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 »