Friday, April 25, 2008

Being a Celebrity Cuts Both Ways

Sometimes, being a celebrity is not all it's cracked up to be:

Wesley Snipes is prison-bound.

The Blade star, 45, was sentenced Thursday to three years behind bars as his punishment for failing to file his tax returns, U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges announced in an Ocala, Fla., courtroom....

The prosecution, seeking to make an example of Snipes, had requested the maximum: three years in prison and a fine of at least $5 million.

"The fact that Snipes was acquitted on two felony charges and convicted 'only' on three misdemeanor counts has been portrayed in the mainstream media as a 'victory' for Snipes," the government said in its sentencing recommendation. "The troubling implication of such coverage for the millions of average citizens who are aware of this case is that the rich and famous Wesley Snipes has 'gotten away with it.' In the end the criminal conduct of Snipes must not be seen in such a light."

There are many average citizens out there who cheat on their taxes, but they are out of the public eye and are not being used as an example for others. Sometimes, being one of the rich and famous results in more penalties, not fewer, when one gets in trouble with the authorities.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

New Reality Show on "Bad Dads"

A number of readers have emailed me about a destructive new reality show being considered for Fox on "deadbeat dads" (thanks very much). Here is a synopsis of the show:

After embracing the dark side of reality television with its marriage-busting hit "The Moment of Truth," Fox's newest project taps the power of its unscripted division for the forces of good.

The network has ordered a pilot from 3Ball Prods. in which an avenger of penniless single mothers hunts down deadbeat dads and forces them to pay child support.

Jim Durham, director of the National Child Support Center, functions as a sort of "Dog the Bounty Hunter" for tracking deadbeats. In the pilot, a financially destitute mom is contrasted with her wealthy ex-husband, who is living the high life. Durham confronts the man at his country club to shake him down in front his friends. It's ambush reality TV -- but for a noble cause.

Most disturbing about this shake down show is the abuse they are heaping on men in the name of "justice":

"(Durham) calls them on the phone and gives them the chance to do the right thing," said executive producer JD Roth ("The Biggest Loser," "Beauty and the Geek"). "Of course, those calls are never met with anything but yelling. Then he goes into their life, finds out what kind of assets they have and makes their lives miserable -- foreclose on their house, repossess their car. He will squeeze them until the women get paid..."

Durham's National Child Support Center is one of several collection agencies that serve as a last resort for neglected single mothers. Some critics say such companies do more harm than good. Child support collectors have been accused of charging steep fees and using ultra-aggressive tactics. Durham bills his clients 34% of whatever he collects.

Roth counters that Durham's clients typically feel so abandoned by the court system that they're relieved to get any money at all. Plus, he said Durham is the only collector who extracts interest owed on the outstanding debt, so his clients often receive more money than if the absent dads had simply paid their bills.

As for the aggressive tactics, child support is not considered a debt per se, but an order of the court. Collectors are therefore not subject to following the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which regulates what tactics a collection agency can employ to collect a debt.

"I'm hoping that eventually this show changes how courts see deadbeat dads and how moms have to deal with it," Roth said.

If greenlighted to series, "Bad Dads" will provide Fox a fresh take on the law enforcement reality show, a genre the network pioneered with such Saturday night staples as "Cops" and "America's Most Wanted."

"I've seen 'Cops,' and I want to watch more than a crack addict with his pants around his ankles running away from a police car," Roth said. "These guys owe money, and they should pay."

From what I can gather, this show is just a pilot right now but could blossom into a series. There must be some way to keep this from happening. This show sounds sick, inhumane and frankly, the way that some men are often treated in family court seems unconstitutional in my book. Where is a show to emphasize that unfairness? Instead, we are going to be treated to men being humiliated, harassed, and having their houses foreclosed on. How is that helpful?

If Fox wants to know more about the plight of "deadbeat dads," they would do well to read Stephen Baskerville's Taken into Custody. In a chapter entitled "Deadbeat Dads or Plundered Pops," Baskerville explains that the objective data shows that there is little scientific evidence that large numbers of fathers are not paying support. The government bases most of these claims not on hard figures but rather, the Census Bureau simply asked mothers what they were receiving. The non-custodial parent was never surveyed. In addition, the astronomical figures owed are inflated as they are based on hypothetical formulas of what would be owed under circumstances that do not exist. This makes it seem like dads are worse than they are.

And what about deadbeat moms? Is anyone going after them?

Update: Protest the show here.


Is Our Self Perception always Accurate?

The other day while at Borders, I cracked and bought this book, StrengthsFinder 2.0: A New and Upgraded Edition of the Online Test from Gallup's Now, Discover Your Strengths. I generally shop at Amazon but I had read about this book and online test to determine one's strengths and thought I would try it out--for academic reasons, of course. If I don't know my strengths by now, something is probably wrong--but I like tests like this and thought it might be fun.

The book is a small hardback that has a sealed envelope inside with a code--good only for one test (great marketing ploy) at The test, it states, is about 35 minutes and then you use the book as a guide to understanding your various career and other strengths. It's an easy test asking the user to agree or disagree with a series of statements.

Shockingly, I came out as a "Relator" --defined as someone who enjoys being with people, mainly close friends, and talking about ideas. Funny, I have always considered myself more as a loner, so I was sort of surprised to see this. This got me thinking about how many of us view ourselves in a way that may not be accurate. The angry loner thing for me was something I carried with me since I was a child. It was easy to tell myself that being an angry loner was the reason people didn't like me and that there was no reason to try. Yet, over the years, I have found that my perception of myself as an angry loner is not really accurate, I actually like being around people to some degree--if they are people who like ideas and facts. I still don't like the idea of caring if people like me or not, but I do care if the people I like or care about, want to be around me.

What about you, readers, have you ever had a perception of yourself as X, but found out with time and experience that you were not really that way at all?


Dr. Joy Bliss at Maggie's Farm has thoughts on "nudging."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Podcast with Cass Sunstein

Should the government "nudge" people towards "better behavior?" Cass Sunstein, law professor at the University of Chicago says "yes" and talks with us about his new book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Professor Sunstein talks about libertarian paternalism which attempts to steer people's choices in welfare-promoting directions without eliminating freedom of choice. I don't like the term libertarian paternalism, as it sounds too technocratic. I think that this unfortunate choice of words will drive some people away from reading Sunstein's work. And that would be too bad.

Because the book is actually quite interesting and gives a great deal of background in economics, history and the psychology of human behavior as it relates to decision-making. He discusses how and why people make biased or faulty decisions or no decision at all and what government can do to facilitate people to better health, wealth, and happiness. He talks about nudging in terms of privatization of social security, marriage privatization and saving.

You can listen directly -- no downloads needed -- by going here and clicking on the gray Flash player. You can download the file 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." You can also get a free subscription via iTunes -- never miss another episode!

Music is "Time's Right" by 46 Long. Show archives are at

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Monday, April 21, 2008

"Maintaining some semblance of parity in your marriage requires you to deploy the same kinds of nasty tactics"

Apparently, nasty tactics are the only way the writer of this MSNBC article entitled, "Chores for two: Why men don't pitch in" thinks women can hold their marriages together (Hat tip: Jeff):

Yes, dear readers, it’s true: Maintaining some semblance of parity in your marriage requires you to deploy the same kinds of nasty tactics you swore you would never stoop to as a parent but nonetheless found yourself using the minute you actually had a kid. Bribery and punishment work; so do yelling and complaining. Threats are also effective, as long as everyone knows you mean business. With husbands, tender blandishments and nooky are particularly useful, as is the withholding of the aforementioned.

That this chauvinistic writer is angry that her husband will not scrub the toilet bowl at her command, yet she thinks of herself as oppressed is laughable:

The fact that guys, when left to their own devices, rarely rush to offer more toilet-scrubbing and diaper-changing is not in itself surprising. As Martin Luther King Jr. once observed, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

So why aren't women demanding something closer to parity? While many are resigned to seething in silence, the stakes are far higher than they seem to realize. When wives permit their husbands to shirk a fair share of the homemaking and parenting, not only do they themselves suffer, but chances are good that they’re also sentencing their children to a similar fate. When you have kids, everything you do teaches them how to live their own lives when they grow up. Unfortunately, all too many women are still teaching their children that “woman is the nigger of the world,” as John Lennon and Yoko Ono put it so memorably in a song lyric years ago. And what too many fathers teach their sons and daughters is that men can get away with dumping the scut work on their wives, and that women will grit their teeth and put up with it.

No, ma'am, you are teaching your children that mommy is a nagging bitch and that you hold men in such contempt that you view them as children to do your bidding. You are teaching them that psychological warfare is the only way to get what you want. You overlook your husband's strong points and what he brings to your family and see yourself, as you mention, as a heroine. Your narcissism is deafening and while you may think you are "striking a blow" for all womankind here, you are doing nothing more than teaching your children that manipulation and threats are the way to engage in a "loving" relationship.

I have some advice for your long suffering husband, Jeremy. Next time you need something fixed around the house, your wife needs help lifting something, or you need a blowjob, resort to yelling and complaining. Threats are also effective, as long as she knows you mean business. Huff and puff and complain to all of your friends about her inadequacies and let the world know what a loser she is. Then crow about your newfound equality. Finally, call yourself a hero and write a lousy piece for Men's Health or some other men's magazine about your loser of a wife and see how your married life takes off after that. For deep down, even if Jeremy won't admit it, my guess is, just like the women mentioned in the article, he is seething inside. It's no wonder he won't scrub toilets for this woman.

Update: Rachel Lucas notes that articles like this one are driving more and more young men away from marriage:

Another thing I’ll be sure never to do, from now on as I fully manifest my inner bitch-martyr, is to ever stop for one fucking MINUTE to think about how I am singlehandedly causing every young man who reads my articles to run screaming in terror the minute a girl utters the word “marriage” to him. I will not worry that my words do nothing but a disservice to other women, confirming ugly stereotypes and mens’ worst fears about taking on a wife. It’s not MY problem if men are too weak and immature to sign up for a life closely resembling a forced death march.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Girl Violence: YouTube Fad?

Another display of girl-on-girl violence has surfaced on YouTube (thanks to the reader who emailed the story):

Administrators of the Raymondville school system said they will review the district's cell phone policy after a report of an assault on a middle school student that was recorded with a cell phone and then displayed on YouTube.

It was at least the second time this year students from the school district uploaded violent videos to YouTube, said school board president John Solis. Early this year, a Raymondville High School student used a video to solicit someone to beat another student.

The father of a 13-year-old girl whose recent video-recorded beating was uploaded to the video-sharing Web site said he may press assault charges against the other students he blames for injuring his daughter.

Regino Garcia said Friday he is dissatisfied with the response of school administrators who he believes did not adequately punish those involved in the beating.

Garcia said one Myra Green Middle School student beat his daughter Sara on March 11 while another girl used a cell phone to record the incident, which left Sara with a slight concussion.

A third girl urged the girl striking Sara to "hit her face" during the attack, he said.

So these girls beat up another girl in a middle school hallway and here is the typical response from an administrator:

Solis, the school board president, said officials will have a workshop to discuss policy on student cell phone use.

"We're going to see if we need a stricter cell phone policy or not allow them anymore," he said. "That's what they're doing -videotaping on cell phones.

"It's a new wave. It's happening in other school districts here in the (Rio Grande) Valley. Our school district is not immune."

How many kids are being beaten up in the hallway that never reach YouTube? Wouldn't a better idea be to have a workshop on how to keep an eye out for bullying kids in the hallway? Or perhaps have the groups of girls who are bullies go to a group to learn anger management and be taught to understand why they are hitting other girls in the face? (Hint, girls love to disfigure other girls out of jealousy for being good looking--address that and you might get somewhere).

I have worked with a number of schools in the course of my career and I can tell you one thing I learned. They often punish victims and allow bullies to flourish and insist they have few problems. While I can understand wanting to review cellphone policy, blaming YouTube and cellphones for allowing violence to go unchecked in your school is externalizing the problem so you can stick your head in the sand. It is no solution to violence.

If you would like to read more about school related violence and the differences in girl and boy motivations for anger etc. take a look at my article (with Sandra Thomas) here entitled "School Connectedness, Anger Behaviors, and Relationships of Violent and Nonviolent American Youth" or if you want a good book on the topic, try Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls.