Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Hatcher Gets Polled on Terri Schiavo

CNN Pollster: Yes, Hatcher, this is CNN, and we would like to get your input with respect to the following poll question: do you think that Terri Schiavo should be allowed to die?

Hatcher: Well, I’m glad that you asked that question, because everyone knows that opinion polls are extremely important in situations like these, as they provide a rigorous framework for posing the tough questions and gauging the opinions of ordinary Americans like myself. But truth to tell, I don’t much follow the case, what with the NCAA tournament in progress and all, but I think I know the broad strokes well enough to provide a truly informed opinion for your unbiased poll.

That said, I’d like to lay out my basic assumptions for you, which, if true, lead me to say in an unequivocal manner that it is best she be able to die peacefully and with dignity.

First, I assume she is terminally ill, right? And that she cannot breathe on her own. I mean, it’s not like she only has a problem eating or drinking through her mouth. It’s not like anyone is proposing that she be starved to death or anything barbaric like that, right? Surely a dignified death wouldn’t have her eyes popping out of her skull, her lips cracked from dehydration, and her face sunken like a victim of the Holocaust. Hell, we wouldn’t even do that to a death row inmate, so surely we wouldn’t do it to the weak and infirm. And she is totally unresponsive, right? She doesn’t recognize her family members at all. She doesn’t smile or get agitated or feel pain, right?

Second, I assume that her husband, who I understand is her legal guardian and pretty much has had his say in this case is a devoted husband who is truly seeking what is best for his wife. I mean, it’s not like the guy moved in with another woman and had a couple of children while refusing to divorce Terri. How could she die with “dignity” if that were the case – surely he would divorce her and let those who have stuck by her take over her care. He wouldn’t make a mockery of his marriage and then stand by the sanctity of marriage as the argument that provides him guardian status. And there is no way he would have discontinued treatments that she was progressing under, or fight her caregivers from treating a potentially fatal infection.

Third, clearly she wrote a living will, right? I mean, it’s not like she made some off-the- cuff statement while watching some crappy TV show that she wouldn’t want to live that way, and a court decided on that basis that she would prefer to starve to death, slowly across a two-week period. I mean, I know these shows tend to rip their stories from the headline, but what would the odds be that she was watching a show and made a comment like that in regard to a person with the exact same disabilities she suffers under now?

And I’m sure her husband ordered an MRI (or at least didn’t refuse to let her have one) as part of the assessment to determine if she was in a permanent vegetative state, rather than just relying on a CT scan, because every brain surgeon knows you can’t assess the brain damage accurately with only a CT scan. It’s not like they would have their primary expert witness to her vegetative state sign-off on the assessment without an MRI – maybe an expert witness who is a published proponent of euthanasia would do that. Surely even if that were the case a judge would take such testimony with a significant grain of salt, right?

So put me down as one who says she should be allowed to die, because I know that if any of the assumptions I made in my considerations weren’t true, I’d have seen it reported by such reputable and unbiased sources like CNN. And I know I can trust that assumption.

CNN Pollster: Thank you Hatcher for your time, we’ll put you down in the let her die with dignity column.

(Hatcher tunes in to the CNN news later that day)

CNN Anchor: And a new poll we conducted today shows that the majority of Americans think that Terri Schiavo should have her feeding tube disconnected …

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Froms the Mouths of Babes

“Billy and Joey lost their dicks,” says Jake.

“Do you mean they lost their discs – the discs that go to their bionicles (futuristic terminator looking lego thingies)?” queries Dad (in a hopeful tone).

“Yeah, they lost their dicks.”

Three-year olds and words with compound consonants – the two should never be mixed. But the situation doesn't improve much even at the age of five. The Easter Bunny, who over the years has morphed into something more akin to a very cheap Santa Claus, got the three of them bionicles on Sunday. As the Hatcher constructs Joey's bionicle, Billy marvels at its endowments:

"Wow, Joe, you got two huge humongous dicks. You must have the biggest dicks of all the Bionicles."

"Yeah, that makes me the leader of the bionicles," answers Joe. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

The conversation put me in mind of a disturbing thing I read recently in a book called The Professor and the Madman, about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary. The madman was an American schizophrenic who had murdered a man in London and spent the majority of his remaining years in an English institution. He had been a doctor in the war of Northern aggression (ha ha) for the Yanks. In his early seventies, he performed a rare procedure on himseld called a peotomy, described in the book here:

The surgical removal of the penis is at the best of times a dangerous practice, rarely performed even by doctors: An attack by the renowned Brazilian fishlet known as candiru, which likes to swim up a man's urine stream and lodge in the urethra with a ring of retrorse spines preventing its removal, is one of the very rare circumstances in which doctor (sic) will perform the operation, known as peotomy.

Now those men who read the blog wondering if they will ever gain anything from doing so must concede that this little gem of knowledge is of unmistakable value - had you not read it, you'd have thought nothing of taking a dip in Brazilian waters. And ask you: how does evolution make the survival strategy of the candiru viable?


Jake takes a bite out of his chicken nugget dinosaur, taking off the head and front leg (silhouette) of the breaded stegasorous. “I am mouth man, and I’m jumpin around on one leg.” Apparently the open wound of the cut-in-half stegasorous had turned into the large mouth of a one legged creature. Normally we don’t allow them to play with food, but that was pretty creative, so I let it slide.


The David Grey tune Be Mine has a lyric that recurs in the chorus: “Jumpin Jesus, Holy Cow, what’s the difference anyhow.” Joey sings along with the version that brings a smile to any four year old, in a classic mistaken hearing of the true lyrics: “Chuckee Cheeses, Holy Cow, What’s the difference anyhow?”


“Mom, can you please show me the soft spot on Charlie’s head? I promise I won’t press it too hard.”

“Joe, I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

Joe is obsessed with brains – wants to push from the soft spot down to Charlie’s brain so he can feel it. About a year ago, when I was working with the twins in tandem on their hitting, pitching whiffle balls to them, Joey awoke earlier from his nap, so I decided to get some one –on-one batting practice under his belt. I had suspected that he hadn’t done as well with Billy around because he is too conscientious of how he compares to his sibling, who is a good switch-hitter. So I bring him out there, and he’s hitting the cover off of the ball consistently. I am getting really excited for him, and I say to him that he must be practicing on his own without his dad, and he says to me: “No, upstairs I was thinking about it in my brain, and that’s how I got better.” He’s employing sports visualization techniques!

What is hilarious is the lack of any implicit endorsement of a mind/body duality – he’s a true materialist. A disembodied “I”, separate from (but nonetheless one with) his body did not think about it – the proper bodily organ initiated the thinking. Or perhaps the disembodied “I” went right to the brain for the heavy thinking. Either way, he knows it is not his ass that does the thinking, and so he should be a good Republican.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Not Al(that)bright

"I'm an American," former Secretary Albright assured the audience, "but I'm not here to defend the administration." She added, "It's difficult always in a foreign setting, but I do think that the ways we're dealing with terrorists are, actually, maybe creating more of them."

Secretary Albright chose not to mention the successful elections in Iraq or Afghanistan, or the "cedar revolution" unfolding in Lebanon. Instead, she focused her attention on other matters, saying, "If you start a war, you have to bring it to a final victory so that you avoid disastrous effects like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib."

The above paragraphs are from an article in the Weekly Standard. So here we have our fearless former Secretary of State spouting the latest stupidities and trying to avoid the elephant in the room. Kim Jong-Il's former dance partner, a woman who smiled while the North Korean army formed a ballistic missile in a military performance for her behalf, and has gone on record as decrying the fact that America is now the lone super-power (gee, I long for the days when another country could nuke us to kingdom come in the matter of a day), says now that our actions are creating more terrorists.

Here is how the logic works. Al Queda had a very hard time recruiting people when the brochures sported pictures from camps in Afganistan where, along with 100 or so fellow recruits, you got to shoot at things in between praying to Allah. The brochures also provided pictures of Western property that they have successfully blown up, and the parties that followed them in the safe confines of the camp. Some lucky recruits were able to go on trips to Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq - all expenses paid, and very little need to remain somewhat covert. And back then, the brochure promised that only large-scale missions would require suicide. Ahh, the good old comfortable days - so hard to recruit people to a life of terrorist activity when no one was fighting back.

But now recruiting is so easy - recruits get to be volunteered for suicide missions on a much lower scale these days. Sure, you have virtually no chance of cavorting with fellow recruits in camp these days, which adds to the romanticism of the career. Prior to Bush opening up a can of whoop-ass on Afganistan and Iraq, your chances of being killed were basically nil unless you were voluntarily making that lunge for the 70 virgins in Allah's paradise; now those odds have increased to the point where the women you used to have to rape are so impressed by your obvious foolish courage that they'll sleep with you voluntarily. Sure, your expected lifespan as a terrorist just shortened by 50 years or so, but the girls will love you.

So what should we do? We should make the life of a terrorist even easier than it was prior to 9-11. Maybe we should send more poverty aid to the countries that used to provide them haven, so that their corrupt leaders could give Al Queda more money for more comfortable camps and better travel benefits. Then just sit back and watch their recruitment efforts crumble.

Can't argue with the logic there, but of course one can imagine the opposite reaction - that the attractiveness of the terrorist lifestyle goes down when you are forced into the caves of Afganistan for the rest of your life. So maybe it could go either way in the end, which means that maybe someone who humbly recognizes the possibility of the actual result deviating from her expectations might actually track the actual situation rather than sounding like an idiot in front of a bunch of European idiots who merely nod their heads in agreement. Maybe she could have read this article about the problems being faced by the Al Queda terrorists.

Nah, why bother - telling a bunch of Europeans that you were wrong and Bush was right will never land you a Nobel Peace Prize - just ask Jimmy. Just stick with your original instinct, and see if you can get another dance with Kim Jong Il. And remember, you'll always find a welcoming audience in Europe.

I could go on for another two days about the idiocy of wishing the U.S. wasn't the only super-power. In retrospect, when you look at the Clinton cabinet versus the Bush cabinet - is it not obvious that Clinton feared having anyone around him who was considered brighter, as it might deflect credit, whereas with Bush that is of no concern? Clinton was always the smartest guy in the room, but one thing that you'll notice in virtually any organization is that the smartest guy in the room is rarely ever the leader, and there is a reason why.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Couch the Conservative: Part 4 (and last)

The ALPs have some pretty interesting techniques to test their theories. Rather than take the rabid conservative hating liberal view that conservative beliefs in and of themselves are prima facie evidence of psychological instability (i.e. if B then A), these guys have tried to find objective ways to trip us into revealing our psychosis without really talking politics. This is exactly what our cocktail party ALP attempts in his own amateurish ways, but the academic ALPs are much more serious about it. The academic ALPs even go so far as to quantify our sickness.

The ALPs have developed a few metrics with names that, to put it mildly, don’t exactly ease you into the prospect of seeking therapy from these guys. The knowledge that you have scored high on something called the Fascism Scale, or the Dogmatism Scale, or the Right Wing Authoritarian Scale can surely push one who is already a little shaky over the edge. According to this research program, we are likely to come into them for counseling already suffering from low self-esteem, and the first thing they propose is seeing where we compare to Hitler on the Fascism scale!

Your score on one of these scales is computed by summing up your numerical answers to a series of statements. A statement is made by the researcher, and you indicate the degree to which you agree or disagree by choosing a number between 1 (complete disagreement) and 5 (complete agreement). A sample statement usually speaks to a preference for the status quo over change, or to the justification of inequalities. For example, you might be asked your level of agreement with the statement: “Authorities such as parents and our national leaders generally turn out to be right about things, and the radicals and protestors are almost always wrong.”

The degree of expressed agreement with the above statement, for example, may be driven by one’s actual experiences with the track records of the two comparative groups. Even the terms “radical” and “protestors” conjures up images of people who try to levitate Pentagons and synthesize their own LSD supply rather than other more moderate advocates of change that could make agreement with the statement less complete. To conclude from agreement with the above statement that the subject is submissive to received traditional authority, and that this submissiveness inclines the same person to conservative political views, appears no more sophisticated than the amateur attempts of our cocktail party ALP. Why not just offer the subject a souvenir Reagan for President button, and determine his score on the Fascism Scale by gauging how excited he is by the gift. Maybe they could even rename it the Reagan Scale so as to not be so damn insensitive!

The technique puts in mind an old joke that has a man being given a Rorshach test by a psychologist. He is shown different ink blots and asked to tell what he sees. With each successive ink blot, the man describes some sexual or pornograhic scene. When he is done, the psychologist tells him he is the most perverted patient he has ever had, and the man angrily protests: “You sit here and show me all of these dirty pictures and you’re calling me the pervert!”

But the couching science is still in its relative infancy, and so it is asking too much that all of its methods be rigorous and consistent. And for the sake of my own psychological health, I cannot afford to ignore the couching science. There are plenty of terminally ill people who are willing to take experimental drugs even when there is considerable doubt that such remedies will work effectively, and this situation is hardly any different. I have to put myself on the couch and explore those areas of my psyche that lie beneath consciousness. It’s time I met and confronted that little voice in my head that says, “Michael Moore is a bore, Al Franken is an idiot, Babs has no nose for political insight (though clearly she has a nose), and France is a country of insignificant windbags.”

I am not sure what will come from the couching science in the larger society. I only hope that by sharing my experience and my psychological pain, I might induce others harboring similar doubts to explore their own id or superego or whatever it is we are supposed to plumb the depths of in order to make ourselves right, or should I say left. I can say with confidence that more honesty about this topic is required – too many of us may go through life completely undiagnosed.

But maybe someday, through my efforts and those of others, when a conservative walks into the next technologically updated polling booth, and pulls the lever for the Republican candidate, he might have appearing before him a warning from the Surgeon General: “Those who choose Republican candidates tend to suffer from low self-esteem, fear and aggression, intolerance of ambiguity, and submissiveness to authority; these psychological needs can be curtailed with effective therapy.” And maybe then he will get the help he needs. (Of course, my support for such a warning will be qualified by the caveat that, at least in Florida, the voter who reads that message unexpectedly due to punching the wrong chad does not have any right to change his vote. But short of that, I’d be behind the warning 100 percent.)

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Couch the Conservative: Part 3

The conservative reaction to the ALP research program is quite the opposite - we may stomp our feet a little bit, but the knowledge that such research goes on in the elite institutions of our country merely confirms our prejudices about those institutions. If we disagree with William Buckley in his preference for being governed by the first one hundred names in the Boston phone book over the Harvard faculty, we do so only because of his choice of phone book (we would choose a city with a much lower probability of lodging a Kennedy offspring). So the fact that Berkeley and Stanford and Maryland scientists come up with this latest study is all too predictable, and if the same research had come from an academic at a lesser institution, we conservatives would only wonder what politically incorrect gaffe caused the author to fall from the upper tier of the ivory tower despite such a promising research program. Perhaps he didn’t “hurumph” loud enough in shouting down a conservative speaker brought to campus by the Young Republicans, and he was blacklisted on the spot. So rather than viewing tweed entangled academics as any kind of a threat, we are more prone to take the Tom Wolfe approach, and draw as much humor as possible out of the often depressing facts.

To my knowledge, no conservative believes that this research program is eventually going to lead to their forced reeducation in a camp that bears little resemblance to those we might have attended as wee little lads. Although it is arguably the case already that in that small sphere where such research is taken seriously - the college campus - being overtly conservative can easily land you in mandatory counseling, my hunch is that this would go on independent of any support coming directly from the couching science. As one commentator pointed out, the ethos of the college campus is such that “it’s ‘normal’ … to have the self-esteem of a delicate souffle, prone to imploding at the slightest discordant vibration, but it is abnormal to disagree with the prevailing worldview.” So if we take the couching science seriously, it is not as though we are adding support to the case for our own coercive institutionalization.

But there is a more important reason why the Goldwater response is not appropriate: There may be something to the ALP research program. And if there is even a small probability of that being true, don’t we owe it to ourselves to explore that possibility? It might make life easier for me in many respects. I would consider the world a lighter place if I could understand the humor of Michael Moore, the political wisdom and intelligence of Babs, and the Harvard-worthy scholarly credentials of Al Franken. I might no longer breakout in a cold sweat at the thought of a Hillary presidency, or lose another night of sleep over the next uncertain election. I might even be a better father to my kids.

Indeed, my two oldest sons, who are twins, have already been exploited as a result of what may be my psychological problems. In the run-up to the 2000 election, shortly after my boys turned one, I had two white t-shirts embroidered, one with the name of George W. Bush, and the other with Dick Cheney. Joey was the obvious choice for Bush over Billy because he had more hair and a leaner build. These shirts served as Halloween costumes for the boys just months after we had moved to South Minneapolis, which to this day sports more “No War on Iraq” signs on lawns than trees (and there are a lot of trees). Our Christmas card that year sported the boys in costume, each with a small American flag, and the caption: “May All Your Christmas’ Be Republican.” In one small act, I exploited my kids for political purposes and committed blasphemy. Although that act may not be definitive proof of my psychological instability, it is undeniably consistent with that hypothesis.

The ALP is not necessarily our enemy. He may be on the same political side as the rabid conservative-hating liberal, but unlike her, the ALP does not regard you as evil. His psychological training has long since gotten him beyond the primitive dichotomy between good and evil. To him, there is merely cause and effect. Understand the underlying cause, and you might be able to change it and mitigate the harmful effects. In this sense, his outlook is consistent with that of the rabid conservative-hating liberal in regard to anyone other than a conservative.

The rabid conservative-hating liberal is all about “understanding” when it comes to the conditions that lead to terrorism, as an example. But understanding in the context that they mean it implies figuring out why the American policies implemented by conservative presidents are to blame for terrorism. The end result of the resulting rhetoric is usually that mass-murdering terrorists are not irredeemably evil, they are just reacting the way we might expect them to in response to the policies of those who are irredeemably evil. And that is where their pursuit of understanding ends. But the ALP thinks we can be cured!

Whereas the rabid conservative-hating liberal piques himself for daily political struggle by repeating “all that it takes for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing,” the ALP arouses himself for the same by repeating “all that it takes for conservatism to triumph is that good psychiatrists do nothing.” ALPs are entirely sincere in their beliefs. How could they otherwise spend years on research intended for an audience restricted to other academic ALPs and force themselves to write in the constipated academic style, if they merely wanted to stick a thumb in the eye of conservatives? There are much easier ways to do this - like writing for the editorial page of the New York Times. (The NYT even seems to let its opinion writers dedicate every fourth column to couching conservatives in order to balance and reduce the redundancy of articles dedicated to the stupidity and or the shifty scheming ways of conservatives.)

So if the motives of the ALPs are pure, as I believe they are, their science is worthy of some fair consideration. The couching science, like any science, has its theories and its methods of testing those theories. Before I relay any of these to you – you may want to sit down, perhaps re-read the paragraphs that emphasize ALPs are not our enemies, and repeat to yourself – “the ALP wants to help me, the ALP wants to help me.” You are now as prepared as you will ever be to imbibe the theoretical core of the couching science without anger. And please note that if, despite this warning, you still react with anger, you will only be confirming one of the predictions of the ALPs.

So here goes: a conservative personality leads one to seek out beliefs that are certain and that help navigate an uncertain world, desire security, and be attracted to ideologies that mitigate feelings of threat and worthlessness while inspiring conviction and purpose. The conservative personality makes efforts to manage uncertainty and fear that naturally lead to a resistance to change and an endorsement of inequalities that characterize the status quo. So far, none of this is all that bad. To some extent, clearly everyone, not just those of us with conservative personalities, are guilty of the same desires. But the issue is what non-political traits are characteristic of a person possessing a conservative personality, who the ALPs argue experience these basic human needs in a most un-admirable degree.

But from here it only gets worse – conservatives are dogmatic (a charge that is absolutely 100 percent wrong – end of argument), intolerant of ambiguity (no doubt these guys are moral relativists to the end), anti-democratic (why weren’t these guys blacklisted back in the McCarthy era?), anti-Semitic (my guess is that this whole research program is funded by seven bankers located in Zurich), prejudiced, mentally rigid, closed minded, less intelligent, pessimistic, self-interested, physically unattractive (now hold the phone right there - there is a reason why NOW does not publish a pin-up calendar featuring its members), in some cases self-hating (especially conservative minorities), and in other cases submissive to arbitrary authority (well, these guys are professors at top Universities – they must be right). We seek cognitive closure at the expense of considering all available evidence (I didn’t read past the first paragraph of their article), respond to fear with aggression (witness the irrational militaristic response to a few terrorist attacks), seek to dominate other social groups, are susceptible to holding logically contradictory beliefs (does the belief that the Cubs will eventually win a World Series count here?), are prone to experiencing threat or anxiety in the face of uncertainty, suffer from low self-esteem (maybe they are right – maybe I am no good), and have a heightened focus on our own mortality (ah, what does it matter, I’ll be dead in no time).

The unspoken rule in the couching science seems to be: if you have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. But as you will note, the prior paragraph is merely descriptive, and offers no theory of cause and effect. The theory is that the characteristics listed above that describe the conservative personality will naturally lead to political preferences in line with those advocated by conservatives. So we have to be careful in interpreting the couching theories correctly – the ALPs are not asserting that the holding of conservative political beliefs leads one to become dogmatic, intolerant, etc.; they are saying that if for whatever reason you are dogmatic, intolerant, etc. etc. you are more likely to be politically conservative. So how does one develop a conservative personality? The ALPs provide three possible reasons: 1) lack of intelligence; 2) an authoritarian upbringing; and 3) genetics.

To summarize, the theory is: if A (a conservative personality), then higher probability of B (being politically conservative) than C (being politically liberal). A converse to the same theory would be: if you are politically conservative and your friend is politically liberal, there is a higher probability that you have a conservative personality. Though we are never let in on the definition of a liberal personality, we can infer that it is characterized by the opposite traits – open-mindedness, high self-esteem (no argument here), intelligent, open to all available evidence, optimistic, etc. etc. (Given the political leanings of Michael Moore and James Carville, I am unwilling to grant physical attractiveness as a characteristic of those with a liberal personality.) As such, the couching science provides scientific support for the liberal prejudice that conservatives are closed minded fascists, while they themselves are champions of diversity and democratic values. The burden of proof is on the conservative to prove otherwise.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Couch the Conservative: Part 2

Part 2 of the sample chapter from Couch the Conservative (part 1 was posted yesterday):

And what you probably did not know is that our ALP has ample tools at his disposal to go beyond mere armchair analysis of your psyche. If he finds these conversations particularly enjoyable, with a little research he can find volumes of articles published in academic journals and even a few books meant for the larger public that will allow him to hone his skills. If he plays his cards right, and reads a little on the subject, he could even use these conversations as a springboard to tenure in the psychology departments of our great Universities.

Such is the tide in academia today. If a young psychology professor were to inquire whether transvestites who now cross-dress to their original gender may be somehow psychologically abnormal, he should prepare himself for three things: 1) mandatory sensitivity training and psychological counseling as a condition for continued employment; 2) a thorough shunning by his self-proclaimed tolerant colleagues; and 3) a career change coinciding with his scheduled tenure decision. But if instead our young psychology professor wisely embarks on a research project that sets out to prove all of the red-staters are clinically insane, he knows that no university will deny him tenure once he has earned the obligatory national book award that comes with research of this nature.

Research agendas that lead to literature inimical to conservatives also have the added benefit of not having to adhere to any standards of factual accuracy or truth, which are really only ethnocentric concepts of Western civilization perpetuated to maintain our oppressive ways. There is a long and proud tradition in this vein: from Walter Duranty of the New York Times running away with the Pulitzer Prize for relating to the American public the wonderful works of Uncle Joe Stalin; to Rigoberta Menchu winning the Nobel Prize for literature in relaying the fictional abuses suffered by her at the hand of the Guatemalan military in the guise of an autobiography; to most recently Michael Bellesiles winning the Bancroft Price (the most prestigious for American-history writing) for a book based upon imaginary data. The incentives are firmly in place for the couching science to enjoy great longevity in academic departments across the land.

Curiously, even as the couching science has blossomed within the academy, the actual couching of conservatives in the public square has slowed considerably. At one time, scientists could openly couch conservatives. The most famous and thorough couching of all time took place prior to the 1964 election, when 1,189 psychiatrists declared Barry Goldwater mentally unstable and paranoid. One can assume that these psychiatrists presumed such attributes made Goldwater unfit for office. None of these shrinks had met Goldwater, which provided them the added bonus of not being liable to a malpractice suit for their armchair diagnoses. Unfortunately, that same fact left Fact magazine, the public benefactor responsible for informing the voting public of Goldwater’s instability, liable for a libel suit from Barry himself, which he handily won. So much for freedom of the press, free speech, and the moral imperative of an informed electorate! (I’ll just bet that John Ashcroft has a picture of Goldwater in his office.)

The libel suit that stemmed from Barry’s couching may have had a chilling effect on scientific inquiry in the field, or at least on efforts to apply the science of couching to everyday paranoid conservative politicians. But I think there is a larger reason the practice fell out of favor. When 1,189 psychiatrists peered into the convoluted workings of Goldwater’s brain, conservatism was no threat to the ruling liberal orthodoxy. That of course has changed, and with it couching has taken a back seat to other political strategies, which consist principally of claiming that conservatives possess the IQ of amoebas, and that we don’t wear facial hair because we are only capable of growing Hitler mustaches, and that would reveal what we really think.

Liberals no longer have the luxury of couching conservatives in real time - it can only be done on a post-mortem basis. Indeed, in an environment where they have helped define virtue as chiefly consisting of the quality of having been a victim, the practice of couching may elicit sympathy for us conservatives as the victims of authoritarian fathers. (Picture millions of Great Santinis raising little Young Republicans - the horror!) We might even add to our plurality through the misplaced sympathy of liberal voters who hope that voting us in will help to cure us by allowing us to “grow” in office (and there is some precedence that such growth does happen).

So deeply entrenched is the more effective dual strategy of painting every conservative as Hitler with a lobotomy that you could probably bring on your own assault by randomly approaching a student at Cal Berkeley and stating that you think George W. Bush is a compassionate and intelligent politician. With your arms covering your ears in a feeble attempt to protect your head, you may not hear her grunting between blows: “Take that for the Patriot Act and that for Guantanamo Bay and that for Blood for Oil.”

But there is also a slim chance that you may be spared the beating of your life (and it’s probably not your first, due to the likelihood of your authoritarian upbringing) at the hands of our young pacifist coed, if she has been schooled in the science of couching conservatives. As a student at Berkeley, she may have chanced upon a course or two taught by either Jack Glaser or Frank Sulloway, two Berkeley professors that are very recent contributors to the science. Glaser and Sulloway recently co-authored an article in the Psychological Bulletin along with John Jost of Stanford and Arie Kuglanski of the University of Maryland. Apparently the complexity of the topic requires four co-authors. We’ll call these guys the Four Freuds for simplicity.

The involvement of any Berkeley professor in this research area, let alone two, is worthy of note. That a man can walk the campus of Berkeley day in and day out for years, and each day arrive at his office thinking about the psychological oddities of conservatives is no small wonder. Have these guys ever even seen a conservative outside of the occasional Connie Chung interview of some 70 year-old neo-Nazi who lives 200 miles from his nearest neighbor? Paleontologists arguably have more first hand experience with live dinosaurs then a Berkeley professor is likely to have with conservatives.

And if these guys were faculty at Berkeley 35 years ago, they may have found themselves held at gunpoint by some of your average psychologically well-adjusted Berkeley students. That was when the quaint practice of our best and brightest students holding their college administrators hostage at gunpoint was in vogue. These rational idealists would demand changes to the curriculum in exchange for the safe release of the administrators, and did so at Cornell and Yale, among others. You might think that such happening would have spawned a psychology of the extreme left that sought to explain why some would risk lifelong incarceration in exchange for the promise of easier college classes. But quite the opposite probably occurred.

Picture the scene: Glaser and Sulloway as human bargaining chips for the students’ demands to add a litany of courses that have as their common theme the corruption of all those stodgy institutions that have led to their receiving an advanced education free of charge. Glaser and Sulloway, in the five tense moments it takes for the administration to capitulate to the demands of the terrorists (and thank them for adding diversity to the curriculum) independently and simultaneously envision their next great research project. “I will establish the perverse psychological motives of conservatives!” A turning point in the history of science! A few semesters later, they are co-teaching a course entitled “Conservatives - Still Crazy After All These Years”, listed proudly in the coursebook alongside other classics born that same day, such as “Marriage as Modern Slavery” and “How White Men Ruined the Utopian State of Nature.” Maybe Jost and Kuglanski were dilated-eyed Berkeley undergrads who happened to show up for Glaser and Sulloway’s lectures, and the rest is history.

A conservative may naturally react very negatively to the knowledge that grown men and women are running around college campuses, busily filling out applications for federal government grants to study the peculiar inner workings of her head, and then gathering at conferences to discuss their research in a tone that mixes one part “scientist as disinterested in the outcome of this particular research agenda as he would be if researching the sleeping patterns of the common toad” and one part “I have put in the usual caveats of the need for further research etc. etc., but we all know that I am right and no amount of further research will change that.” But before you start suing liberals in the tradition of Barry, consider a few points.

First, it is a good thing that the research consists of ALPs studying conservatives, and not the other way around. The mere whiff of such a research program going in the opposite direction, even if pursued by an engineering professor at a Juco, would be followed by claims that John Ashcroft is personally funding the research, and that he has plans in the works to wrestle liberals across the country into straight jackets and send them off to little padded rooms. These claims, by the way, would enjoy a daily airing on national TV through what I call evidence by the assumed credibility of a paranoid liberal commentator. After enough evidence of this nature is presented, the networks can advance the case with a scientific opinion poll, usually consisting of polling 1000 or so random newspaper editors. The poll reaches the airways and confirms that a large percentage of uninformed and unintelligent people, having been subjected to the barrage of advertising intended entirely to lead to one conclusion, have finally come around and agree that paranoid liberal commentators are right. (Before you say to yourself that we conservatives are lucky that our courts of law do not operate via similar evidentiary standards, read a judicial opinion rendered by any liberal Supreme Court Justice).

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Couch the Conservative

This baby thing is getting a little old, making it increasingly difficult to ignore my family and keep up with the blog. So for the next 5 days, I'm treating you to installments of Couch the Conservative, a book proposal I had put together that, alas, has gone nowhere. The five installments comprise a "sample" chapter. Unfortunately, the publishing industry is hopelessly biased against poor prose, and so my only outlet is to publish it here. (Note that this first installment actually appears as 2 posts - one right beneath this one)

On an unrelated note, please see that I have posted permenant links to some of the websites I enjoy. Check them out.

Couch the Conservative

I can handle being called a homophobe, a racist, a Nazi, a fascist, an elitist; I can handle being described as uncivil, stupid, insensitive, and mean. Being a conservative, such epithets are applied by liberals as if they were a formal job description for Republicans. But because the big tent party of liberalism includes paragons of civility like Michael Moore and James Carville, racial healers like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, and Harvard worthy scholars like Al Franken and Barbara Streisand, no matter how I may aspire to be angered by the name-calling that so pre-occupies these people, I just cannot take it seriously. Let them wile away their time in coffee shops, where they can aspire to be more like the French, and apoplectically rant about all cowboy boot-wearing Republican presidents.

But there is one term of opprobrium for conservatives within the liberal vocabulary that causes me to pause: crazy. The charge that we conservatives are psychologically troubled is not leveled as often as the other more familiar liberal tags for us, but it is used, and unlike the others, is not based on the mere opinions of partisan hacks and politicians (am I being redundant?), but has the backing of years of “scientific” research. The source of the charge – largely academics – makes it particularly intriguing. When James Carville rants and raves about the evil stupid Republicans, I know it is meant for entertainment and to appeal to a certain segment of the liberal base, and it is nothing personal; I know this because he’s married to an evil stupid Republican. There is an aspect of political theater that is just that – theater. But cloistered academics are not aspiring to entertain – they are dead serious. Unlike Carville, the liberal academic is more likely to ban conservatives from attending college than he is to marry one. For these guys, it is personal.

Maybe my source of discomfort with being called crazy stems from the fact that there may be a ring of truth to the charge. Have you ever considered the possibility that your own conservative politics are an outgrowth of some basic (but by no means admirable) psychological needs? Being a humble conservative, I try to assume the best about the ethics and intellectual capacity of those on the left. When I ponder that significant portions of the population think of Bill Clinton as an ethical leader, Dan Rather as an unbiased news anchor, or Jesse Jackson as a Reverend, I wonder whether it is I who suffer from some lack of perspective or understanding. Clearly we conservatives do not have a monopoly on stupidity, or mean-spiritedness, or elitism, but is it nevertheless possible that other factors unique to us – perhaps including our fundamental psychological make-up – have led us astray?

Some of my self-doubt stems from an awareness of peculiarities in my own behavior that I submit are by no means unique to me, and may be symptoms shared by many conservatives. I know I am not alone in saying that during the events of the 2000 election, I lay awake for at least seven days (intermittently across that tense month) fretting over the possibility of four years of Al Gore. I felt enormous pressure. Granted, I wasn’t so unstable as to put on 50 pounds or to grow a beard, but if he had been elected, I may have. Even today, the mere thought of a Hillary presidency leads me to reach instinctively for a full bottle of Pepto Bismol. (And something tells me that if she is ever elected, the only drug she would not put under a price control would be that little pink bottle of Pepto, just to spite me and all of the other conservatives that will turn to it as our only relief.)

Perhaps much like you, I think that I have come to my conservative beliefs through a rigorous and consistent intellectual framework for viewing social and political issues, but the nagging questions and my physical revulsion to liberal politicians have me asking if that is all there is to it? And now I know I am not the only one who asks that question.

I wish I could say that I am not alone because I have found other conservatives coming out of the closet, speaking openly about their own psychological hang-ups. But there have been no episodes of Dr. Phil or Oprah, let alone Jerry Springer, dedicated to providing us therapeutic relief in the course of an hour. There is also no twelve-step program available for recovering conservatives, where dozens of us who have admitted our conservatism may be a psychological problem gather to prevent each other from habitually logging on to National Review Online. But there are plenty of people who, for reasons unrelated to direct self-interest in their psychological well-being, probably think there should be.

Let me explain with what is probably a familiar occurrence for many conservatives. You are at a party among friends, and to keep them as friends, you promise yourself you will not discuss religion or politics. You know you risk discussing such topics with the wrong person, and the next thing you know his eyes will be bulging out of his head in anger, and his glass of wine (French, of course, because a domestic macro-brewed beer is entirely out of the question) will be on the brink of shattering as his grip tightens with each successive comment you make.

But without your coaxing, you find that a liberal guest actually casually engages you in conversation, and slowly turns it to the realm of politics. Despite your expectations, you have come across the occasional well-informed, intelligent, and reasonable liberal. You figure you are on safe ground because your counter party, although clearly liberal, does not start with the assumption that you have a swastika tattooed in a discrete spot, and a tendency to wear a white hood on certain nights. These are encouraging signs that your conversation will be about the pleasurable give and take of intellectual argument.

But then a few questions posed to you reveal your understanding of the conversation to be woefully inaccurate. While you grapple with the intellectual arguments of your adversary, you find his questions and comments slowly straying from the rules of rational debate into the realm of feelings. Not his, but yours.

Now you know there is something different about this conversation - it is not at all unusual to have cornered your conversational game with irrefutable facts and unassailable logic, only to have him rationalize his position on the basis of his feelings about this and that. It is then that you know you have won; because the thrill is in the hunt and not the kill, you let him go. You gently pull the hook out of his mouth by indulging his feelings - “yes, I can see how you might feel that way, etc. etc.” But this discussion of your feelings is unusual.

You almost do not notice the subtle shift in his questions and comments. The adrenaline of the conversation has you anticipating his next argument, and planning your counter argument. You see it as a chess match of sorts - no place to discuss feelings. How could they be relevant? You dismiss the first few questions aimed at taking you off the clean intellectual track and into the muddy domain of feelings, but the frequency of the efforts to drag you there increases. And although you want to walk away from the conversation saying to yourself that liberals aren’t all that bad, instead you walk away with the feeling that there was a hidden level to the conversation.

Maybe there was one moment that stuck with you after the conversation that, in retrospect, made the purpose of the conversation clear to you. Perhaps you just explained that Cinton’s sexual peccadilloes were in fact a public matter because they came to light due to their relevance in a civil trial, and that his lies under oath deserve strict punishment because they serve to deny the plaintiff her civil rights, and because others who have lied in the same circumstances have spent time in jail as a consequence. In a nation of laws, no one should be above the law, etc. etc. You think you made some very good points. You even effectively used the term “civil rights” in making your point - how can a liberal argue with that?

And then he challenged you by suggesting half mockingly that your revealed hatred for Clinton is wholly disproportionate to what is merited despite what he agrees with you to be true about him. This puzzled you because you made no comment to the effect that you hate Clinton (you certainly do, but that is beside the point). He was looking to get a rise out of you, rather than an explanation. He wanted you to let the cat of bag - scream from the mountaintops that you hold an irrational hatred for Bill Clinton. And because it is irrational, the logical psychological question that followed is whether or not your hatred is really for Bill Clinton, or are you merely projecting an underlying hatred onto Bill Clinton? And now it hits you. He wants to know how long you have felt this way about your father!

You have just been “couched” by an armchair liberal psychologist, or ALP for short. In your mind, you pictured him at his podium and you at one opposite his, engaged in a mini Lincoln-Douglas debate. In his, you are laid prostrate on the couch and you should be paying him $300 an hour for psychotherapy. The ALP has long ago dismissed the possibility that his own political beliefs are incorrect, and yet he knows that there are reasonable and intelligent people on the other side of the political spectrum. People who cannot appreciate the smarmy humor of Bill Maher, the deep political insights of , the face for radio that is Al Franken’s, or the sophistication and beauty of post-modern art. And this saddens the ALP. Because there is no possibility that he is wrong intellectually, the holding of opposite political leanings by people whose intellect he respects must be the result of some psychological imbalance. So he sets out to test his theories on you.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Steroid Hearings - Suggested Opening Statements

If I were the legal counsel to the baseball players testifying in the congressional hearings on steroids, here is the advised opening statement I’d suggest:

Sammy Sosa: “Why would I need steroids when I’ve corked every bat I’ve ever owned. If I was on the juice as well, I'd have hit 100 in '98. When you have a few teenage suicides stemming from corking the bat, then call me.”

Raphael Palmeira: “Look, you have to understand, Viagra wasn’t approved by the FDA until 1997. I was looking for a performance enabling drug, and the best I could do was to take some performance enhancing drugs. Sadly, all those extra homeruns I hit during that time were only on the ball field; in the bedroom, I couldn’t even lift the bat. So go ahead, judge me if you will, but you would have done the same. Ask Bob Dole.”

Jose Canseco: “I have the IQ of a wooden doorknob.”

Curt Schilling: “Let me tell you what steroids can’t do. They can’t heal every tendon in your body in time for game 6 of the ALCS. Say your Achilles tendon snaps like an old rubber band - for that you need an industrial sized stapler, two inch steel staples, and a fifth of bourbon to deaden the pain a little. Then comes a cortisone shot from a needle so big the mere sight of it would make most men puke and pass out. Sure, cortisone is a steroid, and I took it – you gotta problem with that?”

Mark McGwire: “With the exception of Schilling, and let’s be honest nobody knows why in the hell you guys called him here, you have three Hispanics, a black guy, and a red-haired guy. If this doesn’t prove the fact that red haired guys are the subject of rampant hairest discrimination, then I don’t know what does. Look at you all up there with your black and brown hair – you make me sick. Look, I could have dyed my hair black before the season of ’98, and there would have been no way every guy in America wouldn’t have been rooting for me over Sosa – as it was, people were split 50/50. You can talk all you want to about steroids, but we both know what real social problem is on display here. And we are not alone anymore – supporting me in the gallery today are Bill Walton and that actor guy from CSI Miami who tries to act tough.” At this point, the Hatcher stands up in the gallery and starts to sing “We Shall Overcome.” Big Mac, Bill Walton, and CSI Tough Guy join me right away in chorus. It’s a beautiful moment.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Top of the mornin and all that. My apologies for the unanounced hiatus. I've taken the week off to drill Charlie in the ways of the world. Today is St. Patrick's day, and Charlie and me are headed to Sine, an Irish bar in Pentagon Row, to watch some NCAA hoops and to drink some green beer. I've got the I-pod queud to House of Pain, a musical band of hooligan Irish immigrants best known for the song Jump Around, which is not only the title of the song, but is also the entirety of the lyrics. They also have a version of Danny Boy that you can actually listen to without crying.

I'll never think of another St. Pat's day without thinking of that glorious time when I had put in my 2 weeks notice at my old job in Minneapolis, and decided that Keiran's Irish bar might be a good quiet place to get some work done at about 2 in the afternoon. Nothing like being a lame duck at work! That ran a close second to the day I submitted my notice, and went promptly to the Block E movie theatres to experience the Will Ferrell movie - Old School - a classic in the genre.

T-ball last weekend was a big success. I got some strange looks from the other dads when I introduced myself as Buttermaker, and insisted that we call ourselves Chico's Bail Bonds, but the twins redeemed me in everyone's eyes with their stellar play. (At least until I had Billy pull a Kelly Leek and cover all of the positions in the field.) Turns out that there is a heavy Texas element on the team, with the head of a major Federal bureacracy as one of the dads, a Senate staffer, and a Chief of Staff for a Texas Representative - all Republicans, of course, and all know the Commander in Chief. Our team is even called the Texas Rangers - last year they apparently sucked - but with the addition of Bill and Joe they could go from worst to first. You see where all of this is leading, don't you? An invite for the champion Rangers to the White House, that's where.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Couric Uncovers Al Queda's Evil Strategy

This weekend marks the beginning of the twins’ baseball careers, with practices both Saturday and Sunday. The beginning of the season caught me off guard with the winter weather we’ve been suffering through. I had hoped to get a full two-week cycle of juice in their arms by now, but they’ll have to make do with just a couple of shots of roids. The only drawback is now I will have to shave them at bath time. They are each sporting a Jose Canseco circa 1988 mullet, a hairstyle that was inexplicably omitted from Canseco’s tell-all as one of the key factors to his early success in the game (just look at his numbers pre and post-mullet; at least his mullet should go to the Hall of Fame).

Myself, I am practicing the two crucial skills all little league parents must possess: 1) yelling at the volunteer umps; and 2) cornering the coach to complain about either: a) my kids’ playing time in the event that they aren’t any good; b) the playing time of kids who aren’t any good and the resultant jeopardizing of the win in the event that my kids are good. Belittling the players on the opposition is also under serious consideration.


On the Today Show, I saw Katie Couric doing a story on something connected to a possible kidnap attempt of Russell Crowe. I don’t know the details, but she is interviewing these two different guys, and the discussion turns to a possible Al Queada connection, at which point the shrewd and intelligent Couric asks, and I am paraphrasing: “Do you think that Al Queada might be, or could, use a strategy of targeting our cultural icons for kidnapping as a way to destabilize our society?” After I got up off the floor, doubled over in laughter, the following 4 thoughts occurred to me:

1) The strategy could work, and here is how – their initial targets are successfully captured, and people get confused – is Al Queada in existence to bring jihad or to kidnap liberal commie actors? Each successive kidnapping gets more people thinking the latter, until one random kidnapping (maybe Streisand or Asner) convinces everyone it’s the latter. Then people join Al Queda en masse, quit their jobs, and spend their days in town hall meetings arguing over who should be targeted next;

2) Alternatively, the policy fails because the first few kidnapping victims wear down their captors by lavishing praise upon them, and boring them silly with non-stop talk about the crimes of Amerikkka. Live footage from the hostage scene eventually shows a bunch of guys in hoods pushing Michael Moore out the door, while he struggles with all of his weight to keep his foot in there so he can get back in. We then witness a reverse Stockholm syndrome (when a captive becomes sympathetic to the goals of the captors a la Patty Hearst), where the Al Queada kidnappers sever their ties with Al Queada and join the Republican Party;

3) Does Katie Couric wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and say to herself: “another day as a cultural icon – let’s just hope nothing bad happens to me today, because that might destabilize my country”? Celebrities - has there ever existed a group of people who have as grossly overestimated their importance to society? Well, maybe the Kennedy family, but it is a close call. The only people who would be destabilized by a series of kidnappings of celebrities, but who would otherwise think nothing of a series of the same with everyday folks, are the celebrities themselves;

4) Why doesn’t Katie Couric perform stand-up comedy? She could stand up there with mic in hand and try to talk seriously about her world views. I’d pay to see it. Book her at the Improv!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Never Too Early for Revisionist History

All these positive signs in the Middle East - it's enough to depress the heartiest of Democrats. There has been much in the blogosphere about the appearance of a woman from the Clinton NSA team on Jon Stewart's Daily show, where she bucks up poor Jon by reminding him that North Korea and Iran always offer hope that the Bush admin's foreign policy will fail. You can read about it and the positive news in this article.

Of course, she was just kidding, but in the words of Homer Simpson - it's funny cause its true, and some honest people on the left have already plead guilty to the sinking feeling that, alas, America might be successful in its foreign policy goals of re-shaping the Mideast. Of course, its too early to say we told you so, but I did note that the backfilling is already starting to occur among Dems. I'll explain what I mean by that after quoting from another sight in regard to some of the aftermath of that Stewart interview:

Soderberg herself showed up on C-Span Thursday, and a caller who'd read our item asked about her comments. (Video is available here; the exchange begins at around 6:30.) Soderberg said the whole thing was no more than a bit of tomfoolery:

"This is a comedy show. We were joking about the dilemma of Jon Stewart having criticized the Bush administration over the last four years--what does he do now? And we were joking back and forth. I think anyone who follows the Democratic Party knows that they want America to succeed and President Bush to succeed...

There's nothing better that Democrats would like than to see peace in the Middle East, nonproliferation. What I argue in the book is the last four years of the Bush administration have failed to advance those agendas, and I welcome what appears to be a shift in the administration right now to take those issues on with more realistic policies."

Notice the last sentence, where she claims that the Bush admin had failed to advance peace agendas in the Middle East in the last 4 years, whereas now they are making progress because they are taking a more realistic approach. In more ways than one with Bush's presidency, I'm getting deja vu all over again. Reagan was barely cold in his grave when some on the left (Sidney Blumenthal for one), after conceding what they could no longer deny - that Reagan's policies greatly facilitated the end of the Cold War - attributed the end not to the saber rattling and evil empire talk, but instead to the willingness to sit at the table and negotiate solutions. See, we all had to be Cold Warriors once the war was won, even though Democrats and Europeans were wringing their hands for most of the 80s counting the days before nuclear obliteration.

So guys like Blumenthal vindicate their wrong-headedness during those years by convincing themselves that policies that could have just as easily been instituted by Luxembourg (and were followed by Carter) - sitting around and talking - was what worked in the end, independent of the pretext. Never mind the fact that while Reagan was calling the Soviets the evil empire, Blumenthal was probably saying that such jibes ruined completely the chance to negotiate in the future. Apparently the Soviets were big-hearted and willing to let bygones be bygones. What was eventually achieved at the negotiating table cannot be separated in any way from the policies that preceded such negotiations - those policies were a necessary pre-condition to the ultimate bargained success.

And now we see the process repeating itself in Soderberg's words. You see, we were so wrong-headed in the first 4 years, but now we're taking a more realistic approach, presumably one she is in agreement with now that success looms possible. But wasn't our arrogance in those first four years such that we eliminated any possibility of achieving success when we finally wised up and adopted more realistic policies? You can't swing a cat in DC without hitting some liberal pundit who has made that claim 100 times.

There is one reason, and one reason only, that first Reagan's, and now Bush's foreign policies have been successful - it is because our enemies believed that we would use force if necessary and not back down . And not only our enemies, but the people they oppressed. They didn't believe that about Carter, and they didn't believe that about Clinton. There is no more realistic policy than the bomb.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Larry Learns His Lesson

And when the findings of science do not agree with the prejudices of the academy - well, then it's time to crucify the President of Harvard University! No doubt you've read about said President - Larry Summers. He gave a speech suggesting that a possible reason (among others given)women are proportionately underrepresented in the elite science faculties of American universities may stem from differences in aptitude. Of course there is enough IQ data out there to make this at least a partially testable proposition - either a statement of fact or fiction that could be refuted by some objective presentation of data. And in fact IQ testing supports the following points:

1) Men and women score the same average on IQ tests, but the standard deviation of test scores for men is greater. If you don't understand the implications of this, you are most likely a woman (based on the assumption that above average intelligence is required - if you don't understand why this assumption is necessary for the non-parenthetical to be true, again you are more likely to be a woman, assuming the same assumption holds for understanding why the assumption is required). If you take offense to that comment, you are definitely a woman. A higher standard deviation implies that there are more men at the tails of the distribution - i.e. we have more geniuses and morons (and sometimes they are one in the same - Noam Chomsky comes to mind). Under the reasonable supposition that only those with extremely high intelligence will secure positions in the Harvard science faculties (the Humanities are a whole different ball game), men would naturally be over-represented.

2) IQ is essentially determined by heredity - environment matters in the early years, but the influence of environment wanes to practically nothing by the time a person is 20. This is why the Hatcher's early education efforts with his boys consists entirely of tag team wrestling matches in the basement and watching cartoons (but not Sponge Bob, at least not since he came out).

3) 1 and 2 combined suggest that men are more likely (other things equal) to be scientists, and that this greater likelihood is not the result of teachers steering them to the lab while the girls were given aprons and sent to home ec.

4) And all of this is independent of another argument - that men are more interested, which is obvious to everyone other than a University professor. (Summers did suggest this also.) Boys like to construct things and then blow them up - interests that incline them naturally to science. Girls like to bake pastries - an interest that inclines them to baking pastries. Don't blame the Hatcher for these observations - I call 'em as I see 'em. And pulease don't decry the making of such generalizations - of course there are exceptions, but they are exceptions!

5) Before I lose all my women readers, I'd also point out that there are different types of intelligences, and that women are far better with words then men. Have you ever played Boggle with a chick? It's a humbling experience. If Harvard had a Boggle faculty, this whole debate would be reversed.

Poor Larry Summers is now on a worldwide apology tour in a desparate salvo to save his job. It won't work, because those he is apologizing to won't stop until they have his head (he's already given up one part of his male anatomy). Why? Because if what he said has any glimmer of truth, then the notion that discrimination accounts entirely for the lack of women scientists cannot hold true, and it even becomes possible that discrimination doesn't account at all for such disparities. That would go against the dogma of academics, and as such constitutes heresy! Showing them the data will do no better for Summers than it did for Galileo with the Church.

If Summers hadn't dropped to his knees in supplication to these losers, I'd be his biggest fan. But alas he has. He should have told his critics to grow up - in that he might have done more for academia than he'll ever accomplish as President of Harvard. (Accept he did drive Cornel West from Harvard - and that counts for something.) To borrow a concept from Orwell, all speech is free on college campuses, but some speech is freer than others. Larry Boy is now paying a steep price for the less free version of speech. If he is eventually run out, it is more proof, as if more is needed, that the college campus is truly an intolerant environment for certain objective debates.

I'll leave the men with a math joke: Why did the chicken cross the Mobius strip? To get to the same side.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Blinded Me With Science

The Choate educated Freshman at Dartmouth got more than she bargained for when she signed up to earn some extra money in exchange for a couple hours of her time. She had been taught to support scientific inquiry, and to reject superstitious beliefs, and if she could earn a few dollars in doing so than all the better. But she noticed her palms break out in a slight cold sweat about halfway through the questioning. At the same time the diodes and connectors, wired up to measure her brain activity, felt suddenly heavy on her head. She had internalized 13 years of diversity - hadn't she? There was nothing to fear in answering questions that dealt with her feelings about minorities - surely the brain activity being measured so precisely by psychologist's machine would only support what she was saying in response.

She could recite 1000 different cliches about the value of diversity, and she thought she really believed them. But she also knew through the same early training that racism was probably endemic - inescapable despite the best efforts of her conscience. She sat there, convinced of her own guilt, wondering what the consequences would be - this was a blind study, right? And indeed the psychologist found what he was looking for - deep down, beneath the cynical recitations she made regarding the importance of diversity, she was guilty!

Brain waves don't lie, and hers were revealing her discomfort with such questions, which could only mean one thing - she was uncomfortable around the handful of rich minorities that the college had managed to recruit through the extensive resources dedicated to ensuring a diverse student body. She was a racist, pure and simple - maybe not the type to burn a cross, but when push comes to shove, she prefers her own kind. Evidence indeed of persistent institutional racism - evidence indeed of the need for affirmitive action! You can try to say the right thing, but now we know what you are thinking!

But was she guilty of racism? Here is an alternative interpretation, which has some historical support. Stalin was fond of show trials, where enemies of communism, who until being arrested thought themselves his most loyal adherents, would confess to trumped up charges made against them. Some did so only to relieve the torture, others because they believed it must be necessary to the revolution even if such charges were false, and still others - this last and important category for our purposes - thought that it must be true otherwise all that they believed in was false. For that last category, the confessions came easy. So convinced of the truth of the dogma they had internalized, they trusted it over their own experience and readily confessed to crimes they didn't commit, although they were convinced that somehow they must have.

So here is this poor Freshman, tricked into an inquisition, convinced now that there must be some truth to notions such as institutional racism, which relies on some form of racism that lies far beneath the usual verbal committments to diversity. She is understandably nervous. She sticks to the slogans she has voluntary offered in discussions with her classmates about that evil conservative newspaper on campus, but somehow with the diodes hooked up, she's not so sure. She sweats a little, not because she's guilty, but because she thinks the question of her guilt now lies in the hands of someone else.

The actual experiment was conducted with a CAT scan, I believe, and it did take place at Dartmouth. I never read the study, but I am guessing my alternative interpretation of the evidence it produced was never considered, and I know the newspaper entry I read in regard to it mentioned specifically the institutional racism angle. Science is OK in the academy when it supports, or at least appears to support, the prejudiced beliefs of the academy. When it doesn't, well, that's a story for tomorrow's blog.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Investing in My Kids' Educations

I had the following question pop into my head the other day: given that a college degree is not nearly as unique as it was years ago, and that some form of graduate school is probably necessary in order to reach the upper socioeconomic strata (outside of the entrepreneurial route), do such facts imply that an investment in a top-notch undergrad education are not as wise?

Harvard may be far better than a much cheaper state school, for example, but for the student who has a choice between both, does the Harvard bachelor's degree hold the same economic advantage it once held over an equivalent state college degree? Certainly a Harvard degree would improve the chances of getting into a top-notch grad school over a state college degree, and this has earnings implications. But if ultimately your lifetime earnings are better predicted by the grad program you attend, the economic difference between the two degrees might be much smaller than it once was.

Add to this the fact that rampant grade inflation (which occurred post-1990) has blurred the signal of student quality coming out of undergrad programs, and as a result standard test scores have probably become more important determinants of grad school entry, and the conjecture becomes even more plausible. And we can take it a step back to high school - why pay for an elite high school when your kid still stands a legitimate shot at getting into a good grad school without necessarily getting into the best college?

Finally, there is also the peer group effect - perhaps as important as educational credentials to our ultimate financial succes is our perception of where we rank, which may depend upon experience within our peer group. Stick your kid with a bunch of geniuses, and even if he is just below that level, he'll walk around thinking he's a dunce and he'll play foosball all day long instead of applying himself (a story which may sound vaguely familiar to my grad school chums). Stick that same kid in a place where he will excel, and he'll be more motivated to excel.

All this leads to one overriding conclusion - I can send my kids to a public college! It is, after all, what is best for them. That's a load off of my mind.

The Governator Posted by Hello

The Governator and Vouchers

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Hatcher was diligently trying to get some work done in his office, when the offices of the National Education Association in DC apparently spilled out to surround my building with protestors, who were tipped off that Arnold would be coming to meet with someone in our building later that day. Apparently, if their signs were any indication, the NEA is upset that a bankrupt state may actually deign to cut education spending, along with everything else (with the possible exception of fetal stem cell research). After hearing their chants for several minutes, the Hatcher whipped up a power point slide with the simple message: "Arnold: Vouchers!" My office is on the second floor, overlooking the alley; I purposefully passed up the penthouse office so I could stay close to the street, or the alley as it were.

After an hour or so of grown men and women walking around with big signs thinking that they are going to change the system, it transpired that all indications were that the Governator would enter said building via the backdoor in the alley just beneath my office window. The above is a picture of the Governator getting out of his Chevy Suburban (huge minds think alike). I knocked vigorously on the window to try to capture his attention to my counter-protest, but to no avail. As a result, all you get is the top of his head. In retrospect, I should have made a sign that quoted him thusly: "There is nothing wrong with throwing up or passing out at the gym." Now that would have drawn his attention.

In any event, it jogged my memory to a post that I had drafted but never published, regarding vouchers.

As a big proponent of school vouchers, I thought other like-minded red-necks and country club Republicans would find this story interesting, concerning the Democratic Governor of Michigan. If there is one issue that cuts through the BS rhetoric about Democrats caring more for kids than Republicans, it is the voucher issue. I know of no Republican who wouldn't gladly make the granting of a voucher a means-tested program, so that the effect of such vouchers would be to give the poorest families some choice, and indeed most current voucher programs are of this nature. But we are always told that this is merely a way for Republicans to finance their own private school options with public funds.

I work in DC, where Kerry captured 90 percent of the vote, and the entire Northwest section of the city is filled with wealthy liberal white lawyers who wouldn't think of sending their kids to a public school in the District. Why would a group like this be against vouchers? Because whatever money it might save them in their own education costs is more than offset by the possibility that they are all trying to avoid in the first place - having their kids going to school with inner city black kids. Unlike the rednecks, they won't just move to the suburbs to achieve that goal. Opposing vouchers, staying in the city, and paying kindergarten tuition fees that rival what I paid (more accurately what my parents paid) to go to college allows them to decry white flight, claim they are pro-public schools, and keep their kids from the wrong side of the tracks.

Anyway, vouchers and school competition are apparently so bad that a $200 million donation is to be rejected:

Granholm, like most Democrats, is not pro-education. She's pro-teachers' unions. Early in her tenure as governor, she rejected an offer from a philanthropist to donate $200 million to open 15 new charter schools in Detroit, a city with some of the nation's worst schools. Granholm didn't dare cross the state's powerful teachers' unions or the recklessly incompetent Detroit City Council, who attacked the philanthropist as a white suburbanite who didn't understand Detroit. Instead of standing up to the anti-reform forces in her party and doing the right thing for the tens of thousands of Detroit kids who are trapped in a failed school system, she told the philanthropist and his $200 million to go pound salt.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

And the Oscar Goes to ... An Anti-American Loser ... Again

... Or maybe not. I penned this back when I thought Moore would be honored with an Oscar - turns out he only received the highest film award in France - surprise surprise!

Apparently Mike Moore is aggressively advertising for the Oscar, with print ads making the Academy aware that "their vote can still count," because of course their initial vote was thrown in the trash by evil Republican Katherine Harris wannabe election officials looking to suppress the vote. Let him have the Oscar - we'll take the Presidency for another four years. And just so you know, there is precendent for giving the Oscar to anti-American propaganda:

At the Academy Awards ceremony in 1975, the producer of the winner of the Oscar for best documentary, the pro-Hanoi film Hearts and Minds, said "Isn't it ironic that we are here at the time just before Vietnam is about to be liberated?" The movie includes the Daniel Ellsberg remark: "We aren't on the wrong side; we are the wrong side." The producer then proceeded to read to the audience a telegram of congratulations from the Vietcong. Susan Sontag exulted: "One can only be gald about the victory of the DRV [North Vietnam] and the PRG [Viet Cong]... It would have been disheartening if America had its way with Indochina."

That movie, surprise surprise, was recently re-released (about 2 weeks prior to the election) - you can read James Bowman's review here. Maybe Moore can refrain his sentiment comparing the terrorists in Iraq to the minutemen of the American Revolution in his acceptance speech. And if things turn out in Iraq like they did in Vietnam, look forward to the liberated people of Iraq getting on makeshift rafts and setting sail for the US; as the DC saying from the Carter era goes, "lose a country, gain an ethnic restaruant."

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