The Bookworm Beat 5-6-15 — the “long day” edition and open thread

Woman writingLong day, low energy, but the siren song of blogging is calling out to me and I respond to that call:

American campuses are becoming increasingly antisemitic

Jonathan Marks writes about the way that pricey little Bowdoin College, tucked up in a corner of Maine, is “debating” a complete boycott of Israel that its promoters clearly intend to exist until Israel is annihilated:

But the way Bowdoin’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine is attempting to ram through this referendum, near the end of the academic year, when students are least likely to be paying close attention, shows as well as these other observations, that the movement is really about scoring a series of cheap propaganda victories to produce a phony impression of momentum and widespread support. Their undertaking is the very opposite of the Socratic spirit that ought to animate our colleges and universities: they want people who don’t know to claim that they do. To those who pretend to work toward discussion of Israel but in fact seek to manipulate students who know next to nothing about it, we can reply as Socrates did to one of his own prosecutors: they [jest] in a serious matter, easily bringing human beings to trial, pretending to be serious and concerned about things for which [they] never cared at all.”

Meanwhile, Ruth Wisse examines the growing, aggressive, violent antisemitism overflowing like a disgusting sewer on American college campuses:

The contrast I have drawn between the college campus and the rest of American society is counter-intuitive: why should anti-Semitism flourish in the sweet groves of academe rather than in the fouler corridors of power? How does intolerance for a Jewish state thrive in the very institutions that advertise their tolerance for threatened minorities? The political columnist Bret Stephens often asks college audiences why, if they claim to be liberal, they don’t support the only liberal society in the Middle East. On what grounds do American universities, considered liberal to a fault, assail the only liberal democracy in that part of the world?

The question harbors its answer. Israel is attacked not despite but on account of its liberal democracy and its buoyant pluralistic culture: two commodities held in notable disesteem in the nominally liberal but in fact anti-liberal environment of the contemporary American university. The boycotters wrap themselves in the mantle of free speech only to silence those who stand for the kind of genuine individual and human rights that flourish in Israel. They shout down liberal speakers like Israel’s ambassador to the United States just as they shout down and shut out champions of Muslim women’s rights.

Academia’s views harmonize perfectly with those of our man in the White House. No wonder then that Debka, which is frequently privy to information from Israel’s intelligence community, is reporting that Obama is poised to do what many have long feared: He’s allegedly promising to back a Palestinian state at the UN Security Council. I wouldn’t put it past that foul little excrescence currently inhabiting the White House to try his best to destroy an ally. Debased people engage in debased and evil behavior.

And while I’m on the subject of antisemitism, if you’re Jewish or Philosemitic, two more stories to scare you: First, take a look at the increasingly open, aggressive antisemitism amongst black Democrats who are no doubt heartened by the first white-black President’s manifest hostility to the world’s only Jewish state.

Second, Ireland’s Leftists have ensured that it is now one of the most antisemitic nations in the world. Woe betide American Jews and Israel if that attitude infects America’s Irish population which, barring its flirtation with Father Coughlin back in the 1930s, hasn’t been antisemitic but has mostly supported the world’s only Jewish nation (not to mention the Middle East’s only true democracy).

Yeah, how is that Obamacare working for you?

On my Facebook page, one of my hard Left friends is rejoicing in the headline that Obamacare added 17 million people to the insurance rolls, adding that “most” of the people who lost their insurance found new insurance. Oh, and hospitals are making money. It must be a success, right?

Apparently the Lefties missed the news stories about rising visits to emergency rooms (the opposite of what Obama promised) and steadily increasing rates. But hey, we now fit the WHO metric of lots of people forcibly “insured,” even though medical care is more expensive and less useful.

(I notice that I’m putting many more words in quotation marks, indicating that I’m using them sarcastically. The fact is that, in Obama’s America, words are losing their meaning and the only way I can think to convey that is through those ubiquitous quotation marks.)

More on Baltimore

I’ve pretty much said what I have to say about Baltimore: It’s a Democrat-run sinkhole. As long as blacks look to the government and not themselves for succor they’re going to continue to live out their lives in poverty, immorality, and violence.

Those are my intuitive conclusions based upon quite a few decades on Planet Earth. Thomas Sowell provides the data to support my conclusions:

The “legacy of slavery” argument is not just an excuse for inexcusable behavior in the ghettos. In a larger sense, it is an evasion of responsibility for the disastrous consequences of the prevailing social vision of our times, and the political policies based on that vision, over the past half century.

Anyone who is serious about evidence need only compare black communities as they evolved in the first 100 years after slavery with black communities as they evolved in the first 50 years after the explosive growth of the welfare state, beginning in the 1960s.

You would be hard-pressed to find as many ghetto riots prior to the 1960s as we have seen just in the past year, much less in the 50 years since a wave of such riots swept across the country in 1965.


Murder rates among black males were going down — repeat, down — during the much-lamented 1950s, while it went up after the much celebrated 1960s, reaching levels more than double what they had been before. Most black children were raised in two-parent families prior to the 1960s. But today the great majority of black children are raised in one-parent families.

Such trends are not unique to blacks, nor even to the United States. The welfare state has led to remarkably similar trends among the white underclass in England over the same period. Just read Life at the Bottom, by Theodore Dalrymple, a British physician who worked in a hospital in a white slum neighborhood.

You cannot take any people, of any color, and exempt them from the requirements of civilization — including work, behavioral standards, personal responsibility, and all the other basic things that the clever intelligentsia disdain — without ruinous consequences to them and to society at large.

Victor Davis Hanson also offers his usual astute insights on the subject, offering “the Baltimore Rules”:

Until then, let us review the Baltimore Rules:

1) Statistics are irrelevant. Emotion rules and no one cares about larger statistical challenges. Blacks make up almost 13% of the population and commit 52% of the nation’s murders. Based on their statistical representation in the U.S. population, African-Americans on average are eight times more likely to inflict a violent crime and six times more likely to suffer a criminal act than is the general population. This fact is irrelevant; it is not the numbers per se that frame black homicide, but the conditions under which they occur that seem to matter. “Black lives matter” supposedly translates into the fact that blacks might be able to pressure police (of all races) from taking 200 black lives a year during arrests, but can do little if anything about stopping 6,000 black murders at the hands of other blacks. Darren Wilson serves as an easy poster boy for the public enemy, but a Crip gangbanger is a quite different candidate for group-hate.

In quite rare, but highly charged interracial murders, African-Americans are almost twice as likely to kill whites as whites are blacks. This, too, is irrelevant for a variety of reasons. Historically blacks suffered from the racism of a white majority, not whites from a black minority. Whites are hardly likely to protest about this imbalance given the rarity of interracial crime and the rarity of whites rioting on the basis of racial grievances. Most liberal professionals understand privately how to navigate travel in the inner city and how publicly to decry just such insidious stereotyping and profiling. Few of the 14% of murdered white crime victims who were killed by blacks are the elite and thus the problem remains minor.

Read the whole thing to understand how we’ve moved into a logic-free world, driven by seemingly inexorable rules of ideology, pushed by our media, government institutions, and academic institutions.

Lies, damn lies, and climate statistics

Those who believe in God do not need to lie. To them, the mere fact of our existence is testament to God’s existence. No further proof is necessary. They therefore never need to lie. God is who He is. That is sufficient.

Those who believe in anthropogenic climate change, however, like to pretend that theirs is not a faith but is, in fact, a science. Having called it a science, they are theoretically bound to follow the scientific principle, which requires theories, followed by data that either proves or disproves the theory.

What happens, though, when every bit of data fails to prove the theory? Well, if you’ve insisted that you’ve got science on your side, there’s only one alternative left to you: LYING. And that’s what happened with Maine’s temperature data: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grossly manipulated more than 100 years of Maine temperature data to make it colder in the past and warmer in the present.

I know Bookworms and Obama is no Bookworm

Walt Harrington, a man hostile to George W. Bush’s policies, discovered, George W. Bush was a voracious reader, who could comfortably discuss everything he read. But Obama? Obama is no Bookworm, and Mollie Hemingway beautifully deconstructs the lies the media tells in an effort to buff that vapid (but canny) ideologue’s intellectual credentials.

I can’t add to Hemingway’s analysis, but I’ll posit a reason behind his mental vacuum: Obama’s a malignant narcissist. To the extent a book might expose him to ideas that are unfamiliar to him, the exposure will leave him feeling vulnerable and at an intellectual disadvantage. That is not a feeling that narcissists tolerate well. It’s better not to read, but just to pretend you do, knowing that a lickspittle media will do whatever is necessary to cover for you.

Paul Krugman is a moron

I’ve been saying for years that Krugman is a moron — and I’m somewhat grateful for that, because it was the increasing stupidity of his columns that drove me to seek out other, more intelligent information in the internet. Unwittingly, he was one of the stepping stones that helped me cross the Rubicon from unthinking loosey-goosey Leftist to stalwart, fully informed and aware conservative.

I may be sort of grateful, but that doesn’t mean I don’t find it just delightful when a good writer (say, Andrew Stiles) takes aim at Krugman and reveals him in his full moronity (and I know moronity not a word, but it should be).

The dangerous anti-First Amendment strain in Academia

I received an email from Servo1969 posing three questions:

1. You know, you were just asking to be shot by drawing cartoons of Mohammed. That was really stupid. What did you expect? Did you think you could just do as you please with no consequences?

2. You know, you were just asking to be raped by going out dressed like that and getting wasted. That was really stupid. What did you expect? Did you think you could just do as you please with no consequences?

3. You know, you were just asking to be beaten and arrested by marching through Selma like that. That was really stupid. What did you expect? Did you think you could just do as you please with no consequences?

Servo1969 knows, you know, and I know that the media would strongly disagree with the second and third statements, but is very comfortable asserting the first. In the wake of the Islamic terrorist attack on Pamela Geller’s “draw Mohammed” gathering — which was really aimed at making Americans aware of the way in which we’re losing our constitutional rights as we pander to Islamic demands — the American media couldn’t say often enough that it was all Geller’s fault. “Journalists” seemed incapable of understanding that in America, the person who brings a gun to a speech fight is always in the wrong, no matter the speech’s content.

Eugene Volokh, who I believe grew up in the former Soviet Union, writes about the University of Minnesota’s craven collapse in the face of Muslim demands that the whole Charlie Hebdo matter — you know, the one where Islamists brought guns to a cartoon fight — be withdrawn from debate:

Indeed, this incident shows just how broad the movements to suppress alleged blasphemy are, even in the U.S. This wasn’t a fringe group of anti-Islam political activists putting out the flyers; these were people squarely in the middle of the academic Establishment. This wasn’t a bunch of cartoonists putting out material that, viewed narrowly, might be seen by some as juvenile, nonsubstantive, or gratuitously offensive; these were academics putting on a substantive academic event with a flyer that is clearly and directly tied to the content of the event, and that depicts an image that has undoubted historical significance.

To be sure, I think the speech of fringe groups and juvenile cartoonists is protected by the First Amendment and by academic freedom principles — but even if you disagree, or think that this sort of speech should be generally constitutionally protected but excluded from academic institutions or condemned by standards of good manners, here we are far removed from those fringes, and squarely in the core of serious academic discussion on hugely important matters. Yet some public university administrators still seem to have felt comfortable trying to take down such speech, and, I suspect, trying to prevent it in the future. Such a reaction, I think, needs to be firmly fought, and sharply condemned.

Jonah Goldberg also sees something sickly perverse in the Leftist response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre. On the Left, just as blacks can’t be racist because they’re at the bottom of the Leftist victim hierarchy (and this is true no matter how vile their anti-white, Jewish, or Asian statements are), the Left argues that Muslims must be protected from any real or perceived insults for the same reason:

“If absolute power corrupts absolutely,” the actor Harry Shearer once asked, “does absolute powerlessness make you pure?”

The answer, according to a lot of people, is yes.

Upon receiving the George Polk Career Award last month, Garry Trudeau, the creator of the satirical comic strip Doonesbury, attacked the staff of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo:

By punching downward, by attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority with crude, vulgar drawings closer to graffiti than cartoons, Charlie wandered into the realm of hate speech, which in France is only illegal if it directly incites violence. Well, voilà — the 7 million copies that were published following the killings did exactly that, triggering violent protests across the Muslim world.

Putting aside Trudeau’s tendentious misreading of France’s hate-speech laws — which were not written to prevent violent protests outside of France — there’s a perverse irony here. After all, there’s surely no greater act of “punching downward” or “attacking the powerless” than castigating a corpse. That’s not debate; it is verbal gibbeting.

The best answer to this specific type of moronity (I’m really liking my little neologism) comes from Ross Douthat, whom Goldberg quotes:

Many journalists recite the saying that the press must “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” as if it were their Eleventh Commandment. The mantra of countless intellectuals is that they must “speak truth to power.”

The problem is that they define the powerful and powerless based upon their own preferred narratives. When the truth interferes with the narrative, the truth must be bent or jettisoned. Terrorists may rationalize their violence in terms that make Western intellectuals swoon, but that doesn’t mean they are powerless.

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat notes that while it is true that “power flows from pre-existing privilege, it also grows from the barrel of a gun, and the willingness to deal out violence changes power dynamics.” Terrorists may rationalize their violence in terms that make Western intellectuals swoon, but that doesn’t mean they are powerless. They have enormous power — because they have the ability and the will to use violence to kill.

And finally, Daniel Greenfield hones in on the moral inversion that “academics,” “journalists” (yes, two other words that can now only be used with quotation marks), and talking heads are creating:

But being “controversial” and “provocative” has nothing to do with who is doing the shooting. It’s a media signal that the target shouldn’t be sympathized with. The Family Research Council, which was shot up by a killer using the SPLC’s hate map, is invariably dubbed “intolerant”. The SPLC, which targeted it, is however a “respected civil rights group” which provides maps to respected civil rights gunmen.

A contest in which Bosch Fawstin, an ex-Muslim, drew a cartoon of a genocidal warlord is “controversial” and “provocative”, while the MSA, which has invited Sheikh Khalid Yasin, who has inspired a number of terrorists, including apparently one of the Mohammed contest attackers, is a legitimate organization that is only criticized by controversial, intolerant and provocative Islamophobes.

You know what the problem is with all three of the articles I’ve quoted above? They don’t have a wide enough readership. These three men are saying extremely important things, but they are still lone and isolated voices in the wilderness. I just have to remind myself that other lone voices in the wilderness finally got heard.

The end of the road for American education

Longtime readers know that two of my blogging passions are education and history. Both fascinate me, and I strongly believe that you cannot have a successful country without an educated population that knows its history and that understands its liberties. Wolf Howling shares my passions and has written a very disheartening post about the state of history education in America. (Hint: Leftism has done its dirty work, and feminists are in the vanguard.)

Autism and the IDF

In Israel, everyone serves in the military. Those who cannot serve, whether because of a physical or mental disability, feel at a terrible disadvantage. Not only are they not serving their country — a country surrounded by enemies — but they’re also missing out on the camaraderie of the Israel military. It is the great leveler.

Also in Israel, undoubtedly as part of the belief that we are all God’s creatures, the Israelis value all human lives.  Small wonder then, that with Israelis wanting to serve and the nation valuing its people, the IDF has put together a very special unit composed of autistic people who have a unique ability to analyze certain types of military intelligence. As you know, I take a special interest in the great gifts so many autistic people have locked away inside of them.

The Bookworm Beat 2-12-15 — “Been there done that” edition and Open Thread

Woman writingPart of my mother’s behavior as a drama queen is to try to take on the borrowed glory of other people’s suffering. When my sister has a cold, my mother calls me to say “You don’t know how worried I am. What if it turns into pneumonia? What if she dies? I can barely eat I’m so upset.”

Recently, my mother called to tell me that she was beside herself because one of her recently widowed friends is holed up in a hotel room and having a hard time figuring out how to pay her bills. That sounds kind of sad, doesn’t it? But what I and my mother both know is that this woman made the grasshopper, in the Aesop’s fable about the “Ant and the Grasshopper,” look like model of sober rectitude and long-term planning.

For years, with accelerating force as the friend’s husband became increasingly ill, my mother dutifully nagged this friend to learn how to drive, balance a check book, make peace with her children, check on insurance, and all the other daily life tasks that people need to survive on their own. Every time, the friend told my mother, “I’m not that type of person. I don’t need to worry about the future. I need to be free.”

[Read more…]

Thinking about the autism spectrum — and what you can do — might make you feel more hopeful

Ido in AustismlandThe news can easily make one feel terribly hopeless.  The world is boiling, and we seem to lack direction.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that America has been in the past a very resilient nation; that there’s sometimes a virtue to shaking things up simply because change is inevitable, so let’s get it all over with at once; that people at home and abroad are beginning to appreciate that America was never an Evil Empire, but was always a force for freedom and stability; and that ordinary Americans are seeing what socialist policy — economic, international, and societal — looks like, and they’re not pleased with what they see.

Here’s the other good news:  There is always hope.  Otherwise, why bother?  Without hope, why bother reading the news?  Why bother writing about the things we want to change?  Why bother thinking, voting, talking, working, or even getting up in the morning?  Things can and do change, and we who are hopeful have a responsibility to do whatever we can — to contribute whatever skill we have — to fulfill that hope by changing the political and social dynamic.

Since 2008, hope has been an overused and misused word.  To begin with, it’s not a thing in and of itself.  Only very shallow people believe that you can elect something called “hope.”  Instead, “hope” is a very special human emotion that motivates us to leap over seemingly insurmountable barriers and face off against despair, all the while embracing behaviors that lead to increased individual and national freedom, self-reliance, and prosperity.

And while I’m on the subject of hope — real hope, not the politically-packaged pabulum — I’d like to take a moment to talk about families dealing with relatives who fall within the autism spectrum.  Ido Kedar is one of those people.  I’ve known Ido for a long time, although not as well as I could wish.  Mother Nature gave Ido what appears to be a raw deal:  His autism leaves his maturing brain in a body that responds to his wishes only with the greatest effort.  He’s almost non-verbal, impulse control is an issue, his spatial awareness is limited, and coordination is a problem.  On the plus side, though, he is endowed with a brilliant brain; a strong moral compass; hypersensitive senses, which means that, even though he can be easily overwhelmed, he sees, hears, tastes, smells, and touches a world of beauty denied to the rest of us; and a fierce drive to connect with the world which has enabled him overcome so many of his deficits.

If you read Ido’s autobiography, Ido in Autismland: Climbing Out of Autism’s Silent Prison, you see that he isn’t just the physical embodiment of the abstract word “hope.”  He doesn’t introduce himself to you by saying, “You can call me Hope.”  Ido is, instead, a person whose parents never lost faith in him and a person who always had faith in his own abilities. That faith gave them the emotion that is hope, and that emotion in turn gave them the energy to search, research, act, practice, and excel.

Ido is not unique. There are many other young people (and their families) in the autism spectrum who never give up. They take their belief in future possibilities and turn that into present action. One of the institutions that actively helps them with this (instead of just mouthing “hope”) is the Friendship Circle . . . which is having a fundraiser Bike Raffle. If you know someone with autism, or someone who lives with or cares for an autistic person, and you feel like contributing to the cause, this is certainly a nice way to do it.

For more information, check out Raising Asperger’s Kids.


Ido Kedar — author of “Ido in Autismland” — is profiled in the L.A. Times

Ido KedarLast year, I reviewed Ido Kedar’s Ido in Autismland: Climbing Out of Autism’s Silent Prison. It is a very important book, since it turns on its head all of the conventional wisdom about non-verbal autism.  Because of his book, Ido has rightly become a big deal amongst people affected by autism, a group that includes autistic people, their families, and their teachers.

Ido’s increasingly high profile caught the eye of a L.A. Times reporter who spent several months interviewing Ido, his family, and those who have worked with and gotten to know him.  The result is a glowing profile in the L.A. Times which really gives an insight into the overwhelming and often very beautiful world that Ido inhabits:

Autism, Ido says, is like being on LSD, something he learned about in health class, and his experience in the world can be at times terrifying and overwhelming. Sensory minutiae that in other people are filtered and organized, collide indiscriminately in his brain. Feelings of anger, sadness, even silliness can escalate, and he can have difficulty calming down.

The water surges around them. The sound of the waves and sea gulls, the voices and screams of children and families, the surf, rising and falling, its ceaseless crescendo and diminuendo, rushes at Ido as a terrible cacophony like the buzzing of mosquitoes, loud and inescapable.

As unsettling and as unpredictable as autism is, it also brings a strange pleasure to Ido’s life. Glints of sunshine, pockets of shade mesmerize him, and objects in motion reveal traces of acceleration, like stop-motion photography.

He grabs a strand of kelp, strips off the leaves and begins whipping it over and over in an S-pattern against the dissolving foam. Waves rise and fall against him, but he stays focused on the movement that he’s created against the water’s surface.

Like many of his repetitive behaviors — arm-flapping, finger-dancing, string-twirling — this gesture, referred to in the autistic community as a “stim” (for self-stimulation), enhances sensations around him and has a narcotic effect.

They take me to a sensory experience that is pretty intoxicating. I don’t get lightheaded, but I can get so absorbed in a stim I sort of vanish from my personhood.

Please read the whole thing.  I think you’ll be amazed.

Everything You Think You Know About Autism Is Wrong

I have a new post up at PJ Lifestyle, and I would like it to get as much readership and distribution as possible, because it’s about a very special young man and a very important topic:

Autism is a painfully mysterious syndrome. We don’t know what causes it, although we do know that about 1 in 88 births will produce an autistic child. We know that it’s the fastest growing developmental disability in America, although we don’t know why. The commonly-used treatments have limited effectiveness, so increasing numbers of adult autism sufferers cannot care for themselves, requiring costly life-long maintenance.

Part of autism’s mystery lies in the nature of the condition itself: in its most severe form, it leaves the autistic person entirely unable to communicate, either verbally or physically. It’s not just that someone with autism cannot speak. As most who have lived with or seen autism know, a child with serious autism seems entirely disconnected. Autistic children do not make eye contact and they don’t play. Instead, they flap their hands, roam around a room’s periphery, engage in endless repetitive activities, and seem locked away in their own world.

Some experts contend (erroneously, as it turns out) that autistic children dislike physical contact, cannot emote, and lack the capacity for loving. This seeming emotional isolation led the misogynistic Bruno Bettelheim to conclude that mothers caused autism when they (allegedly) withheld affection from their child. This wrongheaded theory inspired generations of loving mothers to suffer enormous guilt.

Even though Bettelheim has mercifully fallen by the wayside, non-verbal autism still contains many questions. This mystery is about to undergo a significant challenge, though, due to Ido (pronounced “Ee-doh”) Kedar, a 16-year old young man who has written about his journey from isolation to communication in Ido in Autismland: Climbing Out of Autism’s Silent Prison.

Read the rest here.

The joy of the “disabled” child

Earlier today, I wrote that fearing a bad genetic outcome is the wrong reason not to get pregnant.  Tonight, completely coincidentally, I had the pleasure of attending a talent show in which the performers were all developmentally disabled children.  It was the best show I’ve seen in I don’t know how long.  Despite disabilities ranging from autism, to cerebral palsy, to what was to me undifferentiated mental retardation, each of these performers gave his or her all to the audience.  Surrounded by love and approval, they had no stage fright, no performance anxiety, no artistic neurosis.  They just got out there and sang a song, danced, or played a musical instrument.

It is quite obvious that each of these children is a challenge for his or her parents.  Long after their siblings have grown up enough to give Mom and Dad some free time, these kids need constant supervision.  And when a brother or sister is making his way alone in the world, these children will continue to need full-time care.  I’ve known several parents of handicapped children over the years, and all of the parents were worried about what would happen to their children when the parents’ strength and/or money ran out.

Those worries are real . . . and yet!  Those kids brought so much joy.  With fully-abled children, we take their accomplishments somewhat for granted.  We expect them to read, sing, dance, play music, or whatever else.  When they do well, we applaud them, but we also think, “Of course that’s what they’re going to do.”  With the children tonight, however, everything they did exceeded expectations.  Every note sung or played, every dance step, every happy chortle was special, because these kids are special.

I feel blessed every day that my children were born physically and mentally intact.  I honestly don’t know if I would have the moral courage, not to mention the mental and physical stamina, to raise a handicapped child.  Watching the children tonight, though, I was reminded, as I often am, that disabled children are not only a greater burden, but also a greater gift to their parents than so-called normal children.

Incidentally, while I’m on the subject of children whose disabilities are offset by tremendous gifts, I’d like to recommend a website that an autistic young man writes:  Ido in Autismland.  Ido has confounded autism experts because, contrary to theories about an autistic child’s empty mental and emotional state, Ido is an academically gifted young man who is thoughtful, articulate, and an extremely good writer.  Reading his blog provides a rare opportunity to see behind the often blank face of autism.

Is Leftism a personality disorder?

The following italicized paragraph started out as an observation I made about some ardent liberals of my acquaintance, but I’ve since decided that it applies well to the politics of the Left and the Right or, more accurately, the statist versus the individualist:

Conservatives find people to be a source of pleasure and objects to be a utilitarian resource.  Conversely, Leftists find objects to be a source of pleasure and people to be a utilitarian resource. 

The above started with something I learned long ago about autistic children.  One of the earliest indicators of autism is that autistic children don’t point to things.  Your average pre-verbal or early verbal child will point to a cup with the expectation that you, the parent, will understand that the child wants milk.  An autistic child will not make this “mind-to-mind” connection.  Instead, the child will take the parent’s hand (an object) and guide it to the cup (another object) in an effort to make the two objects work together.  (In autistic children, or at least in some autistic children, this seems to be an inability to understand communication, rather than a failure to recognize shared humanity.  Once the autistic child is given a means to communicate, he or she is fully capable of engaging at an emotional or spiritual level.)

Here’s another something I learned that also gave rise to the same thought about recognizing a shared humanity (or canine-inity) versus a utilitarian view of other life forms:  Dogs are different from monkeys when it comes to interactions with humans.  Although monkeys are genetically much closer to humans, they share no kindred feelings with us.  Dogs, however, do.  It turns out that dogs are born with the knowledge that they can communicate non-verbally with humans.  When they are puppies, they already know how to track a human’s eye movements or pointing hand in order to gather information.  And as all of us who have dogs know, dogs have incredibly high emotional intelligence.  They may be non-verbal, but they read us well, and communicate beautifully using their body language.

Monkeys, however, although they are our genetic cousins, do not see humans in a communicative way, and therefore ignore humans entirely.  If a human stands before two boxes, one of which has a treat, and then points to the box with the treat, the monkey will ignore that gesture entirely, while a dog will soon be munching happily away on the goodie.

(Cats, of course, are God-like creatures.  They can read us just fine, but they think that cat-to-human communication is demeaning, and that human-to-cat communication is unnecessary.)

And then there are people with personality disorders (narcissism, sociopathy, psychopathy, etc.).  Some years ago, I read a wonderful book called Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother’s Boyfriend, which concerned itself with the nature of personality disorders. One of my takeaways from the book was that people with personality disorders do not recognize other people’s humanity. Instead, for someone suffering from a personality disorder, other people are simply objects to be manipulated, in order to benefit the disordered person.

With all of that in mind, think about the way in which Leftists view people:  people are “interest groups,” “victim classes,” “identity groups,” “racial groups,” etc.  There are no individuals in liberal-land.  There are political classes that can be manipulated to achieve Leftist goals.  Those who refuse to be objectified in this way (usually conservative minorities) are savagely attacked for leaving the object group.  That’s not how conservatives roll.

Likewise, Leftists are convinced that salvation lies in objects:  electric cars, solar panels, smart grids, etc.  Objects become objects of worship, shrines before which we lay our wealth, while de-personalized groups of humans are co-opted to serve these Gods.

Am I nuts or am I on to something?

Autism diagnoses and parenting problems

Back in November 2007, I wrote a long post talking about the fact that I see a lot of children who are labeled as having Asperger’s (a subset of autism) but who seem instead (or also) to be the victims of profoundly bad parenting.  I noted that I have known over the years children who are actually profoundly disabled, and whose disability has been given the Asperger’s/autism label.  These correctly diagnosed children are quite different from the problem kids I identified in my earlier post.  The children I identified in my post, the ones I thought were victims of diagnostic overkill rather than an actual disability, weren’t kids who lack language skills, or control over their bodies, or who have obsessive interests that impair their ability to function, or who fail to recognize ordinary human emotions.  The kids I know who fall into those latter categories of genuine disability are, frankly, doing wonderfully well and working vigorously to maximize all of their strengths.

Instead, in my November post, I was talking about the children who are prone to chronic tantruming and who get slapped with an Aspergers label as a sop to the parents.  Here is how I described these children, all of whom have on their “permanent records” labels that place them within the autism spectrum:

Where I’m about to get controversial is my sense that, in some cases, Aspergers is the diagnosis given to children whose parents are not parenting. I know three — count ‘em, three — children who are nightmarish behavior problems. What characterizes all three of them is the uncontrollable temper tantrums they have. And I’m not talking about 2 or 3 year olds lying on the floor hollering “No!” I’m talking about kids who are 7 or 8 or even 11 or 12 and who regularly engage in scenes that involve uncontrolled screaming, hurling insults and, often, physical violence against other adults or children. Because of the scenes — and only because of these scenes — each set of parents eventually took the child to a psychiatrist. That is, the parents did not take their kids to the psychiatrists because they weren’t socializing well or because they were obsessed with a single subject at school. They took them because of those off-the-charts tantrums. In all three of the cases I know, the psychiatrists diagnosed the kids with Asbergers.

But here’s what I didn’t tell you about those three children: In each of the three cases, the parents (in my humble estimation) earn an “F” for structure and discipline. The common pattern in each of those households is that one or both of the parents feels an almost excessive sympathy for the kid when he (or she) is frustrated or unhappy. What the child wants, the child gets. One of the children I’m thinking of ruled the whole household. She dictated what was eaten, what wasn’t eaten, where people went, what they did, what bed time was, what toys and games were bought and rejected, etc. The parents thought that they were making her happy, but to an objective observer, the child was miserable. It was way too heavy a burden to place on a 10 year old, and she was a frenzied, hysterical tyrant who was unable to cope if anything didn’t go her way.

What also characterizes all of these parents is that, when the child has a tantrum, regardless of how awful it is, and what havoc it creates, the parents respond, not with discipline, but with sympathy: “The poor little thing. He couldn’t control himself. He was so upset I didn’t have the heart to punish him.” And in each case, this sympathetic response to the child’s tantrums worsens after the diagnosis. Now the parent is not only sorry for the child, but he’s convinced that the child is “sick” and must be handled with ever greater care.

Apparently I’m not the only one who has noticed this diagnostic trend — that is, to reach a psychiatric conclusion that all tantruming little children have a disease — although I pointed it out tactfully and to a small audience.  Radio host Michael Savage apparently made the same point, but did so in way that managed to offend everyone:

Radio talk show host Michael Savage, who described 99 percent of children with autism as brats, said Monday he was trying to “boldly awaken” parents to his view that many people are being wrongly diagnosed.

Some parents of autistic children have called for Savage’s firing after he described autism as a racket last week. “In 99 percent of the cases, it’s a brat who hasn’t been told to cut the act out,” Savage said on his radio program last Wednesday.

Savage offered no apology in a message posted Monday on his Web site. He said greedy doctors and drug companies were creating a “national panic” by overdiagnosing autism, a mental disorder that inhibits a person’s ability to communicate.

On his radio show last week, he said: “What do you mean they scream and they’re silent? They don’t have a father around to tell them, `Don’t act like a moron. You’ll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don’t sit there crying and screaming, you idiot.'”

As I already demonstrated months ago, I think Savage is on to something.  While all of us recognize that there are genuinely disabled kids out there, kids whose behaviors span the spectrum from severe autism to geeky Aspergers, those of us who are honest recognize that there is also a major epidemic of bad, weak, inconsistent parenting out there, and that it is creating thousands of damaged kids who are treated, not with good parenting, but with bad medicine.  I’m only sorry that it was Savage who made this point, because you can count on him being so spectacularly tactless and inflammatory that the message gets lost in the ruckus.