Saturday, May 24, 2008

"I believe feminism is an experiment...."

A number of readers have sent me this link to Mail Online where Rebecca Walker opens up about her mother, feminist Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple and the problems of feminism:

I know many women are shocked by my views. They expect the daughter of Alice Walker to deliver a very different message. Yes, feminism has undoubtedly given women opportunities. It's helped open the doors for us at schools, universities and in the workplace. But what about the problems it's caused for my contemporaries?...

But far from taking responsibility for any of this, the leaders of the women's movement close ranks against anyone who dares to question them - as I have learned to my cost. I don't want to hurt my mother, but I cannot stay silent. I believe feminism is an experiment, and all experiments need to be assessed on their results. Then, when you see huge mistakes have been paid, you need to make alterations.

I hope that my mother and I will be reconciled one day. Tenzin deserves to have a grandmother. But I am just so relieved that my viewpoint is no longer so utterly coloured by my mother's.

I am my own woman and I have discovered what really matters - a happy family.

Read the whole thing here.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Should Government be Held to as High a Standard as it Holds its Citizens?

Do you ever cringe when you check the mail and see you got a letter from the IRS? I did yesterday when I got a notice in the mail that I owed the government another 1000 dollars for a small mistake made on my 2006 taxes. Why? A qualified dividend and ordinary income of around 430 bucks that did not get reported until later in the year and I was never sent a notice. For some reason, the IRS notice stated that I owed 984 dollars (717 in taxes) which included penalties on the money. "How in the world," I wondered, "could I owe more money on the income than I made?" So I called the IRS today to find out.

Naturally, it took me several tries and a lot of patience to get through but I finally did. A rather nice woman assisted me but seemed to have little compassion for my predicament initially. "Well, you get a penalty for not accurately reporting this money." "I didn't know about this money because my fund company did not issue me any information," I added. Then I heard a laugh. "Whoever issued this notice for your penalty and tax made a bunch of mistakes. This is embarrassing for the IRS. You actually owe nothing and should never have gotten a notice."

"So can I issue a penalty to the IRS for making a mistake?" I asked. No response, but I was so relieved that I did not owe any more money that I just wrote down her name and the information to file away and considered myself lucky. But in the back of my mind, I couldn't help but think, "Why is it that if a citizen makes a mistake, we are considered suspect and penalized but if the government does it, it's always okay? I will leave you to ponder that question.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Power of the Self-fulfilling Prophecy

If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.--W. I. Thomas

I am often discouraged when I read various right-leaning bloggers and pundits and see them mention over and over that the Republicans are doomed to lose this presidential election. If the Democrats want to feel this way and talk about what losers Republicans are, let them, but why add fuel to the fire? I understand that many Republicans are disgusted and angry with how the party has progressed over the years but joining in the despair will only lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy that will insure a loss come this November. And the media is picking up on this defeatist attitude and using it to make the Republicans look not only like losers, but self-sabotaging ones at that. For example, US News & World Report states:

Guess what? The Republican brand may be the losing one in 2008. Even some Republicans are openly talking about it in the face of significant losses in recent special elections....

Even a Republican veteran in Congress, Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, said his party was in its worst condition since the Watergate scandal. The GOP lost 47 seats in the House in the first post-Watergate election.

Bloggers are also joining in the doom and gloom predictions. For example, Right Wing News has a bit of satire up by Frank J. (yes, I know it's satire, but the message is still a negative one):

It's pretty universally well known that the Republicans are in huge trouble as they've lost a number of special elections that I don't know much about but all the smart people say are very important. At least I know I don't care much more Republicans anymore; they lately just seem like a less mincing version of the Democrats. Frankly, things are so bad that for Republicans that if the Democrats don't get the White House and huge gains in the House and Senate, they should really all jump off a bridge for sucking that much. The new face of the Republican Party?

Believing that your party is a bunch of losers surely will not help it to improve it and may, in fact, hasten it's self-destruction--something some Democrats would be happy to see--but why play along while marching in step to the tune of Saul Alinsky? I was watching a show the other night on PBS's Frontline about a wonderful young boy who was being cyber-bullied by peers stating: "YOU ARE SUCH A LOSER." The boy believed it and went on to kill himself. He basically self-destructed by incorporating the negativity that others felt for him onto himself and felt that he was not worthy. Now, it seems that many right-leaning citizens feel the same. Instead of saying that there are still ideas and policies that the Republicans have that are worth saving-- (national security, low taxes, small government) they have deemed the whole party losers.

Perhaps some of the right-leaning bloggers and pundits who have such negative predictions for the future of the GOP should take a look at such books as The Power of Positive Thinking or Be Your Own Best Friend. As of right now their negativity and predictions of a loss this November might just cause enough people to give up on the party and make their predictions come true. Constructive criticism is one thing, wishing for defeat is another--make sure you know the difference. The more we put toxic memes out there that the GOP sucks, the more likely people are to believe it and make it come true.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

New Books on Men and Boys

A reader (thanks!) let me know about a new book by columnist Kathleen Parker that is coming out soon entitled Save the Males: Why Men Matter Why Women Should Care. It is being published by Random House and here is the synopsis at Amazon:

Tell a woman we need to save the males and she’ll give you the name of her shrink. But cultural provocateur Kathleen Parker, who was raised by her father and who mothered a pack of boys, makes a humorous case for rescuing the allegedly stronger sex from trends that portend man’s cultural demise.

Save the Males is a shrewd, amusing, and sure-to-be-controversial look at how men, maleness, and fatherhood have been under siege in American culture for decades. Kathleen Parker argues that the feminist movement veered off course from it’s original aim of helping women achieve equality and ended up making enemies of men. With piercing wit, this nationally syndicated columnist shows us how the pendulum has swung from the reasonable middle to a place where men have been ridiculed in the public square and the importance of fatherhood has been diminished–all to the detriment of women, who ultimately suffer most.

Sounds interesting--but I must add that I find it somewhat disturbing that ultimately the premise of the book (I am inferring this from the title and the above summary) is about the effect of men's cultural demise on....women. Yes, I know that focusing on women is the only way to sell books but if I had my way (or I was not so darn lazy), I would write a book that focused on the effect of the male bashing culture on----surprise! How do actual men feel about it, what do they think, how does it affect them personally and their sons?

Which brings me to a good book I am in the process of reading that came in the mail (for Glenn but I took it) entitled Boys Should Be Boys: 7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons.

Author Meg Meeker, a pediatrician, exposes a number of shocking statistics about the state of boyhood in America such as:

ADHD is diagnosed seven times as often in boys as it is in girls:

Only 65 percent of boys graduate from high school, much lower than the graduation rate for girls;

29 percent of boys admit to drinking alcohol before the age of thirteen...

I had no idea these were shocking stats, I thought they were common knowledge. Anyway, this particular book looks informative; there is a chapter on "The Difference a Dad Makes" that talks about the importance a father plays in a boy's life. A section on "Self Control" makes an important point by forensic psychologist Shawn Johnston:

The research is absolutely clear...the one human being most capable of curbing the anti-social aggression of a boy is his biological father.

Dads definitely teach boys how to channel aggression and deal with emotions of anger and frustration. But more importantly, Dads teach boys that they matter, and that they can grow up to be successful men.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Should teens who suffer school phobia be given thousands by taxpayers for expenses "related" to being homeschooled? Rachel Lucas doesn't seem convinced.
Dave Johnston shares his 25 common sense facts about everyday life.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Boston Globe: "Why aren't there more women in science and engineering? Controversial new research suggests: They just aren't interested" (Hat tip: Fred Ray).

I found this point interesting in the article:

Benbow and Lubinski also found something else intriguing: Women who are mathematically gifted are more likely than men to have strong verbal abilities as well; men who excel in math, by contrast, don't do nearly as well in verbal skills. As a result, the career choices for math-precocious women are wider than for their male counterparts. They can become scientists, but can succeed just as well as lawyers or teachers. With this range of choice, their data show, highly qualified women may opt out of certain technical or scientific jobs simply because they can.

So men who are skilled at math may have less flexibility to branch out and go into other areas that involve dealing with others. If women must be equal in terms of pursuing hard sciences, wouldn't it also be fair that men should have to be equal to women in terms of verbal skills so that they too, could have more job flexibility?

Interview with Robert Kagan

kagancov.jpgRobert Kagan is a top adviser to John McCain and is author of The Return of History and the End of Dreams. We talk with him today about his new book about diplomacy and power in the 21st century. He also discusses Russia, China, Japan, India, and Iran and how life is going to be more complicated than some people thought back in the 1990's. He gives his analysis of how the candidates are doing in terms of foreign policy and gives some useful advice on what they need to know right now. Kagan is a great interviewee and his book is terrific for those of us who are not experts in this area. It is clear, informative and really lays out some of the issues we will face in the coming years in terms of foreign policy.

You can listen directly -- no downloads needed -- by going here and clicking on the gray Flash player. You can download a copy and listen at your leisure by clicking right here. And you can get a lo-fi version suitable for dialup, etc., by going here and selecting "lo fi." And you can always get a free subscription from iTunes. Free!

Music is by Mobius Dick. Show archives are at

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Ilya Somin, makes a good point about my theory that "stupid nerds" might be more likely to act out violently than "intelligent nerds":

I should emphasize that even if Smith's theory is correct, it in no way justifies the shooters' acts. Killing people is not a defensible response to social putdowns. Her theory also does not change the reality that the overwhelming majority of "stupid nerds" aren't dangerous [my emphasis]. Even if school shooters are more common in this subgroup than in others, they would still be only a miniscule fraction of the total "stupid nerd" population.

As Somin points out--school shooters are rare--most kids, nerds or not, never act out in this violent way. I was simply talking about out of the ones who do. Part of the problem with pinpointing the psychological traits of school shooters is that luckily, there are so very few.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Twinkie defense, Battered Woman's syndrome, and now a Benadryl defense? Is anyone responsible for their behavior anymore?

Are "Stupid Nerds" the Underclass?

Ilya Somin over at the Volokh Conspiracy has an interesting post on the tragedy of the stupid nerd:

Back in high school, I developed the theory that the people at the very bottom of the school social hierarchy are those who act like nerds even though they don't have much academic or intellectual ability. They, not the intelligent nerds supposedly oppressed by jocks, are the true underclass of the high school world. Whereas smart nerds derive at least some prestige and acceptance from their intellectual achievements, the relatively dumb ones suffer all the costs of being perceived as nerds without any of the benefits. It's interesting that Amber has independently arrived at the same conclusion.

I wonder if kids who shoot up schools tend to be "stupid nerds" as opposed to "intelligent nerds?" Does prestige for one's intelligence or "genius" protect one from acting out violently? Perhaps--certainly some school shooters felt that they were not living up to their potential--but maybe they knew deep down that they had little potential for doing great things and this pushed them over the edge when combined with bullying. The difference in the psychological state of "stupid nerds" vs. "intelligent nerds" would make for an interesting doctoral dissertation for some ambitious graduate student.

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