Current Ideas: A Blog by Jeffrey A. Schaler

I've created this blog--"Current Ideas"--to share news and views related to my teaching, writing, and interests. If you want to post something, please keep it brief and to the point. Good contact is the appreciation of difference. There's no limit on opinions or information posting, but the tone of this blog is one of reasonably civilized discussion. Hate material is out, as well as unsupported extreme personal attacks.

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Location: Maryland, United States

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Scared of Letting Go?Balancing Safety and Independence

Washington Parent Magazine
October 2006

Scared of Letting Go?Balancing Safety and Independence
by Erin Mantz

For many parents, Halloween conjures up fond memories of the ultimate childhood fun — running carefree through the neighborhood, knocking on doors of known neighbors, full of excitement and a familiar sense of adventure. But that was then. Today, as our kids climb into their costumes, letting them step outside the house seems a little bit trickier. Even trick-or-treating on the block makes many moms and dads more anxious, concerned and cautious than ever before. Does this level of protection and caution impact our kids? We talked with experts and parents to gauge their experiences and impressions, and we found some helpful solutions along the way.

Nurturing Independence & Creativity In a Scary but Brave New World
We live in a world where terrorism and kidnapping stories are a frequent part of the nightly news. We lived through the horrible sniper attacks in our area. Some of us don't know our neighbors well — or at all. Given these factors, we should be careful when we let our kids outside! Understandably, many parents do limit — or even prohibit — their kids from playing alone outside. But what consequences does this caution have on our children?
As running around outside with the neighborhood kids becomes harder to do, children can be affected. "Playing outside is a big part of imagination and interactivity," states Heidi S. Emmer, LCSW, who works with children in her Bethesda practice. Emmer has seen how television and video games — often alternative activities to what parents remember as playing outside — can make some kids less sociable, less expressive and less interactive. But even in today's troubled times, Emmer believes parents have the power to do a lot of positive things inside the home. Proposing creative activities, doing art projects, giving kids age-appropriate responsibilities around the house, encouraging them to make choices when possible — all these actions contribute to a child's growing independence and confidence around his decision-making abilities.

McLean native Caroline Hacker, mom of 2- and 4-year-old boys, tries hard to walk that fine line of encouraging their sense of adventure while keeping a watchful eye. She marvels at how she played freely outside as a child, less than a mile away from her current home, and how her sons' experience is already so different. "Even though our area has a very small-town feel — young families even arrange for dinner delivery when someone in the neighborhood has a new baby — I wouldn't dream of letting my oldest son walk next door unsupervised or run through the sprinkler alone for five minutes in the front yard. It's hard. I don't want my sons to know that I feel the world is unsafe, but I've been face-to-face with indications that bad things do happen here." To give her sons the sense of independence they may be missing from unstructured, outdoor neighborhood play, Hacker purposely limits both television and electronic toy time to encourage more creativity and imaginary play. She sees how day care settings and preschool camps can play important roles in making kids more independent and building social skills away from mom and dad.

The Psychological Impact
Can today's kids be impacted for growing up without simply "going out to play"? Absolutely, according to Dr. Jeffrey Schaler, a professor in the Department of Justice, Law and Society at the American University School of Public Affairs. As we keep our kids closer, they may miss out on key benefits of unstructured, outdoor play with neighborhood peers: spontaneous interactions to build social skills and practice decision-making, chances to go exploring, time to create new games. "As they hear the world is a dangerous place and that they have to be careful, some kids can develop catastrophic expectations or come to view the world in black-and-white terms. In addition, kids are naturally egocentric. As they hear about bad things going on, they may feel responsible for them," says Schaler.

Schaler offers many other examples of how kids can be negatively impacted. Some may become more dependent on their parents or experience separation anxiety. Some may become depressed or have problems interacting with the world. Others may view their parents as somewhat helpless and take on the role of protector. Sensitive children may learn to be paranoid. Overall, it may affect kids' abilities to do what they want to do, because they view the world as more powerful than they are. The good news is, parents can do a lot of positive things to avoid negative outcomes (see "Tips" sidebar). Learn how we can protect our children, teach them to be careful and instill some independence — without portraying the world as an extraordinarily scary place.


Final Analysis

The New Republic
Correspondence Post date 09.28.06 Issue date 10.09.06

Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn lists me as one of the persons who has followed a "new tradition of social criticism" inaugurated by Philip Rieff ("The Mind of the Moralist," August 28). I began my criticism of the medicalization of (mis)behaviors--and their de facto criminal control defined as psychiatric treatment--in the mid-'50s and introduced the term "myth of mental illness" in 1960 and the concept of "the therapeutic state" in 1963. Rieff's book, The Triumph of the Therapeutic, was published in 1966. Who was following whom?

Thomas Szasz, MD
Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry
State University of New York
Syracuse, New York

Elisabeth lasch-quinn responds:
The point I made in my essay was that Rieff's work, together with that of several others, was part of a larger mid-to-late twentieth-century critique of the therapeutic culture that is tremendously important and worthy of further attention. Although coming at the question from a very different angle from Rieff's, Szasz's work contributed in an unforgettable fashion to our understanding of the dangers of the seemingly benign imperatives of the therapeutic age. I wrote in my essay that Rieff "helped to inaugurate" this line of inquiry--with earlier work that culminated in Freud: The Mind of a Moralist (1959) as well as The Triumph of the Therapeutic--not that he inaugurated it. His critique emerged, of course, within an intellectual milieu in which many had come to question--in manifold ways--the orthodoxies of politics and culture regnant at the time.

Suicide Rates Decline In Antidepressant Era

Suicide Rates Decline In Antidepressant Era

Friday, September 29, 2006; Page A09
Washington Post

Suicide rates among young people and senior citizens have fallen by at least 25 percent since the introduction of antidepressants such as Prozac but have declined much less in other age groups, a study found.

Suicides among people ages 15 to 24 have fallen 25 percent since 1988, and the rate among people over 65 fell 26 percent, according to a study published yesterday in the American Journal of Public Health. Suicides by people ages 25 to 64 fell less than 10 percent.

The study, which examined census data from 1970 to 2002 and mortality reports from the National Center for Health Statistics, found no clear overall trend before 1988.

Improved trauma care, mental health treatment and medical care for senior citizens may be factors, experts said. Seniors are more likely to kill themselves than people in any other age group.

"You look at people between 25 and 64, and you don't see the same kind of decline," said Robert E. McKeown, author of the study and a professor of epidemiology at the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. "If these drugs really were the driving force, you would expect to see a decline there, too."

In Russia, Psychiatry Is Again a Tool Against Dissent

In Russia, Psychiatry Is Again a Tool Against Dissent

By Peter Finn
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, September 30, 2006; A01

DUBNA, Russia -- On March 23, police and emergency medical personnel stormed Marina Trutko's home, breaking down her apartment door and quickly subduing her with an injection of haloperidol, a powerful tranquilizer. One policeman put her 78-year-old mother, Valentina, in a storage closet while Trutko, 42, was carried out to a waiting ambulance. It took her to the nearby Psychiatric Hospital No. 14.

The former nuclear scientist, a vocal activist and public defender for several years in this city 70 miles north of Moscow, spent the next six weeks undergoing a daily regimen of injections and drugs to treat what was diagnosed as a "paranoid personality disorder."

"She is also very rude," psychiatrists noted in her case file.

In person, Trutko presents a different profile, reserved and formal as she recounts her legal and psychiatric ordeal and invokes the minutiae of Russian law without having to refer to texts. An independent evaluation found that although she did not have an "ordinary personality," she was "very gifted and creative" and displayed no psychiatric symptoms.

Trutko is new evidence that Soviet-style forced psychiatry has reemerged in Russia as a weapon to intimidate or discredit citizens who tangle with the authorities, according to human rights activists and some mental health professionals. Despite major reforms in the early 1990s, some officials are again employing this form of repression.

"Abuse has begun to creep back in, and we're seeing more cases," said Lyubov Vinogradova, executive director of the Independent Psychiatric Association of Russia, an advocacy group. "It's not on a mass scale like in Soviet times, but it's worrying."


Friday, September 29, 2006

The new anti-Semitism

From the Baltimore Sun

By Victor Davis Hanson
September 29, 2006

Hating Jews, on racial as well as religious grounds, is as old as the Roman destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Later in Europe, pogroms and the Holocaust were the natural devolution of that elemental venom.

Anti-Semitism after World War II often avoided the burning crosses and Nazi ranting. It often appeared as a more subtle animosity, fueled by envy of successful Jews in the West. "The good people, the nice people" often were the culprits, according to a character in the 1947 film Gentleman's Agreement, which dealt with the American aristocracy's social shunning of Jews.
A recent third type of anti-Jewish odium is something different. It is a strange mixture of violent hatred by radical Islamists and what amounts to more or less indifference to it by Westerners.
. . .

We're accustomed to associating hatred of Jews with the ridiculed Neanderthal right of those in sheets and jackboots. But this new venom, at least in its Western form, is mostly a left-wing, and often an academic, enterprise. It's also far more insidious, given the left's moral pretensions and its influence in the prestigious media and universities. We see the unfortunate results in frequent anti-Israeli demonstrations on campuses that conflate Israel with Nazis, while the media have published fraudulent pictures and slanted events in southern Lebanon.

The renewed hatred of Jews in the Middle East - and the indifference to it in the West - is a sort of "post-anti-Semitism." Islamic zealots supply the old venomous hatred, while affluent and timid Westerners provide the new necessary indifference - if punctuated by the occasional off-the-cuff "amen" in the manner of a Louis Farrakhan or Mel Gibson outburst.

The danger of this post-anti-Semitism is not just that Jews are shot in Europe and the United States - or that a drunken celebrity or demagogue mouths off. Instead, ever so insidiously, radical Islam's hatred of Jews is becoming normalized.

. . .


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Plumbing the depths of depression

Plumbing the Depths Of DepressionScientists Hope A New Tool Will Tap Into the Source Of the Blues

By Neely Tucker

Washington Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, September 26, 2006;

C01Ketamine, sweet ketamine, answer to our glutamatergic dreams. In the long November night of the soul, in the ever-dark downpour of depression, it turns out that there might be a better umbrella than Prozac and Zoloft and Paxil and their serotonin-loving ilk.

Of course, when it comes to antidepressants, nobody really knows anything, anyway, so why not go with ketamine, a mild hallucinogen known to club freaks as Special K?

Yes, yes, break out the male Wistar rats and the injection needles -- researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health announced a study recently in which 18 chronically depressed patients infused with low dosages of ketamine improved within two hours. Seventy-one percent improved within a day, and nearly 30 percent were depression-free by that time. In 24 hours! These were people who had been dealing with depression from three to 47 years. They had failed to respond to just about every drug on the market.

Most of them stayed depression-free for up to a week.

Chronic depression, one of the most common, debilitating diseases known to mankind, blown away like a flower petal on a passing breeze.

Is it not the modern nirvana, the utopia of a neurotic generation, the idea that the demons lurking in the nether regions of the cerebral cortex could just . . . evaporate? Reigning there in the wet muck of the Freudian dark, the gargoyles of the mind took ketamine like a hit of kryptonite.

Doesn't it make Prozac and friends look like punks? The subsequent news stories focused on the speed -- antidepressants generally take two weeks or longer to work -- but the true breakthrough, scientists say, is that ketamine seems to do something entirely new. It focuses on glutamate, a chemical neurotransmitter that is involved in electrical flow among brain cells. It has not been targeted by any other antidepressant medication.

Think of depression as a leaky water faucet in the kitchen of the mind. Prozac and friends start working on the problem back at the water plant and, in about half of the cases, eventually find the problem.

In this trial, glutamate (and the "glutamatergic system") was shown to be a wrench-toting plumber who makes house calls. It got right to the problem.

"It's not quite the director of the orchestra, but it's involved with many other systems in the brain than other antidepressants," said Carlos A. Zarate Jr., chief of the mood disorders research unit at NIMH, and lead author of the study.

"It's early, but this is exciting because this gives us a new target, and it's a heck of a first move on it," said J. Raymond DePaulo Jr., chief of the Department of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and one of the nation's preeminent researchers on depression. He was not involved in the ketamine trials. "This is working on . . . a different set of chemicals. It says the malfunction may be in several different parts of the brain. Ketamine has problems with potential negative effects, but we could create 100 drugs to hit this target of glutamate."

If, you know, that is where the demon actually resides.

* * *

Depression: the Jersey dump fire of the mind, being stuck in the urinal of a Charles Bukowski


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy

The Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy

The Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy is a non-profit organization dedicated to the scholarly research of processes and manifestations associated with antisemitism globally, as well as other forms of racisms, and policy related issues, in the age of globalization. ISGAP examines antisemitism, racisms and policy, (and any related matter) and disseminates analytical and scholarly material to help combat hatred and to further understanding.



Yale Creates Center on Anti-Semitism
The Associated PressTuesday, September 19, 2006; 2:54 PM
NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Yale announced the creation Tuesday of the first university-based center in North America dedicated to the study of anti-Semitism.
"Increasingly, Jewish communities around the world feel under threat," said Charles Small, director of the new Yale Initiative for Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism. "I think we need to understand the current manifestation of this disease."


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

STRIKING THE “RIGHTS” BALANCE: Respecting Parents While Protecting Children

National Center for Adoption Law & Policy
Co-sponsored by the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services
Mark your calendars for October 5 & 6, 2006
2006 Multidisciplinary Symposium
Greater Columbus Convention Center
Columbus, Ohio

STRIKING THE “RIGHTS” BALANCE: Respecting Parents While Protecting Children

Day Two Agenda
1:45 pm – 3:00 pm

Tobacco Use as a Factor in Case Decision-Making

Dr. Jeffrey A. Schaler, Assistant Professor, School of Public Affairs, American University, Washington D.C.

Patriotism, Nationhood, and the American Indian

Dr. David Yeagley Interviews Ilana Mercer

Dr. David Yeagley is a Comanche Indian from Oklahoma, educated at Oberlin, Yale, Emory, Hartt, and the University of Arizona. (He was a special student at Harvard in 1982). He has invited several nationally known conservative and independent writers to offer their perspective on American Indians. The following interview with Free-Market News Network columnist Ilana Mercer is the first in the planned series. Dr. Yeagley thinks the American Indian is conservative by nature, and should assume a leading role in “love of country” and patriotism, a cause to which he is devoted. Yeagley is the only conservative American Indian in national media. He is president of the Bad Eagle Foundation, named after his great, great grandfather.

Ilana Mercer’s work has appeared in the Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies, Free Life: a Journal of Classical Liberal and Libertarian Thought, FrontPageMagazine, The American Spectator, The New Individualist, The Colorado Gazette, The Orange County Register, The American Conservative, Insight On the News, Ideas on Liberty, The Financial Post, The Globe and Mail, The Ottawa Citizen, The Calgary Herald, London’s Jewish Chronicle, and others. She is the author of Broad Sides: One Woman’s Clash With a Corrupt Culture, and the proprietor of


Monday, September 18, 2006

What's a "cult?"

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Why I Can't Save My Brother

Why I Can't Save My Brother

By Joan Mitric
The Washington Post
Sunday, September 10, 2006; B03

My brother BJ has not killed anyone. Not yet. And I hope he never will. But in various disturbed, hyper-vigilant and paranoid states over the past 30 years, he has slashed screen doors, severed phone wires at the family home, tossed scalding coffee at our now-deceased mother, left bizarre or menacing messages on his siblings' phones and otherwise exhibited behavior that screams: "I am a danger to myself and others."

BJ also drinks or drugs himself into a stupor countless times a year and has spent the greater part of the past two decades in jail for drunken, disorderly or disruptive conduct. Two years ago, he created an hours-long hostage situation in the Southern California beach town where we grew up after threatening someone in a motel with a pellet gun. For this, he was thrown into Wasco State Prison near Bakersfield and charged with the felony of "threatening a crime with intent to terrorize," as well as several misdemeanors.

BJ is clearly ill. Yet the exact nature of his illness remains undiagnosed because in the decades that he has waged war against his demons, he has never had a full psychiatric workup.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

DEA Revises Rule on Prescribing Painkillers

DEA Revises Rule on Prescribing Painkillers
Doctors Freed to Write Multiple Prescriptions

By Marc Kaufman

Washington Post Staff Writer

Thursday, September 7, 2006; Page A04

The Drug Enforcement Administration yesterday overturned a two-year-old policy that many pain specialists said was limiting their ability to properly treat chronically ill patients in need of powerful, morphine-based painkillers.

While defending its efforts to aggressively investigate doctors who officials conclude are writing painkiller prescriptions for no "legitimate medical purpose," the agency agreed with the protesting experts that it had gone too far in limiting how doctors prescribe the widely used medications.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

'That sort of self-delusion is what it takes to be a real Aussie larrikin'

'That sort of self-delusion is what it takes to be a real Aussie larrikin'

Germaine Greer
Tuesday September 5, 2006
The Guardian

The world mourns. World-famous wildlife warrior Steve Irwin has died a hero, doing the thing he loved, filming a sequence for a new TV series. He was supposed to have been making a new documentary to have been called Ocean's Deadliest, but, when filming was held up by bad weather, he decided to "go off and shoot a few segments" for his eight-year-old daughter's upcoming TV series, "just stuff on the reef and little animals". His manager John Stainton "just said fine, anything that would keep him moving and keep his adrenaline going". Evidently it's Stainton's job to keep Irwin . . .


Outrage over Greer pot shots

Outrage over Greer pot shots
Danny Buttler and Kate Rose
Herald Sun
September 06, 2006 12:00am

Mocking Irwin's multi-million-dollar empire and his "Crikey!" catch-cry, Greer accused the world-famous TV star of placing the welfare of animals after his own interests.

"There was not an animal he was not prepared to manhandle," she wrote in The Guardian.

"Every creature he brandished at the camera was in distress.

"Every snake badgered by Irwin was at a huge disadvantage, with only a single possible reaction to its terrifying situation -- which was to strike.

"Easy enough to avoid if you know what's coming."

The author of The Female Eunuch hit below the belt as she accused Irwin of sending the wrong message to kids.

"The animal world has finally taken its revenge on Irwin, but probably not before a whole generation of kids in shorts seven sizes too small has learned to shout in the ears of animals with hearing 10 times more acute than theirs, determined to become millionaire animal-loving zoo-owners in their turn," Greer wrote.



Monday, September 04, 2006

Eminent Psychiatrist Found Slain In Bethesda

Eminent Psychiatrist Found Slain In Bethesda
Montgomery Police Question Patient, 19

By Martin Weil and Sandhya Somashekhar
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, September 4, 2006; Page A01

A psychiatrist and federal health official who was nationally known for his work in schizophrenia was found slain in his private north Bethesda office yesterday, immediately after seeing a patient.

Police said they were questioning a 19-year-old man who appeared to be the only suspect in the death of Wayne S. Fenton, 53.

Fenton was seeing the patient, who was believed to be "very dangerous," because another psychiatrist was having trouble with him, said Tom Bernard, an entertainment industry executive who was a longtime friend of Fenton's.


Sunday, September 03, 2006

Stop the Drug War by Grant Wilder Smith

Stop the Drug War
by Grant Wilder Smith

I became drawn to the drug policy reform movement in 2000 while attending a Unitarian Universalist church, and working on local anti-racism projects in the Deep South. Over the years, I have learned much about the societal and public health impacts of the drug war, and have also experienced drug addiction first hand from a close family member. My interest in drug policy brought me to Washington, D.C. where I participated in community outreach services for the city's syringe exchange program, and have worked on several advocacy projects with Unitarian Universalists for Drug Policy Reform and Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative. In addition to studying drug policy, the criminal justice system and congressional behavior at American University (B.A., Political Science; Law and Society, 2005), I interned with Drug Policy Alliance's National Affairs Office and Transform Drug Policy Foundation in the United Kingdom. I've also worked directly with the "offender" population through two internships with a federal law enforcement agency. In addition to supporting and having considerable knowledge of a wide range of drug policy alternatives, I firmly advocate for the harm reduction and legalization models. Now, I'm actively seeking a JOB in the drug policy or criminal justice reform movements. Hiring?


Opium Harvest at Record Level in Afghanistan

New York Times

KABUL, Afghanistan, Sept. 2 — Afghanistan’s opium harvest this year has reached the highest levels ever recorded, showing an increase of almost 50 percent from last year, the executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, said Saturday in Kabul.


Friday, September 01, 2006

Meagre success rates of drug treatment programmes are falling

News extra

Meagre success rates of drug treatment programmes are falling
London Michael Day

British Medical Journal
Table of contents for Saturday 02 September 2006

The proportion of drug misusers who leave treatment programmes “drug free” is falling, despite record sums being spent on rehabilitation, new figures from the North West of England indicate.

Since 1999 the amount spent in England and Wales under the Home Office’s drug interventions programme to treat offenders who misuse drugs has risen to £165m (€245m; $312m) a year, in a bid to boost public health and cut drug related street crime.

But figures compiled by researchers at Liverpool John Moores University and published in the online journal BMC Health Services Research on 11 August (, doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-6-205) raise questions about the system’s effectiveness. Their analysis of more than 26 000 drug misusers in Cheshire and Merseyside entering treatment programmes between 1998 and 2002 showed that the percentage who were “discharged drug free” almost halved, falling from 5.8% to just 3.5%.

Mark Bellis, the university’s . . . [Full text of this article]

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