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Helen Smith

Helen Smith is a psychologist specializing in forensic issues in Knoxville, Tennessee, and blogs at Dr. Helen.
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Do You Suffer from Investing Amnesia?

Monday, February 25th, 2013 - by Helen Smith

I saw an interesting piece in the WSJ entitled, “You’re Not as Good an Investor as You Think You Are:”

Many investors have been behaving as if the bloodbath between October 2007 and March 2009, when the U.S. and global stock markets lost at least 50%, had never happened. More worrisome, investors are forgetting the agonizingly real fear they felt during the financial crisis.

That could lead some to take more risk than they should and incur losses they can’t withstand. So it is vital to evaluate whether you suffer from investing amnesia and, if you are, to counteract it before it is too late.

The information provided by psychologist Elizabeth Loftus caught my eye:

Elizabeth Loftus, a psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, says people are prone to “spontaneous distortions of memory that make us feel better about ourselves.” Studies have shown, for example, that people remember voting regularly in national elections even when they haven’t cast a ballot in at least six years and that 71% of students who earned D grades in high school later recall getting higher marks.

“One thing that might make some investors feel better about themselves,” Ms. Loftus says, “is remembering that their losses were smaller or their gains were bigger than they actually were.”

Whenever I talk with people about the stock market, they often tell me how great they are doing. I sometimes wonder if they just tell me about the stocks that made them money rather than the ones that lost them money. I still feel leery about the market even though it appears to be doing better. I don’t have the chip that causes me to forget how much I have lost there. Do you?

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“the ratio of male-to-female under- graduates in the United States was about at parity from 1900 to 1930.”

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013 - by Helen Smith

I found an interesting fact while reading Jonathan Last’s new book What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster. It seems that women pursuing college in earlier times was equal to that of men attending:

Although the fact is not widely known, the ratio of male-to-female under- graduates in the United States was about at parity from 1900 to 1930. Male enrollments began to increase relative to female enrollments in the 1930s and later as GIs returned from World War II. A highpoint of gender imbalance in college attendance was reached in 1947 when undergraduate men outnumbered women 2.3 to 1. But starting then and continuing until the present in an almost unbroken trend, female college enrollments have increased relative to male enrollments.

We always hear from feminists and others that women were short-changed forever in the US in terms of education, but apparently, they were attending college in equal numbers to men earlier in our history. However, you rarely hear this mentioned.

Cross posted at Dr. Helen blog.

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Why Does Self Magazine Think Women are too Dumb or Crazy to Own a Gun?

Thursday, January 31st, 2013 - by Helen Smith

I was getting my hair done yesterday at a local salon and was treated to a slew of women’s magazines. “Crap,” I thought, “I don’t have my own book and I’m bored.”  Self magazine often focuses on fitness so I picked it up. Big mistake.  It was the November issue of 2012 that probably came out in October prior to the election.  The first thing I learned as I flipped through the pages was that if I voted for Romney, my health and very life was in jeopardy. No partisan hackery (is that a word?) there.

The next article, written by Jenny Deam  was entitled, “Would you buy a gun?” The article is soft propaganda aimed at discouraging women from buying guns by having “experts” such as doctors talk about how women are not safe with a gun around:

Doctors, however, insist guns are life-threatening, not life-protecting. Last year, an analysis of decades of studies published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine reiterated the message: Having a gun generally makes women and their families less safe. Living in a home with a gun doubles your risk both of being murdered and of committing suicide. Living in one of the states with the highest rates of household gun ownership makes you and your kids seven times more likely to die in a gun accident.

Gun violence is one of the biggest health risks that young women and their families face today, says David Hemenway, Ph.D., director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center at the Harvard School of Public Health and author of the 2011 research analysis. “This is not a constitutional issue. This is not about politics. The danger that guns pose to women is a public health issue,” he says. ”

Wintemute urges potential gun buyers spooked by recent events to take the long view: “That gun you buy is going to be part of your life. The question is not, Can you stop the next Aurora? It is, What will the impact of this gun be on the rest of my life? In most cases, my risk for homicide will increase. My risk for suicide will increase. Is that what I want?”

The article gives examples of women who accidentally (?) shoot husbands or have a mishap with a gun. The article points out that few women protect themselves with a gun.  Really?

Why the soft propaganda?

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“Only when women are overrepresented on every educational metric will we have reached the goal of ‘full gender equity’?”

Monday, January 21st, 2013 - by Helen Smith

That is the question that Professor Mark Perry asks after looking at this data (via Newsalert):

In a “Data Snapshot” published last June, the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education “highlights several differences in educational outcomes between males and females from prekindergarten,” including these:

1. 57% of students in postsecondary education are women.

2. Girls enrolled in gifted and talented education programs outnumber boys enrolled, e.g., 8.1% of girls participated in gifted and talented education programs in 2009 compared to 7.4% of boys.

3. By a large margin, girls are much less likely than boys to be held back one year. In 2009-2010 across all grade levels, 61% of the students held back for academic reasons were boys and only 39% were girls.

4. A greater percentage of girls in 7th or 8th grade (20%) are taking Algebra I compared to boys (18%), and girls of every race/ethnicity are passing Algebra I at a higher rate than their male peers.

Many books and articles are written about why boys “fail” but our school system is failing them and no one cares.

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PC Rhetoric Won’t Stop Mass Murder

Friday, January 4th, 2013 - by Helen Smith

I normally like the work of psychologist Martin Seligman, author of such books as What You Can Change and What You Can’t: The Complete Guide to Successful Self-Improvement and Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. However, I was troubled by an op-ed he wrote for the Washington Post entitled “Evil vs. crazy: What’s in the minds of mass murderers?” In response to the Sandy Hook mass murders, Seligman writes:

I have spent most of my life working with mental illness. I have been president of the world’s largest association of mental-illness workers, and I am all for more funding for mental-health care and research — but not in the vain hope that it will curb violence. …

I conclude from all this that progress in reducing violence through either helping the mentally ill or curbing the impulses of violent, non-crazy people will be very slow in coming, perhaps even fruitless. That is not where the leverage is.

Crazy people and evil people can commit mass murder, and they always do it with guns. Our society’s only real leverage, at least in the near term, lies in reducing access to guns. Our national experience with another lethal menace, cigarettes, shows that government regulation massively saves lives. High taxation on cigarettes and restricting access to them has markedly cut smoking rates and improved health. High taxes on guns and strong restrictions on their availability are the only realistic hope for avoiding many more Sandy Hooks.

Seligman is a smart guy, so why is he falling prey here to such PC rhetoric? First off, yes, crazy people and evil people can commit mass murder but they don’t always do it with guns. Does he think that because he is writing for the liberal Washington Post, that facts are unnecessary? He could have said they often do it with guns or sometimes but always? Did he check to see that the deadliest mass murder in a school in US history was in Bath Township, Michigan where 45 children and adults were killed and 58 injured by using mostly explosives and a fire? Or what about when women commit mass murder, they often have alternative ways to do so other than guns. For example:

On a Thanksgiving Day afternoon in 1980, a black woman driving a 1974 black Lincoln decided to plow into people on the sidewalk on North Virginia Street in Reno, Nev. The woman stared straight ahead as she accelerated, striking several people without stopping. She drove 100 feet down one sidewalk, then over 300 feet down another, and finally drove two blocks down yet another one. She might well have continued, but a witness drove in front of woman’s car to force her to a halt. She was then arrested. And she was angry that she’d been stopped….

Twenty-four people had been seriously injured, and five had been killed at the scene by this reckless driver. Two more would die after being taken from the scene to the hospital. Witnesses likened the scene to a battlefield.

It’s also sad and troubling to hear that such that such an eminent psychologist as Seligman thinks our profession has so little to offer that we cannot help those who are mentally ill not to be violent and focus in that area is futile. My experience in the profession has been different–I think that we can get help to people who want to commit violence before they strike at times. Is intervention perfect? No, of course not but we have judicial rulings like Tarasoff for a reason–to try and prevent violent acts before they occur. Sometimes stopping someone potentially violent and getting them help is enough to keep them from attempting something with dire consequences. But then, maybe I’m just a Pollyanna psychologist.

Most troubling to me is Seligman’s lack of insight into the problem of prevention and even more so, his willingness to put the burden on the law-abiding citizen. Just get rid of the guns and mass murder will end. It is nothing but PC rhetoric to make him and others feel good with no solution in sight. Why such a simplistic solution to such a complex problem?

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How Accurate are Polls on Consumer Behavior?

Friday, January 4th, 2013 - by Helen Smith

I often wonder if people tell the truth on polls that ask them for specific information related to finances or how they feel about their money. There are often discrepancies between what people say they will do and what they actually end up doing. For example, I was reading the poll done by the Harrison Group and American Express Publishing Corporation saying that affluent Americans would be increasing their spending for the 2012 holiday season. With tax increases in sight and little reason to celebrate, I found this hard to believe:

America as a whole is expected to spend less during this period in 2012, but the Top 10% – based on wealth – plan to spend over 20% more. “We’re predicting overall holiday gift spending to decline,” confirms Cara David, Senior Vice President of Corporate Marketing & Integrated Media at American Express Publishing.

“But the top of the market will increase substantially. Luxury retailers can take comfort in the fact that 39% of the ‘Top 1%’ plan to splurge on gifts for their significant others to make the holiday season memorable. Women especially, are also looking to purchase gifts for themselves in categories like fashion, jewellery and accessories….”

The top 10% will account for nearly 29% of the total 2012 holiday spend, and will increase their gift giving spend 21.9% this year over 2011.

Today, I was reading over at Zero Hedge a post that seems to contradict this information:

Despite all the rancor about seasonally-adjusted ad hoc beats of holiday week retail sales (amid burgeoning discounts), the trend (post the Hurricane Sandy-driven surge) in GAFO (General Merchandise, Apparel and Accessories, Furniture and Other Sales) retail sales is most explicitly lower…

As Rich Yamarone concludes: it appears “You can’t spend what you don’t have.” It seems ‘tax-the-rich’ is also misfiring as those making over $90k per year report recent spending at its lowest for this time of year since 2008….

Although November marks the beginning of the holiday season — generally a time for spending and splurging — Americans did not spend any more than usual this November, and upper-income Americans appear to be spending less than usual.

It makes me wonder if affluent Americans try to say the right things at times such as “yes, I will be spending more to bolster the economy” or “yes, please tax me more!” to try to make themselves less of a target or to get kudos from their fellow man. People say a lot of things but they often don’t mean them. In this negative milieu against those with money, it kind of makes sense.

However, it could just be that certain pollsters look for support for their PC agendas– American Express Publishing and The Harrison Group also found that 67 percent of the top one percent of American earners support higher income taxes. Is this really true? Maybe as true as the affluent spending more this holiday season.

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Dr. Keith Ablow: “..Those who call for gun control after incidents like this contribute nothing to the solution.”

Friday, December 14th, 2012 - by Helen Smith

There is a good response up by psychiatrist Keith Ablow on coping with today’s elementary school tragedy:

First, we should tell them that horrific violence is still mercifully uncommon—that the risk to any one school in America is, thankfully, extremely, extremely limited. We should tell them also that events like the one in Newtown on Friday almost always turn out to be driven by severe psychological turmoil or psychiatric illness in the assailant—not because that forgives anything, but because it takes the boogeyman out of the story and suggests a solution to such horrific violence might be found through better outreach to the unstable among us and better management of those we identify as unstable….

Beyond how to cope with the suffering of children exposed to Friday’s violence, we must make good on a commitment to rebuild our mental health care system and to better connect it to law enforcement. I know nothing about the shooter in Connecticut. And, yet, having worked for these 20 years as an adolescent, adult and forensic psychiatrist, I will tell you there is every probability that he expressed very concerning thoughts or feelings to more than one person before Friday—and those thoughts or feelings should have been acted upon much more completely than they were….

One other thing: Those who call for gun control after incidents like this contribute nothing to the solution. Gunmen like Friday’s plan their actions, right down to wearing military garb. They could certainly procure illegal firearms or use incendiary devices to kill. I only wish the kindergarten teacher and principal in Connecticut had been armed.

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The Right Doesn’t Have to Be the Best to Reclaim the Culture

Thursday, December 6th, 2012 - by Helen Smith

I have a post at my blog explaining why being good enough is better than trying to be best when it comes to culture and politics. You can read it here.

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Disability: A Career Choice for Men

Saturday, December 1st, 2012 - by Helen Smith

Michael Barone has an article in IBD entitled: “Collecting Disability Becomes A Career Choice For Men:” (via Newalert):

But there is another federal program for people with disabilities that has had an unhappier effect. This is the disability insurance (DI) program, which is part of Social Security.

The idea is to provide income for those whose health makes them unable to work. For many years, it was a small and inexpensive program that few people or politicians paid much attention to.

In his recent book, “A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic, ” my American Enterprise Institute colleague Nicholas Eberstadt has shown how DI has grown in recent years.

In 1960, some 455,000 workers were receiving disability payments. In 2011, the number was 8,600,000. In 1960, the percentage of the economically active 18-to-64 population receiving disability benefits was 0.65%. In 2010, it was 5.6%…..

Consider the plight of someone who at some level knows he can work but decides to collect disability payments instead. That person is not likely to ever seek work again, especially if the sluggish recovery turns out to be the new normal.

He may be gleeful that he was able to game the system or just grimly determined to get what he can in a tough situation. But he will not be able to get the satisfaction of earned success from honest work that contributes something to society and the economy.

I use the masculine pronoun intentionally, because an increasing number of American men have dropped out of the workforce altogether. In 1948, 89% of men age 20 and over were in the workforce.

In 2011, 73% were.

Social Security Disability and food stamps are the few areas where men can get benefits. Most WIC, much welfare, and even much of the Earned income credit goes to women with children. No, it’s not good for men to game the system, but the system, in some sense has “gamed them.” Our country now rewards those who do not help themselves; those who try to be successful are often punished. Some men have caught on to the game, and others simply are not able to play. There is no or little incentive to work, this combined with a sluggish economy leaves some men “going Galt.” It is not good for society, though for the individual, it may make sense.

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If the Market is Doing So Great, How come I’ve Never Made any Money?

Monday, November 19th, 2012 - by Helen Smith

I was reading a column in Forbes and found the following statements on the stock market:

Considering the stock market, it’s pretty much where it was in a nominal sense twelve years ago; the difference now that the dollar is greatly reduced in value. Put plainly, not only is the real economy going nowhere, but since 2001 the stock market has essentially gone in reverse.

It seems to me that news stories (at least in Obama Economy) always tout how great Obama has been for the market but it seems to me that these stories always measure the market from its absolute low to its absolute high. It only matters when you buy and when you sell. If you bought certain stocks 5 ago (as I did), you are basically where you were 5 years ago, or even 12 years ago.  So why do people always act as if the market is a great place to invest?

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“Conservatives and libertarians are especially vulnerable to such charges of harassment.”

Saturday, November 17th, 2012 - by Helen Smith

Greg Lukianoff is interviewed at the WSJ on his new book Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate:

“The people who believe that colleges and universities are places where we want less freedom of speech have won,” Mr. Lukianoff says. “If anything, there should be even greater freedom of speech on college campuses. But now things have been turned around to give campus communities the expectation that if someone’s feelings are hurt by something that is said, the university will protect that person. As soon as you allow something as vague as Big Brother protecting your feelings, anything and everything can be punished.”…..

Conservatives and libertarians are especially vulnerable to such charges of harassment. Even though Mr. Lukianoff’s efforts might aid those censorship victims, he hardly counts himself as one of them: He says that he is a lifelong Democrat and a “passionate believer” in gay marriage and abortion rights. And free speech. “If you’re going to get in trouble for an opinion on campus, it’s more likely for a socially conservative opinion.”

Parents and alumni dismiss free-speech restrictions as something that only happens to conservatives, or that will never affect their own children.

I see, so if it happens to a conservative, it’s not really happening to the liberal parents and alumni. Where is the outrage from the conservative parents and alumni? They should join FIRE and fight back.

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Some Thoughts on the Election

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012 - by Helen Smith

It was with a sad and heavy heart that I watched the election results come in last night and realized that my pessimism about the electorate was warranted. However, with the popular vote so close, it seems that we are, as Drudge says, a very divided country. I expect that we will stay that way for some time. Given the difficulty that Republicans have in winning elections — how can they win Ohio or Pennsylvania, for example, given the large number of unions in those states? — it is important to think through psychological and economic ways of coping for the next four years or more.

One important way of coping is to realize how many conservatives and libertarians are out there and connect with them. I spent some time out in California last month and was amazed and delighted to see so many people who had a similar take on politics as myself. We ate dinner, went to events and shared stories about our experiences as right-leaning individuals in left-leaning professions. It was refreshing and good for my emotional health.

It is also imperative to make connections with those of a similar political persuasion not just for the social aspect, but for financial and legal ones. As the economy continues to do worse (and it will), we need to lean on each other for support, work, encouragement and even legal help. Given the press and the liberal’s penchant for making those on the right into pariahs, our jobs, reputations, academic freedom and economic well-being are often on the line. Because we tend to be more individualistic, we are often left to fend for ourselves in these arenas. Don’t let that happen.

If someone on the right has a business, support it if it is worthwhile. If they need help defending their reputation, jump in. If an angry professor is isolating and belittling a conservative in the classroom or a public forum, speak up. A group of two is better than one, and more is better. If you find yourself in a situation where you need help, ask for it. If you see another conservative or libertarian in trouble, even if it is just in a blog post, do something. Defend them, fight back, and support your fellow political travelers, because if you won’t, who will?

Also read: Why Obama Won — and What Conservatives Must Do

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For Men, Little Due Process on the College Campus

Friday, November 2nd, 2012 - by Helen Smith

I have been reading Greg Lukianoff’s new book Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate on the violations of free speech on campus. The book goes beyond free speech to show how campuses are making criminals out of students who have done no wrong. In one chapter, Lukianoff looks at the lack of due process in sex cases on campus and finds that sexual harassment now includes “the broadest possible range of everyday activities” and makes us all guilty of sexual harassment. Campus judiciaries “have been pressured to lower due process standards for those accused of sexual assault and to broaden the definition of sexual misconduct.”

Naturally, most of the cases in point in the book are men. One in particular is Caleb Warner who was kicked out of school and banned from every North Dakota state campus for three years after he was found guilty by a campus tribunal of sexually assaulting another student. The police investigated and filed charges against the accuser for filing a false police report about the assault. Warner asked for a rehearing but was denied until FIRE got involved and exposed the University North Dakota in the Wall Street Journal. Imagine sending your son off to college not realizing that he has fewer rights on the college campus than a criminal in your state or federal court. But that’s the reality in today’s PC colleges. Get this book, read it and pass it on to your son as he heads to college. He needs to know what he faces as a male on the college campus.

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Things I Want to Shout to the World Before the Election

Saturday, October 20th, 2012 - by Helen Smith

I have been looking around L.A. while I visit here and see the contrast here with what is going on in the rest of the country.  I am staying in a nice part of town where people live in a beautiful, bubbly cocoon riding their bikes to work and congratulating themselves on their rent-controlled apartments. It’s lefty heaven and honestly, it’s easy to get caught up in thinking the lefty utopia is not too bad. Until you start looking underneath the belly of the beast and realizing that lefty politics looks pretty on the outside but inside lies a cesspool of hurt for our country if things don’t change. Sometimes I want to walk up to one of these lefty hippies and just yell, “WTF are you doing?”

You drive a Mercedes or BMW and complain about the gas prices, not understanding that it is you who is driving the price into the ground. If you had your way, all of us in fly-over country would be following suit and be as regulated as you are. You think that your utopia will somehow save the day, but it will eventually result in a country that goes down not with a bang but a whimper.

Many of those on the left who are female would sell their soul for a package of free birth control pills and some morning-after pills given out to teens on demand. I have an image in my mind of a bunch of liberal women fighting over a pack of free birth control pills while our economy and our kids’ future go up in fiery smoke right next to them without them even noticing. Call me sarcastic, but I fear for our children’s future and their ability to get a job more than I care about whether or not they have to shell out 10 or 20 bucks a month for a pack of birth control pills.

I wonder how our health care will proceed if Obama is re-elected, Sure, maybe women can get free bc pills, but will it be at the expense of other areas of health for themselves and for men without the illness du jour that is popular with our government overlords at the moment? Because remember, breast cancer gets a lot more money and time spent on it than prostate cancer. Or what if you have heart disease like I did and not breast cancer? Will medical research continue to pay and do research on expensive devices like an ICD? If you think health care is bad now, wait until it’s regulated totally by government. But hey, maybe that pack of free pills was worth it.

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Romney/Ryan Signs Spotted in LA

Thursday, October 18th, 2012 - by Helen Smith

I have been in LA for a few weeks and I have spotted what I thought would have been extinct here: Romney/Ryan signs. A while back, I wrote a post stating that people should not be afraid and should put Romney/ Ryan bumper stickers on their cars to show support. Some commenters felt it wasn’t safe in areas like California but people here don’t seem to give a flip.  Some are proudly displaying their support for Romney/Ryan.

I went out to eat and saw Romney signs on cars. I went to the grocery store and there were more bumper stickers for Romney/Ryan. We were driving down the street and one car was plastered with Romney/Ryan signs all over the sides and top of the car and the driver looked nonchalant. No one bothered him. Today, we were driving in a nice area in Santa Monica and a house we passed proudly had two signs in the yard. I don’t know if this means anything about the outcome of the election (I hope it does) but it says one thing for sure. Some Californians have guts and aren’t going to let the fear of vandalism stop them from expressing their choice for President. I hope people in other states follow suit.

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No Mr. Walsh, Conservatives should Complain and Complain Loudly!

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012 - by Helen Smith

I saw that author and screenwriter Michael Walsh had a post up with a caption: “If a conservative can’t work with progressives in Hollywood, he’s going to be very lonely and unemployed.” In the post, he says:

If there’s anything more tiresome than listening to conservative complaints that the media hates them and the polls are rigged — amazing how that meme turned around in a hurry after last week’s debate! — it’s listening to Hollywood conservatives complain that they’ve been blackballed by the Industry due to their political views. While this may be true in some cases, particularly in the “below the line” crafts, it’s difficult to reconcile with the larger picture — which is that “conservative” movies do get made. And “liberal” movies. And movies with no political point of view at all. Amazingly, even in Hollywood, not everything is about politics.

Walsh calls his blog “Unexamined Premises” so maybe he should start by examining his own premise. It’s tiresome to hear conservatives complain? Really?Perhaps what you don’t understand is that complaining by conservatives may be the only thing that may be helping these less-than-commie movies get made. People complaining and standing up for their rights and dignity is the only way that you may be working in Hollywood. And if so many conservative movies get made, do a comparison for me between how many liberal movies and how many conservative ones are made. I am sure the difference is astounding. If so many conservative messages get out there, then why when I was in a theater in Knoxville, Tennessee, did the audience gasp when they saw a preview of An American Carol? They were so unused to liberals such as Michael Moore being made fun of that they could not comprehend what they were seeing. When this sort of movie is normal, instead of a shock, then maybe your “stop complaining” message will make a bit more sense.

But. until that day comes when there is equity in the media between conservatives and liberals, I say to all my fellow libertarians and conservative friends: “Complain often and complain loudly.” Complain to the movie industry, advertisers, the dwindling newspapers and anyone else who makes our viewpoint out to be poison. Because, if we don’t stand up for ourselves, who will?

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Thoughts on the Debate

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012 - by Helen Smith

I am watching the debate and as I watch the non-verbal and verbal behavior of President Obama, I just don’t get the “great speaker” part that so many liberals say about him. He seems hesitant, his words are unsure, and he looks like a sourpuss. Romney, on the other hand, is cheerful, confident, looks up and seems like the kind of guy who looks you in the eye, rather than darting his eyes away, like the President. And what is with the moderator, Jim Lehrer, so sternly interrupting Romney when his time is up, and then softly and demurely saying “Mr. President, we are going to have to stop.” Come on, quit with the acquiescence.

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Overheard in the Faculty Lounge

Thursday, September 27th, 2012 - by Helen Smith

So I’m eating breakfast in a faculty lounge in California and I hear an angry female faculty member loudly discussing politics with her male counterpart. As I eat my cantaloupe, I am treated to the following tidbits: Karl Rove and others like him are funneling money to the Republicans (I sure hope so!), Romney finally said how he really feels about the 47%, (that condescending a**hole!), why can’t Ross Douthat at the New York Times be more like David Brooks (who thinks just like a Democrat but calls himself a Republican)) and how does this Douthat have the gall to write a book on religion –he doesn’t know a thing (because he is–gasp! a conservative). And seriously, does Douthat need their permission to write such a book?

The angry voices and condescension toward anything or anyone who did not toe the line of the New York Times or the academic “elite” was staggering. These two faculty members had the critical thinking skills of a couple of gnats and no ability to understand anything outside their worldview. I thought higher education was supposed to teach critical thinking skills. Wishful thinking on my part. Perhaps these people should get out of their faculty club bubble every once in a while and talk to people who are different from them and maybe even try listening. What a novel concept!

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“…people tend to assess the economy through the eyes of the national media.”

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 - by Helen Smith

Housing is up, consumer confidence is up, and people are enthusiastic that the economy is turning around, at least according to the cheerleading media. You can bet that the great news will keep up right up to the election in the hope that people will vote for Obama to continue the good news. It reminded me of how hard the media is working to give a false impression of the economy to steer the election in Obama’s favor. Even Mark Penn, chief adviser to Clinton, acknowledged in his book Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes, that people thought because of the media that the recession and economy prior to Clinton getting elected was worse than it was:

I have found over the years that there is often a huge disconnect between belief about the economy and the true economic state of affairs. Until the statistics are actually published, people tend to assess the economy through the eyes of the national media. In 1992, when Bill Clinton won the presidency based on worries about the economy, the statistics that came out after the election showed that the period leading up to November had actually been a period of record growth. . . . In his 1996 State of the Union speech, President Clinton said we had the best economy in thirty years — a statement that sent a flurry of reporters to check actual statistics rather than popular political movements and sweeping, politically motivated statements. The more people looked at the facts, the more they agreed, and six months later, there was near-unanimity that the economy was in good shape. Had the economy changed? No, what had changed was knowledge about the true facts of the economy.

The media was lying about the economy 20 years ago to favor the Democrat and they’re still doing it. Are people still as gullible? I sure hope not.

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Interview with the Independent Women’s Forum on the War on Men

Thursday, September 20th, 2012 - by Helen Smith

 I was interviewed for a piece by the Independent Women’s Forum on my new book, the war on men and why men are “Going Galt.” Here are a few highlights:

Smith has a book coming out from Encounter Books entitled Male Strike: Society’s War on Men. The thesis of the book is that the deck is so stacked against men that they are “going Galt,” as Smith puts it. The term comes from Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged in which society’s productive members went on strike—led by John Galt—because they were being exploited.

“In the case of men, the government and the politicians work in cahoots with women to extract money from men,” Smith says.” And then men aren’t entitled to a lot of the benefits, such as WIC (Women, Infants and Children Program) or a lot of welfare.”

The male strike can take the form of not marrying, not going to college or working at low-paying jobs and taking up hobbies to avoid paying into a system that uses state and federal programs to transfer men’s taxes to women. And taxpayer money doesn’t just go to what we regard as traditional welfare programs. Smith cites the Violence Against Women Act, which funnels taxpayer dollars to organizations staffed by activist women. 

Cross-posted at the PJ Lifestyle blog.

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Is Voter Targeting a Mistake?

Saturday, September 8th, 2012 - by Helen Smith

I picked up my husband Glenn’s Yale Alumni Magazine and saw a short piece called, “Barack and Mitt, take Note:”

Political campaigns are increasingly using voter targeting: sending tailored messages to voters based on their ethnicity, religion, or special interest. But new research suggests that it doesn’t really work. A new paper expected to appear in the Journal of Politics implies that voters rarely prefer targeted messages to general messages—and that they don’t take kindly to off-target messages.

Eitan Hersh, a political scientist at Yale, and Brian Schaffner, a political scientist at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst, created a fictional congressional candidate named Williams. As part of a survey, they showed the “candidate’s” messages to four groups of potential voters—people in union households, gun owners, born-again Christians, and Latinos—and showed off-target messages to voters who didn’t belong to any of these groups.

Some group members received a generic message (“Williams pledges to work hard on behalf of the middle class”) and others a targeted message (“Williams pledges to represent the interests of Latinos in Congress”). The voters seemed unswayed by targeted messaging: when Latinos were asked to rate a candidate on a scale of 0 to 100, those who got a targeted message rated the candidate about the same as did those who got the generic message.

The most conspicuous finding: mistakes in targeting are costly. Non-Latinos who got the Latino message tended to rate the candidate 25 points lower than did those who got the generic message. “This is not trivial,” says Hersh. He estimates that 25 percent of those targeted as Latino do not identify themselves that way. ….

One thing I wondered about from this study is if people who are identified by ethnicity were less likely to be persuaded to vote for a candidate. Afterall,  gun owners have an issue–the second amendment–whereas someone identified as a Latino may have issues that are partly seen as conservative, other times more liberal. I looked up the authors of the study to see if I could find out more about how they conducted their surveys and found this article that stated:

So far, our results indicate that targeted appeals only increase support for Republican candidates among born again Christians and appear to offer little advantage over broader-based appeals among Latinos and members of labor unions.

Also from the article:

In most cases, candidates did no better among group members by appealing directly to that group’s identity. Further-more, these narrower appeals come with risks as such appeals led to diminished support for the candidate among non-group members.

I find this study interesting–is this how you respond to voter targeting or do you feel differently than the study findings?

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How Empathetic Should a President Be?

Saturday, September 1st, 2012 - by Helen Smith

I read Rick Moran’s blog post here at the PJ Tatler asking “How does a President Show Empathy?” Moran expressed concern that a lefty on a blog called Romney “stern and business-like”:

Note that there is no description of Romney being “stern and businesslike.” Karoli pulled that out of a hat. In fact, the conversation comes to us second hand. The woman makes no mention of what else Romney may have said to her, much less his tone or demeanor. As far as “empathy” is concerned, Romney gave the woman the best help he could offer — call a number set up to help people in the disaster. How this translates into a lack of empathy — especially when the full extent of the conversation between the two is unknown — is a mystery.

Clinton was, indeed, a master at public empathizing. His performance at the memorial for those killed in the Oklahoma City bombing was pitch perfect and touchingly real. George W. Bush, on the other hand, braved the wrath — and the gratitude — of the families of the fallen in private. Ronald Reagan’s embrace of one of the Challenger astronaut’s crying children at that memorial service was a heartbreaking moment.

These displays of public and private empathy are important to how we see our president. In private, Romney has shown himself to be a very kind, empathetic man whose charitable works are nearly beyond belief in their scope and impact. A man like that doesn’t automatically become “stern and businesslike” when in public. Romney may be stiff, but he’s not brain dead. I’m sure he showed suitable and appropriate empathy toward the woman, and his suggestion was no doubt heartfelt. He was trying to help — and he did.

The left’s “cold hearted capitalist” meme won’t resonate if the “real” Mitt Romney is revealed.

I guess my question is “how empathetic should a president be?” If a person is too empathetic, that can be a bad thing because it can freeze one’s ability to act, or to act in the most effective manner. Barbara Oakley’s book Pathological Altruism points out that excessive empathy even be destructive:

Pathologies of altruism and empathy not only underlie health issues, but also a disparate slew of humankind’s most troubled features, including genocide, suicide bombing, self-righteous political partisanship, and ineffective philanthropic and social programs that ultimately worsen the situations they are meant to aid.

Why is looking “stern and business-like” such a bad trait? What if Romney has those traits and uses them as President to improve the economy, help put people to work and become less dependent on government? I will take that any day over a falsely “empathetic” leader who uses his empathy either to manipulate people or entice them to become so dependent on a “benevolent” leader that they choose entitlements over self-sufficiency, stagnation over growth and involuntary servitude rather than freedom.  How is this empathetic?

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Romney/Ryan Comeback Bumper Sticker

Thursday, August 30th, 2012 - by Helen Smith

I wrote about placing a Romney bumper sticker  recently on my car at the PJ Tatler here   and my husband Glenn and I finally received our Romney/Ryan stickers in the mail today.  Many of you suggested a magnetic sticker that would not mark up one’s car and for some of you in dangerous lefty areas, it can also  easily be taken off if you are worried about vandalism.

The bumper sticker I ordered from Amazon is here and it seems to easily attach to your car and come off very quickly without marks. It seems fairly heavy and durable also, though you might want a few extra in case someone pulls them off. If you have been wanting a good magnetic bumper sticker,  you might check it out.

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If the Bush tax cuts were just to benefit the wealthy, why the concern?

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012 - by Helen Smith

According to CNBC:

Americans would shell out as much as $5,700 more a year if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire at the end of 2012, according to a new analysis that highlights the perils and political consequences of the nation’s fiscal cliff….

Wait a second, I thought that the Bush tax cuts were only to help “the rich.” You mean they helped other Americans too? Who knew?

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Will ObamaCare cause a two-tier system of medical care?

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012 - by Helen Smith

I read in the WSJ  (via Newsalert)  that patients are having a hard time finding primary care doctors. Here is what the WSJ piece had to say:

Are you having trouble finding a doctor who will see you? If not, give it another year and a half. A doctor shortage is on its way.

Most provisions of the Obama health law kick in on Jan. 1, 2014. Within the decade after that, an additional 30 million people are expected to acquire health plans—and if the economic studies are correct, they will try to double their use of the health-care system….
Their wait will only become longer as more and more Americans turn to concierge medicine for their care. Although the model differs from region to region and doctor to doctor, concierge medicine basically means that patients pay doctors to be their agents, rather than the agents of third-party-payers such as insurance companies or government bureaucracies.

For a fee of roughly $1,500 to $2,000, for example, a Medicare patient can form a new relationship with a doctor. This usually includes same day or next-day appointments.

It seems that ObamaCare will cause increased inequality in healthcare, not less as those who can afford it will flee the regular practices where doctors are no longer available and flock to concierge services. My only fear is that Obama and his ilk would outlaw these practices. However, if it works, count me in. For the price of a latte a day, I would much rather have a doctor who is paid well and who can give me a same day appointment than sit and wait in some government-run clinic for care that may never materialize.

What is your opinion on concierge medicine? Pro or con?

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How can Obama be ‘Good’ for the Stock Market if People are Losing Money?

Saturday, August 11th, 2012 - by Helen Smith

I saw over at Rasmussen Reports a headline that read  ”49% of investors have lost money over the past year” yet over at CNBC, there is an article stating that Obama has been one of the best presidents for stock investors since World War II. This makes no sense to me. Can anyone explain this?

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Why I Will Place a Romney Sticker on my Car

Friday, August 3rd, 2012 - by Helen Smith

I read with interest Myra Adams’ post stating that she is afraid to put a Romney sticker on her car:

Yesterday at a political gathering I picked up my first Romney campaign bumper sticker. It actually says Romney Believe in America and even though I support Governor Romney, I am afraid to place it on my car.

Thinking that I was being a bit too paranoid, I asked some other Romney supporters and they agreed with me; displaying a Romney bumper sticker was just too dangerous.

Other commenters here at PJM (!) were agreeing with her:

You should be afraid. I won’t put political stickers on my car. I don’t want it vandalized. I live in the People’s Republik of Madison, WI.

That’s not an irrational concern. I wouldn’t put a Republican sticker on my car nor sign in my yard. I see plenty of people still with Obama stickers on their cars or wearing his clothes and given the attitudes described above, it’s not worth tempting fate. I’ll express my views in the polls where it counts.

Seriously, WTF? When Bush was running for his second term, no one had a Bush sticker on their car, so I found a stack of them and slapped one on the back of my car, and passed the rest out to others who said they were afraid. I kept it there for five years, even after Obama became president. Other people told me at that time it wasn’t safe. I say “bullshit.”

What isn’t safe is being so fearful that you will not take a stand to turn this country around and are willing to hide out. Screw that. The next Romney sticker I find goes on my car.

Is there anyone else out there who feels the same way? If so, stand with me and dare to put a Romney sticker on your car.

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Barack Obama: Tax Hypocrite

Friday, August 3rd, 2012 - by Helen Smith

I saw the Obama campaign ad on CNN stating that Romney was just another millionaire getting tax breaks; after all, the ad said that he paid only 14% on 20 million dollars in 2010. The misleading ad doesn’t tell you why he paid a lower rate. I am assuming capital gains and other legal means of getting his tax burden down. Why shouldn’t Mitt Romney lower his tax burden? Obama sure does.

If you take a look at Obama’s 2011 taxes, you see that he paid a rate of 20.5%, a little higher than Romney but still not that high given his income. Higher than Romney’s, but then he had book royalties and wages from his job rather than capital gains etc. But on his itemized deductions, he took deductions for his mortgage, and charitable deductions that substantially lowered his tax burden. He has been trying to lower these itemized deductions for those who make more money (such as himself, one of the “rich”) saying that it is not fair. Yet he takes them fully anyway. I assume Mitt Romney has no problem with lower capital gains rates for those investing and taking a risk in business and he takes those deductions. Who is the real hypocrite here?

Also read:

Obama’s Record on Jobs at a Glance

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Will Banning Football Increase Violence?

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012 - by Helen Smith

I have a post over at my blog exploring the need for aggressive outlets for young men. You can read it and comment here.

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My Brother Ron

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012 - by Helen Smith

I read with interest Clayton Cramer’s post at PJM on deinstitutionalization, especially since I just spent the last couple of days reading the Kindle version of his terrific book My Brother Ron: A Personal and Social History of the Deinstitutionalization of the Mentally Ill. I want to say that the book is a terrific history for those readers who want to learn more about how and why the mental hospitals were emptied out. One thing that puzzles me is that people often say (mainly on Internet chat boards) that it was Ronald Reagan who called the mental hospitals “snake pits” and emptied them, but I believe it was actually Robert Kennedy who called them that when he was touring Willowbrook State School for the mentally handicapped in New York. Anyway, My Brother Ron is a terrific read if you want to learn more about the laws and history of deinstitutionalization in the context of a personal story about Mr. Cramer’s brother. It is a personal, often tragic story that many people are dealing with around the country as they try to help mentally ill loved ones who no longer have anywhere to go. It may sound like a dream to civil libertarians, but it can be a nightmare for those living with the consequences of deinstitutionalization.

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Some Thoughts on the Colorado Shooting Massacre

Saturday, July 21st, 2012 - by Helen Smith

We don’t know yet if the Colorado shooter is mentally ill, but the odds are good that he is.  His own mother wasn’t surprised when she was contacted about the shooting.  Clayton Craymer, author of the new book My Brother Ron: A Personal and Social History of the Deinstitutionalization of the Mentally Ill, pointed out the article stating that  the shooter’s own mother wasn’t surprised at what happened:

San Diego woman identifying herself as James Holmes’s mother spoke briefly with ABC News this morning.
She had awoken unaware of the news of the shooting and had not been contacted by authorities. She immediately expressed concern that her son may have been involved.
“You have the right person,” she said.
“I need to call the police,” she added. “I need to fly out to Colorado.”

James Holmes dropped out of school recently — I wonder why. Was he having trouble or was he forced out? What kinds of symptoms was he having that led his mother not to be surprised that her son was involved? What have his parents dealt with that would lead his mother not to be surprised that her son would do this?

What gets me is that when something like this happens, people think that the parents are responsible and they tend to blame them. It’s easier than realizing the complexity of what is actually happening in this country as well as others. The mentally ill get little treatment, parents have nowhere to turn, and as a result, according to the Treatment Advocacy Center, “there are approximately 1,000 homicides – among the estimated 20,000 total homicides in the U.S. – committed each year by people with untreated schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.” Was James Holmes one of theses statistics? We don’t know for sure, but it is likely that he was mentally unstable.

In the course of my career, I have had many desperate parents call me, especially for their adult mentally ill children. They have nowhere to turn and few resources. Their child is often sick, angry, broken, and needs treatment but doesn’t get it. Or does get some, but stops taking the meds and is rarely monitored. The law doesn’t allow them much leeway in these cases and basically says that until someone commits a crime, they won’t do anything. No one really understands this system unless you live it with someone everyday or work in it and realize how hard it is to get help for the mentally ill. There are few mental hospitals open and private practitioners rarely want to take on someone like this. Community mental health centers are hit or miss, depending on their staff and resources.

If our society continues to ignore the issue of the mentally ill, then more of these tragedies will happen with no solution in sight.

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Disability: The New “Job” in Obama’s Economy

Friday, July 6th, 2012 - by Helen Smith

I was amazed (or maybe dismayed) when I saw the link on Drudge to an IBD article that reported 3.1 million workers joining the ranks of those on disability:

The economy created just 80,000 jobs in June, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday. But that same month, 85,000 workers left the workforce entirely to enroll in the Social Security Disability Insurance program, according to the Social Security Administration.

The disability ranks have outpaced job growth throughout President Obama’s economic recovery. While the economy has created 2.6 million jobs since June 2009, fully 3.1 million workers signed up for disability benefits.

In other words, the number of new disability enrollees has climbed 19% faster than the number of new jobs created during the sluggish recovery.

What is also amazing, or depressing, I guess, is that “more than 99 percent of all SSDI beneficiaries remain in the program until retirement age.” One silver lining might be that there is a higher percentage of men on disability benefits than women. Frankly, if men are not entitled to WIC or many other benefits, they might as well get something.

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A Nation of Victims Run by Bureaucrats and Law Enforcement

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012 - by Helen Smith
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“That’s what we have become,” I thought,  after watching the video that went viral where a 68-year-old bus monitor named Karen Klein is verbally assaulted and by four middle school boys, one of whom even appears to poke at her arm and waist and call her “fatty.” The bus monitor has now received over $600,000 in donations from people who feel bad for her across the country. But we should feel worse for a society that has allowed children and bureaucrats to bully us all into submission. How and why have we done that? It’s a good question and one that will take more than a blog post to solve, but here are my thoughts.

My first question when I look at the video is that the bus is moving, so where is the bus driver? Why did Klein not do anything and ask the driver to stop the bus? Why did she simply cry — which is exactly what these juvenile delinquent-acting boys wanted? Why does no one stand up to these kids? Because no one is allowed to anymore. Bureaucrats who can’t make decisions have rendered many adults (and children) helpless. Bombarded with self-esteem programs to make kids feel good at any cost and adults told never to yell at a child lest they be charged with abuse, the bullies and miscreants rise to the top without consequences until they do something so awful that they encounter legal consequences.

Look around the web and you will see people who blame the parents: they raised the misbehaving monsters, some say. But parents and adults in general have had their authority usurped for the last 50 years by society and the “helping professions” and in turn, child protective agencies and law enforcement who might take your kid or charge you as a sex offender if you do what they perceive to be wrong and who knows what that is?

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Fewer Men Graduate College: Obama says it’s a “Great Accomplishment.”

Monday, June 25th, 2012 - by Helen Smith

A reader (thanks!) sent me a link to the CNS News article on fewer men graduating from college than women:

In an op-ed published Saturday in Newsweek, President Barack Obama marked the 40th anniversary of the enactment of Title IX–which bars gender discrimination in education—and noted that more women in the United States are now graduating from college than men, which he characterized as “a great accomplishment” for the nation.

“In fact, more women as a whole now graduate from college than men,” Obama wrote. “This is a great accomplishment—not just for one sport or one college or even just for women but for America. And this is what Title IX is all about.”

According to the Census Bureau, 685,000 men and 916,000 women graduated from college in 2009 (the latest year for which statistics have been published). That means 25 percent fewer men received college degrees than women.

The article notes that in 1975 before Title IX was implemented, there were 17% fewer women graduating from college than men. Commenter Mark Simmons points out the obvious:

So if a 17% deficit was a catastrophe requiring federal intervention, what are we to conclude when that same federal intervention has created a 25% level of inequality?

Now, Obama says it’s an accomplishment that men don’t go to college now that he and his ilk have made it an inhospitable place for men. Men are bailing out of college and going elsewhere. But the hostility towards men (what’s left of them) still exists. We must fight to change this.

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“Three years ago, I was just another spectator throwing pillows at the TV set.”

Saturday, June 9th, 2012 - by Helen Smith

So says Illinois state Senate candidate Dr. Arie Friedman, when interviewed by Dr. Wes about why a doctor would go into politics. The interview discusses why doctors are so important in politics:

Why are doctors important for politics anyway?

Health care is a huge part of what government does. Here in Illinois, we spend about half of our entire general budget on health care. Despite that, if I’m elected I will literally be the first physician in history elected to the Illinois General Assembly. If physicians care about the future of health care we simply have to begin earning seats on the legislative side of the table. Regardless of party, I believe physician have a very special insight into the needs of our patients and the role of government in health care….

I want to reemphasize the importance of getting involved. Three years ago, I was just another spectator throwing pillows at the TV set. Once I made the decision to get involved, I found that I could really have an impact. Regardless of your profession, if you are concerned about the political situation you simply must take it upon yourself to contribute to the dialogue in some way.

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