Saturday, August 29, 2009

ADHD and Bill Maher

Recently on his show, Real Time, Bill Maher and three of his guests, Arianna Huffington, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) went off on an anti medication rant that was infuriating to watch. All four showed themselves to be ignorant and arrogant. It was an amazing moment of agreement of people on the left and the right that suggests to me that neither side of the political spectrum has a monopoly on stupidity.

I have copied below a critique of this Maher & Company idiocy written by Gina Pera on her blog ADHD Rollercoaster (

"Anyone who knows ADHD intimately knows that all-too-familiar traveling companion: shame. Partly, shame originates from not knowing you have ADHD and internalizing all the inexplicably negative feedback you encounter, from childhood on. Another type of shame, though, is lobbed with full force by other people (some of them highly educated on other issues) who refuse to educate themselves yet self-righteously criticize ADHD as a “pharma invention” or “the disease du jour” or “overdiagnosed” or or or or.

They’re entitled to their own opinions, as they say, but not to their own facts. And when their deluded opinions target my friends with ADHD — on the airwaves, in print, or on the Internet — it leaves me at once angry and heartsick at this cold-hearted, mingy-minded meanness (never mind ignorance). They take not one minute to consider how their careless attacks heap more stigma and confusion on children who already have quite enough to deal with.

Would they taunt eyeglass-wearing children with the schoolyard bullying chant “Four eyes! Four eyes!”?

Would they rip into the parents with accusations that if they loved their children more, fed their children more healthfully, and spent more time with their children, there would be no need for vision correction?

It’s about time we held up the mirror to the bloviating blowhards (even as they profess valiant defense of children and adults who would otherwise be unjustly “drugged”) and send a little embarrassment their way."

I thought the article below by Michael Laskoff called, "Being Famous Doesn't Make You An ADHD (ADD) Expert" also presented a much more clear headed and even handed approach to the issue of ADHD than Maher, Huffington, Kingston and Issa who seem to believe that because they have an audience they must have something to say about topics they know next to nothing about.

"I'm just back from a wedding, which prevented me from catching Real Time with Bill Maher until today. And I have to say that I'm delighted that I didn't watch it Friday night because I would have been too riled up to sleep. Bill Maher and his guest Arianna Huffington were talking about ADHD (ADD) like experts when clearly they're not.

The subject arose when Maher raised the topic of over-medicated America -- a fair point. Huffington used this as an opening to raise the topic of ADHD. She disclosed that teachers in her children's school had wanted her kids to take ADHD medication, which she linked to the propensity to over-medicate in America. In many well-to-do communities, this certainly occurs, but this is not the whole story. A far larger problem than the over-diagnosis of ADHD is under-diagnosis. As a result, many children and adults with ADHD never get the help that they need, including medication.

As someone who has the disorder and benefits from taking Vyvanse, I feel an obligation to point out that equating a genetically-caused mental health disorder like ADHD with an avoidable excess (over-medication) cheapens the discussion of both. In fairness, most people only know ADHD by reputation, so I thought that I'd share something of the reality. Hopefully, it will explain why medication is so very important to so many people with the condition.

One, the ADHD brain develops in an atypical fashion when compared to the population at large. Those of with the condition are literally wired differently. As a result, many things which most people take for granted are difficult for us.

Two, everyone experiences ADHD symptoms -- e.g., impulse control, inattention and organizational deficits -- at least some of the time. The different for those of us with ADHD is the frequency, duration and depth of these states. In our case, the symptoms are very likely to disrupt our ability to succeed in rather important arenas like school, work and long-term personal relationships.

Three, discipline and routine can help people to control the symptoms of ADHD but are not always sufficient. That's why Vyvanse (similar to Adderall) was such a revelation to me: it has helped me to achieve the capacity to focus that most people take for granted. That's why I take it daily.

Four, ADHD is subtle and therefore easy to dismiss. This is because: there's no single, clear-cut test for ADHD; it's popularly regarded as a childhood disorder; and it's over-diagnosed.

Unfortunately, none of this changes the fact that over 10 million adults have ADHD or the reality that medication can help many of them to lead happier, more fulfilled lives. Of course, if you don't have ADHD, it's hard to imagine what a difference the right medication makes.

Mr. Maher and Ms. Huffington, please continue to discuss ADHD, but first consider using your prodigious and powerful network of experts to get the facts right first. So much focus on abuse can obscure the reality that ADHD medication can help many people lead happier, fuller lives."

(Hat Tip to Theresa Borchard from her blog Beyond Blue for her posts on this subject).

Friday, August 21, 2009

reality check

Millions of Americans are convinced that government is their enemy. How ironic that it is now the right taking up that mantle. In the sixties things were very different. The left believed that the government, the agency of domination for monopoly capitalism, was inherently repressive and imperialistic. Armed struggle, revolution, resistance were all on the table. Forty years later, the left seems to be hoping that the government, in the person of Barak Obama, and a majority of Democrats in the house and senate, is going to act in the interest of working people, poor people, world peace, a healthy environment, and take on corporate interests seriously and decisively. And as the limits of the Democratic Party to do just that are glaringly revealed, all the hand wringing is silly in the broader historical context. We need to be honest. The Democratic Party, while more progressive in important ways than the Republican Party, takes major contributions from all the corporate interests involved in both the health care debate, and the banking rescue debate, and is beholden to those interests. To be surprised is naive, to struggle and advocate for true reform is certainly legitimate and to be encouraged.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

"In Praise of Ordinariness" - Garrison Keillor

THE BRIEF GARRISON KEILLOR ESSAY BELOW (HAT TIP TO RECKONINGS.NET FOR HIGHLIGHTING IT) RECENTLY PUBLISHED IN THE NY TIMES IS TERRIFIC, INVENTIVE, NATURAL (HIS WRITING BROUGHT TO MIND AUTHOR WILLIAM MAXWELL ("CHILDREN, LIKE ROSES, REFLECT THEIR CARE"). IT ALSO REMINDS ME OF THE DAVID FOSTER WALLACE KENYON COLLEGE COMMENCEMENT SPEECH IN WHICH DFW STATES: "But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down."

Mr. Keillor has found such sacred moments in our ordinariness.

There is an argument in all of this for dignity and restraint (and for "forgiving much of those who make beautiful things")...


In Praise of Ordinariness

Published: July 15, 2009

A summer Sunday in an old Midwestern river town, walking down the avenue under the elms past yards burgeoning, with vinous and hedgy things and multicolored flowerage, the industry of each homeowner shown in the beauty offered to the passerby. The children of these homeowners may be telling their therapists harrowing tales of emotional deprivation suffered in this very home, and yet back in April and May, weekends were devoted to making this front yard splendid, and that is worth something. Much can be forgiven of those who make beautiful things.

I’m on my way home from church, where I tried to forgive myself, which is a good reason to go. And also for the stories. This morning it was about John the Baptist, imprisoned by Herod though he knew John to be a godly man and was a fan of his preaching, but John had condemned Herod for taking his brother’s wife so into the dungeon went the prophet. Herod threw a feast, got roaring drunk, and when his young stepdaughter danced, he was deeply moved, as drunks so often are, and offered her her heart’s desire, and she, consulting with Mom (the brother’s wife, now Herod’s), asked for John’s head on a platter, and — voila! — there it was, the bloody head of a godly man, dripping on the dance floor, and Herod felt terrible about it, end of story.

A tale of cruelty that somehow brought Dick Cheney to mind and the secret C.I.A. program that he kept secret from Congress, in defiance of law and tradition, and also the late Robert McNamara, who was, by his own admission, a war criminal, having helped engineer the fire-bombing of Tokyo on March 10, 1945, that incinerated one hundred thousand souls in one blazing evening, a military attack on civilians, its purpose purely cruel. The Japanese had committed their own atrocities on the Chinese and Koreans, the British destroyed Dresden, the Germans carried out the Holocaust, and so it goes. The heart of man is merciless.

All the more reason to savor this peaceable street and its lawns and driveways, kids’ bikes leaning against the house, the listless cat on the porch, the sheer beauty of ordinariness. The ambitions of our society are met on this street, peace, prosperity, a bed of petunias, a porch, a pitcher of tropical punch. There are men who would destroy this street and other men would defend us against them: Those opposing men may have more in common with each other than with the people living on this street or the people in whose names it would be destroyed.

Here on this street, we have less interest in war crimes and criminals than, say, in a furtive romance between a president and an intern, or the machinations of Richard Nixon. Those are good stories, like the beheading of John, whereas the slaughter of 100,000 is a statistic. You wish people got angry about cruelty and not many do.

E.g., the man on the freeway last Friday offended because I merged in front of him, who pulled up alongside me and lowered his window and screamed, his face contorted with rage.

I wish he could spare some rage for Dick Cheney, but off he went, and maybe he felt mortified for being an idiot and maybe his tantrum purged him of anger, so that when he pulled up in his driveway on this quiet street and his children ran out to greet him, he felt an even more extravagant love for them. I can imagine this.

When my green Volvo with the Al Franken bumper sticker swung into the gap ahead of him, it was the final insult in a long chain and he was enraged and for a minute, maybe two or three, he sincerely wanted to shoot me and put my head on a platter, but he didn’t. He cruised on home, penitent, and spoke gently to his children. He kissed his wife tenderly. He picked up a hoe and went out to cultivate around the flower beds along the front sidewalk and water the juniper bushes.

Thank you, sir, for your uplifting yard. It is magnificent. Your moment of public ugliness is forgiven. Go and screech no more.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Tear Sheet Advert For Something That Matters...

Power To The Poster : Micah Max (hat tip to BB Blog)

Designed as a part of the Power To The Poster project held to raise awareness to issues that poster makers are passionate about. Instead of blood for oil, immigration, or healthcare, designer Micah Max chose to create something that deals with awareness. Want to give or get something that matters? Tear off a tab and make it happen.

Friday, August 14, 2009

No Human Power...

The poem below by Kathleen Bonnano struck my tragedy-is-always-just-around-the-bend-bone and how when it comes - you now belong to it - for the rest of your life, in a world beyond fix or explanation. A place where we have to accept that that no human power is big enough to overcome tragedy. Where it's not the GPS taking you to your destination - its your very soul and it is insisting that you "recalculate".

A friend wrote: "No human power. Means especially you. But also experts and fixers and those we hope will know. No one knows. If anyone understands that in the depths of their soul it's you. You know what's right. We all do. Just a question of whether we choose to listen. Stop and ask. What does the kind spirit want me to do in this situation. You'll get the answer."

The last line of the poem, "From now on, you write about me" is the powerful voice of the tragic occurrence letting you know who is in charge. It is also the voice of love and wisdom that understands that you cannot control or predict what will happen.

Six years ago Kathleen Bonnano's 21 year old daughter, Leidy, was found dead in her apartment, strangled by her ex boyfriend with a telephone cord. Her Mother has published a collection of poems called Slamming Open The Door. This is one of the poems from the collection:

Death Barged In

In his Russian greatcoat,
slamming open the door
with an unpardonable bang,
and he has been here ever since.

He changes everything,
rearranges the furniture,
his hand hovers
by the phone;
he will answer now, he says;
he will be the answer.

Tonight he sits down to dinner
at the head of the table
as we eat, mute;
later, he climbs into bed
between us.

Even as I sit here,
he stands behind me
clamping two
colossal hands on my shoulders
and bends down
and whispers to my neck:
From now on,
you write about me.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

death panel

Anyone listening to the "debate" over health care reform has to be genuinely horrified. There are so many absurdities. The fact the debate is now in the hands of purveyors of total fantasy is testament to where we are as a culture. Just one comment:

The flinging around of the Nazi references, the 'death panel" language, the killing of old people, is particularly offensive. There are real genocides: the Nazi's rounded up millions of Jews, put them on trains, sent them to camps and exterminated them. Invoking Nazism in the debate over who provides health insurance and at what cost is truly delusional.

There have been death panels in America. They were called lynch mobs. They sentenced Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, and thousands of unnamed, innocent black men to death.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Goldilocks Economic Fix - just right?

Were Bernanke and Geithner Right?

After months of constant criticism from left and right alike, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Fed Chair Ben Bernanke might finally be winning over some critics. "What if in the end they got it right?" David Leonhardt asks in the New York Times on Saturday, pointing to better-than-expected unemployment numbers, a surging stock market, and improving credit markets as evidence of a possible policy success. While much could still go wrong, the officials who have confronted the crisis recently scored some praise for their efforts from top economists, including Nouriel Roubini, the famously pessimistic economist who predicted the crisis. "Bernanke, Obama, Geithner and Summers were intelligent enough to know that the right-wing crowd was crazy to say, 'Let the banks go bankrupt,' and confident enough to ignore the left-wing 'Nationalize the banks' crowd," economist Robert Barbera, who has criticized the Fed for not seeing the crisis coming, told the New York Times. "I give them very high marks."

Read it at The New York Times.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

You are not so terrific. Now go do something that is good and true...

"The first duty of everybody in life is to realize that you are a piece of shit. You are selfish, you are self centered and that you are willing to sacrifice 20,000 people in a foreign country just so that you can go to a Wings concert. Sacrifice like 100,000 Chinese female babies just so you can rent this fucking camera and do your stupid art project. No problem - you are a piece of shit. Once you realize you are a piece of shit it's not so hard to take because then you do not have this feeling that you're a good person all the time and let me tell you something - feeling like you are a good person all the time is like having a brand new car with no scratches on it. It's a real responsibility which is almost impossible to live up to. Being a piece of shit and then occasionally doing something that is good and true is a much easier place to be and I think that is really important and I always tried to make my kids understand that they are not so terrific and that not being so terrific - that's OK because most people who say they are terrific, Bill Clinton, Cardinal Egan, anybody you want to talk about - they are not so terrific. Martha Stewart - not so terrific either. There is nothing wrong with not being so terrific. It's what the whole ball game is about - not being so terrific and accepting it."

- Kenny Shopsin - owner of Shopsin's Restaurant in Greenwich Village in the documentary, "I Like Killing Flies".

Saturday, August 1, 2009

bob herbert

right on, I tried to write that post for the last few days, but he nailed it today.


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