Young Son the Political and Cultural Cynic

28 10 2009

So you know he’s been reading Les Miserables, all 1,400 pages.

I guess it makes sense he would relate the author’s social themes to his own present reality as synched up with his own favorite social commentary artists by night, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and as opposed to the years of rantings and vitriol he’s heard by day from Limbaugh, Beck and Hannity on the car radio.

He chortled over a narrative passage (I think describing the Thenardier family) last night, reading it aloud to the whole family and marveling that Hugo had somehow anticipated the third-millennium GOP! 😉

I probably wouldn’t have blogged it except then this morning, I saw he had posted it to FaceBook:

“There are souls which, crablike, crawl continually toward darkness, going back in life, rather than advancing in it;
using what experience they have to increase their deformity; growing worse without ceasing, and becoming steeped more and more thoroughly in an intensifying wickedness.”

— Victor Hugo, sound like anybody you know of?

How Do You Define What’s Up (at pussy)Cat’s?

27 10 2009

The latest round of thinking parents playing “What’s in a Name?” as a floating blog-game of religion and politics costumed as each other for Halloween, apparently started with Lynn and JJ and many commenters both places, riffing on Frank Schaeffer’s books and his new MSNBC repudiation of the evangelical radicalism he was weaned on, taught to use as a weapon of mass destruction in mainstream politics and governance, back in mid-century America. He used some very colorful and contentious language to make his case that this was a bad thing then and a worse thing now.

Cat linked that video and the posts, used it as a mirror exercise in fallacious argument with her kids, which interested JJ enough to keep her playing over there instead of here for a couple of days.

Oh,and Monty Python got involved because isn’t it axiomatic that satisfying intercourse between smart people just does revert to Monty Python sooner or later? 😉

And here we are. My last comment at Cat’s is reproduced below as an invitation if you’re so inclined, to take on the Python persona of your choice and join the improv, here or there across artificial boundaries and dubious definitions as you prefer:

Well, let’s define terms immediately upon using them, or far better, stick to dictionary definitions. A good argument needs no redefinitions, right?

Or a good argument is almost entirely redefinitions. Need we first argue to define good argument?

To that point, I’m surprised you missed this Python definition of argument! 🙂

I laughed at that in the 70s because it was really absurd while Bill Buckley was doing Firing Line on PBS for real — breathing life into intellect and intellect into argument and argument into television.

Initially, Cleese simply contradicts everything that Palin says. Palin insists that it is not an argument but merely contradiction and asserts that “argument’s an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gain-saying of anything the other person says.” Cleese asserts that, to have an argument, he must “take up a contrary position.” Palin is frustrated until he realises that Cleese is actually engaging him in a sort of meta-argument about what constitutes an argument.

But it’s not so funny when television and real life become one big intellectually bankrupt contradiction clinic 24-7.

I think of “good argumentation” much like, ahem, other forms of healthy human intercourse. 😉

It is meant as a creative force to uplift, connect and sustain virtues rather than do harm to anyone directly or indirectly through vice and self-indulgence. It is “good” intercourse and fun to share with the right person for the right reasons, when it’s Read the rest of this entry »

War, War, War Revisited

22 10 2009

See Because Liz Cheney is a War Criminal too in the rogues’ gallery detailed, then proceed:

dick cheney looking scary and crazed

Liz Cheney, former Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter, is founding a new group called “Keep America Safe” that will coordinate a campaign of fear intended to paint the President as an appeaser disinterested in protecting America.

The Cheneys have never been shy when criticizing President Obama or his foreign policy. Soon after Obama was elected, former Vice President Dick Cheney took to the airwaves to warn the country of the dire risk faced by ending the internationally-condemned practice of torture. Now, his eldest daughter Liz is creating a nonprofit aimed at making such scare tactics into a permanent campaign.

Conservative partisan and failed Iraq war prognosticator William Kristol is one of the founding members. Kristol has also called for an invasion of Iran, suggesting that perhaps this time, we will, in fact, be “greeted as liberators.”

Keep America Safe’s mission statement parrots some of Kristol’s paranoid and dubious claims. . . To Keep America Safe, apparently, requires not one or two but three simultaneous wars.

Because Dick Cheney and his spawn can’t or won’t shut up and slink off the national stage in shame, I am reposting this from April, just as urgent as ever:

War war war, fiddle-dee-dee!

Is this the only power of story conservatives get, war?
All they can talk about, the only way they can make a case for their “freedom” values and respect for “life”? WMD as WWJD?

Not just fighting with each other over literal fights in the Middle East, which you’d think would be plenty of real war and then some. But no-oo-o. We also have to re-fight themes of:

Read the rest of this entry »

JJ’s Reading Serious Stuff About Vaccine and Public Health Foolishness

21 10 2009

Science doesn’t kill people, people kill people. With politics and mind games.
And “fear spreads as rapidly as any virus . . .”

David Shenk is the author of five books; his next book, The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You’ve Been Told about Genetics, Talent and IQ is Wrong, will be published by Doubleday in March 2010.

Oct 20 2009, 5:59PM
Health / Medicine:
The New Pandemic of Vaccine Phobia

We no longer believe that witches control the weather or inhabit the souls of adolescent girls. We no longer believe that the earth is flat, and we have even held our ground against the pseudoscience of “intelligent design.”

Now it is time for all who respect logic, rationality, and the scientific method to come together and say NO MORE to anti-vaccine demagoguery.

No one pretends that vaccines are perfect, or 100% risk-free. But approved vaccines work. They save lives. They do not cause mercury poisoning or autism. They carry very low risks — risks almost always worth taking. And, to top it off, vaccines have become something of a civic responsibility: they work best when everyone takes them.

Six recent helpful articles:
[see at story link]

Wired Magazine is out with its new cover story about a prominent vaccine scientist and historian/biographer, who is to vaccines what Richard Dawkins is to evolution — someone who gets death threats for his modern medicine the way doctors who courageously provide women’s family planning and reproductive health care do:
An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All

Then I came across a progressive Indiana pediatrician at HuffPo blogging health care and insurance reform in a way that appeals to my intelligence: RATIONAL ARGUMENTS: a blog mainly (but not entirely) about health policy. . .his radio talk about intelligently negotiating health insurance reform is here.

“Collision: Is Religion Absurd or Good for the World?”

20 10 2009

Last fall, we went on tour debating the topic “Is Religion Good For The World?” Our arguments were captured on film for a new documentary, Collision. Are our morals dictated to us by a supreme entity or do discoveries made by science and reason, make Atheism a natural conclusion? You decide.

Christopher Hitchens and Pastor Douglas Wilson
Posted: October 20, 2009 10:18 AM
“Collision: Is Religion Absurd or Good for the World?”

And to go with it, I offer religion historian and former nun Karen Armstrong in Foreign Policy Magazine, with THINK AGAIN: God:

“Theological ideas come and go, but the quest for meaning continues. So God isn’t going anywhere. And when we treat religion as something to be derided, dismissed, or destroyed, we risk amplifying its worst faults. . . .”

Finally, Dale at Meming of Life is writing about how we can communicate with each other across religious-atheist divides:

Now, thanks in large part to the Internet, the nonreligious are finally finding each other and forming communities—with the same good and bad results. Sometimes we devote ourselves to good things like service and social justice, and sometimes we focus and facilitate a level of hatred and division that would not be possible without the reinforcement of that likeminded community.

So it’s not just a religious thing. It’s a human thing. And the difference between the good and bad result goes right back to comfort and contact with difference.

The more a group shuts off contact with unlike minds, the sloppier it gets.

Telling Children Who They Are and What’s Within Them

19 10 2009

“You are not half. You are a whole soul living in a divided world. ”

There Is No Such Thing as Half
by Joanna Brooks

What comes out when a Mormon and a Jew raise a kid?

. .You are a body spun from ancient dust and ancient water; you are the glorious hope of legions of ancestors who lived poor and died ugly; you are a soul realized in the temple of my hipbones. You are what we all are: composite, recycled. You are what we all become someday: the sum of a series of accidents and choices. A lovely mess, that’s you. Sanctify yourself with righteous words and deeds, and you will have nothing to worry about.

Smartest Two Percent Use It to Conclude Home Education is Smart

19 10 2009

Spunky is blogging a Mensa study done by that organization’s foundation to research the nature of intelligence:

First-year college performance:
A study of home school graduates and traditional school graduates

The academic performance analyses indicate that home school graduates are as ready for college as traditional high school graduates and that they perform as well on national college assessment tests as traditional high school graduates.

The results of this study are also consistent with other studies on the academic performance of home school students compared to traditional high school graduates (Galloway 1995, Gray 1998, Jenkins 1998, Mexcur 1993). These results also suggest that a parent-guided K-12 education does not have a negative effect on a student’s college success.

For those of you needing traditional research to show an uneasy spouse, mother-in-law or the FSM forbid, a custody judge, keep this handy. I don’t need it though. I am my own case study, from a unique perspective as a school professional who unschools, also Mensa mom of Mensa kids including one proving the conclusion as we speak, on campus.

The conversation among Spunky readers is from a different angle than what I tend to see, so I thought I’d open it up here too. I’m not sure what any of this means (the study or the reactions to it) or what to think is smart or stupid or self-validating, except that being really intelligent is understanding that “what we know” — at any age — isn’t as important as “how we think.”

And that, as some of you already know, in 2000 when Favorite Daughter was nine-turning-ten, Mensa referred us to a mainstream but stupid “reality” show to find “the smartest kid in America.” (Since reality shows and kids are in the news this week, y’all might find it particularly interesting.)

Here’s the correspondence we had with the tv producer. Read the rest of this entry »

Social and Economic Change Spells School Problem

18 10 2009

Even when the cultural change is the business of sports, it’s still a school problem, particularly in vocational education. (Does this make schooling and its related standards and certifications and enterprises, more conservative economic impediment in effect than progressive asset? )

Choosing to end the barbarism of Spanish bull-fighting for example:

Luis Alcántara is afraid that group will be large enough to undo 11 years of work. Since 1998, he has run a bullfighting school in Hospitalet, just outside Barcelona. His enrollments were hurt by the under-14 provision of the animal cruelty law passed in 2003, and these days, he has only nine students practicing their capework on an abandoned football field. He worries that the initiative will put him out of business altogether.

“Nobody here really hears about us,” he says. “We go to a corrida, and then go home until the following Sunday, and we don’t have any power. But there are plenty of Catalans who still love the bulls.”

Or major-league baseball umpiring in America:

From the beginning, umpiring has been seen by those who run baseball as a necessary but marginal aspect of the game. Major League Baseball does not train its own umpires, and therefore it has not established practices that would attract the best people.

Those who wish to enter the profession attend schools run by former umpires. But these are entirely private businesses; the commissioner of baseball doesn’t control the curriculum, manage the training or do anything to lure people of all races and ethnic groups to become umpires.

Everything is connected to everything, and especially School.

Kids Need Real Mom to Show Up, Not TV Reality Show

18 10 2009

UPDATE 1:55 pm EDT – just heard the entire sheriff’s news conference on CNN live, extraordinary. All three boys are said to have had “100% involvement” in the hoax, and what the sheriff called “guilty knowledge” — so one of the felonies with which the the parent/s will be charged is “contributing to the delinquency of minors.”


Note to Balloon Boy’s Mom: Get a Clue, These are Your Real Kids, Not Some TV Show:

I don’t judge whether your sons swear, pick their noses, fart, burp or jump over banisters. I have two little boys. Glass houses. . .

That said, Mayumi, get a clue.

As of press time Saturday it seems you have either been dragged or agreed to participate in a stunt by a husband who is a child and a women- bashing gasbag. What’s more, he apparently wants your boys to be raging, women-hating gasbags. . .

These are your real live children with their own humiliations and their own storms to chase. Hold on tightly to them. They need at least one parent to keep them from flying too close to the sun.

What School Movies Have Affected Your Life?

17 10 2009

Which ones are personally most memorable, for good or ill or just as powerful story-telling?

After posting that video clip from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie the other day, I was stunned that Lynn has never seen it thus doesn’t have it in her frame of reference as we talk about School Ideas — what an impact that movie had on me as a schooled girl, seeing it in the theatre in 1969! [shudder]

School stories in both book and movie form have always stuck in my mind. (We can do just books later if you want.)

Harry Potter obviously, and Maggie Smith is a teacher in those school movies too, 40 years after she was in her Prime, eerie huh?

Sidney Poitier’s To Sir With Love was another high-impact, early-influence school film for me. Later there was Robin Williams’ Dead Poets Society.

And for no easily explained reason I remember the power over my thinking of an obscure late-night movie about high schoolers who got pregnant before abortion was legal, called Blue Denim. I think it was an impossibly young and blonde-ponytailed Carol Lynley, never saw the film again anywhere but it’s definitely loomed large in my frame of reference ever since.

How about you and school movies that really affected you and stayed with you? And what about your kids?

“Most Inappropriate Halloween Costumes” Slide Show

17 10 2009

(Strong warning to those offended by, well, things clearly meant to offend.
Like listening to Beck or Limbaugh.)

Just remember, no matter how bad you may feel about whatever you come up with, as long as you’re not dressed in one of the costumes below, you’re all set.

The show starts with “child pimp” just like the ACORN set-up. Most are not child costumes though. Lots of graphic genitalia. Some racial and religious offense intended.

There was one I didn’t get, try as I might and worldly as I think I am. See if you can tell which is the most obscure, maybe explain it to me. (No, it wasn’t the misspelled bestiality costume. That was obvious.)

Never Mind That Using Kids Is Immoral in Any Belief System

16 10 2009

Including Church. Including School. Including journalism and media coverage. Including “entrepreneurial” or “abstinence” or “extraterrestrial” or “family values” beliefs. Including political arguments about saving liberty or avoiding debt for the next generation.

Just for today, never mind the real horrors and outright tragedies — maybe if we stop to sweat some smaller stuff, we’ll adjust our eyes to better see how the big stuff got so big that we no longer even see it, and when we do catch a glimpse, why we usually can’t believe our own eyes.

If I write a blog essay on this topic today, I think I’ll somehow weave together these power of story posts:

Wife Swap Family’s Six-Year-Old Balloon Boy Doesn’t Homeschool (never mind whatever’s wrong with Jon and Kate)

She’s the shusher

Begin with the Beginning

Never Mind the Children’s Screams

Read the rest of this entry »