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, October 28, 2006

In the Libby Case, A Grilling to Remember

In the Libby Case, A Grilling to Remember
By Carol D. Leonnig
The Washington Post
Friday, October 27, 2006; A21

With withering and methodical dispatch, White House nemesis and prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald yesterday sliced up the first person called to the stand on behalf of the vice president's former chief of staff.

If I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was not afraid of the special counsel before,the former Cheney aide, who will face Fitzgerald in a trial beginning Jan.11, had ample reason to start quaking after yesterday's Ginsu-like legal performance.

Fitzgerald's target in the witness box was Elizabeth F. Loftus, a professor of criminology and psychology at the University of California at Irvine. For more than an hour of the pretrial hearing, Loftus calmly explained to Judge Reggie B. Walton her three decades of expertise in human memory and witness testimony. Loftus asserted that, after copious scientific research, she has found that many potential jurors do not understand the limits of memory and that Libby should be allowed to call an expert to make that clear to them.

But when Fitzgerald got his chance to cross-examine Loftus about her findings, he had her stuttering to explain her own writings and backpedaling from her earlier assertions. Citing several of her publications, footnotes and the work of her peers, Fitzgerald got Loftus to acknowledge that the methodology she had used at times in her long academic career was not that scientific, that her conclusions about memory were conflicting, and that she had exaggerated a figure and a statement from her survey of D.C. jurors that favored the defense.

Her defense-paid visit to the federal court was crucial because Libby is relying on the "memory defense" against Fitzgerald's charges that he obstructed justice and lied to investigators about his role in the leaking of a CIA operative's identity to the media. Libby's attorneys argue that he did not lie -- that he was just really busy with national security matters and forgot some of his conversations.

When Fitzgerald found a line in one of her books that raised doubts about research she had cited on the stand as proof that Libby needs an expert to educate jurors, Loftus said, "I don't know how I let that line slip by."

"I'd need to see that again," Loftus said when Fitzgerald cited a line in her book that overstated her research by saying that "most jurors"consider memory to be equivalent to playing a videotape. Her research, however, found that to be true for traumatic events, and even then, only 46 percent of potential jurors thought memory could be similar to a videotape.

There were several moments when Loftus was completely caught off guard by Fitzgerald, creating some very awkward silences in the courtroom.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison this Friday October 27, 2006

Only National Conference for Young Adult Mental Health Advocates to Convene at American University

Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison to Keynote Active Minds
4th Annual Conference
WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 20, 2006)

—More than one hundred college student mental health advocates,experts and authors will assemble for the only national conference geared towards young adult mental health activists at the fourth annual Active Minds Mental Health on Campus Conferenceto be held at American University on Friday, Oct. 27 and Saturday, Oct. 28.Hosted by Active Minds at AU and supported by Potomac Ridge Behavioral Health Center, this year's national gathering aims to engage and educate a new generation of mental health advocates while raising mental health awareness as students transition from adolescence to adulthood.

Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, an internationally-recognized expert on mood disorders and author of the New York Times best-seller, An Unquiet Mind, will be the featured speaker at 8 Kay Spiritual Life Center on Friday, October 27, 2006. “Since suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students, the Active Mindschapters are ensuring the well-being of their universities’ student bodies,” said AlisonMalmon, founder and executive director of Active Minds, Inc. “This assembly of students representsa new generation of mental health advocates dedicated to eradicating the stigma of mental illness.”

Additional sessions will be held in the Butler Pavilion’s Butler Boardroom including guest speakers: Jerilyn Ross, M.A., L.I.C.S.W., president and CEO, Anxiety Disorders Association of America (Oct 27, 3:45 p.m.) Ross Szabo, director of youth outreach, National Mental Health Awareness Campaign (Oct 27,5 p.m.) Karen Bower, senior staff attorney, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law (Oct 28, 3 p.m.) Lizzie Simon, author of Detour: My Bipolar Road Trip in 4-D. (Oct 28, 4:15 p.m.) Representatives from the National Mental Health Association, Suicide Prevention Action Network (SPAN-USA), and Jed Foundation Student leaders from Colorado State University, Niagara University, Regis University, and the University of Pennsylvania will be presenting as well.

For a full conference agenda go to: Active Minds is the nation’s only grassroots organization dedicated to raising mental healthawareness among young adults as they transition from adolescence to adulthood—when studentsmay find themselves without a familiar support system. Since its founding in 2003, Active Minds has become the definitive young adult voice in mental health advocacy and the organizational catalyst for student-based mental health awareness on college and university campuses. Thereare more than 50 student-run Active Minds chapters on college campuses across the United States and Canada.

Located in Washington, DC, American University ( ) is a leader in global education,enrolling a diverse student body from throughout the U.S. and nearly 150 countries and providing opportunities for academic excellence, public service, and internships in the nation's capital and around the world. American University is located at 4400 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, D.C., 20016. For map and directions visit: . Media are welcome to attend all or a portion of the conference, but must pre-register withMaralee Csellar, acting director of AU’s Media Relations Office, at (202) 885-5952, or AlisonMalmon, executive director of Active Minds Inc, at (202) 719-1177.

# # # --------------------------------------------------------------------------------Contact: Maralee Csellar Date: 10/20/2006 Phone: (202) 885-5952 Release Category: Campus Life E-mail the Contact Person:

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Superpower Myth

The Superpower Myth
by Sheldon Richman

". . . Moreover, any government efforts to protect us will likely make things worse through corruption and ineptitude. If there are technological ways to shield us from a nuclear attack, the government should step aside and let private enterprise discover them. . . . "

Naivete squared . . . So, the private sector should protect us from a foreign enemy???


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Skin Infections Among Tattoo Recipients --- Ohio, Kentucky, and Vermont, 2004--2005

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
Centers for Disease Control and
June 23, 2006 / 55(24);677-679

Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Skin Infections Among Tattoo Recipients --- Ohio, Kentucky, and Vermont, 2004--2005

Disney bans all junk food

Disney bans all junk food
Daily Mail
October 17, 2006

17/10/06 - News section

Disney announced today it is severing all connections with junk food.
Burger and chips will soon be off the menu at its theme parks worldwide. Film and cartoon characters will no longer be used to promote salty snacks and sugary drinks.

The move by such a powerful and influential company is being hailed as a major breakthrough in the battle against obesity among children.

Out will go products such as The Incredibles Pop Tarts and Winnie The Pooh biscuits. In could be Nemo mineral water and porridge courtesy of Goldilocks. Disneyland, Disney World in Florida and Disneyland Paris will serve up vegetables and fruit juice.

The firm is also ending its 10-year $1 billion deal with McDonald's to advertise on its happy meals.

Walt Disney Corporation has come under pressure-for years in Britain to follow the lead of the BBC in banning its children's programme characters from tie-ins with junk food.

Critics say Disney characters have driven the worst forms of pester power.

The company says that its change of policy means it will only lend its name to products that meet standards for healthy eating.

In its licensing deals from 2009 Disney will in most cases refuse to link its brand to foods that get more than 30 per cent of their calories from fat, over 10 per cent from saturated fat and in excess of 10 per cent from added sugar. "Sugar things like Lucky Charms and Sugar Frosted Flakes wouldn't make it. Cheerios and Rice Krispies would said James Hill, a child nutrition expert who worked with Disney in recent months as it planned the change in policy.

But Disney's TV channels are still likely to come under fire as they will continue taking junk food ads.

The company's chief finance officer, Thomas Staggs, said more storylines would include a healthy diet and exercise, adding that Disney's new "nutrition programme", which has been worked on for 18 months, would be phased in as current contracts expired.

"Parents try to make intelligent choices, he said. "The right thing to do for our company is to provide them with those choices. Last year, Disney's largest shareholder, Steve Jobs, the head of the Pixar Animation Studio, spoke of his doubts about tie-ins with fast food products.

He said: "There is value, but there also some concerns as our society becomes more conscious of some of the implications of fast food. Earlier this year in Britain, a row erupted over proposed measures unveiled by TV watchdog Ofcom to curb ads for junk food aimed at children, including banning them before 9pm.

Amber Alert issued for baby boy; social worker dead

"It's a dangerous job anytime you're taking someone's child away from their parents," Duncan said. "You know how protective parents can be."

Amber Alert issued for baby boy; social worker dead
POSTED: 12:40 p.m. EDT, October 17, 2006

HENDERSON, Kentucky (AP) -- Police found a social worker slain in a western Kentucky home and issued an Amber Alert for the 10-month-old boy the woman had taken to the house for a visit with his mother, authorities said Tuesday.

The child's mother, Renee Terrell, 33, of Henderson, did not have custody of her developmentally disabled son, police said. She and her boyfriend, Christopher Wayne Luttrell, 23, were both missing Tuesday and were believed to have the child.

Police were called Monday afternoon when the social worker didn't return to work after taking the baby, Saige Terrell, to visit his mother, said Henderson Police Sgt. Dwight Duncan.

"It's a dangerous job anytime you're taking someone's child away from their parents," Duncan said. "You know how protective parents can be."
The social worker was identified as Boni Frederick, 67, of Morganfield, who worked for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Her station wagon, a 2000 white Daewoo Nubia, also was missing, police said.

Duncan said police believe Frederick was killed, but he would not comment on her cause of death pending an autopsy under way Tuesday.
The white-paneled house where she was found was roped off by police tape Tuesday, and a police car was parked out front.


Monday, October 09, 2006

Va. Parents Trying to Unadopt Troubled Boy--Mother Says Caseworkers Failed to Disclose Child's Stormy History

Va. Parents Trying to Unadopt Troubled Boy
Mother Says Caseworkers Failed to Disclose Child's Stormy History
By Brigid Schulte
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 9, 2006; Page A01

A talkative 9-year-old boy came to Helen Briggs on Valentine's Day 2000. She was a foster mother with years of tough love and scores of troubled kids behind her. But she grew to love this boy. Within the year, she'd talked her husband into adopting him.

Now, six years later, Briggs and her husband, James, a maintenance worker for the city of Alexandria, are taking the highly unusual step of trying to unadopt him.

In 2003, when the boy was 12, he sexually molested a 6-year-old boy and a 2-year-old girl still in diapers. She said it was only then, as she waited outside the courtroom for his sexual battery hearing and caseworkers handed her his psychological profile, that she found out just how damaged the boy had been when he came into her life.


Monday, October 02, 2006

Foley Checks Into Clinic for Alcoholism

Foley Checks Into Clinic for Alcoholism
October 2, 2006
Filed at 12:30 p.m. ET
The New York Times

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former Rep. Mark Foley, under FBI investigation for e-mail exchanges with teenage congressional pages, has checked himself into rehabilitation facility for alcoholism treatment and accepts responsibility for his actions, his attorney acknowledged Monday.
The attorney, David Roth, would not identify the facility, but told the Associated Press in West Palm Beach, Fla., that Foley had checked in over the weekend.

''I strongly believe that I am an alcoholic and have accepted the need for immediate treatment for alcoholism and other behavioral problems,'' Foley said in a statement, Roth told the AP.

Foley, a Republican, abruptly quit Congress on Friday after reports surfaced that he'd sent sexually charged electronic messages to boys working as pages. In the statement, Foley said the ''events that led to my resignation have crystalized recognition of my long-standing and significant alcoholism and emotional difficulties.''

''I deeply regret and accept full responsibility for the harm I have caused,'' Foley said. He also expressed ''gratitude for the prayers and words of encouragement that have been conveyed to me.''

The FBI, meanwhile, ''is conducting an assessment to see if there's been a violation of federal law,'' according to FBI spokesman Richard Kolko.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Monday it was also investigating whether the e-mail communications violated state law.

Spokesman Tom Berlinger called the state probe ''a precursor to a possible criminal investigation.''

The developments sent House Republicans into damage control mode amid charges by Democrats that some House leaders may have known for months about Foley's inappropriate overtures toward the young pages.
Democrats have questioned whether the GOP leadership, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., tried to protect a House seat in an election year at the expense of the well-being of teenage pages.

Hastert issued his strongest statement yet on Monday, saying he was ''outraged and disgusted with Congressman Mark Foley's actions.''
The speaker was in Washington meeting with his staff, the House clerk and Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., the congressman who oversees the page program, to review the procedures on protecting the teenage pages while they are working at the Capitol and after they finish their assignments, said Ron Bonjean, Hastert's spokesman.

White House press secretary Tony Snow, asked about that Monday on ABC's ''Good Morning America,'' urged greater efforts to ''figure out what happened here.'' He called it ''a terrible story'' and said he considered it unfortunate that ''people are thinking, 'OK, can I get political advantage out of this'.''

Hastert in a letter sent Sunday to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, asked the Justice Department to ''conduct an investigation of Mr. Foley's conduct with current and former House pages,'' including ''any sexually explicit communications between Mr. Foley and any former or current House pages and what actions such individuals took, if any, to provide them to law enforcement.''

Democrats demanded that investigators determine whether Republican leaders tried to cover up Foley's actions for political reasons.

''The attorney general should open a full-scale investigation immediately,'' Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada said in a statement, including whether GOP leaders ''knew there was a problem and ignored it to preserve a congressional seat this election year.''

Foley's West Palm Beach district is largely Republican, but now may be won by a Democrat. Republicans are struggling to maintain their House majority in the upcoming election. Florida Republican leaders were meeting Monday to try to choose a candidate to replace Foley in the November election.

FBI cyber sleuths are looking into the text of some of the Foley messages, checking to see how many e-mails and instant electronic messages were sent and how many computers were used, according to a law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.

The FBI also was trying to determine if any of the teenagers who received messages are willing to cooperate with the investigation, the official said.
Ironically, Foley, who is 52 and single, could be found to have violated a law that he helped to write as co-chairman of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus.

Rep. Thomas Reynolds of New York, head of the House Republican election effort, said he told Hastert months ago about the allegations involving a 16-year-old boy from Louisiana.

Full article

Foley's folly

Foley's folly
Liberty, Vol. 20, 15, December

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Shopping bug bites men, too

Shopping bug bites men, too
By Julie Sevrens Lyons
Mercury News
October 1, 2006

In the battle of the sexes one more stereotype has fallen: A new Stanford University study suggests men are just as likely as women to be serious shopaholics.

But they're much less likely to get help for their problem, according to the most comprehensive survey to date of out-of-control spending among Americans.

The random telephone survey of 2,514 adults found that 5.5 percent of men and 6 percent of women are addicted to shopping -- so obsessed that they may go deep into debt, wind up divorced or even consider suicide.
These aren't your average folks who enjoy an occasional day at the mall. The problem must be so severe that the sufferer is in financial or personal turmoil and has problems functioning.

``What's shocking and unexpected is how common this problem is,'' said Eric Hollander, professor and chairman of psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, who was not involved in the study.
Previous studies indicated that perhaps 2 percent of the American public had such severe shopping compulsions that they could be labeled as having an ``impulse control disorder.''

Yet the Stanford researchers found the prevalence is about three times greater, with about 1 in 20 Americans afflicted.

They didn't come out and ask people whether they were shopaholics. Instead, they asked a series of questions designed to reveal the urges within. Compulsive buyers were more likely to say they need to spend money, buy things to improve their moods, lose control when shopping, see their spending as aberrant and have financial problems as a result.
Shopaholics, the researchers found, tend to be young and live in homes with annual incomes less than $50,000. They're also about four times less likely than the average consumer to pay off their credit card balances in full.

``The behavior creates stress in the form of guilt or remorse, or dysfunction in the form of family conflict or unapproved time away from work to shop,'' said Lorrin Koran, lead author of the study and an emeritus professor of psychiatry at Stanford. The research appears in October's American Journal of Psychiatry.

. . .

But some experts don't buy the notion that the tendency to shop 'til you drop is a problem requiring medication.``Calling irresponsible buying a disease or a disorder is a way for removing responsibility for the behavior,'' said Jeffrey A. Schaler, a psychologist and professor at American University's School of Public Affairs in Washington, D.C.

``We're going down a slippery slope where any socially undesirable behavior can be excused.''Schaler, author of ``Addiction Is a Choice,'' argues that ``impulse control disorders'' such as compulsive buying are ``fabricated'' to serve the financial interests of doctors and researchers. Medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes and AIDS are true diseases, he said. Behaviors, such as gambling, smoking and shopping, are not.

. . .