Friday, April 04, 2008

Obama vs. McCain Bumper Stickers

I saw a mini-van this afternoon with Obama bumper stickers plastered on the back that read "Latinos for Obama" and "Women for Obama" (I wish I'd had my camera on me but since I am now carrying a wallet instead of a purse, I never have anything--this experiment won't last long). Anyway, the other day, I saw a McCain bumper sticker. In contrast to the Obama one, it was plain, just said "McCain President."

I looked up both of the official websites of the two candidates and got a kick out of the differences in the bumper stickers and logos. Here are McCain's bumper stickers-- note that they are plain although there is one that says "Veterans for McCain." Obama's bumper stickers, in contrast, run the gamut from "African Americans for Obama," to "Latinos for Obama" to "Women for Obama" all the way to "Asian Americans/ Pacific Islanders" for Obama." I have to hand it to him, he does include "Republicans for Obama," but why break everyone up into every group imaginable? Good grief. I thought Obama was supposed to be the candidate that brought us all together, in spite of race. It seems to me that even his bumper stickers emphasize the differences between us--rather than just being Americans, suddenly, we're divided into whatever group we belong to. Is that really the message he wants to send?

Update: These stickers and buttons were listed under "apparel" on the McCain website. I guess identity politics goes both ways. Yuck. Thanks to readers for pointing this out.

Update II: Sorry about enabling moderation folks, but here is an example of the high level of discussion we would be treated to had I not:

Dear Mrs. Ernest T. Bass,

Please go fuck yourself.

Very truly yours . . .


This combination of dissing the South, cursing, and offering no substance is pretty much standard from these guys.


Thursday, April 03, 2008

"Poverty is less a matter of having few goods than having lots of problems"

So says a professor and author of The Persistence of Poverty: Why the Economics of the Well-Off Can't Help the Poor in this article from the The Boston Globe (thanks Mike):

Karelis, a professor at George Washington University, has a simpler but far more radical argument to make: traditional economics just doesn't apply to the poor. When we're poor, Karelis argues, our economic worldview is shaped by deprivation, and we see the world around us not in terms of goods to be consumed but as problems to be alleviated. This is where the bee stings come in: A person with one bee sting is highly motivated to get it treated. But a person with multiple bee stings does not have much incentive to get one sting treated, because the others will still throb. The more of a painful or undesirable thing one has (i.e. the poorer one is) the less likely one is to do anything about any one problem. Poverty is less a matter of having few goods than having lots of problems....

Naturally, the answer for this professor of goodwill is to give more tax payer money to the poor with fewer strings attached:

Reducing the number of economic hardships that the poor have to deal with actually make them more, not less, likely to work, just as repairing most of the dents on a car makes the owner more likely to fix the last couple on his own. Simply giving the poor money with no strings attached, rather than using it, as federal and state governments do now, to try to encourage specific behaviors - food stamps to make sure money doesn't get spent on drugs or non-necessities, education grants to encourage schooling, time limits on benefits to encourage recipients to look for work - would be just as effective, and with far less bureaucracy. (One federal measure Karelis particularly likes is the Earned Income Tax Credit, which, by subsidizing work, helps strengthen the "reliever" effect he identifies.)

I really don't buy this strategy for the most part. I do think that people who are poor have a worldview of problems that never end and therefore, feel that they can never tackle it all and feel defeatist. However, in my evaluations of thousands of disability clients, I found that a fair number of claimants (certainly not all, some were in very bad medical situations) tended to have a sense of entitlement, that is, they expected money for nothing and felt offended if they were asked to do anything for the money, even show up for their evaluation!

Whole families would come in, having trained their kids and relatives that applying for benefits was a better alternative than working. Once people get Social Security disability benefits, they rarely get off the rolls and go back to work, and even if they can, there is little incentive. According to Karelis's theory, the alleviation of some of the money problems--at least of the younger claimants--should create more work incentive, not less, but it seems to do just the opposite. Giving people something for nothing just creates more of the same.

My Black Thumb

Now that it's spring, I have decided to try to grow something. Glenn ordered me this EarthBox Garden Kit weeks ago and it has been sitting in the garage where I feel guilty every time I step over the big box to get to the car. He ordered it because I am always talking about wanting to "live off the land" and grow things on my own in case of a famine but I had no idea he took me seriously.

Anyway, today I had the morning off and decided that come hell or high water, I was putting this thing together and planting something in it--preferably strawberries or some kind of vegetable. No, it was not hard to put together. It was easy. I am just mechanically challenged as screwing a few casters into a tub and putting a plastic screen and water tube in place for the plants is pushing the limits of my abilities.

But enough about that. This box looks kind of neat. It is described as a:

maintenance-free, high-tech growing system makes it easy to control soil conditions for less guesswork and more yields. In fact, the patented EarthBox more than doubles the yield of conventional gardens its size, with less fertilizer, less water and virtually no effort! With no digging or weeding to do, vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers grow bigger, tastier and faster in the EarthBox!

I have always wanted to grow strawberries and everyone in my family loves them. I will let you know if I can get anything to grow in this contraption --believe me, it will be a miracle if I do. If I don't blog about it at all in the next six months, it probably means something really bad happened to my plants and I am too embarrassed to let you all know that the curse of my black thumb continues.

If you have any tips on growing vegetables or strawberries etc., please drop a line in the comments.

UPDATE: Here's a picture of the finished product!


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Why are Men Being Dragged to Sephora?

In my PJM column from yesterday, I mentioned that men were being dragged into the make-up retailer, Sephora, by women, looking puzzled and dazed. Ann Althouse is a bit dissatisfied with the pathetic lingering of some of these men:

But I must say, I was in Sephora the other day (to spend $22 for lip balm — "sweet and tart blackcurrant oil cushions the lips with plumping fatty acids"), and the women were in some crazy dream world. One woman raves to another that this cosmetics line is all natural, and the other oohs with excitement and surprise. But some women had in fact dragged men along with them, and way these men looked made me want to slap them back to consciousness and shout at them to get the hell out of there. I'm not saying that men must be very masculine or that there's something wrong with a man who actually wants to go into Sephora and buy something. (They have plenty of men's products, and beautiful salesladies will eagerly help you select great gifts for women.) But these particular men looked as though they had atrophied into mere appendages of women. They were willingly and weakly standing there discussing the women's products. They were placidly accepting their diminished existence. That's how I saw it anyway.

So why are the men standing there looking glassy-eyed? Could it be that society has been catering to women for years now and telling men that their needs don't matter, and many men are resigned to this existence, and therefore, feel disgusted, unappreciated and too whipped to put up a fight? Or am I wrong and it is more like commenter Jim says:

Sometimes men accept a placid and diminished existence now to have a shot at something less placid and undiminished later. Happens all the time.

I hope the reason is the latter.

Why Aren't People Happy?

This WSJ article (Hat tip: Dan Collins) suggests that many people spend their time unwisely and that we watch too much TV:

Women, folks under age 65, those divorced or separated, lower-income earners and the less educated were likely to spend a bigger chunk of their day in an unpleasant state...

Instead, there's been a significant increase in the hours devoted to what the authors call "neutral downtime," which is mostly watching television. Women now spend 15% of their waking hours staring at the tube, while men devote 17%.

Watching TV may be low-stress and moderately enjoyable. But people aren't mentally engaged the way they are when they're, say, exercising or socializing.

"I wonder whether there are self-control problems when it comes to watching television," muses Prof. Krueger, an economist at Princeton University and another of the study's co-authors. "I wonder whether people would feel better about their lives if they spent their leisure time doing something that was more interactive and more engaging."

My guess is that many people are unhappy because those who watch a lot of TV have expectations of life that are too high--that is, the boob tube has them thinking they are supposed to be the next American Idol and instead, they are at a job they don't like or in a situation that is less than what they consider ideal. The life they think they should have vs. the life they are actually leading might lead to depression or at least a feeling of unhappiness. I have about three TV shows I watch lately, re-runs of Frasier, Drew Carey, and Mama's Family. None of the characters in these sit-coms is doing too well. My life, by comparison, looks great. I am happy.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Reader Jeff wonders if this man will be highlighted on Oprah soon. Somehow, I doubt it.

Ask Dr. Helen: How the Heck do You Carry a Wallet?

My PJM column is up:

Ditching a pocketbook for a wallet sounds like a great idea. But where do you put your chapstick and loose change?

The column describes how I hate carrying a purse, so I am turning to those of you who only carry wallets and asking for help. How do you do it?


Monday, March 31, 2008

John Hawkins at Right Wing News has an interesting post on conservative female bloggers and dating.

17.4% --WTF?

Okay, I am tired of serious material for the moment and scoured the internet looking for something fun or at least, kind of dumb. I ran across a quiz called the Blog Cuss-Oh-Meter on Rachel Lucas's blog (via Army of Dog) and decided to give it a try. Surely, I thought, this blog has less cursing than many I have seen out there. But, apparently, I was wrong:

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
Created by OnePlusYou - Free Online Dating

Is your blog or website as tacky as mine?


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Monitoring Political Correctness

I was at my local Books-A-Million and noticed that right on the front stacks sat Jonah Goldberg's book, Liberal Fascism. "Great," I thought, but I have often seen Books-A-Million put out a variety of books that are not as politically correct as some displayed prominently at other bookstores such as Borders or Barnes & Noble. So today, when I was at my local Barnes & Noble, I decided to see if they also gave prominent placement to Goldberg's book.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that they did. It was right up front as you can see from the pictures, both under "Current & World Affairs" and "Best-selling Non-fiction." As you can see from the picture below, there are other right-leaning or libertarian books displayed, for example, FairTax by Neal Boortz and John McCain: An American Odyssey by Robert Timberg. It's nice to see that (at least at this local Barnes & Nobles), books that are left, right and in-between get displayed. So, glad to see that my political correctness monitoring was unnecessary, I grabbed (and paid for, of course) a book by Bill Cosby, Come On People: On the Path from Victims to Victors that I have been meaning to read, and left.

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"A Dad is More than a Paycheck"

Protein Wisdom is promoting what looks like a very good cause--an Equal Parenting Bike Trek:

A grueling 758 mile cycling trek to raise awareness of a child's fundamental right to be loved, guided, educated and nurtured equally by both fit and willing parents.

There is a news video about one of the fathers, Robert Pedersen, who is riding in the bike trek. Pedersen states in the video, "A dad is more than a paycheck." This is why he is riding to raise awareness of the importance of fathers and the need to change child custody laws--particularly in Michigan. How wonderful. I just sent a small donation to help out with this worthy cause. I hope this is just the beginning of men fighting to change laws that are unjust, unfair, and that harm many children who desperately need dads.


Are Guys Really "Clueless" when it Comes to Reading Sexual Cues?

"Yes," says an article in LiveScience (thanks to the reader who emailed the link):

More often than not, guys interpret even friendly cues, such as a subtle smile from a gal, as a sexual come-on, and a new study discovers why: Guys are clueless.

More precisely, they are somewhat oblivious to the emotional subtleties of non-verbal cues, according to a new study of college students.

"Young men just find it difficult to tell the difference between women who are being friendly and women who are interested in something more," said lead researcher Coreen Farris of Indiana University's Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.

So men are a bunch of oblivious clowns--it's obvious this is what the staff writer, Jeanna Bryner (or her editor) thinks of men. Take a look at the title: "Clueless guys can't read women." But the editors don't have the last word: A number of the commenters disagree with the tone of the article (as do I). One disgusted guy writes in:

Nice anti-male gender stereotyping. "Men are clueless." That's the sort of thing we'd expect in a radical feminist blog. The suggestion is, men are flawed for their "insensitivity to women's subtle non-verbal cues."

Um, could it be that women pick up on details better than men? Women have more developed skills in social communication (while men have more developed skills in other important areas)?

The TONE of your article is nothing short of male bashing -- you obviously would not agree or you wouldn't have written it that. "Men are clueless."


Another equally dismayed commenter states:

Oh wow, yet another denegrating article/study about men (guised as science) written by a woman, gee what a surprise. Let me make sure I have this right, it's men fault for not reading subtle non-verbal clues by women who REFUSE TO BE CLEAR WITH VERBAL COMMUNICATION and it's somehow a man's fault? anyone follow this logic? if you do, you're a woman.

If you want to get a handle on where this particular writer, Ms. Bryner, is coming from, take a look at a couple other of her articles in LiveScience. Here's one entitled, Study Debunks Myth that Women Want Sex Less--note the positive title. If a study finds that men want sex, they are called clueless. Another article is entitled, Why Men Dominate Math and Science Fields where " a climate that is less than fully friendly to women remains, and its texture is often still so taken for granted that it tends to be invisible."

Of course, maybe it's not Ms. Bryner. Maybe it's the headline writers who think that every development has to be given an anti-male spin. Why would that be?