Archive for February, 2008

Obama’s Unbearable Blackness of Being

Friday, February 29th, 2008

Last week, I wrote that this presidential campaign might be more civilized because the press may continue their love-fest with McCain lest they give the conservatives ammo and well, they’ll be nice to Obama because he is their guy. It might just be more civilized because of white guilt.

How will this play out in the election? Howard Kurtz wonders at the “pulled punches” because Obama is black:

“As conservative columnist Peggy Noonan wrote this month, ‘Mr. Obama will not be easy for Republicans to attack. . . . There are many reasons, but a primary one is that the fact of his race will freeze them.’ ”

It certainly won’t freeze them on the issues. But on personal matters and insinuations, that’s probably right.

Politico’s Ben Smith says Obama may be milking the contrition of his rivals:

“Most of them have apologized for saying something insensitive about Obama’s race, his name, or his heritage. And the dynamic of outrage and offense this campaign has proved race to be a much touchier subject than gender. At times, Obama’s campaign has sought to downplay burgeoning outrage. At others, he’s stoked it for political advantage.

The problem with the pussy-footing is that it is, in itself, racist. When a black man or woman can be criticized or challenged like a person of any other color, then we’ll know that equality has been achieved.

I don’t think we’ll see “equality” in this election by either the press or the candidates.



Seven Parenting Principles

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

Continuing this week’s unintentional theme, I’m going to delve where most people fear to tread because they’re a lot wiser than I am. Unfortunately, or fortunately for your sport and entertainment, I’ve been hit with a stupid stick and have decided to share my philosophies on everything from getting a woman to what it means to be a friend. Why not go one further and piss everyone off and talk about how to raise decent kids?

This is an especially dicey topic since my kids are not even teenagers yet. I haven’t run the parenting gauntlet, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion. Oh no! I’m a blogger and bloggers have opinions. It’s what we do. So here goes my leap into words that will be eaten. These words will come back to haunt me. Hell, they’re haunting me now.

The question before us, is how to raise a decent kid. And by decent, I mean a kid who doesn’t end up in jail, or on drugs, or is a smorgesboard of STDS or what have you. Before this rather low bar is hurdled in the late teen years and adulthood, the kid is parented, or not, a lot. I happen to believe that what happens in the formative years is, well, formative. Some people don’t. I think those people are stupid. It’s like saying that you plant a sapling, don’t water it, don’t feed it, don’t stake it, and then wonder why it either dies or if it somehow manages to live, ends up bent in the trunk. Parenting matters.

So here’s some thoughts on parenting:

1. Mean what you say and say what you mean. A child needs to believe his parents. A parent who consistently threatens is viewed for what he or she is: an impotent buffoon. The child will push and push, the parents will get frustrated, the child will feel emboldened and in charge, and ultimately, the child will feel insecure. Disrespect for parents translates into disrespect for all authority which translates into pissing off the boss and getting fired. Really, it’s not that big of a leap.

2. Make few rules. So many parents have weird and arbitrary whims, really. A child can be defiant and mouthy, but must not, under any circumstances eat a piece of candy at grandma’s house. Or, the child must say please and thank you like a robot but he is allowed to have a rotten attitude while doing it. Make your rules make sense. Explain them. Explain why they’re important. And explain what will happen should the be broken. This shouldn’t have to be a long conversation.

3. Have some standards. Good grief! It isn’t cute when your miscreant speaks truth to power at age six. He’s six. Yes, children can have their own wisdom. Yes, they can be very interesting. Mostly, they’re interesting to you, the parent. Other people think your little Johnny is annoying. They’re just too polite to say anything. What standards are a minimum? Respectful communication and behavior is a minimum. A child should not allowed to be surly and miserable. A child’s demeanor means a lot. A happy, open attitude can be trained.

4. Reinforce good behavior. It’s easy to spot the under performance. It takes more work to find the good work and praise it. When your child does something right, note it. And how you note it is important. Saying, “You’re the best kid ever” is vague and actually puts pressure on the kid. Say instead, “I noticed how hard you’re working to share with your younger brother” or “Your effort at math paid off! Keep it up!” This praises effort and not end results. The kid will be more inclined to keep trying to be better.

5. Model good behavior. Are your kids screamers? Do they hit? Do they have mean mouths? They learned it somewhere. Oh yes, kids are little parrots or monkeys or whatever screeching animal you prefer. They are paying attention to what you say to dad/mom. Model mature conflict resolution. Model kindness. Model taking turns. Model graceful losing. All those things where you want to stomp your feet and throw a fit like a toddler? Don’t do it–unless you want the same thing modeled back at ya.

6. Judiciously use corporal punishment. Back in the day, the whipping was used for everything. Most of our parents would be in jail for child abuse and rightfully so. Excessive seemed to be the modus operandi. I know lots of parents in my generation have gone to the other extreme. They won’t touch their child’s tushie no matter how deserving it is of some instant messaging. I told a friend of mine that the quickest way to get a message to a boy’s brain is through his butt. She didn’t like that much. There are rules, though, about all this. And here are mine:

  1. Never spank in anger.
  2. Always use a hand. (You need a feedback loop.)
  3. Never, ever, ever hit, slap, or meanly touch a child’s face or head. EVER!
  4. Only spank the butt or thigh.
  5. Children under two should not be spanked.
  6. Rarely, rarely spank.

Spanking is a last resort. Spanking is to send the kind of message that absolutely must be driven into the child’s mind or else. For example, a child who has been told to not go into the street and then looks at you defiantly and runs into it deserves a spanking. The consequences for this disobedience can be death. A spanking is a small price to pay for the child to get the long-term, potentially life-saving message.

I want to note here that each of my children have been spanked less than five times in their entire lives. I have a 10 and an 8 year old. I believe the children are too old now to be spanked. Age 8 seems to be a cut-off, for me. The child can reason. He knows right and wrong and other consequences are needed to make a point. To me, the majority of spankings should be given between 2 1/2 and 5. And remember, this is a last resort.

Why spank at all? Well, it’s effective. Used sparingly and with purpose, a spanking can give the child the hard boundary he needs to have. Some children need this structure more than others. Some children need few boundaries at all and will be somehow internally guided toward the right way of doing things.

Also, a note on special needs children: I have an autistic son. He has never responded well to spanking. He had a difficult time connecting the punishment with the behavior. The spanking seemed like a random act and would elicit a complete melt-down unrelated to the physical discomfort of a spank. So, he didn’t get spanked except for the one time he was four or so and once or twice when he was older and understood. Parents should be very cautious about using spanking with special needs children.

7. Love them. Love means action. It means participating in their lives. It means reading to them. It means exploring their interests and building upon them. Love means being tough and saying “no”, but it also means showing kindness and mercy and saying “yes” as often as possible. On the back drop of love, everything else falls into place. A child does not want to disappoint loving parents. A child wants to please mom and dad. A child will forgive all sorts of mistakes if he is loved.

This is not a definitive list. If you have more, add them to the comments. Parenting is absolutely a challenge. In fact, after marriage, I think it’s the most challenging task I’ve undertaken. It is so long-term and the outcomes aren’t guaranteed. But the results of good parenting are worth it. Many long-term miseries, much of the suffering adults endure goes back to the formative years. A good parent makes a big difference.



What Does It Mean To Be A Friend?

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

What is a friend? This definition seems good to me and describes a beloved few in my life:

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” – Anais Nin


I am what you could call selectively social. That is, in my private life, I have a few, intense, long-time friends rather than a vast collective of “networks”. Some formative experiences caused me to be rather slow to trust and so, even people who consider me their friend often don’t know a good part of who I am for a very long time, if ever.

Thankfully, I’ve been fortunate enough to accumulate friends over the years. There are the childhood friends who grew up with me back in the day. There is my High School friend. And there are the college friends. And then there are the Chiropractic college friends. And then there are my siblings who I am happy to now count as friends. In adulthood, as a doctor, making friends has been more challenging, but there are a couple doctors who are friends. It’s a time thing, really. And I do have some friends now whose company and whose money I enjoy taking on a frequent basis.

Now, there are many people I consider “friends”–that broad category of people who are better-than-acquaintances level. And this is where things get dicey. For me, an acquaintance is like a business acquaintance, someone we’ve met but not someone we count as a friend or know that well. An acquaintance would not be, say, a friend we’ve lost contact with, however. That person would be a long-lost friend, who is just waiting to be reconnected. Unfortunately, I’ve allowed too many friendships like that wane. And with the advent of the internet, it has been possible to reconnect and rebuild.

In the blog world, I’ve made some acquaintances. Do these, mostly women, consider me a friend or an acquaintance? It’s not a real “knowing” is it, communicating via email or reading someone’s blog or even briefly chatting on the phone? In fact, I’ve been surprised a couple times when the voice didn’t match the content. And, as it turns out, I’ve surprised others the same way. Such is the nature of the blog world.

A friend of mine suggested that I diminish the notion of friendship by calling so many people friends. I responded by saying that I felt truly fortunate and did indeed have many friends. For me, a friend fits this definition:

A true friend loves me despite my faults. She shows that love by keeping confidences and giving true advice and just listening. If I needed him or her, this person would come the instant I called. That instant, he or she would get on a plane, and come and be here with me, if it were at all possible. In absence of that, a friend would give me love, time, money, or whatever I needed to survive.

Well, that does shorten the list of friends now that I think about it, but I still think that I have more people who are true friends, than I probably deserve.

How about you? What is your definition of a friend?



College Tuition Subsidies

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

I’ve written about government subsidies and college loans before. Now, the topic is receiving lots of publicity because all the candidates think it’s important. It’s my belief that the chief beneficiaries of government loan subsidies are the colleges themselves. The government ups loan limits, magically, tuition increases. and voila! college students are screwed.

Now, Ilya Somin sees the benefits of rising tuition costs, and makes that case that compared to not having a college education, receiving a college education is a good deal. So, that’s his reasoning for no subsidized tuition:

Even at the most expensive private universities, four years of tuition, room, and board is unlikely to cost more than $180,000 or so (the approximate cost of four years at Harvard at maximum tuition rates). And, as Becker notes, many students (especially the poor) don’t pay the full sticker price because of widely available financial aid and merit scholarships. The income gains of getting a higher education far outstrip the tuition. The vast majority of students can therefore afford to pay for college by borrowing against their future incomes, and still have an enormous income gain left over. Thus, there is no reason for government to subsidize college tuition on the grounds that it is “unaffordable” – even for those students who are unfortunate enough to have to bear the full cost themselves, without parental assistance.

Well, I didn’t have parental assistance for any of my college and worked my way through all of them. And ten years out, I’m still paying loans off even with the income gains. What I don’t think Somin is factoring in, is that the loans are such a heavy, long-standing burden, they affect the next generation.

Of course, the kids whose parents are paying the bills are at a huge, long-term advantage. Those who pay off their own loans for years, to the point that they’re not saving for their own children perpetuate a cycle of governmental indebtedness. It’s just not a good pattern. And yeah, there is free will. And yeah, the professional life is much better than I expect I would have had without the education. And yeah, it’s worth it.

Still, my reasons for disliking governmental subsidies are different. Without them, the institutions wouldn’t be subsidized. They’d have less students entering. There would be more competition. They’d have to control costs. Students would benefit.

Either way, I want the government out of the college loan business.

H/T Instapundit



How To Get A Woman

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

Today, Rachel Lucas discusses the woman who would dump on her guy “friend” while still dating the “jerk”. She goes pretty tough on the girls, and rightfully so. I’ve known these types. In fact, one of my college friends dismayed me with her shameless using of the guy “friend”. She knew damn well that there was no future with the friend but he had a car, or money, or an ear, or whatever she needed at the time. And, it was ALL about her. Men should flee this woman.

But let’ not fool ourselves here. Men get something out of the “friend” equation. They get the company of a pretty girl. They get the moral superiority of not being like that guy. They get to be the shoulder to cry on without any of the expectations of a real relationship. In short, the arrangement suits them, too. They don’t do any of the hard work to woo a woman, yet there she is next to him, anyway.

Guys need to man up. It really isn’t that tough to get a woman. Yeah, we’re complicated. Blah. Blah. That comes with the reproductive parts you love so much. If you want a woman, you invite complication and all the wonderfulness that comes with it. You do want to invite a woman, right? So, how to do it:

1. Dig women. Simple enough. But some guys seem strangely gender neutral. One of the hottest guys I ever met had a pot belly, low-brow humor and gold chains around his neck. He was the typical Long Island guy ala Chris Katan. But he dug women. All women. Every woman he met he could find something interesting about. I remember a compliment he gave me, like it was yesterday. And he meant it. Did he ever have a shortage of women? Uh no. Every girl wanted to be around this guy. And he always had girls. Sometimes two at a time.

2. Make eye contact. I know. I know. You’re shy. Get over it, already. Join Toastmasters. Do something to overcome your fear. Because when you’re a scaredy cat, you’re making it all about you and not the woman. She will see your interest in your eyes. An interested guy is an interesting guy.

3. Be quietly confident. You don’t have to be a complete jackass to be confident. It’s how you carry yourself. If you hunch over and act like a kicked dog, you will give off kicked-dog vibes. Don’t be surprised when you’re kicked. Confidence breeds confidence. Stand up taller. See #2 again. Make sure you have a firm handshake. Smile. If it means you need to work out or better yourself in some way to overcome your insecurity, do it.

4. Approach her. What are you waiting for? If she’s that great, she’s worth an approach. A guy who can’t overcome his nerves to go to a girl he thinks is awesome, doesn’t deserve the girl and really, doesn’t want her bad enough.

5. Tell her. If you’re sick of the “just friends” moniker, tell her how you feel. Sure, you’re risking losing her friendship, but you might risk losing more if you don’t tell her; and she won’t be your’s anyway if you never say anything. So, it’s a win, win, if you tell her. A woman may not be into you, but it will always mean something to be told that she is appreciated and loved. By the way, this step is terrifying. Some women can be cruel or unkind or just plain stupid in this situation. This does not say anything about you, other than next time choose better. A good woman will not intentionally hurt you even if the response isn’t what you want.

6. Have fun. This isn’t life and death. This is making friends that could be something more. Too often, the pressure is to make this “perfect”. It doesn’t have to be. It just has to be fun.

There are wonderful men and women out there–smart, funny, kind, beautiful, handsome, the whole package. No complaining. No whining. No kvetching to friends. You can do this. I have a friend who found her soul mate on Match.com. I have another who met at a bar. There are friends who met at work or at school or at church.

Love is all around us. We just have to bring it to us and sometimes that means stepping out on faith.



Feng Shui At McDonalds

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

I actually think Feng Shui makes lots of sense and have incorporated some ideas into my own home and life. If McDonalds finds that using the five elements balances the profit column, I don’t think anything else will matter to them.



Barack Obama’s Record–UPDATED

Monday, February 25th, 2008

Want to know more about Barack Obama, international man of mystery, and all-around swell speaker? Here’s some links:

*Guess whose mento is a Communist? Obama, that’s who!

* Why isn’t Obama patriotic enough to hold his hand over his heart for the Star Spangled banner?

* What has Obama got against flag pins?

* Obama wants to give away $845 billion dollars of your money to ungrateful Third World countries.

* Who loves to hang around with terrorists? Obama, that’s who!

* Do people even know why they’re voting for Obama?

* Che Guevara and Obama.

* Texas state Senator Kirk Watson can’t name a single thing Obama has ever achieved.

* Obama wants to waste 850 billion dollars of your money.

* Here are 8 things you need to know about Obama and Rezko.

John Hawkins has more here.

UPDATE:

Obama, like many politicians, likes something for nothing–thus the career choice. In this case, Obama bought a house with nasty money. Big surprise! It’s hard to decide who is worse between Obama and Clinton, but one thing is for sure: they both give McCain a chance he would never get otherwise. A friend from Michigan told me yesterday that a lot of his dad’s union buddies are voting McCain. Maybe McCain will pull enough wafflers to make up for the conservatives pissed off at him and abstaining from voting.



Schizophrenia and Making People Smarter

Monday, February 25th, 2008

The role of glutamate in mental illness, especially schizophrenia. More drugs, with the hope that there won’t be side effects. When you’re monkeying with the brain, I can’t imagine not having side effects.

The most interesting part of the research, for me, was this throw away sentence:

Another glutamate drug, meanwhile, has been shown in preclinical studies to reverse mental retardation in adult rats, a finding that previously appeared impossible, Dr. Insel said.

Can you imagine the implications of reversing mental retardation? And, would a smart person be made smarter with a drug like this?



Short Car Trips More Environmentally Friendly Than Walking?

Monday, February 25th, 2008

Say it isn’t so! Actually, this article is kinda funny and illustrates the absurd lengths people go to to ensure righteousness. In the absence of God, people will create one anyway. And environmentalism gets more Pharisaical by the day. For example:

If you walk 1.5 miles, Mr. Goodall calculates, and replace those calories by drinking about a cup of milk, the greenhouse emissions connected with that milk (like methane from the dairy farm and carbon dioxide from the delivery truck) are just about equal to the emissions from a typical car making the same trip. And if there were two of you making the trip, then the car would definitely be the more planet-friendly way to go.

How can one keep up?



McCain Hanging From His Own Shiny Rope

Monday, February 25th, 2008

One reason conservatives dislike McCain: McCain-Feingold. This heinous piece of legislation, ostensibly written to remove corruption from the political process, did nothing of the sort. It simply made it harder for average people to share what they think about the candidates which suited incumbents like McCain just fine. He didn’t mind regulating speech–yours–while he could say whatever he wanted to.

Well, tied up in this legislation, are rules and more rules about money. It’s rather complicated, but McCain now suffers from his own legislation. I would cry a little harder if it was another candidate so suffering, but since McCain did this dastardly deed, it seems fitting that he lives with the consequences.