“…as if it were something ominous.”

Megan McArdle links to this CNN story that reports:

Steven Kazmierczak had been taking three drugs prescribed for him by his psychiatrist, the Northern Illinois University gunman’s girlfriend told CNN.

Jessica Baty said Tuesday that her boyfriend of two years had been taking Xanax, used to treat anxiety, and Ambien, a sleep agent, as well as the antidepressant Prozac.

The first question I had upon hearing about the shooting was “I, for one, wonder if the shooter was on anti-depressants.”

Megan doesn’t see it that way:

This is being reported as if it were something ominous, perhaps the cause of the tragedy. This seems a little much. It’s not exactly shocking to find out that people who go on shooting sprees are often depressed, anxious types with difficulty sleeping.

Megan seems to be missing the point. This kind of rampage murder/suicide was extremely rare. It has since become something that occurs two, three, or four times a year. Everybody asks “what changed?” Most seem to blame “the number of guns” or “gun availability,” but the fact of the matter is that “gun availability” has never been the issue – guns have always been available. Some people blame violent video games, but there doesn’t seem to be a correlation there.

The one thing that seems to be consistent is that the shooters are often on (or recently off of) medications like Prozac. According to this NY Times piece:

Over the years, the antidepressant Prozac and its cousins, including Paxil and Zoloft, have been linked to suicide and violence in hundreds of patients. Tens of millions of people have taken them, and doctors say it is almost impossible to tell whether the spasms of violence stem in part from drug reactions or the underlying illnesses.

Tens of millions. Well, gee, how many “rampage shootings” did the U.S. (or the world, for that matter) see prior to the widespread use of these drugs, and how many do we see now? And if these drugs affect only 1/100 of 1% of people this way, that’s 1,000 out of every 10,000,000.

So yes, Megan, many of us are wondering if Prozac wasn’t a contributor to Kazmierczak’s decision to murder a bunch of college students and then kill himself. The correlation seems to point in that direction.

Quote of the Day

I’m enjoying this Democratic primary, as it seems to be causing our friends to the left to notice phenomena that they had previously pooh-poohed.Instapundit on the Left’s infighting over the Democratic primaries

Don’t worry, Professor. After it’s all settled, they’ll deny it all again. Like a Terminator, it’s what they do. It’s all they do. And they never, ever stop.

(Hey, I’m making a habit of the QotD thing!)

Book Meme.

This one’s been all over the web. Nobody tagged me with it (that I know of) but I like it, and I thought I’d respond to it:

Which [type of] book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?

Anything on Oprah’s list(s).

If you could bring three [fictional] characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be?

Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan in his position as Imperial Auditor; S.M. Stirling’s Raj Ammenda Halgern Da Luis Whitehall; and R.A. Heinlein’s Mycroft Holmes. Mike could come along by satellite relay, and we could plot and carry out the conquering of the planet!

You are told you can’t die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realize it’s past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave?

That was Samuel R. Delany’s Dahlgren. I read it until I saw the bright light, and then I put it down.

Come on, we’ve all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it?

None. If I haven’t read it, I say so.

As an addition to the last question, has there been a book that you really thought you had read, only to realize when you read a review about it/go to ‘reread’ it that you haven’t? Which book?


You’ve been appointed Book Adviser to a VIP (who’s not a big reader). What’s the first book you’d recommend and why? (if you feel like you’d have to know the person, go ahead of personalize the VIP).

Depends on the VIP. If it’s a politician, Bill Whittle’s Silent America. The “why” is self-explanatory.

A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with?

Oy. I don’t have enough time to read the stuff I want to that’s in English. I’d say Latin. There’s a bunch of Roman-era stuff that would be interesting in the original, and French, Italian, and Spanish are all latin-based, which would make picking those languages up much simpler.

Alternately, Mandarin Chinese.

A mischievous fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick?

Frank Herbert’s Dune, if I’m going to read for pleasure. I reread it about every five years as it is.

I know that the book blogging community, and its various challenges, have pushed my reading borders. What’s one bookish thing you ‘discovered’ from book blogging (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art-anything)?

I read a huge amount of non-fiction now that I never would have read before, and it is spurred exclusively from me wanting to know more about the subjects that interest me that I’ve found through blogging.

That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she’s granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leather bound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favorite authors have inscribed their works?

Realistically, I prefer paperbacks for their handiness and compactness. If I could have a “dream library, all my books would be paperback-sized printed on archival acid-free paper and archival bound.

Quote of the Day.

Let me know when you stop regarding us religious types as ignorant, irrational subhumans.

Francis Porretto, proprietor of Eternity Road (which I have listed on the sidebar under “True Excellence,” BTW) from a comment to yesterday’s QotD.

Compare and contrast that with this comment by Sarah, of the blog Carnaby Fudge:

“What has been your best blogging experience?”

Arguing with Kevin from The Smallest Minority over religion and philosophy.

Things that make you go, “Hmmmmm…..”

Quote of the Day.

(A)t heart, most US citizens are libertarians by default – it is simply that most of them have “pet” projects they consider to be exceptions. Libertarianism is political atheism, and, to paraphrase Dawkins, everyone is a libertarian on most subjects, some just go one political project further.

“Adirian” in a comment to the post Really, It’s Worse Than That.

Compare and Contrast.

A while back, City Journal ran a piece entitled The Myth of the Working Poor (which I highly recommend, BTW). Here’s an excerpt:

Books like Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed and David Shipler’s The Working Poor tell us that the poor are doing exactly what America expects of them—finding jobs, rising early to get to work every day, chasing the American dream—but that our system of “carnivorous capitalism” is so heavily arrayed against them that they can’t rise out of poverty or live a decent life. These new anthems of despair paint their subjects as forced off welfare by uncompassionate conservatives and trapped in low-wage jobs that lead nowhere. They claim, too, that the good life that the country’s expanding middle class enjoys rests on the backs of these working poor and their inexpensive labor, so that prosperous Americans owe them more tax-funded help.

Though these books resolutely ignore four decades’ worth of lessons about poverty, they have found a big audience. The commentariat loves them. Leftish professors have made them required course reading. And Democratic candidates have made their themes central to the 2004 elections.

And they’re still using it today.

Like communists who claim that communism didn’t fail but instead was never really tried, Barbara Ehrenreich made her public debut with an attempt to brush aside the War on Poverty’s obviously catastrophic results. The 46-year-old daughter of a Montana copper miner-turned-business executive, she joined Cloward and Piven to co-author a 1987 polemic, The Mean Season: The Attack on the Welfare State. The War on Poverty had failed so far, the book claimed, not because of its flawed premises but because the government hadn’t done enough to redistribute the nation’s wealth. America needed an even bigger War on Poverty that would turn the country into a European-style social welfare state. Pooh-poohing the work ethic and the dignity of labor, the authors derided calls for welfare reform that would require recipients to work, because that would be mortifying to the poor. “There is nothing ennobling about being forced to please an employer to feed one’s children,” the authors wrote, forgetting that virtually every worker and business owner must please someone, whether boss or customer, to earn a living. Welfare’s true purpose, the book declared, should be to “permit certain groups to opt out of work.” (The authors never explained why all of us shouldn’t demand the right to “opt out.”)

What a surprise.

Her 1989 book, Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class, blamed poverty’s continued existence in America partly on the Me Generation, which Tom Wolfe had so brilliantly made interesting to the nation. America’s emerging professional middle class had started out hopefully in the 1960s, Ehrenreich claims, the inheritor of a liberating cultural revolution. But because that class depended on intellectual capital to make its living, rather than on income from property or investments, it felt a sharp economic insecurity, which by the late 1980s had made it “meaner, more selfish,” and (worse still) “more hostile to the aspirations of the less fortunate,” especially in its impatience with welfare.

The book vibrates with Ehrenreich’s rage toward middle-class Americans. The middle class, she sneers, obsessively pursues wealth and is abjectly “sycophantic toward those who have it, impatient with those who do not.” To Ehrenreich, “The nervous, uphill climb of the professional class accelerates the downward spiral of society as a whole: toward cruelly widening inequalities, toward heightened estrangement along class lines, and toward the moral anesthesia that estrangement requires.” Ironically, Ehrenreich’s economic prescription for a better America was for government to create one gigantic bourgeoisie: “Tax the rich and enrich the poor until both groups are absorbed into some broad and truly universal middle class. The details are subject to debate.”

Aren’t they always? Ehrenreich and her ilk would, of course, be the ones doing the taxing and redistributing, since they are The Anointed and know what’s best for the rest of us.

Ehrenreich’s anger propelled her to write Nickel and Dimed. Beginning life as a piece of “undercover journalism” for Harper’s, the 2001 book purports to reveal the truth about poverty in post-welfare reform America. “In particular,” Ehrenreich asks in the introduction, how were “the roughly four million women about to be booted into the labor market by welfare reform . . . going to make it on $6 or $7 an hour?”

Nickel and Dimed doesn’t fuss much with public-policy agendas, messy economic theories, or basic job numbers. Instead, it gives us Ehrenreich’s first-person account of three brief sojourns into the world of the lowest of low-wage work: as a waitress for a low-priced family restaurant in Florida; as a maid for a housecleaning service in Maine; and as a women’s-apparel clerk at a Minneapolis Wal-Mart. In her journeys, she meets a lively and sympathetic assortment of co-workers: Haitian busboys, a Czech dishwasher, a cook with a gambling problem, and assorted single working mothers. But the focus is mostly on Ehrenreich, not her colleagues.

The point that Nickel and Dimed wants to prove is that in today’s economy, a woman coming off welfare into a low-wage job can’t earn enough to pay for basic living expenses. Rent is a burden, Ehrenreich discovers. In Florida, she lands a $500-a-month efficiency apartment; in Maine, she spends $120 a week for a shared apartment in an old motel (she turns down a less expensive room elsewhere because it’s on a noisy commercial street); in Minneapolis, she pays $255 a week for a moldy hotel room. These seem like reasonable enough rents, except perhaps for Minneapolis, judging from her description of the place. But with her entry-level wages—roughly the minimum wage (when tips are included) as a waitress, about $6 an hour as a maid, and $7 an hour to start at Wal-Mart—Ehrenreich quickly finds that she’ll need a second job to support herself. This seems to startle her, as if holding down two jobs is something new to America. “In the new version of supply and demand,” she writes, “jobs are so cheap—as measured by the pay—that a worker is encouraged to take on as many as she possibly can.”

What’s utterly misleading about Ehrenreich’s exposé, though, is how she fixes the parameters of her experiment so that she inevitably gets the outcome that she wants—”proof” that the working poor can’t make it.

Here’s the point of this post – refutation of Ehrenreich’s argument in the form of a similar experiment carried out by someone who intends to see it through honestly: Homeless: Can you build a life from $25? – an article in the Christian Science Monitor. Excerpt:

Alone on a dark gritty street, Adam Shepard searched for a homeless shelter. He had a gym bag, $25, and little else. A former college athlete with a bachelor’s degree, Mr. Shepard had left a comfortable life with supportive parents in Raleigh, N.C. Now he was an outsider on the wrong side of the tracks in Charles­ton, S.C.

But Shepard’s descent into poverty in the summer of 2006 was no accident. Shortly after graduating from Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass., he intentionally left his parents’ home to test the vivacity of the American Dream. His goal: to have a furnished apartment, a car, and $2,500 in savings within a year.

To make his quest even more challenging, he decided not to use any of his previous contacts or mention his education.

During his first 70 days in Charleston, Shepard lived in a shelter and received food stamps. He also made new friends, finding work as a day laborer, which led to a steady job with a moving company.

Ten months into the experiment, he decided to quit after learning of an illness in his family. But by then he had moved into an apartment, bought a pickup truck, and had saved close to $5,000.

Rather different from Ms. Ehrenreich’s experience.

The effort, he says, was inspired after reading “Nickel and Dimed,” in which author Barbara Ehrenreich takes on a series of low-paying jobs. Unlike Ms. Ehrenreich, who chronicled the difficulty of advancing beyond the ranks of the working poor, Shepard found he was able to successfully climb out of his self-imposed poverty.

He tells his story in “Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream.” The book, he says, is a testament to what ordinary Americans can achieve.

Now there’s a book that might be worth picking up. Of course, I’m sure Ms. Ehrenreich would claim his experiment didn’t prove a thing.

After all, Shepard is a man.

Read the CSM interview. It’s worth your time.

Really,.It’s Worse Than That

(Click for full size)

Really, it’s worse than that.

The stupid people vote in the primaries first.

Both side’s primaries.

And, obviously, they outnumber the intelligent people now and have for a while. I blame the public education system, and have for a long while.

It’s easier to lead stupid people around than intelligent, informed ones. Here’s that Connie du Toit quote again:

The other day our Carpenter’s helper heard me say something along the lines of, “it is difficult to conclude that incompetence is the reason why our public schools have deteriorated. There comes a point where you have to suspect sabotage, or a conspiracy.”

He asked me if I really meant that. I gave him the five minute explanation of John Dewey’s known affiliation with communists, his frequent essays and articles about the wonders of the Soviet education system, and his quote, “You can’t make Socialists out of individualists. Children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society which is coming where everyone is interdependent.”

I then went on to tell him about how public schools changed at the turn of the last century. That there were others involved in turning Americans from free-thinking individualists to factory drones. I also added that many people probably went along with it because it seemed like a good idea, but there were certainly enough people behind the scenes, who knew that the goal posts had been moved. THAT is a conspiracy.

Yes. There does come that time when you are forced to don the tinfoil hat.

The incompetence excuse only works once. Incompetence this great is impossible to attribute to accident.


And you may want to give a listen to some sound clips from a recent speech by Michele Obama. I’m fairly certain I don’t want my government trying to fix my soul so that the Great Collective functions as she seems to believe it ought to.

Quote of the Day.

You see, I can already predict how things would go if it were demonstrated that anti-depressants have a determinant role in sudden outbursts of homicidal-suicidal violence.

Promotion of responsible use of these drugs? No way.

Pharma companies would be sued nearly out of existence and the use of anti-depressants strictly regulated (some of them may be banned altogether), all to the detriment of those people who’d actually benefit from them.Fabio C. in a comment to Another Gun Free Zone.

What do you expect in a country where there’s one lawyer for every 300 of us? Hey, they gotta eat!

Hey!.I Just Realized…

…Bush signed the “economic stimulus package” – i.e. “giving us our money back because we know better how to spend it.” I figure the check will arrive in May or June – just in time to pay off my trip to the 2nd Amendment Blog Bash.

I wondered how I was going to pay for that.