June 29, 2006 | 12:39 AM ET

Stay at home, or work?  Feminism was supposed to be about freedom for women to do what they found most fulfilling — but it seems that people (mostly women) are still telling women what to do.

Caitlin Flanagan's book, To Hell With All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife, is a full-time mom's complaint about not getting the respect that working moms get.  On the other hand, Linda Hirshman recently wrote an article in The American Prospect complaining that too many women are staying home with the kids.

Hirshman then wrote in the Washington Post that she was overwhelmed by the wrath of stay-at-home moms.  It seems that nobody gets a break, here.

Meanwhile, what about dads?  I'm not a stay-at-home dad — I work full-time — but I work as a professor, and I spend a lot more time parenting than my dad did.  And as I look around in my world, I see a lot of men spending a lot more time at home, and with kids, than our fathers' generation did.  But you don't hear as much about them, somehow.

In a podcast interview recently, we talked with stay-at-home dad James Lileks, author of Mommy Knows Worst: Highlights from the Golden Age of Bad Parenting Advice, and Cathy Seipp, columnist, single mom, and frequent author on the Mommy Wars.  (You can listen directly by clicking here — no iPod needed — or get it via iTunes by clicking here.  There's a lo-fi version for dialup here, and a complete podcast archive here.)  They had a lot of interesting things to say, both about contemporary parenting and about how things have changed since our parents were on the front lines.

Things in people's actual lives don't seem quite as dire as the parenting pundits make it, which just proves that the Golden Age of bad advice continues into the present.

June 28, 2006 | 10:36 AM ET

Flag-burning takes a fall —and so does Congress

The flag-burning amendment — an election-year perennial — failed to pass the Senate by a single vote, leading one blogger to comment:  "Now Congress can get back to the important stuff.  Like catching pimps."  Or at least taxing them.

Actually, pimps may be more popular than Congress these days. It's a race for the bottom:  "Congressional Democrats have an approval rating of just 38%, one percentage point above Bush and five above congressional Republicans."

And it gets worse: "By 50% to 39%, those surveyed say most members of Congress don't deserve re-election."

The other news is that a majority of Americans actually favors a third political party, a possibility that I've written about here before.  The two parties have each tried to gain votes mostly by arguing that the other is worse.  Perhaps enough people will come to agree that we'll wind up with third -- and fourth -- parties.  It might not be such a bad thing.

June 27, 2006 | 11:21 AM ET

Strong new medicine:  Bring it on!

Right now, medical treatment isn't what it ought to be.  Doctors don't communicate well, patient records and x-rays are often handled using 1950s technology, and there's often not much of a basis for determining which treatments work best.  But costs keep going up.

Compare this state of affairs with what we see in the area of electronics, where things get better and cheaper at an ever-increasing rate.  Wouldn't it be nice to see that happen in the area of medicine?

I think so, and what's better, Andy Kessler thinks it's on the way.  His new book, The End of Medicine: How Silicon Valley (and Naked Mice) will Reboot Your Doctor, argues that increasingly, medicine will be taken over (and to some degree, already is being taken over) by machines, and that the result will be costs dropping, and performance improving, in the same sort of way that it has happened in the electronics industry.

I certainly hope he's right.  We talked with him in our podcast interview this week.  You can listen directly (no iPod needed) by clicking right here, or you can subscribe via iTunes by clicking right here.  There's a lo-fi version for dialup here, and there's a complete podcast archive here.

I think the biggest barriers to the realization of Kessler's predictions will be organizational, not technical — slowness, bureaucracy and self-serving obstructionism at the FDA, Medicare, and in particular insurance companies.  We may overcome that, but I hope that patients, and well people who'd like to stay well, will do their best to discourage any foot-dragging.

June 23, 2006 | 10:51 AM ET

Congress goes for the show

Well, the House has passed a watered-down line item veto.

I'm not against it, exactly, but I don't think it will make much difference.  It's not that there isn't a problem with Congressional spending.  There is, and it's bipartisan.  Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert is in trouble for earmarks that seem to have benefitted him personally.  So is Democrat John Murtha, who's attracting unfavorable attention for some rather shady-looking earmarks.

Lots of news about Congressional misbehavior is collected at PorkBusters.org, and the Sunlight Foundation — which has been on top of the Hastert story — is looking for citizen volunteers to investigate their own members of Congress.

We need real reform, not window-dressing.  We're not likely to get it unless members of Congress think their jobs are at stake.

June 22, 2006 | 11:26 AM ET

Porn:  Good for America!

This is pretty interesting:

The number of rapes per capita in the United States has plunged by more than 85 percent since the 1970s, and reported rape fell last year even while other violent offenses increased, according to federal crime data.

This seemingly stunning reduction in sexual violence has been so consistent over the past two decades that some experts say they have started to believe it is accurate, even if they cannot fully explain why it is occurring.

Hmm.  What's different since 1970?  Lots of things, of course, though bared midriffs and short-shorts are back.  But probably the most relevant difference is porn.  In 1970, some people argued that porn caused rape.  Since 1970, though, porn has exploded.  In 1970 you had to work pretty hard to find porn.  Now you have to work nearly as hard to avoid it.

But rape has gone down 85%.  So much for the notion that pornography causes rape — or, at least, if it did have much effect in that direction, it would be hard to explain how rape rates could have declined so dramatically while porn expanded so explosively.

So while I won't go so far as to argue that porn actually prevents rape, it seems clear that the claims of some people — including a commission headed by former Attorney General Ed Meese back in the 1980s — that pornography promotes rape are, at best, overstated.  I suspect, though, that anti-pornography crusaders are unlikely to heed this lesson.

June 21, 2006 | 11:01 AM ET

Voting on abortion

South Dakota is trying something novel on abortion -- asking the voters what they think.

South Dakota's legislators voted an extensive ban on abortions, one sure to be unconstitutional under current Supreme Court caselaw. Their hope was to provoke a challenge in the United States Supreme Court, which they thought might overturn Roe v. Wade.

Pro-choice activists then tried something different.  Instead of going to court, they got the issue put to a referendum, and South Dakota's voters will get a chance to weigh in come November.

I think Roe v. Wade was properly decided -- though, like most law professors, it's a matter of professional pride with me to say that I could have done a better job writing the opinion, but I also think that it's too bad the Supreme Court visited the issue so soon.  States were overturning old anti-abortion laws already, and the Roe decision had the effect of shutting down the political process before it reached a solution.

That's too bad, and I'm kind of glad to see the issue go to a vote in South Dakota.  The outcome may just surprise those legislators.

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