Browsing the archives for the Social Issues category.

Life Expectancy of Poorly Educated White Women Drops a Lot

Social Issues

Apparently there has been a significant decline in life expectancy of poor white women who dropped out of high school. In the past 18 years they have lost 5 years of life expectancy. They now have a lower life expectancy than African American women who have dropped out of high school. In many ways the article is frustrating, but here’s the meat of it:

The journal Health Affairs reported the five-year drop in August. The article’s lead author, Jay Olshansky, who studies human longevity at the University of Illinois at Chicago, with a team of researchers looked at death rates for different groups from 1990 to 2008. White men without high-school diplomas had lost three years of life expectancy, but it was the decline for women like Crystal that made the study news. Previous studies had shown that the least-educated whites began dying younger in the 2000s, but only by about a year. Olshansky and his colleagues did something the other studies hadn’t: They isolated high-school dropouts and measured their outcomes instead of lumping them in with high-school graduates who did not go to college.

The last time researchers found a change of this magnitude, Russian men had lost seven years after the fall of the Soviet Union, when they began drinking more and taking on other risky behaviors. Although women generally outlive men in the U.S., such a large decline in the average age of death, from almost 79 to a little more than 73, suggests that an increasing number of women are dying in their twenties, thirties, and forties. “We actually don’t know the exact reasons why it’s happened,” Olshansky says. “I wish we did.”

One factor the article barely mentions is access to health care. That’s the first thing I wanted to know — do these women have access to health care? It’s unlikely they’ll find jobs with benefits, so are they on Medicaid? The article doesn’t say. Duh.

The “example” the article focuses on, a morbidly obese woman who died at 38 of natural causes, had been told by a doctor that she was diabetic, and she was “waiting to get medicine.” How long had she been waiting? What was the holdup? See what I mean by frustrating?

I also wanted to know if there was a difference between women in this demographic who lived in cities/suburbs and those who lived in rural areas. It’s so much easier to become really isolated if you live in rural America.

The story focuses on a family in northern Arkansas. I know the area slightly, and it’s not much different from where I grew up. The girls who get pregnant in high school drop out and spend the rest of their lives taking care of children and maybe a neglectful husband or a succession of boyfriends, and no one takes care of them. Often the family/community support that sustained their grandmothers is pretty much gone. If there is any part of our population that constitutes a canary in a coal mine, it’s them.

Share Button

The Man Problem

firearms, Social Issues

At Salon, a fellow named Joe Scott points out that many of our domestic mass shooters begin their shooting spree by killing their mothers or another female family member — a wife, a sister. He says,

On a practical level, these female victims represent potential barriers to commission of the crime—people who could talk down the perpetrator, contact authorities, or otherwise interfere. In the mind of the killer, these women also may have posed a symbolic barrier to a conscious or subconscious self-image as the perpetually wronged party, a man with No Other Options, the prodigal avenger called to teach the world a drastic lesson.

Unfortunately, whether racking up points for piles of bodies in a videogame or assassinating terrorists with drones, to kill in the West is to win. And in order to win, on some level, regardless of biological sex, a person must purge barriers to winning by suppressing characteristics perceived as culturally feminine: softness and gentleness, submission and openness, sympathy, mercy, or hesitation.

You know: Shoot first and ask questions later. Make my day. Don’t be a pussy.

The private killing of particular women who could stand in the way of multiple public murders embodies an extreme and ultimately violent suppression of any force, internal or external, that might temper or “domesticate” the code of take-no-prisoners cowboy manliness.

The pattern doesn’t always hold true, but IMO he’s onto something. It strikes me a number of these guys still lived with their mothers or female family members, or were still dependent on them in some way, and that dominant female was the first person he shot.

Adolescent girls famously go through a Hate Mother phase that sometimes leads them to self-destructive behavior, like anorexia, running away or getting pregnant. But if they survive adolescence, they usually get over it. Too many men drag themselves through their whole lives with Mother Issues, and they usually transfer their resentments onto wives. Indeed, show me a guy who is chronically angry and abusive toward his wife and I’ll show you a guy who never worked through his issues with his mother.

Reminded me of something I wrote about ten years ago —

A few years ago, following the publication of Robert Bly’s visionary book Iron John (Addison-Wesley, 1990), there was a men’s movement. The men’s movement started out with progressive intentions but was soon taken over by various troglodytes and misogynists and flamed out. I want to go back to early men’s movement lit for a minute, though, because what it originally tried to do was a very worthwhile thing that still needs doing. It is also essential to seeing what lies beneath our current political landscape.

In Iron John, Robert Bly tried to reconnect manhood with nature and civilization — with building and creation and husbandry instead of destruction, war, and waste. Bly used fairy-tale metaphors to describe a way for males to grow into a mature manhood rather than remain stuck in the perpetual adolescence that passes for “manhood” in our culture, currently represented by “The Man Show” on cable television.

Bly’s premise (picked up from Joseph Campbell) is that in our culture boys grow up lacking contact with men. Therefore, they are uninitiated into true manhood, and beneath their bravado — often subconsciously — they are fearful and insecure. This in turn causes men to be prone to violence and fearful of intimacy. (Iron John was a revelation because a man was saying this; however, nearly any woman over the age of 40 will tell you the same thing.)

The faux masculinity celebrated by our culture equates violence with strength and power with potency. It is a rogue thing that does not honor the principles of civilization or the processes of governance. Like most John Wayne characters, or Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry, following the rules is for girls and sissies. Why bother with a justice system when you’ve got a gun?

Now, consider the meatballs who participated in the recent Gun Appreciation Day. Does that fit, or what?

What’s connecting with me today is that many of the mass shooters as well as the 2nd Amendment absolutist who equate disarmament with castration are products of the same social pathology. They are not opposites (good guys/bad guys) at all, but variations on the same theme.

What say you?

Share Button

Taking Responsibility

Social Issues

Here’s another must read — “I Was a Welfare Mother.” Outstanding.

Share Button

We’re All Evolving

Mittens, Social Issues

One of the most interesting things I’ve seen all weekend is that a prominent Republican pollster is warning the GOP to back off of outrage over marriage equality. Apparently polls are saying gay bashing is not the winner wedge issue it used to be.

John Stewart notes that a few years ago the Fox Bobbleheads were screaming that marriage equality would allow humans to marry turtles. Now they’re saying that Obama only is embracing marriage equality to get re-elected, a tacit admission that the tides have turned.

Still, Mittens can’t find a sweet spot to stand on anywhere. Last week he said he thought adoption by same-sex couples was a “right”; then the next day he “clarified” that he doesn’t actually support gay adoption; he was just saying it is legal in most states, like it or not.

See also Zandar, “International House of Pain Cakes.”

Share Button

Federal Court Nixes Prop 8!

Social Issues

We’re two for two today. A federal court just found California’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional.

Excuse me while I go out and buy a lottery ticket.

Update: Wowzer of the day, spotted at Little Lulu’s place:

This kind of behavior by the court is exactly the same thing that enabled the rise of the Third Reich.


Share Button

Albany Passes a Bill

Social Issues

Yes, New York just passed the same-sex marriage bill. New York is now the largest state in which gay marriage is unambiguously legal. It’s always a wonder to me when Albany does anything useful, so it’s all quite astonishing and gratifying.

Share Button

Is It Their Hormones?

Social Issues

Every time some male politician is brought down by a tawdry sex scandal, I think about the old arguments that women shouldn’t hold high public office (or high private office, for that matter) because we’re so hormonal. This was said back in 1970

Dr. Edgar Berman, Hubert Humphrey’s personal physician and confidant, sees plenty wrong with a female Chief Executive. When he said so to the Congresswoman from Hawaii at a meeting of the Democratic Party’s Committee on National Priorities, he set Washington abuzz and feminists afire.

Dr. Berman argued that women are limited in their leadership potential by physiological and psychological factors, especially during the menstrual cycle and menopause. “Suppose,” he speculated, “that we had a menopausal woman President who had to make the decision of the Bay of Pigs or the Russian contretemps with Cuba at the time?” She might be “subject to the curious mental aberrations of that age group.'”

And in 2009 G. Gordon Libby said this of Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court:

Let’s hope that the key conferences aren’t when she’s menstruating or something, or just before she’s going to menstruate. That would really be bad. Lord knows what we would get then.

Granted, G. Gordon Libby is a relic from a bygone age that should be even more bygone. But if you go back 50 or more years, the crazy hormonal women thing was conventional wisdom.

But y’know what? It’s men that get crazy in their middle years. How many successful men can you think of who blew off their careers and personal lives because of some stupid stunt involving sex? We could spend all day coming up with names of public figures who qualify. And I bet most of you out there are acquainted personally with at least a couple of middle-age guys who burned marriages and careers over an affair.

Now, think about how often women do the same thing? Anybody?

I’m sorry, fellas, but I just don’t get it. When someone has so much to lose, why wouldn’t the fresh examples of Eliot Spitzer, Mark Sanford, John Edwards, John Ensign, etc. etc., be a big honking neon warning side to not do anything stupid that would ruin your career if the public found out about it? I mean, how hard is it to not upload photos of your crotch to the Internet?

Sure there are plenty of women in public life who seem a tad unbalanced. But in their cases, it’s not like they are only crazy every 28 days, or were perfectly sensible until they turned 50, which is usually about when the hot flashes start.

Share Button

Life: Haves, Have Nots

Social Issues, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

To me, the most disturbing information in this Paul Krugman post is the rising gap in life expectancy between the top and bottom halves of the wage distribution. For those born in 1912, the life expectancy gap between the poorest and the wealthiest was two years. For those born in 1941, the difference is six years.

In an allegedly egalitarian society, the two-year gap was bad enough. But six years tells me we’re reverting to the conditions found in a Dickens novel.

In an allegedly egalitarian society, in an allegedly “pro life” society, data like this should be the canary in the coal mine telling us we’re doing something very wrong. I’m not holding my breath waiting for most Americans to notice. I doubt many of them will hear about it.

Krugman tells us that the Ryan budget not only eliminates the Medicare program and replaces it with an entirely different program of the same name; it also raises the age of eligibility for The Program That Is Not Medicare, which is not something I had heard before. Jonathan Cohn explains that under the Ryan plan, beginning in 2020 the eligibility age will go up by two months every year. And this will cause another kind of gap:

Remember, the House Republican budget would also repeal the Affordable Care Act. That would leave insurance companies free to charge higher premiums, restrict benefits, or deny coverage altogether to individual applicants who have pre-existing conditions. Given the relatively high incidence of conditions like hypertension, arthritis, and vision problems among older Americans, it’s safe to assume many seniors would have trouble finding affordable coverage–if, indeed, they could find coverage at all.

To be sure, pre-existing conditions wouldn’t affect older Americans who could get coverage from large employers, either as current workers or younger retirees. That’s how most “younger seniors” get insurance now. But the addition of so many 65- and 66-year-olds to employer insurance plans would raise benefits costs for businesses and, eventually, their workers. In the late 1990s, when politicians last talked seriously about raising the Medicare eligibility, Hewitt’s Frank McArdle ran the numbers for the Kaiser Family Foundation and determined that

Raising the Medicare eligibility age to 67 would mean that plan costs for a 65-year-old retiree could be two to four times higher (depending on plan design) for each year of coverage without Medicare.

For a typical large company with a predominately younger workforce, the employer’s actuarial cost for lifetime retiree health benefits would rise about 16 percent (18 percent for a large employer with an older workforce).

Again, a Republican comes up with a plan that is allegedly pro-business that would actually hurt business. I wrote a couple of days ago that most rightie politicians don’t actually understand financial or economic issues, they just think they do. Just like they think they understand war and the military, even if they’ve never served in uniform.

Cohn and Krugman have raised some extremely difficult and important issues that we as a society should be facing. Instead, we get this reaction from Little Lulu, who completely ignores the issues and just blurts that Krugman allegedly wrote something in favor of raising the Social Security eligibility age back in 1996, which makes him a flip-flopping charlatan.

Useful idiots like Lulu exist to be sure we can’t have intelligent discussions about anything. It’s what the Galatian Overlords have decreed.

Anyway, Lulu is quoting a book review Krugman wrote 16 years ago, and I can’t tell from the quote Lulu excerpts whether Krugman is expressing his own opinion or encapsulating the opinions expressed in the book he is reviewing. And, naturally, there is no link to the review. Either way, a lot has changed in sixteen years. Krugman’s consciousness about many things seems to have gone up quite a bit. Lulu’s, alas, has not.

Share Button

Affirmative Action for Righties

science, Social Issues

An article in the New York Times about the dearth of conservatives in the field of social psychology has triggered the usual self-pitying whining from the usual suspects. More proof, they complain, that they are discriminated against by the evil liberal elite!

But the article itself is frustrating. It doesn’t define “conservative,” for one thing. There are, or there used to be, self-defined conservatives who are intelligent and rational people who might make fine social psychologists. However, such conservatives are rare specimens who must keep their heads down and their opinions to themselves among conservatives and liberals alike.

To liberals, especially the young folks, “rational conservative” is an oxymoron. Yet, children, there used to be such people. And I suspect there are a few such people out there. But rational conservatives are an entirely different species from contemporary conservatives, of all stripes — social, neo-, and paleo- — and contemporary conservatism has pretty effectively hunted them all down and driven them out of their company.

Considering that much contemporary conservatism is hostile to science — especially the humanities, biology and earth science — well, OK, any science except engineering, although they sometimes try to fake being economists — it makes sense that the dearth of conservatives in social psychology is the result of self-selection, not discrimination.

This is not to say that social psychologists don’t have sacred cows that get in the way of objectivity, particularly where race and gender issues are concerned. But you don’t eliminate bias by artificially insisting that other biases must be equally valid. Only the science itself should matter.

This is amusing:

Can social scientists open up to outsiders’ ideas? Dr. Haidt was optimistic enough to title his speech “The Bright Future of Post-Partisan Social Psychology,” urging his colleagues to focus on shared science rather than shared moral values. To overcome taboos, he advised them to subscribe to National Review and to read Thomas Sowell’s “A Conflict of Visions.”

Well, yes, I suppose reading Sowell could teach them that African American men can be pig-headed bigots, too.

Anyway — the Society for Personality and Social Psychology is considering adding conservatives to the category of underrepresented groups, along with racial minorities, the disabled, and lesbians/gays and the bisexual and transgendered. Students who fit into these categories can get subsidies to help them travel to the annual meeting. Yes, amusing.

Update: Paul Krugman

It’s particularly troubling to apply some test of equal representation when you’re looking at academics who do research on the very subjects that define the political divide. Biologists, physicists, and chemists are all predominantly liberal; does this reflect discrimination, or the tendency of people who actually know science to reject a political tendency that denies climate change and is broadly hostile to the theory of evolution?

Again, it seems obvious to me that any group of people who would choose to become social psychologists would be predominately liberal, not because of academic bias but because social psychology is inherently something that would appeal to liberals more than conservatives. It’s self-selection, not bias.

Share Button

Stuff to Read

Social Issues

Andrew Leonard, “Why Is the U.S. So Awful at Job Creation?

Worthwhile Canadian Initiative has the charts. In comparison with other members of the G-7 — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the U.S. — the United States has demonstrated remarkably good GDP growth since the beginning of 2009, second only to Canada’s. But we’re last, by a mile, in terms of new job creation over the same period. …

… In comparison to the rest of the G-7, the U.S. boast higher levels of income inequality, does a poorer job of educating its workforce, enjoys the double jeopardy of weaker labor unions and a sketchier social welfare net, and, at the government policy level, appears relatively more influenced by the financial sector than by Main Street.

Another interesting but flawed article at Salon is “America in the Age of Primitivism” by Michael Lind. Lind argues that instead of being divided between liberals and conservatives, we’re currently divided between regressives and modernists.

I agree with the basic point, but the Lind article doesn’t work for me 100 percent. His reaction to Star Wars was way overwrought, I thought. I don’t think its popularity meant that progressives were turning away from science in favor of magic; it was just a good story. Nor does disenchantment with nuclear energy mean one wishes to “quit modernity.”

I also think he misreads the 1960s counterculture (I looked him up; Lind was born in 1962, so he missed most of it). Yes, we flower children were romantics with some silly affectations, but most of what we did was a reaction to the conformity, repression and depersonalization of the 1950s, and really needs to be understood in that light. And we were much younger then. (sigh)

Lind goes on about GM (genetically modified) food, as if there were some huge backlash coming from the left about it, which I can’t say I’ve noticed. I have some qualms about messing with nature, but genetically modified food is not that high on my list of things to get aggravated about.

And, believe me, I know people who get just a little too excited about heirloom tomatoes, but an enthusiasm for boutique vegetables is hardly a threat to civilization on the same level as, say, denial of global climate change.

Lind’s view of modernity seems weirdly retro to me —

Let everyone who opposes abortion, wants to ban GM foods and nuclear energy, hates cars and trucks and planes and loves trains and trolleys, seeks to ban suburbia, despises consumerism, and/or thinks Darwin was a fraud join the Regressive Party. Those of us who believe that the real, if exaggerated, dangers of technology, big government, big business and big labor are outweighed by their benefits can join the Modernist Party. While the Regressives secede from reality and try to build their premodern utopias on their reservations, the Modernists can resume the work of building a secular, technological, prosperous, and relatively egalitarian civilization, after a half-century detour into a Dark Age.

Or, we can form the Real True Modernist Party that favors development of green technology and sustainable agriculture and investment into mass transportation to reduce oil dependency; remains wary of any business or financial enterprise that becomes “too big to fail”; and demands transparency and accountability from business while building a technological, prosperous, multicultural, tolerant, and relatively egalitarian civilization. How’s that?

Share Button
« Older Posts
Newer Posts »