Saturday, January 28, 2017

Opiate of the Masses Now Officially Opiates (and Booze)

UPDATE: Maher's second show had Eva Longoria bringing up voter suppression, and Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan chiming in that 2 million voters had been purged from the rolls in his state. This prompted Grover Norquist to bring up exactly what Greg Palast has been saying: that Pew found 2.8 million people are registered to vote in more than one state (thus the Crosscheck list). This is the real voter fraud we need to look at, people. Read more

Bill Maher's season opener on HBO's Real Time started with Tokin' Woman Jane Fonda, included his observation that Toby Keith ought to be head of ATF because he writes so often about booze, and ended with startling statistics about the states and counties that voted for Trump and their pain pill or heroin habits.

Maher put up maps demonstrating that the 14 states with the highest number of painkiller prescriptions per person all went for Trump, who won 80% of the states that have the biggest heroin problem.West Virginia, Trump's best state, downs 433 pain pills yearly for every citizen of the state. In Wisconsin, heroin deaths nearly quadrupled between 2008-2014. Even Muskogie, Oklahoma about which Meryl Haggard penned "Oakie from Muskogie" has nine drug treatment centers, Maher noted.

The stats stemmed from the findings of several observers, including journalist Chris Arnade, who has spent the past four years traveling the US to document the opioid crisis, according to Business Insider. "Wherever I saw strong addiction and strong drug use," Arnade said, he saw support for Trump.

Maher also noted that most of the counties in Pennsylvania and Ohio that flipped Republican had higher overdose rates than average. That  correlation was made by Shannon Monnat, a rural sociologist and demographer at Pennsylvania State University. She found that counties that voted more heavily for Trump than expected were closely correlated with counties that experienced high rates of death caused by drugs, alcohol, and suicide.

Historian Kathleen Frydl found that six of the nine Ohio counties that flipped from Democrat to Republican in 2016 had overdose death rates far above the national rate, and 29 of 33 Pennsylvania counties with overdose death rates above 20 per 100,000 conformed to the same pattern and/or flipped from Democrat to Republican entirely. (You can see Frydl's comparison of county vote totals and overdose death rates here.)

Noting the irony of hippies long being called unpatriotic for their drug use, Maher joked, "Kids, don't do heroin. It's the gateway to becoming a Republican," and added, "You're doing the wrong drugs. Stick with the stuff that comes out of the ground. Ninety percent of you are farmers!"

The full quote from Karl Marx translates as: "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."

"I expected to see [the correlation] because when you think about the underlying factors that lead to overdose or suicide, it's depression, despair, distress, and anxiety," Monnat told Business Insider. "That was the message that Trump was appealing to."

In the 2002 Dutch film Twin Sisters, two young girls are separated from their twin, and grow up in very different ways. One has loving, enlightened parents and is educated and happy; the other is abused and kept ignorant, and ends up marrying a Nazi who promises her something better than her desperate life.

And so the fix is to address the factors that are causing so many Americans to reach for opiates, actual or trumped up.

UPDATE 2/9/2017 - Professor Irwin Corey, the World's Foremost Authority who has died at the age of 102, used to joke about Moses and the burning marijuana bush, and once said, “Marx, Groucho Marx, once said that religion is the opiate of the  people. I say that when religion outlives its usefulness, then opium will be the opiate.” A head ahead of his time.

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