Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Definitions Matter: Pregnancy, Birth Control, Abortion

I see and hear many debates about Birth Control.  Recently the American Academy of Pediatricians recommended that Plan B or "The morning after pill" should be available to teenagers.

This brought about discussions about abortion.  Is Emergency Contraception abortion?  Are any other types of birth control abortive?

That takes us to the question of defining pregnancy.  When is someone technically pregnant?  

It's important to figure out when someone is pregnant, because any action to stop the process prior to that moment wouldn't be called an abortion.

Like condoms.  There may be people or religions that oppose birth control, but I don't think they would call the use of condoms abortion, right?

How about Birth control pills, IUDs, or the morning after pill? 

The answer is not nearly as Black/White as you may think.

Here's a Quick review of the steps of conception:

1. Intercourse : (unprotected) There is sperm in the reproductive tract.
2. Ovulation: An egg from the ovary is released into the fallopian tubes.  This can happen anytime from 1 day before intercourse to 5 days after intercourse and still result in fertilization.
3. Fertilization: Sperm meets egg - they fuse, making a zygote.
4. Implantation: about 5 days after the zygote has formed and started to grow it implants in the uterus, where it will grow and grow until the end of pregnancy.

Any questions?

Most people would say you are pregnant at the moment of fertilization.  There are some who would say you aren't pregnant until implantation because that step doesn't always happen, at which point the zygote never progresses to become a baby.

There are tons and tons of steps between fertilization and delivery.  Which means there are many moments at which things can stop progressing, and a baby will never be born.  There are so many reasons for miscarriage that I won't go into them here.

Back to the topic of Birth Control.

So - I'm assuming that for most people - anything done before fertilization would be defined as contraception and not abortion.  I also assume that for most people anything done after implantation to prevent a baby being born would be defined as abortion.  What about things that work between the two?

Let's look at how the different forms of birth control take their effect.
1. Abstinence - Prevents Steps 1.  No chance at sperm in the tract.
2. Family Planning/Rhythm - It doesn't prevent any step, but tries to avoid fertilization by making sure when ovulation happens there are no sperm present.  (doesn't work well in most cases, but I know few people who have actually made it work)
3. Barriers (condoms, diaphragms etc.)- Prevents Steps 1.  Blocks sperm.  There is no sperm in the tract, no chance at fertilization etc..
4. Hormone methods (the pill, patch, shot, ring) -  Prevents Step 2 (sometimes 3 & 4).  Depending on the hormones they mostly prevent ovulation.  Some also work to prevent fertilization if an egg is present, or to stop implantation once fertilization has occurred.
5. Implantable methods (IUD or subdermal rod in the arm) - Prevents Steps 2,3 & 4.  The rod releases a hormone which occasionally stops ovulation but usually prevents fertilization or implantation.  The IUD comes in two types:
     a. Copper T - Prevents Steps 3 or 4.  There is sperm in the tract and ovulation can happen.  Usually it prevents step 3 by stopping the sperm from ever reaching the egg.  If fertilization does occur, the IUD prevents implantation.
     b. Mirena (hormones) - Prevents steps 2,3 & 4.
6. Sterilization
     a. Female implant in the fallopian tubes - Prevents Stage 3 (fertilization) by never letting the egg and sperm meet.
     b. Surgical (female) #1 - Prevents Step 3 (fertilization) by clamping, cutting, tying, burning or doing all of the above to the fallopian tubes so the egg and sperm can never meet.
     c. Surgical (female) #2 - Prevents Step 2 or 3&4.  If you take out the ovaries, there are no eggs.  If you take out the uterus, there is no chance of fertilization or implantation.
     d. Surgical (male) - Prevents Step 1.  No sperm can make it out of the male, so no chance of the other steps.

Did I miss anything?

SOOOOOO - Now that I've covered all of that.  What does it mean?

Well, for many people I've talked to - this causes a potential problem.  I have many friends who support IUDs but don't support the morning after pill.  (I assume this is because they consider it abortion.)

Here is the problem.  The morning after pill prevents ovulation - so the egg and sperm never meet, there is no zygote, nothing to implant.
(The evidence that the morning after pill prevents fertilization or implantation is pretty iffy.  Most evidence shows that it stops ovulation.)

That means the "Morning After Pill" is no different than taking regular old birth control pills.

IUDs can prevent earlier steps, but they often don't even prevent fertilization, they prevent implantation.  So a zygote is formed, and starts growing, but never implants in the uterus.  (This is especially true with the Copper T.)


What does it all mean?
NOTE - I am not defining abortion.  I am not telling women what kind of contraception to use.
(Yes, I fully support anyone choosing to use the Copper T. )

The point of this post is education.  Defining abortion is not so easy, because defining pregnancy is not so easy.  So let's calm down and have real discussions about birth control.  Let's talk about what they ACTUALLY do.


P.S. To anyone curious - I am a member of the LDS (Mormon) church.  I don't speak for the church,  my opinions are my own.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Book Review: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Part 2

3 months later I'm finally finishing my review of this book.  (Part 1 reviewed here)

I appreciate the fact that the author is humble.  He states again and again that he did not discover anything new, or invent the principles found in the book.  As Covey says:

"I did not invent the seven habits, they are universal principles and most of what I wrote about is just common sense. I am embarrassed when people talk about the Covey Habits, and dislike the idea of being some sort of guru."
"I have found the principles contained in the seven habits in all six major world religions and have actually drawn upon quotations from sacred writings of those religions when teaching in those cultures."

He recognizes that life or business based on tactics or behaviors is not enough.  Even basing life on values is not enough - unless those values are based on universal principles.  I wrote a blog post recently stemming from his ideas: Three Degrees of Happiness.

I loved the second half of his book because it is about moving from "independence to interdependence."

Covey makes a big deal of the shift in paradigm: Dependence - Independence - Interdependence.

It made me think about political parties (since the presidential election just happened).

I thought: Stereotypically the Republican party proclaims itself to be the party of "Independence."  You do everything on your own; you pull yourself up by your bootstraps.  The government should be small and stay out of the way.

The trouble came when I tried to characterize the Democratic Party.  Is it the party of "Dependence?" They say we are all dependant on others and should be obligated to help each other.  The government should follow that same mandate.
Is it the party of "Interdependence?"  The people can exist on their own, they don't "need" others but they recognize that much more can be done with others than on your own.  They see that humans are synergistic and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

I don't know the answer.  I think both parties have great interdependent people, good independent people, and needy dependent people.

ANYWAY - that's what the book makes you do.  It makes you think, evaluate, reconsider, see things in a new light, and try to see how to make things better all around you.  It makes you work on yourself, and then expand your influence to help all those around you.

I read this book every few years to help me do a "course correction."  I recommend it for everyone.

Favorite Quotes:

You can't be successful with other people if you haven't paid the price of success with yourself. - p. 185

You can't talk your way out of problems you behave yourself into. - p. 186

Make what is important to the other person as important to you as the other person is to you. - p. 191

Integrity includes but goes beyond honesty .  Honesty is telling the truth - in other words, conforming our words to reality. Integrity is conforming reality to our words - in other words, keeping promises and fulfilling expectations. - p. 195

Be loyal to those who are not present. - p. 196

The key to the ninety-nine is the one... It's how you treat the one that reveals how you regard the ninety-nine - p. 197

If you're going to bow, bow low. - p. 198

Dag Hammarskjold - "It is more noble to give yourself completely to one individual than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses."- p. 201

Habit 4:  Think Win/Win

People are not graded against their potential, or against the full use of their present capacity.  They are graded in relation to other people. - p. 208

"Who's winning in your marriage?" is a ridiculous question.  If both people aren't winning, both are losing. - p. 209

Emotional Maturity: The ability to express one's own feelings and convictions balanced with consideration for the thoughts and feelings of others. - p. 217

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

You listen with reflective skills, but you listen with intent to reply, to control, to manipulate. - p. 240

Satisfied needs do not motivate - p. 241

The human dynamic is more important than the technical dimensions of the deal. - p. 242

You can play twenty questions all day and never find out what's important to someone.  Constant probing is one of the main reasons parents do not get close to their children. - p. 245

Our perceptions can be vastly different.  And yet we have both lived with our paradigms for years, thinking they are 'facts,' and questioning the character or the mental capacity of anyone who can't 'see the facts.' - p. 254

Maturity is the balance between courage and consideration - p. 255

Habit 6: Synergize

We seek not to imitate the Masters, rather we seek what they sought. - p. 269

How much time is spent in confessing other people's sins, politicking, rivalry, interpersonal conflict, protecting ones backside, masterminding, and second guessing? - p. 274

All people see the world, not as it is, but as they are.  If I think I see the world as it is, why would I want to value anyone with a different opinion?  Why would I even want to bother with someone who's "off track?"  My paradigm is that I am objective; I see the world as it is.  Everyone else is buried by the minutia, but I see the larger picture.  That's why they call me a supervisor - I have super vision. - p. 277

If two people have the same opinion, one is unnecessary... I don't want to talk, to communicate with someone who agrees with me; I want to communicate with you because you see it differently.  I value that difference. - p. 278

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

It makes no difference whether you are a mailman, a hairdresser, an insurance salesman, a housewife - whatever.  As long as you feel you are serving others, you do the job well.  When you are concerned only with helping yourself, you do it less well - a law as inexorable as gravity. - p. 293

Martin Luther - "I have so much to do today, I'll need to spend another hour on my knees." - p. 294

David O. McKay - The greatest battles of life are fought out daily in the silent chambers of the soul." - p. 294

Proactive people can figure out many, many ways to educate themselves. - p. 295

The person who doesn't read is no better off than the person who can't read. - p. 296

I do not agree with the popular success literature that says that self-esteem is primarily a matter of mind set, of attitude - that you can psych yourself into peace of mind.  Peace of mind comes when your life is in harmony with true principles and values and in no other way. - p. 298

GOETHE - Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is.  Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be. - p. 301

True Financial Independence: It's not having wealth, it's having the power to produce wealth.  It's intrinsic. - p. 304

Anwar Sadat - He who cannot change the very fabric of his thought will never be able to change reality, and will never, therefore, make any progress - p. 317

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Nobel Prize that Keeps Affecting My Life

Doctor's graduate from medical school every year - but not all of them will practice medicine.  Thousands of them will never get the chance.
CNN wrote a great article entitled: Why your waiter has an MD that explains the problem.

Here's the gist of it:
All med-school graduates who want to practice in the USA have to complete a "Residency Training Program."  If you want to specialize in anything such as Anesthesia, Psychiatry, OB/GYN, Family Practice, Surgery etc… you need to complete a 3-5 year residency and then pass your specific specialty board exams.  After that you can do EVEN MORE training called a “fellowship” to be a sub-specialist; such as a vascular surgeon, a child psychiatrist, or a pediatric oncologist. 

There are a few problems with this system.

In 2012 :
38,377 doctors applied to residency training programs in the United States:  there are only
24,034 slots available.

1st14,000 doctors who graduated from medical school and passed their general medical boards – will not be able to practice in the USA because they didn’t get into a residency.

2nd – How do you decide who goes to which residency?  Let’s say I wanted to be a dermatologist.  I applied to 45 different dermatology residencies.  I interview at 8 of them. 
Those 8 programs have interviewed anywhere from 15 to 100 applicants.  Every residency wants the best applicants, and every applicant wants the best program (or sometimes any program).

What is the best way to decide who goes to which residency?  Everyone knows you (the applicant) are interviewing at 7 other places - and you know they are interviewing another 50 people for the spot you want.  Who picks?  If you aren't picked by your top choice - do you then apply late to your second choice?

How do you make it fair and most advantageous for all parties involved?

A while ago I read the book “A Beautiful Mind” – the biography of John Forbes Nash.   I blogged about it because it was interesting and insightful - and I got to see the life of a genius with schizophrenia.  There was an entire chapter devoted to his mentor – Lloyd Shapely.
Shapely was a genius of game theory. 
(He and John Nash and two others even invented their own game called “So Long Sucker.”)
Shapely did a lot of theoretical mathematics in game theory – like figuring out how to give the best result for all players when everyone is competing against each other.

 – Which brings us back to the problem of 38,000 doctors applying for 24,000 residency slots.
Let’s say one residency can accept 2 applicants per year.  They interview 20 candidates each year and then rank those 20 doctors from first choice to last choice.
Those applicants have interviewed at 15 different residency programs, and have ranked them from first choice to last choice.

How do you match them up?  How do you make sure that after you’ve weeded through 38,000 applicants applying to 4,427 residency programs offering 24,000 slots – that every had the best result?
How do you make sure that there is not a residency and an applicant that would both prefer each other over what they ended up with?
Let’s say Stanford Dermatology has 3 slots.
I ranked them as my #1 choice, and I am their #20 choice.
I ranked UCLA as my #2 choice and I am their # 5 choice.
I ranked Texas as my #3 choice and I am their #2 choice.

Where do I go?  Do I go to Texas because it's the best match?  Just becuase the combined ranking score at Texas (3+2) is less than UCLA (2+5) or Stanford(1+20)?  What if Stanford’s top 19 picks ranked some place else as their #1? Do I become Stanford's #1 pick because I'm the only guy left who really wants them?
Whose list takes precedence?  Does Stanford send out 3 letters of acceptance, wait to see if they get rejections, and then try to fill the slots with the next 3 people on their list?

There is a system called the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP).  It’s designed to take every applicants rank list, and every residency programs rank list – and match them up. The applicants choice is considered first, then the Residency's.

Many applicants think - Can I beat the system?  How can I get into a better program than I’m really qualified for?  Could I rank programs at the top of my list that I have no chance of getting into – and then hope that the system will feel sorry for me and give me the first program I have a shot at (which is my REAL 1st choice but I ranked it low to game the system?)

You may think I’m kidding.  I’m not.  I had friends in medical school trying to play this game with their training sites and med-school rotations.  They tried to beat the system, to play the game.
Luckily – the Matching system (NRMP) is based on Shapely’s theories about game theory.
A man named Alvin E. Roth proved that the NRMP was both stable and strategy-proof.  It gave everyone the best possible outcome, and it was impossible to “win the game” or “beat the system” by some strategy.

It is in everyone’s best interest to be completely honest in their rankings.  You have the best chance of getting your 1st choice, and so on down the list.  It is true for the applicant, it is true for the residency.
This seems to make perfect sense – but how hard was it to make that system?  How do you allow for so many variables.

Some residencies only have 1 slot, some have 20.  Some applicants only rank 1 program, some rank 30?
That is why Shapely and Roth are winning the Nobel Prize this year.  Their combined efforts have developed a perfect system.  It can’t be beaten, tricked, swindled, twisted, or played.  Everyone uses the exact same strategy.

3 years ago I applied to 10 programs.  I interviewed at 5 programs and made my "rank list."  On “Match Day” every graduating medical student found out where they were working for the next few years.  I found out I was moving to Reno, my first choice.

2 months ago I applied for a “sub-specialty fellowship.”  I interviewed last month.  I submitted my “rank list” last week.

January 9th 2013 is “Match Day.” It’s the day I find where I’m training for the next 2 years (if I matched at all).
December 8th 2012 is the Nobel Prize Ceremony.  That’s the day that Roth and Shapely will give their Nobel Lectures.  I’ll be listening, and silently thanking them for making my life, education, and career - much easier.

To Dr. Roth and Dr. Shapely – thank you.

P.S. (Random Fact) - The Nobel Prize in Economics is not actually a Nobel Prize.   There are Nobel Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology/Medicine, Literature, and Peace.
It's actually awarded by the Central Bank of Sweden and is called "The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel"

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Three Degrees of Happiness

How many books and articles have been written about "happiness?"
The very declaration of our nation's independence says that our Creator endowed us with "certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Many people view happiness as the goal and purpose of life.  In my work I see hundreds of patients who are seeking it.  Some through family, others through friends, and others in a joint or bottle.  Some think a pill will grant it, others are certain that money is the key.

Personally, I have found three degrees of happiness.  There are three types, three sources, three keys to happiness.  They are pleasure, inner-peace, and eternal joy.

1. Pleasure: That which gives us momentary enjoyment.  

Pleasure can be both good and bad.  One can find pleasure in listening to a favorite song, eating a piece of chocolate, hearing a funny joke, or helping a friend.  It can be found in seeing someone "get what they deserve," or in a forbidden pleasure, in skipping school or breaking the rules or laws.  It can be found in alcohol, cocaine, heroin, LSD, marijuana, caffeine, or pure vanilla ice cream.  
Pleasure doesn't differentiate between right and wrong, short term or long term consequences. Pleasure is now. 

2. Inner Peace: Living according to our values.

Everyone has their own values, their own ideals.  Everyone has a vision of what they should be, how they should be different, what actions they should or shouldn't be doing.  These values may come from parents, friends, society, religion, or many other sources.  Many values include Family, Friendship, Work, Education, Recreation, Spirituality, Community, Health, the Environment, the Arts, etc...
Inner Peace comes from living according to your ideals.  It comes from having less regret and more fulfillments.  When your mind no longer argues between what you ARE doing and what you SHOULD be doing, that is inner peace. 

Most self help books are about these first two degrees of happiness.  They encourage pleasure as long as the means are in-line with your values.  They help people reach inner peace by eliminating internal conflict.

The problem is that not all values are good.  Criminal Gangs have values.  They may value gang loyalty to such a high degree that one would steal, kill, and serve time in prison to have the inner peace of being loyal and true to their word.  Many people can reach inner peace and still be a terror to society, to their families, their communities.  
Most any religion has its extremists: they are at complete inner peace as they engage in Crusades, terrorist bombings, lynchings, etc...
Inner peace is not the end goal.

3. Eternal Joy:  Living according to universal principles.

When our values match universal principles, then we can find true happiness; the joy that lasts and is independent of circumstance.
Principles are not practices and they are not specific to one religion or society.  They are universal. Everyone knows them and values them, though they interpret them differently 
Examples include: Fairness, Integrity, Honesty, Human Dignity, Service, Quality, Potential, and Patience.

I often think of the question: "Do I have happy moments, or a happy life?"

Happy moments are easy to come by, but they don't last.  In fact the more we do the same thing seeking the same level of pleasure, the more we'll be disappointed.  Whether it be thrills, or food, or drugs, or a new relationship - That momentary pleasure is usually best the first time.  Unless it also leads to inner peace or eternal joy, it will fade and we will move on to something else.

We can have inner peace and still have a miserable life, we simply won't care.  With inner peace we believe we are right and we will continue to think so because we are living by our values.  Other people's lives, opinions, or judgments don't matter because we have inner peace.  Many people consider this the ultimate goal. -It is the first step only.

Once we discover eternal and universal principles, then we can align our values with those principles. We can make goals according to those principles.  It won't always matter if we reach every goal or not. We may change our minds on goals or choose something new to work toward.  Since the principles never change, the change in goals won't matter because we've been moving in the right direction the entire time.

All three degrees of happiness are important, but the only way to enjoy pleasure without future regret is to make the pleasure match our values.  The only way to enjoy inner peace and building lasting happiness for ourselves and everyone around us is to make our values match universal principles.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Book Review: The Book of Mormon

Preface: It feels very odd to "review" the Book of Mormon. I wrote this post so that those not of my religion might understand what the book is, and see a few of my favorite quotes.  Of course I am biased, I believe this book to be scripture, the word of God.  So writing a "secular" review is unlikely to happen, but this is my attempt. Here is the official description by the LDS church.  This post is my personal view.

Here are my thoughts.

This is not a short, easy book.  It's 531 pages with over 500 words per page.  It refers to 210 different people by name, 167 different locations, and covers 1000 years of history.
It is not the Bible.  It is not a retelling of the Bible nor an interpretation of the Bible.  It is a completely separate book, also written by ancient prophets, also teaching about Jesus.

It starts in Jerusalem for the first 36 pages, then the rest is all on the American Continent from 600 B.C. to 420 A.D.  It's a lot like the Old Testament in that way - It's written by many different prophets who are all telling the stories of what happened to them and their people over many generations.  Since the people in the Book of Mormon came from Jerusalem, they brought with them a copy of the sacred writings up to that point (the books of Moses, Isaiah, etc.)  So there are 21 complete chapters of the book of Isaiah (from the Bible) as well as other citations and quotes.

The story of the Book of Mormon is too big to tell, but I'll give a little synopsis.  I don't think I need to worry about "SPOILERS" so here goes:

It starts with one family.  The dad has a vision that Jerusalem is going to be destroyed, so he takes his family and leaves.  They build a boat and sail to ancient America (600 BC)  They populate, separate, get into wars, troubles etc.  There are good times and bad times.  There are great sermons by some prophets, there are also sad accounts of prophets being burned at the stake, etc.  The people are righteous and prosper, then they become get prideful and sin and fight and start killing each other.  There are accounts of wars, spies, and explanations of battle tactics and armor.  Throughout the book, the prophets are trying to prepare their people for the birth of Christ.  Some believe Christ will be born and the promised signs will happen, others don't believe and decide to persecute and kill everyone that believes.  If the signs of Christ's birth don't appear by a certain date, all the believers will be killed.  Then the night comes - Christ is born and they know because they see the star in the sky and many other signs.  They know he's been born on the other side of the world.  33 years later they see the signs of his death.  The darkness, earthquakes, etc... They are told that he will be resurrected, and come to visit them.

This is the whole point and crux of the book.  It details the story of what happened after Christ was resurrected in Jerusalem.  We know he visited his apostles and instructed them to go and teach all creatures, and then he ascended into heaven... The Book of Mormon tells about what happened after his death and resurrection - when Christ descended in the America's where all these people had been waiting and hoping it was all true.  Among the ancient people on this continent Christ calls 12 disciples, ordains them and gives them the right to preach and work in his name.  He teaches the people, and reiterates many things he said during his life. (so many chapters are similar the New Testament).  Christ blesses the children, heals the sick, makes the lame walk, makes the blind see, teaches about baptism, and introduces the sacrament.  He shows them the scars in his hand, feet, and side.  They know it's him and they are happy beyond belief.  Then he ascends to heaven, telling them that he still has more people to visit in other lands besides the Americas and the Middle East.  

Then for about 200 years after Christ's visit the people lived in perfect peace and harmony.  They were honest and good, and everyone shared everything with everyone else.  Everyone worked hard, everyone shared, and everyone was blessed and enjoyed the good life.  Then they started to get prideful, and evils started to creep back in - class distinction, envy, persecution, and secret groups who would scheme, steal, and murder.  The people fall back into war and destruction until the very last prophet (named Mormon) and his son are in hiding.  They are the only followers of Christ left.  They have all the records of the prophets for the last 1000 years since that first family left Jerusalem.  Mormon combines all those records and abridges them to write one book, engraved on metal plates, which he calls "The Book of Mormon."  He gives it to his son, who buries it in a hillside.

That's where the book sat for 1400 years until Joseph Smith was told by an angel where to find it, and how to translate it into English.

So the whole book is a religious history of the ancient inhabitants of North and South America.  It's all about Christ: prophecies that he'll come, his teachings, his resurrection and visit to those people.

The book is excellent. I've read it, and it has made me a better person.

Here are some of my favorite quotes  - and explanations why.

Moroni 8:8,11,15 -  Little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin... and their little children need no repentance, neither baptism...for awful is the wickedness to suppose that God saveth one child because of baptism, and the other must perish because he hath no baptism.
God doesn't judge little kids based on whether or not their parents had them baptized as a baby.  Little children are incapable of sin and therefore can't go to hell, they are saved.

2 Nephi 25:26 - And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.
They are Christians, He is the entire basis of the book and the religion.

Moroni 10:3,4 - When ye shall read these things...ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
If you want to know if these are really God's words - if the Book of Mormon really is scripture - pray and ask God.

2 Nephi 4:17,18,31 - O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities… because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me…O Lord…Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin?
Even prophets still have temptations and sins.  Temptation is a part of life, as is sin and repentance.

2 Ne 9:14 - Wherefore, we shall have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness; and the righteous shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment, and their righteousness.
Resurrection doesn't mean everything is erased.  You still lived your life, you still have happiness or guilt depending on your actions.

Jacob 2:18 - Before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God. And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.
It's not a sin to be rich, but riches shouldn't be our first priority.  If we become rich we should use our riches to help others.

Alma 60:13 - For the Lord suffereth the righteous to be slain that his justice and judgment may come upon the wicked
God let's bad things happen to good people.  Men have agency, and sometimes God doesn't stop them from doing bad things knowing that it will be evidence against them at the judgment day.
Helaman 12:15 - surely it is the earth that moveth and not the sun.
1500 years before Copernicus,  a prophet knew the earth revolved around the sun.

3 Nephi 11:10,14 - I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world...
Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.
Christ wanted them to have no doubt of who he was; that he had been crucified in Jerusalem, resurrected, and was now appearing to them in this resurrected form.

Ether 12:27 - I give unto men weakness that they may be humble... for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
There is a reason we all have weaknesses - so we'll stay humble, look to God, and let him make our weaknesses into our strengths.

Moroni 7:29 - Have miracles ceased? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men.
There are still Miracles and people are still visited by angels.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Legalized Marijuana - the Pros and Cons

It's happening - legalized marijuana is marching across our county.  Little by little, and state by state, the walls are coming down.

What does it mean?

Will crime rates go down because it's not a crime, or go up because of it's effects?
Will the states make money because of taxes, or spend more because of treatment?

What are the Pros and Cons?  I did a review of the scientific literature and here's what I found.

1. Gateway Drug
 - Everyone debates this and there is no consensus.  Most studies show adolescents who smoke pot are more likely to use illicit drugs later (heroin, cocaine, meth).  But the studies also show that the other risk factors like housing, family income etc... predict the same thing.
So while I believe it is a gateway drug - the proof is fuzzy.

2. Addiction (chemical dependence)
 - Yes, marijuana is an addictive drug.  It can cause psychosis, it has little medicinal use, and it does lead to tolerance and withdrawal.  (plus an excessive intake of Doritos)

3. Government financial Cost/Benefit
 - This is pretty clearly a positive for legalization.  The money made from taxes and savings on drug enforcement far outweigh the costs of drug education, rehabilitation and treatment.
If you look at the total number of marijuana users, and look at what percentage end up costing the government money because of medical treatment and police interventions, the total cost is about 100 times less than what the government would make in taxes.

4. Change in who uses
 - Alaska legalized marijuana in the 1970's.  They recriminalized it in 1990 after Alaskan teen marijuana use jumped to twice the national average.
If you legalize it use won't just go up for those of legal age, it will go up for everyone.

5. Change in crime rates

 - Obviously one crime rate would drop - since smoking THC would no longer be illegal.
But at legal dispensaries currently functioning police report an overall increase in criminal activity including "drug dealing, sales to minors, loitering, heavy vehicle and foot traffic in retail areas, increased noise and robberies of customers just outside dispensaries."

SO - from a financial standpoint - it's great.
From a Crime standpoint - probably an improvement, but other crimes would increase.  So less jail and money spent fighting the drug war, but not the huge decrease many predict.
From a psychiatry standpoint (my field) - it would be horrific.  More admissions, more psychosis, more dependence, treatment centers.  More teenage drug use which is associated with teen pregnancy rates, crime rates, and school drop-out rates.

 - I don't think it's worth it.  Do you?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Why aren't the Religious Right the Champions of the Poor?

I really don't understand.

If we follow the stereotypes, then the right wing - the Republicans, the Christians, the "religious right" often base their beliefs on the Bible.  They believe God is the ultimate authority, and it is their duty to enact laws and support policies in line with Biblical teachings.

(I know there are plenty of Christians and religious people who are democrats, but go with me on this for a second.)

Generally speaking - why do the religious right say that gay marriage and abortion are wrong.  "Because God said so in the Bible."


I have been reading extensively in the scriptures recently and one things really struck me:


I mean seriously?  There are hundreds of passages instructing man to care for the poor, look out for the interests of others, sell all they have and give it to the poor, etc...

A quick Google search showed list after list: List #1, List#2, List #3, List #4 etc...

Here are a few of my favorite:

Deuteronomy 15:11 - I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.

Psalms 82:3,4 -Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.  Deliver the poor and needy.

Proverbs 14:31 - He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.

Zechariah 7:10 - And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor.

Matthew 25:40 -  Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Mark 10:21 - Go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven.

The story of the Good Samaritan alone ought to be enough!  There is a reason I left the Republican Party to be an independent.  How can the base of a party say that they are anchored in the Bible and God's teachings, yet ignore the poor.
The Christians should be the champions of the poor.  No one should be more charitable because Christians see it as their religious duty - they can't get into heaven without helping the poor!

I don't know where the disconnect happened, but it is disgraceful.  The poor and needy should know no greater ally than the Christians, the religious right.  Christians certainly aren't the only ones who  help the poor.  There are many religions and many good citizens across the nation and the world who feel and teach that duty.  But the fact that the political party representing the Christians and religious right should ever be seen as the enemy of the poor is truly an Epic Failure.