Tuesday, February 27, 2007

No, You Can't Have a Playstation. Do Your Homework.

I grew up watching "Sesame Street," "The Electric Company," "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" and "Zoom", so I'm no stranger to the "you are special" refrain that echoed through those programs. But as I grew older, I began to question the wisdom of that educational approach. After all, you're only special if you do something special. Until then, you are just a food tube.
I can't quite fathom the purpose of indoctrinating each and every child into believing that they are one-of-a-kind little snowflakes. I guess the educational establishment figured it would improve childrens' self esteem. But what I think would really improve their self esteem would be to convince them that they can learn the difference between plurals and possessives. Or that history isn't boring. Or that I know algebra is difficult but if you try just a little harder you'll get it.
Instead, what we have taught them is that they are special no matter how distracted or lazy or willfully ignorant they are. As a result, we have become a nation of greedy, self absorbed, check-mailing nincompoops. And instead of toning down the 'you are special' rhetoric, we have accelerated it. I mean, changing the words of the pre-school song, Frere Jacques to "I am special, I am special. Look at me?"
Anyway, once again an academic study has emerged validating my sentiments. From the Associated Press:

Study: College students more narcissistic
By DAVID CRARY, AP National WriterTue Feb 27, 12:32 AM ET
Today's college students are more narcissistic and self-centered than their predecessors, according to a comprehensive new study by five psychologists who worry that the trend could be harmful to personal relationships and American society.
"We need to stop endlessly repeating 'You're special' and having children repeat that back," said the study's lead author, Professor Jean Twenge of San Diego State University. "Kids are self-centered enough already."
Twenge and her colleagues, in findings to be presented at a workshop Tuesday in San Diego on the generation gap, examined the responses of 16,475 college students nationwide who completed an evaluation called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory between 1982 and 2006.
The standardized inventory, known as the NPI, asks for responses to such statements as "If I ruled the world, it would be a better place," "I think I am a special person" and "I can live my life any way I want to."
The researchers describe their study as the largest ever of its type and say students' NPI scores have risen steadily since the current test was introduced in 1982. By 2006, they said, two-thirds of the students had above-average scores, 30 percent more than in 1982.
Narcissism can have benefits, said study co-author W. Keith Campbell of the University of Georgia, suggesting it could be useful in meeting new people "or auditioning on 'American Idol.'"
"Unfortunately, narcissism can also have very negative consequences for society, including the breakdown of close relationships with others," he said.
The study asserts that narcissists "are more likely to have romantic relationships that are short-lived, at risk for infidelity, lack emotional warmth, and to exhibit game-playing, dishonesty, and over-controlling and violent behaviors."
Twenge, the author of "Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled — and More Miserable Than Ever Before," said narcissists tend to lack empathy, react aggressively to criticism and favor self-promotion over helping others.
The researchers traced the phenomenon back to what they called the "self-esteem movement" that emerged in the 1980s, asserting that the effort to build self-confidence had gone too far.
As an example, Twenge cited a song commonly sung to the tune of "Frere Jacques" in preschool: "I am special, I am special. Look at me."
"Current technology fuels the increase in narcissism," Twenge said. "By its very name, MySpace encourages attention-seeking, as does YouTube."
Some analysts have commended today's young people for increased commitment to volunteer work. But Twenge viewed even this phenomenon skeptically, noting that many high schools require community service and many youths feel pressure to list such endeavors on college applications.
Campbell said the narcissism upsurge seemed so pronounced that he was unsure if there were obvious remedies.
"Permissiveness seems to be a component," he said. "A potential antidote would be more authoritative parenting. Less indulgence might be called for."
The new report follows a study released by UCLA last month which found that nearly three-quarters of the freshmen it surveyed thought it was important to be "very well-off financially." That compared with 62.5 percent who said the same in 1980 and 42 percent in 1966.
Yet students, while acknowledging some legitimacy to such findings, don't necessarily accept negative generalizations about their generation.
Hanady Kader, a University of Washington senior, said she worked unpaid last summer helping resettle refugees and considers many of her peers to be civic-minded. But she is dismayed by the competitiveness of some students who seem prematurely focused on career status.
"We're encouraged a lot to be individuals and go out there and do what you want, and nobody should stand in your way," Kader said. "I can see goals and ambitions getting in the way of other things like relationships."
Kari Dalane, a University of Vermont sophomore, says most of her contemporaries are politically active and not overly self-centered.
"People are worried about themselves — but in the sense of where are they're going to find a place in the world," she said. "People want to look their best, have a good time, but it doesn't mean they're not concerned about the rest of the world."
Besides, some of the responses on the narcissism test might not be worrisome, Dalane said. "It would be more depressing if people answered, 'No, I'm not special.'"

Trickle Up Economics

Frequent readers of BDM (all six of you), have probably encountered a term I think I coined: the Trickle Up Theory.

As you have probably guessed, "Trickle Up Theory" is my somewhat snotty response to the Trickle Down Theory of economics, which seems to rear its ugly head at least once per decade. The Reaganites called it Reganomics, natch; the Clintonites called it “supply-side” economics. Not sure what Bush Inc. is calling it, “nukuler smok-em-out” economics, probably.

Of course, supply-side economics doesn’t work. Cutting taxes for these guys doesn’t spur economic growth. Nor does it create jobs, increase wages or generate income, as its proponents would have you believe. All it does is make these guys richer. And their mistresses too.

And where does all that money come from? From us. That’s why I call it the Trickle Up Theory. Money trickles up from us po’ folk to the rich. Get it? There are lots of mechanisms in place to facilitate this poor-to-rich trickle—insurance companies, temp agencies, banks, governments, debt collectors—so much so that it’s actually a stream. Perhaps even a torrent.

Here’s a good example of locally grown (groan) Trickle Up Economics. Here’s the global variety.


Another thing I’ve noticed about Trickle Up Economics is that as money trickles up to the rich, accounting prowess trickles down to the poor. That is, the most fastidiously accurate accountants seem to be hanging around us lowly wage earners, while the really incompetent accountants seem to be working for huge government agencies and global investment firms and multi-billion-dollar military contractors and stuff. Life is full of ironies, I guess.

Take the Pentagon, for example. According to some estimates, the Pentagon has lost $2.3 trillion. That’s right—trillion.



That’s roughly $8,000 per American. Meanwhile, the U.S. Dept. of Education is after me for the $800 I still owe on my student loans. I’ll tell you what, Dept. of Education, as soon as the Pentagon finds the $2.3 trillion, I’ll cough up the $800 out of my share. How’ll that be? Super.

I have a letter from Xcel Energy magneted to my fridge. Xcel Energy is the multi-state energy company once headed by former Energy Secretary Hazel O’Leary back when it was known as Northern States Power. After O’Leary’s four scandal-plagued years with the Clinton regime, NSP wisely changed its name.

But back to the letter. The letter from Xcel Energy was sent to inform me that there was one cent left over from the account at my previous apartment, and that they are transferring said amount to the account at my new address. Once cent. Now that’s efficiency!

Hey! I’ve got an idea! Let’s take all the Xcel Energy accountants and trade them to the Pentagon. The Pentagon accountants can then work for Xcel. I mean, a penny here or there doesn’t really matter that much. I’m confident that Xcel can make up the difference from the occasional missing penny. But the Pentagon clearly needs help.

Well, that was easy. (yawn) Maybe tomorrow I’ll tackle NASA.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Richard Dawkins Invokes Douglas Adams to Good Effect

Friday, February 16, 2007

Introducing BigotLand

Introducing BigotLandtm, an entertainment center like Branson , Missouri , only for, by and about bigotry. In BigotLandtm, you can visit the Michael Richards Komedy Klubtm, or shoot hoops in the Tim Hardaway Three-Point Hatezonetm. Party with Borat and the Redneck Fratboys in Trailer-Trash Quartertm. Visit Xenophobe Islandtm, where you can mock & persecute the ethnic group of your choice! And Hypocrite Hilltm, where you can engage in behavior you pretend to detest. And don't forget to leave your hard-earned cash at the William Bennet Honorary Casinotm!

Yes, BigotLandtm has it all! Gay bashing! Date Raping! Church Bombing! Even Negro Dragging with pickup trucks! Call 1-800-222-HATE. That number again, 1-800-222-HATE. Call today!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

I Too Am Spartacus

Click here for the deets.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Bully for Darwin, But What About Huxley?

Today, many bloggers are celebrating Charles Darwin's birthday, and rightfully so. Check here. And here. And here. That should get you started.

But what many people don't realize is that Darwin wouldn't be the household name it is today without the unwavering support of Thomas Henry Huxley. God Delusion author, Richard Dawkins has become known as Darwin's rottweiler, but without Darwin's bulldog, as Huxley was known, there may never have been a rottweiler.

Due to illness (his own and his children's), not to mention a private and retiring personality, Darwin was unable to publicly defend the theory spelled out in On the Origin of Species. Fortunately for us, Huxley was willing and able, debating—and trouncing—any and all comers. Humanity owes an enormous debt of gratitude to Huxley, not only for advancing the cause of natural selection, but also for advancing the cause of free speech itself. Indeed, as H.L. Mencken observes in his tribute to Huxley, "The row was over Darwinism, but before it ended Darwinism was almost forgotten. What Huxley fought for was something far greater: the right of civilized men to think freely and speak freely, without asking leave of authority, clerical or lay. How new that right is! And yet how firmly held! Today it would be hard to imagine living without it. No man of self-respect, when he has a thought to utter, pauses to wonder what the bishops will have to say about it. The views of bishops are simply ignored. Yet only sixty years ago they were still so powerful that they gave Huxley the battle of his life."

Huxley's grandson, Aldous, it should be noted, is the author of the nightmarish sci-fi tragedy, Brave New World.

Saturday, February 03, 2007


"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same god who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forgo their use."

--Galileo de Galilei

"Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war and then seek to win."


"As you know, you have to go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you want."

--Donald Rumsfeld

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Life Ain't Fair

Why couldn't this bitch get cancer and die instead of Molly Ivins?