Journalists Claire Shipman (wife of Presidential Press Secretary Jay Carney, senior national correspondent for ABC’s Good Morning America, and regular contributor to This Week with George Stephanopoulos) and Katty Kay (anchor for BBC World News America) have a new book, The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance — What Women Should Know, that claims that women, compared to men, lack professional confidence. That is a significant finding because, according to the authors, confidence trumps competence any time. Sadly, women, they say, depend on their competence, while men get ahead because they are so overly confident.
The Nation’s Pulse
The Pew Research Center has issued an interesting report on the increasing numbers of women staying home to care for their children over the past dozen years.
Laura Meckler of the Wall Street Journal noted a companion opinion survey by Pew last year which found that “mothers are much more likely than fathers to work fewer hours, take a significant amount of time off, quit a job or — by a small margin — turn down a promotion in order to care for a child or family member.” Forty-two percent of mothers indicated they had reduced their work hours to care for a child or family member, compared with 28 percent of fathers.
The esteemed philosopher and dental hygienist Johnny Rotten long ago asked, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” More and more.
Slugger David Ortiz’s presidential selfie screamed smiley spontaneity. Twitter, the counterrevolution to Guttenberg’s rebellion against illiteracy, mimeographed the picture for millions to see. But we didn’t quite see what we thought we saw until we discovered that Big Papi has a promotional deal with cell-phone maker Samsung, who put him up to the stunt. Barack Obama, reduced to gauchely peddling health insurance for the past few months, this week unwittingly morphed into a gadget salesman.
The famous Oscars selfie featuring Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lawrence, and other beautiful people apparently came at Samsung’s corporate behest, too. Those guys are phonies for a living, so when we fall for one of their acts we can blame ourselves. The inauthentic moment at the White House appears as a high-tech Amway party, where a reveler — in this case the host — believes himself invited to a celebration only to discover himself at a sale. Why can’t we get a selfie of Obama’s face once he realized he’d been had?
On April 1, 1984, legendary Motown soul singer Marvin Gaye was shot and killed by his own father. Some believed it was sick April Fool’s joke. It was sick, but it was no joke. In a cruel twist of fate, Gaye died a day shy of his 45th birthday. If Gaye had still been singing his soulful muse, he would have turned 75 on April 2. At this time, I would like to share my ten favorite Marvin Gaye songs with you.
A few years ago, I was privileged to hear Justice Antonin Scalia speak at my husband’s alma mater, Iona College. On display, among other things, were the wit and wisdom that have made Justice Scalia perhaps the most indispensable conservative in America. And he wowed the audience of mostly college kids, telling them that, contrary to public opinion, he was not a king, but if he was, “you sandal-wearing hippies would be outta here!” But the main thrust of his talk centered on how heretofore private gripes are now fodder for federal lawmaking attempts; invoking the old saying, “There ought to be a law!”
And he’s right. We’re all too familiar with the so-called rights and privileges that certain folks feel should necessitate new legislation. Well, the latest cries for new laws have come from those who wish to end the practice of bullying. Not surprisingly, these calls come at the federal level because, apparently, the laws or policies passed by all 50 states addressing bullying are insufficient.
Fred Phelps, the “God Hates Fags” chronic cleric protester from so-called Westboro Church, who died yesterday, proved America’s endless capacity to hype charlatans and kooks. He became a national personality because he persuaded his family cult of several dozen children, grandchildren and in-laws to follow his absurd crusade.
Many of the Phelps progeny are lawyers, so they sustained their sect by litigation, often against their adversaries, while spending reputedly hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to demonstrate around the country. Their signage was printed at their own print shop.
Phelps was himself a disbarred lawyer who in his early years apparently litigated against racial segregation. He presided over his Westboro Church in Topeka for nearly 60 years. Professing to be Baptist but not tied to any denomination, it touts a deviant form of Calvinism that emphasizes divine hatred for the wicked.
“Our. God. Feels.” Pastor Dave Bushnell slowed down, pronouncing the words distinctly. Then he stopped, giving us a moment for the three syllables to sink in. “Our God reigns” might have been what the audience had expected him to say, from the title—and the refrain—of the popular worship song by that name. This inversion of expectations roped listeners into the message.
Bushnell is a wiry man with close-cropped hair. On the third Sunday in January, he was dressed in faded blue jeans and a red, white, and black plaid button-down shirt. Behind him, a large screen, one of many in the cavernous auditorium of Cornwall Church, displayed a collection of verses from the Bible’s Old and New Testaments. Here were verses in which God the Father and Jesus Christ expressed what sounded suspiciously like emotions. Compassion, distress, sorrow, regret: the whole gamut of human feeling. Such seemingly emotional passages have long presented a problem for theologians because they seem to contradict classical Christian formulations about God—His being all knowing, all powerful, unchanging, and good, for instance.
Roughly seven in ten Americans take a prescription drug. That’s surely a symptom of a sick society. Who will diagnose the diagnosticians?
The Mayo Clinic study that reported the shocking statistic in 2013 found that behind antibiotics, doctors prescribe opioids and antidepressants more than any other type of drug. The guy in the black trench coat calls them uppers and downers. The guy in the white lab coat applies fancier names: Dexedrine, Klonopin, Phenmetrazine, and others lending themselves to neither pronunciation nor understanding.
Bayer once marketed heroine. Parke-Davis pushed cocaine. Today, doctors write scripts for Adderall and Oxycodone — old wine, new bottles. Might our forebears look down on us the way we smugly look back at posterity?
A “disease” responsible for much of the prescription boom is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). A behavioral neurologist practicing for a half-century now believes it a made-up malady. When patients feign an illness, the English language assigns a word to them: malingerers. What to call doctors who dream up diseases?
Last month some women started a new front in their long war on men, women and children, a war with so many victims killed — and disabled in soul and body. And they lost. On February 17, Virginia state Senator Stephen H. Martin and other pro-life Virginia legislators received late valentines from the Virginia Pro-Choice Coalition asking them to give up their opposition to abortion.
I find the report of this volley of valentines in Virginia disturbing on several levels. First, I was not aware that organizations, for-profit or not-for-profit, send valentines. Valentines are meant to be sent by individuals to individuals. Second, since valentines are used to express romantic love, or affection, or at least friendship, it is wrong to send them to an opponent, much less to ask the recipient to change their sincerely held beliefs. Third, it is just plain hard to believe that valentines would be used to lobby legislators.
General Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has recently stated that the armed forces should place more importance on the character of officers. The military has been rocked by a Navy contracting scandal involving allegations of bribes, high profile sexual assault cases, and test-cheating involving nuclear missile crews. The general stated that the military service chiefs would put renewed focus on military ethics.
I met the general in church a few weeks after his statement. In a brief conversation, I told him that I would be interested to see his findings as to why character is lacking among so many in high places and what solutions his committee proposes. Later that day, I thought that, instead of me waiting for the Joint Chief’s report, I should be contributing to what needs to be a national conversation, since the lack of character is now endemic to our society.