Saturday, April 28, 2007

Jules Crittenden's Good News, Bad News is up.

Is Hillary's Guestblogging Bad for Blog Traffic?

There has been discussion in the blogosphere about whether or not it is beneficial for Hillary to be guestblogging at a site like Firedoglake. But maybe someone should be asking Firedoglake if it is beneficial to their site to have Hillary guestblogging there. A Washington Post blogger who wonders why Hillary is posting at FDL mentions that: "Clinton campaign spokesman Phil Singer said Hamsher's blog was picked because 'there are 100,000 people who frequent this site and we wanted to have a conversation with them.'"

Ann Althouse points out
that FDL does not actually have 100,000 visitors a day as the WaPo declared but rather, about 80,000 visitors. After reading that yesterday, I took a look at FDL's site meter and indeed, it read at around 81,000 unique visitors for the previous week. However, today (Saturday morning), it reads only 68,485 unique visitors a day--a decrease in average traffic of over 12,000 visitors and it is not even the start of the weekend yet, so the decreased weekend traffic did not seem to account for the drop. And if you look at their traffic for the past month, there was a big spike the week before, but nothing significant when Hillary started blogging.

Wow, I know visitors can flunctuate during the week but if FDL's traffic is decreasing due to Hillary's publicity stunt, what does that say about how the site's readers feel about Hillary? She's certainly not bringing them any new traffic.

Shockingly, So Far, No Gun Battles Have Begun

The University of Utah is the only college that allows concealed carry on campus:

For decades, the University of Utah banned concealed weapons.

"Our view was that there was an increased risk of both accidental and intentional discharge of a firearm if more firearms are present," said spokesman Fred Esplin. "It was a matter of safety."

But in 2004 the Legislature passed a law expressly saying the university is covered by a state law that allows concealed weapons on state property. The university challenged the law, but the Utah Supreme Court upheld it last year.

Utah is easily one of the most conservative states, and the Legislature is dominated by Republicans, many of whom have a libertarian streak. Utah has no motorcycle helmet law, for example, and there is strong affection for the Second Amendment.

The carrying of guns at the university worries students like Timmy Allin, a freshman on the tennis team from Dallas who feels safe on the 28,000-student urban campus. Allin was not aware weapons were allowed on campus until told by a reporter. "I don't see the need for one up here, so that could only lead to trouble," he said.

So Timmy Allin was feeling all safe and cozy until some reporter told him about the danger that lurked at his university--law abiding citizens with guns. If the legislation for concealed carry passed in 2004 and there have been no shoot outs thus far since last year, when will the trouble begin? And now poor Timmy will spend his waking hours fearful not of the potential criminals who might do harm to students and others on campus, but of his fellow students and faculty who carry legally who "might be trouble." How troubling.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Are You Electrically Sensitive?

If so, then perhaps you'll identify with this woman who has to wear a veil of protection to keep her from being contaminated by the modern world (Hat Tip: Ed Driscoll):

Sarah, 51, is one of a growing band of people who claim to be experiencing extreme - and incapacitating - sensitivity to electrical appliances, as well as to certain frequencies of electromagnetic waves.

"Wi-Fi, or wireless broadband networks, seem to be the worst thing," she says.

"Closely followed by mobile phones - particularly if they're being used in an enclosed space - the base stations of cordless telephones and mobile phone masts.

"I have to restrict the amount of time I spend on the computer or watching television, and make sure I don't have too many household appliances on at once, because that sets me off as well."

This may sound bizarre, but there is no doubt that Sarah's symptoms are real.

To date, they include hair loss, sickness, high blood-pressure, digestive and memory problems, severe headaches and dizziness.

They strike with such ferocity that, since diagnosing herself as "electrically sensitive" in May 2005, she has been marooned at home.

She can't work. When she wants to phone friends, she has to use a land-line - a significant advancement, it turns out, because she was so ill at one stage, she says, that she couldn't even touch an ordinary receiver without feeling a violent shock pass up her arm.

If you are suffering from the same horrible fate as Sarah, apparently there is help available through a wonderful charitable website called where they ask for only a ten pound donation. Here is more about their mission:

ES-UK is the association for the electrically hypersensitive (EHS). Charity Commission registered number 1103018. We support those made ill by electromagnetic fields/RF/microwaves and work to educate the public. Awareness and recognition of this ill-health reaction is urgently needed.

Okay, I shouldn't joke, I suppose this could be real. What do you think?


Are Bears Just Like People?

Bored at work the other day, I picked up the May 2007 issue of Field & Stream from the waiting room and read the cover story entitled, "Sharpen Your Skills: 50 Things Every Sportsman Should Know." Now, I am not much of a sportsman or an outdoorsman; the last time I camped out, it was in my backyard and family members were taking bets not on how many hours I would last, but how many minutes. Okay, not many, within 30 minutes, I beat it out of a mosquito-infested tent on the pretence that I needed a drink of water and never made it back out. Surmise it to say, I have not "camped out" since--although, lest you think me a total wimp, I did at 19, live in a tent in Yosemite National Park for a month, if that means anything but that's another story.

But enough about me and my limitations, back to the article on being a good outdoorsman. From it, I learned how to camouflage myself with a wine cork, rig a safety harness, claim the best bunk in the camp and tie the knot that fixes all, but most importantly (at least to me) was tip number 46 on how to read a bear's mind.

The tip says that you must first assess the bear's mood when you're planning an exit strategy for a close enounter with a bear. Then you decide whether the bear is a Predatory Bear or a Defensive Bear. A Predatory Bear "isn't intent on rendering you harmless but rather on rendering you digestible. If a bear is aware of your presence and approaches in a nondefensive, unconcerned manner, get very serious. Speak to it in a loud, firm voice. Try to get out of the bear's direction of travel, but do not run. If the animal follows, stop again and make a stand. Shout at the bear and stare at it. Make yourself appear larger--step up on a rock or move uphill. Prepare for a charge."

On the other hand, a Defensive Bear "will appear stressed and unsure of how to act, pacing about and popping its jaw. Talk to it in a very calm voice. Don't throw anything. When it is not moving toward you, move away from it slowly and carefully. A stumble now could provoke a charge. If the bear continues to approach you, stop. Stand your gound and continue talking calmly. If the bear charges, use your spray or gun, then wait until the last possible moment before hitting the dirt."

As I read over the descriptions of the bears and what to do, I could not help but think of a post I wrote a few weeks ago on how to deal with different types of potentially violent people from the book, Surviving Aggressive People. The author, Shawn Smith, divides aggressors into two categories: The Desperate Aggressor and the Expert Aggressor, categories that sound very much like The Defensive Bear and the Predatory Bear.

Perhaps the behavior of violent people is not that dissimilar to that of some of our furry friends--I am not sure whether to find that comforting or troubling.

Is there a Mental Health Crisis in America's Jails?

Steven K. Erickson, a forensic psychologist, examines this question in his paper: "What is the True Prevalence of Severe Mental Illness in Jails and Prisons?"

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Best news I've heard today: "White House Press Secretary Tony Snow revealed to CNN he plans to return to his post next week, a month after a cancerous growth was found on his liver."

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Empathy Ends Where Political Correctness Begins

There is interesting discussion at both Ann Althouse's and Neo-Neocon's blogs about an article in The New York Times entitled, "Understanding Empathy: Can You Feel My Pain?" Richard A. Friedman, a psychiatrist, asks an important question, "Is shared experience really necessary for a physician to understand or treat a patient?" In answer to that question, he states:

What is critical to understanding someone is not necessarily having had his or her experience; it is being able to imagine what it would be like to have it. Thus, I do not have to be black to empathize with the toxic effects of racial prejudice, or be a woman to know how I would feel about being denied promotion on the basis of sex.

So Friedman believes that empathy is the most important factor in treating someone, not the race or gender of the therapist. "In the end, empathy is what makes it possible for us to read each other. And it is the reason your doctor can understand your problem without actually having to live it."

Yet, as I read over the NYT piece, I get the sense that Friedman does not seem to take his own advice to heart; he seems to think that empathy and help should only be available for those he deems to be politically correct. He mentions a gay man who wants a gay therapist. Friedman helps him find one, although he does mention feeling "uncomfortable" about it. In another case, he sees it as appropriate to give the patient the therapist she asks for:

Sometimes, though, patients should get exactly what they ask for in a therapist. One of my residents once saw a young woman from Africa who had survived hideous torture and rape and said that she didn’t think she could see a male therapist.

That struck me as entirely appropriate. Given her trauma, she simply could not have put her trust in a male therapist, no matter how empathic he might actually be.

He does not extend this assistance to a man he deems politically incorrect:

What about patients whose demand for a particular therapist springs from nothing more than everyday prejudice? I remember a patient who once stormed into my office and demanded a white therapist to replace his therapist, who was black.

That’s a request I turned down, even knowing that this patient’s biased beliefs were an appropriate target for treatment. To do otherwise would have vindicated his prejudice and fundamentally compromised the therapy from the start.

For a psychiatrist who mentions how empathetic he is, this did not seem like a very empathetic response. I remember a case I had years ago in NYC--a male in his 40's just out of prison. In our first session, he told me that I would not want to see him for long."Why?" I asked. "Because I am angry at blacks." He was hesitant to say more, stating that the culture did not allow him to voice his feelings. I told him that I was willing to hear his feelings. I saw a tear roll down his cheek as he told me about being raped in prison by several black gang members and watching helplessly as other younger men were raped. He had built up years of anger and resentment and felt he had no dignity left. Had I simply told him that I could not hear what he had to say because internally I deemed it "prejudiced" I would never of heard his story and been able to help him with understand what had happened to him, and subsequently, to heal the trauma that he had lived with for many years.

I will let Neo-Neocon's words summarize my post, for I think she says it better than I could:

As referenced in the Friedman article, patients often come with pre-existing prejudices and preferences about what they want in a therapist. Some of these are considered therapeutically valid, such as a woman whose been severely abused by men being more comfortable with a woman therapist. Some are arguably less so, such as a request for a therapist of the same race. I disagree with Friedman that the latter request should be refused; if a client is that uncomfortable with someone of a different race, whether it be a black person uncomfortable with someone white or vice versa, than the therapy can and should deal with the issue. But it’s not best dealt with by placing the client with a therapist who makes him/her acutely uncomfortable at the outset.

A lesser-known issue is that of therapist discomfort with certain clients. Theoretically, therapists can work with anyone, but in actuality they tend to specialize and refer out those patients who press their buttons (such as, for example, child molesters).

And, although this sounds like some sort of bad joke, I know quite a few therapists who say they would have difficulty treating a client whom they know to be a Republican. So it’s not just clients who want therapists who are as much like themselves as possible—some therapists return the favor.

If therapists only want patients they deem to be "deserving" of empathy, how empathetic can they really be?


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Campus Danger

The Washington Times picked up one of my posts on the shooting at Virginia Tech in their "Inside Politics" section.

Grand Rounds is Up

Grand Rounds is up at Med Valley High this week. There are some interesting posts on the shootings at VT.

Monday, April 23, 2007

We are all Responsible for Preventing Violence

Here is a terrific op-ed by Jonathan Kellerman that makes some great points about the problems within our mental health system (Hat Tip: Dan Collins, Protein Wisdom):

Talk to anyone who's tried to commit a dangerously violent child or parent for even a few days: A stranger with a law degree will show up at the hearing and paint you as a fascist. So it's far too much to expect anything resembling a decisive approach to those whose level of threat remains at the verbal level.

Given the excesses of the past--husbands committing troublesome wives, involuntary sterilization of those judged defective--extreme caution is warranted. But like drunk drivers, we sway from one side of the legal road to the other and find the sensible center lane elusive.

Unless we confront the unpleasant fact that the brains of a small percentage of our citizens incubate dark, disturbed thoughts that can blossom into vicious behavior, we can look forward to repeats of last week's outrage.

It is these disturbed and dark thoughts that the majority of people do not want to think about. As one who in the past, has listened to countless hours of the most disturbing of thoughts, they no longer bother me except to understand what they mean and what I can do about it but my hands are often tied--by the system, by legalities and by denial. I think the words of Gavin De Becker, the author of The Gift of Fear are warranted here:

We don't need to learn about violence, many feel, because the police will handle it, the criminal-justice system will handle it, experts will handle it. Though it touches us all and belongs to us all, and though we each have something profound to contribute to the solution, we have left this critical inquiry to people who tell us that violence cannot be predicted, that risk is a game of odds, and that anxiety is an unavoidable part of life.

Not one of these conventional "wisdoms" is true.

Amen, Mr. De Becker, for if we all stick our heads in the sand and say that violence is not preventable, like so many are doing, then we are truly lost.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Another Blogfest

Last night, Glenn and I attended another blogfest for Tennessee bloggers at Calhoun's. The turnout was smaller than the last one, but the bloggers in attendence were an interesting bunch and a couple of new people showed up whom I had not met before. I joined Glenn in talking with gunblogger, Tam, who has a terrific blog at View From the Porch blog and her friend, who is a gunsmith. Most of the discussion centered around zombies and shotguns as well as various strategies for dealing with school shooters. The gunsmith had a good strategy to avoid a mass shooting, don't go to universities where you can't carry. Fine for some folks, but not all of us can avoid them. My thoughts: shouldn't a "free society" that allows the mentally ill and others--even criminals--to attend colleges without constraints (or at most, a form asking the student to vouch for whether they have a criminal or disciplinary record--yeah, criminals etc. generally answer truthfully) also allow others to freely protect themselves or be liable for injuries if they do not?

It was a fun evening and as always, I learned a little bit more about my fellow bloggers, their personality quirks (in a good way, of course!) and their individual interests in blogging.