Sunday, January 29, 2006

I love me my stereotypes

One of the things I decided early on was that I wouldn't try to tell you how to think, with this blog. I'll tell you how I think, and why I think that way--but, often enough, I'm not entirely certain about anything. I think the world is a complex and surreal place, with intricate interconnected dynamics of influence and cause-and-effect.

Certainty, that is to say, is either for those much smarter than me; or for those who have given up completely.

I happily encountered a kind philosophy professor, my freshman year in college, who took the time to essentially deprogram me from the fundamentalist religious upbringing I brought with me into his Technology, Society, and Values seminar. Frankly, I'm not even sure I'd have turned out quite sane, without Charlie's patient Socratic questioning about "truths" I was so certain of. *No comments from the peanut gallery about my relative sanity, either.

What part of your upbringing and education do you look at and think, "That. That helped define who I've become. That person (or insert other noun of your own experience) shaped how I think"?

That said, you should read Michael Bérubé's Academic Freedom essay (via Making Light.)
What animates the radical right, in other words, is not so much a specific liberal belief about stem-cell research here or gay civil unions there; on an abstract level, it’s not about any specific liberal issues at all. Rather, it’s about the very existence of areas of political and intellectual independence that do not answer directly and favorably to the state. So, for example (and this is my final example, chosen especially for you librarians out there), when in April 2005 Alabama state representative Gerald Allen proposed a bill that would have prevented Alabama’s public libraries from buying books by gay authors or involving gay characters, he wasn’t actually acting as a conservative. Real “conservatives” don’t do that. He was behaving like a member of the radical right. Indeed, his original intent was to strip libraries of all such works, from Shakespeare to Alice Walker; and as he put it, “I don’t look at it as censorship. I look at it as protecting the hearts and souls and minds of our children.” Thankfully, relatively few public officials see it as their job to protect the children of America from the heritage of Western culture.

But some do, and that’s why academic freedom is so important. It may not be written into the Bill of Rights—you know, the real one, the one in the Constitution. It is far younger than the rights enumerated there, and more fragile. But together with freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances, and the freedom of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, academic freedom is an aspect of procedural liberalism that is one of the cornerstones of a free society. If you believe in the ideals of the open society and the intellectual legacies of the Enlightenment, you should believe in academic freedom—and you should believe that it is a freedom is worth defending.

Now--I admittedly associate anecdotes like the one above with southern and midwestern states, almost exclusively. Or I did, until the PA Intelligent Design case came up, and was so hard-fought.

Is there no sin in it? offers an interesting take on that snobbery and reverse-snobbery--which I'm as guilty of as the next guy or gal:
Those who would appeal to the uneducated hold that there is a coterie of liberal wealthy academics, atheists all, who spend most of a day out-laughing one another over dark witticisms in French while they rave over food that smells like old socks. The uneducated propose that, in private, these people must actually find bodily fluids funny.

Those who would appeal to the educated claim that there is a tragic sector of the population who are functionally illiterate, watch hours and hours of television, love killing things, and find nothing more wonderful under the sun than a well-timed fart. The educated assume that, in private, these people are deeply, solemnly at one with God.
I think those observations are true and important, because those stereotypes polarize the opposite sides of the debate about what should and shouldn't be taught; and about how things should or shouldn't be taught. Deep down, she's got me pegged. On some level, I believe that if parents wants their kids to hear about Creation--or Intelligent Design, because frankly, I believe it's the same thing--those parents must be mouth-breathing Nascar fans with GEDs, and living in a 1974 double-wide, thinking frozen tater-tots are a vegetable.

That is, of course, quite wrong. So how on earth did I develop that conviction? Is this a media thing? How did these careful constructs get built? How did I manage to be so susceptible to them? This isn't a product of how I was raised. We were hardly rich and intellectual liberals--my generation was the first on either side of the family to complete college. So where do these come from, these polarized constructs in my mind?

While we're at it, how do you perceive the state of academic freedom? Are we in danger? Or for the more conservative readers, here--you know who you are *grin*--do you have personal experiences with academic bias? Not stories you've heard, mind you; but things that happened to you or yours.

What is the single most important thing to teach our children?


Frank Baron said...

Dang Mac. That last question is a bit of a head-scratcher.

I mean, in the early days, it's a no-brainer: Look both ways before you cross the street. Followed closely by: Don't hit doggies with your Tonka truck.

Overall though, what you want to distill into the little bassets' noggins is the golden rule. If they can internalize and act upon that one, then you've done an okay job of parenting.

As to the teacher who opened my eyes - it was Mr. Ernest H. Winter. It was 1966. I was 15 years old and in his grade 11 English class. He gave me a copy of J.P. Donleavy's The Ginger Man to read, saying he thought I was mature enough to "get" it. It was a brilliant, bawdy book. Reading it cinched my decision to become a writer one day.

I was blessed to have "Ernie" as my teacher til I finished high school (in those days it went to Grade 13).

It's sad to think that there are jurisdictions in North America, 40 years later, that would censure, perhaps even fire a teacher who gave the same book to a 15-year-old today.

Marina C. said...

Ok. Huge deep breath. One hellova post! Love it. Makes me think.

First off, I'm a teacher (currently on extended mat) so you'd _think_ I'd be able to answer a simple question like this? (wg).

As briefly as possible (the twins will wake soon) I believe the single most important thing to teach our children, my children, is to open their minds to people and the world, to realize that nothing is ever black or white--truth, if there is such a thing, lies somewhere in the vast gray, to listen to everyone and everything before they formulate thier own opinions, that it's important to have opinions, but not let these rule you, to never say never, and to acquire a love of learning.

How's that? Sure beats verb conjugations, no?

Anonymous said...

Mac, this is an amazing post. And, uh, you're sane. Okay, moving right along.

Your line about certainty, rather, it's more of a definition, is brilliant! ...either for those smarter, or those who have given up.

I spent a considerable amount of 1st grade in the principal's office. I was there so often, I had my own desk w/ my favorite books in it. The principal was the sweetest nun from Ireland (I know, that's where they're all from)She encouraged me to follow my dreams/imagination. And most importantly, to believe in myself. I loved listening to her. And she understood me. It took years to apply what she taught me, but at least I recalled it.

Here's a weird one for academic bias. Mind you, I did the Catholic education thing until senior year of HS. And that was because...well, never mind. Anyhoo, I grew up in S. Cal, at the beach-and we were never taught about the Japanese internment camps in Calif., right in our backyard! That one still confounds me.

Along the way, I've been blessed w/ several life's teachers, Mac. God has been very good to me in that special way.

What to teach kids-I'd say the most important thing they learn would be to not judge each other.

uniquematerial said...

Mac -
Sanity is overrated.
Trust me. I know these things.

Mayden' s Voyage said...

I know who I am *grin* and I suppose I am in the minority, but I just have to answer your question. When you ask what is the most important thing to teach our kids-- it is important to make a distinction between the Parent and the School Teacher.
As a parent, and I am my child's teacher by nature, the most important thing for me to teach my child is that there IS such a thing as Truth, and right and wrong, and that there is a moral code to live by that will affect them for the rest of their lives.
A School Teachers role is very different. There are facts and figures and history and science and a million other things that children should be exposed to. Being exposed to math and art and literature is like shining a light into a dark cavern and looking for little glimmers in eyes that are really seeing something new for the first time. Heaven forbid that my child get a teacher who does not believe in truth...there is truth in 2 + 2, and in spelling words correctly, and in knowing that water is really made up of Hydrogen and Oxygen. Teachers must stick to what is real and verifiable. It is ok to explore the orgins of man, just so long as I can reassure my child that they did NOT come from a single-celled organisim that crawled up from the sea. There are truths, or as Frank Baron said, the golden rule, that I live by and it is my right, my responsibility, my privilege, to pass on and instill those ideals in my children. I love the quote, "A man who won't stand for something will fall for anything."
And as far as Marina C. goes, I do agree with her last thought about encouraging our kids to have a love for learning, but within certain parameters. There are dangerous things out in this world of ours...people who would eat our kids alive and broadcast it just for the shock value. I am careful about what my kids read, and when they get to literature that will really expose them to alternate life styles, Godless ways of thinking, and just plain weird stuff--they need to have a foundation to stand on. A foundation that tells them...this is right, and this is wrong, and this is something new. I will never tell my kids, "you can't read this or that," but I will offer to read it along side of them.
I did have an encounter in college with an English professor that shook me a little. He started off class by telling us that there was no God. That man created God, and not the other way around. I had never met anyone who was such an Atheist. As I look back, I wish, with all my heart I had just said to him...if there is no God, why on earth are you talking about Him?;)

Mac said...

Thank you, BellaCora, for an eloquent and thoughtful post.

I think it's vital for our cultural future that we find some common ground between right and left--ground that Bérubé suggests is shrinking, in the essay linked in the post.

The only way that will happen is if we can mutually lay down those cherished stereotypes of one another, and have a real discussion.

I hope you'll stick around.

Anonymous said...

I remember an academic bias I had to deal with in a fifth grade teacher (I do not remember what the subject was) who said that people in Bible times lived to be 17 before they died of old age.

Well, I remembered reading in my Bible that people lived to be 900 years old in early Bible times, so I raised my hand and told him so.

It's not so much what he said in response as how he responded that gets me to this day.

He said, dismissively, "No they didn't. The Bible's wrong. Sit down and shut up."

Like I said, it wasn't entirely what he said that got me, but just the, 'Oh, that's stupid' attitude he attributed to what I said, that even today gets to me.

My personal answer, however, to your last question, has nothing to do with academics. I think it has more to do with philosophy. I personally think the one thing that should be taught above everything else to a child, from even the youngest age, is the Golden Rule.

You know: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." In other words, treat people the way you want to be treated. I can imagine we would have quite a transformation in this world, if we taught our younger generation to treat each other the way they themselves wish to be treated.

I loved the article, Mac, and I was actually thinking about what the gentleman said in his essay too. I read the essay last night, and it really got me to thinking about my own purposes and what academic freedom means to me.

Talk to you later!

Sean :)

Jill said...

Hi Mac. That's a great post. And very ironic because I've been involved in trying to get an Ohio conservative blogger to engage with more liberal bloggers - it was actually his idea first, but some of the more radical liberals kind of ganged up on him.

Anyway, long story short, some of what this blogger says is textbook GOP, but not all of it, and that's what gives me hope.

He had this post about the mainstream yesterday and I commented at length about what is mainstream, really.

Again, at least he is someone who is open on his blog to exploring a few things here and there. I think that even when he doesn't comment back, he's read what I've written. And that's the part of the blogosphere that makes me keep up hope that we can break down stereotypes.

His blog is

and the post was this one:

Just a warning: Lincoln Logs is unequivocally conservative. But he writes well and is young and so there's hope. :) I also see blogs like his as helpful in understanding how it is that conservatives can support what they support.

E is for Editrix said...

Mac, I want to echo what several other people have already written and say what a great diving board into conversation your post provided. I was also really intrigued because I just got home from tutoring, and my student and I were just studying the creation story (I'm kind of a one-woman Hebrew School).

Our parents and teachers really do provide us with lenses through which to read the world. I've always felt that the best thing you can give a kid are the skills they need to make educated decisions (curiosity, along with a healthy dose of skepticism). But I definitely agree with BellaCora that values like creed and faith are important to pass down as well.

Still, to me regardless of whatever religious precepts I'd like to hold to, I wouldn't be comfortable believing in any of it if I wasn't given the option to question it every step of the way. Maybe that's where the academic freedom and honesty comes in? Unless you're given all the options, how can any choice really be a valid one?

Anonymous said...

Okay, I read all the links, Mac. Took a bit, but I'm glad I did.

Sterotypes are formed in a variety of ways, IMO. Beginning w/upbringing to all external stimuli. Pretty broad spectrum. An intense bombardment of information is thrown at us from day one. We start out in our own little corners/camps of beliefs or systems of information. Thats what we go out into the world w/. For many people to change from what they know (their base) causes tremendous fear.

Even discussion can cause a vulnerabilty. Maybe it's just me, but I think a lot of this is fear based. What will happen if...

Mark Pettus said...

I'll be brief, in spite of myself. I think the answer to your last question is this:

Don't be afraid.

If you've raised your children well, they know what they need to do, what they should do... the trick is having the courage to actually do it. I'm not proud that my son isn't a bully, I knew he wouldn't be. He's a gentle spirit. I am proud that my son stands up to bullies - not to protect himself, but to protect others.

Mac said...

It's interesting that JM and Mark both pointed at fear as our greatest adversary. I also like that the golden rule has been invoked by more than one of you guys.

Because I think the two things are intimately connected--that is, we cannot treat others as we would be treated, if we approach others from a place of fear.

So what IS it we're so afraid of?
For the left, are we afraid of having all the books rounded up and burned? Afraid of having science essentially marginalized in favor of religion and superstition? Afraid of having our reproductive and sexual choices dictated to us?

Are we afraid we'll end up in those internment camps that Ann Coulter and Michele Malkin defend?

For the folks here from farther to the right; what are you afraid of? Afraid of having your choices circumvented, regarding what your children are taught, and by whom? Afraid of a society where abortions are available within minutes, at walk-in clinics next to the photo-place, in Target and Wal-M*rt? Afraid of losing your right to assemble and worship? What are you afraid of?

Mac said...

Oh--and a belated but warm welcome to you new faces. I'm really glad you're here, and I'm really glad you're participating in the discussion.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

The question of what I fear is a very good one, I think. As someone who is not really right-wing or left-wing, but rather somewhere in the middle, I think I'm afraid mostly of my personal freedoms being taken away by both sides. My freedom to believe what I want is something I'm constantly afraid of losing because of both sides of the spetrum.

I'm afraid also of a society where freedom of speech becomes possibly illegal because of right-wing Christians, especially (I speak this as a Christian myself) who think what I read or hang on my walls or enjoy looking at in private should be subject to their personal opinions of decency and morality.

I'm also afraid of a society where people may eventually become intolerant of people of my faith because of the ways other Christians have treated people in the past. Many people have this idea that if some people of a particular belief system do horrible things, then they all have to be guilty of it. I'm afraid of people judging me as a fanatic simply because of my faith or my desire to share it with those who would listen.

One other thing is that I'm afraid, because of some Right-wingers' attitudes toward the Mentally Ill, that the Mental Health system through which I get treatment may eventually lose all its funding because certain people consider it unimportant to help Mentally Ill people live productive, somewhat normal lives.

Those would be my main fears, Mac, when it comes to what kind of society I'm most afraid of living in.

JL4 said...

What is the most important thing to teach our children?

Important question to say the least. What to teach them? Hmmmm.

Okay...I'll give this one a smack. The most important thing to teach our children is the value of respect and the far reaching consequences of not having the ability to not only show respect it...genuine respect that comes from the heart.

When was the last time you witnessed a 14 year old holding the door for someone? Tough one isn't it? How about the use of words like "sir","ma'am", "please" and "thank you"?? Do we hear this as much as we should?

I think not. "You have to" comes up a lot. Or “You can’t make me” How about "I have the right"? I'll bet you there aren't 20 teens out of every 100 that could tell you the difference between a 'right' and a 'privilege', and give you a good example of each. Why do I think this? Because we continue to muddy the waters. Information is power, and a lack of information empowers others.

My take on this is because of the "freedom of education" as you call it. Rebelliousness - in whatever form it takes or eventually morphs into - is still rebelliousness. It was tried in the 60's, and look what it produced - the greediest, most self-centered generation we've ever had. Funny how things tend to come full circle isn't it? Those who criticized "The Man" now ARE the man. Of course you'll never convince those guilty what I just said is true. They weren't interested in constructive dialog in 1968 any more than they are now. Back then peace signs and a fat joint interested them. Today, money interests them; the "new" way of being subversive (a member of the media, Hollywood, legalese, a professorship at a university to name a few ways) interests them; and criticism without substantive solution interests them.

Allow me to further explain...

The current topic of the day is electronic surveillance. I'm sure it angers you that we could even think as a nation to do such an abomination, let alone actually carry it out. The conundrum is what the end result will be if we don't... September 2001, the sequel. I hear the complaining, but I'm not hearing the alternative least not something that would actually work.

Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in school is allegedly a violation of the civil rights and liberties of others who would prefer not to. The thought of just sitting there and shutting up apparently never occurred to them, nor evidently is the possibility that THEY might be treading on the rights of those who actually LIKE to say the Pledge. I find it offensive that some are always in search of the solution to "problems" that never were problems before. Like - what should we teach our children?
How 'bout math and science? Reading and 'rithmetic? A healthy respect for the possibility that there just might be a higher being or force commanding this whole thing? Oh wait I forgot...first things first. We have to teach them that standing for the National Anthem at the Super Bowl is offensive to the guy in row 13, seat A.

What should we teach our children?

My final take would be this...what should we NOT teach our children?

Marina C. said...

"Teachers must stick to what is real and verifiable..."

I believe it was BellaCora who wrote this.

All I can say in response is, I'm not quite sure you understand the scope of my profession. In terms of delivering certain curriculum, you are correct. However, delivering curriculum is only one facet of my job. On 9/11 I was standing in the middle of my class, 90% Muslim children, and frankly, the real and verifiable irregular French verb we were learning to conjugate suddenly seemed unimportant.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, fear leads to anger which further alienates discussion and continues to keep the "camps" at odds. Walking the line is a delicate balance. It calls for acceptance and compromise. It cannot occur w/o discussion. Listening is an acquired skill as is an open mind. Familiarity is safe; change brings about fear.

Common ground must be reached, or that negatively affects future generations.

I'm not sure if I'm right or left anymore. And I'm not sure how important it is. I do know I'm re-evaluating some of my beliefs and why I've held them. I do not want to ever see abortion used as birth control. Of that I'm certain.

I do not want the government telling me what I'm to believe in spiritually. If I feel like singing God Bless America in the town square, I want the freedom to do that. I want my town, or any town to have the Nativity scene at Christmas.

I want kids to say the pledge of allegiance w/ God in it at school. I want teachers (who are qualified) to teach on various subjects in our colleges. How else are young adults supposed to decide what does/doesn't fit them?

Mac said...

jl4 said: When was the last time you witnessed a 14 year old holding the door for someone? Tough one isn't it? How about the use of words like "sir","ma'am", "please" and "thank you"?? Do we hear this as much as we should?

I think not. "You have to" comes up a lot. Or “You can’t make me” How about "I have the right"? I'll bet you there aren't 20 teens out of every 100 that could tell you the difference between a 'right' and a 'privilege', and give you a good example of each. Why do I think this? Because we continue to muddy the waters. Information is power, and a lack of information empowers others.

I want to defend todays teens, for a few moments. Partly, because I know a number of intelligent, smart, wonderful--and yes, respectful--people, who happen to fall into that difficult age range between 13 and 20.

Part of what you perceive as a lack of respect is actually simply due to changing social customs and manners, I suspect. It's not that kids are especially disrespectful--it's that we teach them different sets of manners.

Frankly, though, I'd much rather teach my child look someone in the eye, and question a statement they clearly see to be fallacious, than teach them to open doors and say "yes, Ma'am."

I'd rather my hypothetical child learn courage and clear thinking, than some artificial set of manners that passes for respect.

JL4 said...

hmmmm. Ok.

Mac said...

JL4--don't mistake me. I'm glad you're here. You're welcome to participate.

Don't think for a moment your ideas won't be challenged, though. I'm interested in real discussion, not in being browbeat on my own blog by platitudes and dogma that you can't actually defend.

Let's talk about domestic surveillance, since you brought it up. You offer a false "either-or" syllogism: Either we wiretap, willy-nilly, no due process; OR September 11 will happen again.

That's poor logic. There is, of course, a third option: wiretapping with warrants--easily obtained from a federal judge, with a phone call.

Don't try to bully or scare me into just agreeing with what is both illegal and is a basic attack on our civil liberties. Even the Republicans are far from agreed, on this issue.

Ms M said...

To communicate...

JL4 said...

Nahhhh, I was tired, henceforth hmmm. No brow-beating from me. I'll try and find some time later today and speak to your comments.

Mac said...

JL4--good to hear it. I'll look forward to your return. My apologies for sounding so testy, I was rather tired, myself.

JL4 said...

Mac...we could go on for hours, but I don't have hours. You said,

Let's talk about domestic surveillance, since you brought it up. You offer a false "either-or" syllogism: Either we wiretap, willy-nilly, no due process; OR September 11 will happen again.

Ok. Firstly we don't evesdrop willy-nilly. Think about this for a second. How many different forms of electronic communications means do we have? The Internet and it's many types of ways to talk; telphones, faxes, etc. There are literally billions and billions of converstaions passed in this country every day. It's a logistical impossibility for us to monitor anything with serious intent if we do it willy-nilly. Therefore, I'm fairly certain there are specific groups and people targeted. No one is listening to me talk to my wife on my cell phone telling her how lousy or good a day I've had. If however I'm a major drug runner, weapons trafficker, child pornographer, or supsected terrorist, and I'm known to be such...they're probably keeping an eye on me.

Secondly, it's NOT an easy process to get a warrant, even if your the President. The Foreign Intelligence Survellance Act(FISA) has caused a backlog of nearly 2 and a half months PER REQUEST for a warrant. Now I do agree FISA is a necessary thing, don;t get me wrong.

I'm just saying it's not an "easy thing" any more, mostly because of the enormous numbers of requests.

JL4 said...

One more thing and I'll let this go. This is going to sound mean spirted, but it's not.

I would appreciate it greatly if anyone who uses the term "our civil liberties" would kindly change that to "MY civil liberties".

I don't feel my CL's have been attacked, threatened, or destroyed in the slightest. When anyone says "our", that means they are taking it upon themselves to speak for me, and in this particular case that means they are being agonizingly presumptuous. Nuff said.

Thank you for your blog. I DO like it. Have a good day.

Mac said...

JL4--I think that's a fair request for the purposes of this space, actually; and I didn't take it as mean-spirited.

The general expansion of power of the federal government over the private communication of citizens really doesn't concern you? Especially as that expansion happened without discussion, legislation, or any of the other legal machinery in place to provide for such situations?

Here's a question--if it was Clinton's White House, declaring that it could wiretap citizen's phones without warrants for the purpose of preventing abortion-clinic bombings, would you feel the same way?

JL4 said... it doesn't bother me to be 100% honest with yu. Private citizens who are being just that - citizens in good standing - have never been the target. Yes, there have been some celebrated examples of the FBI looking into John Lennon because Nixon was a paranoid bozo, and I know they watched over Malcom X 45 years ago - and we could debate the reasons that was a mistake for eons...but to speak to the first part...again, no. It does not bother me that the federal governament could find out about a child predator and tap his phone to keep him from harming a child...and that applies to any other situation where potential harm could occur. There is no time; there are no monetary resources; and there is no impetus for anyone in the surveillance infrastructure to spend time on anything but people that we SHOULD be keeping an eye on.

As for the President Clinton question, since you don't know me, I'll resist the urge to be as offended by that question as I've ever been about any question in my entire life.

Having said that, OF COURSE I would have - and still do - support the wiretapping of some a**hole that is going to take anyone's life, especially if it's a misguided soul who thinks killing a doctor or medical staff personnel in the ***name of life*** is some sort of justice. It is of course a gross mischaracterization of humanity by the perpetrator, and should be treated as any other murder case would be. Yes, wire tap him to stop it..yes, yes, yes.

Does that fairly much explain my position? You may not agree - nor are you obliged to - but that's my stance. Anything done to protect you, me, or anyone else who is being a solid citizen is AFFIRMING AND DEFENDING OUR CIVIL LIBERTIES, not taking away from them. Seriously.

**Capital letters for emphasis only...I'm not yelling or whatever it is some people say uppercase spelling is.***

That's my answer...honest and from the heart

JL4 said...

Jl4...darn it., I never seem to be able to finish a thought.

Remember the 3 basic tenants we've always been taught since we were kids?, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

If the government wiretaps some jerk-weed and stops him from blowing up a mall that I and my kids were going to be in at the planned attack time...I'd say that the government did a pretty good job DEFENDING my liberties. Yes, in the process they took away the liberties of the bomber, but he didn't deserve any in mind - and you'll never convince me otherwise. People are trying to hurt us. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do sometimes, and as my mom always said: "Dems da Berries"

Just an adjunct point for emphasis ;-). Be cool.

Mac said...

JL4--you argue passionately, and you state your personal beliefs eloquently.

Fair enough. *grin* I already said I'm not interested in telling anyone how to think.

Hell--I support wiretapping, too, but I want due process behind that act. I guess I just distrust the government on a deeper level than do you.

My apologies for inadvertantly offending you with the Clinton question.

December, I hear ya. I really don't want anyone telling kids it's perfectly okay to have sex at 15--in fact I'm deeply uncomfortable with the over-sexualized media images we see of children, especially little girls.

Hmm. I might have to go do some poking around. Perhaps there's a blog post in that thought.

Anonymous said...

Here I go, Mac! On the wiretapping issue. I understand where you're coming from. I do. In an ideal world, yes. Pre 9/11, yes. Nowadays, no. We don't enjoy the luxury of the time required to obtain a warrant for a wiretap.

The wiretaps are specific, not generic. If they can stop an attack then they've accomplished their job. I may and probably do come from this as a first responder's point of view. I'm not terribly fond of the idea of having been fitted for a chemical suit. To begin with, it most likely won't do any good. So, if picking up a phone call prevents me from having to get dressed up in one of those stupid things to go help/save you-then I say, great idea and I'm all for it!

I'd also like to see the ACLU and child predators isolated on a tiny island very far away from civilization. You could also include predators in general w/ them. How about a blog around that!!

JL4 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mac said...

Jean Marie--Ah, yes! It's time to send my annual donation to the ACLU, too--thanks for the reminder. :)

I think that trading due process for (perceived) increased security is a very poor trade, indeed. If the system is broke, we fix the system--I don't get to just decide, "Well, that's not going to apply to me, then--because I've decided what I'm doing is more important than our nation's laws."

JL4--This blog isn't usually this political, btw. *grin*

JL4 said...

Yeah I see that...I'm afraid I led us down this path.

Sorry 'bout dat.

Mac said...

Naw--don't worry about it. It gets political on occasion, because life gets political, on occasion.

Just be grateful you missed my Hurricane Katrina rage and incoherence. (I don't want to argue about it now, either.)

JL4 said...

katrina? Me either. Or Cindy Sheehan, or any individual people in general. Those discussions go nowhere slowly.

Wisdom Weasel said...

For my money, the most important gift you can encourage in a child is critical thinking. If more people stopped to consider the source of what they are told/broadcast/read etc. As a proto-curmudgeon of the left I never thought I'd borrow a phrase from the Gipper, but his concept of "trust but verify" vis the Soviets works well for creating a well mannered but well informed citizenry.

That, and I'd have them read Harry Frankfurt's "On Bullshit" as soon as they are able...

And for all the sillies getting their knickers in a twist about the horrible ALCU rendered process of getting a wiretap via FISA court;
FACT: the President, NSA, etc can apply for a FISA wiretap warrant up to three days after surveillance begins if they deem it vital to proceed without prior judicial oversight.
FACT: Since its establishment in 1979 the FISA court has rejected four warrant applications and approved 18,742.

But like I advocate above, don't take my word for it; go out and research it. Think how much better life would be if we subjected our own beliefs to the same rigors of investigation we demand from others.

Anonymous said...

You're information is terrific but lacks the critical element of the arguments above:

Translation: 18,000 or 18,000,000. your information doesn't state whether they were obtained in a timely manner, not do the meager requests of 1979 even remotely compare the the incredible numbers requested on a daily basis today. From reading the other statements, i think that was their position.

"Check your facts" is good advice.

Wisdom Weasel said...

Dear Anonymous,
""Check your facts" is good advice."
So would you site the source behind your assertion that the FISA court has to deal with the "the incredible numbers requested on a daily basis today."? I cna't find any factual basis for this statement backed up with statistics anywhere in the public domain. Perhaps I'm being thick but all I could find was opinion and counter opinion from the left and the right with everyone screaming unresearched statements at each other.

We can show that in 2004 (the last full year for which figures are available) the government submitted 1758 requests, of which 1754 were approved, and 3 were withdrawn by the government (the other one was a retroactively resubmitted application from 2003). That works out to just under 5 requests a day for the 10 rotating FISA judges to process. Many federal and state courts swear out at least that many warrants an hour. What the court has begun to do more regulary is modify requests; maybe becuase as the court itself noted in a 2002 opinion the DoJ "supplied erroneous information to the court in more than 75 applications for search warrants and wiretaps, including one signed by then-FBI Director Louis J. Freeh". Surely those who claim the title "conservative" favor oversight of the inefficent, bureaucratic federal government? Or this just another case of "activist judges"?

Regarding the supposed logjam at the FISA court, the (civil liberties defending? Liberal? I guess who you choose to define them is up to you) Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that "The FISA law contains intentionally flexible provisions designed to provide speed and agility in expediting emergency requests. The law grants the attorney general enormous power and discretion to authorize secret “emergency” electronic surveillance and physical searches for up to 72 hours, before any court order is granted. No court order at all is required if the surveillance is terminated before the 72-hour period ends."

So I'd love to learn more, if you can tell me, about this overwhelming deluge of applications. And if the pipeline isn't snagged by volume but rather by judicial quibbles over the veracity of the government's cases (and bear in mind the vast majority of FISA tap apps still go through unmolested) tell my why that makes it ok for the President to break the law while proclaiming one of the things that seperates us from the Islamofascists is that we are a nation of laws?

Now I really must apologise to MAc for getting into this here- it is awfully rude of us to argue on someone else's blog without really having said hello to her, especially as what we all appaer to be looking for is consensus rather than division.

Mac said...

No apologies necessary. I'm delighted to have you here, and I'm delighted to hear some actual numbers, and see some citations.

I've been a bit stymied in what little research I've done, in that I've found lots of rhetoric, with little by way of facts and figures--which always pisses me off, and which is also why I'm not arguing a lot harder.

Like most Americans, I have a limited number of hours I can give to educating myself about these things. This, of course, is why we have elected officials. Where do you turn when you don't trust your elected officials, though? Or when, as in my case, my state senators are both Dems, with a limited amount of clout in the current DC climate?

Part of being an informed populace is having the discipline to research and discuss these sorts of issues.

So my gratitude to everyone participating here. *grin*