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Don't trust the media to cover Marijuana - or "mental illness"

SEATTLE, Washington - An article at Huffington Post written by Maia Szalavitz discusses media coverage of a recent British study claiming causative link between marijuana use and schizophrenia and other psychotic illnesses. Szalavitz makes the case that the mainstream media have overstated the results of the study to stir up a bit of "reefer madness".

A cornerstone of Szalavitz's argument is that marijuana usage has increased dramatically in the last several decades, while the incidence rate of schizophrenia has remained fairly constant. Being immersed in Szaszian thought, I immediately thought, "so what?" Since a diagnosis of schizophrenia consists of little more than a psychiatrist coming to the opinion that you have schizophrenia, the so-called mental health professions could raise or lower the rate of diagnosis as they choose. When the appointment book at the office is light they can always gin up some new "Autism Spectrum Disorders" or maybe start bringing in the infants for psychotherapy.

And when the media are not busy refusing to ask fundamental questions about mental health, they're happily occupied not discussing the correlation of antidepressant drugs and violence, including a stunning correlation of these drugs with various massacres of recent years.

Come on, Huffington Post, let's see you dig up the real dirt!


The petty totalitarianism of Zoning and Community Involvement

SEATTLE, Washington - I've never paid much attention to zoning issues before, but I've been following some recent zoning news in Seattle. It's now clear that the people on zoning boards (and the civilians that attend the meetings) get involved and endlessly harass developers because of some combination of (1) having nothing better to do, (2) needing their egos stroked, or (3) being opposed to the development and endlessly throwing sand in the gears as revenge.

Our first exhibit is a four-story, 12-condo mixed use building in the Admiral district. After a year of design reviews and negotiations with the zoning junta, the design is almost fully blessed. One of the remaining conditions: They want the roof of the ground-level parking garage to become some sort of "common space" for the residents.

There's already a resident deck on the top of the condo portion. Why the hell is it the business of the zoning junta what is done with the small garage rooftop? Are the going to scale the wall and have a barbecue? This is just busybodies being busybodies. (I have a theory on why the designer wasted money on the main roof deck and is about to waste more on the garage-top deck; that will come in a later posting.)

At the same board meeting, a proposed Petco a few blocks down the street got much saltier treatment. They've been slugging this one out for a while, as it would replace a restaurant (that is going to close anyway) with some sentimental value in the neighborhood.

Now, if you don't want a Petco on your street, fine, deny them and let them move on. But no, we're getting round after round of micromanagement of the design, tweaking the placement of trees, changing the placement of the parking lot, demanding a smaller building, demanding a bigger building, changing the roofline, changing windows to let more light into the store (!), and on and on.

Some people did protest that California Avenue is the "Main Street" of the area and that a Petco is unsuitable. One problem - this Petco is replacing one that is closing just a few blocks down the same street. The cat is long out of the bag on that, so to speak.

Last but not least we have the coverage in The Stranger of the "Townhome Invasion". Apparently developers have wised up on how to avoid the attentions of the zoning junta:

What's happening in Morgan Junction is also happening in other parts of the city. Townhomes are popping up all over Seattle as development booms, and some developers are using a process called "piecemealing" to expedite new construction. In piecemealing, a developer can purchase several small adjacent lots, file separate permits for each lot, and skirt the pesky public-comment period and environmental reviews that accompany major construction projects.

Of course they're trying to avoid the busybodies. But, to no avail - local resident Vlad Oustimovitch got a hold of the developer of some of the townhomes and browbeat them into making some changes, including lowering the height of several townhomes and modifying the landscaping.

As far as the height, I believe they did not change the number of stories - so how much could the height have changed? I'll tell you exactly how much - not enough to make a difference to the aesthetic, but just enough to make Mr Oustimovitch feel good about himself. And the landscaping - presumably they're trying to build townhomes that are attractive; I doubt they landscaped them with rusted-out car bodies. But they changed it... everyone feels good now.

As it happens, Mr Oustimovitch is a planner and architect by trade. So, there are only two kinds of projects that he has a say in - those for which he's hired, and those for which he isn't hired.

I hate to pick on Vlad Oustimovitch - I don't know him, he's probably a sweetheart - but he's the guy in the story.