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Awkward professor will awkwardly humor students

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.21.12

What I learned today from the kids: if your conversation stalls out awkwardly, you can make some awkward hand gestures, like "awkward turtle" (make two thumbs up. Then stack your fists so that your left thumb is facing right, and your right thumb is facing left, and your knuckles are facing the other person. Then wiggle your thumbs.) Or "awkward palm tree": Hold both arms like they're inside sock puppets. Then cross your elbows so that the puppets face opposite directions. (Your forearms are the tree trunk.) Then waggle your fingers in a droopy, pathetic, dying palm tree way. Or "awkward balloon": Make a power fist and then let your fist go droopy.

I'm noticing that it's also a thing to be hypervigilant about calling out conversation when it becomes minutely awkward. (Then you get to say "Awkward Turtle is Awkward!" or whatever.) Fortunately this is one of those things limited to kids these days.


 

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Guest Post - Minivet

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.21.12

Minivet writes:
This seems right up the Mineshaft's alley: evidence that even the highly social-democratic European states we so admire have quite regressive tax regimes compared to the US; the overall systems are progressive due to how the tax money is then spent. I did always have a hard time reconciling Canada's leftishness with what I heard about its GST.

Bearing in mind recent problems with Dylan Matthews, is the below set of explanations true, false, or misleading?

In addition to troublesome growth effects, taxes on capital income and savings tend to produce taxpayer backlashes. Monica Prasad, who co-produced the above charts, has argued that countries like the United States with progressive tax codes saw a strong conservative reaction against high taxes and welfare policies, with the net effect being that the redistributive agenda lost ground.

The counter that occurs to me is that a lot of these regressive VATs are recent creations, championed by neoliberal technocrats among others, and could instead represent a nascent turn away from progressivity.

But if there is some kind of causality in the direction presented, is this something that could be usefully applied by US liberals as a long-term strategy, assuming short-term Republican collapse and some leeway for considered reforms?

Heebie's take: Dylan Matthews is full of shit. The greed of the wealthy isn't an argument against fair redistribution of wealth, even if they've had some success destroying redistribution efforts.

This isn't an analogy, it's a resemblance: "strong conservative reactions against high taxes" is like kids wanting more candy. There's no frame of reference and no satiation point. Always, kids want more candy and conservatives are greedy for more money. Whatever, don't let them write the grocery list.

(Also there was some study that they talked about recently on NPR that showed conclusively that if you look at tax cuts on the highest tax bracket since the 1950s, there is absolutely no stimulative effect on the economy. Which anyone without a profit motive already knew, just by thinking about it for two seconds.)


 

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Promoting Crazy

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.20.12

A friend of mine said, "Obama will win unless something unexpected happens, like Romney creams him in the debates."
I said, "Romney's not going to cream Obama in the debates."
My friend said, "Have you seen any of Romney's debates in Massachusetts? He's actually a very skilled debater."
I said, "That's totally different, because it's much easier to debate the platform he advocated when he was governor. Now he's stuck defending the freaking platform of rightwing lunatics."

I don't really give a shit whether Romney believes the drivel he now spouts, or if he's just willing to say whatever it takes to represent Republicans. But I just cannot imagine anyone winning a debate against Obama from the insane platform of the current RNC. Romney may drink the kool-aid, but he also knows how goofy the kool-aid tastes to most of Americans. That cognitive dissonance is what's making him look like an awkward robot (assuming he's worse than he used to be. I've never watched any of the Massachusetts debates, and it's not in my Netflix queue to go catch up on them.)

Similarly, Mike Steele was on Jon Stewart during the Republican convention. Jammies and I were both struck by how relaxed, charismatic and smart he seemed, now that he was free to speak for himself. If you spout Tea Party hardcore Republicanese, you either look awkward because you realize how bonkers you sound, or you look like a fruitcake because you don't realize how bonkers you sound.


 

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Jesus's wife?

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.20.12

This came through the facebook feed of a theology professor that I'm friends with, and I thought it was interesting: a Coptic text, (but possibly a forgery) from the 2nd century AD, containing dialogue where Jesus refers to his wife. The text is only about 2 inches square.

Ancient papyrus fragments have been frequently cut up by unscrupulous antiquities dealers seeking to make more money.

Well that's shitty.


 

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Guest Post - Thorn

Posted by Stanley
on 09.19.12

Mara moved in with us two years ago, right before turning 3. A speech evaluation from that summer listed her as being able to use about 10 words consistently, which is extremely low for a 2-year-old. We've always been told her delays were consistent with a child who's not exposed to language directly, meaning that a lot of the time she may have sat in front of the tv but no one was actually interacting with her. Within her first 6 months with us, her vocabulary increased significantly and she was right at the boundary between mild delays and low normal by spring. Last summer, she started speech therapy, and then she graduated from it about a year ago.

In her final speech evaluation, her problem areas were gendered pronouns (where both case and gender are hard for her) and prepositions that show relative location like "under," "behind," and the like. One year later, she's still not always consistent with gendered pronouns and it definitely doesn't come naturally to her. ("Is Mommy a boy or a girl?" "A girl. So SHE gave me my blueberries." And yes, I hate being the gender police, but I want her to learn.) Prepositions are also somewhat idiosyncratic ("You play for me?" being one frequent example) but much better. However, I've noticed that while she's coordinated and athletic, she has a hard time following directions in her tumbling, swimming and now ballet classes. The other kids can hear "Lift your arm and bend your elbow!" and she just blinks, though she can follow what the teacher actually does or learn if her body is moved into position.

So I'm just curious if people want to take a crack at why these would be the particular hangups she has. My take is that essentially she's learned spoken English as a foreign language rather than a primary language, and her "first" language is totally internal or nothing. So she'd make the same kind of mistakes I made in high school French, learning "upstairs" and "downstairs" as a matched pair and then not always being able to know which word was which. Because she was able to express her wants and needs so clearly with her face and body before she had the words to express herself as a 3-year-old, she views her body differently from a child who'd learned to speak at the traditional age. (She really loves signing and it seems to come naturally to her. If I could go back and change anything, it would be to teach her some ASL from the start rather than once she had core vocabulary already.) There are wonderful things about having a child who talks about "juggling her eyes" when she's rolling them and I wish I'd kept better notes on the unintentional poetry of her descriptions.

She's at the top of her pre-Kindergarten class and starting to read, so it's not that I have worries about her long-term academic or linguistic success. I'm just curious about what has made her the child she is. I also think the problem of linguistic deprivation is widespread and I don't have any policy suggestions about how to deal with this. I don't think her speech therapy did much good, but her exposure to language from us and from classmates (and, later, foster siblings) definitely made a difference for her and the biggest factor was probably how much she yearned to talk and be understood and that she's smart enough to figure things out for herself without too much frustration.


 

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Vaccines and bugs

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.19.12

Doctors firing parents who won't vaccinate their kids. I think I'm ok with this? I like that this is an actual authority figure saying "Your parental decision does not exist within a vacuum. It has real consequences. I'm unwilling to be complicit in this irresponsible situation," because I think that's the only thing that has a prayer of making a dent in the illogic of the parents.

OTOH, then the anti-vaxxers will just have a parent board sharing which ones are the sympathetic doctors and which ones aren't. And probably already do.

Yesterday on NPR there was a bit about KPC and gram-negative superbugs, which can live on metal and plastic and even be transmitted airborne, and for which we have no antibiotics whatsoever. I may be feeling extra pro-science at the moment and angry at people who pish-posh advice from the medical establishment.

As an aside, I've currently heard of at least 3 people that I know fairly well who have had MRSA or other superbug infections. It's all seeming far too common.


 

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NYer on Ev Psych

Posted by Ben
on 09.18.12

This article reads as if it were ripped from the "virtual" pages of an eclectic web magazine!

I came up with that description all by myself.


 

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More ways in which I'm a jerk

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.18.12

A terrible way in which I jump to conclusions: Where is my [item]? No really, where is it? SOME FUCKER STOLE IT. How dare they. There are so many more valuable things, and the little shit stole my [item] which I desperately need right now but is of very little value, objectively.

Today [item] = grocery bag containing assorted granola bars and snacks. Yes, Heebie, while you were in the bathroom, someone came in your office and fiendishly made off with your granola bars. What an asshole. Obviously it turned up two seconds later and I felt like an ass.


 

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Questions Too Invasive and Hostile to Answer

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.18.12

Remember the Park Slope Hookers, Sluts, and Drug Addict moms? I love this interview with the author. Actually I just love the interviewer.

Via AWB.


 

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"In hindsight and looking at it from a different light, a better decision should have been made"

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.18.12

Crookston High thought it would be a great idea to have a Predator and Prey day, where the boys all dress in camo and the girls all dress in animal print. It got changed to just plain Camo Day after a fuss was made. God, people are so hypersensitive about girls dressing up sexualized meat that boys should hunt and kill, overriding the consent of the dead/smanged antelope.


 

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Guest Post - Witt

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.17.12

Today is Constitution Day, a holiday that languished in obscurity until Senator (and history buff) Robert Byrd resurrected it in the post-Sept-11 U.S.

Since Byrd's bill was passed in 2004, Wikipedia informs me, "all publicly funded educational institutions are mandated to provide educational programming on the history of the American Constitution on that day."

As far as I can tell, the holiday is still largely ignored. The largest commemorations I have seen are in major citizenship ceremonies, which typically generate little public attention besides a feel-good news story or two.

If you had asked me four years ago whether I thought Constitution Day would be more meaningful under a Barack Obama presidency, I would have answered with an unequivocal yes. Today, that question makes me cringe.

Despite true progress in many policy areas compared to the Bush years, to me one of the most appalling aspects of this administration is civil liberties issues. Assassination of US citizens, continued indefinite detention of supposed suspects, the horrific solitary confinement of Bradley Manning....it goes on and on.

So what's a civil libertarian to do? I'm not talking about voting in November, but rather what specific steps to take on this particular issue.

I can't say I've come to any grand conclusions. My tactics to date have been a) donate money to CCR and other civil rights orgs, b) speak up against these policies when they come up in casual conversation. But honestly, just thinking about them makes me tired and angry. I've definitely gotten more disillusioned in the last four years.

How about you?


 

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Liberty Island

Posted by Stanley
on 09.16.12

I had a surprisingly fun conversation with a libertarian at a party recently. I posited the hypothetical: "Imagine you're suddenly and for no explanation on an island with 1,000 other people. It's an island roughly the size of Manhattan but completely undeveloped and heavily wooded. It's also in the middle of a vast ocean with no other visible land nearby. Do you need any rules? If so, which ones?"

It turned into a delightful conversation where he conceded that, duh, a bunch of rules are necessary. (My favorite rule that we came up had to do with oyster harvesting.)

Try it next time you find yourself in a conversation with a libertarian. It's so much more tolerable than having to talk about the Fed or trutherism.


 

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