Tuesday, May 31, 2005


Conservative Christian is at least trying to open a dialogue.


He's showing some strain at the seams, but I have to say so far it's working better than I expected.

I'll be interested in future developments.

Piano Drugs

Parents were asked this question: all things being equal, if there existed a safe drug you could give your child that would give her the ability to play the piano, would you give your child that drug?

Half of all parents said no.



Because they saw learning to play the piano as a character-building exercise. Playing the piano was not the point. The discipline that came with the learning was the point.

Which I can get -- I'm already using the piano as an example in conversations with the kid. "It's like the piano," I say to her, when she has trouble with something. "Remember how that was hard at first, but the more you practiced, the easier it get? This will be the same way."

But -- ON THE OTHER HAND -- and this is why recognizing the middle ground is so important -- the only reason we're giving her piano lessons is we want her to be able to play the piano. It's the end we're interested in, not the means. Surely she would figure out that means some other way.

I suppose those parents are visualizing a world in which there are pills for everything -- and so no child ever has to learn anything the hard way -- but if such a word ever truly existed (I can't visualize it myself, since people will always exist, and we're always going to be hard to handle), well, will we have a need for learning-the-hard-way memes then?

I'm just saying.
Via Shakespeare's Sister:


John Bonifaz, a Boston attorney specializing in constitutional litigation, sent a memo to Congressman John Conyers of Michigan, the Ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, urging him to introduce a Resolution of Inquiry directing the House Judiciary Committee to launch a formal investigation into whether sufficient grounds exist for the House to impeach President Bush. Bonifaz's memo, made available today at After Downing Street, begins: “The recent release of the Downing Street Memo provides new and compelling evidence that the President of the United States has been actively engaged in a conspiracy to deceive and mislead the United States Congress and the American people about the basis for going to war against Iraq. If true, such conduct constitutes a High Crime under Article II, Section 4 of the United States Constitution.

That's what I'm talking about.

More over on Shake's blog, including more links.

Monday, May 30, 2005


The General says what I want to today.


Sunday, May 29, 2005

On the Other Hand...

Here's a blog that I also don't comment on, but it's because I not because I don't think they'd listen.

These folk (except for a few of the commenters) are very good at listening.

This is one of the few blogs I have found where actual dialogue happens.


I like this blog a lot.

This one is good, too, but he's stopped blogging much lately:


Assaulting the Freedom to Worship

Here's more on that Good Christian Judge who told the Wiccans they couldn't raise their child in their own religion:


The father, who has primary custody, is appealing, with the aid of the ICLU.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Cloudy Thinking

Here's an example of what I mean by Wingers I would like to talk to, only it wouldn't do any good.

Why Support the GOP?

Because the GOP will do the right thing at least from time to time:

DENVER (AP) Gov. Bill Owens vetoed a bill Friday that would have outlawed workplace discrimination against gays...

...Owens, a Republican, said he considered the measure unnecessary and said it could force employers to spend a lot of money defending lawsuits.

Opponents of the bill had argued that an employer might not know the sexual orientation of a job applicant or employee but could be sued for alleged discrimination nonetheless.


I actually understand this guy's point -- he's wrong, of course, but I understand him.

He believes that ill-intentioned (and possibly not even gay) guys will use this bill to make business owners hire employees they don't want to hire, or not fire guys they need to be able to fire, because they're worried about law suits, and that this will be bad for business owners, and thus business, and thus all of us.

(1) This shows a great deal of ignorance about the way actual civil rights law suits work. You can't just claim (as Mark here seems to believe), hey, I'm gay, (or Asian, or a woman), so therefore I've been discriminated against. You have to be able to demonstrate (that is, prove, with evidence, witnesses, documents) that your boss or your company has, is fact, discriminated against you because you are gay (or a woman, or Asian, or whatever). So, if, as in the hypothetical situation Mark and "opponents" put forth, the boss doesn't even know the employee is gay, how are we going to prove that the boss is discriminating against him for his gayness?

(2) I'm assuming the picture these "opponents" have in mind is that the boss or company does not know that this particular employee is gay, yet are anti-gay, and create a hostile environment (it's not actually possible to tell what they mean from this story) which would keep an employee from wanting to work at a company -- this would, indeed, be a legitimate reason to sue. Let me change the terms, though, and ask if the "opponents" would still think it was okay for this to happen if this company was Anti-Christian; or Anti-Republican; or Anti-White Male company; if the Boss spent all her time ragging on how stupid men were and how Christians were pathetic and how Bush was a criminal and like that -- would that be okay?

(3) But there's this bit, in the comments, posted by Mark:

What I'm saying is that once upon a time I was denied employment because, of all things, I'm Catholic...my attitude was "screw 'em" and I went and found a different job, and thus a competitor got the benefit of my hard and enthusiastic work.

Don't go looking for government to be your nanny; you get government protecting you from all things and what you've got is a government which controls you in all things. You can't be half free; you're either free, or you're not.

So Mark doesn't care if a boss discriminates against him. He just gets another job. And since he has no trouble finding other jobs, he figures everyone else can do the same. Because there is, after all, a level playing field in America. And no health care crisis. So we don't have to worry a smidge about COBRA payments or health insurance or what we'll do if we don't find another job before our savings run out, or anything like that.

And the last paragraph is the best. You don't need the government to protect you. Yay! You're free. Protect yourself.

Which is pretty to think about.

Except, you know, I do, in fact, want to government to protect me -- that's what we have a government for.

I want government regulations in place to protect me from corportations that would pollute my ground water. In the same way, I want laws there to idiots who might drive drunks or drive 130 on the interstate or let their pit bulls roam in my neighborhood. I do, in fact, want laws in place to regulate such things as child-labor and work-place safety and unpaid over-time, and I am getting pretty nervous, Mark, about the erosion of those laws.

I don't see this as making me "half-free" or "less free" or a child being looked after by a nanny. I see this as me being a citizen who has employed other citizens to manage the country for me.

Your libertarian fantasies about being able to negotiate your own labor contract are very pretty, but how much power do you really think you have? You're one guy. You have the power to say, No, thanks, I'll go work somewhere else. How much do you actually think that is worth? Read some labor history, bud, and get back to me.

Raising Kids Like Free Range Chickens

I like stories like this:


And posts like this, which I got by backtracking off the other one:


Which brings me to my actual point -- the parents in question, the ones that think their kids ought to be allowed to impose upon the world.

I'm related to kids like this, which is all I plan to say about that, so I've got sympathy with Lauren & Flea, and I wholly agree with her pack -- kids ought not to be raised that way.

But here in Arkansas, folks hold an odd view: either, they believe, you must raise your kids as those folks do -- like free range chickens, with absolutely no discipline at all, allowing them to do whatever they will to the adults and other children around them (because after all, the other adults and the other children ought to be pleased to let little Paris or little Meredith slam a fire engine into their face, surely? Cute as little Pars is?), or, well, we have to whoop Waylen and Trisha, all the time, for everything.

If we don't spank* our kids, how can we ever expect them to learn how to behave? This is what my students propose to me in their argument essays, in great seriousness. There is, apparently, no other effective way to discipline children, except with belts and sticks. If I point out that evidence, including scientific studies, shows otherwise, they smile tolerently, claim their parents beat the daylight out of them, and they're just fine, aren't they?

When I pull out the earlier essays they have turned in, in which they have described lives of drug addiction, teen pregnancy, alcoholism, and bad relationships with abusive partners, they all get very pissed off. That has nothing to do with getting "spanked" when they were kids! Nothing! Why, if their parents hadn't whooped them, who knows where they'd be now!

"Yes," I like to say at that point. "Excellent point."

No, I don't really. I just want to. I try to never undermine my students' parents. Even when they ought to be undermined.

*Defined as beating the daylights out of them with a belt or a switch.

Friday, May 27, 2005


Richard Dawkins explains, in detail, the ignorance fallacy.


My favorite bit?

"Ignorance is God’s gift to Kansas."

Pretty Colors

This is sort of interesting, over here at Crooked Timber


and they've got a very pretty graphic here:


What they're concluding is what you might guess

Of course, it is possible that all interlinking across liberal and conservative blogs happens in a manner that is void of substance. To address this point, we undertook a content analysis of a subsample of the posts in our study (140 for now to be exact). We found that about half of the links represent what we classify as strawman arguments. The liberal bloggers in our sample are more likely to engage in such cross-linking than the conservative bloggers. However, we also found some evidence of substantive cross-linking. In these cases bloggers may either agree or disagree with the other person, but they do address the content of the other blogger’s post. Also, we did not find that bloggers address the substance of those who resemble their point-of-view very often either. (We present specific figures on the conference poster.)

Overall, it would be incorrect to conclude that liberal bloggers are ignoring conservative bloggers or vice versa. Certainly, liberal bloggers are more likely to address liberal bloggers and conservative bloggers are more likely to link to conservative bloggers. But people from both groups are certainly reading across the ideological divide to some extent.

What you guess and what you can support are, however, as I point out to my ENGL 1213 students, two different things. So it's a post worth looking at all the same. And some good points in the comments.

Can I just add -- blogs are so cool.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Something to Ponder

Over here


Jonathan and Amanda Witt cry foul because some of us non-Christians are amazed to find Christians actually practicing Christianity. They point out -- rightly -- that many, many Christians practice Christianity every single day, just exactly the sort of Christianity that Christ preached, there inthat Sermon on the Mount, and if we would pay attention for one minute we might notice that.

I agree.

I've known some of these Christians.

I like these Christians. A lot. I honor them, I respect them, I think highly of them.

Some of them are my students. They're generally among my better students.

Can I add that, in my humble opinion, it would be a really good deal if more Christians should act like these Christians?

And not like this:


Or this:


Or this:


But to pretend that it's no fair for the world to be shocked, shocked I tell you, that Christians aren't acting hateful, when you've got folks like Dobson, and folks like those at the links above, making it their business to show the world how hateful Christians can be --

Well, if Christians want to change the reputation of Christians, get out there and start doing it. I'm willing to start thinking better of the organization. Make Dobson and his buds shut up and sit down. Start feeding the poor and loving your enemies, on at least as large a scale as Pat Robertson is hating them and Tim LeHaye is profiting from them. That would be a start. That would help with me.


Just back from the kid's field day. 88 kids, ages 3 to 12, howling around a field dumping buckets of water on one another, shooting each other with water guns, squirting each other (and their parents) with hoses, ambushing each other with water balloons, and (toward the end) wallowing in mud. Also cookies. Now she is officially out of school for the summer.

This is, needless to say, not good news for me -- I've been out of the spring semester for a week, and Summer I doesn't start for another week, and I have been blissfully at work every day, writing every morning for six solid hours at a stretch. (Everyone believes university professors get the summers "off," which some of us do -- not me, because I have to teach both summer sessions if we're going to survive, but even if professors do turn down summer teaching appointments, we're always writing or doing research or taking summer courses over those months we're "off," I'd just like to point that out, one time, okay?) I've been getting some excellent work done, this week I've been "off."

Now, instead, I'll be poked in the kidney every twenty minutes by a plastic dinosaur...asked for a peanut butter sandwich...asked to fetch a new book...asked if I won't get the watercolors for her...asked whether she can go outside and play in the hose...asked how much longer I'm going to work...asked for more milk...asked for another cookie...

I knew having a kid would be work. It was the endless interruptions I wasn't expecting.

Also the piano lessons. It's a good thing I didn't know about the piano lessons. Those might have been a deal breaker.

Good thing she's so cute.

Of course, that's why they come so cute.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Hey, we're painting schools! And handing out candy!

In case you missed Ollie's cute column over there on Townhall,


here's a blast from the past from Riverbend, whose book, btw, is out in bookstores everywhere:

The Myth: Iraqis, prior to occupation, lived in little beige tents set up on the sides of little dirt roads all over Baghdad. The men and boys would ride to school on their camels, donkeys and goats. These schools were larger versions of the home units and for every 100 students, there was one turban-wearing teacher who taught the boys rudimentary math (to count the flock) and reading. Girls and women sat at home, in black burkas, making bread and taking care of 10-12 children.

The Truth: Iraqis lived in houses with running water and electricity. Thousands of them own computers. Millions own VCRs and VCDs. Iraq has sophisticated bridges, recreational centers, clubs, restaurants, shops, universities, schools, etc. Iraqis love fast cars (especially German cars) and the Tigris is full of little motor boats that are used for everything from fishing to water-skiing.


Yesterday, I read how it was going to take up to $90 billion to rebuild Iraq. Bremer was shooting out numbers about how much it was going to cost to replace buildings and bridges and electricity, etc. Listen to this little anecdote. One of my cousins works in a prominent engineering company in Baghdad- we’ll call the company H. This company is well-known for designing and building bridges all over Iraq. My cousin, a structural engineer, is a bridge freak. He spends hours talking about pillars and trusses and steel structures to anyone who’ll listen. As May was drawing to a close, his manager told him that someone from the CPA wanted the company to estimate the building costs of replacing the New Diyala Bridge on the South East end of Baghdad. He got his team together, they went out and assessed the damage, decided it wasn’t too extensive, but it would be costly. They did the necessary tests and analyses (mumblings about soil composition and water depth, expansion joints and girders) and came up with a number they tentatively put forward- $300,000. This included new plans and designs, raw materials (quite cheap in Iraq), labor, contractors, travel expenses, etc.Let’s pretend my cousin is a dolt. Let’s pretend he hasn’t been working with bridges for over 17 years. Let’s pretend he didn’t work on replacing at least 20 of the 133 bridges damaged during the first Gulf War. Let’s pretend he’s wrong and the cost of rebuilding this bridge is four times the number they estimated- let’s pretend it will actually cost $1,200,000. Let’s just use our imagination.

A week later, the New Diyala Bridge contract was given to an American company. This particular company estimated the cost of rebuilding the bridge would be around- brace yourselves- $50,000,000 !!

Something you should know about Iraq: we have over 130,000 engineers. More than half of these engineers are structural engineers and architects. Thousands of them were trained outside of Iraq in Germany, Japan, America, Britain and other countries. Thousands of others worked with some of the foreign companies that built various bridges, buildings and highways in Iraq. The majority of them are more than proficient- some of them are brilliant. Iraqi engineers had to rebuild Iraq after the first Gulf War in 1991 when the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ was composed of over 30 countries actively participating in bombing Baghdad beyond recognition. They had to cope with rebuilding bridges and buildings that were originally built by foreign companies, they had to get around a lack of raw materials that we used to import from abroad, they had to work around a vicious blockade designed to damage whatever infrastructure was left after the war… they truly had to rebuild Iraq. And everything had to be made sturdy, because, well, we were always under the threat of war.


So instead of bringing in thousands of foreign companies that are going to want billions of dollars, why aren’t the Iraqi engineers, electricians and laborers being taken advantage of? Thousands of people who have no work would love to be able to rebuild Iraq… no one is being given a chance.

The reconstruction of Iraq is held above our heads like a promise and a threat. People roll their eyes at reconstruction because they know (Iraqis are wily) that these dubious reconstruction projects are going to plunge the country into a national debt only comparable to that of America. A few already rich contractors are going to get richer, Iraqi workers are going to be given a pittance and the unemployed Iraqi public can stand on the sidelines and look at the glamorous buildings being built by foreign companies. I always say this war is about oil.

It is. But it is also about huge corporations that are going to make billions off of reconstructing what was damaged during this war. Can you say Haliburton?


One More Reason To Avoid Indiana

Go read this post by Amanda at Pandagon.

Just read it.


Run That By Me Once More

Saying you don't get the thesis of a Townhall Column borders, I know, on the tautological.

But this Suzanne Fields item, it's a corker.

What is her point here?


She seems to be saying that because those Islamic scum raise their kids to be ignorant xenophobic suicide bombers, well, we ought not to educate our kids any different.

Except -- surely not?

I mean, surely even a columnist for Townhall can't be saying that?

What else are we to make of these paragraphs:

Two years ago, the American Textbook Council studied seven widely adopted world history textbooks for grades seven to 12 and found that many hold Western civilization to a much higher standard than non-Western civilizations, especially Islam. Diane Ravitch, a historian of education, shows how textbooks distort by omission.

In her book, "The Language Police," she cites one text that observes how the Koran "sets harsh penalties for crimes such as stealing or murder," but does not explain that the "harsh penalties" include chopping off the hands of thieves, or that women adulterers are publicly stoned or beheaded in strict Islamic societies such as Saudi Arabia. In discussing "enhanced rights" for Muslim women, texts acknowledge that a man can have four wives, but note, approvingly, that he must support all four of them equally. This is progress, perhaps, but only from the eighth to the ninth century.

Many of the textbooks that Palestinian children use include Islamist messages that Israel and the United States must be destroyed because they are "the big and little Satans." Maps of the Middle East continue to omit Israel. Schools and communities continue to celebrate suicide bombers against both countries.

By contrast, Israeli school children are taught positive images of Islam and Arab culture. The Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, a nonpolitical, nonprofit organization, reviewed 360 Israeli textbooks and found them to focus on reconciliation, tolerance and peace without instigation toward hatred. Israeli textbooks aim to educate against stereotypes of "evil" Arabs and "bad" Muslims. The Israeli government actively supports "Seeds of Peace," a program that brings Arab and Jewish teenagers together with an emphasis on reducing prejudice before it matures and festers. President Bush praises it for bringing tomorrow's leaders together, "changing minds and hearts one person at a time."

So there you go. We need to stop trying to enlighten our kids -- after all, the evil Islamic worshippers aren't enlightening theirs -- and instead start teaching them that those who worship Allah are sub-human devils who deserve to be squashed like bugs, gassed like cockroaches, firebombed out of existence.

I guess that's what she's saying.

Anyone got a better reading?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Sleep Much?

In case you've been wondering, according to a new book on the history of Night, Carpe Noctem,just put out by A. Roger Ekirch, we've all been probably been sleeping wrong for a few hundred years.

Here's a review:


And here's the key bit of argument:

What rouses us from our own dogmatic slumbers, however, is Ekirch’s assertion that “until the close of the early modern era, Western Europeans on most evenings experienced two major intervals of sleep bridged by up to an hour or more of wakefulness.” People, evidently, awoke after midnight and, instead of tossing and turning, they regularly got up to talk, study, pray, and do chores.

In case we’re skeptical, Ekirch has found references to the “first sleep,” or primo somno, and the second sleep, sometimes called “morning sleep,” in literature and letters. He has dug up a medical text that advised people with digestive problems to fall asleep on their right side during “the fyrste slepe,” and “after the fyrste slepe turne on the lefte side”; and he assures us that Plutarch, Livy, and Virgil all invoked the term. Indeed, Ekirch supplies enough corroboration regarding the first and second snoozes to make segmented sleep seem like one of those customs, such as bundling and dog-baiting, which simply disappeared.

“That all men sleep by intervals” required no further elaboration from John Locke, who did much of his sleeping during the latter part of the seventeenth century. Two hundred or so years later, as Ekirch sees it, artificial light had become so prevalent that people’s sleep patterns began to change. Those who lived in cities were now able to work, read, and play long after nightfall, and segmented sleep gradually disappeared from urban culture.

What evolved is a shorter, seamless sleep, which, on the face of it, doesn’t sound that bad. But Ekirch views our truncated sleep not just as a neutral statistic of modern life but as an offense against nature. Not only do we get too little sleep; our increased exposure to luminosity has “altered circadian rhythms as old as man himself.” This, rather dismayingly, turns out to have some support in the medical community.

In a study conducted at the National Institute of Mental Health which re-created conditions of “prehistoric” sleep, Dr. Thomas Wehr deprived volunteers of artificial light for up to fourteen hours at night for a span of several weeks. As Ekirch notes, the “subjects first lay awake in bed for two hours, slept for four, awakened again for two or three hours of quiet rest and reflection, and fell back asleep for four hours before finally awakening for good.” In short, they began to exhibit “a pattern of broken slumber—one practically identical to that of pre-industrial households.”

Wehr also observed that “the intervening period of ‘non-anxious wakefulness’ possessed ‘an endocrinology all its own,’ with visibly heightened levels of prolactin, a pituitary hormone best-known for stimulating lactation in nursing mothers and for permitting chickens to brood contentedly atop eggs for long stretches of time.” And because Wehr “likened this period of wakefulness to something approaching an altered state of consciousness not unlike meditation,” Ekirch proposes that we have lost touch with that deeper, more primal aspect of ourselves which emerges during moments after the first sleep.

“By turning night into day,” he writes, “modern technology has helped to obstruct our oldest path to the human psyche.” If Ekirch is correct, then Thomas Edison placed entirely too much faith in his lighting device. “Put an undeveloped human being into an environment where there is artificial light,” Edison predicted, “and he will improve.”

But will he sleep as nature intended? It’s hard to say. Most scientists are confident that internal biological timers regulate body temperature, hormone production, and sleep levels; and they’re pretty sure that the suprachiasmatic nucleus, in the hypothalamus, regulates circadian oscillations. The neurobiology of the sleep-wake cycle is not in dispute, but it’s one thing to know that some psychotic episodes are linked to malfunctioning biological clocks, and quite another to assert that segmented sleep is essential to some deeper understanding of who we are.

Moyers vs Rush

Excellent article on Rush's attack on Moyers in the Nation.


Of course it will be dismissed as Leftist by our Winger friends, but it's still nice to read a piece of rational discourse. Refreshing.

Sunday, May 22, 2005


Lance Mannion reports that the lack of knowledge of the bible of our buddy on the right, Ricky Santorum, is not so big a deal -- that Catholics aren't really supposed to read the Bible, and that in fact it is considered naughty for them to do so.

Catholics aren't required to read the Bible.

In fact for a long time the Church actively discouraged it.

Universal literacy is a Protestant invention. Protestant churches encouraged their flocks to learn to read so that they could read the Bible on their own in order to have a direct, personal connection with God.

But the Catholic Church wanted to keep the priests between the people and the Bible because the Bible is a very strange book, full of internal contractions, bad history, dietary laws appropriate for living in a desert but without much application in the Italian alps or the bogs of Ireland, fairy tales, allegories of doubtful origin and meaning, lunatic or drug-induced ravings by mad holy men (Ezekial, Revelation), and just plain weirdness---
Lot's daughters, the Levite's concubine---all presided over by a God of unstable temperament with a distinctly split personality.

The Church insists that the authority of its teachings is Scriptural, but it is also adamant that the interpretation of Scripture is a job the Faithful should leave to the Church's scholars and that individuals who usurp the job for themselves are risking their immortal souls.

A Catholic whose faith is based on a personal, emotional encounter with Scripture is a heretic.


I grew up among the Catholics in New Orleans, but I'll admit I didn't know this. But then I only went to mass a few times with my friends a few times, and hardly ever could figure out what was up.

This could explain a bit about certain members of the religious right -- they're ignorant about their own text cause they're supposed to be -- but not the Evangeligal Protestants.

And, as Mannion goes on to report:

* Perhaps 15 percent of Americans participate in Bible studies.
* The number of people who read the Bible, at least occasionally is 59 percent. * Less than 50 percent of Americans can name the first book of the Bible (Genesis).
* Only 1/3 of Americans know who delivered the Sermon on the Mount (more people identified Billy Graham rather than Jesus).
* Twenty-five percent of Americans don't know what is celebrated on Easter (the Resurrection of Christ, the foundational event of Christianity).
* Twelve percent of Christians think that Noah's wife is Joan of Arc.
* Eighty percent of born-again Christians (including George W. Bush) think it is the Bible that says "God helps them that help themselves." (Actually it was said by Benjamin Franklin.)

This correlates with the five separate classes on Bible as Lit I have taught, btw, all of them stacked with Christians, most of the Evangelical Christians, nearly all of them Protestant Christians, most of whom did not -- even after I had made the reading assignment, mind you, after they were supposed to have read the text for my class, never mind coming into the class -- know the most basic things about the text.

Like, just what is the deal with the golden calf and Moses?

Or, what curse did God lay on the snake after he beguiled the woman in the garden?

Or, how many magic trees were there in that Garden? (Hint: It wasn't just one.)

Or, Who is it Abraham is supposed to sacrifice on God's command?

Or, What does Jesus say about forgiving your enemies? How many times ought you to do it?

Or, what is Jesus's opinion on capital punishment? (Hint: there's this woman taken in adultery, and some guys with stones...)

Or, how does Jesus feel about wealth? *Does* he want us to collect it? (Anyone who thinks Jesus is in favor of capitalism and the accumulation of wealth needs to dust of his text and start reading again, that's all I'm saying. The text is pretty damn plain.)

And -- excuse me? -- God helps him who helps himself?

Yeah, that sounds exactly like something Moses would say. And Jesus too. Mr. Love your neighor and give all you have to the poor and whatever you do to the least of these you do unto me, he'd be spouting that one, oh, you bet.

Not that I don't like Ben Franklin -- I do.

But he wasn't a Christian, folks. He was a deist.

Be a pretty good idea not to get those philosophies mixed up.

I'm just saying.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Good Old Family Values

From Shakespeare's Sister, Via DEDSpace:



Nervous Wingers

Here's an excellent post from Tomothy Karr over at MediaCitizen, about what the wingers are trying to do to our beloved NPR (because heaven forbid there be a a single source of news that isn't rabidly biased toward the Right on the air waves -- someone might learn the truth, someone might commit some rational discourse -- can't have *that* going on).


There are lots of good bits, including our buddy Rush being a jerk, but here's just my favorite clip:

"After all, this is the CPB chairman who buried a survey commissioned by his own agency when its results confirmed that “the majority of the U.S. adult population does not believe that the news and information programming on public broadcasting is biased.” In that same survey, 80 percent of Americans agreed that PBS is “fair and balanced,” and more than 50 percent found PBS news programming to be more trustworthy than network television or the cable networks."

Anyone got the number

...of a boarding school in Canada?

The kid has (accidentally, accidentally, she says, and I even believe her) sprayed a good portion of one of those cans of spray whipped cream all over my keyboard.

This is why the British send their kids to boarding school at age eight.

Wait. She's not eight.

What fun typing is going to be today.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Ignorance is Strength

This post:



Over on the Right, mostly, they have bought and guzzled Crichton's Kool-Aid about global warming being a myth, about humanity's effect on global warming being non-existant; about second-hand smoke and pesticides and chemical fertilizers and such being dumped into the environment having no effect at all on humans or other critters they have contact with (Michael C. has just tons of footnotes in his new book proving this to be so -- kind of like Coulter's and Rush's tons of footnotes in their books -- so it must be true, right?).

You can see why people would want to swill down this particular Kool-Aid. Hell, I can.

Global warming, a polluted environment, the thinning upper atmosphere (which is, yes, accelerated by the use of jet planes, despite the mockery in the comment section of the link I'm about to give you), the death of the ocean soup all life on earth depends upon -- this is scary stuff. Well, you know, probably not to Evangelical Christians, since they know these are the last days and Jesus is about to rapture them all. But to the rest of us, who had planned to live on this planet for awhile.

So I can understand why those on the Right prefer to cover their ears and say la-la-la I can't hear you it's not happening, and believe Michael Crichton and Rush and Coulter -- everything is really okay, they're really doing everything exactly right, and they can just climb into their SUVs and keep on trucking.

Except, you know, it isn't. And they can't.

So when Tim Blair posts snide bits like this:

Young Australians are smarter than older people, a new report has revealed:

"Young Australians are less environmentally aware than older people, a new report has revealed.
The young are less likely to regard themselves as environmentalists, to be avid recyclers or to believe that urgent action is needed to avoid serious environmental damage, the Australia Institute report says."


And thinks he's being cute -- ai.

Yes, that's very clever, Mr. Blair. You and your cohorts have succeeded in convincing the next generation to believe your lies about there being no problem, la-la-la. Charming. It'll be especially funny when the ecosystem crashes. What's that? Oh, I forgot. You don't believe in the ecosystem. You probably don't believe in the laws of physics either, Mr. Blair. But don't worry -- they believe in you.

I'd send Mr. Blair and his fellow commenters to read these links:



(Especially this bit: "Scientists are concerned that the atmosphere's ozone layer is thinning and may eventually allow more UV radiation to reach the earth, thus increasing the risk of melanoma")


(How jets contribute significantly to the thinning of the upper layer of the earth's atmosphere -- which is why those whacko environmentalists are working to do something about limiting travel by plane, those lunatics, what do we need an atmosphere for, huh?)

But Mr. Blair prefers the young to be ignorant, since ignorance leads to anti-environmentalism, and that, after all, is all that really matters: that our youngsters be (ignorant) right-wing zealots.

I guess.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

As Amanda over at Pandagon (http://www.pandagon.net/) points out, Flea has a brilliant post up today:


I love that Flea anyway, who doesn't, she's one of the blogosphere's best writers, but this one is something special. Don't miss it.

It starts with Bruce, who woke me up to music, but goes on to talk about art and whether it matters that people misinterpret it/misread it -- well, does it matter whether we learn to read, say, Buffy, correctly? -- which, since I have made it my life's work to teach people to read, well, you know which side of this I stand on, and then Flea connects this to feminism, and it's just a great post.

Hop on over there.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


This is actually something one of my students asked me in an interview, and I’ve been playing it with people and it’s just so much fun, and the same thing keeps happening –everyone knows exactly who to put in slots 1-8 (but exactly – well, maybe a little dithering around slots 3 and 4, but only a bit): but then when they hit slots 9 and 10 they’re stuck. They can’t commit.

Here’s the question.

You have to – HAVE TO – build a DWEM canon.

It HAS to be Dead White European Males.

No fair trying to sneak Sappho or some African in there, either.

It’s THE canon of DWEMs.

What ten guys do you pick?

Here’s my ten guys:

1. The Bible (counts as one guy and leave me alone, cause it does.)
2. Homer
3. Plato (I count Socrates as part of Plato and you can leave me alone about that one too.)
4. Herodotus (mr. delagar gives me shit over this one, but read him some time, the guy invented history)
5. Ovid (I considered Virgil, but he's just Homer redux, and Ovid is actually doing something new and interesting, not to mention he's mocking Augustus's drive for Family Values, and look what it got him, Tumis is what it got him, also Ovid has a huge influence on Western Lit from this point on, so Ovid, definitely)
6. Chaucer
7. Shakespeare
8. Milton
9. ……
10. …….

Maybe Freud for nine? Or Darwin? Possibly Chekhov…Rrrrr….But who for ten? Is there a ten?

See, I’m stuck. And everyone I know gets stuck there.

This says something. But I'm not sure what.

Wingers Miss the Point Again

I used to think folks really weren't this clueless, that they were just pretending to be -- like when the Republicans sent out that ad, previous to the election, claiming that if Kerry won, ee-ee-eevil liberals would make gay marriage mandatory and ban the Bible. I figured no one would be stupid enough to actually believe that; that Republicans obviously were just pretending to think that was true, to try to fool idiots (they assumed) lived in trailer parks or hills or something -- the idea that the Hummer-driver Rethugs had of the ill-educated lower-class.

But have a look at this:


Cause maybe I was wrong.

BrothersJudd throws out an obvious strawman argument --

First they quote from the article:

"The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against the US government over its funding of a nationwide sexual abstinence programme.

The ACLU says the Silver Ring Thing programme violates the principle that the state budget cannot be used to promote religion. "

Then they attach this bit of misdirection:

Because, after all, if kids aren't having sex then none of us are free.

Right -- because that's why the ACLU is filing suit -- so that kids can have sex.

I don't believe for a minute that the Brothers Judd believe this -- or I didn't. I figured they were just tossing out a snotty strawman argument, that they actually knew all along that the real problem with the Silver Ring and other abstinence programs were that they violate the separation clause (The Silver Ring programme, for instance, distributes Christian bibles in public schools), and were just pretending to be clueless.

But go to the link. Read the comments by Judds' readers. I'm thinking I've been giving the Christian Right wa-ay too much credit.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Children As Score Cards

I read this post a couple of times, trying to decide what, precisely about it bothered me.


I knew it reminded me of that obnoxious Brooks NYTimes column a few months back, the one about "natalists," when he got all drum-bangy about our-guys-have-more-babies-than-your-guys, nyah-nyah; and I knew it reminded me of that perfectly dreadful Scott Card short story in one of his recent books, where he has Ender's ever-so-brilliant daddy (it's too bad Card isn't brilliant enough to pull off writing a brilliant character, but never mind that for now) pontificate about how societies that have chosen to use birth control, in which women are only having one or two babies each, have obviously "decided to die"; but all this was just the surface stuff: standard nonsense.

No, this, I realize, is at the core of what's getting to me:

"Onto the landscape of Manhattan, a new and lethal status symbol has alighted—and it’s causing the J.A.P.’s and WASP’s of the Upper East Side to quiver with envy....Yes, I’m talking about THE THIRD CHILD.... That critical third child—quite possibly the status symbol of this decade—will get you more Park Avenue cred than a fleet of Bentleys."


If Doonan is right, I’m glad to see that the blue-state elite, with its notorious ultra-low fertility rate, might be waking up to the fact that it’s gradually losing the demographic war to red-staters and their tendencies to have large families. Instead of wondering "what’s the matter" with the red-staters, the blue-staters are getting off their duffs and fighting back. That’s healthy.

That's sick.

Not the having of third children -- heavens no. Being firmly and perhaps even insanely pro-choice*, I am all for folks having precisely as many kids as they do or don't want. Have one. I did. Have two. Have three. Have eleven, if your heart desires, though I must admit I will gape in astonishment as I pass you in Wal-Mart and wonder what in Sam Hill you coulda been thinking -- but hey. It's your life, I will say, and shrug, and keep going.

So it's not the having of the third baby, even in NYC, I find appalling here.

It's the IWF getting all chirpy over this third child as some sort of political gambit -- on either side -- thinking, as Brooksie was thinking, as Scott Card was thinking -- that people should have, or do have, or ought to have, children to score political points.

This works my humanist nerves.

Children aren't ways of keeping score. They aren't ways to show up your enemy.

Really not.

They're human beings. If people aren't perpared to think of the humans they are bringing into the world as humans, with their own wills and rights, and not as tools to further some political or religious or cultural agenda of their parents (or some mythic creators), well, I'm thinking those people should maybe raise poodles instead.

Or, hey, write blogs.

I'm just saying.

*An example: The kid is seven now, but I've been teaching her that her body is her body since day one. All the standard ways. No one gets to kiss her, not even me or mr. delagar, unless she wants a kiss; she gets to wear the clothes she wants to wear; when she asks me whether she can get a tattoo when she grows up, I give her the little liberal parent lecture ("Well, the Torah says this about tattoos, but we interpret it this way, so it's probably okay in a religious sense, on the other hand people will think blar blar blar, but it's up to you because as you know it's your body and you can do as you like with your own body." and all the while you must picture mr. delagar who so does not want his child getting a tattoo or a belly button ring or a tongue stud EVER sitting there with his eyes squinched like this saying in his head o please can't we just tell her NO?).

Anyway. A few weeks ago I came into the front room and she's sitting in the white chair and there's a pile of hair on the floor next to her -- her hair -- and she's snipping her new scissors dreamily. "AAAARGH!" I howled. "WHAT DID YOU DO?"

"Well, Mama," she said, very calm and cozy and certain of herself. "It's my body."

Which of course it is.

So I had to let it go.

"Interesting haircut," I said, only slightly strangled, and went on into the kitchen.

Better or Worse?

From Emma Jane, over at Barely Tenured:


Compared with your parents when they were the age you are now, is your standard of living now much better, somewhat better, somewhat worse, of much worse?

This is a no-brainer for mr. delagar and me. Even though we're doing 300% better now than we were a year ago (amazing what declaring bankruptcy will do for you), our standard of living is still pretty sucky. We rent a house on the very edge of an acceptable neighborhood, both of our cars, while they are paid for, are ancient pieces of junk, we own nothing of value, if you don't count a bazillion books (and you'll be interested to know that the bankruptcy court did not -- if we had had boats, or motorcycles, or ATVS, or goats, all of that would have been stuff they would have seized -- but books? Nope. Useless junk, books.).

mr. delagar, as a graduate student with three different ill-paying jobs, though he makes enough to be above the poverty level, as it is defined by our charming government, does not make near what his father made at this age -- a subject which is a sore trial to him. ( I point out that his father was not also being the primary caretaker for a child. This does not cheer mr. delagar up. It ought to, in my opinion.)

I made more than my mother did when she was my age -- she worked for the New Orleans public school system -- but since I'm the primary wage earner we ought to be comparing me to my father, I guess, and no, not near what he was making at my age.

When my parents were my age, they owned a four bedroom house; they could afford summer vacations; they could afford to send my younger brother to private school. They could raise four kids and plan to send them all to universities. They could plan for a fairly luxurious retirement. My mother was working, but she had just spent our childhood at home with us, and my father, after that, had sent her to back to school, to get her B.A. He could afford to do that.

I guess our situations are somewhat similar -- mr. delagar is back in school, he's staying home with the kid, we've got her in private school -- but it's one kid, not four, there won't be a luxurious retirement (we joke that we just won't ever retire, because we're certainly not managing to save much for it), mr. delagar is working all the while he's in school, he worked the whole time he "stayed home" with the kid (we scheduled his work hours around mine, and put her in daycare or preschool part time), not to mention the state, not we ourselves, is paying for his education.

And not to mention the anxiety. I don't know if my parents felt this. Maybe they did. We always know that my job can vanish. (It's non-tenured. This university doesn't have tenure. I'm on a two-year renewable contract. I don't expect it to vanish, but still.) Life in 2005 is so uncertain. Even if your job doesn't go away, there's the health care crisis (despite the denials of the Wingers, it exists): if you get sick, your financial situation will be destroyed. And everyone knows this, on some level. Gasoline prices, ditto. The War. The religious whacks. Global warming. One thing after another, not to mention what's up with the growing rift between the hideously wealthy and the desperately poor. Yeah, the anxiety is the worst of all.

But I'm sure our parents had anxiety too.


Monday, May 16, 2005

Yep. You Bet.

His 14 year old son gets in trouble at school.

He beats him with a belt so viciously that the kid requires a trip to the ER.

He claims this is "proper discipline."

The state is trying to decide whether or not to charge him with assault.

I'm trying to decide what century we live in.

Malone said what happened was a "parental intervention" after his son had a discipline problem at school.

"Our children cannot be expected to act in a disrespectful way to teachers and other individuals in positions of authority," he said in a prepared statement. "Proper discipline is an important and necessary component of good parenting."

(Via DED Space:

Christian Nation? You Decide

Here's a prime example of why I should be a fry cook:

So far no less than three of my World Lit students have, on their final exams, defined parable as "a short story with animal characters, with some moral point, usually found in the New Testament."

And before you ask, no, these are not furrin students.

These are straight-up white-bread American children.

And that sound you hear? That is indeed me banging my head against the wall.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

That Time of Year

Finals being over, grading season is upon us. So posting will be light for the next bit.

Not to mention, it's a discouraging time of the semester. How much I did not teach them gets made so appallingly clear. This is always when I think what an excellent fry cook I might have made...


Heh. No surprise here -- I'm a post-modernist.


My score for fundamentalism was 0% though. That makes me very happy.

(Via Geeky Mom: http://geekymom.blogspot.com/)

Being A Good Christian Girl...

This is more on that whole obedience thing, because just when I think I have been as horrified as I can be by the Levitican/Christian's insane notions on obedience, well.

This via Pandagon, and it's a Good Christian girl explaining something Milton had already explained, back in the 17th century: how when a woman obeys her man, or in this case her daddy, she is actually obeying God.

The order of God, as indicated in his word, is that God himself defers to the will of the father when it comes to his daughter. God says, "You heard your father. The answer is no." Thus, the will of the father regarding his daughter IS the will of God.


Emphasis is in the original, btw.

The whole thing is a lengthy essay about how "godly" girls know that they belong to "daddy" and have no desire for anything nasty like independence or making their own decisions, on the men they will marry or anything else. (On the careers they will have? Well, silly! They won't have careers! Good daddies raise their girls to be supported by their men, and good girls want to be supported, of course! Good girls know they should be dependent all their lives! Good girls just sit and wait for their daddies to find them new daddies to belong to, of course.)

Or, to quote our little Biblical scholar:

I am owned by my father. If someone is interested in me, he should see him....it is not to be wondered at that our generation speaks only of women's rights and children's rights, whereas the Scripture speaks of God's rights and parents' rights.

Can I simply say, as an actual scholar of the Bible, that this is such a misreading of the text, that it makes me physically ill?

Parents do not own their children. Parents are responsible for the care of their children, for the education of their children, for protecting their children. But parents do not own the souls of their children.

And parents certainly do not stand in the relationship of God to their children. This is blasphemy. This violates the first commandment. To teach a child something like this is, in fact, to mislead -- to miseducate -- that child.

With obvious bad results and obvious risks that I'm sure I don't have to lay out for you folk here.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Put Down That Plato

Here's another guy with some of Dennis Prager's moral values.

He thinks everything is very simple.

Guys he agrees with are good. They should go to heaven, and make lots of money, and get candy.

Guys he doesn't agree with are eee-eee-eeevil. They should be killed. He doesn't really care how.


And you thought figuring out moral issues was tough.


(Some of the comments are good ones though. You might read those.)

Update on Sowell's Silly Column

Remember Sowell's question about how the worker at Wal-Mart could be living on what Wal-Mart paid if Wal-Mart wasn't paying a living wage?

Here you go, Mr. Sowell:

Estimated total federal assistance for which Wal-Mart employees were eligible last year: $2,500,000,000[Democratic Staff of the Committee on Education and the Workforce (Washington)]


Friday, May 13, 2005

Well, okay then

Ask, and you do receive.

They took Hagar down.


More Hagar

If we had any sort of a sane government, something would be shaking over Hagar.


But no. It's only women complaining, and Democrats.

So long as the Levitican Christians are happy, Bushco is all "La-La-La I can't hear you."

I'll tell you the part that scares me the most about Hagar's little sermon, though -- and the part that ought to scare you, if you're a woman, or you're married to one, or you have a daughter, or a sister -- it's the part where he says Satan is behind Plan B.

Satan is behind Plan B, says Hagar.

Plan B is nothing but emergency birth control.

All Plan B does is keep what might be a fertilized egg -- might be -- from implanting. (There might not be any fertilized egg at all, of course. This is the Schrodinger's Cat of birth control.)

That's all regular birth control does. That's all the pill does, that millions of woman take every day. That's all the Depo shot does. That's all Noroplant does, and the patch does.

Satan's behind those, too?

Hagar seems to suggest so.

What, then, does Hagar's version of God want women to do, might one surmise?

If Hagar were in charge of women's health --

See, here's where it stops being funny.

Hagar, thanks to Bush, is in charge of women's health in this country.

Thursday, May 12, 2005


Over theah in Kentucky the state police done arrested a fella for riding his horse drunk.

On off duty state trooper called dispatchers after he got behind Millard Dwyer, and his horse Prince, on Bourne Avenue.

The officer says he followed Dwyer to the intersection of Borne and Race Street. A Somerset Police officer then arrested Dwyer, after police say his breath test was three-times over the legal limit.


Can you feature that?

However, the officer says he was justified, despite Dwyer's protests, since a horse is a vehicle, under state law.

When I was a young MFA student, up in Fayetteville, I knew a girl who got a DUI for riding her bicycle drunk. Much the same argument got made.

Of course, in Fayetteville, they would arrest young MFA students for walking around drunk. It was called Public Intox. And, frankly, who could blame them? We were a mighty obnoxious bunch.

I mean, not me personally. I would never have behaved in such a fashion. Laws, no.

I speak of other MFA students. That's right.

Good Lord

Here's another stupid one -- though calling Ben Shapiro stupid is sort of like calling water wet.


But the thesis to his fine, insightful essay?

It is our lack of moral values, and our inability to feel rage at the misbehavior of others (thanks to too much therapy -- see that Sommers book, One Nation Under Therapy, all the conservatives are salivating over, because it proves, yes, proves, that therapy is a waste of time, thus reinforcing their worldview, which is all you need to do with your troubled kid is whale on him with a belt and take him to church about sixty times a week and he'll be fine, thank you JESUS, where was I? Oh yes --) inability to feel rage, says Ben: that's what led Jerry Hobbs in murder those two little girls, one of them his daughter.

If we'd been condemning people all along for wearing short skirts and wanting gay marriage and not worshipping Capitalism I mean Jesus in the right manner and, you know, generally raging against the Other, the way Jesus wants us to ("Hate your enemy, he says, there in Matthew, do evil to him who harms you, when someone smacks you on the cheek, by God, pound that fucker into the ground!"), well! Things would be very different in this country, that's all.

So get out there and start judging one another, hear me? Lest your little seven year old get killed by her father too!

They Just Get Dumber

This one is rich.

Thomas Sowell, one of the Right's favorite voices, claims that Wal-Mart is, so, paying its employees plenty of money, and anyone who claims otherwise is just a yappy Academic busybody.


To support his case -- well, he doesn't, of course, bother to support his case. (Occasionally Sowell, like Coulter, will provide support for some of his lame contentions, but, as with Coulter, when you track down his sources, you find them to be suspect, bogus, or misrepresented.)

Instead of supporting his case, Sowell just trots out Winger cliches.

....sure enough, the New York Times finds a Wal-Mart employee who complains that he is not making "a living wage."

How is he living, if he is not making a living wage?

Oh, ha ha ha.

I think I heard that one first about three years ago, from my right-wing brother, the one who's a Rush Limbaugh fan. I don't know where Rush got it.

Here's how he's living, Mr. Sowell: he's collecting food stamps, he's collecting Welfare(because he's actually probably a she, you know) for his two kids, she's collecting Medicare when those kids get sick, because she can't buy medical insurance on what Wal-Mart pays her-- and who pays all for that, Mr. Sowell?

Oh, yes. I do. And you do. And the rest of America does. We all subsidies Wal-Mart, so that Wal-Mart can continue to underpay its employees, so that Wal-Mart's stockholders -- who might some of them be the retired teachers you sing so sweetly about, but are more of them rich white guys and their wives driving Porsche SUVs and giant yellow Hummers, because I live among them, Mr. Sowell, NW Arkansas is Wal-Mart Central, that's who we're paying giant hunks of our income tax to subsidize, Mr. Sowell, so don't come getting all yappy to me about any social contract and how you didn't sign it.

Let the executives at Wal-Mart cut back just a bit. Pass on some earnings to their employees just a bit. Take some of the burden off the taxpayers of America. Be, in other words, a responsible business.

What, exactly, about that offends you, sir?


Well, here's a shock.

Hagar -- the Bush appointee to the Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs in the Food and Drug Administration -- you remember him? The one who wouldn't hire gay folk and who wouldn't prescribe birth control for unmarried women, and who thought women with PMS should just read the Bible to fix their problem? The one opposed to letting the FDA approve Plan B, the emergency contraception pill, because he believes it causes abortions? (It prevents a fertilized egg, if one is present, from implanting. If that's abortion, then so are all methods of birth control except barrier methods -- oh, yes, and abstinence.)

Well. Color me surprised. Dr. Hagar, who has issues with letting women control their own bodies, has all sorts of other control issues -- he apparently raped and sodomized his wife for years, sometimes in her sleep; sometimes he paid her for sex. He also made her account, each evening, for every penny she spent, berating her if she spent money he thought she shouldn't have. (This, from a man who is paying this same wife $2000 for a blow job.)

And then he stands in front of good, Godly people -- like Concerned Women for America -- and talks about how God has led him to his position of power.

And they suck it up with a straw.


(Via Tbogg: http://tbogg.blogspot.com/)
As Infinite Stitch points out, it's past incredible these days.



This was sent to me by one of my reporters in the field -- one of my students who is back from Iraq.

Army to stand down all recruiting for one day

By Joseph R. Chenelly
Times staff writer

The Army plans to stand down all of its recruiters for one day on May 20 amid several allegations of misconduct by some of them trying to fill the ranks, according to Army Recruiting Command.

The active duty Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard have each missed their monthly recruiting goals for three consecutive months.

As of the end of April, the three components combined had shipped some 16,500 fewer recruits to basic training than their goals had called for.

Recent reports have hinted that a few recruiters are getting desperate.

In Colorado, a 17-year-old high school student claims to have audio tapes of two recruiters telling him how to forge a high school diploma and cheat on a drug test so that he could enlist.

A recent article in The New York Times detailed claims that recruiters in Ohio knowingly pushed a mentally ill man through the enlistment process.

The television newsmagazine Inside Edition aired a report May 6 apparently showing recruiters on a hidden camera telling someone posing as a potential enlistee how to lie about possibly disqualifying background information. The show said that nine of the 13 recruiters it visited told the "enlistee" how to lie or cheat to get into the Army.

Recruiting Command is expected to issue a formal announcement of the stand down as early as later today.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Pious Pope

Interesting article in The Chronicle of Higher Education about that new Pope.

You'll recollect how the Winger blogs were saying we should all hush calling him the Nazi Pope since that was such a long time back, and plus he was drafted, he never wanted to join the Hitler Youth, and anyway we liberals, we just like calling people Nazis, Good Lord, can't we give it a rest?

Well, examine your sources, that's what the tell us in the Academy. (This isn't something those folk over on the Right like to hear, because then they'd have to look at Rush's source, and Ann Coulter's sources, and Bushco's sources, and oh my, we never would have gotten into Iraq then, would we?)

Do you know the source for the claim that this new Pope was drafted into the Hilter Youth? The source for pretty much all the data we have about his, ah, activities during WWII?

Hmm. Two books. Written by this new Pope himself.

And those two books? Oddly? They contradict themselves, as well as external chronology in, well, some key areas.

And further, as the Chronicle article notes, they have some truly interesting omissions:

...Ratzinger doesn't mention Catholic student dissidents of his era. He says nothing about the heroic White Rose group led by Hans Scholl and his sister Sophie, which operated in his Bavarian backyard. That group's principled bravery -- it denounced Nazism's slaughter of innocents through fliers distributed at both the University of Munich and towns around Munich -- resulted in the Nazis' beheading both Scholls after a fast trial in the dreaded People's Court. Such silence from a German Catholic turned high Vatican official disturbs.
But perhaps it should not surprise. Despite Ratzinger's reveries in his memoirs about academic Catholic theologians and the merits of Augustine and Bonaventure versus Aquinas, he denies a nod even to the mixed tactics of Bishop Clemens von Galen of Munster, who preached against Hitler's plan to euthanize sick, old, disabled, and mentally retarded Germans while keeping silent about Jews -- a selective dissidence also chosen by other officials of the German Catholic Church. Ratzinger never speaks of the slave-labor camp 12 kilometers outside of Traunstein. He never talks about Dachau, some 100 kilometers away, though contemporaries of Ratzinger have told reporters that townspeople knew of the camp, and even used "Watch out or you'll end up in Dachau" as a warning.

Instead, we hear from Ratzinger that Pope Pius XII -- best known in recent years as protagonist of such embarrassing exposés as Hitler's Pope, by John Cornwell (Viking, 1999); The Popes Against the Jews by David I. Kertzer (Knopf, 2001); and A Moral Reckoning, by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen (Knopf, 2002) -- was a "great figure." Coming from a theologian who remarked that "the Cross recapitulates in advance the horror of Auschwitz" -- raising questions about Ratzinger's economies of scale -- such autobiographical choices do not permit one-word exonerations, even if they don't implicate Ratzinger as an overt Nazi sympathizer. Lack of indignation, rather than complicity, is the sin of omission in his reminiscences.
Further scholarly context raises more questions. According to Ratzinger's brother, it was Cardinal Michael Faulhaber of Munich who originally stirred the future pope's childhood desire to rise in the Church. At age 5, after he saw Cardinal Faulhaber getting out of a great big black car in Traunstein, young Joseph immediately told his father, "I want to be a Cardinal too."

After the war, Faulhaber became Ratzinger's mentor and also ordained him.
As a role model for a future pope, though, Faulhaber falls short. He lunched with Hitler at Obersalzburg in 1936, voiced support for the Führer, and denounced "atheistic" Jews. In his much-praised book, Hitler's Willing Executioners (Knopf, 1996), Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, after observing that in Nazi Germany "the Catholic Church as an institution remained thoroughly and publicly anti-Semitic," immediately adds, "Cardinal Michael Faulhaber of Munich expressed this in his Advent sermons at the end of 1933." As late as October 1943, Goldhagen writes, Faulhaber asserted that "nobody in his heart can possibly wish an unsuccessful outcome of the war."


Of course, this is old news -- except for his efforts to sweep it under the rug and his refusal to deal with it.

No, it's the new Pope's more recent behavior -- his late membership on the CDF (which, the uninitiate will be interested to know, descends directly from the Inquisition), his position on gays (a source of evil) and on women's rights -- and the fact that he seems less moved, as the Chronicle article points out, by Christ's message of moral behavior than by an overriding need to demand utter obedience from all: these are the things that might alarm those of us who worry about the role of a man who has been chosen to run one of the most powerful religions in the world.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Far-Right Christians and Obedience

Here's a sample of what I was talking about with Levitian Christians and their obsession with blind and unquestioning obedience -- this is from an advice column in which a mother wonders whether or not she should beat her child for because her child obeyed her, but obeyed her without complete submission:

My suggestion to these parents is that they become more diligent to recognize passive rebellion. I can remember my own experience with our young children. When I suspected that the child was giving half-hearted obedience, I instinctively went after it as if it were overt rebellion. You must cause the child to let go of all expressions of defiance. Demand that the little one surrender her very body language and every gesture to authority. Go after the attitude. In the “light switch” situation, I would say, “Leave the light switch alone.” If there is a moment’s hesitation, any sign of delayed compliance, rise immediately and give her hand (the offending hand) two or three licks with a small switch. Don’t delay even fifteen seconds. No more discussion or rebuke. No removal to a more secluded location. No “bend over on the couch.” Before she can move away from the area of the switch, administer the rod of truth. After such an episode, to confirm that she has yielded completely, give her several other commands not related to the immediate situation. Put her through a brief “drill” to certify your authority and her submission. For example, you might tell her to move the chair to a new location, “Put the socks in the laundry, “ “Sit down—Stand up,” etc.


(It's from No Greater Joy Ministries Online.)
(Via Infinite Stitch: http://stitch.blogs.com/the_infinite_stitch/)

Monday, May 09, 2005

Talking Back

So I spent part of the weekend reading Kosher Living, by Ron Isaacs, another of our haul from the Fayetteville library last weekend.

(The other parts of the weekend were spent celebrating the kid’s birthday and grading final portfolios for my freshman essay class – the kid had a cake from Creative Kitchen, an excellent local bakery, one of the few excellent things in Fort Smith. It had flowers and bugs on it. This bakery will do things like that. The kid looked around at all the cakes and said, “I want a cake with flowers on it. And bugs.” And the woman behind the counter said, “We can do that.” And they did. And it was perfect: sunny yellow flowers on white icing with ladybugs, blue caterpillars, green inchworms, and butterflies. Lovely. Adorable. And tasty.)


I’m grading portfolios, and in between grading portfolios I am reading Kosher Living: It’s Not Just the Food, which I highly recommend, not just for Jews. It’s a book on how to live right in the universe (which is what Kosher means – living right – right livelihood). Isaacs has answers (not just rules, but explanations) for how to do things in this world. I’m really liking this book, even if he does, at one point, quote Dennis Prager approvingly. (Prager apparently at some point in his career spoke approvingly of not allowing the TV to be turned on during the Sabbath. Well, I can’t argue with that. Even a blockhead is right twice a year.)

Where was I?

Oh, yes. Isaacs has a section on Arguing. My favorite!

It has this question: Is it kosher to argue with God?

What’s the answer? Huh? Huh? What do you think the answer is?

Isaacs says not only is it okay to argue with God, Jews are commanded to argue with God.

Of course long-time readers of this blog already knew this*, but I just love this answer so much.

Because this is the problem with (a) American Far-Right Levitican Christian culture and (b) Christian culture in general: this idea that God should not be questioned; that God should be obeyed blindly; that God is omniscient and omnipotent and that humanity, his creation, is, in relation to God, a powerless, useless, pointless worm.

This is not humanity’s role in the Torah. We are Israel: we are created to contend with God: and we do not lose.

Furthermore, we are commanded to contend with God. That’s why we exist. We’re here to argue with him when he gets things wrong, as Abraham did when God set out to destroy Sodom.

We’re here to point out his mistakes. Who else but us? It’s why he made us. It’s our job. If we don’t do it, how will he know?

Christians, on the other hand, define humanity’s job as to praise and to worship.

In their theology, God can’t make a mistake. It’s blasphemy, in their theology, to suggest that he might.

And it’s blasphemy, in their theology, to suggest that God might need anything from us – we’re useless, crawly, pathetic critters, filthy sinners, and it’s hard to imagine why God created such nasty things, except that he wants constant praise – and I can’t imagine why they’d want to worship a God like that, who created filthy nasty sinners like them so he can be praised non-stop by such disgusting beings. But apparently they do.

This theology explains a lot about the current government, of course, but also a lot about the child-rearing practices of Levitican Christians.

Dobson’s child-rearing practices, for instance: children are not allowed to disobey, ever. Disobedience is called defiance, and is punished by the child being, literally, beaten into submission (“until the child cries with true submission,” as he says in one of his books).

Or, as one of my students explained to me, when she was doing a paper on the proper way to raise children, “Any time my child disobeys, she gets the paddle.”

Bear in mind, her child was under two at the time.

This was a freshman comp class, so we were still working on basic things. So I hid my wince, and just said, “Define your terms. What do you mean by disobey? What do you mean by paddle?”

“Well, I paddle her good. Seven or eight good hard whacks.”

“With your hand? Or an actual paddle?”

She smirked at my liberal silliness. “An actual paddle.”

“And what do you mean by disobey? Disobeys you?”

“Me or any other adult. She’s not allowed to tell an adult no.”

I had just been working on automatic, though it was appalled automatic, up until this point. At this point I looked at her. She was looking smugly back.

“Never?” I said. “She’s never allowed to tell an adult no.”

“That’s right. Or she gets paddled.”

I kept looking at her. “You don’t want to rethink that position?” I asked.

She just looked at me.

“You don’t want your child to ever be able to say no to any adult?” I asked. “What about the uncle who tells her to hold still in the dark bedroom?”

She looked at me. “She doesn’t,” she started.

“What about the adult in the park who says, come on sweetie, come get in my car?”

She stared at me.

“I’m thinking you want to rethink your position,” I said. “Maybe just a little bit.”

After a moment, she said, “I never thought of that.”

“Uh-huh,” I said. I shut up at that point, though I wanted to argue further.

Our kid, on the other hand, argues all the time. Our kid would argue with a stump, as the saying goes.

“She’s making me nuts, this kid,” I told mr. delagar the other day. “I told her I was going to buy her birthday present after school, she went into instant negotiation mode. A toy present or a book present? And I said, maybe a book present and a toy present. And she says, One present toy present and one book present from you and daddy, or one each from you and one each from daddy?”

He laughed.

“And the night before last,” I pointed out, “a half hour debate on whether she had to have her hair washed in a bath she had volunteered for, or whether we only had to wash her hair in baths that were my idea!”

“I heard that one. That one was pretty funny.”

“Oh, hilarious. She argues about everything!”

“Yiddisher kop,” he said. “What do you want?”


Saturday, May 07, 2005

Walgreens Causes Abortions

So this pharmacist, Michelle Long, who works at Walgreens, decides its against her religion to dispense birth control measures -- she's a Catholic -- and refuses -- over and over again -- to dispense emergency contraceptive to women in need of it. (WISN 12 News has her on camera refusing to do so.)

At least one woman, a mother of six who could not afford anymore children, became pregnant as a result of being refused emergency contraception by Ms. Long, and, as a result of getting pregnant, got an abortion.

This is one we know of.

And what did Ms. Long think, exactly, was going to result from her refusing to dispense birth control?


(Via DEDspace: http://www.dedspace.blogspot.com/)

Friday, May 06, 2005


Here's one of the reasons listening to NPR makes me uneasy lately:


(Via Atrios: http://atrios.blogspot.com/)

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Times 1500 Now And Counting

Go see this


Ugly Kids

Here's an interesting study that shows parents don't care for their ugly kids as well as they care for their good-looking kids.


They also don't take as much care with good-looking girls as they do with good-looking boys.

Although the researchers were unsure why, good-looking boys were usually kept in closer proximity to the adults taking care of them than were pretty girls. The researchers speculated that girls might be considered more competent and better able to act independently than boys of the same age. The researchers made more than 400 observations of child-parent interactions in 14 supermarkets.

Dr. W. Andrew Harrell, executive director of the Population Research Laboratory at the University of Alberta and the leader of the research team, sees an evolutionary reason for the findings: pretty children, he says, represent the best genetic legacy, and therefore they get more care.

I put forth an alternative for the researchers: (many) parents value boys more than they value girls, and they value pretty kids more than they value ugly kids, and Q.E.D.

And that does, as Harrell postulates, make a sort of evolutionary sense -- if you accept that parents think pretty=good genetic legacy and male=better genetic value (I guess because guys can defend the cave and girls hang around and gather carrots?).

I don't know -- all this environment-of-evolutionary-adaptedness thinking is still new to me.

Freedom of the Press

Well, yes, we have a free press -- much good it does us, though, when reporters don't do their jobs, for whatever reason.

Bob Herbert's column in the NYTimes today is about what those of us who have been following the Iraqi War on the blogs -- and no, not on the 101 Fighting Keyboarders' Blogs, either -- have known for some time now: the abuse of Iraqi soldiers and citizens by some of our soldiers is out of hand: this is documented, among other things, in photographs, and those photographs have not been given play by the mainstream media. That is to say, mainstream reporters have ignored them: deliberately.

Aidan Delgado is working to get the truth out.

His goal, he said, is to convince his listeners that the abuse of innocent Iraqis by the American military is not limited to "a few bad apples," as the military would like the public to believe. "At what point," he asked, "does a series of 'isolated incidents' become a pattern of intolerable behavior?"

The public at large and especially the many soldiers who have behaved honorably in Iraq deserve an honest answer to that question. It took many long years for the military to repair its reputation after Vietnam. Mr. Delgado's complaints and the entire conduct of this wretched war should be thoroughly investigated.


Oppressing them Christians again

Amanda at Pandagon has an update on the prayer issue --

You'll remember back here


The Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors decided they should open with a prayer, to remind everyone they were living in a nice, moral country, not a godless heathen country like Europe or Iraq or any of them other heathen places.

And, even though the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors was clearly acting in its capacity as an agent of the state, this would not, they claimed, be a violation of the establishment clause of the first amendment because they would let people from different religions give the prayer.


So a Wiccan woman petitions to give the prayer.

They refuse.

She sues, with the help of the Virginia ACLU.

And she has lost the case -- at least this round:



The 4th Circuit ruled Chesterfield County’s Board of Supervisors did not show impermissible motive in refusing to permit a pantheistic invocation by a Wiccan because its list of clergy who registered to conduct invocations covers a wide spectrum of Judeo-Christian denominations.

As Amanda points out, this is bogus.

Nothing in the First Amendment says anything about the protecting the right to practice only Judeo-Christian religions; nothing in the First-Amendment says the state will only be responsible for endorsing or not endorsing (if it gets into the business of endorsing, which, Good Heavens, it ought not to be in the first place) only Judeo-Christian religions.

And, Chesterfield County guys? This is exactly why you don't go putting prayers into your meetings, your classrooms, your state-sponsered events of any kind. What do you think we liberals have been telling you all this time?

Not to protect the atheists and agnostics and Wiccans.

To protect you, and your delicate little Christian sensibilities, which can't bear up to sitting still and listening to a prayer to some God or Goddess who is not your own.

(Hey. How do you think some of us have felt all this time, by the way?

In Jesus Christ's name we pray. Amen.)

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

I'm not a racist, but...


That this guy -- and some other folks, too, if you'll read the comments -- don't get what's wrong with saying, about one of your black players, "He's a good one -- there's no nigger in him!" -- it makes me choke on my coffee.


But keep reading in the comments until you get to Patrick's comment.

Cause we got hope, people. Oh, yeah. Some of us know what's up.

Feminists & Men

Amanda over at Pandagon has an excellent post on Feminists and man-hating.


It's a standard strawman slander of those "traditional women" Wingers: you hear it from Rush and Dr. Laura and on the Far-Right Christian blogs all the time. (Have a look at this one for a typical strawman picture of how good Christian women paint feminists:


I certainly heard it from my Winger students: Feminists hate men. Liberal women hate men. Lesbians hate men. Once I came out as a feminist to my Mormon students, back in Idaho, it was the talk of the campus -- not because of anything I had said, but just because of my admitting to feminism. "Dr. Jennings? Yeah, she hates men." All my women students used to defend me: "She does not! She's married!"

Because if I was married, then obviously...hell, I don't know.

But Dr. Laura claims feminists hate men? When she publishes that book on the Care and Feeding of Husbands that tells women men are "simple" and need only two things: sex and sandwiches, and that women should use sex and food to manipulate men into giving them everything they need?

Compare that to how the women over at Pandagon see the men in their lives, and tell me who actually disdains and belittles men.

Or, better yet, go borrow a copy of Amanda Bright@Home -- don't buy it, don't given Danielle Crittenden the money -- and have a look at the men in her book.

She hates her husband because he can't earn enough money for her to have a big house like her rich friends.

(He's also a loser because he can't start a fire as well as the rich Texas guy. Who she hates because he's committing adultery. So he's a sinner. But he does have good manners. Unlike her loser husband.)

She hates the stay-at-home dad because only a wimp and a loser would stay at home with his kids, unless he's a woman, because all women should stay home with their kids, because it's the right thing to do. And all males should be out earning $400,000 a year so their wives can have huge houses on 40 acres and face-lifts whenever they wants them, and still plot behind hubby's back to squirrel away money for the inevitable day when he will have an affair with a 25 year old, because that's what men are, they're only interested in fucking and sandwiches, so better plan ahead.

(May I mention here that I know, personally, two fathers who have stayed home with their kids, and one of them is, in fact, mr. delagar and both of them think it's hilarious that anyone would think a wimp could handle staying home with a kid, also mr. delagar would like me to add he has medical proof that he has the highest sperm count in the tristate area*, so Ms. Crittenden can wank the hell off.)

Of course, she hates all the woman too. Maybe that's the problem. Maybe conservatives are just hateful. I was reading a conservative blog the other night that was arguing that South Park was actually a conservative TV show, and its main argument was that SP must be conservative because it hated liberals.

So apparently conservatives define themselves wholly and entirely through the things they hate.

Which explains a lot about them, I guess.

*discovered when we were undergoing fertility counseling to find out why I wasn't getting pregnant, after the miscarriage and previous to the kid. (Endometriosis, as it turned out.) mr delagar was very impressed with his numbers, and still finds ways to work them into conversations. "Oh, by the way..." He's much more impressed with these numbers than with his (equally impressive) SAT scores.

I read an article in the Chronicle today, BTW, that claims we always remember our SAT scores, no matter how long ago we took the SAT. I asked mr. delagar what his were and he rattled the number right off. I, of course, didn't take the SAT (Jefferson Parish public school system again -- no one bothered to tell us we ought to, no one mentioned such things as the SATs existed, it was a charming school system) so I don't have my own reference point, but is this so?

I did take the ACT, and the GRE, later, both the regular and the Lit GRE, and I couldn't tell you what I made any of those tests with a gun to my head.

FOF Dittoheads Say What?

So I’m watching Supernanny with the kid, as is our wont of a Monday evening – the kid loves Supernanny, mainly because the kids that the Supernanny shows up to reform are just so appalling, and I like hanging out with the kid, so it’s become our weekly thing to do, watch Supernanny together (mr. delagar doesn’t get it, I’m afraid).

Anyway, we’re watching Supernanny, and the kids this week are not so bad, it’s the parents who are appalling, a prime example of people who really ought not to have had children – Mom obviously isn’t exactly interested in children, and he, while he is, isn’t really sharp enough to figure out how to handle her obduracy.

My advice would have been for them to invest in a good all-day pre-school, or, barring that, an excellent full-time baby-sitter, but Supernanny always visits the sort of people who have bought into Dr. Laura’s manta that it’s e-e-e-evil to send your kids to preschool or use daycare. When Supernanny suggested a few weeks ago to the control-freak mama with the two sets of twins under the age of four that, ah, she might want to bring in some sort of mother’s helper, mama had a quietly rigid fit. They were her kids and she was going to raise them—or if she couldn’t, because she was at work, then by God her husband was. Never mind what her strictures were doing to those kids, nope, that was the rule and her family was going to follow it.

Oddly enough, it’s always this sort of family, with these sorts of strictures, that ends up needing Supernanny’s help.

Where was I?

Oh, yes. So we’re watching Supernanny nearly get defeated by Mom’s utter lack of interest in Supernanny’s methods, and I’m thinking, hmm, clinical depression or just low IQ? and suddenly this commercial appears – a well-done, very cute commercial – the kid loved it – these adorable kids telling their parents to watch out, they’re going to be hard to handle, the parents need to get some help, learn how to handle them, pronto! There’s the inevitable line about throwing a tantrum in the supermarket. At the end? It’s an advertisement for Focus on the Family.

Yep, James Dobson’s organization.

Needless to say, I’m bemused. A little appalled.

“I like that commercial,” the kid says with delight.

“You wouldn’t like the organization,” I say.

“Why? Why not? Why wouldn’t I?”

“Never mind,” I said, which of course never works.

“No! Tell me! Why?”

Obviously I should have beaten her for disobeying me, beaten her until she cried with true submission and then thanked me for the beating and then apologized for challenging my authority, as Mr. Dobson advises, because otherwise she will grow up with the seeds of rebellion in her heart.

Instead, I explained briefly that Focus on the Family was an Far-Right Christian organization that believed in beating children to make them act right, and that it was a mystery to me why they were advertising during a show like Supernanny.

Back to the show, where there was one scene with Dad smack his kid on the hand, and Jo looking shocked at this action, and this action, BTW, having no good effect on the kid. Jo, in the end, managed to teach the parents something about effective discipline (which of course does not involve smacking or beating your children) and about effective parenting (which is as important as effective discipline) and things got somewhat better in this particular dysfunctional household – but I still say Mom needs to put that three year old in a nice Montessori pre-school. The three-year-old would be happier, she would be happier, and what exactly would be wrong with it?

Then the next day, I went to the FOF website, to see if I could get a clue about what James Dobson was up to, and found a few mentions of the ads, and, interestingly, a disclaimer, saying that “just because” FOF was advertising on the show Supernanny did not mean that FOF “endorsed” the Supernanny’s methods.

Heh. You can see what this means. FOF Dittoheads are writing James anxious and/or pissy emails about the ads.

And why? Because not only does Supernanny go against everything they believe, she disproves their favorite false dilemma.

Go read the reviews of Dobson’s hideous book on Amazon.com, Dare to Discipline. The negative ones are revealing, but the positive ones even more so – nearly every positive one says the same thing: “You can choose between out-of-control children or spanking – it’s up to you!”

Right. Because those are our only two options.

Oh, wait. They aren’t. And every single Monday night, at 10 Eastern time, Supernanny demonstrates otherwise.

She takes hideously out-of-control children, and without one single smack, without even raising her voice (in fact, that is her point, that one should not raise one’s voice, that one should not behave violently toward children in any way) she turns those children into well-behaved, happy kids, mainly by (hey, imagine this) working on their parents.

Not to mention Supernanny inhabits a secular universe. No praying. No church. No invoking Jesus as we whip the daylights out of six-year-olds for the high crime of looking moody as they obey their father. And yet – cheerful, happy, well-behaved kids by the time Jo Frost walks out the door.

This must disturb FOF dittoheads to no end.

(See DEDspace and Digby for more on this: