Monday, February 28, 2005

Why Have'em if You Won't Raise'em?

Now this is funny:

"I don't know how you can put that baby in day care. Why did you even have a child if you weren't going to raise her yourself?"

"We needed someone who could fetch the TV remote when we were too drunk to get off the couch and find it."

From over at Chez Miscarriage, things she has learned from reading Mother Drive-bys, appalling things people feel free to say to parents these days.

I know when the kid was tiny I couldn’t take her out in public without shoes out (which I did all the time, because, you know? It was summer?) without every woman in miles descending on me to howl, “Get some shoes on that baby!”

And everyone else was always telling us when we should wean her and what we should feed her and how if we didn’t smack her she’d grow up evi-i-il…


And of course, putting them in daycare/pre-school (or, in the case of our fellow English professor, the one whose kid didn’t go to daycare/preschool, not sending him to preschool/daycare) will warp the kids for life…

Not to mention all the other ways parents can destroy their children, which everyone is more than delighted to tell us about, because, you know, parenting doesn’t come with enough guilt these days.

Chez M tells them all what’s what.

The Raw Deal

Good post over at

It's pretty widely understood that average incomes have stagnated during the past three decades, but as bad as that is in a country as rich as America, what's worse — and less widely understood — is how much riskier life has become: income volatility has skyrocketed, the minimum wage is down, the number of people with company pensions is down, average job tenure has dropped from 11 years to 7, and the number of people with health insurance has fallen seven percentage points.

This is not easy stuff to present and it's not easy to grasp, but it's an essential part of the economic story of America and it's an essential backdrop to our current debates over Social Security, Medicaid, and tax reform. Life is getting riskier every year, more and more people are living on the thin edge of disaster, and instead of working to ameliorate this the Republican party is working hard to make it riskier still.

(Via the excellent folk at BlogBites: What would we do without'em?

Christians in the Schools

I’m sort of pissed off today.

All right, more than sort of.

If Far-Right Levitican Christians want to fuck their own kids up, that’s their business. But maybe we should then have some sort of rule or something – if you have traumatized your five year old to such an extent that she can’t stop obsessing about going to hell, you are then required to send your five year old to a Christian school, so she can terrorize other traumatized kids with her constant obsessing over hell, and not my kid? How would that be?

Because, you see, we went through a lot of trouble, as I recently chronicled, to move our little Jewish kid to the Montessori school – out of the local public school, where everyone, including some of the teachers, were Levitican Christians – and where the kid was getting tormented and proselytized non-stop by parents and classmates alike.

The Montessori school has Muslims and some other Asian religions and a few Jews and some Christians – most of the Christians, at least, are, I was disappointed to find out during the election, Republicans.

But they’re not fundamentalist Christians, for the most part, since fundie/Levitican Christians in Fort Smith send their kids to the local “hive school” – it used to be three Christian schools, one very Pentacostal, one medium Pentacostal, and one just regular Christian, but it has recently Borged up into one big giant school, All Pentacostal All the Time!

Anyway. There is one small Levitican-Christian child in my kid’s class. And she has been terrified, apparently, non-stop, by her parents and her pastor about hell. This kid is five years old. She knows more kinds of demons than I know poetic forms. She can cite you all the torments and engines of hell. She tells my kid, daily, what sorts of tortures she’s going to suffer if she doesn’t get right with Jesus soon.

My kid has tried telling her she’s a Jew and Jews don’t believe in Jesus.

She has tried telling her Jews don’t believe in hell.

She has tried telling her she didn’t want to discuss it further.

She has tried (these all are solutions we’ve been giving her) saying, “Thank you for your input. A handsome certificate suitable for framing will be arriving in four to six weeks.”

None of these are working.

Kid doesn’t want to tell the teachers. She says this will be tattling. Kid doesn’t want us to tell the teachers, because – get this – she likes this little girl. This little girl is her best friend, when the little girl isn’t harassing her about hell.

I’ve told her it’s not tattling and she should tell the teachers anyway. She says she will.

But I know my kid. She won’t. Even though all this hell talk is giving her nightmares.

So Jen Shroder, with her stupid lies about her son being told “it’s not fair to mention Jesus in school” can just go right to her own hell, okay?*

Because this is what Christians are actually doing in our schools, and it is not okay.

* Here’s Shroder’s stupid lie, as published in her stupid article:

My own son came home mimicking the schools reasoning one day. "Mom, its not right that we have Jesus in school because it offends other cultures. I said, "Honey, if we moved to Africa and they worshipped their African god, would we be offended?" No. Kind of a stupid question isn't it. So why are other cultures so offended when they come to what was once a mighty Christian nation and see the word Jesus Christ? Why are we forced to relinquish our own culture?

Emphasis mine, because my God that Schroder is ignorant, isn't she?

Schroder goes on to make it plain what she and other Christian/Leviticans want this country to be like. They don’t want tolerance. They don’t want a place for my child at the table. They want us all to be Christians, and besides that they want us to be their kind of Christian, damn it: no other kind is allowed!

A few days later a reporter really pinned me down about what I would want in a social studies textbook. IF I could have it my way, what would that be? What a poignant question. If I stayed faithful to what God said, "Take heed that you inquire not of other nations and how they serve their gods," and replied that I would want NO religion in textbooks, then the Bible would be gagged as well. I know that if the Bible is matched up to other beliefs, it stands up every time, so would I prefer that all religions be introduced so that the Bible could be allowed as well? Many who claim to be Christian were making that argument. That sounded good but that wasn't what God said. So I asked for counsel again. And again many gave me "politically correct" coaching. It made sense, but it made me grit my teeth. So I prayed.God was swift in His answer and I have relayed it many times. "God is not confined to what is politically correct." To the question of what should be in textbooks, I will always hold to what God said. If we turn our backs on God, He will turn His back on us. He has already told us in so many ways and in the Bible what we should and should not do. We shall have no other gods before Him. In all of history, God has never once negotiated that commandment. Not once did He tell the Israelites to teach their children about other gods so that other cultures could learn our ways. Not once. And not now. This deceptive ploy has been used to disparage Christianity and promote every other belief, including Satanism.

So it’s Christians only – God doesn’t want any Muslims, any Jews, any Wiccans, any Buddhists – just Jen’s sort of church is to be allowed to be taught in the schools, and if my daughter won’t believe in it, well, then her classmates can torment her until she does.

And to hell with any of this nonsense about tolerance! You think God was for tolerance? Well, he wasn't! God BURNS tolerant people in a LAKE OF FIRE FOR ALL ETERNITY! That's what GOD DOES!

Or so my kid's classmate has been telling her.

And she seems to know.

(Schroder link via s.z. at World o’ Crap:

Friday, February 25, 2005

All the Lies

And the crisis is -- guess what? -- saying fuck.

I used to get this shit at home, folks. I can't tell you how angry it makes me. They can trash our country's economy, destroy the ecosystem, invade other countries on false pretexts, killing little children while doing so, and rip the Bill of Rights into shreds -- and then get all prim because someone dares to cuss, hey now, watch your language, who do you think you are?

Here's a clue, folks.

Harming others? Doing evil things?

That's infinitely worse than saying fuck.

(Via Infinite Stitch

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Academic Bill of Rights

You've heard about Horowitz's little pet project -- the one he's whoring himself all over the country to get passed, the one actually being considered, as we speak, by nine separate state legislatures?

Here's a copy of it:

And here's why we don't need it:

Horowitz and the Far Right are arguing, as they have been arguing, that universities are rife with Leftists, and that we are corrupting the young, and making the worse appear the better cause, and teaching everyone to be atheists (hey, where have I heard this before?), not to mention dissing the president, Jesus, the war in Iraq, and Rush Limbaugh. And that this is bad.

David Horowitz has collected a whole website full of complaints about it. Atrios ( has a link to it if you're interested, but basically all the complaints say the same thing: my professor said mean things about (Jesus/Bush/Rush/the war in Iraq) and when I complained my professor gave me a bad grade. And no evidence to link the bad grade to the complaint, may I add, other than the student asserting that the two are linked.

Anyway, Horowitz and the Far Right want Academic Bill of Rights on campuses across America so that more they can get Conservative professors on campus (because they figure that's why there aren't many there -- liberals are conspiring not to hire them: it can't be, oh, that conservatives would rather do something that makes a lot of money, so that they can buy big Hummers and wreck the environment with'em. Nah.) and so that the liberal professors can be restrained from brainwashing impressionable young college students.

Here's the thing: One: college students? Not that impressionable.

Two: We already have academic freedom on campuses and it works just fine. Students who think they have been mistreated have the right to appeal their grades: there is, in fact, already a process in place to deal with instructor abuse. It goes all the way up to suing the university with your trusty lawyer. Mr. Horowitiz, of course, knows this.

Three: Check out the language in this fine document:

4. Curricula and reading lists in the humanities and social sciences should reflect the uncertainty and unsettled character of all human knowledge in these areas by providing students with dissenting sources and viewpoints where make their students aware of other viewpoints. Acappropriate. While teachers are and should be free to pursue their own findings and perspectives in presenting their views, they should consider and ademic disciplines should welcome a diversity of approaches to unsettled quesions.


8. Knowledge advances when individual scholars are left free to reach their own conclusions about which methods, facts, and theories have been validated by research. Academic institutions and professional societies formed to advance knowledge within an area of research, maintain the integrity of the research process, and organize the professional lives of related researchers serve as indispensable venues within which scholars circulate research findings and debate their interpretation. To perform these functions adequately, academic institutions and professional societies should maintain a posture of organizational neutrality with respect to the substantive disagreements that divide researchers on questions within, or outside, their fields of inquiry.

You do get what those mean, right?

Dissenting source = Rush Limbaugh.

"Posture of neutrality"= The university should (at least pretend to) support Intelligent Design.

Well, this is not what universities or scholars do. We don't provide dissenting opinions when those opinions are wrong or uniformed. We don't "provide" disinformation to our students. We exist to enlighten, not to make more ignorant. If students want to study ignorance, let them go to Bob Jones College. They can learn all about how evolution is evil-ition and women should submit to their husbands and Bush is God's Chosen leader there.

On a university campus, they should be learning actual thinking skills, and real science.


She’s not exactly a liar in fact, Ann Coulter. She’s just a liar in effect.

She tells enough of the truth that, if her readers don’t know what’s going on (and, of course, her readers are mainly Far Right folk who listen to Rush, so they don’t know what’s going on), they will be misled into believing what is false: this makes what she writes, in effect, big fat lies.

For instance, in her column today on Townhall, she claims that lefty bloggers have no real reason for attacking Gannon except that he is gay.

Well, first, no; and second, being gay is not what Lefty bloggers are seizing upon in the case: which Coulter knows: it is being a gay guy running an online prostitution ring while having a security clearance at the White House of an Administration which claims that being gay is a grave moral failing that is endangering our country’s welfare.

Those really are two different things, and furthermore I know Coulter knows it.

Second, she knows Gannon’s sexual preference is not what the Left is or ever was primarily interested in. Nor was the Left interested in Gannon’s use of a pseudonym. It is his lack of a security clearance, and how he was able to continue to access the White House, for the length of time he did, during the time he did – hey, Coulter, did you notice this war we’re engaged in? Do you think maybe that should affect our security practices any? Or maybe you think it shouldn’t matter because Gannon’s a white guy?

Anyway, she also gets the obligatory slam in against Clinton:

Democrats in Congress actually demanded that an independent prosecutor investigate how Gannon got into White House press conferences while writing under an invented name. How did Gary Hartpence, Billy Blythe and John Kohn (Gary Hart, Bill Clinton and John Kerry) run for president under invented names? Admittedly, these men were not reporters for the prestigious "Talon News" service; they were merely Democrats running for president.

I think we should propose a National Bill: All Townhall writers to be banned from using the word “Clinton” for the next six months.

It would be cruel and unusual punishment, sure, and it would cripple them entirely, but at least we’d get some peace and quiet.

Christian Nation

Over at The Nation, Brooke Allen has written a splendid exegesis of just how not-Christian our country was meant to be.

As Allen points out, God is not mentioned once in the Constitution itself, and only twice in the Declaration, with neither mention being definitely Christian: “a reference to "the Laws of Nature and Nature's God," and the famous line about men being "endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights."

Allen goes on to outline, in admirable detail, exactly why the Far Right Christians are wrong to claim that this was ever meant to be a Christian nation, including this bit:

In 1797 our government concluded a "Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli, or Barbary," now known simply as the Treaty of Tripoli. Article 11 of the treaty contains these words:

As the Government of the United not in any sense founded on the Christian religion--as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity of Musselmen--and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

This document was endorsed by Secretary of State Timothy Pickering and President John Adams. It was then sent to the Senate for ratification; the vote was unanimous. It is worth pointing out that although this was the 339th time a recorded vote had been required by the Senate, it was only the third unanimous vote in the Senate's history. There is no record of debate or dissent. The text of the treaty was printed in full in the Philadelphia Gazette and in two New York papers, but there were no screams of outrage, as one might expect today.

Allen also gives the source of many of the Far Right’s favorite quotations, including the famous “separation of church and state,” and Jefferson’s statement that the “Christian religion is the best religion that has been given to man” (it’s a joke, folks!).

Excellent piece of work.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

First Amendment? We Don't Need No First Amendment!

Apparently conservatives believe, since we're a Christian nation & all, that freedom of religion, like freedom of speech, should only be for Christians.

Government's primary responsibility is to protect its people. The question that should be asked now, not after another attack, is whether enough is being done to find the fanatics who mean us harm.

Shouldn't a first step be closing the mosques and radical Islamic schools (which receive "teaching" materials from the Wahabi radicals in Saudi Arabia) that foment terrorism?

That's Cal Thomas, over at that outpost of deep thought, Townhall.

He justifies the need for this grave step, by the way, by citing an incident that occurred on a recent television show.

One of the best portrayals of the way a sleeper cell operates is in the hugely popular Fox TV show "24" Monday nights. This season, the show depicts a Muslim family living quietly in a middle-class neighborhood until it is "activated" in a plot to gain access to America's nuclear power plants and stage simultaneous meltdowns.

Someone needs to look up "fictional" for Mr. Thomas in a dictionary and read it to him. Then they can explain to him that neither should we base our prison system on the way Hannibal Lecter behaves in Silence of the Lambs.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Bushco Ignores Science

This, OTOH, is really, really, really, bad news:

Speakers at the national meeting of the American Association for Advancement of Science expressed concern Sunday that some scientists in key federal agencies are being ignored or even pressured to change study conclusions that don't support policy positions.

This is why electing Bush again was such a disaster for the country and the world.

He does not believe in science. He does not support the empirical worldview that informs science.

And really -- no kidding -- that's going to spell disaster.

Rosina Bierbaum, dean of the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment, said the Bush administration has cut scientists out of some of the policy-making processes, particularly on environmental issues.

In previous administrations, scientists were always at the table when regulations were being developed," she said. "Science never had the last voice, but it had a voice."

Issues on global warming, for instance, that achieved a firm scientific consensus in earlier years are now being questioned by Bush policy makers. Proven, widely accepted research is being ignored or disputed, she said.

Government policy papers issued prior to the Bush years moved beyond questioning the validity of global warming science and addressed ways of confronting or dealing with climate change.

Under Bush, said Bierbaum, the questioning of the proven science has become more important than finding ways to cope with climate change.

One result of such actions, said Neal Lane of Rice University, a former director of the National Science Foundation, is that "we don't really have a policy right now to deal with what everybody agrees is a serious problem."

Among scientists, said Lane, "there is quite a consensus in place that the Earth is warming and that humans are responsible for a considerable part of that" through the burning of fossil fuels.

And the science is clear, he said, that without action to control fossil fuel use, the warming will get worse and there will be climate events that "our species has not experienced before."


This is some good news, and it's not even Wednesday --

Over in London, they're excavating and rebuilding The Rose, the theater Shakespeare first worked in.

Apparently it was relocated in 1989, and they've been messing with it ever since, and have gotten around to deciding to refurbish it. It's going to be an historical site, not a full-time theater, which is sort of bad news. I like the idea of all Shakespeare all the time at The Rose. Instead it looks like they're going to read sonnets and give tours. Well, better than nothing.

More from Riverbend

This is from Riverbend, the Iraqi Blogger -- You remember Iraq, right? That place we've liberated?

Those women the Wingers claim we've freed?

I've been reading her blog.

This is from awhile back:

The mosque strewn with bodies of Iraqis- not still with prayer or meditation, but prostrate with death- Some seemingly bloated… an old man with a younger one leaning upon him… legs, feet, hands, blood everywhere… The dusty sun filtering in through the windows… the stillness of the horrid place.

Then the stillness is broken- in walk some marines, guns pointed at the bodies... the mosque resonates with harsh American voices arguing over a body- was he dead, was he alive? I watched, tense, wondering what they would do- I expected the usual Marines treatment- that a heavy, booted foot would kick the man perhaps to see if he groaned.

But it didn't work that way- the crack of gunfire suddenly explodes in the mosque as the Marine fires at the seemingly dead man and then come the words, "He's dead now.""He's dead now."

He said it calmly, matter-of-factly, in a sort of sing-song voice that made my blood run cold… and the Marines around him didn't care. They just roamed around the mosque and began to drag around the corpses because, apparently, this was nothing to them. This was probably a commonplace incident. We sat, horrified, stunned with the horror of the scene that unfolded in front of our eyes.

It's the third day of Eid and we were finally able to gather as a family- a cousin, his wife and their two daughters, two aunts, and an elderly uncle. E. and my cousin had been standing in line for two days to get fuel so we could go visit the elderly uncle on the final day of a very desolate Eid. The room was silent at the end of the scene, with only the voice of the news anchor and the sobs of my aunt.

My little cousin flinched and dropped her spoon, face frozen with shock, eyes wide with disbelief, glued to the television screen, "Is he dead? Did they kill him?"

I swallowed hard, trying to gulp away the lump lodged in my throat and watched as my cousin buried his face in his hands, ashamed to look at his daughter."What was I supposed to tell them?" He asked, an hour later, after we had sent his two daughters to help their grandmother in the kitchen. "What am I supposed to tell them- 'Yes darling, they killed him- the Americans killed a wounded man; they are occupying our country, killing people and we are sitting here eating, drinking and watching tv'?" He shook his head, "How much more do they have to see? What is left for them to see?"

They killed a wounded man. It's hard to believe. They killed a man who was completely helpless- like he was some sort of diseased animal. I had read the articles and heard the stories of this happening before- wounded civilians being thrown on the side of the road or shot in cold blood- but to see it happening on television is something else- it makes me crazy with anger.

And what will happen now? A criminal investigation against a single Marine who did the shooting? Just like what happened with the Abu Ghraib atrocities? A couple of people will be blamed and the whole thing will be buried under the rubble of idiotic military psychologists, defense analysts, Pentagon officials and spokespeople and it will be forgotten. In the end, all anyone will remember is that a single Marine shot and killed a single Iraqi 'insurgent' and it won't matter anymore.

It's typical American technique- every single atrocity is lost and covered up by blaming a specific person and getting it over with. What people don't understand is that the whole military is infested with these psychopaths. In this last year we've seen murderers, torturers and xenophobes running around in tanks and guns. I don't care what does it: I don't care if it's the tension, the fear, the 'enemy'… it's murder. We are occupied by murderers. We're under the same pressure, as Iraqis, except that we weren't trained for this situation, and yet we're all expected to be benevolent and understanding and, above all, grateful.

I'm feeling sick, depressed and frightened. I don't know what to say anymore… they aren't humans and they don't deserve any compassion.

So why is the world so obsessed with beheadings? How is this so very different? The difference is that the people who are doing the beheadings are extremists… the people slaughtering Iraqis- torturing in prisons and shooting wounded prisoners- are "American Heroes".

There's more up recently, about how bad things are getting for women there now. It's not very sweet at all:

Oh? And all those happy happy pictures of Iraqis voting?

She's not any more impressed by those than I am.

Dopey Designer

There’s a fine article in the NYTimes about Intelligent Design, the basic thesis of which is that the theory is flawed, since any serious study of nature shows us how unintelligent the design actually is:

What can we tell about the designer from the design? While there is much that is marvelous in nature, there is also much that is flawed, sloppy and downright bizarre. Some nonfunctional oddities, like the peacock's tail or the human male's nipples, might be attributed to a sense of whimsy on the part of the designer. Others just seem grossly inefficient. In mammals, for instance, the recurrent laryngeal nerve does not go directly from the cranium to the larynx, the way any competent engineer would have arranged it. Instead, it extends down the neck to the chest, loops around a lung ligament and then runs back up the neck to the larynx. In a giraffe, that means a 20-foot length of nerve where 1 foot would have done. If this is evidence of design, it would seem to be of the unintelligent variety.

Such disregard for economy can be found throughout the natural order. Perhaps 99 percent of the species that have existed have died out. Darwinism has no problem with this, because random variation will inevitably produce both fit and unfit individuals. But what sort of designer would have fashioned creatures so out of sync with their environments that they were doomed to extinction?


And why should the human reproductive system be so shoddily designed? Fewer than one-third of conceptions culminate in live births. The rest end prematurely, either in early gestation or by miscarriage. Nature appears to be an avid abortionist, which ought to trouble Christians who believe in both original sin and the doctrine that a human being equipped with a soul comes into existence at conception.

And any of us could add about sixty more, starting with lower back pain and going straight on to tooth decay, breech birth, and migraines. I mean, come now.

This is why ID is going to backfire. Smart kids will study it and conclude God is a wanker. Is that really what the fundies want?

Monday, February 21, 2005

They Don't Call him Hor-owitz for nothing...

Prof. B, among others, has already caught this one, but I'd like to chime in on the outrage over David Horowitz's shameless whoring to the legislators.

In a lecture given at the University of Colorado, David Horowitz claimed that "University professors are a privileged elite that work between six to nine hours a week, eight months a year for an annual salary of about $150,000...."

He also claimed that "Democrats [are] racists; presidential candidate John Kerry [is] stupid; and CU professor Ward Churchill [is] a "friend of genocidal Muslim slaveowners because he is an ideologue."

His point on the latter paragraph was that it's okay for him to insult people because he's not being paid by the state, the way professors are -- who are being paid by the state, see, and so they shouldn't insult people, they should educate students: his thesis being that professors, besides being massively overpaid for their six hour workweek also spend their classroom time insulting conservatives rather than educating students.

All of this, I assure you, is not because Mr. Horowitz does not know what is actually happening on campus. Pish tosh.

Mr. Horowitz knows quite well what the actual average salary of the actual average university professor is. He knows quite well that our average workweek is closer to sixty hours than to six. And he probably, I'm betting, knows how little time we actually have in the classroom to spend on insulting his ilk.

No, he's playing (whoring) to the legislatures here -- and to the Winger voters -- who might just, after all, be fools enough to buy his lies.

They're fools enough to buy Rush's lies, after all. And Coulter's lies. And Bush's lies.

I'm about to give up hope.

Strawmen II

Here’s the other problem I have with Martin Peretz’s essay in the Nation Review Online

besides the fact that it’s written in bad faith and is devoid of content – that, after all, is what passes for national discourse these days. Read anything by Miss Ann Coulter, listen to Bill O’Reilly or Rush or read Michael Savage (if you can bear too), listen to Bush’s speeches, read Dennis Prager, what are you going you going to get but bad faith and lack of any content (or at least lack of any support for that content – as Peretz here claims to be making points but doesn’t support those points; as Larry Summers in his infamous speech claimed to be making points but provided no support for his points).

The other problem I have with Peretz’s essay is that he pretends that if he asked a leftist, “Which was worse, the Nazis or the communists,” that the leftist would say, “Hmm, good question, let me think that over,” and not, “What? What kind of stupid question is that?”

Because what, exactly, does Mr. Peretz mean by “the” communists?”

I mean, I know what the folks over on LGF mean by “the” communists. They mean the scary boogeymen their folks and teachers and preachers threatened them with when they were kids, the ones they’re still preaching against at their revivals even now. In the LGF worldview communist =evil and that’s all she wrote, and don’t forget communist=atheist and communist=Satan and all those other equations including communist=not-Us and that’s all you need to know, isn’t it?

But Peretz is supposed to know more than that. Surely Peretz does know more than that. Surely Peretz has read Marx and so has this mythic Leftist he’s supposing he posed this question to, and this mythic Leftist would surely say, not, “Hmm, good question, let’s think about it. Should we weigh the bodies killed by the Nazis and the bodies* killed by the Commies or should we do a head count and decide that way?”

No, the Leftist would say, “Hmm. What do you mean by “communist”? Are you talking about Marx’s idea? Or some reality somewhere? If so, what communists where? Do you mean the early Christian communists in the New Testament, for example? Or the ones on Oneida farm? Or are you just talking about what happened in Soviet Russia and elsewhere?”

It’s a dishonest essay. That’s what I dislike about it. Dishonest from start to finish. And I’m trying to understand why. Obviously he’s pandering to the Wingers. Obviously, from the LGF reaction, they’re lapping it up. But I can’t see what he’s hoping to gain, unless it’s a more blind and limited country. And hey – Peretz? – they were doing just fine going there on their own.

*This deciding relative virtue by body count has raised an interesting question in my mind, however, especially when connected with the LGF contention that intentions do not count when considering actions. Here’s the question: when numbers of Iraqi citizens killed by U.S. forced surpasses that killed by Saddam Hussein, does the U.S. then become more evil than Saddam Hussein? Just asking. Cause I’m pretty sure we’re reaching that number soon.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

With Apologies to Professor B.

So I'm in bed trying desperately for a nap, which seems to release some sort of chemical signal to the kid to descend upon me with toys, chipper questions, new songs to sing, and demands for food, drink, and attention...

I try to ignore her. She begins wreaking havoc upon me with the toys. The unicorn, AKA Dazzletail Rosary Jane, is thrust into my face. "She is eating your nose," the kid informs me. "She is nibbling it."

"She is not," I reply. "Unicorns do not have teeth."

The kid is taken aback. She examines the unicorn in question, one of those excruciatingly girly ones, a pearly white and pink-rosebuds and gold and lace sort. "Of course they have teeth," she says, not certain.

"No, they don't."

"But --"

"Do unicorns exist? Really?"

"No," she allows.

"Therefore, do their teeth exist?"

"No," she says.

"If their teeth don't exist, can unicorns have teeth?" I demand.

She frowns. "No," she says, slowly.

"All right, then," I say, and turn over in the bed.

She studies her unicorn a moment, looking for the flaw in my logic. Then she climbs over me and says, "But I can imagine a unicorn. And I can imagine its teeth. And if I can imagine its teeth then it has teeth."

She's figured out Plato's Realm of Ideas. At six.

I'm pretty impressed.

Unicorns do not exist
I never said they do
Unicorns do not exist
They've better things to do

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Fun With Strawmen

I’m totally stumped by this post at LGF.

And I know, I know, I know. I should consider the source, what am I expecting, why did I even go over there, and so forth.

But good heavens.

Here’s the deal. They’ve all heard about a silly article in the New Republic Online (I think maybe three of them have actually read it) in which the author, Peretz, pretends he is going to ask some invented leftist on the Upper West Side (I assume because he can’t find an actual leftist on the Upper West Side —— God knows an actual leftist in NYC must be hard to find these days) which is worse —— Nazism or communism.

This mythic leftist is then going to say, claims Peretz, that Nazism is worse. Why? Because communism, Peretz says this Leftist he made up will say, at least meant well.

This isn’t something some actual person said, mind you. This is something some Peretz has decided some Leftie he has invented would say if he ever actually did ask him that question.

And off this invented answer, LGF has spun into a whole diatribe about how evil the left is to prefer communism to Nazism.

I kid you not. They froth at the mouth because the evil lefties dare to think that commies are better than Nazis.

Even though no Leftist has actually picked Column B on Peretz's invented quiz, they froth and froth. Those liberals! Liking Communism more than Nazism! How like them!

And why, you might wonder, incidentally, is communism so much worse than Nazism?

Why, because communists killed so many more people, of course! It’s all in the math, don’t you see! Pound for pound, see, if you weigh it out, communists are this much (several commentors actually, no kidding, do that: add up how many the Nazis killed and measure it against how many the Communists killed, and say therefore as anyone can see Communists are more evil than Nazis, QE Fucking D, can I please have some Xanax now? please? ) more evil than Nazis, and it has nothing at all to do with the Jews, so just shut up!

I’m reading the comments, salted as they are with misogyny and hatred, even for their fellow commenters, not to mention for mythical leftists —— and it just gets worse and worse.

These are some of the less toxic —— but nonetheless woefully ignorant —— comments:

Manofaiki: “Communism is worse because it’s still here. There are no serious attempts to revive Nazism. However, across the globe, at academies and universities, even in America Socialism is still taught, revered, and admired.”

SoCallJustice: (Defining the reason people become liberals) "But with the real reason being: "they're rich and smart and are more successful in our own society than we are. There are much more of us. Let's kill them and take their money.."

KJO: “Mr. Peretz's comments are mostly right on. The American Left is largely lost. They don't believe in anything beyond getting into power. They have no vision. No goal. Beyond hoping that America becomes another socialist Europe, they don't know what they want. They believe that the products of elite schools should govern here as they do in France, and that of course is them. They hate Americans, as you find them, they hate our Christianty, they hate our patriotism, they hate us. They hate us, then every four years they ask for our votes. They think we're stupid, and I guess some of us are, Kerry did get 48%. When we don't elect them they say it must have been a criminal conspiracy that cost them the election.

Bostonian: “Today’s liberal philosophy says that if your intentions are good (whatever that might mean) it’s okay no matter what you do."

Photios: "It would be nice if the malignant type of liberalism that we have in the US today would wake up and get back to a real sense of freedom and support of it for everyone. And it would be nice if they were willing, finally, to defend our country."

Because, you know, there’s not a single liberal fighting over there in Iraq. You ignorant poser. Tell that to my students, will you? I’ll send you their emails.

Here’s the link for the article in the New Republic Online, by Martin Peretz,

though it is not worth reading —— full of such fine clever statements as

“[V]irtually nothing has been done to make sure that children of color--and other children, too, since the crisis in our educational system cuts across race and class--are receiving a different and better type of schooling, in science and in literacy, than those now coming into our colleges. This is not about Head Start. This is about a wholesale revamping of teaching and learning. The conservatives have their ideas, and many of them are good, such as charter schools and even vouchers. But give me a single liberal idea with some currency, even a structural notion, for transforming the elucidation of knowledge and thinking to the young. You can't.”


"President Bush…seems not to be impeded by race difference (and gender difference) in his appointments and among his friends. Maybe it is just a generational thing, and, if it is that, it is also a good thing. But he may be the first president who apparently does not see individual people in racial categories or sex categories. White or black, woman or man, just as long as you're a conservative. That is also an expression of liberation from bias. "

Mr. Peretz has never heard, I guess, what Mr. Bush famously said about Yale —— how it went downhill after they started admitting the women (

But you’d think Mr. Peretz, being an editor—in—chief of a big old magazine and all, could do a little research. Would you? Or hire himself a fact checker? One or the other?

And Mr. Peretz has, I guess, not heard the bad news about charter schools —— how they’re not actually turning out to be any better than regular old public schools, how many of them are, in fact, turning out to be a sight worse, and how most of them end up costing a pile more (big duh there, since each charter school generally requires the reinvention of the wheel for each school —— that’s why we went to school systems to begin with, remember? To pool our resources?).

As for vouchers, sure, give money to parents to spend on private schools and you might (or might not) get a better result, depending on the school. Meanwhile, what happens to the kids you've left behind in the public school? The ones you're taking that money away from? That's A. And B is, many of these parents, by "private school" mean "Christian Winger School," and, you know, Mr. Peretz, there's this little thing called the First Amendment? Maybe you heard of it?

And I do, BTW, while we're on the subject, have a really good idea for fixing our public education system.

It's called End the Stupid War on Drugs. End the Stupid War on Iraq. Taking all the Money Your Dumping Down Those Ratholes and Dump Them Into the Public Schools. Yes, that's right. Put your money into the schools instead of into prisons and wars. I know, I know, it's a really bizarre idea, but give me a minute.

Pay teachers what you pay lawyers and doctors and professors of Economics. And -- hey! -- Congressmen.

Put books in libraries and decent food in the school cafeterias and actual physical education, music and art teachers in the classrooms. Music, art, and physical education every day.

Hold school from eight to five.

Hold it year round.

Start it at age three. Or maybe two. You can send the little ones half day if you like.

Teach Foreign Language from age three on. Teach math concretely first and abstractly second -- no memorizing until they understand the theory.

Try that for about nine years, and get back to me.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Things That Annoy Me -- Part I

1. Tailgaters: Tailgating is both intensely rude and dangerous, and what is it with the drivers of SUVs and Hummers and giant shiny trucks that they, as a class, don’t seem to know this? I suppose it’s some sort of self-selecting process. If you’re self-absorbed enough to want one of these vehicles, you were probably too self-absorbed to actually comprehend the bits of high school physics that would have taught you what can happen if you drive too closely to the vehicle in front of you when both vehicles are going eighty miles an hour on the interstate.

Also, here in NW AR, the high schools do not teach or require driver’s education. It’s one of those things, like sex education, that we figure is None of the State’s Business. So none of our teenagers, many of whom drive big shiny trucks and SUVs, have ever been taught the rules of physics as they pertain to vehicles. I do my best in my ENGL 1213 and my college seminar classes each semester, but college freshmen don’t make great audiences. (Whenever someone, as someone invariably does, presents a speech on bad drivers, I always, during the Q&A period, put in, “And what about tailgating?”

The student making the speech, who has invariably not mentioned tailgating, since here in NW Arkansas no one sees anything wrong with tailgating, says, “Uh, well, I guess, uh, what about it?”

“People shouldn’t do it, right?” I say. “Because it’s fearfully dangerous, right? Not to mention rude, right?”

This invariably astonishes the class. And causes an uproar. They all have to explain to me about how they have to tailgate, because people drive too slowly, and how can they make people drive faster if they don’t tailgate? Huh? How?

This passes for perfect logic, no kidding, it does, among the drivers in NW Arkansas.

I explain to them that the laws of physics do not care if you are justified in tailgating. I tell them about the student in my class whose brother was killed because he was riding with someone who was tailgating. I talk about what happens if the guy in front of the car you are tailgating slams on his brake. I say do you get this? Can you hear what I am saying? Is your life worth getting to the exit a minute sooner?

They say, but you don’t understand. People drive too slow!

2. People who won’t think about the consequences of their actions. Our vaunted president is a prime example, but you know, just look around. You can’t walk through the day and not trip over fifty. What the hell are these people doing using Hummers to drive their kids six blocks to school? What the hell are these people doing driving Hummers at all? Why don’t we have light rail systems in more cities? Why are we dumping pollution into the ecosystem? Where do we think that's going to go? Why are we putting more and more of the burden of the cost of a university education onto the student? Anybody can figure out what’s going to happen if we keep doing that – anyone can! This idiot Mumper who wants to pass a bill to restrict what kinds of things professors on university campuses can talk about in their classrooms – can’t he just look at that and know it won’t work? I can look at it and know it won’t; why can’t he? He can’t be that stupid – stupid people don’t get to be senators in Ohio. (Do they?) People who don’t want to teach teenagers about sex – can’t they just look at that and know it’s going to end badly? Bush and the SS plan – even if he could get it to pass, can’t he see what a disaster it would be? Did he never read a history book? Does he not know what this country was like for old people before SS? I mean, what the hell?

3. Littering. People should cut it out. The world is not their trashbag, damn it. This probably ought to go under #3, but it’s really especially annoying. Next time you’re stopped at an exit, have a look around you. The cigarette butts are piled three inches deep out there. Who do these people think is going to pick up after them? Santa?

4. Students Who Can’t Make Up Their Minds About Their Names: I’m talking first names here. Last names, that’s a whole nother issue, and it annoys me too – that’s only women, here in NW Arkansas, though, who keep getting married, and divorced, and then get back with the guy, or some new guy, and so go through five or six last names in as many semesters, and that’s annoying, too, I admit, but at least that’s only a few women out of the herd. No. I’m talking about a new trend among undergrads. Not only have their parents named them something whackaloon, like Amazina, or Filo, but then they themselves cannot decide on what name they want to be called by. On their papers they will write Amy Roven one day, and the next day they are Alie Roven, and the next day they are Zanie Roven, and I am supposed to keep track of who they are how, exactly? Especially with a third of their classmates doing the same? And I do get why they are doing it: I too was nineteen at one point, though it has receded, thank God, into the distant past – but I am considering having a stamp made up, to stamp upon all their papers: here’s a clue: changing your name will not change you. Reading your Plato assignment, OTOH, (which I can tell by your quiz grade you have not done), just might have.

5. People who criticize other people for the names those people have chosen for their children. Here's the deal: when you have a kid, you can name that kid. All right? Everyone else gets to name her own child. (And no, you may not make any inferences from this about the name of my kid. She has a perfectly acceptable name.) (Okay, all right, her name sounds like a law firm. What's it to you?)

6. People who have no idea what a problem is like giving other people advice on that problem. I’m thinking of Dr. Laura advising poor women on their child-care issues here specifically, but also this week’s episode of House brought it to mind – in case you missed it, House’s colleagues decide he’s using too many Vicodin and try to make him give them up, which just pissed me off so much. I get these migraines, vicious hateful migraines that put me into bed for three days straight and make me vomit and I’m telling you straight off the pain is incredible. I need my pain meds. But the neurologist I have now won’t give them too me. Why? He thinks I don’t need them. He thinks I’m too drug-dependent. He thinks we should manage my pain without narcotics. If my health insurance would let me switch to another neurologist, believe me, I would. As it is, I have considered (a) getting another job [no, really, I have, because if I got a different job I'd have different health insurance and therefore ipso facto a new neurologist] (b) importing drugs from Mexico (c) buying drugs, ah, from other sources (d) jacking the bastard up and beating the stuffing out of him. I’m actually bigger than him and I think I could take him.

None of which I’ve done. Instead I’ve made many trips to the ER where they do give me pain meds, but where I have to wait from four to seven hours to get them. My neurologist, need I mention, does not, himself, suffer from migraines.

6. People who say we have the best health-care system in the world, and that there is nothing wrong with our health-care system, and isn’t our health care system great? Yeah. You bet. Did I mention how much I’m paying to go see this neurologist who thinks we should manage my pain without narcotics? Best health care system in the world my ass it is.

That's all I can think of for now. But I bet I can come up with more later.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Dating Humans

This is cool – paleontologists have dated human fossils of modern homo sapiens found in Africa to 195,000 years BCE. That’s significantly older than anyone thought modern humans were around.

The findings were announced yesterday by a research team led by Dr. Ian McDougall of the Australian National University in Canberra and are being described in detail in today's issue of the journal Nature.

Dr. McDougall, a geologist, and his colleagues reported that a re-examination of the sediments in which the fossils of two individuals were found and the use of more reliable dating methods showed that they lived 195,000 years ago, give or take 5,000 years, "making them the earliest well-dated anatomically modern humans yet described."

I love this stuff.

I started out majoring in anthropology – well, I started out majoring in forestry, but I switched to anthropology in my second semester – and I’d probably still be doing it except I really hate the idea of doing all that digging in the heat. I like reading about fossils, but the actual work of finding them? Especially since most of them are to be found in hot, dry climates? (I hate summer.)

So I switched to English in my junior year, since my university didn’t have a classics major.
It makes perfect sense.

Academic Freedom?

Who needs that?

This one is disturbing.

Over in Ohio, a Republican Senator has introduced a bill into his senate to "prohibit instructors at public or private universities from "persistently" discussing controversial issues in class or from using their classes to push political, ideological, religious or anti-religious views."

Senate Bill 24 also would prohibit professors from discriminating against students based on their beliefs and keep universities from hiring, firing, promoting or giving tenure to instructors based on their beliefs.

Mumper, a Republican, said many professors undermine the values of their students because "80 percent or so of them (professors) are Democrats, liberals or socialists or card-carrying Communists" who attempt to indoctrinate students.

He doesn't want us discussing controversial issues in class.

Well, what does he think we're going to talk about, then? How to fold napkins? How sweet a given poem is?

What does this guy think education is about?

No, don't bothering answering that. I know exactly what this guy thinks education is about. He thinks it's about reinforcing the worldview that already exists -- his worldview. Which is, after all, the perfectly correct worldview.

He's not interested at all in empirical evidence or critical thinking or examining evidence or defining terms or true knowledge as opposed to true opinion or whether an unexamined life is worth living or teaching kids about any of that.

Probably he doesn't want kids taught any of that. That's probably exactly what he means when he talks about "undermining values."

Joan McLean, a political-science professor at Ohio Wesleyan University, said Mumper’s legislation is misguided and would have a chilling effect on the free-flowing debate that is a hallmark of democracy.

"This is not the kind of democracy we think we’re spreading when we hear President Bush’s words. What we’re celebrating is our ability to not control information."

Besides, McLean said, who would define what issues could not be discussed?

Don't be silly, little lady. Rep. Mumper would, of course.

(Via Atrios

NRO on Gannon

Well, with its usual insight and brilliance, the NRO has concluded that, like everything else in America, Gannongate is the fault of -- you guessed it -- Clinton.

It's highly amusing. Go read.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Levitican Christians Taking Aim

There's an excellent post up over on American Street about the true aim of the Far Right Christians in regards to abortion and the rest of it -- and it's absolutely correct: the Leviticans, Bushco, Brooks, the Natalists, the rest of them, they do not intend to stop at abortion. They're aiming right at overturning our right to access reliable birth control as well.

It wasn't that long ago -- 1965, as this post notes -- that birth control was, in fact, not available.

It's still not available, if you're poor, if you're ignorant, if you're underage.

Plenty of people like it that way.

You want to ask yourself why.

What could anyone possibly gain by keeping birth control -- control of her own body -- out of the hands of a woman?

Asking that question gives you the answer, doesn't it?


Here's a woman blogging from Baghdad -- and Jeez, despite what Miss Malkin and her ilk would have you believe, the elections, oddly enough, not to mention blasting the bejeesus out of the place, have not, in fact, created liberation and freedom and a fine and pleasant land over there.

Despite the purple fingers.

Who would have thought?

(Via Echidne, the goddess

Christian Separatists

Over on DEDspace, there's an interesting post about a Christian who won't see a therapist who isn't a Christian too:

This particular woman hit me with [a question] I hadn't been asksed in a long time: Are you a Christian? I told her that I did not reveal personal things about myself, and she said, "but I have to know, since I won't see anyone who isn't a Christian." I told her I did not reveal personal things about myself. She told me, of course, that she could not see me, and we hung up.

I've been trying to decide since I first read this post what it is that bothers me so much about this particular Christian attitude, which I've encountered myself, btw. (Students here in NW Arkansas sometimes won't take my class because I'm not a Christian. I even got preached against in the local churches once -- Pentacostal students were warned against taking me, because I so vehemently was not a Christian. Heh.)

Partly it's that it's against the American ethos -- we're an inclusive society, so we're supposed to celebrate variety, not shun it. (I know, I'm dreaming here, but it is the American dream I'm dreaming, nonetheless.)

Partly it's that this Christian attitude is ignorance: they fear anything alien, when they should, in fact, be seeking out the alien. The alien is what can help them. Their ignorance is what has harmed them, kept them poor, kept them broken.

Mostly, though, I think it's what lies behind their refusal to deal with anyone not Christian: the xenophobia. Only, truly, xenophobia is too mild a word. They really do think anyone who isn't in their church is possessed by Satan: is controlled by demons: is evil.

They think this, and is it going to be very long before they begin to act on it?

Now that they think they have a mandate?

To quote Steve Earle, my hero, who just won a grammy, btw, for his excellent CD Revolution,
"People tell me that I'm paranoid / well, I admit I'm getting pretty nervous, boy..."

Monday, February 14, 2005

Well, yes...

A blog, you see, is a little First Amendment machine. PressThink §

(Via blogbites:

More on Academics in Vegas

Here’s why the ACLU is right to take Hoppe’s case – and why Knight was wrong, in my opinion, to complain about his professor – even though the professor was wrong to use the gay folk example:

ACLU officials said the validity of Hoppe's economic theories does not matter. It is his right to espouse them in class.

"We don't subscribe to Hans' theories and certainly understand why some students find them offensive," said Gary Peck, the ACLU of Nevada's executive director.

"But academic freedom means nothing if it doesn't protect the right of professors to present scholarly ideas that are relevant to their curricula, even if they are controversial and rub people the wrong way."

Hoppe said he is dumbfounded by the university's response to the student's complaint. It is not his job, he said, to consider how a student might feel about economic theories.

The ACLU lawyer goes on to say:

Lichtenstein, the ACLU lawyer, said the university's response to Hoppe's situation might stifle free speech on the campus.

"If he can be silenced, that's going to create self-censorship among other faculty members who won't say anything controversial," he said. "Who's going to lose in all this? The students."

What’s the cure for bad speech? Not punishment and lawsuits and speech codes. Those don’t change the world. Those just shut people up.

The cure for bad speech is more speech.

It’s true, though, that we had a special situation here, in that we had a professor here who was not going to listen to this student – but still: the student needed to speak, not to threaten or to assault: which is what he did.

Academics in Vegas

Here’s another one of those Leftie Academics the Wingers are always complaining about:

Professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe, at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, was lecturing about economics one day.

In [his] lectures Mr. Hoppe presented the concept of "time preferences"-- that is, people's varying degrees of willingness to defer the immediate consumption of goods in favor of saving and investment. Time preferences are an important notion in economics, and particularly in the Austrian-libertarian school to which Mr. Hoppe adheres.

In his lectures, Mr. Hoppe said that certain groups of people -- including small children, very old people, and homosexuals -- tend to prefer present-day consumption to long-term investment. Because homosexuals generally do not have children, Mr. Hoppe said, they feel less need to look toward the future. (In a recent talk at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, which Mr. Hoppe says was similar to his classroom lecture, he declared, "Homosexuals have higher time preferences, because life ends with them.")

One of his students, a Michael Knight, objected to gays being classed with small children, particularly since Mr. Hoppe was basing his lecture on, as it turned out, nothing but his own hot air – ah, I mean his own sweet opinion.

According to both Mr. Hoppe and Mr. Knight, the university's formal grievance procedure hinged on the question of whether Mr. Hoppe could cite peer-reviewed academic literature to support the claim that homosexuals have high time preferences. The "letter of instruction," which was written on Wednesday by Raymond W. Alden III, the university's executive vice president and provost, tells Mr. Hoppe that his comments created "a hostile learning environment because they were not qualified as opinions, theories without experimental/statistical support, topics open to debate, or otherwise limited."

So what’s Mr. Hoppe doing?

Suing the university, of course. They’ve upset him.

And interfered with his free speech, about which he has a stronger point, I have to say.

The Wingers will be happy to know that the ACLU has taken his case.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Smack those kids!

Dobson's group, Focus on the Family, is disputing the findings of yet another study which shows that using corporal punishment has negative outcomes.

Dr. Bill Maier, Vice President and Psychologist in Residence for Focus on the Family, disputed psychologist Elizabeth Gershoff's assertions that spanking can lead to aggression, anti-social behavior and mental health problems in kids. Gershoff's study was published in a recent edition of the American Psychological Association's journal.

Spanking your kids can make them aggressive. It can make them anti-social. It can cause them to suffer higher levels of depression and make them more prone to commit suicide later in life.

What it won't do -- and the evidence on this is crystal clear -- what it won't do is make them better behaved, more respectful, or "more moral" kids. Nor will it make them behave in grocery stores, in case you're wondering.

Look, I'm a parent. Furthermore, I'm a parent that was raised in a family that believed -- boy, did they believe -- in belting kids. I got hit all the time, with everything you can name.

So I can understand the impulse to smack the kid when the kid is being impossible. And I can understand how it seems like "this will teach that kid who's in charge," or "this will show her" or whatever.

But it won't -- or it won't teach what you think it will.

And, frankly? If you go read Dobson's book? Read what he's actually saying, as opposed to what he thinks he's saying?

It's not moral behavior or ethics or good behavior or any of that he wanted to teach his kids: it's the same thing he wanted to teach that dog he walloped with the belt. Submission: that's what he's interested in teaching them.

He was deathly afraid of his nine pound dog. He was deathly afraid of his kids, and the women in his world, and everyone. No one could be allowed to challenge him, and if they did, they had to be beaten into submission at once.

Is that what you want to teach your kids?

Saturday, February 12, 2005


We've had a sick kid at home for the past week -- an interesting strep/flu combo that's running furiously through NW Arkansas, laying everyone low: it's shut down the schools in one county, though not, unfortunately, the one we're living in, and has hit about a third of the professors in my department so far. Not me, knock wood.

Anyway, the kid got it Tuesday, though I didn't actually believe her until Wednesday (she tends to get every disease she hears about or reads about or sees someone get on ER or House) and then I couldn't get her into the doctor's until Friday -- but ANYWAY, she's needing a lot of books and a lot of reading to this week. Since they're doing art and Maria Montessori at her school this week, I've been reading books on those subjects to her.

(Side note: The way Montessori schools teach art is way cool. They research the artists and their lives, and then the kids draw and paint in the style those artists used -- for instance, for Michelangelo, they taped butcher's paper underneath the tables and painted it as though it were the roof of the Sistine Chapel.)

Back to Maria Montessori: if you're ever looking for a feminist, here's a woman you should check out. She starts out, at twelve, being told she has to be a teacher or a wife, those are the only options open (hey! that sounds familiar!), and she says, no thanks, I'd like to be an engineer.

None of the schools in Rome want to take her. Twelve years old girls will be too distracting to the male students, you see.

Her father finally (against his wishes, this is her mother's doing) finds a school that will take her, if she sits in the back and submits to a guard at the breaks.

She finishes the course, though she decides against engineering and ends up becoming a doctor instead -- the first woman doctor in Italy. (Long story attached to that, which includes needing to get the Pope's approval before she can be admitted to medical school.)

She's a doctor for a while, and while she is working with mentally retarded children, she develops a method of educating them which works so well, she thinks, hmm, what if we tried educating children that have normal intelligence this way? How well would it work with them?

The children she first works with are slum children, btw.

And later, when Mussolini tries to get her and the other Montessori teachers to sign a loyalty oath? They choose deportation first.

And, when she was in her early 30's, she had an illegitmate child, Mario: she kept him, too, though she kept him under wraps, as it were.

There's a feminist for you.

In case any of those women over at CWA were wondering what one looks like.

Family Values in Florida

So what it is about Jeb's state?

First we get the good Christians who lock their foster kids in the closet when they aren't hitting them with cattle prods and pulling out their toe nails -- all in the name of discipline, mind you -- and now this:

A Florida woman who reported seeing a newborn tossed out of a moving car made up the story and is actually the boy's mother, Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne said Friday.

Patricia Pokriots, 38, "made up an incredible story," but acknowledged what she had done while being questioned by authorities Friday, he said.

At least Florida actually does have a safe harbor law, so the woman won't be prosecuted for bringing the infant in.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

What, No Girls?

Interesting chart, and then an even more interesting discussion going in the comments sections, over in Alas, A Blog, on the Summers issue -- if you're not wholly sick of that by now:

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Pinker's Position

This Pinker guy.

He irks me.

He’s got some interesting points in this essay of his, published today in the New Republic Online, mixed up with some really wrong-headed bits.

It’s, more or less, a defense of Summers, saying, more or less, and yet again, that those who attacked Summers just didn’t get what he was saying – and, yet again, that those who attacked Summers were just being hysterical, but what can you expect, from a bunch of hysterical academics slash feminists?

Here's he said:

The psychologist Philip Tetlock has argued that the mentality of taboo--the belief that certain ideas are so dangerous that it is sinful even to think them--is not a quirk of Polynesian culture or religious superstition but is ingrained into our moral sense. In 2000, he reported asking university students their opinions of unpopular but defensible proposals, such as allowing people to buy and sell organs or auctioning adoption licenses to the highest-bidding parents. He found that most of his respondents did not even try to refute the proposals but expressed shock and outrage at having been asked to entertain them. They refused to consider positive arguments for the proposals and sought to cleanse themselves by volunteering for campaigns to oppose them. Sound familiar?

The psychology of taboo is not completely irrational. In maintaining our most precious relationships, it is not enough to say and do the right thing. We have to show that our heart is in the right place and that we don't weigh the costs and benefits of selling out those who trust us. If someone offers to buy your child or your spouse or your vote, the appropriate response is not to think it over or to ask how much. The appropriate response is to refuse even to consider the possibility. Anything less emphatic would betray the awful truth that you don't understand what it means to be a genuine parent or spouse or citizen.

Unfortunately, the psychology of taboo is incompatible with the ideal of scholarship, which is that any idea is worth thinking about, if only to determine whether it is wrong.

Pinker believes that feminists have a like taboo against considering any difference between men and women. Or, as he puts it,

At some point in the history of the modern women's movement, the belief that men and women are psychologically indistinguishable became sacred.

This, and in a few other places, is where I start to quarrel with him. He’s setting up strawmen here. The women’s movement does not say “psychologically indistinguishable”; Pinker has said that. We say “not inferior to,” which is a whole different kettle of fish.

Likewise, earlier in the essay he claims that “[o]verestimating the extent of sex discrimination is not without costs. Unprejudiced people of both sexes who are responsible for hiring and promotion decisions may be falsely charged with sexism.”

Well, wouldn’t it be pretty to think so, and could he introduce me to some of these unprejudiced people of both sexes? Because I would really like to meet them.

And also:

“fewer women than men might choose engineering, even in the absence of arbitrary barriers. (As one female social scientist noted in Science Magazine, "Reinventing the curriculum will not make me more interested in learning how my dishwasher works.") To what degree these and other differences originate in biology must be determined by research, not fatwa. History tells us that how much we want to believe a proposition is not a reliable guide as to whether it is true.” <-- These pronouncements are nice, but not exactly supportive. “One female social scientist” is not evidence, anymore than Larry Summers’ infant daughter playing with her toy trucks was evidence: those are anecdotes. Pinker certainly knows the difference, so I can only assume he is refusing to see the difference for reasons of his own.

And, finally, calling the feminists’ response a “fatwa” is meant to enrage the feminists further. We need discourse here, not temper. If Pinker was truly interested in encouraging discourse, he would be looking for common ground, not for more distance – he would, in other words, not be looking to alienate his opponents further. That’s what this essay seems intent on doing.

Here’s the whole essay, BTW:

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Sex in Texas

Here's a shock -- a new study shows that those abstinence-only sex-ed programs that Boy George's highly moral state is so famous for making famous?

You know, the ones where the only thing the teachers are allowed to tell kids about contraception is that it doesn't work?

And instead? They're supposed to tell kids to Just Not Have Sex?

That's right, the programs with the Heavy Moral and Religious Messages? Teaching Our Children Morals, Despite What Those Liberals Think We Should Do, And Actually Teaching Them Real Facts Instead?

These programs don't work.

Can I get a collective D'oh?

The study showed about 23 percent of ninth-grade girls, typically 13 to 14 years old, had sex before receiving abstinence education. After taking the course, 29 percent of the girls in the same group said they had had sex.

Boys in the tenth grade, about 14 to 15 years old, showed a more marked increase, from 24 percent to 39 percent, after receiving abstinence education.

(Via Ema, over at the Well-Timed Period:

Friday, February 04, 2005

Dealing with Dobson

My intrepid reporter in the field has found, via one of her fundie friends, I believe, a fine site that reports on Keith Olbermann's dealings with James Dobson's pack:

Olbermann and his station, in New Jersey, which had the termerity to report on the SpongeBob affair in what Focus on the Family felt was a biased manner (i.e. they didn't follow the Faux News partyline, but actually did some real reporting), has been attacked by FOF and the fundies since -- but apparently it hasn't been much of an attack.

Go read, but here's my favorite bit:

Schneeberger finishes his piece with the hope that I’ll experience the same kind of epiphany he claims to have in 1997. “Let’s pray, if he ever does, that he comes up with the right answer — and not because it may lead to fairer reporting. But because it may lead to a redeemed life.”

Hey, guys, worry about yourselves. You’re spewing hate, while assuming that for some reason, God has chosen you and you alone in all of history to understand the mysteries of existence, when mankind’s existence is filled with ample evidence that nobody yet has been smart enough to discern an answer.

You might try keeping it simpler: did you help others, or hurt them?

I’ll be happy to be judged on the answer to that question, and if it’s a group session, I don’t expect I’ll find many members of “Focus On Family” in the “done ok” line.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

A Fundie Tries to Think

Re Fundamentalists and their Critical Thinking Skills, here's an example of one trying to mount an argument:

Posted on TBogg.

American Prospect

An interesting overview of the anti-Evolution crowd from the American Prospect, with links:

The real danger is not, of course, Winger Christians.

There aren’t that many of them: only about 20% of the country is Levitican. (It just seems like more from my bit of Arkansas because I’m surrounded by them and because they are just so annoying and so ignorant – I could tell you stories, ai, but never mind*.)

The real danger is the political influence such Leviticans now have: or appear to have. It may amount to the same thing.

If, due to these folk, American schools cease teaching real science – cease teaching the scientific method, cease teaching critical thinking – which, make no mistake about it, is in fact the true aim of the Levitican movement – well, what will we have in the way of a country, in a few generations?

A place that will not be able to listen to someone like Malkin, someone like Rush, someone like Coulter, or Bill O'Reilly, and tell that they are liars and idiots, among others things.

(Oh. Wait.)

God, help us now.

*Okay, I'll tell you one. A Levitican Christian I know, one of the ones who is opposed to welfare because all the immigrants who just come here for a free ride will get on it whereas she, who works so hard for what she has, never got a free ride in her life (No? What about your public schooling? Your university education? Those interstates you drive on? The public park you run in?) is working as a substitute teacher in the local high schools. Absolutely hates it. Guess why. Because of all the niggers and spics she has to deal with, not to mention the Vietnamese. When called on this sort of language, what does she reply? "Hey," she says, "I'm not P.C. You're just going to have to deal with it."

Fix Our Health Care System? Nah!

Half of all Americans who go bankrupt do it due to medical bills, according to a study published yesterday.

And yes, this includes Americans who had medical insurance.

If that shocks you, then you haven't had a major illness in this country, and you can count yourself lucky.

Here's the link to the study:

Even Americans who haven't -- yet -- had a major illness or a serious accident ought to be taking this problem seriously, because all of us are going to have one of those in our immediate family at some point, probably. And if you think your insurance is going to cover it, I think you should get your insurance paperwork out and start reading the fine print now.

Then there's the whole problem of co-pays and COBRAs and premiums -- and the premiums I'm paying, right now, for my family of three? Five hundred a month.

That's for insurance that -- once the major illness or serious accident hits us -- will only cover 80% of the cost and has a life-time cap of a million dollars, not to mention a yearly deductible of a thousand bucks.

Did I mention I'm an English professor?

Any wonder we're going broke down here in Arkansas?

Fundies Defined

Here's a definition of The Religious Right, or what we've been calling the Leviticans:

A fundamentalist movement that largely rejects any modern method of Biblical interpretation; it focuses a lot on energy on End Times prophecy, which accounts in part for its ease in ignoring the Gospels, the actual ministry of Jesus; it is anti-intellectual and hostile to science; it either openly embraces or flirts heavily with American Exceptionalism, the idea that brought us Manifest Destiny and the radical idealism of the Neo-Cons; it has great confidence in its own moral judgments, particularly those relating to sexuality and reproduction; it rejects pluralism, moral relativism and is hostile to the moral claims of tolerance; there is often a sincerity that seems rooted in nostalgia, like so many previous movements of the right; finally, while it has ideological cleavages, there are many common cultural, political and financial linkages.

From The Faithful Progressive:


Dunno if you've discovered Orcinus yet -- you probably have -- but I just recently stumbled across the blog & it's rapidly becoming one of my favorite places to hang.

Anyway, here's an older post that's just excellent, a smack down of Malkin's reprehensible book defending the Japanese internment, which is, of course, actually just a bit of propaganda meant to argue that we should be rounding up Muslims (and probably all folks that are not-white Christians) and locking them in camps, you know, before they blow us all to bits.

Problem is, as Dave points out, "over the past 10 years, there have been many more acts of real terrorism planned and committed on American soil by white fundamentalist Christians than by radical Islamists of Arab extraction. If we're going to commit to racial profiling based on known terrorist threats, then whites, once again, would be the first logical choice."

Go read the whole post, though. It's great.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Idiots in VA

What is it with these Virginia legislators? First Cosgrove and his miscarriage bill, then our buddy with his low-rider pants and loud music, and now this:

Cars in Virginia could soon have license plates extolling traditional marriage. The House of Delegates passed a bill Tuesday allowing the state to print the plates. The legislation now moves to the Senate where it must be approved before the scheduled adjournment on Feb. 26.

The House voted 62 - 35 to approve the bill. The special issue plates would have interlocking gold wedding bands superimposed over a red heart and have the phrase "Traditional Marriage."
The bill was authored by Delegate Scott Limgamfelter (R-Prince William) a supporter of an amendment to ban gay marriage, also expected to pass this year.

"These plates wills send a message to the people of Virginia that we're not ashamed of traditional marriage," Limgamfelter said of the license plates.

Because, you know, all the other states in the union, they are ashamed of traditional marriage. That's why they're all passing laws to criminalize it. You fuckweed.

Is it something in the Virginia water or what?

A Letter

Here's a letter from John Cleese


Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Whales Don't Have Sex

Okay, for some real fun, head over to Crooked Timber and read about how Leftists don't know that whales have sex...

Raising Godless Kids

Here's an essay on raising kids without God which is just excellent: Atheism and children, by Natalie Angier

My favorite bit:

...[I]n some places in the United States, it’s extremely tough to be an atheist, even fatal. Last October, in Taylor, Michigan, a former Eagle Scout shot another man to death because, he said, the man was “evil; he was not a believer.” We all know the sort of tolerance they teach in the Boy Scouts and Eagle Scouts of America, of course. No gays allowed – guess you don’t expect them to be very good at pitching tents and tying knots, right? – and no atheists. They kicked out Darrell Lambert, a model scout if there ever was one, because he refused to say he believed in God, remember? At which point, I’m proud to say, my husband, who was a boy scout and an eagle scout and learned many skills as a scout and had earned many patches and badges, decided to send back his eagle scout medal to the Boy Scouts of America; and he wrote a beautiful essay about his decision for the Washington Post. The director of public affairs at the organization sent him an answer, saying, We accept your decision, but we hope that someday, you will come to be more open-minded in your views.

So, what advice do I have for nonbelievers trying to raise their children in a rigidly religious, small town environment? Move.

Boy, do I get what she means.

Dancing in Iraq

Malkin wonders ( why we on the left aren't properly gleeful about the elections in Iraq.

I'd like Miss Malkin to go have a look at these pictures.

Make sure you look at all of them, Miss Malkin.

Especially the ones at the very end.

They aren't as pretty as the ones where the happy women are crying over getting to cast their ballots, I admit. But they're what's happening in Iraq, sweetie. Maybe you should have a look at it.

(Link via BitchPh.D.

Worldview Conflicts

See, it's not so much that we're reality-based and they're not -- although they aren't, of course -- as it is that they're just living in a different reality.

It's the one I got to know out in Idaho, among the Mormons, where it really didn't matter what we did to the environment, since we were living in the "Latter days" anyway. God's about to put paid to this planet, isn't he? And since he's going to do that, it's perfectly okay for us to use this planet up, isn't it? Ride our ATVs all over the friable hills and erode them away, isn't it? Roar our snowmobiles around Yellowstone Park and pollute the dickins out of it, isn't it? Shoot all the wolves and bears and elk? Isn't it?

Bill Moyers writes about Bushco and the Rapture:

They are sincere, serious and polite as they tell you they feel called to help bring the rapture on as fulfillment of biblical prophecy. That's why they have declared solidarity with Israel and the Jewish settlements and backed up their support with money and volunteers. It's why the invasion of Iraq for them was a warm-up act, predicted in the Book of Revelations where four angels "which are bound in the great river Euphrates will be released to slay the third part of man." A war with Islam in the Middle East is not something to be feared but welcomed - an essential conflagration on the road to redemption. The last time I Googled it, the rapture index stood at 144 - just one point below the critical threshold when the whole thing will blow, the son of God will return, the righteous will enter Heaven and sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire.

So what does this mean for public policy and the environment? Go to Grist to read a remarkable work of reporting by the journalist Glenn Scherer - "The Road to Environmental Apocalypse." Read it and you will see how millions of Christian fundamentalists may believe that environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually welcomed - even hastened - as a sign of the coming apocalypse.

As Grist makes clear, we're not talking about a handful of fringe lawmakers who hold or are beholden to these beliefs. Nearly half the U.S. Congress before the recent election - 231 legislators in total and more since the election - are backed by the religious right.

And what's the environmental impact of this belief system? I mean, so far?

So far the Bush administration .... "wants to rewrite the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act protecting rare plant and animal species and their habitats, as well as the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires the government to judge beforehand whether actions might damage natural resources....


wants to relax pollution limits for ozone; eliminate vehicle tailpipe inspections, and ease pollution standards for cars, sport-utility vehicles and diesel-powered big trucks and heavy equipment.


wants a new international audit law to allow corporations to keep certain information about environmental problems secret from the public.


wants to drop all its new-source review suits against polluting, coal-fired power plants and weaken consent decrees reached earlier with coal companies


wants to open the Arctic [National] Wildlife Refuge to drilling and increase drilling in Padre Island National Seashore, the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world and the last great coastal wild land in America.

Meanwhile, the International Policy Network, friendly to the administration, has issued a new report [funded by Exxon Mobile and others] claiming that climate change is "a myth, sea levels are not rising" [and] scientists who believe catastrophe is possible are "an embarrassment."

Meanwhile, Bushco does what it can to bankrupt the country, destroy social security, and put a university education out of the reach of all but the wealthy.

You tell me. What sort of future do you think they're planning for?

(Via Infinite Stitch