Bob Schwartz

Month: March, 2019

Marijuana Science: Reasonable Discussion Is Necessary—and Nearly Impossible

People like intoxicants. It’s in the Bible. Even Supreme Court justices such as Brett Kavanaugh like them—a lot: “I like beer! I like beer! I like beer!” People like them for a lot of reasons, including enjoyment and enlightenment. And yes, these include all the substances we may use regularly to change how we act and feel, such as coffee and tobacco.

Nothing is free of consequence, certainly not intoxicants. As individuals we take the good with the bad. The same goes for the society the individuals comprise and affect. Society sometimes like to step in to assert balance on the weight of good and bad.

With alcohol Prohibition, America gave the world the best living laboratory of this balancing, specifically how this balancing could go very wrong. By ascribing social ills to a behavior that few were willing to give up, America turned into a nation of scofflaws enabling and enriching criminals and, ironically, the use of alcohol actually increased.

But the failure of Prohibition as a social tool never meant that alcohol could not be a sinister force. It is an enabler of good times and is complicit in many tragedies. As a society we agree to take the good with the bad, and hope and encourage individuals to maintain their own balance, with the law as a backstop.

Prohibition is also an example of the extremism that has attached to other intoxicants, extremism that always pushes out reasonable discussion in favor absolutes, that is, absolute evils. One reaction to unreasonable extremism is extremism: if something you know is good is incorrectly labelled absolutely bad by others, obviously it is absolutely good.

There is no possibility that marijuana is absolutely good for everybody. There is no possibility that marijuana at certain potencies used in certain frequencies is good for everybody. Research into this topic is ramping up, as in this new study:


Between May 1, 2010, and April 1, 2015, we obtained data from 901 patients with first-episode psychosis across 11 sites and 1237 population controls from those same sites. Daily cannabis use was associated with increased odds of psychotic disorder compared with never users (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 3·2, 95% CI 2·2–4·1), increasing to nearly five-times increased odds for daily use of high-potency types of cannabis (4·8, 2·5–6·3). The PAFs calculated indicated that if high-potency cannabis were no longer available, 12·2% (95% CI 3·0–16·1) of cases of first-episode psychosis could be prevented across the 11 sites, rising to 30·3% (15·2–40·0) in London and 50·3% (27·4–66·0) in Amsterdam. The adjusted incident rates for psychotic disorder were positively correlated with the prevalence in controls across the 11 sites of use of high-potency cannabis (r = 0·7; p=0·0286) and daily use (r = 0·8; p=0·0109).


Differences in frequency of daily cannabis use and in use of high-potency cannabis contributed to the striking variation in the incidence of psychotic disorder across the 11 studied sites. Given the increasing availability of high-potency cannabis, this has important implications for public health.

Just mentioning this will seem to some a betrayal of the movement to end marijuana prohibition, a truly benighted and thoughtlessly reflexive policy. It is not a betrayal. It is merely a plea for something we have rarely had before: an open and informed public conversation about a widely used and impossible to stop intoxicant.

If we’ve learned nothing else in recent days, it’s that nothing is more harmful than hiding the truth, nothing more valuable than putting all the evidence on the table. If you believe in climate science, then you have to believe in marijuana science. Only then can we try for a reasonable discussion, hard as that may be.

Transforming dead treasure into living treasure

Religious traditions, those I identify with as a home, and those I visit, are treasure houses. But that is different than being a treasure hunter. Every treasure, no matter how alluring or valuable in some marketplace, is inert—dead. The hunting and finding is fun. But each treasure demands work for it to become anything other than a trophy or museum piece. Each treasure asks to be transformed and brought to life.

DSM-5: Antagonism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder



This post was first published more than two years ago. It refers to no individual by name, but since it is regularly viewed by dozens of people each week, I am confident the message got through. Now that the issue of this personality disorder is finally at the top of the news, here it is again for those who may have missed it. Still no name mentioned, but there is no doubt what it suggests.

Mental health is a serious matter and mental health practitioners are serious professionals. These are not to be treated lightly and off-handedly.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) is the “bible” of the mental health profession: “a classification of mental disorders with associated criteria designed to facilitate more reliable diagnoses of these disorders.” It is not a reference to be thrown around and used casually by non-professionals.

The DSM can nonetheless be fascinating, especially when certain strong behavioral traits observed in others seem to closely match the traits and possible related disorders referenced in the DSM.

With the above caution and caveat, here are selections from DSM-5 about the Personality Trait Domain of Antagonism. More from the DSM about the way this may or may not relate to Narcissistic Personality Disorder will follow in a subsequent post.

Personality trait: A tendency to behave, feel, perceive, and think in relatively consistent ways across time and across situations in which the trait may be manifest.

Personality trait facets: Specific personality components that make up the five broad personality trait domains in the dimensional taxonomy of Section III “Alternative DSM-5 Model for Personality Disorders.” For example, the broad domain Antagonism has the following component facets: Manipulativeness, Deceitfulness, Grandiosity, Attention Seeking, Callousness, and Hostility.

Antagonism: Behaviors that put an individual at odds with other people, such as an exaggerated sense of self-importance with a concomitant expectation of special treatment, as well as a callous antipathy toward others, encompassing both unawareness of others’ needs and feelings, and a readiness to use others in the service of self-enhancement. Antagonism is one of the five broad personality trait domains defined in Section III “Alternative DSM-5 Model for Personality Disorders.”

Manipulativeness: Use of subterfuge to influence or control others; use of seduction, charm, glibness, or ingratiation to achieve one’s ends. Manipulativeness is a facet of the broad personality trait domain Antagonism.

Grandiosity: Believing that one is superior to others and deserves special treatment; self-centeredness; feelings of entitlement; condescension toward others. Grandiosity is a facet of the broad personality trait domain Antagonism.

Deceitfulness: Dishonesty and fraudulence; misrepresentation of self; embellishment or fabrication when relating events. Deceitfulness is a facet of the broad personality trait domain Antagonism.

Attention seeking: Engaging in behavior designed to attract notice and to make oneself the focus of others’ attention and admiration. Attention seeking is a facet of the broad personality trait domain Antagonism.

Callousness: Lack of concern for the feelings or problems of others; lack of guilt or remorse about the negative or harmful effects of one’s actions on others. Callousness is a facet of the broad personality trait domain Antagonism.

Hostility: Persistent or frequent angry feelings; anger or irritability in response to minor slights and insults; mean, nasty, or vengeful behavior. Hostility is a facet of the broad personality trait domain Antagonism.

Mike Trout Signing 12-Year $426.5 Million Contract

I am rerunning a post from last year about the incomparable and inspirational excellence and humility of Mike Trout. Playing for the Los Angeles Angels, he has been the best player in baseball since he started in 2011, and there is growing consensus that he might finish his career as the best player ever.

He has not yet single-handedly helped the Angels to playoff success, but that may come. In two years, he would be able to be a free agent and accept enormous offers from other teams. Instead, the Angels wisely decided to offer him the biggest contract in sports history.

Big contracts in sports, entertainment, business and other realms are often a sign of nothing more than too much money chasing too little talent. In the case of Mike Trout, the opposite is true. Google Mike Trout and see what thousands are saying–including the thought that the Angels are getting a bargain!

Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels is universally considered the best player in Major League Baseball. The only questions remaining are how much better he might get and whether he may be the best to ever play the game. Seriously, and seriously amazing since Trout is only 26 and has been in the majors only since 2011.

I’ll let veteran sportswriter Mike Lupica take over the story. But there is one more point to make about Trout. Along with overwhelming acknowledgment of his once-in-a-generation talent, he is universally regarded for his humility and lack of showmanship. He only wants to do three things: play baseball as well as he can for his team, get better every day at playing baseball, and be known and seen for playing baseball and not for anything else he says or does.

For those of us who are not nearly the best, let alone the best ever, that should be inspiring and aspirational.

Mike Lupica

The question for the Angels’ Mike Scioscia, who has seen it all from Mike Trout from the moment Trout hit the big leagues in 2011, was simple enough. It was about Trout’s capacity, if he has one, to still surprise his own manager, as Trout continues to be the greatest star of his sport and one of the great stars of American sports, even if he is not discussed nearly often enough outside baseball the way he ought to be, which means as baseball’s LeBron….

It doesn’t work that way in baseball, or for Trout, who is the best player of his time, on his way, if he is blessed by good health, to someday being called one of the most complete of all time. To this point, Trout has only played three postseason games in his career. He has just one postseason home run in the books. LeBron always has the postseason stage, and the brightest lights there are. So does someone like Tom Brady, who has played eight Super Bowls in his own career.

Not Trout, at least not so far.

It does not change who Trout is and what he has done in baseball and keeps doing, before his 27th birthday. From the time he played his first full season for the Angels in 2012, the only time he has finished worse than second in the American League’s MVP Award voting was last season, when he got hurt and only played 114 games. Even with all the missed time, Trout finished fourth in the voting. So he has two MVPs already, three seconds, a fourth. As always, his personal stats continue to give off a beam of light.

When I suggested to Reggie Jackson, who lives in southern California and has had his own ringside seat to the way Trout plays the game, that Trout is the superstar who sometimes seems to be hiding in plain sight, Reggie said, “No. We all know that he’s the best player.”

Added Reggie: “You know how we always talk about five-tool players [hitting for average, hitting for power, base running, throwing, and fielding]? You watch Trout play and sometimes you swear he’s got even more than that. He checks boxes that you didn’t even know were boxes.”

America Is a Baby in a World of Elders

When it comes to history, America is a baby. A big and powerful baby, but still a baby.

American leadership, and particularly certain blindered and limited exceptionalists, seems now to be acting on the premise that whatever America chooses is the best by definition—because it is America. We don’t need history, philosophy or old principles to succeed. We don’t follow roads, we make them.

Much of the rest of the world has long history, and has learned the hard way that history can’t be escaped, but must be regarded and when necessary adapted and transcended. China is not a role model for many things, but in the seventy years of post-revolutionary progress, it has learned that there is value in being heir to thousands of years of success, strife and wisdom. Yet in America there seems to be studied ignorance of political philosophy, wisdom and history. Some seem unable to pay attention to history that goes back only two centuries.

America is a baby being led by a baby. The aspiring superpowers of the 21st century are older and wiser. Who do you think has the better chance of winning in the long run?

With all we are going through, we deserve a WOW!: The 12 Strangest Objects in the Universe

We may be stressed by various happenings in our private and public lives. For relief, we don’t just need distraction. We need a WOW!, something to take our breath away. We deserve a WOW!

Here is one at Live Science: The 12 Strangest Objects in the Universe

There Is Likely to Be No Mueller Final Report to Be Made Public

There is growing public and political pressure to release the final report of the Special Counsel. The House this week voted unanimously—Democrats and Republicans—to urge its public release.

We will soon discover something that few have mentioned: there is likely to be no final report issued at all.

How could that be possible?

The charge to the Special Counsel Office is prosecutorial. Its stated role is to investigate and, when investigation warrants, prosecute. Fact finding will be involved in that, but it is not otherwise a fact-finder or reporter. It can be argued—and it will be by those who want to bury any inconvenient evidence—that once the prosecutions are done, the role of the Special Counsel is over.

There will naturally be political outrage in the face of that. Even some Republicans may publicly complain that without a report, millions of dollars will have been wasted with little to show for it. But privately, those Republicans will be relieved, as will Trump. The indictments, guilty pleas and trials taking place, and yet to come, are pieces of a damning picture. But a report would be a complete picture, which is why, one way or another, Trump and those under his direction or influence, will make certain that no such report is ever seen. And the best way for that to happen is for there to be no report at all.

The Far Mosque

The Far Mosque

The place that Solomon made to worship in,
called the Far Mosque, is not built of earth
and water and stone, but of intention and wisdom
and mystical conversation and compassionate action.

Every part of it is intelligent and responsive
to every other. The carpet bows to the broom.
The door knocker and the door swing together
like musicians. This heart sanctuary
does exist, though it cannot be described.

Solomon goes there every morning
and gives guidance with words,
with musical harmonies, and in actions,
which are the deepest teaching.
A prince is just a conceit,
until he does something with his generosity.

translated by Coleman Barks

Four Reliances: How to Discern the Real Thing

When it comes to teachings and texts, when it comes to our own thoughts and conclusions, how can we tell the authentic from the inauthentic, the worthy from the unworthy?

The Buddha spoke and taught, and many of those discourses were recorded or remembered by those close to him. But over the centuries, as those discourses were passed along, changes were inevitably made. Later others spoke in the Buddha’s name, and still others spoke on their own, with the Buddha as guide and inspiration. The same can be said within other traditions.

How are we determine what is the real thing—not just in Buddhism, not just in religion, but in all facets of our lives?

Buddhism developed the universally useful Four Reliances to help in this quest and questioning. Whether you are reading a scripture from different traditions, or texts of any kind on any subject, or are hearing the news of current events, these are valuable guidelines.

Here is the succinct formulation from Red Pine, found in his translation and commentary on the Heart Sutra.

Rely on the teaching and not the author
Rely on the meaning and not the letter
Rely on the truth and not the convention
Rely on the knowledge and not the information

“Donald Trump is laying the groundwork to de-legitimize the 2020 election.”

There are two kinds of daily bad news about Trump:

Things he says or does.

Reasonable speculation, based on what he says or does, about what he might do in the future.

This speculation by Chris Cilliza is in that second category. It is both chilling and plausible:

Donald Trump is laying the groundwork to de-legitimize the 2020 election
Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

Even as the 2020 race begins in earnest, President Donald Trump is already suggesting that Democrats cannot beat him fairly — raising the specter that if he loses next November, he will suggest that the election was not legitimate.

“The Democrats in Congress yesterday were vicious and totally showed their cards for everyone to see,” Trump tweeted Tuesday, referring to House Democrats’ launching of a broad-scale investigation into him. “When the Republicans had the Majority they never acted with such hatred and scorn! The Dems are trying to win an election in 2020 that they know they cannot legitimately win!”

Trump 2020 campaign press secretary Kayleigh McEnany echoed that sentiment in a statement on the Democratic investigations. “These desperate Democrats know they cannot beat President Trump in 2020, so instead they have embarked on a disgraceful witch hunt with one singular aim: topple the will of the American people and seize the power that they have zero chance at winning legitimately,” she said….

This is straight from the Trump blueprint — and not just in politics, either. In his past life as a businessman, Trump would regularly declare victory on a deal loudly and publicly — even when the facts didn’t bear out his bluster….

In the business world, that approach was mostly harmless. Trump could say whatever he wanted but, at the end of the day, it was pretty clear who won and who lost a deal. Money, usually, changed hands. And while lots of people Trump dealt with rolled their eyes about his massive exaggerations, they usually just ignored them.

In politics, Trump’s inability to accept that he could lose fair and square is far, far more dangerous.

Michael Cohen, Trump’s former longtime fixer, said as much during his congressional testimony in front of the House Oversight Committee last month. “Given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020, that there will never be a peaceful transition of power,” said Cohen.

Sit with that for a minute. And realize what it would mean if the sitting incumbent President of the United States simply refuses to concede he has lost in 2020.