Friday, June 13, 2008

I just read that Tim Russert died of an apparent heart attack --it reminds me that while politics is important, life is moreso. My heart goes out to his family and friends.

Massachusetts is an Expensive Place to Live

Reader Jim writes in with a link to this Boston Globe article entitled, "The chilling effect of state's divorce laws." The article describes the antiquated Massachusetts laws that have men paying alimony indefinitely to women who are often educated and/or working. Naturally, no one gives a damn that men are often being screwed, having to pay up to 30 to 40% of their income to these women. The big issue is that (gasp!) women who marry men having this obligation might also get screwed!

FORGET KAFKA. Welcome to Massachusetts. In the 1980s, it was known as Taxachusetts. These days, it's known as the state whose divorce laws are so out of date that many people decide against marrying here - or marrying anyone anywhere whose alimony obligations originate here. I'm one of them. Two divorce lawyers tell me that the state's laws are so extreme they have "a chilling effect on marriage." Prenups offer no guarantees. Judges routinely ignore them.

Cathy Ortiz, a secretary in Fairhaven whose husband is out of work, was ordered in 2007 to make alimony payments from her own paycheck to his ex-wife - who has a full-time job with benefits.

Alimony law is largely case law, not statute. Many legislators are shocked to hear the feudal details, unique to Massachusetts. But not shocked enough to reform the law.

The laws are gender neutral, but the facts are not: 96 percent of alimony payers are men, who often must give 30 to 40 percent of gross earnings to educated and sometimes employed women. [my emphasis]Alimony does not automatically end or decline at retirement, even after an ex-wife has gotten an equitable share of marital assets. This applies in no-fault divorces, to the middle-class, and to millionaires.

A man is really in a catch 22 in Massachusetts if he cannot pay alimony. It's not fair if his current wife has to pay the ex alimony but on the other hand, only when more and more women start suffering from these laws will anyone decide to do anything about them.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Interview with Doug Feith on "War and Decision"

Doug Feith, the undersecretary from 2001-2005 has a new book, War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism. With the 2008 campaign underway, we're hearing more and more about 2002 and 2003 and the decision to go to war in Iraq. But most of the public discussion misses the true story. We talk with Feith about what really happened, and what he sees as the biggest issues for the next president.

The book is detailed, yet easy enough for a layperson to read and understand. It is written in plain English and without abbreviations or the expectation that one knows much about history or politics. I found it an intriguing look at how and why the current administration made its decisions with documents and facts that support the conclusions.

You can listen directly -- no downloads needed -- by going right here and clicking on the gray Flash player. You can also download the file and listen at your leisure by clicking right here. Plus, you can get a free subscription from iTunes and never miss an episode. Why not?

Show archives are at Music is by Mobius Dick.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Top 10 Male-Bashing Ads

Ask Men ranks the Top 10 Worst Male-Bashing Ads (thanks to the reader who emailed this):

You’ve seen him plenty of times on sitcoms; he’s the dumb, bumbling, idiot dad, husband and boyfriend who appears useless at everything but bringing home a paycheck. The message: Guys are dumb and women have to lead them around. This, of course, cues the laugh track. Yet a survey from an organization called Children Now found that two-thirds of kid respondents described men on TV as angry, while respondents from another group’s survey said men were portrayed as corrupt on TV by a 17 to 1 margin. Clearly, this is no laughing matter.

Check out the commercials and see what you think, frankly I think the one from Dairy Queen (#1) makes women look just as bad as men. It portrays a self-involved princess--a young girl-- getting a gift of an ice cream from a boy while sounding smug and self-entitled about using a male for free treats. Her mother actually looks shocked and surprised that her daughter is pimping for free ice cream. I would like to hear the discussion between the two after this interlude but the commercial ends.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

False Allegations Against Teachers to be Punished in Dallas

Dallas public schools will allow punishment for students who falsely accuse teachers of wrongdoing (Hat tip: Jeff):

Dallas public school trustees approved changes to the district's Student Code of Conduct on Thursday that will allow schools to punish students who make false allegations of wrongdoing against teachers.

Teacher representatives had lobbied for the change because the district must investigate all student allegations, which often results in placing the accused faculty member on paid administrative leave.

Teachers said the removal of faculty members during the investigations leaves colleagues suspicious and the reputations of the accused tarnished.

Under the old rules, if the accusations proved false, the teachers were returned to campus but students faced no consequences. Now, making a false allegation is on par with fighting and drug use. These acts can result in detention, removal from extracurricular activities or in-school suspension.

Okay, none of these punishments sound like much, but it's a start. When kids know they can get away with false allegations with no repercussions, they will do it more often. Hopefully, this ruling will lessen the likelihood of students making false allegations for they can be quite serious. I guess time will tell.

Munis for Dummies

I have to say that the "Books for Dummies" are really useful for understanding various topics that one doesn't know much about. I use them often, such as this one on how to garden. I am now reading Bond Investing For Dummies to learn how to buy municipal bonds. I figure that if taxes increase, I'll need to find some way to shelter savings that makes sense. Since muni interest is often tax free, it seems that they might be a better investment than simply putting money in CDs. Anyone have experience with municipal bonds--good or bad--that they can share? If so, let me know in the comments because I would love to hear from people who actually have experience with them as opposed to only reading about them in a book or listening to Suze Orman discuss them on her show.

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