Purity and Outreach

Generally, however, purity movements either abandon their quest for purity in favor of rewarding in-group status (see the treatment of recent Republican infidelity revelations) or they splinter into tinier sects, some still obsessed with purity, others offering various loopholes (see the Mormon polygamist groups).

None of these outcomes are anything I want to see for any group I’m involved with, so I twitch when I see someone trying to draw, for example, simple lines between what is and what is not feminism. And when I say twitch, I mean I tell y’all about it.

Most recently, I’ve been twitching about these big, overlapping groups of rationalists and critical thinkers who are out here fighting the good fight against various forms of irrationality.

It’s hand in the blender time, I’m afraid. Over at Quiche Moraine.

Methodology Matters

Via Barbara Drescher comes a lovely analysis behind some rather sensational reporting:

Technology addiction among young people is having a disruptive effect on their learning, researchers have warned.

Their report concluded that modern gadgets worsened pupils’ spelling and concentration, encouraged plagiarism and disrupted lessons.

Luckily for those of us who might have some contact with teenagers, education or technology (how many of us is that again?), Anne Marie of Wishful Thinking in Medical Education sprang for the report behind the press release.

With regards to ‘tech addiction’ this seems to have been a self-assessment based on response to the question: How addicted are you to the internet or your mobile phone? The proportions given in the BBC report are those who stated they were ‘quite’ or ‘very’ addicted. Of course, we don’t know what the students meant by ‘addicted’.

With regards to this addiction harming learning, there is no analysis relating the perception of being addicted to outcomes in learning. In fact very few of the questions are related in any way to learning.

The whole thing is worth a read, as is a comparison between the BBC article and the blog post. It highlights the way that several red flags regarding the research are reported in the article without being emphasized or interpreted in any way for readers who don’t already know that these are flags.

Commenter Behavior and Misbehavior

Those of you interested in trolling (the “cross this bridge and I’ll eat you” kind, not the “anybody biting?” kind), should read a couple of recent threads. At Making Light is “The Bully Pulpit,” an examination in the abstract of dealing with misbehavior and drawing the line between behavior and being. It’s a short post with a very long comment thread, which I’m not done reading just yet, but which is remarkably thoughtful and, even while digressing, stays remarkably on topic.

Then, from Greg’s blog, an exercise in specifics in which the commentariat is polled: “What do we do about Mike H?” Um, ignore that bit where people are complimenting me, please. It’s the rest of the discussion, and the conclusion, that are interesting.

Dear Democrats

You want my money, I know. I gave you a bunch in the last election, and you’d really like me to give more. However, before you send that e-mail and interrupt what I’m doing, here’s what you should know about what I want.

I don’t want a bunch of money spent on safe elections. As much as I love Rep. Ellison, and I do, I didn’t donate to his campaign last year. He didn’t need it, and our district didn’t need to increase our collective carbon footprint with a bunch of mailings that would have made no difference. Democratic incumbents in Minneapolis, this means you’re generally out of luck unless something gets very interesting. Then we’ll talk–maybe–after I’ve done some research. In other words, I’ll call you.

I don’t want a bunch of money spent on infighting. If you want to be governor, take your pledge to abide by the nomination of the party. Spend your money inspiring your supporters to show up at the caucuses on your behalf, not tearing down your opponents. Remember that it’s about the state, not about you.

I don’t particularly care about meeting you. I’m not awed by celebrity, speeches are slow, and access shouldn’t be something I’m paying for or you’re selling. If you want to set up a fundraiser for you, make it a joint fundraiser that also benefits people who are screwed under the current system. Highlight the problems you want to be hired to solve by helping to solve them.

And finally, about health care reform: I’m not donating any money to Democrats in general until they get their act together. Period.

There are damned few of you who have provided leadership on this issue. Ellison has. Franken has. A few others around the country have, mostly in the House. They have my support. MoveOn has my support. A few other groups that are advertising have my support. That’s it.

Until the party itself steps up to advocate for affordable care with a robust public option, nothing. Until the DCCC starts extorting cooperation from House members, nothing. Until the White House stops trying to compromise itself into line with the status quo, nothing. It’s that important an issue, and it’s that simple.

Thank you for your time and all that lovely attention paid to my wallet.

Joe Wilson and SCV Links

So, I was engaged in a little…discussion on Facebook with commenter Rob (#26) from Greg’s post, “Joe Wilson’s outburst is not about civility. It’s about racism.” We were…chatting about Rep. “Joe” Wilson’s membership in the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), when someone dropped in some reading that was too good not to pass along. Thanks to Graeme for the links.

Lost Cause

But preserving that firewall is an uphill battle. Hilderman’s anti-racism campaign has generated little enthusiasm inside the SCV. Currently, the only publicly identified member of Save the SCV is Hilderman: The men who founded the group with him have since left the SCV–having evidently concluded it was beyond saving–and those SCV members who support Hilderman’s cause, he explains, are afraid to say so publicly for fear of retribution. Indeed, ever since founding Save the SCV, Hilderman has been routinely denounced as a traitor and a scalawag; on SCV-affiliated websites, he is portrayed wearing a Union uniform. “May God forgive your ancestors for having such vile and ignorant offspring,” one outraged SCV member e-mailed Hilderman.

A House Divided

The grainy video frames, now almost two years old, are somewhat cryptic. At length, the speaker describes “heritage coalitions” as a new way for SCV members to cooperate with other neo-Confederate groups in fighting so-called “heritage violations” — acts like taking down the Confederate battle flag.

“Theoretically, it’s a citizen’s coalition, anybody can join,” the speaker explains to a room full of listeners in this April 2000 videotape.

For those on the outside, such coalitions may seem like harmless anomalies. But the speaker was none other than white supremacist attorney Kirk Lyons, one-time member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance and current darling of neo-Confederate extremists (see profile, “In the Lyons Den,” Summer 2000 issue, Intelligence Report).

Standing next to David Duke, Lyons was addressing a gathering of the neofascist American Friends of the British National Party that included many of America’s leading far-right activists.

George W. Bush and the Confederacy: Where Does He Stand?

While academics may argue over whether the museum celebrates or simply informs on the history of the Confederacy, it is clear that the Lone Star Ball, held on March 21, 1998, celebrated many of its aspects. Held at the Tredegar Iron Works Gun Foundry Building, the place where Civil War arms were produced for the Confederacy, it flew the confederate flags of all the Southern states and featured hundreds of guests in period costumes. A spokesperson of the museum said that Bush had written a letter of welcome to the attendees of the ball, which each year honors a southern state and in that case honored the state of Texas. Bush’s office refused comment.

What Trent Lott is, cont’d

Rather than reconcile himself and his state to Lincoln’s victory in the Civil War, Lott has spent much of his public career seeking to burnish the reputation of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. He has urged the posthumous restoration of Davis’ citizenship and proclaimed that the Republican platform reflects Davis’ ideas. In May 1998, Lott spoke at the dedication of the Jefferson Davis “Presidential Library” at Beauvoir, the former Davis estate in Biloxi, Miss. His remarks were reproduced in a Sons of Confederate Veterans newsletter, with an introductory note by one of the chapter officers. “If there was any doubt [whether] the Senate Majority leader’s heart is in our cause, this speech should answer all doubts.” (For a deeper understanding of what is meant by the SCV “cause,” look here and here. Lott told the assembled crowd, which included then-Gov. Kirk Fordice, who allocated more than $3 million in state funding to the Davis library, that the Confederate leader had been the guiding light of his political life. “Sometimes I feel closer to Jefferson Davis than any other man in America,” he said. Perhaps he aspires to achieve the status he ascribed to Davis, as “the Congress’s leading intellect and voice of Southern nationalism.”

The Cross They Bear: Whiteness, Religion, and the Confederate Battle Flag in the American South (pdf)

At the regional level of the South, a variety of groups have been actively involved in the flag debate. Most prominent have been ‘Neo-Confederate’ groups who view the region as the exclusive domain of native Southern white Christians (African Americans are largely if not entirely excluded from their definition of the region), and who seek secession if necessary to create their vision of a white Christian South. We discuss the Neo-Confederate movement in more detail below. However these groups including the League of the South, the Council of Conservative Citizens, and, more recently, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, have been actively defending and flying the Confederate battle flag over the past two decades (Potok 2000, Sebasta and Hague 2002, Webster 2004, Webster and Leib 2005). These groups have been prominent in local and statewide controversies about the flag, have worked to defeat legislators they view as anti-battle flag, and have lobbied heavily for legislation promoting, protecting and defining the flag’s meaning (for example, the SCV has filed lawsuits against state motor vehicle agencies to force them to issue specialty car license plates that feature the battle emblem).

Enjoy your reading and any subsequent…gentle debate.

How Many Cops

…does it take to protect a counter-protester from teabaggers?

More than they originally thought, apparently. I particularly like the bit toward the end in which the counter-protester is being a pain in the cops’ ass. They’d obviously very much prefer that his protest be done as soon as possible to avoid conflict. That’s just as obviously not his priority. More power to him. Literally.

How to Think

I’m feeling terribly lazy today (which is a huge step up from exhausted). In lieu of the thoughts on outreach and purity movements that are bubbling around in my head (the thoughts, not the…oh, never mind), I direct you to the generally excellent Vagina Dentata and a crash course in critical thinking.

This was interesting because it challenged me and my preconceptions about women engaged in BDSM. It wasn’t what she said on the EA Games issue, all of which I agree with: this objectifies women, ‘Booth Babe’ is a demeaning term, it encourages sexual harassment not just of the ‘Booth Babes’ but all women attending ComicCon etc.

There are two things that I find challenging about this: empowered feminists being sexually submissive and BDSM models criticising the objectification of women.

Step 1: Don’t dismiss the cognitive dissonance.

Read the rest.

Why Vaccinate? For the Fragile

Carrie, of course, is not otherwise healthy. She’s prone to seizures, one of the rare complications of pertussis. She also has that problem with swallowing.

Think back to the last time you had a bad coughing fit. It’s gross, but think about the saliva and the mucus. Think about the last time you threw up. Now imagine all that together, along with gasping for air–and not being able to swallow.

If Carrie gets pertussis, she’ll almost certainly get pneumonia. Well, she will if the doctors can keep her from choking to death first. There’s a very good reason that pneumonia is a common complication of pertussis, even without Carrie’s problems.

A far too personal vaccination story, at Quiche Moraine.