Lisa Schiffren at NRO suggests that it's only political correctness that stops us from seeing that Obama's biracial background means he could be part of a communist plot to take over the US government.
A new "non-lethal" optical weapon. No mention of seizure risk.
Assuming this weapon is safe (which is not an entirely safe assumption), one might think that a harmless method for quickly subduing people would be a good thing. But this weapon leaves me feeling uneasy because of the potential for abuse. Technology like this strikes me as a totalitarian's dream. The ability to almost instantly disable large numbers of people without causing lasting harm is not necessarily an ability we should want government to possess.
In results just released by Zogby, Obama outpolled Hillary Clinton 52% to 38%. Obama leads in all age groups except seniors and in all income groups except those earning under $25,000/year. Obama has a small lead among white voters, a larger lead among male voters and is tied with Clinton among women voters.
Zogby also found Obama running ahead of McCain with 47% to 40%. With the general election still 9 months away, the numbers for an Obama-McCain match up don't mean anything. But we may be seeing the end for Hillary in the latest polling figures.
So what's happening? The relentless efforts to define Obama's change mantra as style without substance are not impressing voters. The message to voters: "Obama is hoodwinking you." The response from voters: "No he's not. A change in style is exactly what we want."
"Carly Fleischman has severe autism and is unable to speak a word. But thanks to years of expensive and intensive therapy, this 13-year-old has made a remarkable breakthrough. Two years ago, working with pictures and symbols on a computer keyboard, she started typing and spelling out words. The computer became her voice. 'All of a sudden these words started to pour out of her, and it was an exciting moment because we didn't realize she had all these words,' said speech pathologist Barbara Nash. Read more..
A new five-year analysis of the nation’s death rates recently released by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the suicide rate among 45-to-54-year-olds increased nearly 20 percent from 1999 to 2004, the latest year studied, far outpacing changes in nearly every other age group. (All figures are adjusted for population.) For women 45 to 54, the rate leapt 31 percent. “That is certainly a break from trends of the past,” said Ann Haas, the research director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
By contrast, the suicide rate for 15-to-19-year-olds increased less than 2 percent during that five-year period — and decreased among people 65 and older.
The question is why...
At the moment, the prime suspect is the skyrocketing use — and abuse — of prescription drugs. During the same five-year period included in the study, there was a staggering increase in the total number of drug overdoses, both intentional and accidental, like the one that recently killed the 28-year-old actor Heath Ledger. Illicit drugs also increase risky behaviors, C.D.C. officials point out, noting that users’ rates of suicide can be 15 to 25 times as great as the general population.
Jeffrey Smith, a vigorous fisherman and hunter, began ordering prescription drugs like Ambien and Viagra over the Internet when he was in his late 40s and the prospect of growing older began to gnaw at him, said his daughter, Michelle Ray Smith, who appears on the television soap “Guiding Light.” Five days before his 50th birthday, he sat in his S.U.V. in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., letting carbon monoxide fill his car.
If you caught William Kristol's column today, you know about the meme he is promoting -- namely that, as the opposition party, the fatal flaw of the Democrats is that they have been excused from the responsibility for making decisions. Those irresponsible Democrats are contrasted with Kristol's ruling Republicans who must always ask "in such and such circumstances, what would you do?" Kristol gleans this insight from a 1942 Orwell essay on Kipling.
While there is a degree of truth to be found in Orwell's insight into the opposition, Kristol's admiration for the essay does not extend so far as to actually share this insight within the context of Orwell's broader portrait of Kipling. To a startling degree, Orwell's description of Kipling resembles men like Kristol. That description is not wholly flattering. Perhaps Kristol was hoping that his political comrades in the blogs would eagerly develop the self-serving meme without bothering to read an essay that should embarrass the man who cherry-picked an insight to serve his narrow partisan purpose. Or, maybe it's simply the case that, blind to his own troubling limitations, Kristol can't admit to a sense of kinship with the deeply flawed Kipling of Orwell's rendering.
Although Orwell correctly identified a flaw among some who are part of a privileged and secure opposition -- they can maintain a sense of virtue while relying on the ruling establishment to promote the uncivilized dirty work that affords them a more comfortable life -- he was not suggesting that the ruling establishment sees matters clearly, acts morally or judges wisely. This less politically useful dimension of the essay has escaped Kristol's attention.
As you read the following excerpts from Orwell's piece, think of Kristol, Neocons, oil, Iraq, Arabs and the Middle East:
Kipling spent the later part of his life in sulking, and no doubt it was political disappointment rather than literary vanity that account for this. Somehow history had not gone according to plan. After the greatest victory she had ever known, Britain was a lesser world power than before, and Kipling was quite acute enough to see this. The virtue had gone out of the classes he idealized, the young were hedonistic or disaffected, the desire to paint the map red had evaporated. He could not understand what was happening, because he had never had any grasp of the economic forces underlying imperial expansion. It is notable that Kipling does not seem to realize, any more than the average soldier or colonial administrator, that an empire is primarily a money-making concern. Imperialism as he sees it is a sort of forcible evangelizing. You turn a Gatling gun on a mob of unarmed ‘natives’, and then you establish ‘the Law’, which includes roads, railways and a court-house. He could not foresee, therefore, that the same motives which brought the Empire into existence would end by destroying it. It was the same motive, for example, that caused the Malayan jungles to be cleared for rubber estates, and which now causes those estates to be handed over intact to the Japanese. The modern totalitarians know what they are doing, and the nineteenth-century English did not know what they were doing. Both attitudes have their advantages, but Kipling was never able to move forward from one into the other. His outlook, allowing for the fact that after all he was an artist, was that of the salaried bureaucrat who despises the ‘box-wallah’ and often lives a lifetime without realizing that the ‘box-wallah’ calls the tune.
And see if you don't recognize a bit of Kristol in this:
How far does Kipling really identify himself with the administrators, soldiers and engineers whose praises he sings? Not so completely as is sometimes assumed. He had travelled very widely while he was still a young man, he had grown up with a brilliant mind in mainly philistine surroundings, and some streak in him that may have been partly neurotic led him to prefer the active man to the sensitive man. The nineteenth-century Anglo-Indians, to name the least sympathetic of his idols, were at any rate people who did things. It may be that all that they did was evil, but they changed the face of the earth (it is instructive to look at a map of Asia and compare the railway system of India with that of the surrounding countries), whereas they could have achieved nothing, could not have maintained themselves in power for a single week, if the normal Anglo-Indian outlook had been that of, say, E.M. Forster. Tawdry and shallow though it is, Kipling's is the only literary picture that we possess of nineteenth-century Anglo-India, and he could only make it because he was just coarse enough to be able to exist and keep his mouth shut in clubs and regimental messes. But he did not greatly resemble the people he admired. I know from several private sources that many of the Anglo-Indians who were Kipling's contemporaries did not like or approve of him. They said, no doubt truly, that he knew nothing about India, and on the other hand, he was from their point of view too much of a highbrow.
Robin Marantz Henig wrote an interesting article about play research and theory for the Sunday Times Magazine. Here's an excerpt addressing the "dark side" of play:
Recognizing play’s dark side is not difficult, if we are really willing to search our memories. To play scholars, thinking about play’s negatives can be clarifying and might even generate new ideas, not only about play but also about the double-edged nature of pleasure itself. Why is it that something so joyous, something children yearn for so forcefully, can be so troubling too? If you’re accustomed to looking for evolutionary explanations for perplexing behavior, here is something meaty to chew on: what could be the adaptive advantage of using play to wrestle your demons?
Demons do indeed emerge at playtime, in part because children carve out play spaces that have no room for the civilizing influence of adults. This is what happened in the recess ‘‘fort culture’’ that arose spontaneously in 1990 at the Lexington Montessori School in Massachusetts, when the elementary-age children shunned the organized play their teachers had arranged and instead started building forts on their own in the surrounding woods. An intricate and rule-bound subculture developed, one that is still going on.
Mark Powell, then a graduate student at Lesley University in Cambridge nearby, observed the recess fort culture for several years in the 1990s and described it in 2007 in the journal Children, Youth and Environments. For the first few years, he wrote, petty conflicts, stick stealing and ejections for minor infractions were a constant background hum in a play culture that was otherwise high-spirited and fun. But it finally erupted into a miniwar one autumn, sparked by the hostile actions of a fort of 6- year-olds headed by a tyrannical little boy who called himself the General. Within a month of the General’s appearance, Powell wrote, the fantasy war play ‘‘had become a reality with daily raids and counterattacks, yelling, the occasional physical scrape and lots of hurt feelings.’’ It took the intervention of some other children, teachers and the General’s parents finally to persuade the child to call a truce. Read the whole thing here...
One major difference between Clinton and Obama: Hillary is an old school liberal in her approach to problems, while Obama has an appreciation for the dynamic activity of markets. Make no mistake, Obama is a liberal whose vision includes an active role for government in everyday life, but he is not a command and control liberal.
This key difference in the two candidates' thinking is exposed in their approaches to the mortgage crisis. Hillary believes that the mortgage mess can be cleaned up entirely by command from the top. Her belief rests upon the assumption that unintended consequences won't flow from her well-intended presidential edicts. Obama has a better understanding of the workings of markets, even daring to suggest that the government should not bail out every distressed borrower.
For decades in this country, Rodham-nomics was in the mainstream. The government, most Americans assumed, could solve any problem with some combination of money and an edict ordering the problem to go away. Today, more American's than ever understand that intentions are not the same as results. Without out a basic understanding and respect for the functioning of markets, even the most well-intentioned plans can end up greatly exacerbating the problems they are intended to remedy.
We saw evidence for Hillary's grand economic fantasies in her politically doomed 1990s health care plan. She says she has learned from her mistakes. Whatever she learned from that political debacle, it doesn't seem that she learned anything about economic principles, if we can judge her based on her plans to fix the mortgage crisis.
Steve Chapman discusses this key difference between Obama and Clinton:
[Hillary Clinton's] policy rests on the assumption that upon arriving in the Oval Office, she'll open the closet and find a magic wand. Obama, by contrast, acknowledges the bitter truth that when government regulators clamber into a carriage, it can easily turn into a pumpkin.
Their approaches to the problem are not an aberration but a symptom of a larger difference. Obama is not a staunch free marketeer, but he grasps the value of markets and shows some deference to economic laws. Clinton, however, tends to treat both as piddly obstacles to her grand ambitions.