Saturday, December 21, 2013

Today's Tune: Joey Ramone - Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

Mental Health Laws Are Trouble For Democrats

By Ann Coulter
December 18, 2013

Jared Loughner  (Phoenix), Adam Lanza (Sandy Hook), James Holmes (Aurora, Colorado), Seung-Hui Cho (Virginia Tech), Dylan Klebold (Columbine), Kipland Kinkel (Springfield, Oregon)

Instead of always taking incoming fire, how about Republicans start sending some back? It's great that they stopped HillaryCare, but if they had actually fixed health care by forcing health insurance plans to be sold in a competitive free market, there would have been no opportunity for shyster Democrats to foist Obamacare on us.

It's fantastic that we caught the Boston Marathon bombers, but why don't Republicans fix an immigration system that brings foreign terrorists and mass murderers to our country? Let the Democrats explain why we couldn't make room for a Danish surgeon because we needed another Chechnyan terrorist.

And it's terrific that Republicans have managed to block sweeping gun bans after every mass shooting over the past few years -- opposition to new gun restrictions has more than doubled since Newtown -- but how about they actually do something to stop the next mass murder?

All these shootings are united by one clear thread: They all were committed by visibly crazy people, known to be nuts but not institutionalized.

Mental illness was blindingly clear in the cases of Seung-Hui Cho (Virginia Tech), Maj. Nidal Hasan (Fort Hood), Jared Loughner (Arizona shopping mall), James Holmes (Colorado movie theater), and a dozen other mass shootings in the past few decades.

But in every instance, Democrats' response was: Let's ban high-capacity magazines! Let's limit private gun sales! Let's publish the names of everyone who owns a registered gun!

Mass shootings don't correlate with any of these things. They correlate with not locking up crazy people. We're not worried about school kids being systematically gunned down by angry husbands, gang members or antique gun collectors. We're worried about a psychotic showing up in a public place and shooting everyone in sight.

There's absolutely no point in making it more difficult to buy firearms at gun shows -- unless gun dealers have no trouble getting files on the mentally ill. Until we do that, we're wasting our time.

Fixating on guns after a crazy person commits mass murder is like draining the ocean to find a ring you dropped.

Liberals can take the position that crazy people living on the street and filling up our prisons and homeless shelters are a necessary evil that is a consequence of their idee fixe. But then, when one of their pet victims shoots up a movie theater, they don't get to blame it on guns.

In every one of these mass shootings, there was someone in a position to say before the attack, "Trust me, this person is a psycho." Try getting Jared Loughner or James Holmes through any mental illness hearing in which they're required to speak. (Though both might end up being offered their own shows on MSNBC.)

If someone was brought back from the 1950s to today, he'd tell us: "I couldn't help but notice that all the people who committed mass shootings were batsh*t crazy. Why were they not locked up or forced to take medication?"

We'd have to say, "Because some people -- we call them 'liberals' -- get a warm feeling of self-righteousness by defending the right of the deranged to crap in a shoebox, carefully label it and put it in a closet."

Democrats absolutely will not address the one thing that was screaming out from all of the mass shootings: a crazy person committing the crime. We can't medicate them and we can't lock them up because the ACLU has handcuffed society's ability to deal rationally with the mentally disturbed.

Not only will Democrats refuse to address the problem of the mentally ill on their own, but they will fight to the last ditch to protect any crazy person's right not to take his medication.

At some point in the 1980s, not being "judgmental" became the highest form of virtue -- although the left is plenty judgmental about things they don't like, such as white males, smokers, Christianity, Wal-Mart, Fox News, talk radio and NASCAR.

Liberals are so determined not to stigmatize anybody that their solution is always to make all of society suffer instead:

-- To avoid hurting Muslims' feelings, everyone has to strip to his underwear at the airport.

-- So no one feels excluded, we're not allowed to say "Merry Christmas!"

-- To avoid singling out gays, the government and media lied to Americans for a decade about the coming explosion of heterosexual AIDS. (We're still waiting.)

-- To stop people from noticing patterns, the media bend over backward to avoid telling us the race of dangerous criminals on the loose.

-- To prevent hurt feelings, everybody gets an "A."

And to avoid "stigmatizing" the mentally ill, society has to live with the occasional mass murder.

These anti-stigmatization rules don't even help the people they claim to be protecting. But defending ridiculous rules that ruin things for everyone else makes liberals feel heroic.

Rather than constantly playing defense on gun rights, why don't Republicans force Democrats into taking uncomfortable positions for once? Make them choose between ticking off the ACLU or ticking off soccer moms -- as well as all of sane America. (Don't kid yourself: The non-insane are still a potent voting bloc in this country.)

Republicans should say, "We owe it to the memory of these kids to unclog the regulations that prevent us from forcing psychotics to take their medication."


The Age of Intolerance

The forces of “tolerance” are intolerant of anything less than full-blown celebratory approval. 

Last week, following the public apology of an English comedian and the arrest of a fellow British subject both for making somewhat feeble Mandela gags, I noted that supposedly free societies were increasingly perilous places for those who make an infelicitous remark. So let’s pick up where we left off:

Here are two jokes one can no longer tell on American television. But you can still find them in the archives, out on the edge of town, in Sub-Basement Level 12 of the ever-expanding Smithsonian Mausoleum of the Unsayable. First, Bob Hope, touring the world in the year or so after the passage of the 1975 Consenting Adult Sex Bill:
“I’ve just flown in from California, where they’ve made homosexuality legal. I thought I’d get out before they make it compulsory.”

For Hope, this was an oddly profound gag, discerning even at the dawn of the Age of Tolerance that there was something inherently coercive about the enterprise. Soon it would be insufficient merely to be “tolerant” — warily accepting, blithely indifferent, mildly amused, tepidly supportive, according to taste. The forces of “tolerance” would become intolerant of anything less than full-blown celebratory approval.

Second joke from the archives: Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra kept this one in the act for a quarter-century. On stage, Dino used to have a bit of business where he’d refill his tumbler and ask Frank, “How do you make a fruit cordial?” And Sinatra would respond, “I dunno. How do you make a fruit cordial?” And Dean would say, “Be nice to him.”

But no matter how nice you are, it’s never enough. Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson, in his career-detonating interview with GQ, gave a rather thoughtful vernacular exegesis of the Bible’s line on sin, while carefully insisting that he and other Christians are obligated to love all sinners and leave it to the Almighty to adjudicate the competing charms of drunkards, fornicators, and homosexuals. Nevertheless, GLAAD — “the gatekeepers of politically correct gayness” as the (gay) novelist Bret Easton Ellis sneered — saw their opportunity and seized it. By taking out TV’s leading cable star, they would teach an important lesson pour encourager les autres— that espousing conventional Christian morality, even off-air, is incompatible with American celebrity.

Some of my comrades, who really should know better, wonder why, instead of insisting Robertson be defenestrated, GLAAD wouldn’t rather “start a conversation.” But, if you don’t need to, why bother? Most Christian opponents of gay marriage oppose gay marriage; they don’t oppose the right of gays to advocate it. Yet thug groups like GLAAD increasingly oppose the right of Christians even to argue their corner. It’s quicker and more effective to silence them.

As Christian bakers ordered to provide wedding cakes for gay nuptials and many others well understand, America’s much-vaunted “freedom of religion” is dwindling down to something you can exercise behind closed doors in the privacy of your own abode or at a specialist venue for those of such tastes for an hour or so on Sunday morning, but when you enter the public square you have to leave your faith back home hanging in the closet. Yet even this reductive consolation is not permitted to Robertson: GLAAD spokesgay Wilson Cruz declared that “Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil’s lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe.” Robertson was quoting the New Testament, but hey, what do those guys know? In today’s America, land of the Obamacare Pajama Boy, Jesus is basically Nightshirt Boy, a fey non-judgmental dweeb who’s cool with whatever. What GLAAD is attempting would be called, were it applied to any other identity group, “cultural appropriation.”

In the broader sense, it’s totalitarian. While American gays were stuffing and mounting the duck hunter in their trophy room, the Prince of Wales was celebrating Advent with Christian refugees from the Middle East, and noting that the land in which Christ and Christianity were born is now the region boasting “the lowest concentration of Christians in the world — just four percent of the population.” It will be three, and two, and one percent soon enough, for there is a totalitarian impulse in resurgent Islam — and not just in Araby. A few miles from Buckingham Palace, Muslims in London’s East End are now sufficiently confident to go around warning local shopkeepers to cease selling alcohol. In theory, you might still enjoy the right to sell beer in Tower Hamlets or be a practicing Christian in Iraq, but in reality not so much. The asphyxiating embrace of ideological conformity was famously captured by Nikolai Krylenko, the People’s Commissar for Justice, in a speech to the Soviet Congress of Chess Players in 1932, at which he attacked the very concept of “the neutrality of chess.” It was necessary for chess to be Sovietized like everything else. “We must organize shock brigades of chess players, and begin immediate realization of a Five-Year Plan for chess,” he declared.  

Six years later, the political winds having shifted, Krylenko was executed as an enemy of the people. But his spirit lives on among the Commissars of Gay Compliance at GLAAD. It is not enough to have gay marriage for gays. Everything must be gayed. There must be Five-Year Gay Plans for American bakeries, and the Christian church, and reality TV. There must be shock brigades of gay duck-hunters honking out the party line deep in the backwoods of the proletariat. Obamacare pajama models, if not yet mandatorily gay, can only be dressed in tartan onesies and accessorized with hot chocolate so as to communicate to the Republic’s maidenhood what a thankless endeavor heterosexuality is in contemporary America.

Look, I’m an effete foreigner who likes show tunes. My Broadway book was on a list of “Twelve Books Every Gay Man Should Read.” Andrew Sullivan said my beard was hot. Leonard Bernstein stuck his tongue in my mouth (long story). But I’m not interested in living in a world where we have to tiptoe around on ever thinner eggshells. If it’s a choice between having celebrity chefs who admit to having used the N-word in 1977 (or 1965, or 1948, or whenever the hell it was) and reality-show duck-hunters who quote Corinthians and Alec Baldwin bawling out some worthless paparazzo who’s doorstepping his family with a “homophobic” slur, or having all of them banished from public life and thousands upon millions more too cowed and craven to speak lest the same fate befall them, I’ll take the former any day.

Because the latter culture would be too boring for any self-respecting individual to want to live in, even more bloody boring than the current TV landscape where, aside from occasional eruptions of unerotic twerking by sexless skanks, every other show seems to involve snippy little Pajama Boys sitting around snarking at each other in the antiseptic eunuch pose that now passes for “ironic.” It’s “irony” as the last circle of Dante’s cultural drain; it’s why every show advertised as “edgy” and “transgressive” offers the same pitiful combination of attitude and impotence as a spayed cat humping.  

Such a pansified culture is going nowhere. I hasten to add I don’t mean “pansified” in the sense of penetrative sex with other men, but in the Sarah Silverman sense of “I mean ‘gay’ like ‘retarded.’” Miss Silverman can get away with that kind of talk because she’s a Pajama Boy–friendly ironist posing as a homophobic disablist. Unless, of course, she’s a homophobic disablist posing as a Pajama Boy–friendly ironist. Maybe we should ban her just to be on the safe side.

How do you make a fruit cordial?

Be nice to him. Or else.

 Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is the author of After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. © 2013 Mark Steyn

Friday, December 20, 2013

Badgers volleyball: Four-set upset of Texas brings berth in NCAA championship match

DENNIS PUNZEL | Wisconsin State Journal
December 20, 2013

volleyball block 12-20

UW's Courtney Thomas (3) and Haleigh Nelson make the block on Texas' Chiaka Ogbogu.(Elaine Thompson/AP)

SEATTLE — Not many in the sellout crowd for the NCAA volleyball semifinals gave the University of Wisconsin much of a chance against top-seeded and reigning champion Texas.
But among those few true believers were the Badgers, who pulled off a shocking 25-19, 25-18, 26-28, 25-23 victory before a crowd of 14,975 at KeyArena.
“We believed we could win this match and I think that’s a big part whenever you go into anything,” said coach Kelly Sheffield, whose team will play Big Ten Conference rival Penn State for the national title on Saturday. “No matter who we’ve played the players have believed there’s a way to win.
“We are who we are. There’s no way we could play their game. Their game is a totally different game than us. We had to serve with confidence and execute fearlessly behind the service line. We felt like if we did that we’d have them out of system a lot. And if they’re out of system a lot we’ve got the best backcourt in the country and we’d be able to dig some balls.”
And when the Badgers (28-9) dug out those smashes from the Longhorns’ massive row of hitters, the ball usually ended up in the hands of freshman setter Lauren Carlini. And when Carlini is in control, the Badgers tend to be in good shape.
Sheffield was reminded of that even before the match started when he talked with Carlini.
“She’s out there setting in warm-ups an hour before the match, and I walked out there, just wanted to check in, see how things were going,” Sheffield said. “I said, ‘How are you doing?’ And she says, ‘I love this. This is why I play.’
“The bigger the lights, the better. That’s her mentality. The kid’s whatever she is, 18 years old, and she was born for this. The bigger the crowd, the more moxie that comes out of her, the more confidence.”
While her performance, which included 50 assists and 12 digs, dazzled the volleyball world, the outcome left her nearly speechless.
“There’s just no words right now,” Carlini said. “Everyone is like daaaa ... We never expected that we were going to get this far, but we got together and we made a goal and fought back. We know that we’re one of the tightest teams out there. We’re just ballers. I don’t think anyone is happier than us right now.”
Going up against the Longhorns’ huge block, Sheffield said the key was having Carlini move the ball around to find the appropriate hitter to attack Texas (27-3).
“That’s a massive block,” he said. “These guys are really physical, but we felt like we’ve got a setter who can get the ball where it needs to go.”
The Badgers succeeded in keeping the Longhorns out of system much of the night. And as they scrambled to get the ball over the net, their powerful attack, led by All-American Haley Eckerman, was muted.
“We feel like we’re a really good serving team,” Sheffield said. “We felt like (passing) wasn’t one of their strengths, but when you’ve got Eckerman outside, you don’t have to be an elite passing team.
“Our servers really executed with a lot of toughness behind the serving line. We did a great job of keeping them off balance early on.”
Texas coach Jerritt Elliott said his team looked off balance all night.
“Tonight felt like it was the first match of the season,” Elliott said. “We just never got comfortable. For whatever reason, we got on our heels right off the bat and really couldn’t find the groove the entire night.”
After controlling most of the first two sets, the Badgers were in position to complete a sweep in the third set, reaching match point at 25-24. Texas survived that point and won the set when Ellen Chapman’s shot went long on set point. Chapman led the Badgers with 17 kills.
“We had 16 hitting errors in Game 3 and that’s an awful lot,” Sheffield said. “They got out to a nice lead in Game 4 but we kept chopping and chopping away. That’s what we’ve seen from this team all year.
“Mental toughness has carried us through and there’s not anything that you’ve got to be mentally tough about than you’re about to sweep the defending champs and they squeak out Game 3 and jump on us in Game 4. To come back and find a way, I can’t be more proud of these guys.”
The Badgers trailed most of the way in Game 4 before rallying to take a 21-19 lead. The lead went back and forth, with Texas taking a 22-21 lead on an attack error by Deme Morales. But Morales quickly atoned for that with a kill to tie it at 22 and then finished off the match with back-to-back kills.
Sheffield credited Carlini with having faith in Morales to bounce back from her error.
“I know she’s a talented person,” Carlini said of the 5-foot-7 Morales. “When she gets blocked, it doesn’t faze her. Everyone in the huddle is like, keep swinging, we’ve got you covered.
“This is just a tremendous group effort and I can’t be more proud of our team.”
Texas 19 18 28 23
Wisconsin 25 25 26 25
TEXAS — (kills-aces-blocks) — Bell 7-1-10, McCage 8-0-7, Neal 0-1-0, Eckerman 17-0-0, Ogbogu 5-0-5, Allison 2-0-7, Victoria 0-0-1, Brooks 0-0-0, Palmer 0-0-0, Collins 0-0-1, Webster 7-0-2. Totals: 46-2-19.
WISCONSIN — (kills-aces-blocks) — Carlini 4-0-2, Thomas 9-1-5, Morales 14-0-0, Nelson 4-0-5, Thompson 12-0-5, Chapman 17-3-2, Hickey 0-2-0, Morey 0-0-0, Kvas 0-1-0. Totals: 60-7-10.
Hitting percentage — T .156, W .131. Digs — T 64 (Palmer 16), W 72 (Hickey 21).
Assists — T 43 (Allison 33), W 57 (Carlini 50).

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Penn State volleyball: Nittany Lions sweep Washington in NCAA semifinals

December 20,2013
 — Talk about silencing the home crowd.
The Penn State women’s volleyball team put on an electrifying display Thursday night at KeyArena, and another national title is in sight.
The No. 2 Nittany Lions dominated both offensively and defensively to thump No. 3 Washington 25-14, 25-13, 25-16 in the national semifinals as they moved to the doorstep of their sixth NCAA crown.
“This is the fire I think that you need to win it all,” said four-time All-American Deja McClendon, whose 11 kills on .391 hitting and 13 digs led the way. “I’m so proud of my team right now.”
Penn State (33-2) will face Wisconsin in Saturday’s championship match at 9:30 p.m. The Badgers were a surprise winner over top-seeded Texas in four sets in the night’s first semifinal.
The match will be the first All-Big Ten final in the NCAA Tournament’s history. The Lions swept the Badgers 3-0 in their two regular-season matches.
“I believe the seniors have a pretty good handle on what we need to do,” coach Russ Rose told ESPN2. “We’ll see if we can do it one more time.”
The Nittany Lions will make their ninth appearance in the finals — winning the last five trips there — and carry a 24-match win streak into the title match.
The lopsided numbers included a .488 hitting performance with 46 kills and just five errors on 84 swings. Washington hit just .117 with 28 kills and 17 errors. The Nittany Lions also held an 8-3 blocking advantage, a 45-29 edge in digs and a 5-1 ace margin.
“It was just going up and swinging hard and high,” said Hancock, who had three of those aces on some major service runs. She also had 39 assists.
Ariel Scott added 10 kills, Katie Slay had eight kills and four blocks, Nia Grant added six kills and four blocks, Megan Courtney posted six kills and nine digs and Dominique Gonzalez recorded 13 digs.
“We passed really well and I thought Micha played really well distributing the ball,” said Rose, who was named the AVCA’s national Coach of the Year earlier Thursday. “Other than the third game where we made four or five service errors, I thought we had a pretty good handle on the game this evening.”
Pac-12 Player of the Year Krista Vansant, who had 38 kills last Saturday in the regional finals, was held to a mere seven kills. Kaleigh Nelson’s eight kills led the Huskies, who were playing just five miles from their campus.
The match drew better than 17,000 fans, mostly rooting for the home team — quietly after the match’s early minutes.
After Washington had built an 11-9 lead in the opening set, Penn State took command by scoring 16 of the frame’s final 19 points. Hancock delivered a pair of aces early in the run, while Scott and McClendon each put down four kills in the frame as the Nittany Lions hit a solid .478.
McClendon was on fire pretty much from end to end.
“In my opinion she’s been our best player this year,” Rose said. “She’s a great passer, her backrow defense — she leads us in digs almost every match — (she’s) an awfully good blocker and she took some great swings tonight.”
The domination continued in the second set with an 8-0 run on Hancock’s serve. The Huskies took two timeouts during the blitz to try to turn the tide but to no avail. Another Hancock ace, two Slay blocks and two Scott kills highlighted the run. The Lions hit a whopping .583 in the set, and through the first two had just two hitting errors. Washington was hitting .095 with 13 errors.
The first two set scores for the Huskies were their lowest totals of the season for a single frame.
The final set saw a 4-0 run early for Penn State, which then iced the win with another 4-0 run late. Despite a few breakdowns in passing and a couple Husky blocks, for the most part Penn State maintained its momentum, with Washington hardly ever able to string together multiple points in a row to stoke the home crowd.
Slay finally ended the match, which ended in a tidy 1 hour, 9 minutes, bouncing a spike off a blocker’s hands to set up another date with the Badgers.
“Passing was great,” Hancock said. “Our serve-pass game was pretty good until the end. We kind of served some balls out, made some errors, but passing was on-point. We could do what we needed to do.”
Wisconsin 3, Texas 1
In the first match of the night, the Badgers stunned the defending champion Longhorns 25-19, 25-18, 26-28, 25-23 behind 17 kills and three aces for Ellen Chapman, 14 kills and 14 digs for Deme Morales, 12 kills and five blocks for Dominique Thompson, five blocks for Courtney Thomas, 21 digs for Annemarie Hickey and 50 assists for Lauren Carlini.
The No. 12 seeded Badgers will be looking for their first title, and to become the lowest seeded team to win a crown, in their second final in program history and first since 2000.
The No. 1 Longhorns were led by Haley Eckerman’s 17 kils and 14 digs, Sarah Palmer’s 16 digs, Hannah Allison’s 33 assists and Khat Bell’s 10 blocks.
Notes: Earlier Thursday, Scott was named the winner of the Senior CLASS Award, given for excellence on and off the court. The Nittany Lions’ leading hitter and three-time All-American is active in Special Olympics, and has earned Academic All-Big Ten and Big Ten Distinguised Scholar honors. Scott beat out nine other finalists in a vote of NCAA coaches, media and fans. ... In addition to Rose’s national coaching honor, Texas’ Salima Rockwell was named Assistant Coach of the Year. Rockwell is a former Nittany Lion All-American and assistant coach.

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The Real Santa Claus

December 19, 2013
Dionisy's frescoes. Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra
St Nicholas, the patron saint of Russian merchants. Fresco by Dionisius from the Ferapontov Monastery, Russia.
Fox News's Megyn Kelly got into a bit of hot water the other day when she asserted (in what she later insisted was a light-hearted aside), that Santa Claus is a white man. This led to numerous ripostes from the usual suspects. While some of these responses were mean-spirited, others were clever.
"Santa can't just change colors," quipped Stephen Colbert. "It's not like he's magic or anything."
Ah, but that gets to the crux of things, doesn't it?
"Santa Claus" is an Anglo-Germanic rendition of "Saint Nicholas," which is fitting enough, because the original inspiration is a man named Nicholas who was a saint in the early Christian Church. He is believed to have been born in a Mediterranean village then called Patara and now known as Demre.
Nicholas' wealthy family raised him in the faith -- one of his uncles was a priest -- and when his parents died, he followed his uncle's career path while using his inheritance to help the needy. Nicholas became a bishop in the church, which had not yet undergone the split between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox.
Under the reign of Roman Emperor Diocletian, Christians were widely persecuted; Nicholas was among those imprisoned. He was not martyred, however, as were so many early saints. One aspect of his life that would lend itself so easily to myth-making was that he apparently died of old age, beloved by his fellow believers, and universally revered for his generosity.
In later years, Nicholas would be claimed as a patron saint by many people, most especially sailors, as the miracles and good deeds credited to him piled up. In one act of kindness, he threw three bags of gold through the window of a house where a poor widower lived with three daughters who needed a dowry in order to marry. It is said that the bags of gold landed in stockings hanging by the chimney. Perhaps you see where this is going...
Nicholas died December 6, in the year 343 (December 19 on the Julian calendar), and it is this anniversary that became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day.
In the ensuing centuries Christianity spread throughout the remnants of the Roman Empire, and by the end of the first Christian millennium Nicholas was the faith's most popular saint, celebrated -- as was Jesus -- for his many miracles and his love of children. By the year 1100,notes writer Jason Mankey, French nuns were leaving gifts in St. Nicholas' name at the homes of poor children on the night of December 5.
St. Nick wasn't done evolving, though. He'd scarcely begun. As Christianity spread northward, local peoples merged his legend with those of other sovereigns and deities. The death of Nicholas (and the birth of Christ) became infused with the Norse and Germanic celebrations of the winter solstice known as Yule.
For all we know, Nicholas of Patara was walking down the lane on foot when he anonymously tossed those bags of gold into another man's house. But the St. Nicholas of Northern Europe was now given a horse -- one previously ridden by the Norse god Odin. This steed, by the way, could land on rooftops.
As it happens, Odin also had a naughty list. Elsewhere in Scandinavia, a god named Thor seems to have added to Santa's transportation options: Thor had a cart, pulled by goats. (In Holland, where the "Sinterklaas" tradition remains strongest, he still rides a horse named Schimmel).
It is the Dutch who brought this tradition to America. On these shores, it was refined many times, first in books, later in movies, and ultimately by tens of thousands of mall Santas in identical red suits. Santa makes his first appearance in a New York newspaper in 1773, three years before Thomas Jefferson pens the Declaration of Independence.
Washington Irving, writing under the satirical pseudonym Diedrich Knickerbocker, furthers the legend. Irving's 1809 book, A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, is intended as a Federalist Party send-up of Jefferson. But the satire is lost on a mass audience more enthralled by stories of a guardian saint, Nicholas, who slides down chimneys to give kids presents at Christmastime.
By 1821 an anonymous poem reaffirms the gift-giving proclivities of "Santeclaus," while replacing Odin's goats with reindeer. Two years later, Clement C. Moore's The Night Before Christmas is published. By the 1850s, America's preeminent cartoonist and illustrator, Bavarian-born Thomas Nast, is drawing on his native culture to flesh out the images of Santa that dance in our heads to this day.
"His Santa Claus wasn't a bishop," writes Jason Mankey, "but a man of the people."
"In a world that so often lacks any magic, Santa provides a doorway into a realm of imagination and wonderment," Mankey adds. "A world without Santa is a world I don't want to live in. We share so little myth these days, and what myth we do share rarely transcends religious boundaries, but Santa is different. With his origins in Greek myth, Catholic tradition, Norse paganism, and the wilds of the human imagination, he's capable of not just magically jumping down chimneys, but of jumping into the hearts of whoever will have him."
Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Editor for RealClearPolitics and author of the Morning Note, from which this piece has been adapted.

Story of the Year

Political Cartoons by Lisa Benson
The lie of the year, according to Politifact, is “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.” But the story of the year is a nation waking up to just how radical Obamacare is — which is why it required such outright deception to get it passed in the first place.
Obamacare was sold as simply a refinement of the current system, retaining competition among independent insurers but making things more efficient, fair and generous. Free contraceptives for Sandra Fluke. Free mammograms and checkups for you and me. Free (or subsidized) insurance for some 30 million uninsured. And, mirabile dictu, not costing the government a dime.
In fact, Obamacare is a full-scale federal takeover. The keep-your-plan-if-you-like-your-plan ruse was a way of saying to the millions of Americans who had insurance and liked what they had: Don’t worry. You’ll be left unmolested. For you, everything goes on as before.
That was a fraud from the very beginning. The law was designed to throw people off their private plans and into government-run exchanges where they would be made to overpay — forced to purchase government-mandated services they don’t need — as a way to subsidize others. (That’s how you get to the ostensible free lunch.)
It wasn’t until the first cancellation notices went out in late 2013 that the deception began to be understood. And felt. Six million Americans with private insurance have just lost it. And that’s just the beginning. By the Department of Health and Human Services’ own estimates, about 75 million Americans would have plans that their employers would have the right to cancel. And millions of middle-class workers who will migrate to the exchanges and don’t qualify for government subsidies will see their premiums, deductibles and co-pays go up.
It gets worse. The dislocation extends to losing one’s doctor and drug coverage, as insurance companies narrow availability to compensate for the huge costs imposed on them by the extended coverage and “free” services the new law mandates.
But it’s not just individuals seeing their medical care turned upside down. The insurance providers, the backbone of the system, are being utterly transformed. They are rapidly becoming mere extensions of the federal government.
Look what happened just last week. Health and Human Services unilaterally and without warning changed coverage deadlines and guidelines. It asked insurers to start covering people on Jan. 1 even if they signed up as late as the day before and even if they hadn’t paid their premiums. And is “strongly encouraging” them to pay during the transition for doctor visits and medicines not covered in their current plans (if covered in the patient’s previous — canceled — plan).
On what authority does a Cabinet secretary tell private companies to pay for services not in their plans and cover people not on their rolls? Where in Obamacare’s 2,500 pages are such high-handed dictates authorized? Does anyone even ask? The bill itself is simply taken as a kind of blanket warrant for HHS to run, regulate and control the whole insurance system.
Remember the uproar over forcing religious institutions to provide contraception coverage? The president’s “fix” was a new regulation ordering insurers to provide these services for free. Apart from the fact that this transparent ruse does nothing to resolve the underlying issue of conscience — God sees — by what right does the government order private companies to provide free services for anyone?
Three years ago I predicted that Obamacare would turn insurers into the lapdog equivalent of utility companies. I undershot. They are being treated as wholly owned subsidiaries. Take the phrase “strongly encouraging.” Sweet persuasion? In reality, these are offers insurers can’t refuse. Disappoint your federal master and he has the power to kick you off the federal exchanges, where the health insurance business of the future is supposed to be conducted.
Moreover, if adverse selection drives insurers into a financial death spiral — too few healthy young people to offset more costly, sicker, older folks — their only recourse will be a government bailout. Do they really want to get on the wrong side of the White House, their only lifeline when facing insolvency?
I don’t care a whit for the insurance companies. They deserve what they get. They collaborated with the White House in concocting this scheme and are now being swallowed by it. But I do care about the citizenry and its access to a functioning, flourishing, choice-driven medical system.
Obamacare posed as a free-market alternative to a British-style single-payer system. Then, during congressional debate, the White House ostentatiously rejected the so-called “public option.” But that’s irrelevant. The whole damn thing is the public option. The federal government now runs the insurance market, dictating deadlines, procedures, rates, risk assessments and coverage requirements. It’s gotten so cocky it’s now telling insurers to cover the claims that, by law, they are not required to.
Welcome 2014, our first taste of nationalized health care.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Why Ritalin Still Rules

The allure of psychotropic drugs is about more than better grades for kids. 

Almost 14 years ago, the inaugural issue of Policy Review under newly appointed editor Tod Lindberg ran an essay of mine called “Why Ritalin Rules.” It observed that American children were taking psychotropic drugs at (then-) record rates; that some doctors and other experts believed methylphenidate (the generic name for Ritalin) was being over-prescribed; that the disorder for which it and related stimulants were given — Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder — included a uniquely protean symptoms checklist; and that the line between science and advocacy was hard to find in the bustling pediatric zone of the psychotropic universe.

Alongside praise, the piece also drew flak — lots of it. Brickbats crossed the political aisle. From left to right, some readers hated it. At the time, that reaction seemed surprising. After all, unlike many pieces penned in those days about children and psychiatric drugs, “Why Ritalin Rules” rounded up some ten years’ worth of medical and other specialized literature. It wasn’t written to inflame, but to try and understand a potent and obvious development. Regardless, the conclusion drawn from all the emotional static was that the moment to have a reasonable conversation hadn’t yet arrived.

That was then. What a difference a decade-plus and millions more prescriptions can make.
Sunday, on the front and center of page one of the New York Times, author Alan Schwarz thoroughly if inadvertently ratifies the argument of “Why Ritalin Rules” in a long and absorbing story called “The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder: The Number of Diagnoses Soared Amid a 20-Year Drug Marketing Campaign.”

A few highlights from his report: Prescriptions for stimulant drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall have more than quadrupled in the past ten years. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, “ADHD is now the second most frequent long-term diagnosis in children, narrowly trailing asthma.” Citing the same CDC, a psychologist and professor emeritus at Duke University named Dr. Keith Conners — for 50 years a leader in the effort to medicate children exhibiting the symptoms of ADHD — is emblematic of the specialists now having second thoughts. The rising rate of diagnosis, he recently told an assembly of fellow experts, is “a national disaster of dangerous proportions.”

Apparently, these are now legitimate subjects for discussion. In fact much of what Schwarz relays, like Dr. Conner’s quote, is more alarming than anything in my earlier Policy Review piece. The Times story also does something else done first in “Why Ritalin Rules”: It administers a standard “Could you have ADHD?” quiz to a number of subjects. Just as uncanny, it reaches the same results that appeared in my more limited experiment back in 1999. Some half of those canvassed by such a quiz, in 1999 and today, appeared likely to have ADD/ADHD, i.e., they would probably qualify for stimulant drugs.

“The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder” isn’t the only revisionist or probing look at psychotropic drugs since the explosion of the 1990s. In 2001, a cover story in Time magazine by Nancy Gibbs on “The Age of Ritalin” emphasized the social complexity of the medications. Other essays here and there have mapped related human ground. There’s also the fact that “prescription drug abuse continues to be the nation’s fastest growing drug problem,” as a 2013 report from the Drug Enforcement Administration puts it; about 1 million out of 6 million “nonmedical users,” it’s estimated (somehow) in that document, are users of stimulants. And the moral hazard assumed by college kids and others who sell their own pills to people who end up in emergency rooms has barely been touched.

All of which raises a question that might finally get a fair hearing now: Given these and other questions related to the prescription explosion, why do psychotropics still rule?

Some people who study drugs make the commonsensical point that every age has its chemical remedies of choice. And so one answer might be that just as Valium was the it-pill for mothers and doctors in an era when many women were at home with plenty of kids while their husbands were away working, so do today’s pediatric medications seem to help a different group of women: those who aren’t home all day, who are working outside the home, and who often don’t have husbands. A study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, for instance, found that divorce essentially doubles the likelihood that a given child will be prescribed stimulants.

And yet — to sound a note often missing that also demands a listen here — divorced and never-married households aren’t the only ones choking for air. Even moms who aren’t single are making similar frantic rounds: mother and wife and breadwinner, housekeeper and laundress, chef and volunteer, and the rest. They, too, have smaller margins for domestic error than they did before. So many women perceive, and frequently report.

Forget the debate about having it all. The ideological idol of “equality” has trickled down to mean that many women are expected to be doing it all. They’re feeling it. And the drug companies feel their pain. Consider this note from the Times piece: When federal guidelines changed in the late 1990s such that direct marketing became possible, writes Schwarz, “pharmaceutical companies began targeting perhaps the most impressionable consumers of all: parents, especially mothers.”

The widest lens on the pediatric psychotropic explosion may be this: It’s in part another consequence of the rotten deal that many women, single and married, have gotten out of the sexual revolution. Not all of them, obviously enough, but many. In ways that aren’t widely acknowledged yet, and someday will be, the “family changes” of the post-revolutionary world have stretched certain members of humanity to the breaking point — starting with, but not limited to, some children.

Thus, school under the new family regimen becomes longer than ever before (before- and after-care programs have exploded in tandem with stimulant use). Districts overburdened by their role as parent substitutes respond by reining in whatever they can (recess and exercise hours have been cut back in tandem with stimulant use). Legislatures all over consider shortening or abolishing summer vacation — because in an age without family backup, “vacation” is just an annual headache of more child-care bills.

And so goes the continuing and mostly unseen squeeze on childhood. Today’s kids are now institutionalized for more hours than their parents were, with less time to jump and run and move muscles and bones than their parents had. Many are also without fathers, as everyone knows. Is it any wonder that the advertising wizards have come up with the message that at least something will help Mommy out: taking your medicine?

“Better test scores at school, more chores done at home, an independence I try to encourage, a smile I can always count on,” as one ad reported in the Times had one Mommy say. In another ad for another drug, the caption ran, “There’s a great kid in there.” The child pictured was taking off his mask. Wearing a monster suit.

It’s not the whole story. But it’s not okay.

Many people thank God and their doctors for what performance-enhancing drugs have done for their own children and families. No one doubts it. But what’s gone missing from the discussion is this underlying reality: In an age when families from high to low are imploding, the pressure on everyone to toe the line is enormous — especially kids. The family that once protected children in all kinds of ways, including by adopting a more forgiving and less institutional standard for their behavior, is now weakened and defensive as never before. It leaves a vacuum that only institutions can fill — and they do, sometimes aided by drugs to help kids behave according to institutional demands. This aspect of the gravitational pull toward the psychotropic universe deserves to be part of the conversation, too, and mostly hasn’t been.

As Dr. Lawrence Diller — who was already voicing heretical thoughts about the stimulant explosion back when I quoted from his book Running on Ritalin in 1999 — now tells the Times, in a striking metaphor: “Pharma pushed as far as they could, but you can’t just blame the virus. You have to have a susceptible host for the epidemic to take hold. There’s something they know about us that they utilize and exploit.”

Exactly. And what Pharma knows better than most is that the happy talk about how kids today are doing fine, thank you very much, is a story we tell ourselves to avoid the obvious. Some of their moms aren’t all right, either, another fact that doesn’t get nearly the attention it should. And some of those fathers are suffering from the fallout too, whether self-inflicted or not. In the ashes of the sexual revolution, someone has found a gold mine.

— Mary Eberstadt is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and author most recently of Adam and Eve after the Pill and How the West Really Lost God.

Book Review: 'American Betrayal' by Diana West

Red herrings

A review of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character by Diana West

December 2013
Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin at the Yalta Conference, 1945.
Stumbling into a barroom brawl was the last thing I’d intended. Lined up on one side: sculptors of a hagiography that is now conventional wisdom crow about a noble conquest over totalitarian dictators. The other side bellows: “Nonsense! In defeating one monster, your heroes merely helped create another, sullying us with their atrocities and burdening us for decades with a global security nightmare.” The first side spews that its critics are deranged, defamatory conspiracy-mongers. The critics fire back that these “court historians” are in denial; their heroes did not really “win” the war, they just helped a different set of anti-American savages win—in the process striking a deal with the devil that blurred the lines between good and evil, rendering the world more dangerous and our nation more vulnerable.
To readers of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character, this heated debate will sound familiar. American Betrayal is the bestselling author and syndicated columnist Diana West’s cri de coeur against Anglo-American collusion with Stalin’s hideous Soviet Union in the war that vanquished Hitler’s hideous Nazi Germany. The controversy swirling around the book exposes a chasm on the political Right: on one side, admirers of Franklin Roosevelt’s World War II leadership; on the other, detractors who blame FDR’s indifference to Communism (and, particularly, Communist infiltration of the U.S. government) for the rise of what Ronald Reagan dubbed “the evil empire.” The resulting acrimony is what put me in the mind of the aforementioned brawl I wandered into twenty years ago, involving a different, albeit related, episode: the Central Intelligence Agency’s collusion with the Afghan mujahideen, which hastened the Soviet death throes.
I was a federal prosecutor in 1993 when the World Trade Center was bombed. We indicted the offending jihadist cell for levying a terrorist war against the United States. Several of the terrorists had been major mujahideen figures. Their lawyers thus thought it exculpatory to claim that they could not have conspired to wage jihad against America; after all, they had actually been allied with America in the jihad against the Soviets. The provocative claim was implausible as a defense, the Soviets having left Afghanistan (and the USSR having collapsed) years before the Twin Towers bombing. Still, it is standard procedure to investigate even dubious defense claims. Hence, my unwitting stumble into a heated controversy.
The cia and Reagan administration veterans passionately proclaimed that the $3 billion in aid and armaments funneled to the mujahideen—matched dollar-for-dollar by Saudi Arabia, with Pakistani intelligence as our “cut-out” for deniability purposes—was an unvarnished triumph. The war became the Soviets’ Vietnam, bleeding the Red Army to death even as a humiliated Kremlin buckled under the pressure of Reagan’s arms build-up. In sum, I was told, “Look, we liberated half the world from Communist tyranny. Case closed.”
Yet, it wasn’t that simple. The mujahideen begot al Qaeda. A fifth of the U.S. aid, plus most of the Saudi contribution (real money in those days), was channeled to virulently anti-American terrorists. They proceeded to take their jihad global . . . eventually to Manhattan. The rest is history—the history we’ve been struggling with for two decades.
So, was al Qaeda a Frankenstein’s monster of America’s own making? Government officials bristled at the suggestion—just as West’s detractors erupt at the suggestion of a Soviet tyranny stamped “Made in the USA.” Indignation, however, is not an answer. The answers that I did finally elicit, through clenched teeth, were the stuff of fable: We only helped the “good” Afghan fundamentalist Muslims, you see; the “bad” fundamentalists—mostly Arabs who flocked to the jihad—were really ne’er-do-wells who barely left their tents during the fighting. When this did not wash, the officials got down to brass tacks: “Look, once the decision to fight the Soviets covertly was made, the battlefield reality required arming jihadists.”
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