Friday, December 30, 2005

Why Are Jews Liberal Democrats?

There is an interesting post over at the Volokh Conspiracy by David Bernstein on why American Jews tend to be liberal Democrats. Bernstein addresses the assertion that Jews should logically be more conservative economically due to being entrepeneurs.

It's certainly true that many Jews have been successful entrepreneurs--everyone from famous businessmen such Julius Rosenwald, founder of Sears, and Michael Dell, to small-time tailors and shopkeepers. But what isn't often recognized is that a huge, almost certainly much larger number of Jews made their way to the middle class via government.

First, the Jewish population was concentrated in New York City, and until the 1970s the City had an excellent, free, public university system, with CCNY known as the "Jewish Harvard". Many Jews (including my mom) took advantage of this system, often at a time when major private universities had anti-Jewish quotas, and feel they therefore owe some of their success to the government and therefore tend to be statist than libertarian in their politcal leanings:

Second, and relatedly, huge numbers of Jews over the decades found employment with government, especially as teachers. I recall a statistic to the effect that in 1968, when controversy erupted over African American demands for "local control" of New York public schools, about 80% of New York City schoolteachers were Jewish. In the days when whole white-collar industries such as banking, insurance, and more were closed to Jews, civil service desk jobs were open, and Jews vestigially remember the relative lack of discrimination in government with fondness.

My Jewish grandfather left Prussia in the 1920's at nineteen (along with a brother) to come to Ellis Island and lived in New York the rest of his life. He was an entrepeneur and ran successful businesses in the city--maybe this is where I get the Libertarian leanings.

No Money, No Honey

I am in Cincinnati visiting relatives with the family and took the kids shopping at a nearby mall. My neice who just turned fourteen was looking at t-shirts with the snazzy sayings--you know the ones that say things like "Blonde and Smart" etc. Those to me are okay, but her favorite? A t-shirt that said, "No Money, No Honey." I told her that it seemed disrespectful to guys and to women to wear such a shirt and she did not buy it. Should girls or women really be advertising the superficial way they pick a guy? Maybe it is for the best if they do advertise--at least guys know which girls to avoid. Do boys wear obnoxious t-shirts with negative sayings about girls? I haven't seen any but maybe I have just missed out--anyone know boys who wear obnoxious sayings on their t-shirts about girls and if so, what do they say?

Update: Reader Jim sent in this link for the most obnoxious guy t-shirt. I have to agree it is pretty bad but more importantly, would you really want to marry a guy that wore this type of t-shirt to his wedding?

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Gender Gap Continues

The Weekly Standard has a great article on higher education and boys. The widening of the gender gap in colleges continues as well as the apathy towards boy's education:

Today's shortage of men, by contrast, is largely ignored, denied, or covered up. Talk to university administrators, and few will admit that the imbalance is a problem, let alone that they're addressing it. Consider the view of Stephen Farmer, director of undergraduate admissions at the University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill, where this year's enrollment is only 41.6 percent male. "We really have made no attempt to balance the class. We are gender blind in applications, very scrupulously so."

Why the blind devotion to gender--blindness? Because affirmative action for men is politically incorrect. And at universities receiving federal funding like UNC, it's also illegal. "My understanding of Title IX is that an admissions process that advantages men would be very difficult to defend," Farmer says.

Are we going to wait until no men attend college to address this issue? I expect the answer will be yes, as long as the PC crowd has plenty of women to fill up their schools. Can we really allow this apathy towards men's education to continue?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Staying Sane in NYC? Isn't that an Oxymoron?

Shrinkwrapped has the top ten ways for New Yorkers to stay sane in 2006. My top way to improve mental health for NYC residents would be-- move out of that city, for goodness sakes! I did and have been happier ever since.

Bullies, Meanies and Natural Consequences

Did you ever have a bully in your life that made you miserable? I know I did--I had several. First, there was Will Garland, a twelve-year-old boy who pelted me with rocks every time I tried to leave my house and walk up the street when I was nine. Then there was David Mosier, the terror that lived at the top of the hill, who hurled insults as well as threw rocks. Then there was the worst bully of them all--David Cruz who tortured me with insults about my family at school and hit all the kids in the head during dodgeball on purpose.

Natural consequences saved me from the meanness of each of these kids at some point. Will Garland eventually was beaten up by another boy for throwing rocks and left my end of the neighborhood in shame. David Mosier once tried to attack my sister physically and my dog, Lad, a beautiful protective collie, bit him. And finally, David Cruz was done in by Mrs. Lightner, my fifth grade teacher. In what today would have gotten the teacher fired, if not arrested, Ms. Lightner picked up a long ruler and hit David Cruz on the back.

David had been acting up in class yet again and had been driving the class crazy all year--he was mentally and physically abusive to us. He finally mouthed off to Ms. Lightner and she picked up the ruler and hit him--so hard that the ruler broke in two. She was shocked and so was David--tears fell from his eyes and Ms. Lightner even apologized. So, perhaps she should not have let anger get the better of her, but I and the entire class were grateful. I don't remember one more insult or knock in the head with a dodgeball from him after that.

Fast forward to today. Almost none of these natural consequences would ever happen in today's climate. No one is allowed to fight so Will Garland would most likely have gone on torturing kids with his rock throwing. Some parents would probably tell us we were squelching his self-esteem if he was ostracized from the neighborhood. When my family dog bit David Mosier, even his parents forgave us when they heard that David tried to attack my sister. Nowadays, no one would have been that reasonable. We would probably have been sued and lost--showing meanie David Mosier that it was okay to attack other kids. And as far as David Cruz--I can not even imagine the uproar that a teacher hitting a student would cause.

Today, there are fake consequences for acts of meanness and violence. These boys might be sent to therapy or maybe even medicated if their behavior was bothering the school. If they just bothered other kids, no one would notice and the normal kids are no longer allowed to defend themselves in the school setting. My 15-year-old nephew recently told me that he did not dare do anything to a kid at school who was threatening him as they would both be expelled. There are "bullying programs" that teach kids how to walk away from these bullies but one wonders how well that works. And finally, there is no discipline allowed other than time out and suspension--none of which are natural consequences to bullying.

If all of these methods really work, why do so many more kids now say they are being bullied or victimized at school? Normal well-adjusted kids may just ignore the bullying or find another way to cope but as a psychologist, I worry about those kids who have mental problems, poor coping skills and a low tolerance for being abused. They turn to overreacting to the bullying because so many of the adults in their milieu have been underreacting for years or overreacting with a fake method of consequence--like zero tolerance. Shouldn't we try for some moderation?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Politics of PTSD

In World War II, PTSD was called Combat Fatigue and dealt with differently in different armies. Among the Allies, you got R&R leave behind the lines. If you were a Russian soldier who said he had Combat Fatigue, you were shot. Amazingly, there weren't nearly as many cases of Combat Fatigue in the Russian Army (from James Dunnigan's book How to Make War (Fourth Edition) : A Comprehensive Guide to Modern Warfare in the Twenty-first Century). We no longer deal with PTSD in such a severe way, but is going to the opposite extreme where veterans are told they will never get better the answer?

The Washington Post has an article today on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)--hat tip to immodestproposals' blog for pointing out the article. Basically, criteria for PTSD are that a person has been exposed to a traumatic event, and has recurrent nightmares, hypervigilance etc. as a result of the trauma. See here for a description of PTSD. While I do believe that some people can experience PTSD, my concern is the growing political debate over soldiers who may or may not have the condition. Here is an excerpt from the Post article that clearly shows the politics involved in the diagnosis of PTSD:

The growing national debate over the Iraq war has changed the nature of the discussion over PTSD, some participants said. "It has become a pro-war-versus-antiwar issue," said one VA official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because politics is not supposed to enter the debate. "If we show that PTSD is prevalent and severe, that becomes one more little reason we should stop waging war. If, on the other hand, PTSD rates are low . . . that is convenient for the Bush administration."

This professor is correct about his assertion that soldiers will remain sick if they are told they will never recover by the PC crowd:

"We have young men and women coming back from Iraq who are having PTSD and getting the message that this is a disorder they can't be treated for, and they will have to be on disability for the rest of their lives," said Frueh, a professor of public psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina. "My concern about the policies is that they create perverse incentives to stay ill. It is very tough to get better when you are trying to demonstrate how ill you are."

There are some soldiers who truly suffer from PTSD, but many of these can be treated, if they seek help or believe that they have the chance to get better. But as long as these soldiers can be exploited for the political cause of the moment, their working lives will be tragically cut short and they will suffer for that, regardless of the size of their disability check. Or vice versa, those who need help will not get it because of the stigma. Whenever diagnoses are politicized, it is bad for the people involved. Those who have PTSD may not go for help and those who are malingerers have the incentive to rip off the system.

Update: Medpundit has more thoughts on PTSD.

Monday, December 26, 2005

The War Room

Since a number of readers have expressed a desire to have a public discourse on issues pertaining to the war--here is another open thread where anyone who wishes can join in to discuss the war or any issue pertaining to Iraq. This room will not be monitored although I may pop in from time to time. Try to keep it civil. The War Room will be on my side bar (along with the Playpen) so you can access it at any time.

Along the same topic, my family and I have "adopted" a solider named Brian through It is an organization my family members told me about where you can send treats and gifts to a soldier overseas. I have heard that the soldiers really enjoy getting the mail and gifts, especially if they do not have a family who can support them.

Sloth: The New New Year's Resolution?

I was never one of those people who made New Year's Resolutions. I figured life was hard enough without the extra pressure of some self-imposed goal that I probably had no chance of meeting. Finally, I have found someone who agrees with me that living as a sloth is the best way to find the path to peace and happiness. Wendy Wasserstein has written a much needed book for those of you who think that working hard is the way to get ahead.

The book, Sloth : The Seven Deadly Sins, is a collection of chapters on how schedules and jogging are for dummies and unlocking the lazy you is the path to contentment. Wasserstein writes the book in the third person voice of a male self help guru--which is a little confusing.

If you had told me six years ago, before I got sick, that hanging out at home staring at the ceiling could be the road to fulfillment, I would have thought you were nuts. Now I congratulate myself on a day where I sit in pajamas until 3:00 in the afternoon contemplating getting up long enough to check my email or post something.

So how do you figure out if you are in need of being saved by your inner sloth? Wasserstein presents three types who can benefit from sloth therapy:

Category One: Do you ever hear some someone say, "I rest all the time, but I'm always tired." Believe you me, this person never rests. They may be lying down, but they are thinking, "I should be exercising, I should be reading, I should be having sex with my neighbor...." etc. By adopting a slothlike lifestyle they will, for the first time in their lives, be truly rested.

Category Two: "I don't need to rest, I get high on life." This is bologna if I ever heard it. Who could possibly get high on life? In life, there is disease, random acts of violence, natural disasters, undisclosed fascist governments, not to mention world poverty and hunger. If you look life in the face, you couldn't possibly get high on it.

Category Three: Here's my favorite--the fellow who says, "There are certain things I need to do." Like what? See the Eiffel Tower? I say watch the Travel Network. Have sex with Britney Spears? Watching her video from the comfort of your living room is a nearly identical experience. Visit your mother before she dies? Buddy, if you haven't been kind to your mother all your life this final visit is not going to make it up to her.

Wasserstein also lists the top ten lies about sloths (although she states she simply does not have the energy to refute them). Here is a sample of a few of such lies:

1) Sloth is dangerous and causes a variety of medical problems.

2) A sloth's life is unbalanced and deficient in human interaction.

3) Sloth is an anticapitalist conspiracy.

4) Sloth leads to mental atrophy.

5) Sloth will lead to the end of democracy and civilization.

Wasserstein states, "To all of these lies, I say no one ever went to war because they were sloths. No one was ever murdered or killed in the name of sloth. Furthermore, sloths don't go on religious crusades. Terrorism requires initiative and cunning. If sloths are fundamentalists, their fundamentalist belief is to rest. Hate takes energy. Destroying the ozone layer requires industry. Therefore slothdom can save humanity."

Well, I guess this is where Wasserstein and I part ways. Unless all people in the world become sloths, we cannot all aspire to crawl into bed. Thank goodness that there are those brave souls out there who are willing to fight on the sloths' behalf to keep them safe at night. Without those who fight their inner sloth, we would not have the beds, lights and creature comforts of being a sloth as well as our freedom to discuss the virtues of laziness and the sins of terrorists. Now excuse me while I go back to bed.