Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Skeptic's View of Why the GOP is Scaling Back its Convention

Logically, it doesn't make sense that Hurricane Gustav's threat justifies the Republicans essentially canceling its convention. Doing so won't improve the nation's response to Gustav, let alone save a single life.

I believe Gustav provides the Republicans with an excuse to cancel the convention. The GOP calculates, correctly, that its convention just cannot compete successfully with the Democrats' star-studded Hollywood spectacular.

Apart from such glitz as the fancy cardboard Greek-pillared set, the Dems had some remarkably good speakers, for example, Hillary, Obama, and the surprising best of the best, Dennis Kucinich with his electrifying "Wake Up America" speech, (Don't get impatient--its relatively slow first minute merely provides room for the speech to maximally build.) Those speeches were much stronger than anything the Republicans could muster: John McCain, George Bush, Dick Cheney, Rudy Giuliani, Sarah Palin? Gimme a break.

If the Republicans held their convention as planned, it would almost certainly yield a loss of votes, especially on style points which, in the crazy world of U.S. politics, trumps substance. The GOP convention would also be hurt by the liberal mainstream media, which would demean the convention as dwarfed by the Democrats' extravaganza rather than praising it for being longer on substance than on style.

Instead, if the Republicans scale the convention way back, claiming it's because of Hurricane Gustav, many naive people will perceive the GOP as valuing public safety above politics and thereby gain votes, while simultaneously saving the Republicans millions of dollars, which they can then divert to the rest of the campaign.

What do you think? Am I being cynical or insightful?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Palin's Speech: What You'd Expect from a Beauty Pageant Contestant

Sarah Palin spent nearly the first half of her speech introducing her family, not the best use of the precious time the world media has given her.

The second half was filled with precisely what one would have expected from a former runner-up in a beauty pageant: vague, non-speak, for example, "The people of America expect us to seek public office and to serve for the right reasons. And the right reason is to challenge the status quo and to serve the common good."

Palin pronounced Iraq "eye-RACK," Iran, "eye-RAN," and joined George Bush in pronouncing nuclear "nucular." Those convey an ignorance that will not inspire confidence among intelligent Americans, nor world leaders.

Sigh. Enough about Palin. She'll lose anyway.

Palin: A Case of Reverse Discrimination

There are over 100,000,000 American citizens over age 35, and thus eligible to be vice-president.

Do you think if Sarah Palin were a white male, she'd be deemed the one out of that 100,000,000 most qualified to be a 72-year-old's heartbeat away from the presidency of the United States?
  • According to an Associated Press report, Palin started college at Hawaii Pacific College, transferred to North Idaho College, and transferred again to the University of Idaho, where she she got her B.A. in journalism from the University of Idaho yet never wrote for the student newspaper nor worked for the campus TV station. No professor remembers her. To this point, neither she nor the University of Idaho have reported her G.P.A.
  • Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska (average population 5,500 when Palin was serving.) Amid accusations of cronyism, Alaska's largest newspaper, the Anchorage Daily News reported that a campaign to recall her had been initiated.
  • 1 1/2 years as governor of America's least populous state, where Palin currently is the target of an Alaska legislature investigation into an alleged Troopergate-like abuse of power.
More central, a column in today's Anchorage Daily News said about Palin's governorship, "There's a growing sense that the government isn't running all that well...The long and short of it is this: We're not sure she's a competent governor of Alaska."
  • Zero national and foreign policy experience. An editorial in the Anchorage Daily News said Palin is "a total beginner on national and international issues." CNBC's Chris Matthews reported her as saying, "I haven't thought much about Iraq."
Unless the Republicans give her a helluva crash course, in the Oct. 2 debate with Joe Biden, Sarah Palin will be the Dan Quayle of 2008. She may even become a Thomas Eagleton, and withdraw before the election, especially if it turns out to be true, as reported in The Atlantic, that she claimed that her 16-year-old daughter's baby was her own to avoid admitting her daughter got pregnant out of wedlock.

America is becoming, ever more, a reverse-discrimination nation That, I believe, is core to our inability to compete with China, India, etc., and is accelerating America's demise into third-world status.

The Pain That Today's Man Experiences


I get many letters like this. It hurts me to read them, but probably not as much as the pain they experience.
I just stumbled upon your website, and to my amazement, I found someone who is expressing the very suffocating repression I feel on a daily basis. For over a decade now, I have felt the inequality towards men the women’s organizations, media and workplace heap upon our gender. Every night on TV, one sitcom after another, portray men as bumbling, incompetent dolts who only make it through the day because their ever oh-so-superior female counterparts exercise better judgment or intellect. Though this is supposed to be a fictional comedic show, the psychological effects are truly mind boggling. Our children, exposed to this on a daily basis begin to believe that is the way things are and should be. Society is slowly being conditioned and the effects are seen daily.

You are absolutely right, women can just lambast men, without reprisal. Were a man to make even some slightly unflattering comment about the female gender, he is targeted, emasculated, drawn and quartered, without regard to the truth of his statement.

On a note of personal experience, I had to leave my job of 18 years (oh, voluntarily, of course) because of a gender war within the office. The boss, raised by a single mother, with two sisters and no brothers, a domineering wife and two harpish and haranguing daughters, allowed the women in the office to treat the men with open hostility. Statements were made like “No one with a penis should be in charge, no one with a penis should even be working in this office, oh wait, we do need someone to change the water bottle and carry our books!” Bear in mind, this is a law office in the federal government. One male co-worker made the mistake of uttering the phrase “yappy women” when talking about an experience at an airport and was given a formal reprimand and had to make a formal apology to all female employees. Yet, when the men gathered together and went to the boss to “apprise him of the gender war” his comments were “suck it up and do your job.” Now, this is taking place within offices of our federal government. What is a man to do? How can we continue?

Thanks for letting me vent my frustration.

Bill
(name changed)

Friday, August 29, 2008

How We Should Choose Our President

Watching the Hollywood-orchestrated Democratic National Convention reminded me of the absurdity of how we elect our leaders: Four years of pressing fat-cat and special-interest-group flesh (now, often electronically) to pay for Vegas-style conventions, campaign "events," obfuscatory commercials, and media War Rooms.

Can someone tell me what's wrong with my approach to reinventing how we elect our leaders: A three-week-long, completely taxpayer-funded campaign, which would consist only of televised debates and a non-partisan statement of their voting records and platforms on key issues, distributed over the internet, or in print, on request?

The result would be:
  • Candidates not in the hip pocket of special interests
  • Incumbents not having the unfair advantage of getting more donations because donors like to contribute to likely winners
  • Better candidates would run because they didn't have to press the flesh constantly to get elected
  • Most important, the electorate would be better informed because the quality information listed above would not be overshadowed by the obfuscatory hype.

Palin: A Patently Pandering (and losing) Pick

Sarah Palin is the person most qualified to step into the presidency should the aging McCain need to step down?

Yes, I'm impressed that Palin has, in oil-centric Alaska remained independent of the oil companies, indeed rooted out oil-related corruption in her own party. She was brave enough to endure the opprobrium of conservatives because she wanted to support domestic partner benefits for gays. And I respect Palin deciding to go back to work three days after having her child. Great role model.

But Palin has no foreign policy experience and not much experience at all--mayor of Wasilla, Alaska (pop. 5,500 when she was its mayor) and less than two years as the governor of our least populous state...unless you want to count her experience as runner-up and Miss Congeniality in the Miss Alaska beauty pageant.

Sure, you could say that Obama hasn't much more experience than Palin, but as Lloyd Bentsen said about Dan Quayle in another vice-presidential debate, Palin is no Obama. For example, she attended three colleges before getting her BA in journalism from the University of Idaho; he has a law degree from Harvard, where he held its most prestigious student position: editor of the law review. Obama has virtually no equal as a speaker nor charismatic character. And he's black--the vast majority of the public is eager to show they're not racist.

On Oct. 2, Palin debates Joe Biden, a long-time, respected senator, top debater, and foreign policy expert. It will be a bloodbath.

More important, McCain's choosing Palin will ever more clearly be seen, correctly, as mere pandering to the youth and woman vote. Ironically, I suspect that most women will support the pro-choice Obama-Biden ticket than the firmly anti-choice McCain and Palin. (Palin would outlaw abortion even in the case of rape!)

I agree with McCain's impulse to make a bold choice--this is Hail Mary time for him. But such a lightweight? Puhleeze. In today's society in which being celebratory of diversity is deified, if his goal is to win rather than necessarily choose the most qualified person, McCain should have limited his search to credible women or minorities, for example, Hillary, Condi Rice, Colin Powell, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Olympia Snowe, or even deposed HP CEO Carly Fiorina. Even Oprah or Bill Cosby would be more credible than Palin--and would garner a helluva lot of votes.

I'm guessing the reason McCain settled on Palin is that he couldn't convince anyone better to run. I'd imagine, for example, that Tim Pawlenty knows that a McCain/Pawlenty ticket wouldn't stand a chance against Obama/Biden. Pawlenty would devote tremendous effort and spend credibility capital and all he'd get was to have been associated with a loser.

It's Obama-Biden. I'm taking bets.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

My Thoughts After Obama's Speech

Well, we have our president.

Sure, I disagree with a number of his assumptions, for example that it's wise to
  • use taxpayer dollars to keep jobs in the U.S
  • further expand redistributive "justice"
  • ask taxpayers to pay yet more into the public education system. Research has not shown spending more to yield more learning.
  • guarantee "higher ed for all." I believe that will translate into lining the pockets of higher education. If tuition is more affordable, colleges will simply raise tuition more, which is what has happened every time government increases financial aid to students.
And I get the sense that Obama is overpromising and will underdeliver: How can he give a tax cut to 95% of Americans and still pay for all the programs he called for, not to mention the programs he didn't mention: for example, the costs of legalizing the 13 million illegals in the US: health care, education, welfare, criminal justice costs, etc.?

But those issues are, for now, beside the point. I predict that Obama's inordinate oratorical gifts, strong intelligence and personal charisma, in concert with his outstanding behind-the-scenes team and a besotted media, will get him elected in a landslide, giving him a broad mandate for his big-government approach.

While my best judgment is that, on average, private sector/small-government approaches ultimately do the most good for the most people, I believe no one can with great confidence assert whether, at this point in history, that's true. The question is affected by too many factors to predict with certitude.

But Obama is a far better--indeed an inspiring--standard bearer for the big-government approach than McCain is for small government. And after eight years of an inept, hubristic Republican, the public wants--well--change.

And they're going to get it: America's most liberal senator as president, a liberal congress, and a more baldly liberal media than any in history will create a perfect storm for a grand experiment on the efficacy of big government.

I am curious to see how it works out, and, of course, wish Obama well.

What Obama Should Talk About Tonight

CNN's David Gergen said something rare and wise today. He said that Obama's speech tonight must not gloss over the reality that America is facing an economic disaster that hasn't been seen since the Depression.

While the media's campaign coverage continues to focus on the horse race (e.g., What Obama needs to do to carry Pennsylvania) and such ephemera as the multimillion-dollar convention set created by Britney Spears' designer, we have:
  • An economy based on our consuming ever more
  • China and others poised to bury us. Russia seems to be hankering for another cold war.
  • Insecure borders, with immigration uncontrolled
  • Terrorists who want to use nuclear and radiologic devices to destroy us and our allies
  • Ever more Americans worried if they'll have as good a job next year or any job, for that matter
  • Millions of Americans without health insurance and who couldn't afford fee-for-service, and we really don't have a way to provide it without hurting the quality of health care for those who currently are insured.
  • An education system that for decades has been long on promises, and despite massive spending increases, short on delivery.
Too, we face enormous environmental dilemmas:
  • Do we spend many billions of ever harder-to-find dollars to attempt to cool the earth when the science behind the global warming predictions is growing ever shakier?
  • Do we invest more billions of dollars in taxpayer money to accelerate the development of alternative fuels so we can more quickly become energy independent, or would it be prudent to not tax the public on schemes that the private sector deems not worth the investment?
I wish, vainly, that Obama's speech tonight would address these issues instead of focus-group-dial-tested, meaningless propaganda phrases like "Change we can believe in, "Keep America's promise alive." We need new directions, not the tired old policies of the failed Bush-McCain administration."

If Obama addressed the aforementioned core issues in a circumspect and forthright way, despite my Libertarian leanings, I'd seriously consider voting for him.

American Education; A Little Shop of Horrors

I've long wished that education could be the magic pill for curing societal ills. That's what motivated me to get a Ph.D. from Berkeley specializing in the evaluation of education.

Alas, subsequently, I've had the opportunity to review a number of so-called "national models" for education, for example, Jaime Escalante's Ganas math program, Debbie Meier's Central Park East, and yesterday, another one. (I am precluded, at this point, from mentioning its name.) Invariably, I've found "model programs" to be wildly disappointing: usually the teaching and learning are--not withstanding transient, unreplicable blips--no better than in other schools. And in the "national model school" I reviewed yesterday, it was, on average, worse.

After 35 years in education, I have come to the conclusion that a "model school" is one you haven't visited. They become "models" more because of PR than of substance. These schools create a compelling soundbite: "an urban public school that's like a New England prep school," "a school that suffuses technology throughout the curriculum, "a program that enables inner-city kids to do well in calculus." The school or district's PR machine then orchestrates media tours and promulgates data that obfuscate what's really going on. Hollywood loves "teachers that make a difference" stories, so they make movies about such schools or teachers, replacing the inconvenient truths with feel-good fictions.

I've also concluded that among the most potent ways to improve education while returning significant money to the taxpayer would be to eliminate 95% of the education bureaucracy. Right now, in, for example, California's public schools, a teacher's behavior is restricted by six separate bureaucracies' rules: school-level administration, district administration, county administration, SELPA administration (a special regional entity regarding special ed kids), state administration, and federal administration.

Each bureaucracy imposes on teachers its own assemblage of rules and restrictions: occasionally contradictory, often motivated more by politics than pedagogy, usually complicated and costly, and rarely sufficiently benefiting what goes on in the classroom to justify the time, costs, restrictions of teacher freedom, complications, and contradictions.

Remember the failure of the government to even marginally address the Hurricane Katrina disaster? The largest cause was overlapping, labyrinthine bureaucracies that rendered each other paralyzed, inert. That's analogous to what goes on in the public schools.

I believe that education could be dramatically improved if our mammoth education bureaucracy were replaced by a single, small federal agency or private entity. Its main functions would be to pay the bills, recruit the best teachers, and develop and disseminate model curriculum developed by teams of the nation's best teachers.

That would, at once, improve teaching quality, eliminate the strangling regulations impeding teaching, and provide teachers with excellent curriculum. Some of the cost savings would go directly to teachers to spend on materials, field trips, etc. Some would go back into taxpayers' pockets.

Alas, such a proposal doesn't stand a prayer of enactment. Extraordinarily powerful interests benefit from the status quo, and somehow, the media rarely questions the cost-effectiveness of the Education Blob. The media merely advocates that we feed it more money, like the metastasizing plant in Little Shop of Horrors that grows by feeding it employees' blood.

Sigh.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Gross Story with a Point

Last night, my head finally hit the pillow at 1:30 AM, whereupon I smelled feces. The source? A clump had stuck to my dog's behind, and to try to get it off, he had scooted along the quilt and bed sheet. I had to get up and change the quilt and sheet, and get into the shower with Einstein to remove the smeared feces from his backside before I finally, at 2 AM could get back into bed.

That's about as unpleasant as "parenting" gets and yet it was less stressful than many worklife tasks. And I got immediate gratification for my work: In a half hour, all was clean and dry.

Again and again, I see stay-at-home moms having much more pleasant lives than people in the workplace. Sure, they have to change diapers and clean toilets, but also, they're on the phone with their friends while their kid is in the crib. They're strolling in the mall or supermarket, relaxedly picking out things. They're seeing the concrete rewards of unstressful tasks like cleaning up the house or making a yummy dinner. If their kids are in school, they have time to get their nails done, take an art class, etc.

Yet women and women's advocacy groups endlessly complain of the stress and difficulty of being a stay-at-home mom, even claiming that mommyhood is the most difficult job. In fact, as a commenter on a previous post wrote, very few women would trade their job as stay-at-home mom for their husband's job out in the work world. Today, even white-collar careers tend to be stress-packed: landing a job, keeping a job, succeeding in a job, fighting the commute, etc. And blue-collar work is typically even more exhausting if not downright dangerous.

Men and women who work outside the home, you deserve a lot of credit for what you do, moreso than do stay-at-home moms or dads.

Monday, August 25, 2008

I Have More Sympathy for Bosses than for Supervisees


The media almost always takes the side of workers over the bosses. Witness the endless parade of books, articles, and TV shows, about bad bosses. Their supervisees, however, are usually painted as saintly.

In fact, on average, people become bosses because they are smarter and harder working. And what do they get:
  • Often bosses must supervise less competent and less hard-working people, and their hands are tied in doing so. If praise and gentle suggestions don't improve a weak employee's performance, threats of union grievances and harassment claims often tie bosses' hands.
  • Firing is often very difficult, requiring months or even years of painstaking documentation, after which significant risk still remains of a wrongful termination suit or of the surviving workers' morale declining from the loss of their pleasant if unproductive pal.
  • Bosses are often caught in the middle between higher-ups demanding more productivity and unproductive supervisees already complaining of overwork.
  • Not much more money. Unlike workers, who get overtime pay after 40 hours, managers are exempt, meaning they can (and often are expected to) work 50-60 hours a week but receive no overtime pay. And the increment in salary for being a boss is taxed at their highest rate, so, after taxes, unless they're a true big-wig, the improvement to their lifestyle is usually minimal,
If you're a boss, I want you to know that at least someone's on your side.

Biden Will Be a Disaster for Boys and Men


Democratic vice-presidential nominee Joe Biden said:
What I'm most proud of in my entire career is the Violence Against Women Act. It showed we can change people's lives, but the change is always one person at a time. There are many more laws and attitudes that need changing so women are treated with equal opportunities at work, in the classroom, and in our health care system.
As I've documented in a number of previous posts and articles (To see them, click on the Men's Issues and Men's Studies labels in the tag cloud in the right margin of this blog,) each of those statements is unfair to men and boys:

1. A wealth of studies make clear
that roughly half of serious domestic violence is initiated by women. Biden's Violence Against Women Act specifically excludes violence against men.

2. Women, on average, are treated at least equally to men in the workplace. For example, the oft-cited statistic that women are paid less than men is terribly misleading. Here's just one way: Full-time-working men work 4 to 10 hours longer per week than "full-time working" women, yet the studies, almost all of which are sponsored by feminist organizations or conducted by women's studies professors, don't acknowledge this*, and the media, which is diligent about vetting studies that draw pro-male conclusions, are somehow unwilling to vet pro-woman findings. But Biden wants to make the workplace even more anti-male.

Appropriately, the media more carefully vets a study on the effects of a drug if it is funded by the drug's manufacturer. It more carefully examines a tobacco study's findings if funded by the tobacco industry. Yet in the case of gender-related studies, the media seems to accept uncritically the findings generated by women's advocates.

3. Boys are treated unfairly in today's schools: Competition is replaced with so-called cooperative learning, books of male heroism and adventure are replaced with stories of heroines and connection. Recess is increasingly replaced by yet another round of phonics, just one example of how boys--more active, on average than girls--are forced to sit still for ever more hours at a time, for more than a decade. And if they can't, they're often put on a chemical leash: Ritalin. Boys drop out of high school and commit suicide at much higher rate and attend and graduate from college at far lower rates. But Biden wants to make schools even more biased against boys.

4. Men live 5.3 years shorter than women and live their last decade in worse health, yet the vast majority of gender-specific health care research and outreach over the last 50 years, has been done on women. We, for example, see a sea of pink ribbons for breast cancer yet none for sudden heart attack, which kills many more men, much younger. And Biden wants to make our health care even more biased against men.

I believe Biden will accelerate the tidal wave that is drowning men.


Sigh.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What I Plan to Say About College on ABC-TV's 20-20


I've been invited to appear on ABC-TV's 20-20 to discuss whether college is worth it. Here are my planned talking points:

After adjusting for financial aid, the amount families pay for college has skyrocketed 439% since 1982--to subsidize silly research, pay for fancy buildings, bloated administrations,
palatial dorms, and fancy gyms complete with rock-climbing walls.

The statistic that colleges most often cite to justify their astronomical costs is that you earn much more with a college degree. That’s terribly misleading: If you locked the pool of college-bound students in a closet for four years, they’d earn more than the pool of non-college-goers: They’re brighter, more motivated, and have better family connections.

Yes, employers increasingly require college degrees, but there’s no need to attend an expensive college. That’s especially true of the thousands of private colleges that do not have a designer label, but it’s even true of a designer-label college:


A study by Princeton professors Krueger & Dale found no difference in earnings whether a student graduated from an Ivy League institution or State U. Implication: Start at a community college: Dorm life is overrated anyway--kids living together for the first time too often end up creating Animal House environments. That’s why the dropout rate is so huge: More than 40% of students attending so-called four-year colleges don't graduate even if they're given--and pay for--six years of college. And the learning rate is equally low. (See below.) Besides, teaching quality is usually BETTER at community colleges than at the Ivies because faculty is hired and promoted mainly on how well they teach, not how much research they crank out--The kinds of people likely to be good researchers are the OPPOSITE of the kinds likely to be good undergraduate instructors.

Parents can save the money without short-changing the child if they beg their kids to do the few things that enable one to make the most of college:
-- Choose professors carefully; for example, read online student reviews of them. Pick the professors most likely to teach you to think and write better and who will inspire you.
-- Take writing-and reasoning centric courses: for example, rhetoric.
-- Participate in extracurriculars such as debate, student govt, and student newspaper.
-- Take classes that expose you to a wide range of political perspectives.
-- Search out great peer and adult mentors.

If your child did poorly in high school (bottom half of his high school class), do NOT take a four-year college’s willingness to admit your child as an indication of his likely succeeding there. Among students at so-called four-year colleges who graduated in the bottom 40% of their high school class, 2/3 never graduate even if given 8 1/2 years. Meanwhile they’re accumulated a mountain of debt, devastated self-esteem, and the huge opportunity cost: what they could have been doing if they hadn’t been taking academic courses. Such students should consider apprenticeships, career-prep programs at community college, the military, or learning at the elbow of a successful small business owner.

The higher ed lobby is very powerful (for example, ACE and AASCU)--pushing, for example, for increases in financial aid, which turn out NOT to mainly benefit students but the universities: giving students more financial aid allows colleges to raise tuition further. So, when a politician says “I voted to increase financial aid,” he actually mainly voted to use people's tax dollars to line the pockets of colleges, not to make college more affordable.

Those lobbying organizations also fight against colleges being required to be accountable for how much value they’re providing for all the time and money students spend on college. The Spellings Commission (a 2006 federal panel looking at higher ed) pointed out how frighteningly little learning accrues from college and recommended that colleges be held more accountable.

For example, a 2006 study supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that 50 percent of college seniors scored below "proficient" levels on a test that required them to do such basic tasks as understand the arguments of newspaper editorials or compare credit-card offers. Almost 20 percent of seniors had only basic quantitative skills. The students could not estimate if their car had enough gas to get to the gas station.

Unbelievably, according to the Spellings Report, things are getting even worse: "Over the past decade, literacy among college graduates has actually declined … According to the most recent National Assessment of Adult Literacy, for instance, the percentage of college graduates deemed proficient in prose literacy has actually declined from 40 to 31 percent in the past decade. … Employers report repeatedly that many new graduates they hire are not prepared to work, lacking the critical thinking, writing and problem-solving skills needed in today's workplaces."

But the higher ed lobby effectively quashed the Spellings Report’s recommendation that colleges be more accountable. Congress instead, in 2008, did just what the higher ed lobby wanted: increased financial aid without making colleges more accountable for the quality of education they dispense.

We require tire manufacturers to mold into the sidewall of every tire its treadlife, temperature, and traction ratings. Yet colleges, which are so much more expensive and could so affect students’ lives, have virtually no accountability.

Government should require colleges to prominently post on its website a College Report Card:
  • the amount of freshman-to-senior value added in writing, reading, thinking, and math reasoning
  • the percentages of students with varying high school records who graduate in four years
  • the average amount of cash families with varying income and assets must pay and the average amount of loan that is assumed
  • the results of its most recent student satisfaction survey
  • the executive summary of the institution's latest accreditation visiting team report
  • the average earnings of its graduates
The colleges should report how their statistics compare against their peer institutions (those admitting similar-caliber students.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Double Standard is Destroying Boys


This article makes a strong case for how the public schools have become very unfair to boys. Boys are suffering greatly as a result: decreased achievement, increased dropouts, not to mention increased Ritalin, increased teen suicide. Yet, the media has dismissed pleas for attention to boys as unnecessary. If girls had suffered such a decline, I'd bet a lot of money that the media wouldn't ignore it.

Why Toll Booths Should Be Eliminated


Toll booths are a good example of government foolishness. The argument for them is that they enable the tax to be a user fee. The users pay the tax, like when a fee is charged to visit a park.

But that argument is dwarfed by the counterarguments. Indeed, if I were deliberately trying to create a foolish way to tax, I couldn't think of a worse way than toll booths: They
  • steal people's time.
  • increase air pollution
  • waste gas
  • are regressive: the poor pay the most painful amount of tax.
If government decides it needs to tax drivers more (It doesn't, in my view,) let it add a highway-toll tax to the vehicle registration fees in counties that currently have toll booths, with more expensive and lower-gas-mileage vehicles paying higher fees.

Of course, that means that drivers living in toll-free counties that drive across toll bridges and tunnels get a free ride. But that imperfection in taxation is far smaller than the imperfections cited above.

Monday, August 18, 2008

How David Got Manipulated into Marrying


The client who just left my office--we'll call him David--said that his girlfriend--we'll call her Vixen-- got him to marry her with such statements as:
  • "The problem is your fear of commitment." In that ploy, Vixen pathologized David's decision, which invoked in him a sense of insecurity and guilt. In fact, as David and I discussed things, it became clear that his not wanting to marry had nothing to do with "fear of commitment." He had committed to many projects and people in his life. David was reluctant to marry because he knew it offered little benefit but in a divorce, under California law, he'd likely be taken to the cleaners, forced to support an ex-wife for years.
  • "You're unwilling to progress." Why is it progress to get a piece of paper (marriage certificate) that increases your chances of impoverishment if you break up. But David, who is a pleaser, felt guilty that he was "unwilling to progress."
Vixen took that ploy right out of liberals' playbook: Liberals--with the media's help-- converted the term "liberal" to "progressive," knowing that the term "liberal" implied big-spending, but who could be against progress? Would anyone prefer to be a regressive? Vixen's ploy made David feel guilty that he was being against progress.
  • "You're just not willing to plan for the future." A marriage certificate doesn't increase your ability to plan for the future, but like the previous accusations, this one can make a guy who was moderately insecure to begin with, feel the need to cave.
And David did cave--with a $40,000 wedding. And while David is not unhappily married, if, at some point, he joins the 58% of married couples who divorce, he'll have to support the woman he divorced for years afterwards.

Dear readers, I'm not against marriage. Indeed, I've been married to my wife for more than 30 years and don't regret it. My daughter is happily married (and now pregnant for the first time.) But marriage should be a decision made with open eyes, not coerced by manipulative ploys.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Advice to an Honest Man Whose Life is a Mess

Someone emailed me today saying his life is a mess, but rather than blaming it on others, he was wonderfully honest in acknowledging his weaknesses.

I reproduce his letter here and my response to him. I hope that you'll find both to be interesting.

Hi Marty:
I am a 40 year old guy. I have a high school education. I did not do well in high school. I work at a low paying job. I do not have good people skills. I don't have many friends and people don't seem to reach out to get to know me. I have not had a girlfriend in years. I have always had trouble dating. I am probably of average intelligence. I suffer from depression. I was diagnosed with a learning disability. I am probably above average in looks. I have never been promoted in a job. I have been fired a few times. I have to take anti-depressant medications..Wellbutrin. People tell me that I talk to much at times..at work.. Sometimes I steal small items at work. Candy Bars. I am suspicious that my boss may know, but chooses not to say anything. I don't steal anything over 4-5 dollars at most. There is a good community college near where I live. What should I do to pull my live together? What books can I read to improve myself? I tend to act out at times and try to influence people..maybe overstepping my boundaries. I grew up with a mentally ill mother. I have always had trouble dating. I tend to have a high voice and even though I am not gay some women tell me I sound ike a woman. People tell me that I talk to fast.
That is all.
Thanks.
Scott
Dear Scott,

How fantastically introspective you are!!!!!! Great. That's the most important step to improvement. I'd recommend that you:

1. You make friends mainly by putting yourself in places where you're likely to meet good friends (perhaps at a college, church, or where you volunteer) by asking people about themselves, listening carefully, sharing some things about yourself, and, in general, being kind.

2. Constantly remind yourself to speak in the lowest part of your vocal range and slowly: Imagine that you were playing the part of a highly respected CEO, or Barack Obama.

3. Never talk for more than 30 to 60 seconds without shutting up or asking a question. In any conversation, be sure to talk only 30 to 50% of the time--the other person will fill in. Let there be silence in the conversation rather than you jabbering on.

4. Never steal again, literally or figuratively. Make absolute integrity your mantra. You cheapen yourself with every candy bar. In the end, you'll feel better about yourself AND it may well help your career and personal life.

5. Your desire to influence people comes from one or two instincts: the desire to prove your worthiness in the world and to help others. Both are worthy impulses. But especially if you're a person of just average intelligence and one who talks too fast (and thus probably comes to judgments too quickly,) your advice will often be wrong and/or unwanted. Most people--unless exceptionally secure--will not tolerate advice unless it is asked for.

6. Remembering the advice in #1 through 4, build a network of influential people by volunteering for organizations in which the other volunteers are well-connected people, whom if they like you, can hire you or recommend you be hired for a better position than you currently hold.

7. With regard to meeting a woman, since you do better in writing than verbally, I suggest you use online dating services such as match.com. Write your profile candidly and humanly. Post one or two current pictures of you that ARE representative of what you really look like--remember the honesty rule? When you respond to women's emails, do so with humanity and curiosity.

8. Read many articles on my website. They're all free and offer important guidance on career, personal growth, and living the well-led life.

How's that sound?

Marty Nemko

Why It's Not a Man's World


Grace, one of the regular commenters on my blog, asked me to opine on why it's a man's world.

Grace, it's not.

Yes, more men have leadership positions, but as I'll argue, that doesn't make it a man's world. And the reason more men have leadership positions is overwhelmingly not because of some male-erected glass ceiling. It's primarily because more men than women are willing to trade work/life balance and do what it takes to get and succeed in positions of major influence. They believe that doing so results in a more meaningfully-led life than if they stopped work at 40 hours so they could see their kids' soccer game and play Monopoly with them on a regular basis.

So, these men are, for example, willing to put in the 60+ hour workweeks that typical CEOs and congresspeople put in. They're more often willing to move their family across the country to some god-forsaken place so they can learn how to run a plant. They're more willing to pursue risky business ventures. The book, Why Men Earn More, describes 25 such reasons, which explains the misleading statistic that women earn less than men. For the same work, on average, women earn at least as much.

But just because more men are in leadership positions doesn't mean it's a man's world. Women have much more power than is widely recognized. Women have lifestyle power: Women and their advocacy groups have persuaded society to give women many more choices than men have. Society will not denigrate women for becoming a CEO, doctor, lawyer, holder of a low-level full-time job, part-time job, or no job at all. Most men do not have as wide a range of options.

In addition, many other things ensure women's control. Examples:
  • If a woman fails to use birth control and gets pregnant, the man is on the hook for 18 years of child support. A woman can have an abortion and end any responsibility, but a man cannot force a woman to do so. Therefore, in inserting his penis without a condom in a woman, he takes a far greater risk than she does.
  • If women have a deficit, for example, are "underrepresented" in engineering, there are massive efforts at redress. Yet when men have the deficit, for example, that fewer than 40% of the 2008 college graduates are men, there is little or no redress.
  • Even when men suffer the ultimate deficit--they live 5.3 years shorter than women and spend their last decade in worse health, the vast majority of gender-specific medical research over the last 50 years has been on women. Almost all the gender-specific health-related non-profits are for women. For years, we've been seeing a sea of pink ribbons against breast cancer, but none against sudden heart attack (Think Tim Russert,) which kills many more men, much earlier.
Women's advocacy groups have pushed-through policies that ensure women have all these advantages. In contrast, as co-president of the National Organization for Men, I can say with certitude that nearly all efforts to ensure fair treatment of men have been rebuffed or censored, usually unfairly derided as mere whining by the hegemony.

In reality, it's far from a man's world.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Media's Double Standard, Yet Again

Books with a liberal premise, for example, "Why Women Should Rule the World," not only got published by major publishers, but received hundreds of thousands of dollars in free advertising thanks to softball interviews on major TV shows and minimally vetted reporting in the print media. That's true, even though its author, Dee Dee Myers, makes the wildest, unsubstantiated broadbrush anti-male sexist assertions, for example, that women are more practical than men are and that the U.S. economy would be stronger if women were in charge.

Yet books with a conservative premise rarely get published by a major publisher, and if such a book manages to defy the enormous odds, it rarely gets significant media coverage, which usually dooms it to failure. And if a conservative book is the extreme rarity that, despite the media censorship, becomes so popular that it can't be ignored, the media applies a double standard and vets it with the rigor of an IRS auditor or dismisses the book based on an ad hominem attack: usually mainly by calling the author a biased conservative. (As though the media is not dominated by biased liberals.)

So, for example, Harvard Ph.D., Jerome Corsi's book The Obama Nation was dismissed in the New York Times and elsewhere in the mainstream (read, liberal) media mainly because it was written by a conservative who wants to see Obama lose. Why was that criticism not applied to the endless parade of Bush-bashing books such as Bushwhacked or Shrub, written by people who wanted to see Bush lose or be impeached? Although Corsi's 384-page book contains over 600 citations, the media has found only minor errors in his work, certainly not substantive enough to invalidate the book's core contention: that Obama is more liberal than the media would have us believe.

Then yesterday, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by conservative American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray, For Most People, College is a Waste of Time in which he argues, as I have, that college degrees are overrated. Attacks on the article immediately were published, notably in the prestigious Chronicle of Higher Education. Did the critiques argue that in fact, a college degree results in learning that justifies all the time and money? No, they mainly argued that the article should be dismissed because it was written by a conservative and an elitist.

The most powerful entity in the U.S. is no longer the military-industrial complex. It's the media, which is ever bolder in restricting the ideas we're exposed to, thereby essentially brainwashing us into becoming liberals and supporting, with our tax dollars and nonprofit donations, the risky Leftist schemes that the media and its anointed emperor, Barack Obama, will force on us.

"College is a Waste"


It's rewarding when the contention you've long asserted--that the college degree is America's most overrated product--makes it to the lead editorial in the Wall Street Journal. This op-ed by Charles Murray appeared yesterday.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Different Take on the Immigration Debate


The New Case Against Immigration: Illegal and Legal by Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies, argues:

"What's different about immigration today as opposed to a century ago is not the immigrants but us....(America is now a) mature society and that renders our past experience with immigration irrelevant. We have a post-industrial, knowledge-based economy, a welfare state, advanced communications and transportation technology that complicate the issues of security and sovereignty, etc. We have, in other words, outgrown mass immigration. It was an important phase of our national development, and played an important part in shaping who we are as a nation. But, like other phases we've passed through as a people -- pioneers settling the frontier, for instance -- it's something we need to put behind us."
From where I sit, the implication is that America should do what we've heretofore done:

1. Control immigration so that only non-criminals who've passed a health screening are allowed to become legal residents, with exceptions made for only people who truly are escaping persecution.

2. If a larger number of people apply for legal residence than can be accommodated without unduly taxing our education, health care, or other systems, then the decision as to who should be admitted should be based on their likelihood of contributing to society. For example, college educated people would be given preference.

3. Enforcement should NOT be done by rounding up illegals, but by strict punishment for employers who hire illegals.

4. All the work that employers say can't be done by legal Americans could be done--All that would be required is for employers to raise salaries and improve working conditions, which, in themselves are good things to do.

How to Identify Yourself


America encourages people to self-identify according to their race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. This will only exacerbate under an Obama administration.

It's far wiser to base your identity on your accomplishments: the important things you've done and are doing, not the accident of having been placed into a group through no efforts of your own.

I may be a straight white male atheist, but that doesn't define who I am. What does? I am a writer, thinker, counselor, and pianist, who tries to be a good human being.

Okay. So how should you identify yourself?

How to Lose Weight (Maybe)

I'm fighting a losing battle against aging. Despite eating fewer calories while continuing to exercise as much as ever, I'm growing a pot belly and my weight keeps climbing.

Dr. Michael Edelstein, an award-winning cognitive-behavioral therapist recommends this approach which I am trying:

1. Keep your house free of calorie-dense foods. Keep lots of fruits and vegetables within easy reach.
2. Write down everything you eat, before you eat it.
3. Read daily (with expression) the reasons you want to lose weight.
4. When tempted to eat something calorific, say aloud, with expression, the reasons it's stupid to do so.

I want to lose 20 pounds. I'll report back. Let me know if this approach works for you.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

More on the Resurgence of Gold Diggers

I've previously discussed that in the past decade, I've seen a great increase in the number of my female clients and friends who would like to not work and, instead, find a guy who'll support them.

That anecdotal experience has been supported by the spate of recent books on how to find a rich husband, a seminal New York Times article and a more recent Reuters report that even large percentages of women physicians and Stanford MBAs are wanting to not work or to work minimally. Perhaps that is because they saw their first-wave-feminist mothers not find working outside the home to be as pleasurable as they thought it would be.

A recent CNN article explains that the desire to be a stay-at-home woman, extends not just to the women who claim their motivation is to spend more time with their kids, but even to the childless.

Guys, if you don't mind assuming all of the financial burden associated with a live-in woman and perhaps children, fine. Some men don't mind. But many others have unwittingly been manipulated into being beasts of burden by women who use the techniques summarized in the above-referenced books and articles.

Make sure you're making the huge decision to bear all the financial responsibility with fully open eyes.

Five Recession-Resistant Careers


This article lists five recession-resistant careers. Thanks to social-network marketing guru Adam Metz for emailing it to me.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Latest Examples of Egregious Liberal Media Bias


The mainstream media, for months, has had fairly dispositive evidence of liberal Democrat John Edwards' affair yet chose not to report on it while he was a presidential contender. It only did so when Edwards himself has admitted it, and the coverage stopped within a couple of days.

Compare that with, for example, how the media treated Larry Craig, a Republican. In that case, all agreed that no sex took place and that all he did was kick (inadvertently or not) the person in the bathroom stall next to him. Yet the mainstream media, on its front pages, ridiculed him for weeks, forcing him to retire.

Look too how the media covered Obama's statement that people won't vote for him because "I don't look like the faces on money." Clearly, he was playing the race card, yet the media gave him a nearly complete pass on it, instead blaming McCain for playing the race card for objecting to Obama's statement.

I really don't understand why the media is willing to forgo its almost sacred responsibility to fairly present the news and let the citizenry come to its conclusions. If C-Span's journalists can be fair and balanced, why cannot others?

Ignore Edwards' Affair


Yes, it's unseemly that John Edwards had an affair, especially with his wife struggling with breast cancer. It's also easy to snicker about Edwards, who so frequently held himself as more ethical than others, yet relentlessly lied about his affair.

But please, do not let this issue be used as a weapon against the Democratic party.

This is not the exhortation of a partisan Democrat--I more often vote Libertarian or Republican, but I do not want yet another irrelevancy to affect voters' decisions about whom to vote for. (For example, whites voting for Obama to prove to themselves and others that they're not racists.)

Look at the candidates' track record and positions on the issues that will most affect America. A non-partisan summary of those is at www.votesmart.org.

Huge Solar/Hydrogen-Power Breakthrough?


I'm always wary when a discovery is described as a breakthrough, but this may be the real deal.

MIT scientists have developed a quite simple technology that will both greatly improve solar panels and hydrogen-powered vehicles.

This research was just published two weeks ago, and before getting too excited, it's wise to wait a couple of months to see whether the world's scientists poke so many holes in it that it looks like swiss cheese, but for now, it appears we finally have an alternative energy discovery that is cause for celebration. I've read a number of articles about it, all positive, and I find the Popular Mechanics one the most interesting.

Side note: This research was funded by a family foundation, not by the government. I've become increasingly convinced that the government funding process tends to exclude out-of-the-box ideas: The proposals are reviewed by scientists steeped in conventional approaches to science. They reward their buddies who do the same sort of work they do. In contrast, a private funder is more objective: looking for the research proposals likely to yield big breakthroughs. Another example of that: Craig Venter's privately funded effort decoded the human genome years faster and much less expensively than the government funded effort. But perhaps my position here is just another example of my bias against government-run programs.

Job Search Advice from a "Spiritual Atheist" perspective


A fellow career counselor suggests that after you apply for a job, you should call to follow up and say, "I feel I'm a good candidate for the job because of X. What can I do to get an interview?"

From the job seeker's selfish standpoint, such strategies will help often enough to be worth trying, yet I find myself increasingly hesitant to recommend them to my clients and in my writings because, while they may help my clients, they cause pain for the employer.

The last time I advertised a job opening, I had 100 applicants. I'd hate to have had to deal with lots of squeaky wheels pleading "Pick me! Pick me!" If in reviewing their application, I wanted to interview them, I would. Also, such strategies reward pushy people, thereby punishing people who played by the rules: submit an application and I'll let you know if I want to interview you.

I'm increasingly finding that using "spiritual atheism"--asking myself what's the cosmically right thing to do--is leading me to be a better person.

Spiritual Atheism

There is no God worth praying to--How can anyone find comfort in a God who would allow literally billions of people, including infants, to die of horrendously painful diseases such as cancer?

Yet, a secular spirituality informs nearly everything I do:

-- As I supervise my assistant, I feel an almost sacred responsibility to make her worklife as rewarding as possible--after all, she's giving me some of the best hours of her life.

-- As I decide what projects and clients to take on and what to write about, I feel a secular spiritual obligation to choose the things that would make the biggest difference in the world.

-- As I decide what to buy, I remember that, even though my individual contribution is trivial, it's cosmically right to live lightly on the earth, to leave it better than when I entered it.

-- That I have a secular spiritual obligation to enrich the lives of everyone I meet, from the Comcast repairman to my wife. With her, that often includes staying out of her way, so she can fully flower and enjoy, although it also includes giving unwanted advice when I feel the benefits of doing so outweigh the liabilities.

Someone asked me, "How is spiritual atheism different from people whose motivation is to make the world better?" The reason I do the things I do go one step beyond "trying to make the world better." My core motivation is more universal--cosmic, if you will--a responsibility to make the biggest possible impact during the time I am alive. Simply because that's just in the cosmic scheme of things.

One liability of spiritual atheism: I rarely have what I call "Christian glow"--those Christians who walk around with an beatific look on their faces. Spiritual atheism usually doesn't make me feel good. It just feels like the right way to live, an obligation.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Race in the Workplace


The topic of my NPR-San Francisco radio show on Aug. 24 at 11 AM to noon Pacific time will be race in the workplace. I'll ask listeners to call in to describe their personal experience of race in the workplace. You can hear the show on the Internet live at this link or on the radio in the San Francisco Bay Area at 91.7 FM. When I ask for callers (probably around 11:30) feel free to call in: 415-841-4134.

Friday, August 1, 2008

New Study: Global Warming Prediction Models are Unreliable


A new refereed journal article reports a study that indicates that computer models predicting climate change are unreliable: http://www.atypon-link.com/IAHS/doi/abs/10.1623/hysj.53.4.671

Here too is a collection of recent research that argues that the globe is COOLING. It was assembled by the minority party's of the U.S. Senate's Committee on Public Works and the Environment.

New Book Makes a Case Against Obama


I just received this press release about a just-published book The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality written by a Harvard Ph.D and published by Simon & Schuster. This Sunday, it will be #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and currently is the #1 political non-fiction book on Amazon.com.

I am concerned that it is written by an ideologue, but given the media's uncritical genuflection before the Obama altar, this book might offer a needed balancing perspective.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
1 August 2008

CONTACT: Tim Bueler
media@timbueler.com
(310) 855-3460

NEW BOOK: THE OBAMA NATION: LEFTIST POLITICS AND THE CULT OF PERSONALITY

BY JEROME R. CORSI, PH.D.

In this thoroughly researched and documented book, THE OBAMA NATION: LEFTIST POLITICS AND THE CULT OF PERSONALITY (Threshold Editions; August 1st, 2008; $28.00), the #1 New York Times bestselling coauthor of Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry, Jerome R. Corsi, Ph.D., explains why the extreme leftism of an Obama presidency would leave the United States weakened, diminished, and divided, and why Obama must be defeated—and how he can be…

Barack Obama stepped onto the national political stage when the then-Illinois state senator addressed the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Soon after Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate, author Jerome Corsi began researching Obama’s personal and political background.

Scrupulously sourced with more than six hundred footnotes, THE OBAMA NATION is the result of that research. By tracing Obama's career and influences from his early years in Hawaii and Indonesia, the beginnings of his political career in Chicago, his voting record in the Illinois legislature, his religious training and his adoption of Christianity through to his recent involvement in Kenyan politics, his political advisors and fund-raising associates, and his meteoric campaign for president, Jerome Corsi shows that an Obama presidency, would, in his words, be "a repeat of the failed extremist politics that have characterized and plagued Democratic Party politics since the late 1960s." In this stunning and comprehensive new book, the reader will learn about:

Obama's extensive connections with Islam and radical politics, from his father's and stepfather's Islamic backgrounds, to his Communist and socialist mentors in Hawaii and Chicago, to his long-term and close associations with former Weather Underground heroes William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn—associations much closer than heretofore revealed by the press Barack and wife Michelle’s twenty-year-long religious affiliation with the black-liberation theology of former Trinity United Church of Christ Reverend Jeremiah Wright, whose sermons have always been steeped in a rage first expressed by Frantz Fanon, Stokely Carmichael, and Malcolm X, a rage that Corsi shows has deep meaning for Obama

Obama's continuing connections with Kenya, the homeland of his father, through his support for the candidacy of Raila Odinga, the radical socialist presidential contender who came to power amid Islamist violence and church burnings

Obama's involvement in the slum-landlord empire of the Chicago political fixer Tony Rezko, who helped to bankroll Obama’s initial campaigns and to purchase Barack and Michelle’s dream-home property

The background and techniques of the Obama campaign’s cult of personality, including the derivation of the words "hope" and "change"

Obama’s far-left domestic policy, his controversial votes on abortion, his history of opposition to the Second Amendment, his determination to raise capital-gains taxes, his impractical plan to achieve universal health care, and his radical plan to tax Americans to fund a global-poverty-reduction program

Obama's naïve, antiwar, antinuclear foreign policy, predicated on the reduction of the military, the eradication of nuclear weapons, and an overconfidence in the power of his personality, as if belief in change alone could somehow transform international politics, achieve nuclear-weapons disarmament, and withdrawal from Iraq without adverse consequences for us, for the Iraqis, or for Israel

Meticulously researched and documented, THE OBAMA NATION is the definitive source for information on why and how Barack Obama must be defeated—not by invective and general attacks, but by detailed arguments that are well researched and fact-based.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jerome R. Corsi received a Ph.D. from Harvard University in political science in 1972 and has written many books and articles, including the No. 1 New York Times bestseller Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry. His latest bestseller was The Late Great USA: The Coming Merger with Mexico and Canada. He is a senior staff reporter for WorldNetDaily.com and the author of two books on contemporary Iran: Atomic Iran and Showdown with Nuclear Iran. In his 2005 book, Black Gold Stranglehold: The Myth of Scarcity and the Politics of Oil, which he coauthored with Craig R. Smith, Dr. Corsi predicted oil prices at over $100 a barrel.

THE OBAMA NATION
BY JEROME R. CORSI, PH.D.
THRESHOLD EDITIONS
AUGUST 1ST, 2008
ISBN: 1-4165-9806-5; $28.00

Threshold Editions is an imprint of Simon & Schuster.