Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Art of Doubt

OK, stop.

Last night at dinner, I was informed that women aren't capable of being president. They're too emotional, I was told. They're too compassionate.

No, I wasn't trapped in a wrinkle in time. I checked, and it was still 2009. Now, from certain underdeveloped ignoramuses, all of them under the age of 18 and male, I expect this sort of thing. I do have two teenage boys, after all, and know how their little brains work.

But this was my 15-year-old stepdaughter, reporting out on a debate she'd just had in her social studies class. As noted, she assumed the "we gals are just too weak and emotional to be in charge of anything really important" position, while another girl - "a wicked feminist" - refused to budge from on her position that women can be just as sensible as men. Remembering this girl's words, my stepdaughter rolled her eyes.

When I could speak again, I asked how she could possibly feel this way. She is, after all, one of the most defiant individuals on the planet, as her teachers constantly tell us. "Look at Nancy Pelosi!" she practically shouted.

Huh? I told her Nancy Pelosi was tough as nails and I'd hate to meet her in a dark alley. Her father said he's always admired Margaret Thatcher. I brought up Indira Gandhi. He mentioned Benazir Bhutto. I threw in Hillary Clinton and, digging down a little, Kay Bailey Hutchinson. But our little pumpkin remained unconvinced.

So my question remains: Where is this coming from? Are we as humans destined to relive all the turgid social arguments of the past, ad infinitum, until the sun explodes?

Unfortunately, having seen how children develop their views, I already know the answer to this. And the answer is yes. Teen boys are all bluster, and, though annoying, perhaps it's a good thing. Why wave a white flag of personal weakness in front of friends and enemies alike? Self-understanding can come later; teen and young adulthood is a time for courage.

But teen girls dabble in the art of doubt and self-effacement, sometimes for effect, but often times as a strategy for life. Admit what I can't do, and no one will expect me do it.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Hater-Entertainment Complex

Tell me: is there any way - any freakin' way - to slow down and maybe even stop altogether the Radical Hate Train that pulls out of Fox News headquarters every day? Conspiracy? Facism? Nazism? Murder, mayhem, mass hysteria, totalitarianism? It's all there, piled high in big manure mountains, waiting to be tossed, shovelful by shovelful, to the sad, gullible masses. How easily those poor little impoverished souls can be manipulated. Me, me, me; I want more, more, more, and I don't care about anyone else. If you tell me I can't have more, I'll call you a villain and throw you out of office. If you tell me we can't go on spending this way, I'll call you Hitler and say you're trying to squirm out of what you owe me. If you tell me that as Americans, it's only right that we should talk about creating a sustainable system that's good for everyone, I'll say you're a socialist. If you say let's figure out a better way, you'll say government can't do anything right.

And politicians are the problem? How about the immature voter? And the hater-entertainers who feed them? What could be their rationale? What visceral fear motivates them? Terrorists outside the U.S. don't scare me half as much as the terrorists within.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Health is the Problem, not the Solution

A newsletter I get, from Join Together, recently posted this article, about how some people think that the issue of personal responsibility should play a bigger role in the health care debate. Predictably - since this organization focuses on substance abuse and addiction - many readers cried foul, pointing out that addiction is a disease for which people can't be held responsible, at least not in the conventional way.

That question doesn't interest me near so much as the larger one of whether (or not) we're finally coming to understand that, in one way or another, we ALL pay for one another's health care. Yes, we're socialists, folks, whether we like it or not, whether or not the word makes us rip our eyes out and wail into the dark night. Therefore - because we're all unfortunately in it together - it would make sense for us to take some simple measures to keep ourselves healthy, not just for our own sake, but for society's sake as well. We can't avoid this distasteful financial intimacy, given that that's what insurance (public or private) is. Sorry, I'm just saying. It's not who issues the insurance. It's the very concept of insurance. You pay for mine, I pay for yours, and we all pay for the sickest. That's the way it is.

Anyway, in responding to the article, a woman named Carole points out that we're all just a bunch of goodie-two-shoers. It turns out that we can natter on about "prevention" and "responsibility" all we want, parrotting back the conventional wisdom about how health care reform will make everyone healthier and thus save us all a big pile of money. But NONE OF THAT'S TRUE, I now find out. Not seeing how it's healthy people (yes, HEALTHY people) who end up consuming the most medical care over a lifetime. It seems that, on the way to their high-cost nursing homes, they wheel their walkers over the corpses of those who died early from obesity or smoking - people who, in dying so prematurely, thoughtfully saved us a lot of dough.

So it's our relative health and lengthening lifespans that's the problem, eh? What do we do with this perhaps obvious bit of information? Encourage smoking and the consumption of trunk-loads of junk food? Well, maybe not. But since we've been hurtling toward this point for at least a century, it seems time that somebody dare utter it: we can't afford the long (and at the end, unhealthy and costly) lives we've granted ourselves. And making ourselves still MORE healthy isn't going to help; quite the opposite, conceivably. (Yes, I know. Healthy people are productive and pay taxes. Sick people on disability don't. That's another discussion). What now?

A New Job for Sarah

I hate people. No, it's not the first time it's occurred to me. It's just that this summer has been so completely depressing. I'm actually beginning to develop a conservative-like disdain of the Ideas of Others. Blah, blah, blah, they say. Blah, blah, blah. I'm supposed to be open-minded and patient; such are perhaps the only true virtues of the more liberal-minded. But, I'm tired of it all. Euthanize? There are several subpopulations of our society I'd love to euthanize, and whose timely death would, I think, only enhance our social discourse (not to mention our balance sheet). So run, ignoramuses, run. Sarah Palin, grab your high-powered, antelope-size rifle, board your helicopter, and turn your hand to the really important work of America. Come on, I know you can do it.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Whoa. Stop Right There.

Ah, so Sarah Palin's a hockey mom, is she? Just a good ole down-to-earth everyday gal who, like all us average gals, is completely prepared, in her new tour of duty, to broker deals with bad guys with bombs, keep us safe for democracy and protect, that's right protect, the right of her own sex to decide whether or not to have children. I feel so lucky. And honored too. Because every once in a while I need a reminder that the conservative political establishment thinks women are so rock-dumb that we'll vote for anybody with a vagina. And that anyone with a passing interest in Jesus will vote for a politican who says - as this nitwit did - that the Iraq war is 'God's task.' No, no, no. Not again.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Regular Janes & Joes Learn About Spam

Now this seems like quite an interesting experiment. Is spam really so bad after all? Well, let's think about it. Spam is mostly an attempt to sell us things we don't need or want, and to the extent that those pesky, excited little messages clog our email boxes and force us to cower behind firewalls, deflecting message from people we actually do want to hear from, it seems that yes, spam is pretty bad. Is it "bad" in some other way? Some spam is scam-mail, and that seems bad. Other spam sells penile enlargement devices, faux vitamins and growth hormones, questionable weight-loss therapies, and "hot, wet girls," and those things just seem more stupid than bad. And then the phishing sort of spam, which is actually criminal in addition to being pathetic.

I hope McAffee tells us what it finds out. One thing its testers better have is credit cards. They're going to need them.


"For the month of April, participants of McAfee's Global S.P.A.M. (Spammed Persistently All Month) Experiment will be intentionally clicking on spam messages to surf these sites, to make purchases and to register for promotions in order to see what the consequence of their actions will lead to.

"We invest a lot of time and money in fighting spam and the message has always been that spam is bad and don't click on it. We really wanted to show what happens if they clicked on it and do it in a reality TV kind of format," said Dave Marcus, security research and communications manager with McAfee's Avert Labs.

The Global S.P.A.M. Experiment has 50 participants around 10 geographical locations with five in each global region in countries like Germany, Australia, Brazil, the United States and the United Kingdom. "[Participants] are a cross section of regular Joes and Janes just like you and me," said Marcus. "You got retired teachers, accounts, musicians and writers that will cruise the Internet."

Each participant has been provided with a clean laptop without spam protection and a new e-mail address that shields their identity. After the experiment is over, participants get to keep the laptop once McAfee has cleaned them again.

"We wanted people to see what happens to other people who actually digest the spam and use the spam and follow through what the spam is actually asking them to do. We want them to order the watches, order the e-pharmacy stuff. We want to graphically show what actually happens when you live on diet of spam," Marcus said.

He added that one person per geography has been tasked to buy from spam sites using a pre-paid card so their identity and personal information will not be compromised.

The experiences of each participant are being blogged at the experiment's website.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Spending Our Way Out of Debt

What a bad idea - money back, when we're drowning in debt as it is? Maybe I'll take this dough and spend it on an economics tutor for Congress. Brought down to a personal level, this is like Macy's sending me a kickback, even though I owe them $10,000 and am in bankruptcy. Like, what's the point? And doesn't it just makes things sort of ... worse? I don't take any responsibility for the country's overspending, but cashing this particular check seems like hurling back another drink to cure a hangover, as Michael Kingsley pointed out. Hardly a cure, as it turns out.

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