Friday, April 15, 2005

Pessimism raises dementia risk

Pessimism raises dementia risk, study finds
Research based on standardized personality tests

Updated: 12:09 p.m. ET April 15, 2005

WASHINGTON - Pessimistic, anxious and depressed people may have a higher risk of dementia, U.S. researchers reported Thursday.

A study of a group of 3,500 people showed that those who scored high for pessimism on a standardized personality test had a 30 percent increased risk of developing dementia 30 to 40 years later.

Those scoring very high on both anxiety and pessimism scales had a 40 percent higher risk, the study showed. more...

Does this pass for thinking?

Merry Stephens found career success in Bloomburg, Texas. But how her career was terminated has become an election issue in this really small Texas town. The New York Times takes a look at the blowback in Standing Up After Fearing Standing Out.

It's an interesting read, but since this is likely my last posting for a few days, I want you to pay particular attention to the words and actions of the elected officials in this story. In particular, imagine our own elected officials having this conversation:

Michael Shirk, Stephens's lawyer from the Texas State Teachers Association, took depositions from community members, including the school board president, Derous Byers, who was opposed to the effort to fire Stephens.

Byers said in the deposition that another board member, Ronnie Peacock, told him that Stephens "doesn't deserve to work here" because she is a lesbian. In that deposition, Byers recalled Peacock saying: "We're bonded or insured for a million dollars apiece. We ought to fire her and see what happens."

I don't know about you, but I can imagine one or more of our City Council members, particularly from those districts with the lowest ordinal numbering, mouthing these words.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Squaring the Frame

A friend dropped by my store last evening and, as often will happen, our discussion evolved (or degenerated) into talk of a specific national policy issue. This friend made an observation that has my gears turning and I thought I'd do a little survey - on this blog and through observation, as well.

The theory? It is unwise to assume a convergence between one's interests and one's politics.

The professor seemed to be sharing hard-earned accumulated wisdom from empirical evidence.

Do people who share an interest in fine wines coalesce around the same political views? Do readers of literary fiction vote the same way? Do drivers of hybrid-fueled vehicles support the same candidates?

We often assume our friends, because they are our friends, share our politics. We assume that members of our Lions Club, because they evidently have a bent for community service, would share our views on, say, drilling for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve.

It was a needed reminder to me, especially as a retailer in contact with a wide public, that the folks who patronize my store and evince a love for particular books may not share my own views when it comes to an issue like, for example, the Freedom to Read Act.

I came across a rather different take last evening on Eric Alterman's Web log, Altercation (you'll have to scroll down to his correspondents' corner). In discussing the resurgence of a conservatism that was all but pronounced dead in 1964, the correspondent said:

By defining the "exurb" as a discrete cultural unit, and by telling the people whose finances and psychologies put them there that their hopes and fears match the Republican Party's agenda, you're practicing lifestyle-as-politics -- especially when you create a coalition combining exurban with rural folks by pitting them against decadent urban elites.

On the evidence, I'd have to say that shared lifestyles has indeed become a remarkable indicator of voting patterns and this phenomenon has been ruthlessly exploited by the GOP's uber-advisor Karl Rove. That's the nature of electoral politics - capture the majority, and devil take the hindmost.

I'll be watching over the next several months to see if my preliminary observations bear out.

Will the attendees at Saturday's Earth Day celebration at the Falls of the Ohio State Park also salute the same political issues or leaders? Do advocates of a renewed Farmers Market in downtown New Albany converge politically? Do flavored-coffee drinkers support one party while espresso-slammers support the other?

The opportunities to observe are endless. But remember this telling statistic: even in the supposedly homogenous "new" Southern Baptist Convention, more than 40% of these evangelicals voted for Democratic Party nominee Al Gore in 2000. There's a pretty large sample that proves my friend's point.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Newspapers vs. Blogs

For everything there is a time...for everything a purpose.

Read Pam Platt's public editor column in today's Courier-Journal. It doesn't even address blogs, so far as I can tell, and that's a telling indictment of the obliviousness of professional journalists, but it does share some interesting survey statistics about newspaper readership and perceptions of credibility.

You can read the story online at this link.

If You Don't Read the Tribune

Sunday is a day typically devoted to those micro-communities to which we all belong: family, church, school, good friends.

Few would question that U.S. readers share a connection to an "American" community, and the 24-hour news cycle guarantees that most of us will, sooner or later, become aware of our connection to the global community.

Situated somewhere between our micro-communities and the global community is the cherished opportunity to connect to that subset most of us think of when the word "community" is used.

The Tribune, New Albany's almost-daily newspaper, its sister (parent?) paper The Evening News, and the chronicle that calls Corydon home, The Democrat, are the only reliable sources for keeping our micro-communities attached.

As useful as the metropolitan daily is, it can hardly serve as a substitute for our local papers. Able to compete aggressively for advertising dollars because of its ownership by a vast (and distant) conglomerate (Gannett), The Courier-Journal and its subsidiary publications take no prisoners when it comes to maximizing their share of the advertising dollars available within the area.

Ad dollars are the driving force in making a newspaper better. Advertisers in a mass media (and make no mistake about it, newspapers are tools for mass marketing) need to know how widely disseminated their words and images will be. Circulation and readership are the key components, but the larger the market, the more costly the ads.

The diminution of local papers is a result of aggressive pricing for advertising space, but the end result is that advertisers seeking to reach a smaller segment of the market can get caught in a vicious whirlwind that deposits them in an Oz without alternatives.

As ad revenues dry up for local papers like ours, the resources for news coverage shrink. Staff positions are cut and editors become reporters, compositors, and more. Smaller staffs and budgets leave community newspapers without the resources to increase coverage or hire the best writers. Overworked editors are forced to plan less, train less, and edit less.

The lesser paper then becomes less desirable as a news source, reducing circulation even further, reducing advertising revenues even further, and stretching the resources of the paper to a point near breaking.

Publisher Carl Esposito operates the two near-dailies covering the communities closest to New Albany and has been creative in trying to make them economically viable.

This blogger has some background in the newspaper business. The criticisms of The Tribune you've read here were made with a full understanding of what's possible with limited resources, and we continue to see room for improvement.

We continue to encourage you to read The Tribune and The Evening News. Think about this: If the going ad rate is one that pays for a population from Bardstown to Seymour, how does the small independent business reach its customers. As an advertiser, I have little hope of drawing significant traffic from Madison, Ind. or Bardstown, Ky. But I may still have to pay for it at the same rate as a larger business.

But the most important reason for reading your local paper is to stay informed about your community, its people, and the government actions that will impact your quality of life.

A web log is no subsitute. A limited Web site is no substitute.

The Esposito papers are offering a special trial subscription rate this Spring. For about 42 cents an issue, you can try The Tribune for 13 weeks (78 issues by my calculations) and receive a logoed umbrella in appreciation. Call (812) 944-6481 to subscribe on a trial basis. I think you'll find the local paper offers you news you've been missing out on.


Today's paper offers another musing from that under-appreciated free-lance wordsmith, Terry Cummins. Check it out.

But the best single item in the paper comes from the syndicated column penned by Morton Marcus. This is not a column easily accessible online. It's only available in your local paper and its focus is on Indiana and its economy, including the politics of government policy.

Marcus today decries the discriminatory effects of Indiana tax policy. One glaring inequity is the state income tax system. Indiana is proud (?) of its flat rate, but Marcus asks "why?"

The income tax system is anything but flat. It is markedly regressive and tilted to reward homeowners over renters and the wealthy over the poor. Combined with other subsidies to homeowners, the young family trying to get a leg up or the older person unable to afford anything but a rental unit are each given a stiff shove by the state.

Marcus says, "...the Indiana individual income tax is neither simple nor equitable. It is a complex mess of special treatment based on arbitrary and inconsistent sentiment."

Read it today in The Tribune.