Afraid of a gay child, just roughhouse

Interesting story in the Los Angeles Times (you need to register to read, but you should, it is an excellent newspaper) about a movement to teach in high schools that gay students can become straight through reparative therapy.  Apparently, only about third of the people who attempt to be “cured” by the program run by The National Association. for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality are successful in their attempts (and that figure may be inflated). 

It's hard to give a lot of
credibility to the psychologist who runs the group when he makes arguments such

Nicolosi went on to tell them
that fathers could help their sons stay straight by bonding through
rough-and-tumble games, such as tossing them in the air.  “Even if
[the dad] drops the kid and he cracks his head, at least he'll be
heterosexual,” Nicolosi said, chuckling. “A small price to pay.”

As a father who loves rough and tumble games with at least 2 of his 3 boys (at 4 months, I don't think Evan is quite up to wrestling around yet– though I suppose I could be tossing him in thie air more), it is hard to think of a much more absurd notion than to suggest that the amount of roughhousing I do with my boys will determine whether or not they are straight.

Medical malpractice and Natalee Holloway

How are these two topics related you ask?  Kevin Drum, far and away my favorite blogger, hits both today.  I read a book this past summer (and now assign a chapter from it for PS 310) called the Medical Malpractice Myth.  The sad truth is there is much more of a problem of unreported malpractice than there is a problem of frivolous lawsuits.  Apparently, the latest study from Harvard Medical School further confirms the fact.  Kevin Drum nicely summarizes the key findings

I love Kevin Drum because he takes important policy issues (e.g., medical malpractice), which are largely ignored by the mainstream media, quite seriously.  I also appreciate the fact that, unlike most bloggers, he has a pretty sophisticated understanding of what's wrong with the modern media.  Exhibit A) today's headline is Natalee Holloway, despite the fact that there is no actual news in her case.  The dumbing down of the media in recent years is truly shameful, and few things are as bad as the obsession with missing attractive, young, white females.  Did you ever stop to think that maybe unattractive people, or minorities go missing, too?  You'd never know it from the news reports.  But, I bet you can guess which stories bring in better ratings. 

Negative Campaigning in Raleigh

The N&O today had an interesting article about Vernon Robinson, the man who is challenging Brad Miller to represent North Carolina's 13th Congressional District (which includes the NCSU area). Apparently, Robinson has made quite a name for himself nationally by being an extremely nasty campaigner.  (Kudos to the N&O for fact-checking his recent claims)  Fortunately, his negative efforts have met with little reward so far.  Most recently, he ran against Virginia Foxx for NC's 5th district.  He suggested she was way too liberal– since her election she has proven to be NC's most conservative members of the U.S. House.  Apparently, Robinson has an ongoing habit of subtly suggesting that his opponent is gay.  Miller's wife has had to face interviews justifying the fact that they do not have any children (apparently, she had to undergo a hysterectomy as a young woman).  Miller is known for running a pretty negative campaign himself last time around, but Robinson seems to be in a league of his own.

A few weeks ago, a colleague of mine played me one of Robinson's radio ads from his website.  When I first heard it, I truly thought it was political satire, it was just so extreme.  Please, take a listen for yourself, and check out his television commercial, too.  Apparently, Brad Miller's dream would be to have Al Qaeda members come over here to have same-sex marriages with illegal Mexican immigrants.  Generally, political candidates save their harshest and most negative attacks for radio, as they can be much more narrowly tailored due to the self-selection of radio station audiences.  This is certainly true of Robinson as well, but his TV ad is about as inflammatory as they get. 

Our friend, Carbon Dioxide

As you may have heard, there is a new movie out, “An Inconvenient Truth,” which is essentially a documentary of Al Gore's powerpoint presentation on global warming.  Despite this seemingly soporific description, the movie has been surprisingly well-reviewed and received a lot of positive publicity for the issue itself and for Al Gore. 

In response, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a think tank (and I use the term loosely), largely funded by the petroleum industry has released a series of ads decrying Global Warming as little more than scare tactics and with the memorable tagline, “they call it pollution, we call it life.”  To me,  these ads seem so ridiculous to almost border on satire.  They are largely a series of misleading half-truths that do not address the genuine scientific consensus on global warming.  Sure carbon dioxide is necessary to life on this planet, but too much of any good thing often becomes a bad thing.  We all need salt to survive, too, but try switching over to saltwater as a regular beverage and just see what happens.  Learning that ExxonMobil is primary funder of this Institute further reconfirms my commitment to purchase my gas from them as a last resort.  Maybe BP is all for show, but they at least pretend (and hopefully mean it) to care about our environmental future, rather than actively working to undermine it. 

This past week's Washington Post Magazine ran a very interesting story on the handful of global warming skeptics among actual scientists (though most of them are not climate scientists).  What was most interesting and amusing about the piece was that most of these skeptics consider the other skeptics to be crackpots who don't know what they are talking about.

Inaugural Entry–Part Deux

So, I realized that random people will happen
across this blog thanks to the handy listing of recent blog updates when one
goes to the Wolfblogs page.  Thus, I realized I ought to start this thing
off with a little more information about me.  I am a quasi-Associate
Professor in Political Science (quasi, because the promotion does not become
official until August).  I've been at NC State since Fall of 2002 and
spent a couple of years at Texas Tech (guns up!) before that.  I have a
PhD from Ohio State and was an undergraduate at Duke. 

Presumably, what I do here will gradually evolve, but I hope to comment on
interesting news stories, etc., that I do not necessarily get a chance to
address in class.  It would be unrealistic of me to do that without
reflecting my own liberal predispositions, but I am more interested in
discussing good public policy and a well-functioning democracy than in simply
suggesting my views are better than anyone else's (though, when mine are based
on facts and others' are based on misinformation, that will be the case). 
Reasonable people can disagree quite reasonably on the size and scope of
government, whether or not gay marriage and abortion should be illegal or
illegal, how progressive our tax code should be, etc.  However, if a
virtual scientific consensus says that humans cause global warming, or that
supply side economics reduces government revenue, I'll stick with the facts
every time.  Furthermore, criticizing political figures for their actions
does not imply a particular partisan or ideological viewpoint.  Saying I
think Bush has screwed up with Iraq (a position advocated as well by many
Republicans) or that Rumsfeld is a disaster of a defense secretary, makes me no more a liberal than saying that I think Bush is taking a
generally good approach with immigration policy make me a Republican. 

Alright, I've got my ideological disclaimer out of the way.  But as I
discussed in class this very day, there are few things more offensive than
having one's viewpoints (viewpoints developed from years of closely following
the political world and years of studying politics as a social scientist)
simply tossed aside as “well, he's just a liberal college professor.”

Okay, enough with the politics.  I also hope to share on this blog, my
random thoughts on the many other topics that interest me (though I'll stay low
key with Duke basketball).  I love reading about science– especially
neurology (from whence derives my blog title), evolutionary biology, ecology,
and human medicine.  I hope to comment when I have something interesting
to say about these topics as well as my love of good books, movies, and
TV.  I'll probably also throw in the occasional family anecdote. 
David Greene, (6– and the oldest of my three red-haired, blue-eyed) boys, is
definitely good for some amusing stories.

I've gone on long enough.

Inaugural Entry

Well, at long last I'm starting a blog after thinking about it for a long time.  For some reason, seeing that the NCSU library was offering Wolfblogs is what got me to finally do this– not like I couldn't have started a blog for free somewhere else, ages ago.  The fact that my wife– the much-needed superego to my id– called me “Narcissus” when I first ran the idea past her has definitely made me think twice about this.

Nonetheless, after a recent couple days of meetings on Distance Education, I decided (deluded myself?) that this blog could actually be a useful pedagogical tool.  One thing I really do not like about teaching both a distance course and large lecture courses is that I really do not get to discuss current events (or anything else for that matter) with my students.  I decided this would be a way for me to share my thoughts on the issues of the day.  This will, of course, save my wife from listening to political rants when I do not otherwise have an audidence.  So, that said, we'll just have to see how this goes (and if anybody besides me actually reads this thing).