Monday, April 30, 2007

Pictures from Iraq

Michael Yon has a photo diary from Iraq. Please, please, go read it. Don't get tired of this war, the people there fight for their very lives and future. It's a worthy fight.

Reade Seligmann Writes

Duke non-Rape survivor Reade Seligmann writes the blog-world via KC Johnson's place. He thanks the bloggers, but then goes on to write about his new mission that he hopes bloggers will share:

You have all waged a war against prosecutorial misconduct and exposed Mike Nifong, Crystal Mangum, the Durham Police Department as well as all of the other peripheral characters involved. We must continue to fight for those who do not have a voice and will never have the opportunity to sit in front of a national audience to declare their innocence.

You have all done so much for our families and we can never truly express to you how thankful we are. Now is the time for you to put to use all of the same passion, thoughtfulness, and resolve you have demonstrated on our behalf and help others who are in much more helpless situations.

I can think of a couple cases, one in particular, that still has me upset. That is the case of the Texas border patrol agents tossed in prison for shooting a known illegal alien drug runner in the butt while he tried to flee the scene. He was given lifetime immunity to testify against the agents. And now, the agents (one who has already been abused) rot in federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison. And no, I'm not making light of this issue.

Beyond false prosecutions, police officer malfeasance, and trumped up charges, and don't forget jury manipulation, the non-criminal must go to prison. Rape is an accepted part of prison in America. Those who hold the eye-for-an-eye mentality might think rape is a fair payment for crimes like rape and murder. But it's not the most criminal who are on the receiving end of the abuse. It's these guys according to Human Right's Watch:
Certain prisoners are targeted for sexual exploitation the moment they enter a penal facility: their age, looks, sexual orientation, and other characteristics mark them as candidates for abuse. Human Rights Watch's research revealed a broad range of factors that correlate with increased vulnerability to rape. These include youth, small size, and physical weakness; being white, gay, or a first offender; possessing "feminine" characteristics such as long hair or a high voice; being unassertive, unaggressive, shy, intellectual, not street-smart, or "passive"; or having been convicted of a sexual offense against a minor.
Imagine if the three innocent young men from Duke had ended up in prison. Is there any question what would happen to them?

It seems to me that the judicial system is upside down. With more laws on the books than ever before, few people can stay within the confines of the law. That is, if the government wants to nab a person for something, its representatives don't have to work to hard to do it. The police have earned a reputation as evidence-planting, easily-bought bad guys themselves--even though I think that the vast majority of police officers do not deserve that reputation. Still, every case where the police act like those in Atlanta and Durham undermines them all. On to the District Attorneys running amok. If Tom DeLay can be taken down by a political hack, who isn't vulnerable? And, of course, Nifong defines prosecutorial misconduct. Suppressing evidence, neglecting to interview the accuser, the list goes on and on. The problem is that no one believes he's an American aberration. No, people fear that guys like him are all too common. North Carolina's grand jury laws also defy explanation. Ronnie Earl would be in hog heaven in North Carolina. If the accused person can't afford superlative attorneys like the Duke families could, he or she is in big trouble. All the DA needs is a jury filled with people of below-average I.Q. and the case is decided.

I worried about the Duke case going to trial. Even though the evidence clearly exonerated them, I wasn't sure that a fair trial was even possible in a city so stoked by racial tension. The jury pool would be that majority who voted for Nifong, remember, even after all the evidence point to their innocence. The community (and the faculty of Duke) had a stake in Nifong being right. They look like fools if he's wrong. Fools.

The American legal system's parts and pieces make for a distressing picture taken together. Technology makes finding the truth easier, but it's not iron-clad. Many cases are circumstantial and built around other evidence. Citizens have to trust the police integrity and the justice system's judges and prosecutors. Seligmann is right. The bright light needs to continue to shine on cases like theirs. Guys like KC Johnson have revolutionized the way the justice system is covered. The bloggers, lead by Johnson, helped free innocent men. The major media largely bought the narrative and revealed their bias with a few notable exceptions. Unfortunately, there are more guys like the Duke players who struggle without an advocate. I'm glad Reade Seligmann found his calling. The world needs guys like him and Johnson.

Oh, and Reade, I am so happy for your mother. I hope all the parents get to take a long vacation after this abominable episode.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Ace High On The River Delivers A Royal Flush

Almost a month ago now, we got together with the Pink Necks to play Texas Hold 'Em. One of our friends and I share a couple disturbing traits:

  • We have received the same cards and split pots four times now (three times in one night).
  • We often play the same cards the same way.
This happened to dramatic effect that night. I got the 10 and Jack of spades. He got the Jack and 10 of clubs. On the flop, up came a 10. So we both paired up right away. I can't remember now who bet first. Needless to say, the other called. Also in the flop, a 3 of spades for me and the Queen of clubs that could help on the way to a straight. So we both had the opportunity for a straight or flush draw.

Fourth card comes, it's a King of clubs. I'm inwardly groaning and hoping that he doesn't have clubs. I'm figuring him for a Jack and Ten, actually, which is what he had. I was just hoping it wasn't clubs. Ofcourse, they were clubs. By this time though, I was too far in the money. A wiser person would have thrown in and not waited for a river card, but I couldn't let them go.

Now, here's where it got dramatic. We're both all in and my bud says,"Come on, Ace of Clubs!" And guess what comes on the River? You see it for yourself.

It was a one in a million night. Actually, the odds for a Royal Flush are 1 in 649,740. But what are the odds that another person at the table is holding suited Jack and Ten as well?

Crazy. Fun.

Mental Illness In Children: Survey Reveals Adult Skepticism

Do you believe children are overdiagnosed as hyperactive?
No free polls

New research about mental health and kids shows a skeptical public, but the study's author feels that the skepticism is unjustified:
"The results show that people believe children will be affected negatively if they receive treatment for mental health problems," says study author Bernice Pescosolido, director of the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research, in Bloomington.
Let's see: you can't serve in the military, many job's rightfully explore the job-seeker's mental health and a person who has suffered with mental illness since childhood would likely be excluded from a job, insurance rates would be higher (those with mental health issues use all health care services more) and the list goes on and on. It is deeply disingenuous of the doctors and psychologists to imply that there are no negative side affects from seeking mental health services (and claiming so on insurance).

Also disingenuous is this statement:

Normalizing these conditions would help too, Quinn says.

"We need to view depression and ADHD like we do allergies," she says. "They are very treatable."

No, mental illness is not "very treatable". In fact, depression is very difficult to treat both in children and adults. In addition, many of the treatments have nary a study to document efficacy. There is so much unsubstantiated garbage passing as fact in the profession, that parents are often misled about treatments. (For more on this, read Destructive Trends in Mental Health--links below.)

Here are the results of the survey of 1300 American adults:

•85% of those interviewed believed that doctors overmedicate children with depression and ADHD and that drugs have long-term harm on a child's development. More than half believed that psychiatric medications "turn kids into zombies."

•40% of respondents thought children with depression would be dangerous to others; 31% believed children with ADHD would pose a danger.

•45% said rejection at school is likely if a child goes for treatment, and 43% believe that the stigma associated with seeking treatment would follow them into adulthood.

These results seem perfectly reasonable and rational to me.

Happy kids don't look for their parent's handguns, now do they? Happy kids don't commit suicide. Happy kids don't pick on other kids. Happy kids don't kill cats or otherwise torture animals. Happy kids don't self-mutilate. There are a whole host of things happy kids don't do that depressed kids do.

I don't know if the study's authors have been in a Special Ed room lately, but the behavior kids invariably are diagnosed with ADHD and on some sort of medication. In my son's class, Mr. ADHD was the one who attacked the teacher. Of course, not all hyper children are violent. And most hyper children shouldn't be on Ritalin either. The fact that 90% of all the Ritalin in the world is taken by United States children should be a cause for concern among the mental health profession like it is the vast majority of American parents. Strangely, save for a few, most give out these stimulants more freely than your corner drug dealer.

This survey just proves to me how out-of-touch the mental health profession is with the real world. Reasonable people just don't buy the professions pathologizing of normal kid behavior. Not to mention, this generation still remembers how effective a well-timed, and deserved, good whack on the rear was for reducing hyperactivity. A miracle cure. Instead, every out-of-control parent with every out-of-control child looks for medication to manage behavior.

In rare instances, there is a biophysiological reason for the problem, but my experience has been that diet changes and other life-style changes can go a long way to help most kids. Save the medication for the seriously disturbed children.

There would be more empathy for mental illness, if it didn't seem like everyone, and so many children, were categorized as mentally ill these days.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Sheryl Crow, Bono and Sting Save The Planet By Giving Up Touring For Summer

It is absolutely true, almost. The Anchoress proposed a plan to save the world and the world's most prominent musicians and entertainers decide to take her advice. Here's just a bit:

Of course, that means less fun for all of us, but we should not be having fun when the world is going to end in thirty years, anyway. Canceling summer entertainment in all of its forms will deprive artists and corporations of hundreds of millions of dollars, and those economic losses will trickle down everywhere - to the stores, the restaurants, the hotels, the airlines…the loss of income will affect employment numbers, it will be felt by the vendors selling wares at concerts and even by the Indonesian sweatshops no longer engaged to create $40.00 tee shirts. You will feel the pinch, somehow, and so will I. But a “crisis” situation demands a “crisis” response, and if we suffer a little, at least we all suffer together.

But meanwhile, an entertainment-free summer may have conserved so much energy, that we might just be able to defeat the “man-made catastrophe” of global warming, in its entirety. And wouldn’t that just be something? C’mon, now - wouldn’t it all be worth it?
This summer will be the best ever. The world will last and we can thank the entertainment industry. Hallelujah!

Democrats Fight For Principle

Imagine if the Democrats brought the same energy they bring to fighting the President to the real U.S. enemy. What a formidable United States we would have. They act as if there will be no consequences should their hoped-for actions become reality. Captain Ed quotes Joe Lieberman, the only Democrat Senator, who seems to understand the consequences:

When we say that U.S. troops shouldn’t be “policing a civil war,” that their operations should be restricted to this narrow list of missions, what does this actually mean?
To begin with, it means that our troops will not be allowed to protect the Iraqi people from the insurgents and militias who are trying to terrorize and kill them. Instead of restoring basic security, which General Petraeus has argued should be the central focus of any counterinsurgency campaign, it means our soldiers would instead be ordered, by force of this proposed law, not to stop the sectarian violence happening all around them—no matter how vicious or horrific it becomes.

In short, it means telling our troops to deliberately and consciously turn their backs on ethnic cleansing, to turn their backs on the slaughter of innocent civilians—men, women, and children singled out and killed on the basis of their religion alone. It means turning our backs on the policies that led us to intervene in the civil war in Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the principles that today lead many of us to call for intervention in Darfur.

This makes no moral sense at all.

It also makes no strategic or military sense either.

If Iraq wouldn't be a bloodbath after a U.S. "redeployment" (surrender), I'd say that the President should mandate an immediate withdrawal of all troops right now. Call their bluff. Call a Press Conference and concede: while the United States has never lost a war except by choice, the Democrats have convinced me that the will of the American people is to withdraw troops now. Immediately. Harry Reid is right. The Senate Majority leader and all the other Democrats made me see the light. We are going to do it the Democrat's way.

There would be a massacre. And the Democrats would blame Bush (because he wouldn't do the withdrawal the right way, the way they would have done it, the President is a stupid rube, blah, blah, blah). And the Democrats would be okay with all this because they figure that a limbs-strewn Iraq would keep them in power in perpetuity. I figure they figure wrong. More attacks would happen in the United States and in other Western countries. Americans will die. The war, won't be, as promised, over. The war will have only really begun. Weakness brings out the predators.

But being the short-sighted, expedient types, the Democrats wish to win only one war--against President Bush. The should be reminded that their enemy retires in a year and half.

Sex and the Single Girl

While everyone in media land discuss how rappers portray images of women, the unspoken, worst part is that the videos seem to represent how young women now view themselves. Girls dress like whores, talk like whores and act like whores, but most interestingly, don't view themselves as whores. They have no shame.

Feminists applaud this development. A young woman isn't viewed as a slut because she gets around, or maybe she is viewed that way, but she doesn't view herself that way. She's just doing what everyone says girls do now. If she feels bad about her sluttiness, she surpresses it. She shouldn't feel bad, something must be wrong with her if she does.

I am absolutely dismayed right now. In fact, for three weeks I've been mulling the results of a survey I gave to 16 to 18 year old Christian girls at a Church Youth Conference. A little background: the church would be considered evangelical and fundamentalist in teaching with an open creed, but relatively conservative in practice. These are kids who have been taught that fornication is wrong. I'm not so naive to think that being taught it means practicing abstinance. Teens have been having sex since before rock-n-roll, but they knew full well they were playing with fire. Teens these days are just.....playing and suffering repeated burns.

These young women report this:

  • 2/3 knew about the Girls Next Door
  • 1/3 knew someone who had been raped or molested
  • 1/3 didn't believe that oral sex was really sex (thanks Bill!)
  • 1/2 had posted sexy pictures of themselves on their MySpace account
  • nearly all knew someone who had had an abortion
It went on and on. One girl argued with me about oral sex being sex. She pressed her logic. I asked her if Jesus would consider her virginal on Judgement Day if she said that she "only had blowjobs and that's not sex."

While a lot of Christian girls pay lip service to "What would Jesus do?". In real life, the question is "What would Britney do?" Yes, Britney Spears. And Paris. And Lindsey. Young women who dress and act like the women portrayed in those rapper's videos. Exploiting themselves? They exploit their own sexuality and look like they're coming unhinged doing it. (Rehab and divorce. DUI and sex tape. Rehab. Who knows how many STDs, abortions and failed relationships between them.)

While the girls are being absolutely saturated with the self-sexploitation message, their parents are contributing to the problem. The internet and television and movies and music ooze soul killing bacteria that must be beaten back but many parents seem to be stuck in la-la land where bad things don't happen to or around their children. Essentially, they leave their children to navigate territory that they most likely never had to survive to reach adulthood and a healthy relationship. MTV started in the late 80's. I was not exposed to a music video until I was 16. It was shocking then. It would be snickered at now. Videos these days are soft-porn disguised as music. See the above link. Parents need to wake up.

It is impossible to ensure that children will avoid the images, words, lyrics and messages piped into their minds. If I bumbled across a porn site while looking for a certain kind of Scottish tartan plaid, kids are certainly accidently or on-purpose finding porn. Doubt the influence? How many young girls now shave their pubic region to resemble little girls? How many girls take pictures of themselves and send them to their boyfriend? How many girls undress in front of their webcam for their boyfriend? Technology makes these kind of actions routine.

A parent being ignorant of the popular culture and the dangers of the web is derelict in his or her duty. Parents must know and they must have conversations with their children about what it all means. They must get over their own embarrassment about their own premarital sex. What teens deal with today, is not the average sex before marriage--one or two partners. Teens have "friends with benefits", blow-jobs are not considered sex. Who, save the one girl who got it on with the whole football team (a very nice girl, actually, in my High School who ended up pregnant and another boy married her), gave out blow-jobs like candy? It's different today.

Parents lose their moral authority, though, if they are doing things they ought not do. Affairs, divorce, smoking pot, porn addiction, substance abuse, kids know and kids scorn a parent who opinionate while carrying on like this. Worse, a plague of sexual abuse afflicts girls. Especially, the youth pastor told me, in the hispanic community. No one wants to turn an uncle or father in for their crimes. Crimes. Besides destroying a woman's life-long sexuality by allowing the abuse to continue, the bigger crime is destroying her faith in all authority including God. It goes without saying that assaulting a child sexually is a sin. To condone and ignore the crime is a sin, too. Mothers who do this are aiding and abetting a criminal. This destroys the girl's image of women and the church.

I thought, I hoped, that what we saw in our practice was an aberration, not indicative of societal trends. I hoped that our patients were only indicative of the types of people who suffer with chronic pain or other health issues as adults. That still may be true. But to have so many young girls admit knowing someone who had been molested (and 80-90% occurs within the family) makes me think that the problem is worse than even the statistics portray.

The sex act has been stripped of any spiritual meaning today. That is, people act as if sex is a recreational sport with no losers. But what has resulted is hardened hearts. First their broken and then rebroken and then the scars build up and eventually, the girl doesn't think it matters anymore. At a Christian Youth Conference, I saw girls who had given up. Cynical about relationships in general and sex in particular--at 17.

Sex education programs teach a kid to put on a condom, give dry statistics about STDs, but how can they possibly counteract what kids are injesting and absorbing everywhere else? If parents refuse to see the dangerous, predator-infested waters their kids navigate and help them fight back, what chance will children have?

The church and families have become cowardly places where sin can't be named. Our children are paying the price. There is a reason why God commanded His people to remain chaste before marriage and it wasn't because He's an out of touch other-worldly Ogre. God knows how powerful sex is and what a force for good it can be in a relationship built to last forever. Outside the protective confines of marriage, sex causes untold grief. And then, when the people eventually marry, they bring all their grief to the one relationship they really want to succeed.

We need to stop acting like sex outside of marriage is no big deal.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

American Idol: Stamp Out Malaria

No mention whatsoever of why so many kids are dying of Malaria. The answer is that environmentalists succeeded in getting DDT spraying discontinued in Africa. Mosquitos carry Malaria. Malaria spreads.

Newsflash: these people will have to come out of their bug netting eventually. Luckily, countries have reversed their DDT stance and will use it to save the children and pregnant women who are primarily afflicted:

Noting that the rate of malaria infection in Tanzania was "unacceptably high", the minister said between 16 and 18 million cases were reported every year, leading to more than 100,000 deaths, of which about 75 percent occur among under-five children and pregnant women.
It's true, children need to be saved. So, let's really save them.

Why I Like Rudy G

I thought President Bush was a straight-talking President and he is, except when he's not. Guiliani still seems to speak his mind. I hope it lasts.

Reid's Sin

Anyone with a moral compass pointing true North sees Reid for what he is. But why would the Dems be mad at him? Jeff Goldstein gets exactly why:

It is telling that Reid’s fellow Democrats are reacting quickly to his gaffe, not because they don’t wish to see us lose the war— after all, many of them have staked their political future on just that—but rather, because they desperately don’t want to be seen as wishing us to lose. So they are forced to straddle the issue, agitating for legislation that will hamstring the military, offering propaganda victories to our enemies, and providing constant “dissent” that weakens troop morale and emboldens terrorism by giving the impression that the tactic is useful should its practitioners hope to divide a population—all while pretending to care about the troops and wring their hands over the possibility of a loss that they are working actively to help bring about.

Reid’s sin, from the Democratic Party’s perspective, is that he gave voice to the very kind of surrender rhetoric that has long cost Democrats the trust of the American people on issues of national security. Or, to put it another way, Reid’s blunder was one of candor—when what the Democratic party is about these days is keeping up appearances.
This is my first Reid post. The Democrats have descended to new lows. I'm always surprised that I'm still surprised. The Democrats behavior is exactly what I expected and yet, I so hoped I was wrong.

Instapundit Gets Rich

Hark, but is that a big advertising square featuring the benefits of a McDonald's Big Mac on Glenn Reynold's blog? Maybe there's a future in this blog business.

How To Waste Time

Do you really need to know how to waste time? Well, I'm a pro and feel that I should share my expertise:

  1. Blog--It takes up lots of time, the returns are rarely financial, just the warm fuzzies
  2. Make excuses--Today, I'm wasting time because it's raining. Headaches, phone calls, the list of time wasters is endless.
  3. Blame others--The baby made the mess, my co-worker is an idiot.
  4. Watch Oprah--Watch the news, watch TV in general. It's wasted time in one efficient package.
  5. Don't take showers--Smelliness stops most public excursions.
  6. Read all email. All of it.
  7. Clean obsessively. I know. It's counterintuitive. But you wouldn't believe the number of people who think they are actually accomplishing something when the house is perfect. Mice on those little circle things think they're going somewhere, too.
The list is endless. Another time waster. Beautiful.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

American Idol Gives Back: Just Imagine

Melinda Doolittle made me cry. This whole show is making me cry.

Blake did Imagine.....just as I imagined he would. The melody is so magical and if I pretend to not hear the line "imagine there is no religion", the song takes me away to that place of imagined perfection. While he is no vocal powerhouse ala Melinda or LaKisha (later: or as Jordin), this is the first time it seemed like he believed what he sang. I still see him as a front for a boy band.

LaKisha sang beautifully and got ripped by the judges. I've never heard Fantasia sing this song, so I have no reference point.

Wow. Phil is growing on me like a fungus. He was so awkward. He viewed himself as such a poseur for so long he convinced me to see him that way, too. Last week he seemed like a real person for once. And tonight he did it again. Simon gives him really good advice. Go country, young man. My brother thinks he's "thoroughly mediocre." Well, his mediocre has gotten better. Maybe my expectations were so low the only way to go was up.

You'll Never Walk Alone. Go Jordan, go! And boy does she nail it. Ha! The kids in my church choir will know the song now. I told them that they'd be singing this and they said, "What?" They'll know now. Good. What a beautiful song. What a lovely voice. She believes.....

I missed Chris' performance. And seeing the recap, I think tonight might be his last night.

How great is it that American Idol is turning its massive audience toward helping the world's needy? It's a thoroughly American solution: innovative, efficient and, fun. Who knew that stamping out hunger could be fun? Wait a minute, lots of people know that serving their fellow man is fun. And that brings me to Simon.

Simon's comment about the food bank volunteers,"I've never met nice people" struck me. Really? He's never met nice people. Huh. England must be more far gone than feared. My thought was: Simon needs to get religion. There are nice people serving the needy in churches all across America and all over the world. Who does he think serves meals to the starving? Who runs the food banks? Who gets to New Orleans before the Feds? Who houses those displaced? Who feeds them? Who clothes them? Churches. Christians. Believers.

Maybe he just doesn't know any religious people. Or maybe he is getting to know them. I heard on the local Christian station that one of the past Idol contestants believes that Simon's heart is changing. Melinda Doolittle "has a heart for the Lord" and what we see on Idol, what Simon keeps thinking is fake, her friend says, is real. She really is that nice and that humble. He has a tough time believing.

That's okay. Lots of people struggle to believe. It's tough to have faith in a Higher Being who can't be touched or felt. It's tough to imagine that a person's life can be transformed by faith in a Savior who died for each person. Hang out at the food bank or visit missions in Africa, it's a little easier to believe. Imagine, Simon Cowell being transformed by the witness of believers.

Just imagine.

Home Sales Decline

MaxedOutMama explains what it all means. If you have investments or own a home or wish to own a home or have money in the stock market or care a whit about the economy, you need to be reading Mama. Half the time I don't understand her.

In the most recent Money magazine, a guru said that he's getting out of real estate. Hmmmm......

Obesity Related To Mom's Age of Menarche

Interesting research about obesity: children of mothers whose period started at 11 of younger had 11x the chance of having fat kids as the women who started their periods at age 15. Why are women having periods earlier and earlier? My vote is for the estrogens in the environment including food such as soy formula rich in phytoestrogens. Bleach is a hormone disrupter, too.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Virginia Tech Killer's Alleged Autism

I know. I know. Why? Why give this crazy guy more press? Because I can't take comments like these from Huffington Post resident Autism expert Blake Fleetwood (full disclosure: I have an eight year old son who was diagnosed autistic at age two):

The first and most obvious of Cho's symptoms - from early on in his life - was that he was suffering from characteristics of Autistic Spectrum Disorder - difficulties with: social skills, communication, obsessive tendencies, adaptability and speech articulation, amongst other possible symptoms.

A high functioning autism to be sure, perhaps Asperger's, but certainly in the spectrum.
Call me pedantic, but I would like proof of this diagnosis. The word of a relative in South Korea seems like hearsay to me and not exactly iron-clad. Not to mention, Cho didn't come to America until he was eight years old. He wasn't diagnosed in South Korea? A shy, socially awkward child who gets language late and interacts oddly doesn't guarantee an Autism diagnosis. My next door neighbor had six boys who fit that description and all matured in college, half are married and they each are contributing members of society.

What Fleetwood seeks in the V-Tech massacre is a platform to discuss bullying and mental health disorders in young people. He wants compassion for victims, like Cho, who strike out (no doubt, the suicide bombers in Iraq are victims, too). But most of all, he wants government intervention. Once the autism premise is accepted as fact the next step is simple: more government intervention for children with all forms of mental health issues. He is joined by other journalists who speculate and end with this hope:
We seem to disregard history and this is one major mistake. It has been mentioned that by doing something repeatedly and gaining the same bad results is a sign of mental illness. Let us take this tragedy and learn just what caused it. Make the necessary changes and at the very least try to avoid another Virginia Tech.
From what little is known so far, though, Cho presents as a socially awkward, language-challenged kid who was picked on for being different as a teenager. While he may have been traumatized as a teen, his college acquaintances seemed more than kind to him and he didn't respond or responded weirdly. Not only did he have trouble with friend relationships, he had trouble with women, too. And a real expert says this:
Robert Ressler, the retired FBI profiler who is credited with coining the term "serial killer," said he thinks Cho had an inadequate-personality disorder with psychopathic overtones.

"Oftentimes there are sexual underpinnings to inadequacy," he said, noting authorities say Cho stalked two Virginia Tech students in 2005, leading to two encounters with police. High school classmates say they never saw him interact with girls.

Ressler added that Cho seemed "so mission-oriented. That would go against schizophrenia and more toward psychopathy."

Muscari said Cho's apparent level of organization, as evidenced by the multimedia manifesto he mailed to NBC between Monday's shootings, could be evidence of psychopathy.
He's not the only one skeptical of the autism connection:
James Kauffman, a retired University of Virginia education behaviorist, dismissed any possible link between Cho's violence and autism.

"I don't see any connection to autism at all, even if he was diagnosed," Kauffman said. "It doesn't wash."

Clint Van Zandt, another retired FBI profiler, said he could not call to mind any serial killer who was autistic. "None," he said.
As I've noted before, though, the killer did receive intervention in the medical and educational community, and, even more significantly, in the judicial system. This was not a young man who didn't receive intervention.

Even still, all this speculation matters little. For every unbalanced person who snaps, there are scores who bumble through life, self-medicate, get medicated, or live borderline lives. And a great number of people are content with their neurosis or psychosis, thank you, and resist intervention. And while some journalists pine for more mental health intervention and portray a false dichotomy--locking down campuses on the one hand or serious mental health intervention on the other--the truth is that save locking this kid up (and would he and his family submit to this and is society at large comfortable with this) this kind of thing will happen again and not because of undiagnosed mental illness, but because people snap at weird times for weird reasons.

As a parent of an autistic kid, I've been around lots of autistic people--children and adults. Some parents have children who grow up big and strong but have the emotional responsiveness of a young child. Invariably these people are institutionalized to some degree. But they are childlike in all their emotions--not just anger. Note that I acknowledge that autistic people can get angry, even violently so. Still, I have never seen an autistic person being methodically violent such as displayed at Virginia Tech. It just doesn't fit.

Bullying is another issue. I'm so worried about the bullying that does come to those on the Autism Spectrum that I'm considering home schooling once he reaches middle school age. We had our first incident of aggression on the bus last week. We intervened and it stopped. We have concerned neighbor kids and an ever watchful sister to alert us to potential problems. When my son gets frustrated because he has to work so much harder to "get it" (socially and academically), I tell him that life is tough. Everyone has difficulties. Some things are easier for him (and some things are) and some things are tougher. And while bullying is unacceptable to me and the teachers that look the other way are complicit in abuse, bullies are wily creatures. I got bullied in middle school and the most dangerous times no teacher was in sight.

Bullying is wrong. Unsupported at-risk children is wrong. A lot of wrong happens, and none of it excuses guys like Cho. Really, none of it explains guys like Cho. When considering that 83% of middle schoolers report bullying it's hard to make the connection that his background somehow caused the violence.

I know it's uncomfortable acknowledging that some people snap in horrible ways for their own reasons. Every criminal in the blames someone for their nefarious ways. Members of the media using autism as the hook to explain the killer's behavior is worse than ignorant. People need to get okay with the fact that some people are evil, some deranged, some filled with hate. And some kill. And one did. And no one is to blame but him.

One Square A Day--UPDATE Sheryl Crow's Personal Requirements

What woman in the Western world uses one square of toilet paper? You know, when Laurie David and Sheryl Crow talk like this, they sound insane or insanely privileged. Do they even wipe their own rears or are they so squeaky clean that TP is unnecessary?

Can you go too far with bloviating? Not if you're absolutely sure of your own moral authority. Between Al Gore and Laurie David and Sheryl Crow, the American public are going to be completely turned off from any ideas of caring for the planet. Sheesh. Who doesn't care about their environment? Most people want to keep their plot clean. Most people want to recycle. Most people would love a vehicle that got 500 miles to the gallon--if there was no loss of power. It is just good stewardship. Not to mention, I for one, would really like to not have to rely on the benevolence of Middle Eastern oil cartel member's generosity for fuel. But that's not what this toilet paper stupidity is about. It's all about finding religion.

And, most people already have a God and religion, thank you. And the first law isn't to remember Gaia. Do the save the earth types realize they sound like IRS agents with OCD? For every thing a person wants to do, there's a rule. A person can be a complete jackass, but if she uses one square, she goes to heaven.

As an aside, I think that there is one thing Gore, David and Crow have in common: a search for something to believe in and a search for personal meaning. Gore lost the presidency and has sought to matter to someone, anyone, ever since. He needs a stage to exist.

David and Crow are searching for mission. They need a child to mother. The children of the world will be their children. They need to get out of the theoretical and get real: have a child. Grow up and learn what parenting is really like. These ladies are like the childless women cluck-clucking at the public park about "kids these days". Spare us your discipline theories, ladies, and make them real. Even the uber Material Girl has been forced to grow up some. At the very least, having children keeps you so busy, that you can't, even if you want to, enlighten the world with all your pet ideas all the time. Children help focus the mind.

Too many people have too empty lives. It's not that caring for and keeping the environment isn't a worthwhile goal. It's that there is absolutely no perspective. Using toilet paper to imbue one's life with meaning is just....lame. Get into church. Listen to a sermon. Giving sermons on toilet paper squares just sounds as superficial and vacuous as your lives must really be. It's pathetic and out of touch.

Update: Instapundit links to Crow's requirements when she is on tour.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I've Always Wanted A Butler

Of all the inventions of civilization, a butler seems to be one of the best. Imagine: a person to remind one of where she need to be, who she needs to contact, what would be appropriate to wear, what the meal should consist of, who gets thank you notes, greets the door, and generally manages one's life, and if one has kids named Buffy and Jody, nannies the children, too.

I want a butler. I need a butler.

Alas, Mr. French is not in the budget. However, this little invention just might be--with Mother's Day coming up. Even though the narrower bag looks better, I need something stylish to carry my laptop and/or books in. Opinions?

Men, I really think you could hit a homerun on Mother's Day with this bag. It's unique. It's affordable. It's beautiful. It's functional. She'll love it.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Iraq's Sunnis in Anbar Want to Join The Process

They finally view the terrorists as enemies. Time. We need to give our soldiers time. Captain Ed comments:

The Los Angeles Times reports that the security situation in Anbar has shown real improvement. Some of that improvement comes from the efforts of the local tribes, but that wouldn't be possible if the US hadn't started its new strategy of clearing and holding territory and establishing credibility in its commitment. The Marines that have boosted their numbers in Anbar have made believers out of the locals.

Now the sheikhs have given their blessings to recruitment for the Iraqi Army, which has up to now been a mainly Shi'ite force. The Sunni recruits will help to balance the security forces and bolster that group's credibility in Iraq as a whole. It's the only way that Iraq in the long run can hold itself together.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Baldwin-Basinger Slug Fest

Does anyone need any more evidence that two people bound by a child should stay together for the sake of the child? I know, it's counter-intuitive. Imagine this: Had this family chosen to stay together they would all have access to their possession--their child--anytime they want.

Instead, they fight over the child as if she were a ..... prized thing.

Alec Baldwin is an insufferable pompous ass. Kim Basinger is not a negotiator in good faith.

Hello? There is a child in this mess and she has the pleasure of hearing her father call her names and thanks to her mom, publicly. She is forced to defend two parents doing the indefensible. Unlucky girl.

Baldwin has an anger problem. He keeps it up, he'll never see his child.

Collective Shame--A Killer's Mortified Family

I've read about V-Tech killer's family being shamed. Evidently South Koreans are too. No one holds them responsible for his actions. He was a grown man, not a child. A shame culture, though, does contribute to the problem.

The notion of individual responsibility is a Christian and Democratic one. A family is not put on trial for a relative's crime. Only one man pulled that trigger and that man was the criminal.

Virginia Tech Massacre Reveals A Sick and Tired Society

I haven't seen the controversial Cho videos--seeing the gun pointed at his own head picture on Drudge was enough for me. After watching the CNN interviews with Cho's roommates, I decided that I didn't want to watch any Cho anymore. And I haven't. I said this yesterday and it sounds like I'm not alone in my belief:

He was rational enough to use and manipulate the media. He knew what they would do, and they did. (More here.) They worked as a team, Cho and the media. In fact, other murderous (crazy? sick? evil?) terrorizers use the media in a cold and calculating way, too. They, too, justify their actions and blame the victims. None of these people appear insane. They seem consumed by hate--so much so that they value no life, including their own.
The parents are rightly outraged at the glorification of the criminal. The criminal is always glorified in the media. Even I have dedicated two long posts (here and here) dissecting the societal explanation for such murderous behavior. Two posts reported the news (here and here). Two posts covered the victim's families and remembering the heroes (here and here). And one post was philosophical. I'd like to think my blog has been balanced. If it were my child who had been shot, though, the notion of there even being "balance" would make me sick.

This is a story of one bad guy, a number of fallible authorities, many heroes, and scores of people who had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. For the latter a scripture in Ecclesiastes 9 is helpful:
11I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all.
Does that mean it doesn't matter what we do with our gifts and talents cause we might die tomorrow? No. It does matter. And I, for one, believe a man like Professor Liviu Librescu, was meant to survive the Holocaust to save his fellow man. Everyone of his students lived because of his sacrifice. In his case, one life bought many. What a blessing he is to his family, his community and the world. His sacrifice mattered.

Still, as weak humans, we are all subject to time. We will all die eventually. Hebrews 9:27 says, "It is appointed for all men once to die; and then, the judgment." So, good or bad, we will all die and answer for the life we've lived. If, by time and chance, we're cut short by some evil-doer, it can be just a random evil. It doesn't have to be reason-filled to die in this way--we are all affected by chance.

And still, ALL things work together for good for those who love God, to those called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) So even something so despicable and evil can give rise to something good. For a start, it would be nice if the media would acknowledge their accomplice-like behavior in elevating the brutal, evil and criminal. These days, the media coverage, more than the elimination of a rival, is the goal of the killer. For the media to collectively ignore that fact is such self-serving willful stupidity.

Additionally, for the media to obsess over guns when the problem is clear to everyone with eyes to see is politically driven garbage. An evil, psychotic (take your pick), vengeful man externalized his hate in a murderous rampage. Gun, knife, car, plane, hands, pick the weapon. The problem was a person. He alone bears responsibility for his decision. Every moral American sees this obvious fact.

The American public has been subjected to a barrage of biased coverage painting acts of stupidity as earth-moving (Imus) and minimizing atrocities by validating a killer's externalizing of blame (Cho). And while Cho mowed down his fellow students at V-Tech, terrorist groups did the same thing in Iraq for the same reason: because they know that blood and guts gets the coverage. Americans are not stupid. They get where the press is coming from. Sometimes I think the MSM ups the amperage because they think that yelling will drive home the point. Everyone has got the point. They are just not buying it.

And the Press is not the only group who doesn't get it. Congress grilled Gonzoles yesterday. Big whup. Another guy who doesn't get it. Refuses to get it. (He sat there and defended the government's action about the border patrol agents sitting in prison for shooting a drug runner in the ass while smuggling tons of drugs over the border.) The Democrats and Republicans collude to obscure transparency in their hallowed halls. They want to continue using American's money without Americans knowing for what. Americans are sick of it and them.

Finally, under all these problems lies a foundation of politically correctness. No one can be labeled crazy or evil. That makes the powers that be nervous. Such concrete words. Such inflexible thinking. Well, there is evil in the world. In fact, the world is full of it and pretending it's not there just exposes the good people to harm. How much fear of being branded a bigot stopped people from dealing with the Cho problem? How afraid are people now of being perceived as close-minded that they'll ignore the evidence staring them in the face? Even more, how uncomfortable are we in the use of force that young, strong men are paralyzed in the face of evil? Yes. Men. A trained woman could have made a difference, too, but lets be real. A man, or men, of size and strength (or not, if he were armed) would need to use all of it to take down a killer hopped up on blood lust.

There seems to be a general contempt for moral clarity and those who practice it. Humble, used to be normal, American values are mushed up in a sea of nuanced swill. The leaders are awash in a narcissistic pursuit of power. The media glorifies evil and base behavior. But people watch it, they protest. Which people? Does their viewership represent the majority of Americans? I think they have deceived themselves into thinking they do.

I'm not sure the Virginia Tech tragedy (a bonifide, true tragedy in every sense of the word) will make any difference or improve our problematic leadership and media culture. The Press should be ashamed of their actions, but they seem beyond shame. Our government officials seem beyond shame. Our so-called thinkers seem beyond shame. I feel horrible, that in their time of grief, family and friends had to be the ones to push back against the press and reveal the shame, but there you go.

Here's hoping that good can come from the evil that's happened.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Cho: Prevention & Rehabilitation?--UPDATE

Yesterday, I wondered if a guy like Cho was evil or psychotic. The latter implying that with the right mix of medication and therapy, perhaps he could live a relatively normal, stable life. The votes are still coming in, but so far, the poll is essentially 50-50. Half believe he's psychotic. Half believe he's evil.

A commenter asked, "Can't he be both?" At first, I thought, yes, but upon second thought, I believe the answer is no. The name given to these actions imply the solution. Or the diagnosis determines the treatment. The nun portrayed in Dead Man Walking sought a spiritual solution that would lead to rational beliefs and actions like taking responsibility and apologizing for committing a sin. Psychiatry seeks a biochemical or behavioral solution that would lead to rational beliefs and actions. There is an assumption of an illness, a mental cancer, that is outside of will or soul. If the person gets "balanced" he or she will behave better. If the imbalance hadn't been there to begin with, the crime would never have happened. I think the two perspectives are very different and lead to very different solutions to the problem: a murderer.

Franklin Graham said that he believed Cho to be "demon possessed". It's hard to argue with that assessment. Whether literally or figuratively, this man definitely succombed to his "demons". That means the only hope for his redemption would be repentence and conversion. And surely, that would change a killer's heart.

This scenario is said to have happened with the Florida killer who took a Christian woman hostage and allowed her to read passages from the Bible:

The woman allegedly taken hostage by Brian Nichols, a suspect in a quadruple murder, said that during the hours she was held in her apartment, she and her captor watched TV footage of the Georgia manhunt, had long discussions about God and ate pancakes with butter.

"He said, 'That's not me. I can't believe that's me,'" Ashley Smith (search) told FOX News affiliate WAGA-TV Sunday. "I told him: 'You need to turn yourself in.'"
He ostensibly repented and peacefully surrendered to the police after letting her go. Was he possessed and then exorcised of his demons? Was he psychotic and then suddenly not psychotic?

Had Cho been detained in the mental institution, given anti-psychotic medication and therapy, would he have been given the psychological space he needed to sort things out? His persistent, violent ideation was never challenged. He wouldn't talk to anyone. Left alone in his thoughts, he didn't get any rational feedback. Would he have accepted it, had some been given?

No one really likes to talk about it, but it seems that even crazy, imbalanced people choose their actions. (This is why we still hold chemically imbalanced drunks responsible for their actions.) This choice implies that they could choose differently. Cho could have chosen a different reaction to the slights and offenses he perceived which he used to justify his violence. He was rational enough to use and manipulate the media. He knew what they would do, and they did. (More here.) They worked as a team, Cho and the media. In fact, other murderous (crazy? sick? evil?) terrorizers use the media in a cold and calculating way, too. They, too, justify their actions and blame the victims. None of these people appear insane. They seem consumed by hate--so much so that they value no life, including their own.

Cho carved A. Ismail into his arm. Clearly, he saw the connection. The societal beefs were the same: rich, privileged, bullying. Still, his family worried over his mental state even when he was a small child. Apparently they were ill-equipped to get help. I'm not implying that Cho was somehow a Islamic terrorist even with all the speculation about his formative years spent in Saudi Arabia. What I am implying is that Cho was well-versed in the language of victimhood and recognized similar grievances being put forth by terrorists. He also knew the media would air those grievances because the victim rhetoric plays well. Or, it usually does. This time, though, the true victims pushed back.

What would media silence about terrorist acts in Iraq or murderous rampages like Chos do here? The media won't write about suicides, usually. They recognize that kids will copy those acts. But I digress.

I'll end again with a poll. Do you think that psychiatric treatment could have cured Cho? In the comments, maybe you could include the kind of treatment that would have helped him.

Would psychological treatment have prevented this crime?
No free polls

Update: Upon more reflection, it's important to note that some people are more fragile mentally. They are more likely to break under stress. Some war veterens have discussed this--some people cannot handle the gruesome stimuli that come with war. My uncle is one of those people. He is a Vietnam Vet, came back to the U.S. after two tours as a grunt, started a successful business, and for whatever reason, after his divorce, lost his grip on reality. Was it PTSD? I don't know. Other relatives say that he was mean from the beginning. But how to tease out his personality from the dysfunctional environment? Eventually, as an adult, he adopted an angry, blame-the-world perspective. He used people to support him and justified his rage. He chose to disconnect. And yet, he could be utterly charming and engaging. When I was in High School, I interviewed him for a paper on Vietnam. He easily answered my questions while the family listened intently, shocked that he was talking about it. Borderline Personality Disorder? Psychopath? Narcissist? Just an angry guy who used a trauma to hate the world? A fragile soul destroyed by experience? A faithless man, who never truly knew or accepted the grace of a loving God? All of the above?

I've seen medication moderate disturbed people. In one case, the person was supposedly suicidal, but it became clear that the real problem was homocidal ideation. Needless to say, I called the psychiatrist on the case and urged an increase in the anti-psychotics he prescribed. They worked, but the person was still fragile. Everyone would profess shock if this person snapped, but upon further exploration, it wouldn't be so.....crazy. Meds or not, I feel that the person desired, however remotely, to do better, to live better, to come back. A conscious choice was made to engage again.

And I knew people who want to stay in that destructive place. And I know those so self-unaware, that they don't recognize they are in a destructive place. In one case the person appears normal superficially and even fooled a psychiatrist or two. These are the people who worry me. But what can be done? Insane assylums are passé and might not house the most potentially violent, disturbed, intelligent crazies anyway.

Back to the notion of being both psychotic and evil. Perhaps the function of the psychology profession is to talk the disturbed person off the edge. To eliminate or diminish the ability of the person to harm society. True healing, though, is proactive. Health isn't the absence of disease, it's the presence of vitality. A mentally healthy person has a belief system that animates their purpose for being. For most people, it's a belief in God. Taking the iron grip off of trying to find all the answers here and now, materialistically, and surrendering to the mysteries of the universe--including why bad things happen sometimes--counterintuitively confers mental health.

G.K. Chesterton posits that the insane person is trapped in the materialistic world--trying in vain to make sense of the senseless. The insane person's world constricts as he limits himself to what he knows, for sure, to be true. Ultimately, he know only himself to be true. He believes, Chesterton says, in himself. And that's when madness enters. I would do Chesterton's work injustice if I tried to pull a short quote to prove the point so I won't. To get a better understanding of the mind of Cho and those like him, I recommend reading Chesterton's book Orthodoxy, specifically Chapter 2, titled "The Maniac." You will recognize the maniac. He is Scott Peterson. He is Dylan Kliebold or Eric Harris. She is Andrea Yates. He is Cho Sueing-Hui. It is my hope that you'll read it and receive comfort and understanding. It's truly a book that can change your life.

Partial Birth Abortion Ban

Much gnashing of teeth ensued after the Supreme Court decision upholding the law to ban partial birth abortion. For the libertarians the fear ranged from personal rights infringement to intrusion on a method for a livelihood. For the leftists and feminists, all manner of fear and anger was expressed at a woman's rights being taken away.

In all this, I read nary an article about the barbarity of partial birth abortion and why we, as a civilized society, should find the "procedure" abhorrent.

Most people, given the opportunity to watch this procedure would find it abhorrent and do. Will the Left take this issue to the legislators or will they concede this issue in face of the public will?

Student Loan Investigation

I've talked about this before:

Colleges have inflated prices over the last decades mostly because they know if students and their parents don't have the money to pay, they can get big student loans. The student loan limits continue to rise and bam! so do college costs. Funny how that works.
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo found this nefarious arrangement between college loan officers and student loan lenders:

Cuomo says his investigators uncovered numerous arrangements that benefited schools and lenders at the expense of students. For example, investigators say lenders have provided all-expense-paid trips for college financial aid officers who then steered students to the lenders.

Cuomo's office has found that loan officers at a few schools had stock in a company that owned Student Loan Xpress, which was on the schools' preferred lender lists.

Ya don't say..... Well, this has always been a problem. The solution? Cash. Work your way through college. The loan system is an abomination and turns people into government servants for decades.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Cho: Psychotic or Evil?

Does the V-Tech murderer deserve a diagnosis or damnation? Would therapy and medication have normalized his behavior and prevented this gruesome violence?

Some people say he was "clearly insane". But aren't all murderers crazy? Isn't it crazy to hunt down or plan someone's death? Heck, doesn't a person have to be kinda crazy to kill in a crime of "passion"?

I tire of the psychological labels. It lets the killer, rapist, abuser, tyrant off the hook. If a person is "sick", we feel sorry for him. Pity. If only he had a better upbringing, or hadn't been picked on by a rich white kid (they all actually seemed to be very nice to him, considering his crazy), or taken his medication.

But this guy did receive interventions. Special tutor, counseling, court-ordered commitment to ascertain mental status. Clearly, the psychologist made a huge mistake. Dr. Helen says, "The level of stupidity and incompetence in the area of mental health is staggering." Or maybe the future murderer was a very good liar, consumed with hate and smart enough to manipulate the doctor. My husband protested, "You know we've seen crazy people over the years. How do you know which one will snap?" No matter, lots of people in authority--from law enforcement to judges to professors to students to school administration knew Mr. Cho was not right.

I went to school with a kid like this. He went on a school break with another classmate and the classmate mysteriously drowned (a proficient swimmer) in mysterious circumstances. Everyone was convinced that the guy killed him, but there was no proof. He didn't strike me as particularily insane. He did, however, send chills up my spine. Loner. Lived in a cult community for a while. Lived in his car because he used his loan money to gamble. Had loads of strange debt. Moved overseas to avoid payment. Crazy shit, but he wasn't crazy. He was evil. Everything seemed very calculated in his very disordered life.

What do you think? If you were forced, which would you choose? Evil implies moral condemnation with possible, but unlikely, redemption. A diagnosis implies potential rehabilitation. Or, do you believe my premise to be wrong?

If you had to choose one, was the V-Tech murderer:
Evil free polls

Buying Personal Feminine Hygiene Products at Target

You can't go into a Target and just buy tampons. Or, at least, I can't. I'm still twelve that way. The bill came to $50.31 for precisely no other reason than I'm too afraid to place tampons on the small conveyor belt that will amble by the surly twenty year old who should be in college but isn't, he's taking a year off to "find himself", and decides to spend his days snarling at women....with tampons. Not that I go down his check-out isle anyway. I really wouldn't--if I had tampons. Which I do.

So, I have other checker choices. The elderly Indian fella (from India--with the accent to prove it) who is congenial and slow moving and rather absent-minded and I just don't want him looking at you know; he's a no go. And there is the perky lady from the Bronx, ya know wad ah mean? She's fast and efficient and always wants me to sign up for their credit card because I would save $20 today! I like her and aim for her when she's there. Today she's not there. The non-descript, middle aged white lady today. No one likes being described as non-descript do they? But truly, I don't remember her. Wait a minute, she might have been black.

So what did my $5o bucks get me? A little of this. A little of that. A Martha Stewart Magazine with Martha, herself, gracing the cover again. Is this a new development? She's kind of set back in the picture of her pink guest house, wearing a pink cardigan, smiling and looking like she's trying not to look to sure. Humble. Martha doesn't do humble. She's not exactly proud, either. She's just determined and works hard and earns her place at the front of the picture. Yeah, yeah, she's a criminal. Save it. That whole nonsense that got her thrown in the clink for 18 hard months, for what , exactly? Having the nerve to be a hard-working, demanding woman. My sister said, "No one should yell at people like that."

"How do you know she yelled at people?"

"I read it and I heard." She's a big exec so I believe her.

"Well, I don't care if she yelled at people. Why do women have to be nice and men can be the biggest axxholes and they're considered leaders."

"She should be nice."

Yes, she should, but what's nice? Nice is market share and profitability. Nice is perfection when you're selling perfection. That's nice. I know what she means, though. Anyway, I cut Martha slack. A doctor who took care of my son when he weighed roughly 750 grams (about three sticks of butter) yelled at the third year resident for miscalculating a medication. He was decidedly not nice. I was glad he wasn't nice. I was glad he was good. Nice is overrated.

The magazine didn't cost forty dollars. (Two tampon boxes for $10! A bargain. Those personal hygiene companies really have you over the barrel don't they? Forty pieces of wound tight cotten is five bucks? What a rip! I told my husband that they use them to plug up bleeding wounds in the war. He rolled his eyes. What? They really do.) Anyway, I got my daughter a cotton play dress (saved four dollars). A card for a loved one. Didn't say what I wanted it to, but after looking for half and hour and Little Toot started making cat calls to the female babies (I'm not making this up), I decided to move on.

Oh, I almost forgot. How could I forget? The best part: two bags of Raspberry Milano cookies by Pepperidge Farm. They don't sell them at H.E.B., my new favorite shopping spot, once Kroger stopped impressing. Milanos are a special treat. They are in the freezer beckoning me right now--evil like those who made them. A Pepperidge Farm insider confided that the food engineers know that a woman can't just eat one of those cookies so they make the package bingeable on purpose. And I'm not making that up either.

It seems like I got more than that for fifty dollars, but I don't think so and that's just it about Target. Today was a good day. I escaped with fifty dollars more than usual. Most of the time the tally is $101.87. Always over $100, just over. The cart can be overflowing or half full, but I always seem to leave there passing that psychological, err financial, threshold.

Anyway, I have my tampons now. I hid them with the merchandise. The checker didn't even notice.

Simon's Life is Safe, Sanjaya Gone from Idol

Sanjaya wept tears of sadness and shock (which, in itself, is shocking) and Simon wept tears of relief (not really, he cried on the inside). More touchingly, LaKisha cried crocodile survivor tears and Blake wiped them away.

I don't know how competitive American Idol has been in the past, but these young people seem very close. Having never watched Idol before, I wonder if this is always the way it is. Anyone?

Simon Cowell's Eye Roll: Was He Mocking Virginia Tech?

Drudge features Simon Cowell's dramatic eye roll this morning. I watched Idol last night and saw the eye roll. Cowell had just raked Chris over the coals for a lackluster performance. I agreed with the general assessment, but called the criticism "unduly harsh" and noted that Chris seemed on the verge of tears. Although the Virginia thing was probably the emotional background for Chris, I also thought that his bringing up the shooting thing was a way to hide behind an unassailable defense--sympathy for the Virginia Tech victims. Chris made the uncomfortable situation more wrong.

Ann Althouse noted the incident and said this:

Chris defends himself, hilariously: "Hey, nasally is a form of singing. I don't know if you knew that." Simon: "Oh, so it's intentional?" Chris: "Yeah." Then he defends himself a bit underhandedly: "My heart goes out to Virginia Tech. I have a lot of friends out there. Be strong." Does LaKisha get to come back out and say that she cares about the massacre victims too? Or, once you bring up the massacre, does it seem wrong even to talk about whether Chris is being unfair by bringing up the massacre?
No, it's not wrong. Chris was wrong to use his personal discomfort to exploit the true, real pain of those caught in the massacre.

Someone must have talked to Cowell before the end of the show because he made a half-hearted, "Our hearts go out to the victims and their families" statement. Cowell wasn't rolling his eyes at the V-Tech friends and families' pain. That seemed obvious. He was rolling his eyes at Chris's avoidance and excuses.

It was a tough night for the cotton candy that is American Idol during an American meat-n-taters disaster. I said as much last night.
Still, and all, I can't concentrate on Idol tonight. I'm thinking about when bad things happen to good people.
Althouse asks, "How do you do a cheesy singing contest show the day after a massacre?" She answers her own question. "The show must go on."

Well, it went on. It was obviously a tough night to watch, judge or sing. I think it best that everyone just move on. It will be tough tonight, too. I alluded to why here:
The V-Tech students, faculty and families will wake up tomorrow and be stunned to find that the world keeps on rotating.
How can anyone give a crud about Sanjaya's hair when this happened? Well, we didn't really, did we? But what else can be done? The show, life, must go on.

And I'm not suggesting touchy-feely forgiveness out of the gate, lest I be misunderstood. What I am saying is that for those outside the direct difficulty, wallowing helplessly doesn't help. (Besides, it's insulting to the real victims to act as if this is my loss, too. My children are still alive and well. Indulging in too much sadness is offensive.) People are thinking what can I do? Know how to wield a spring-loaded knife or at least make the killer flinch, for one. As much as the progressive Left scorns the military, does anyone doubt the benefits of knowing one's way around defensive maneuvers and taking down a shooter? We all need to be better trained to deal with these types of situations.

I've already talked to my kids about running in a zig zag, and just plain running, if someone points a gun a them. We have already taken defensive martial arts. Learning to land a good punch seems like a good idea, considering that my son got bopped on the head twice (purposefully and meanly) by an older kid on the bus this week. Talking didn't work. He tried.

Some people have had a bad life and decide to unload all their pain in the form of bullets into 33 people. Really, I'm tired of wondering why (I still always want to know why). The badness just needs to be stopped. Americans need to learn how to stop it. Preventing it would be nice, but there will always be crazy people. So, we need to know how to defend ourselves.

So while those directly injured suffer the pain and loss, the only productive thing everyone else can do is figure out what to do next time. And how did I get here from Simon Cowell anyway? Oh yeah. Americans watched American Idol in the midst of this sorrow and there was a reason. People need to be distracted and that's one of the main purposes of entertainment. But there's also this: The show must, sadly, awkwardly, go on.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

V-Tech: Time Helps, Time Doesn't Heal and Other Idol Thoughts

I'm watching American Idol right now. So far, nothing too impressive, but Simon seems unduly harsh on poor Chris. This Virginia boy is on the verge of tears. I would be, too. Melinda knocked it out of the park. Wow, can she perform! LaKisha undersung. That is, the song was too small for her voice. You know how Carrie Underwood has to free her voice to sing Jesus Take the Wheel? Well, LaKisha had to rein in her voice for the song. She needed a bigger, gutsier song. And I know the Anchoress doesn't get it, but I like Blake. I think he's held back by nerves. That could hamper his career, too. He'll have to get over it. Whatever "it" is.

Still, and all, I can't concentrate on Idol tonight. I'm thinking about when bad things happen to good people. Every day bad things happen to good people. Lives are changed permanently, irrevocably, painfully. And everyone, eventually, has those moments. The moments stretch out and change the perception of time. Surreal. Out of body. A flash. An instant. Pain.

There is a misconception that people who have experienced lots of pain acclimate to pain. This is untrue. In fact, people who have experienced chronic pain are more sensitive to it and more reactive under the threat of pain. It is not just physical either. Emotional pain can literally cause heart ache. That is, the part of the brain that registers pain in a body part, will register heart pain, when a person is distraught. Is that so strange? We've all had knots in our stomach or pains in our neck or heart-breaking, gut-wrenching sorrow. And we've all experienced it going from bad to worse and the pain doesn't lessen, the quality of the pain just changes.

In Virginia and all over the nation, there is pain. Watching the mystified, shocky victims talking to the press makes me feel revulsion. These people will wake up from their surreal experience and wonder who the hell it was talking to Stone Phillips. It wasn't me, they'll think. And it isn't them. Or rather, it isn't the people they now will be. They are changed. And the press and photographers exploit them all.

The V-Tech students, faculty and families will wake up tomorrow and be stunned to find that the world keeps on rotating. Life is cruel that way; the world keeps going while hell swirls around. Lance Armstrong described this phenomenon best in It's Not About The Bike. Going out and riding or doing anything seemed like such small potatoes after fighting for his life in a hospital, where time is suspended.

I'm rambling now. I'm tired of people having to suffer this way. And yet, there is no miracle cure for these types of situations--not in this life, anyway. A friend told me that time helps. Neither one of us is sure if time heals. Time fades the memories. Time gives a person the space to construct a context in which to place the trauma. Time is not magical. It doesn't erase anything--unless dementia or Alzheimers sets in. The years will pass and these resilient people will find ways to integrate even something so awful as this.

May they be conforted during their loss.

Remember the families of these people.

Hero Saved His Students--UPDATED

This story made me cry. For every act of cowardice there are amazing acts of bravery and courage.

Virginia Tech University Prof. Liviu Librescu, described as a family man who once did research for NASA, sacrificed his life to save his students in the shooting rampage yesterday.
"When he heard the gunfire, he blocked the entrance and got shot through the door," his daughter-in-law Ayala Schmulevich said.
"He realized he had to save the students," she said. "That was the kind of man he was."

UPDATE: Shrinkwrapped has a nice history of the notion of "running amok" and the correlation of violence after perceived loss of face in the Asian guilt-shame culture.

Amok is different in degree if not in kind from Honor-Shame murders. The particulars will likely offer some insight into the shame that propelled this young man to murder so many, but will never explain what twisted mechanism in his mind justified and triggered such an horrific event. A report on NPR this morning by an eye witness described how she heard shots and maniacal laughter during the spree; this would fit an Honor-Shame dynamic.

(You think I am nothing! I mean nothing to you! Well, now you can see and feel how important I am! I am powerful and feared! Like a god I can take life! My Honor has been restored.)

But like Shrink rightly notes, this man's actions pale in comparison to those who gave their lives to save their friends. The professor mentioned above was a Holocaust survivor and gave his life. He should be remembered. He should be honored.

Create or Kill

Every day we have the choice: create or kill. As the psycho who cruelly murdered those V-Tech students demonstrates, one person possesses a lot of power to destroy, if his mind is intent on it. This same person could have used his power to build, create and make the world a better place. Too often, we go through life, living like we don't have a choice. We always have a choice.

Enjoy this amazing ice skating. These skaters have created something beautiful and lasting.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Meanwhile, In Iraq

Iraq the Model has such information-rich posts about the reality on the ground in Bagdhad. If you haven't visited recently, please do. Today's post is particularily funny, if you find bullets raining from the sky funny, and in this case, I think you will. On a sadder note, a historic bridge, a gift from Britain to Iraq, was blown up by the terrorists a few days ago. Finally, this is from a week ago, but Omar gives some insight into fighting in Bagdhad.

Pray for Omar and brave Iraqi citizens like him. These are real people fighting for the future of their country. Real, brave people.

Chimps More Evolved Than Humans

So say these evolutionary biologists. After today, I believe it.

How To Be A Good Neighbor

Things get warm and tensions can heat up. How to be a good neighbor here.

Virginia Tech Shooting--UPDATE, MORE UPDATES

Before it's over, more than 30 dead. Lots more injured. Data: Asian male. Went classroom to classroom. Fox says he was looking for a girlfriend, others say he was mad at a professor.

Lubos Motl wonders why the gunman went for the engineering students. Perhaps he was one or wasn't and wanted to be or knew someone or hated engineers. Or maybe a technical school is full of engineers.

This is too horrible. I want to know why. I always want to know why.

The MSM always seems incurious. Here's what I want to know: Race, religion, family background. Birth order, age, and education. U.S. citizen? From where? History of psychological problems? Is he on any medication? If so, what medication and how much, for how long? Were the guns his or did he steal and/or borrow them? Did he operate alone or part of a group? Who were his friends? What groups was he a part of? Where did he spend time online?


Jeff says withhold judgment and try to NOT be like the dim bulbs at the D.U.:

Meanwhile, the sociologists at the Democratic Underground are in thesis-framing mode, already placing the blame where it belongs—with the NRA. Because clearly, had we simply banned guns, nobody would have been hurt. And in fact, as one commenter at Hot Air pointed out, because guns are already illegal at Virginia Tech, this shooting must never really have taken place. See? Reality-based.

Next up: ban war, bring about peace! Because life is just like a shiny gold bottle with a progressive genie inside. Just keep rubbing!

At any rate, let’s not emulate these idiots and jump to our own reckless conclusions. My thoughts and prayers to the families and friends of the victims.
Is it safe to jump to this conclusion? Progressives are silly headed children who employ magical thinking when faced with evil actions they can't rationalize.

UPDATE: More questions. Why did it take two hours to inform the campus that there was a shooting--especially since the killer wasn't in custody? Why is the school being coy about his name and identity? Do we know, for a fact, that the two incidents are related? Do we know, for a fact, that the bomb threats were related?

Perhaps it's all the movies that we watch, but it is distressing to see police officers hesitantly moving into a building when people on the inside of the building are informing them what is going on--i.e., a lone shooter is shooting unarmed students. Ostensibly, there is someone, rather, lots of someones calling 911, right? No one wants police officers die, either, but if I had a choice between unarmed students being shot and killed and a police officer, with a bullet-proof vest, superior training, and a loaded gun being shot, guess which I would prefer?

If the police's job isn't to prevent (which it isn't, how can it be) crime, then let people arm themselves. There should be no place where a person can't defend himself. Arm teachers. Arm coaches. Arm pilots. Let people defend themselves! How many times do we have to learn the hard way to not rely on the government in times of crisis.

9/11, Katrina, Columbine, and on and on, gives us more than enough data. Armed people have a better chance of surviving.

Oh, and as a coincidence, The Woodlands High School, part of Conroe Independent School district, in The Woodlands, Texas, is under a bomb threat this Friday. Though this is completely unrelated, I fully expect copycat crimes after the V-Tech shooting.

UPDATED AGAIN: Back to Motl. He has some detail that sounds first hand:
In the morning around 7:15 am, he went to her dormitory at the fourth floor of the West Ambler Johnston Hall. If she were there, he shot her. If it wasn't her, he shot her female roommate and then the residential assistant, Ryan Clark of Martinez. They didn't shut down the university, so he continued and tried to find the ex-girlfriend or her new boyfriend in the engineering classrooms of the Norris Hall - see the picture above - a few hours later.

He didn't know the exact location, so he has visited a few classrooms and lined up all students against a wall. The worst massacre took place at 9:50 am in room 200 where the students were learning German 2105. He shot them one by one; yes, the professor, Jamie Bishop, died first. Finally, the calm animal killed himself by a shot into his head once he was cornered.
There still seem to be too many important facts missing. Is there another killer lose or not? Sheesh!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Too Beautiful

It was too beautiful to blog today. But you're blogging today, Melissa. Technically, no, I'm not. It's tomorrow. It just feels like today.

Sheesh, it takes me months to adjust to the time change. It was gorgeous today, though. Man, I love global warming. 73 high/44 low. Perfection.

Women Are Racist....In Dating, Or Are They?

That is, women prefer to date men of their own race. This is especially true for black women. Are women racist or is something else at play?

These results from the speed dating experiment roughly jibe with the study I cited in the earlier post about height-income tradeoffs. In that analysis of more than 20,000 online daters, split roughly evenly between Boston and San Diego, men didn’t show much preference for same-race partners. Women did, and African-American women showed the most pronounced preference.

A theory: Women think about children, family, society at the same time they make a date-worthy analysis. They have to know a guy more than four minutes to decide he's worth dealing with the aforementioned factors. When women date and marry outside of their race, are they more likely to have known him as a friend first? If so, that would lead credence to my theory. Maybe women aren't racist. Maybe they're pragmatic and less romantic than men. (And that's a theory I've always believed long before reading the Times article.)

By the way, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit linked to this--his brother married a woman of a different race. Small experiment: Were they friends first?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Iraq's Non-Civil War

Is Iraq in a Civil War or is it just terrorists counting on the media to frame all war casualties in those terms? This professor posits that it's the latter. He uses excellent data to back up his claims.

A Prostitute the Left Loves to Hate

What happens when a brown woman dares defy a progressive leftist leader? Why he calls her a prostitute, because he has no relevent arguments, of course.

Old Dudes As Fathers

New York Times writer Thomas Vinciguerra revisits the families where the man entered fatherhood in his 60s and 70s: He's Not My Grandpa, He's My Dad. Guess what? Some of the fathers are dead. Guess what? Other of the fathers are sick. Guess what? The surviving mom have second thoughts. Guess what? The kids miss their dads.

Lori Cohen Ransohoff also has regrets. She was married to Dr. Joseph Ransohoff, a neurosurgeon 41 years her senior. When he died in 2001, their children — Jake, then 11, and Jade, 5 — were hit hard.

“I don’t ever really remember preparing the kids,” Mrs. Ransohoff said. “He was so healthy I just took it for granted. I never thought that far ahead. Looking back, I realize that was foolish. Now I tell my daughter, ‘Maybe you shouldn’t marry an older man.’ ”
It's selfish. It's the final indulgence in a life full of indulgences. There will be more of it as the Boomers who opted out of procreation decide at 70 to find out what experience man they missed.