Saturday, January 14, 2006

Is a Rock a Destructive Device?

A 23 year old was given a life sentence this week for throwing a ten pound rock over an overpass here in Knoxville and killing a 69 year old woman:

Morgan was convicted under a seldom-used provision in Tennessee law that makes it first-degree murder if death results from the throwing or placement of a "destructive device" or bomb.

Defense attorney Russell T. Greene said he was disappointed by the verdict but was not completely surprised because jurors had asked questions during deliberations about the "device" charge.

He said he would appeal.

I find this statement from the defendant interesting:

"Morgan testified that what he did was stupid but he never intended to hurt anyone." didn't? I wonder what this guy can cook up when he does mean to hurt someone? What do you think--is a life sentence too long for this guy or not?

Pamela Anderson's Bust

You would think Pamela Anderson would have better things to worry about than whether or not chickens are mistreated in West Virginia--like maybe keeping an eye on the kids that come by her ex-husband's place to swim. Seriously, I understand her concern if chickens are truly being cruelly tortured before being slaughtered, but somehow, if PETA is involved, it sounds suspect. If they were that concerned, wouldn't it make more sense to go directly to picket the chicken plant where the birds are being mistreated than to try and oust a bust of Colonel Sanders from the Kentucky State capital?

Update: Well, maybe KFC should just sit back and enjoy the free publicity.


The Anchoress has an excellent post on why we must remember 9/11. If the event has gotten foggy in your own mind--go read her post and it will bring it flooding back with clarity and insight. Here is an excerpt:

I remember that when the terrorists used commerical airliners as bombs, they rode to their deaths with little toddlers on board, who had no idea what was going on, and who must have been terribly frightened when some people on the plane were suddenly restrained, or killed, and whose last moments in their short lives were so confusing.

On a smaller (but equally tragic) scale, her quote reminds me of a killing that happened around my hometown. A young boy, 11, was shot and killed by his best friend. Prior to the murder, the killer, another 11 year old, had been a troublemaker at best and a hellion at worst. He slashed people's tires, pulled knives on others and shot at them with his bb gun. The community ignored his horrible behavior until he figured he could get away with anything and killed his best friend. To make matters worse, this friend was a pitiful asthmatic whose family never got him treated and he suffered immensely. You can only imagine his last moments after being shot--he had lived a sad life which had now come to an abrupt end, all because a young thug had been able to get away with whatever he wanted with no restrictions. Yes, the killer was ultimately responsible--but the community and family that allowed the victim to be harmed should also look to itself in this young boy's death. But the truth is, the community has learned nothing and no one gave a damn about this poor young victim anyway. They have probably forgotten that he even existed. The community's forgetfulness has made them ripe for the next killing. Just like all of us.

Have you noticed, there is a lot of emphasis on "forgetting" acts of violence? There are those who "forget" the Holocaust, "forget" 9/11 or forget that a young thug can kill an innocent child. If we forget, it is easy to focus away from foreign issues to domestic ones which make us feel safer. After all, if we have the wherewithal to talk about Social Security, healthcare, and education, the world cannot be that scary a place, now can it? The media and liberals would have us believe that the crisis is over (except in the areas of Social Security, healthcare, and education); now they can pave the way for the next Democratic president who will lead us into a utopian world of good health, good schools and a great retirement. Except that, like the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand, we will still be ripe for the next act of violence--and as for that utopian paradise we will be leading at the hand's of liberals? Well, hopefully we will be able to forget about that, too.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Sometimes Freud and Drugs aren't the Answer

In this previous post on fear, there is a discussion of the use of psychotropic drugs for treating phobias. PsychPundit talks about treating a patient with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) successfully without drugs. Take a look.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Fierceness of Ann Coulter

I just finished watching a documentary entitled, Is It True What They Say About Ann? by Patrick Wright and Elinor Burkett. The documentary looks at the controversy over Ann Coulter and asks the questions, "Icon...or Idiot? Candid...or Crazy?" As the film points out, the answers to these questions depend on who you ask. Her detractors on camera such as Susan Estrich, the law professor, point out that liberals dislike her because she stands for everything they hate. Ann's admirers love her for standing up for all of the ideas they have but cannot or will not articulate. To me, love her or hate her, you have to admire her.

The documentary takes a look at behind the scenes footage of Ann...just being Ann. She talks about her life, her passions and her love of a good challenge. "I love hate mail," she states at one point. Rather than take hate mail personally, she understands that the sheer volume of it means that she is really hitting her points home and that people are listening. They may not agree--but she is making them listen and that is her talent. Whether it is watching her spar and, in my opinion, upstage, Katy Couric or respond to a room full of hecklers, (at John Hopkins, her response to hecklers was, "wow, this is what passes for debate? At Harvard, they have questions") she is up to the task.

In a world where women, including bloggers are wasting their time pondering questions such as "Where are the women in politics, blogging etc.?," Ann Coulter is at the forefront turning words into action. In the video, she is fearless--she speaks for those who are afraid in a climate of political correctness--especially at college campuses--to share their views on affirmative action, homophobia, and the war in Iraq. If you have ever been afraid in the past to speak in public, her courage and bravery will inspire you to speak out--even if you have to stand alone.

At the end of the documentary, police escort her from a college campus and for good reason. In addition to boos and insults (which she handles with grace and humor), she recently had a pie thrown at her at the University of Arizona. Ann Coulter, love her or hate her--you have to appreciate her. See the documentary.

Where's the Men's Center?

Well, it's time for podcast #2 of the Dr. Helen/Instapundit show. In honor of the American Renaissance Film festival this weekend in Los Angeles, we will be talking with Stuart Browning and Evan Coyne Maloney of On The Fence films about their upcoming documentary, Indoctrinate U. It is a documentary about political correctness on college campuses and after seeing some of the footage, I have to say, it is a terrific body of work. For anyone out there who has had to bite their tongue in the classroom, been raked over the coals by a PC professor or lost their job due to unpopular political views, this podcast is for you. Click here to play the podcast. You can also subscribe via iTunes.

And if you have suggestions, leave them in the comments!

Somehow Being Sweet Like a Sailor does not have the Same Ring

Since when is cursing like a sailor against the law? I do it all the time so I was surprised when one of my readers (thanks Bruce) emailed me this Chicago Tribune article about a sailor who is facing a court martial and criminal charges brought against him for doing what sailors do best--cursing. He is also being charged with sexual harrassment for making some "spicy comments" about his ex-wife that was overheard by a female midshipman. I'm sorry but if you can't take men or women talking this way even to your face, you do not belong in the Navy but in a convent where sweet, untarnished behavior is expected. The good news is, the article reports that sexual harrassment complaints are down, but this is not enough for champions of victims rights:

This is not necessarily good news if you're in the business of victim advocacy--and it is a business, perhaps soon to become a career choice if Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) has her way. Slaughter is the sponsor of a 95-page bill that would create a Pentagon Office of Victim Advocacy. We may never win the war on terror, but we'll by golly win the war on hurt feelings.

Slaughter's bill has met with little success thus far, but the Pentagon is working on the idea. Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, reports that the Pentagon contracted with the Wellesley College Centers for Women to study the idea of an OVA and make recommendations. Wellesley has submitted a report for which it was paid $50,000, but the Pentagon has not released it.

Wow, I trust Wellesley College to make unbiased decisions on the behalf of women--I mean victims--everywhere. Somehow, I bet that if we did not have enough victims already, we'll certainly be having more if such an asinine bill flies.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Some Secrets are Better Left Unsaid

Have you ever been to the website It's an interesting site where people send in their secrets on a postcard to Frank, a guy in Maryland who puts them on his site. He also has a book, PostSecret : Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives,which I bought for someone as a gift. I know this site is popular, but if I had a secret to write in to him, it would be that I really hate some of the secrets he shares! Some of the secrets are so downright pathetic and cruel that frankly, I wonder about the morals of some of the authors of these little gems. For example, one postcard read, "It makes me very happy when I hear about a hunter accidentally getting killed while hunting, wish it would happen more often." Charming. Another postcard reads, "I gave a child up for adoption 25 years ago. She found me. I wish to God I had had the abortion instead." Of course, some of the secrets people send in are sweet and sincere or just disturbing but not morally bankrupt. Check it out if you have not been to the site. It is rather interesting.


Do you have a phobia of something so strong that just the thought of it sets you into a tailspin? I know I do. My fear is public speaking--I hate it. I have done everything I can to face my fears, including reading books like Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, but sometimes, I have to remind myself that pushing through fear no matter what is not always the answer.

The fear of public speaking started in high school; before that, I could get up in front of the class with some trepidation but I was able to do it. But that all changed in 10th grade English class. I had to give a report on The Canterbury Tales and when I got up to speak, I just lost it. I had already been ignored and/or verbally abused by half the kids in the class and facing them brought the fear I had been hiding for years to the forefront. I froze. Have you ever froze in front of a group of 10th graders? They burst into laughter--the teacher tried to put things into perspective by saying, "We're laughing with you, not at you." Yeah, right. I never spoke again in class until my last year in college when I was stuck giving a speech in a required class I needed to graduate. I stumbled through it the best I could--all the while feeling my heart pound and the room spin. I somehow made it through and even got an A with a comment from the professor, "try to look people in the eye when you speak."

My next bout with public speaking came in graduate school; I was really lucky as The New School for Social Research in NYC had a European style of teaching which meant very large classes where I could slink in the back of the room and then take one written test for my whole semester grade. It was impersonal and suited me fine--I did not have to interact or talk to anyone until my last semester in a small seminar. Again, I needed the class to graduate and had to force myself to attend. The class was taught by my worst nightmare--a strong-willed Israeli professor who seemed to get a sadistic thrill out of poking fun at the "dumb American students." This mean streak got even worse when she announced that in order to pass the course--each one of us would take our turn "teaching" the class on a different topic. You can only imagine the torment I went through trying to teach on language development in children in front of a malevolent professor who took pleasure in pointing out my every flaw. I rejoiced to get a B- in this woman's class and never have to deal with her again.

So, fast forward to today. Despite the weeks of anxiety beforehand, shortness of breath, and my heart beating out of my chest, I have perservered in the public speaking arena--and it has never gotten better. I have forced myself to give testimony to legislatures, talked to crowds of 500 about my film, and spoken to groups of professionals about kids who are violent. You would think that after all this--I would feel less fear. But I never do. It is there each time, as strong as ever. A colleague said to me once, "it is not necessary to speak because you think you have to, but it is necessary to be able to speak if you want to." I think this is the crucial difference. If we face our fears because they keep us from doing something that we want to do, that is one thing--but I have learned that I no longer have to face my fears just to prove to myself that I am not afraid.

Do you have any fears you could share--and if so, how did you overcome them, or not?

Medical Weblog Awards

My blog has been nominated for best Health policies/ethics blog at I don't really think of myself as a medical blog--mainly I just write about topics that are of interest to me. But if you are so inclined--go vote, either for me or check out the other terrific medical blogs. Voting goes on until January 15th.

Medical Ground Rounds is Up

The Clinical Cases and Images blog is hosting grand rounds of the best posts of the medical blogosphere. The topics are varied--ranging from a discussion of Ariel Sharon's cerebral hemmorage to a suicide bomber with hepatitis who blew himself up and his body particles infected a survivor of the blast. Check it out.

Monday, January 09, 2006

What the Hell Happened to Freedom of Speech?

Podcasting for Dummies

Thanks to those of you who have listened and commented on our first podcast--some people have asked for more information on the equipment we used and for information on podcasting in general which you can read here at Glenn's site. I like the idea of podcasting as you can do it at your convenience, pick your own guests and ideas--even unpopular ones, and don't have to get out of your pajamas to do an interview. I wish I had a job like that.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Dr. Helen / InstaPundit Podcast

Our first show is with Michelle Malkin author of Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild, and blogger at She talks about being an author, a mom, and the target of thousands of extremely nasty emails.

Our other interview is with Internet rock star Audra Coldiron of Audra and the Antidote. She talks about being an outcast in high school, and how she used that experience as inspiration in her songwriting -- and how she hopes her new baby won't grow up to have the same awful experiences.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking here. (You don't need an iPod to listen to podcasts!) If you want to subscribe to get future podcasts, just copy this link and paste it into your podcast-listening software. You'll also be able to subscribe through iTunes soon. Hope you like it! If you've got suggestions for future topics, or guests, let me know by comment or email.

Death T-shirts in the News

Here is a an article about in the Chicago Tribune today with some quotes from me touting the humor of these t-shirts. But the message of these shirts for people who are ill is a serious one:

The MedTees T-shirts are the brainchild of Evanston Northwestern physician Wes Fisher and his wife, Diane. Fed up with a culture that they say resists the natural processes of aging and illness like leprosy, the Fishers' idea allows patients and people with illnesses to poke fun at their ailments.

"It's kind of a countercultural idea," Wes Fisher said in the kitchen of his home. "People in Western culture really don't think it's OK to have an illness or be sick. We have a media image of the perfect body."

I remember after my heart attack that doctors told me that no one would know that I had an "imperfect body" but a cardiologist, but I know it everyday--and sure as hell don't try to hide it. People get sick and they get old--so what? It is part of the human condition--but rising above it to do the best we can with the life we have is the answer, not trying to pretend that we are immortal.

Carnival of the Insanities

Dr. Sanity's Carnival of the Insanities is up--go take a look.