toxic masculinity hurting them, it’s the fact that when they come home there are no fathers there. Plain and simple. Add that to a bunch of horrible cultural trends telling them that everything bad is good (gang culture, drugs, misogyny, etc.), and we’ve got a serious problem on our hands.
Venker goes on to explain that of CNN’s list of the “27 Deadliest Mass Shootings In U.S. History, only one was raised by his biological father since childhood.
This is definitely in keeping with my related suggestion that attempting to make boys respond to stressors more like girls do is the wrong direction. Boys need to learn how to channel their masculinity, not suppress it or replace it with femininity. And one needn’t be credentialed in psychology to propose that the habits and attitudes of doing so are best learned by observing one’s father. These nuances are subtle.
Of course, school shootings are just one extreme manifestation of our society’s problem. On National Review, Roger Clegg points to another:
… any intelligent analysis of continuing racial disparities has to come to grips with the fact that the out-of-wedlock birthrate among African Americans has tripled since the 1960s, so that now seven out of ten African Americans are born out of wedlock. And being born out-of-wedlock correlates strongly with all those other numbers: education, employment, income, and so forth.
As Clegg intimates, mainstream conversation about this obvious observation seems all but verboten. Again, one needn’t be credentialed in sociology to propose the explanation that those who set the mainstream conversation find it easier to locate the problem with other people. Admitting the role that our move away from traditional expectations for relationships has played in the most vexing of our social problems would require them to reevaluate their own behavior and ideology, and that would simply be asking too much, even in the face of shootings, suicides, overdoses, and the maintenance of a racial underclass.
There’s an interesting new paper discussed here by Mark Perry at AEI about an international phenomenon called the “educational-gender-equality paradox — the greater the degree of gender equality among 67 countries studied . . . the lower the female share of STEM college graduates.” As The Atlantic puts it, “In countries that empower women, they are less likely to choose math and science professions.” It’s about choice, then, not discrimination.
For a broader point, mix in Jazz Shaw’s commentary, “Marines Quietly Lower Combat Training Requirements To Help Female Officers“:
… the fact is, there were a few women completing the CET. In the first year of trials, three women made it through, though they didn’t finish the entire IOC. And wasn’t that always the expectation? We supposedly weren’t guaranteeing any particular number of women roles as combat officers in the Marine Corps. We were just giving them the opportunity to try and prove they have what it takes.
But now, some aspiring officers (presumably of both genders) who fail to complete the CET will still make it through and lead Marines into combat. You can say that you’re “not lowering the standards” until you’re blue in the face, but it sure looks that way from the outside.
In the first case, our society apparently takes the view that it must increase incentives for women to do work that of which they may be entirely capable, but in which they have less interest than men. In the second case, we appear to be lowering standards in order, perhaps, to get to the point that same point.
All of these identity politics dances will only lower our civilization’s ability to advance and to defend itself, while arguably contributing to an epidemic of male suicide and drug overdoses. At some point we have to take seriously the possibility that lowering our civilization’s ability to advance and to defend itself is the objective.
The Wall Street Journal recently put a spotlight on a matter that deserves more consideration:
A recent study by Express Scripts Holding found that about a quarter of Medicaid patients were prescribed an opioid in 2015. Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson presents intriguing evidence that the Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare may be contributing to the rise in opioid abuse. According to a federal Health and Human Services analysis requested by the Senator, overdose deaths per million residents rose twice as fast in the 29 Medicaid expansion states—those that increased eligibility to 138% from 100% of the poverty line—than in the 21 non-expansion states between 2013 and 2015.
There were also marked disparities between neighboring states based on whether they opted into ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion. Deaths increased twice as much in New Hampshire (108%) and Maryland (44%)—expansion states—than in Maine (55%) and Virginia (22%). Drug fatalities shot up by 41% in Ohio while climbing 3% in non-expansion Wisconsin.
A quick look around the Internet didn’t produce Senator Johnson’s evidence, so I’m not able to say how Rhode Island fits into the picture. Still, data from the Family Prosperity Index (FPI) shows that Rhode Island’s illicit drug use (other than marijuana) as a percentage of population matches that of New Hampshire, with Maine well below. Recall that Rhode Island’s government jumped right into the Medicaid expansion with scarcely any discussion.
The headline for this post derives from the Pink Floyd song, “Nobody Home,” from the concept album turned movie, The Wall. As our rock star protagonist slips into loneliness and insanity, he’s looking around his hotel room and at himself, and he sees “the inevitable pinhole burns all down the front of my favorite satin shirt.” The holes are from the embers of his cigarettes, which presumably he’s chain smoking.
Of course, neither smoking nor the indolent burning of holes in your shirt are inevitable.
Anyway, the lyric came to mind when I read the reaction of RI’s leading lobbyist for the legalization of marijuana upon hearing that Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo backs a study commission for the related bill, not the actual policy:
… legalization advocates say the commission would only delay the inevitable.
“The public is behind it. Massachusetts is moving forward. We don’t think a study commission is necessary because we already have the data,” Jared Moffat, of Regulate RI, said. …
Massachusetts retail shops will begin selling marijuana in July 2018. Moffat said delaying legalization in the Ocean State will result in sending jobs and revenue to the Bay State.
So speaks the pusher: “Hey kid, your friends are all doing it. You’re going to buy some eventually. You might as well buy it from me, now. Why be the last?”
Pink Floyd rhymes “inevitable pin-hole burns” with “the obligatory Hendrix perm.” Hendrix’s death from a drug overdose wasn’t inevitable. As a carpenter, I worked on a few projects with a painter who railed against anti-drug laws on the grounds that Hendrix died because his girlfriend was afraid to call for help out of fear of being busted for possession. The first day I worked with that painter, by the way, he mentioned that he wasn’t quite himself because his friend had just died. Another overdose.
Legalization is not inevitable. If states that have made the leap find, for example, an explosion of hard-drug use (which is still in the cards), opinions will change quickly. Haste is the imperative of those who fear a gamble will go sour.
Betsy McKay raises a central puzzle for America in a Wall Street Journal article about death rates among white adults:
The increase in mortality rate for working-class whites can’t be explained by declining income prospects alone. Blacks and Hispanics face many of the same income struggles but have experienced declines in mortality over the same period, the two economists argued, though their findings reveal more recent troubles for blacks, with gains stagnating the past couple of years amid an increase in drug overdoses and stalling progress against heart disease.
“This doesn’t seem to be about current income,” Ms. Case said in a call with reporters. “It seems to be about accumulating despair.”
It’s about demoralization. This trend results from the combination of economic hardship, the elites’ undermining of traditional family structures, and, as a final assault, the handling in the popular culture of white men as always the ultimate source of evil. Dysfunctional families are easier to survive when there’s money in the equation, and cultural opprobrium is easier to laugh off when you’re advantaged.
To some extent, the problem is the inertia of cultural clichés. It takes a while for the message that circumstances have changed to filter throughout those who make decisions throughout our institutions, arts, and media (often requiring the change of entire generations at the helm). And the Left pushed this particular cliché unreasonably hard, because they liked the pose and the political upside.
In the meantime, our society will continue to fail in its role of uplifting its disadvantaged members.
Colorado’s contrast with Washington, which also legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, gives further indication that Rhode Island should not rush into drug legalization just yet.
Colorado’s experience with hard drugs since legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes raises enough concern that legislators and voters should wait for more data before making more policy changes.