Welfare recipient drug testing brings shocking results


Three years after the program was initiated in Arizona, over 87,000 welfare recipients have been tested: One test came up as positive which ended up saving the state only $560, according to USA Today. When the program was initially implemented, state officials promised $1.7 million in savings.

The Arizona Department of Economic Security told the Arizona Sonora News Service earlier this year that over the course of more than five years, “42 people have been asked to take a follow-up drug test and 19 actually took the test, 16 of whom passed. The other 23 were stripped of their benefits for failing to take the drug test.”  In total, three welfare recipients failed their tests in five years. 

Six states have implemented similar programs since 2009.

Boyfriends And Buds

Medical cannabis can be expensive and difficult to access, both in the underground market and legal dispensaries. I’ve done a little internet research on the topic, finding suggestions like this:

1. Gay bars can be bud friendly. (Problems: I don’t drink and I’m not gay. Then there’s the cost for some make-up and a haircut. Plus, I’m too old to go out on the town.)

2. Rock concerts. (Problems: Cost and noise level. You might end up asking an undercover cop for bud, or someone under 18 years old. And you have to be really sociable with a bunch of strangers, most of whom are not viable connections.)

3. Call a taxi. (Problems: Cost to reactivate my phone and for a cab ride around the city. Potential for asking an undercover cop, posing as a taxi driver, where I can find some bud.)

4. Try a street corner. (Problems: Safety. More risk that the product will be contaminated. Then there’s the undercover cop who arrests you for asking about bud.)

In reviewing all the different ways I’ve obtained access to bud in the past, it occurred to me that boyfriends have usually been a good source. (Problems: I don’t know how to find a boyfriend and I don’t want a boyfriend.) But do I need to be looking for a boyfriend or just a social connection?

I’ve learned that you have to pay a membership fee for most matchmaking websites, except Plenty of Fish. But the reviews for Plenty of Fish are not that great. Complaints include a forum that doesn’t have any moderators, so there’s a lot of troll activity. (Yuck, I hate trolls.)

I have very little experience with Craig’s List, but at least it’s free. And there’s a category for those who aren’t looking for a mate, called “Strictly Platonic.” (I wonder, how often does the DEA troll Craig’s List?)

I haven’t posted a personal notice, but I’m thinking about it. However, I did email a few people I found on Craig’s List… and it appears there’s no way to escape the trolls. Stay tuned… 🙂

(Photo taken 4/17/2015.)

(April 2001) The Slow Life and Fast Death of DJ Screw



You may never have heard of him, but Robert Earl Davis, Jr.—a.k.a. DJ Screw—was one of the most influential musical figures to come out of Texas in the past decade. He wasn’t a musician or even a rapper; he was a guy behind the turntables mixing other people’s music and raps together. He built his career on a strange, brilliant idea: slow down the music, like taking a 45 record and playing it at 33 rpm. Then he put it on tape and sold it. His tapes became an underground sensation, so popular that people would drive hundreds of miles to his Houston home to buy them. No one knows how many tapes he recorded in his short life—probably more than a thousand—or how many copies are out there. Probably millions. They were dubbed endlessly and passed around neighborhoods and schools like keys to a secret underworld. And the rappers on the tapes, whom Screw had nurtured in his little studio, eventually became famous in their own right. He was a mysterious outlaw hero: artist, entrepreneur, and benevolent godfather in the most vital music scene in Texas.

In truth, this isn’t just Screw’s story. It’s also that of the gritty urban subculture around him, one in which young black men struggle daily with the pathologies of drugs and violence. But here on the south side of Houston, you’ll also find astonishing creativity, powerful dreams, and an unrelenting capitalistic spirit that fits right in with the city’s long wildcatting tradition. Screw, more than anyone, set the tone you’ll hear these days in H-town.

Still and all, he’s dead. Screw’s story, like that of so many brilliant modern music pioneers, from Jimi Hendrix to Kurt Cobain and Tupac Shakur, ended badly and early. While Screw was slowing down the music, he was slowing himself down with various substances, especially codeine. It finally killed him, on November 16, 2000, at the age of 29…

More than three hundred rap albums were released here last year, including several featuring Hawk, Lil-O, Clay-Doe, Mike D, and 3-2, and the musicians enjoy huge local support. There are studios, mastering plants, design companies, CD and tape manufacturers, viable labels, fanzines, distributors, and promo companies. There’s a radio station—97.9 FM, the Boxx—that plays a lot of local rap. And there’s a club circuit with supportive fans that extends from Houston through the South, from Austin to Atlanta. Indeed, Houston is a focal point of the Down South, or Southern rap scene, and local rappers are huge in cities like Little Rock and New Orleans…

Ellis compares the Houston scene to the punk rock revolution of the late seventies, when everybody, it seemed, was starting bands. “The cultural difference is that in Houston, it’s not bad to make money,” he says. “The goal is not to lose your middle-classness but to achieve it.” … Although there is plenty of rapping about street violence, guns, and the like, most of the songs concern the vagaries of leisure: ballin’ (partying), being a player (one who excels at partying), making money, and hanging out with your buddies in H-town. They rap in detail about the outrageously colorful, candy-coated slabs (cars) with screens (TVs) mounted on the visors, twenty-inch blades (wheels), and wood (wood-grained steering wheels). They sing about swangin’ and bangin’ (slowly and artfully swerving while cruising and listening to music) and taking drugs, which include marijuana (sometimes dipped in formaldehyde and PCP and called “wet” or “fry”) and, especially, codeine cough syrup, which is usually mixed with soda pop or lemonade and poured over ice into a large Styrofoam cup. It’s also called lean, because when you drink enough of it you begin to, well, lean. There’s a lot of leaning going on in Houston these days…

There were no jobs for black teenagers in Smithville, and Screw needed an urban environment to perfect his urban art form. He went right to work on it. “When I’d leave home,” his father told me, “I wouldn’t worry about him being on the street. I knew he’d be up in his room playing his music.” Robert Senior was driving for a chemical company and went all over Texas and Louisiana, and during that time father and son lived in a hard-edged black working-class neighborhood near Hobby Airport. Screw dropped out of Sterling High School when he was a sophomore. All the low-key teen cared about was music, he told his skeptical father, and he was going to make it big one day…

Everybody wanted Screw tapes. One reason was that you could understand the words, and the rappers Screw chose were all good with words. Another was that Screw picked great songs, usually West Coast gangsta raps that he liked and not whatever was a hit. Plus, he was a homeboy, from their very own south side. Maybe best of all, Screw had found a way to slow down time—he had found another world. So many people were coming to his apartment to buy tapes that the building manager thought he was a drug dealer. The police kicked in his door a couple of times looking for drugs. He moved to a home near Gulfgate Mall and fans followed, knocking on his door at all hours…

It’s like he knew what you were going through by the way he was playing.” Patrick Lewis, head of Jam Down Entertainment, told me he thinks Screw’s music had a lot to do with the decrease in Houston gang violence in the mid-nineties. “He was all about slowing down, chilling out, smoking a little weed. No more hating. Screw became a part of life.” …

Besides being a launching pad to fame, Screw’s home studio was a place to hang out. And it was a lab for aspiring artists. “We were all growing, feeling ourselves out,” said Hawk. C-Note told me, “Without Screw, I’d probably be on the streets or in jail or dead.” Instead, he became a local hero…

Screw had achieved true fame, some of it spread by the bootleggers: His name had become a verb and an adjective. To “screw” a tape meant to slow it down, and a “screwed” tape was one that had been slowed…

True, but Screw was stubborn and, for all his complaining, happy with his life. He certainly made plenty of money—no one knows how much, but it was surely more than a million (Tosin estimates that Screw could take in $3,000 on a good night of tape sales). Screw was a traditionalist: a diligent analog guy in a digital world, a deejay who worked with vinyl when others had graduated to computers, a believer in cassettes when others had left them behind. He took his time with projects, working long and hard, sometimes two or three days straight…  Screw dressed for work in comfortable Dickies pants and Fubu (“For Us By Us”) shirts, and he would wear his shoes until his feet came out of the sides.

He didn’t care about his shoes. He cared about the music. And keeping the rappers, his friends, happy. “He’d give you the shirt off his back,” Hawk said. “As our careers were blossoming, he never wanted any credit.” He was generous in other ways too. “He had guys calling him from prison,” remembered his mother. “He would send them money. I’d say something to him and he’d say, ‘Mom, they just want to talk.’ He never said no to nobody.” Wannabe rappers would approach him on the street and start rapping at him. Screw would listen, no matter how awful they were, and sometimes give them his phone number…

Codeine was taking its toll. “Screw was really a small person, but the drug made him bigger.” More accurately, it was his lifestyle: the long hours sitting in the studio, the fried chicken Screw loved (Popeye’s, Church’s, and his favorite, Hartz Chicken in Missouri City), and the lethargic, slowed-down world of codeine cough syrup that had caused his body to balloon to more than two hundred pounds…

Two and a half weeks later he was dead on the floor of a toilet stall at his studio, an ice cream wrapper clutched in his hand. The news threw young people all over Houston into despair…

The autopsy report, released in January, confirmed what Screw’s close friends already suspected: He died of a “codeine overdose with mixed drug intoxication.” He had “toxic levels” of codeine—an opiate, like heroin—in his blood, as well as Valium and PCP. Like many users, Screw would blend drugs to enhance the high. There was no mention of heart disease, though he did have an enlarged heart. Yes, Screw did drugs (according to one old friend, he had sipped syrup every day for the past decade); he was also, in his cousin’s words, a great young man. If the history of popular music shows us anything, it’s that the two are not irreconcilable.

Of course, music and drugs have always gone together, from jazz and heroin to psychedelic rock and LSD to raves and Ecstasy…

Screw did, and Washington, his former manager and a recovering crack addict, admitted what Screw’s family couldn’t: “His lifestyle killed him. Syrup, pills. He probably needed help but didn’t know where to turn.” The truth is, Screw was surrounded by others living the same life he was, one that he himself had put to music. What might have seemed troubling to normal folks—from his obesity to the tape buyers, high on codeine, crashing into the fence around his house—would not have seemed out of the ordinary or dangerous to the king of the underground…

It should be obvious by now that screwed music is no gimmick. It is so popular in Houston now—among blacks as well as Latinos and white kids—that every local label releases two versions of every rap CD: a regular and a screwed version. If the label doesn’t screw it, someone else will...

(Photo taken 7/14/2015.)

Psychiatry’s Identity Crisis


Judging from research funding priorities, it seems that leaders in my field are turning their backs on psychotherapy and psychotherapy research. In 2015, 10 percent of the overall National Institute of Mental Health research funding has been allocated to clinical trials research, of which slightly more than half — a mere 5.4 percent of the whole research allotment — goes to psychotherapy clinical trials research…

Anyone who doubts the need for psychotherapy research should consider the case of post-traumatic stress disorder, for which the mainstay of treatment has been exposure therapy.

But we know that many patients with PTSD do not respond to exposure, and many of them find the process emotionally upsetting or intolerable.

Dr. John C. Markowitz, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, recently showed for the first time that PTSD is treatable with a psychotherapy that does not involve exposure. Dr. Markowitz and his colleagues randomly assigned a group of patients with PTSD to one of three treatments: prolonged exposure, relaxation therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy, which focuses on patients’ emotional responses to interpersonal relationships and helps them to solve problems and improve these relationships. His federally funded study, published in May’s American Journal of Psychiatry, reported that the response rate to interpersonal therapy (63 percent) was comparable to that of exposure therapy (47 percent).

PTSD is a serious public mental health problem, particularly given the rates of PTSD in our veterans returning from war. This study now gives clinicians a powerful new therapy for this difficult-to-treat disorder. Imagine how many more studies like Dr. Markowitz’s might be possible if the federal funding of psychotherapy research were not so stingy.

New Mexicans opposed to legalization?


Post dated Thursday, July 16, 2015

As you’ve heard time and again business is booming in the states surrounding New Mexico and a reader drives the point home with this pic he snapped in Austin. Pizza delivery drivers there are pulling down $16 an hour, plus $1.00 for each delivery and get a $250 bonus just for signing up. Austin is about a ten hour drive from ABQ but it seems the economies are light years apart…

Reader Ron Nelson maintains that legalizing marijuana in New Mexico as has been done in Colorado is a lousy idea:

I’d like to rebut Representative Bill McCamley’s proposition to legalize marijuana here. The lessons learned from legalizing alcohol should be a stellar role model as to why this is a bad idea… The amount of money spent on the health, social and public safety issues that are a direct result of excessive alcohol consumption is staggering and in the billions of dollars. And yet we promote more businesses that solicit alcohol, with little to show for it at the medical and public safety end of the spectrum…  Colorado has also cited a 68 percent shortfall in projected tax revenues. The politicians blame the medical marijuana program for underselling the legal market, but other sources claim black marketers are underselling legal businesses almost 3-1…

A recent survey says that New Mexicans are opposed to legalization, which I find hard to believe. Maybe its only politicians, old people and rich folks who respond to these surveys. Unfortunately, it appears they’re the ones making the rules for the rest of us.

Let’s see, what have we learned from legalizing alcohol?  We’ve learned that prohibition doesn’t work.  That a regulated and legal product is better than those cooked up in the underground market, and brings in millions and billions of tax dollars to support our government.

Of course, the politicians get to decide what to do with that money.  Sure, a small portion is filtered to addiction services (that don’t work) and media campaigns.  But like the money received by the states for the tobacco settlement, the majority of the tax money is used by politicians to gamble on Wall Street. And lose. I guess politicians haven’t learned the lesson about gambling and things that are too good to be true.  An addiction to greed can be as harmful as an addiction to alcohol.

Comparing alcohol to cannabis is like comparing crack to caffeine.  Cigarettes to chocolate. Medicinal benefits from alcohol are few and far between, and cannot make up for the damage this drug creates.  Can’t say the same for caffeine, chocolate, or cannabis.

And the underground market would like to thank all those cranky old people who don’t want to legalize.  After all, it’s expensive to become a legal business — fees, taxes, licenses, insurance, testing, and security costs really add up.  Why would New Mexico want to create this kind of growth in local and small business markets?  And all these fees are added to the cost of the legal product, so underground consumers would like to thank the anti-legalization crowd too.

But unlike alcohol which has very little medicinal value, cannabis is a drug that can replace many of Big Pharma’s more damaging products.  Refusing to legalize cannabis is like refusing to legalize basic drugs like aspirin, decongestants, or the purple pill.