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Remembrances of things past (and future)

The New Yorker:

The next target is Wall Street,” an anarchist collective known as Black Mask wrote in its January newsletter, 1967. On February 10th, around twenty-five members of the group, wearing black balaclavas and carrying giant skulls, took to the streets of the financial district and handed out this statement:

WALL STREET IS WAR STREET

The traders in stocks and bones shriek for New Frontiers—but the coffins return to the Bronx and Harlem. Bull markets of murder deal in a stock exchange of death. Profits rise to the ticker tape of your dead sons. Poison gas RAINS on Vietnam. You cannot plead “WE DID NOT KNOW.” Television brings the flaming villages into the safety of your home. You commit genocide in the name of freedom.

BUT YOU TOO ARE THE VICTIMS!

If unemployment rises, you are given work, murderous work. If education is inferior, you are taught to kill. If the blacks get restless, they are sent to die. This is Wall Street’s formula for the great society!

The photographer Larry Fink was there. “They had nothing but their own stealth, and no support,” Fink told me. They hoped to stoke a revolution. “They were working from a massive historic misinterpretation,” Fink said.

Fink thinks that today’s Occupy Wall Street protests are different. “We’ve gone past the time when utopia seemed like a viable option,” he said. “There’s no hope for some kind of Marxist future, so it seems formless. They just know that it can’t go on like this: the greed, the inequality. It can’t go on, so we’ll sit here.”

That picture above was taken in 1967.

Here's one he took two years later:

Click over to see the whole slide show. The pics are great.

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Fighting communism three times a week

I am reading way too many lugubrious recitations of the origins of the mythical populist Tea Party these days. Will Bunch sets the record straight.

One of the biggest myths about the Tea Party is that a driving force in its creation was anger over bank and Wall Street bailouts. It's true that some rank-and-file joiners did feel that way at first, but they were quickly co-opted by the movement leaders -- including radio talkers and groups funded by the Koch Brothers -- into worshipping the rich instead.

Here, by way of Brian Hickey, is what the local Independence Tea Party has to say about Occupy Wall Street:

“The idea that Wall Street is the root of all evil is also an anathema to us. Like any other institution, Wall Street has its corrupt figures–and such individuals should be dealt with accordingly,” said Ms. Adams. “But to condemn Wall Street, en masse, is akin to condemning our entire free enterprise system.

“Our Association deplores corporate bailouts (GM), corporate subsidies (Solyndra), and corporate welfare. At the same time, however, we recognize the contributions and achievements of America’s chambers of commerce.

So why does the Tea Party deplore the government rescuing GM -- which actually makes things and employs thousands of middle-class Americans -- and yet make no reference of the massive corporate bailout of AIG, which makes nothing but profits (or risky losing bets). This is what hypocrisy looks like.

Indeed. It's very, very, very important to remember that the Tea Party is simply the Christian Right in a tri-corner hat. They are the same people Rick Perlstein colorfully described here:

The John Birch Society meetings in suburban parlors nationwide, in which chapters no bigger than two dozen members — a cell structure ostensibly to prevent Red infiltration but that, as it happened, was also the ideal size for a cocktail party — plotted how to forestall the Communist takeover of the PTAs by taking them over first. "I just don't have time for anything," a Dallas housewife told Time in 1961. "I'm fighting Communism three nights a week."

Not trying to take anything away from them. I'm sure they are very sincere. But let's not ever get confused about their "populism." They hate government, not corporations. They are the most unlikely allies for progressivism in American politics.

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States rights be damned

This morning I speculated that the Obama administration might decide to sacrifice women's rights in exchange for its more populist rhetoric (Democrats simply refuse to make a straight liberal appeal)and that's still very possible. But this looks like an immediate offering to the social conservatives, whose loathing of personal freedom and pleasure extends beyond sex and even eclipses their fetishization of states' rights. They're going to love this:

Federal officials are warning California medical marijuana dispensaries they must shut down within 45 days or face criminal prosecution and having their property confiscated.

The state's four U.S. attorneys sent letters Wednesday and Thursday notifying at least 16 pot shops or their landlords that they are violating federal drug laws, even though medical marijuana is legal in California. The attorneys are to announce their coordinated crackdown at a Friday news conference.

The move marks an escalation of the conflict between the government and the medical marijuana industry.

That ought to please even the most ignorant culture warrior while angering virtually every liberal and libertarian in the state. I wonder how many social conservatives with vote for the president's re-election because of it?

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Red Herring Bill Threatens Public Lands, Public Health & Jobs

Today in America, 14 million people are out of work through no fault of their own, dragging our economy ever closer to another recession. The first priority of Congress should be to create jobs. The American Jobs Act, which would add nearly two million jobs to the economy, is being summarily dismissed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, the GOP leadership asks us to consider absurd bills like H.R. 1505, which this week passed the House Committee on Natural Resources, where I sit as a Member.  This legislation will hand over control of all public lands within 100 miles of the borders - like our national parks, forests, and beaches - to U.S. Customs and Border Protections.  Ironically, it's named the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act. Under H.R. 1505, without any public notice, U.S. Customs and Border Protection could build roads and gates and install surveillance equipment in places that Americans treasure - from Glacier National Park in Montana to Cleveland National Forest in California and Olympic National Park in Washington. This legislation would, in effect, hand over the keys to many of the most beautiful places in America - places you and I own as the birthright of being an American, places that with proper stewardship our great grandchildren will one day own too.  
H.R. 1505 is the latest chapter in the ongoing story of a Republican Congress that is attacking decades of environmental protections - and their efforts are getting increasingly creative and desperate. This bill would exempt U.S. Customs and Border Protections from complying with dozens of popular protections for public health and our environment, including the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and even the Farmland Protection Policy Act, which aims to preserve America's agricultural lands. I've been in public service for decades, and I can't recall a time when public lands were ever under such repeated assault by people who are dutifully sworn to protect them.  

There are several unanswered questions about how this legislation would impact rural communities, potentially decimating their economies and destroying local jobs.  The national outdoor recreation economy - which includes camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, and many other activities - contributes $730 billion annually to the U.S. economy and supports nearly 6.5 million jobs across America. How will H.R. 1505 affect areas that depend on outdoor recreation as their economic engine?  At a time of high unemployment in rural areas, we can't afford to let that question go unanswered.

Disguised in the name of border security, this bill undermines the future of our national parks and forests, rolls back landmark environmental protections, and opens to the door to increased economic uncertainty in rural communities.  We must stand strong against H.R. 1505 and any further attempts by Republicans in Congress to attack our public lands.

Congressman John Garamendi sits on the House Natural Resources Committee. He previously served as the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Interior Department under President Bill Clinton and as the chair of the California State Lands Commission.


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Occupying California by David Atkins

Occupying California
by David Atkins ("thereisnospoon")

The Occupy Wall Street protests are spreading like wildfire around the country, not least in California, where they are garnering positive media attention.

As I noted earlier, local lawmakers in Los Angeles are cheering on the protesters.

In Santa Barbara, protesters are largely peacefully holding their ground despite curfew arrests, and receiving positive vibes from the local media.

In San Francisco, 600 people made their presence felt in front of the Federal Reserve building and many continue to camp out there. The press coverage in San Francisco has been supportive.

And in my own backyard in Ventura County, I was one of a little over 40 people attending the Occupy Camarillo event yesterday. The county newspaper the Ventura County Star, normally fairly conservative-leaning, wrote an article free of the condescension and irony apparent in so much of the East Coast establishment media:

The Occupy Wall Street protests have spread to Ventura County with Facebook pages set up for Occupy Camarillo and Occupy Ventura and protesters gathering on Ventura Boulevard in Old Town Camarillo late Wednesday afternoon.

The grass-roots movement whose slogan is "We Are The 99%" aims to focus attention on what it says is a wealth distribution in which 1 percent of the U.S. population owns the majority of the wealth and on whether that 1 percent should pay higher taxes.

By 5 p.m. more than 40 people had gathered in front of the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalen at the Highway 101 on-ramps and offramps carrying signs saying, "We are the 99% and so are you."

Many drivers honked their horns in support.

"I've thought about it for months — that we need to stand up — and they motivated me, the young people in New York and around the country," said Patty Osborne, a 51-year-old mother and caregiver.

"Nothing's moving because the economy is just stuck, and people are fighting in Washington, and I'm sick of it," she said. "It's time for the people to say 'enough.'"

The protest was organized by Carolyn Crandall of Camarillo.

"Last week I was watching the TV, and I said: 'I've got to get up off the couch. I can't stand it.' I am over the Wall Street greed," she said.


This is a movement that is now resonating and gaining steam all over the country. But it's mostly only in the establishment media on the east coast that the protests are viewed with condescending skepticism.

One of the biggest problems with the American media is that the vast preponderance of its infrastructure is situated in the New York-Washington D.C. corridor, which happens to be one of the wealthiest areas in the country, and the area most overrun with the twin corruption of the financial sector and the military-industrial complex.

Most of this country's media elite hobnob with people who made it rich in the financial markets and the business of war and national security. One doesn't even need to appeal to venal corruption of the media: the mere social milieu in which our media bigwigs operate has a signficant warping effect on their discourse, without even a single quid pro quo dollar changing hands.

On the west coast, by contrast, there is very little in the way of political reporting. Californians are barely aware of what is happening in their own state due to a lack of political coverage, and West Coast sensibilities barely break through in the national dialogue.

Compounding this problem is the fact that the majority of nation's policy wonks are being selected from Ivy League schools for no good reason whatsoever, while those who aren't from the Ivies are almost all from east of the Mississippi:

In total, the Post reckoned that 22 of Obama's 35 appointments had, at that point, a degree from an Ivy League university, MIT, Stanford, the University of Chicago, Oxford or Cambridge. Since then, Obama has appointed a Harvard alumnus as education secretary, a Nobel-prize winning Stanford physicist as energy secretary, and a handful of Harvard law school classmates.

The West Coast and California in particular have more than our share of problems. But California's problems are most the singular result of Proposition 13, which forced California to rely heavily on unstable sales taxes while allowing the bare 1/3 of the legislature controlled by Republicans to veto anything resembling a sensible budget. On the whole, however, the west coast states are moving quickly in the right direction both attitudinally in terms of public policy.

The challenge lies in bringing that West Coast ethic to the rest of the country, and forcing the country to pay closer attention.

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“They probably don’t even masturbate to the Constitution”

The war on women continues apace:

In a strongly worded speech, Sebelius said Republicans are not only working to repeal President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, but also want to take away benefits in Medicare, cut back Medicaid and eliminate health services provided by Planned Parenthood.

"We've come a long way in women's health over the last few decades, but we are in a war," Sebelius said at a NARAL Pro-Choice America luncheon attended by about 300 people, who gave some of their loudest applause at her mention of the Obama administration's support for requiring insurance plans to cover birth control without copays.
"In other words, they don't just want to go after the last 18 months, they want to roll back the last 50 years in progress women have made in comprehensive health care in America," Sebelius said.

Well naturally. Viagra helps mostly older men achieve sexual pleasure, which is a fundamental right. Birth control, on the other hand, encourages the sluts to tempt them. Big difference. Huge.

On the larger issue, if you care about this keep an eye on it. While the Democrats are (mostly) seeing the usefulness of confronting the right on class issues, they are very likely to be searching madly for ways to find common cause with them on culture war issues. With all the successful anti- choice activity at statehouses around the country they may very well decide that women have to take yet another bullet for the team. It wouldn't be the first time ...

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Code Editor Review: Sublime Text

As a designer and developer, I’m always trying to find the best possible tools to do my job and to have fun with it. I’m both a PC and Mac user, Notepad, Coda, Textmate, Dreamweaver, Komodo and Aptana are some of the many editors I’ve tried but none of those made an impact as big as Sublime Text.

Although it is still in beta, Sublime Text is in my opinion the best text/code editor in the market which is available for Windows, OS X and Linux. There is nothing like trying and seeing for yourself but its features, aesthetic, usability and price (although it has an unlimited trial at the moment) made me want to write about it.

“Sublime Text is a sophisticated text editor for code, html and prose. You’ll love the slick user interface and extraordinary features.”

Interface

Sublime Text interface

Sublime Text interface

Themes

The first impression that will pop into your mind is how amazingly beautiful the Sublime interface is. I was especially impressed while using Windows because usually editors are only visually appealing under Mac OS, however, I would say Sublime Text is unique in this matter. Changing themes takes two clicks (for real) and by default you get 22 to choose from but you can download more themes if you like.

Minimap

Although the interface itself is extremely beautiful, usability and functionalities are even more impressive. Imagine something you would like to see in an editor and you will probably find it in Sublime Text. Let’s start from the basics and that would point us to the default layout. Sublime Text comes with a minimap which is available at the top right corner showing you every line of code you may have. However with the minimap my favourite part is that it made me stop using the scroll bar to scroll down the page because you will be able to do it much easier using the minimap. If you don’t like you can simply hide it.

Panels/Groups/Screen Modes

Talking about the good stuff, one of my favourite features is that Sublime offers you the possibility to display as many files as you want through one-to-four panels so basically you can see four files at the same time. If you have more than one file open, Sublime will automatically create groups and you can  send a file to a group or select a group using the option focus. In the other hand, if you have a peaceful and calm personality and you like to keep things quiet you can use the Full Screen Mode (F11) or Distraction Free Mode (Shift+F11) which will hide all tabs forcing you to focus on your code/text.

Sidebar

Finishing the important aspects of Sublime interface, one last and also common feature is the sidebar. Sublime has it all and you if you don’t like tabs you can use the sidebar or vice-versa. You can also change everything from its original position.

Features

Sublime Text - Multiple selections

Sublime Text - Multiple selections

Multiple Selection

Although it’s a simple functionality, one thing that surprised me was the multiple selection option which does precisely that. Offers you the possibility of selecting multiple lines simultaneously and honestly I’ve never seen an editor with such possibility. This is something that helped me choose Sublime as my number one editor because I believe the small details design the big picture.

Auto-complete/Snippets

While expecting nothing less, Sublime brings you the auto-complete feature. However if you’re expecting the fantastic Dreamweaver-like auto-complete you can stop right there. Yes, it support snippets so write html and press TAB and the entire HTML head element appears. However, the auto-complete option itself is achieved by pressing ctrl+space which gives you a list of possible words based on the ones you have already written and this is where I feel it needs a bit more work because it does not give you a list of hints. This means you need to know how to code, so if you’re expecting a big help while writing your HTML you will find a hard time doing it.

Python/Community

Not satisfied because that option you really wanted is not there or isn’t great as you imagined? Don’t worry because you may have a way to make it look good. With Python plugins you can add as many features as you want to Sublime and if you’re not comfortable with Python you have a great and big community in their forum to help you out.

Customization

Every toolbar, mouse scroll speed, keyboard shortcut, etc can be customized at will so feel free to make yourself comfortable!

Complete Features List

  • Side by side multi-pane editing
  • Minimap: see your code from 10,000 feet
  • Full screen mode: use all your pixels, all the time
  • Nothing but text mode: the text, the whole text, and nothing but the text
  • Syntax highlighting for many languages with C, C++, C#, CSS, D, Erlang, HTML, Groovy, Haskell, HTML, Java, JavaScript, LaTeX, Lisp, Lua, Markdown, Matlab, OCaml, Perl, PHP, Python, R, Ruby, SQL, TCL, Textile and XML supported out of the box, and more available for download
  • Multiple color schemes, with several included, and many more available for download
  • Bracket highlighting
  • Auto save: never lose your changes, not even if the dog thinks power cords are tasty
  • Fully customizable key bindings, menus and toolbar
  • Rich key binding language including sequenced key bindings, regular expression key matches, contextual bindings and parameterized bindings
  • Python plugins with a rich API
  • Rich selection of editing commands, including indenting / unindenting, paragraph reformatting, line joining and much more
  • Multiple selections: Simplify many tasks that used to require macros or regular expression
  • Column select
  • Regular expression search and replace
  • Incremental find as you type
  • Preserve case on replace
  • Bookmarks: Makes navigating through long files a breeze
  • Spell check as you type
  • Bracket matching
  • Commenting and uncommenting blocks of text
  • Asynchronous file loading, so you’re never blocked when loading files off slow network drives
  • Macros
  • Snippets
  • Auto complete
  • Repeat last action
  • Build tool integration
  • Automatic build on save
  • WinSCP integration for editing remote files via SCP and FTP

Video Analysis

DevHQLessons made a good video analysis about Sublime Text which I recommend. Check the video below.

Sublime Text 2: Best text editor ever?

Conclusion

I’ve made a very quick and rough review of Sublime but it should be enough to make your eyes shine. So if you’re looking for a powerful solution Sublime Text is for you. You can try Sublime through the unlimited trial or buy it for only $59.

Download Sublime Text

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Hey Consumer Watchdog, It’s Only Ok If You Are a Republican? Get it?

Consumer Watchdog in Middle of Fight for Insurance Rate Regulation

by Brian Leubitz

Consumer Watchdog (CW) has more than its share of enemies.  While most normal Californians have very little idea who they are, the denizens of the Capitol are not really normal, are they? They have a pretty good idea of who they are.

They have enemies from the 2007 health care fight, where California ended up with no health care reform package, partly because the left didn't want to be complicit with Gov. Schwarzenegger's plan.  You see, fellow progressives, we are supposed to stand by while the "adults" do all the negotiating and then cheer when we get some scraps.  By adults I mean, the corporate right, the Tea Party, and the center-right Democrats.  So, you know, "serious" people.

It turns out that when CW helped out with blowing up that 2007 process, there were some hard feelings. And these things linger in Sacramento.  Of course, for Consumer Watchdog, it is hardly the first time they've pissed anybody off.

Fast forward to this year, when AB 52, health insurance rate regulation is up in the Senate. It ultimately fails, and Sen. Ed Hernandez, the chair of the Healthcare committee that ultimately passes it to the full Senate, catches some flack.  Hernandez didn't ultimately support the bill in the full Senate, or at least he has said as much.  Consumer Watchdog then proceeded to put out a TV spot attacking Sen. Hernandez.

The spot was pretty hardhitting, and Asm. Feuer and IC Dave Jones have distanced themselves from it.  However, what is interesting now is that the focus doesn't seem to be on the issue itself anymore, but rather that vague sense of transparency.  You see, like the Chamber of Commerce and other organizations, CW keeps some of their contributors private.

Thornier than the fees is the disclosure of individual donors who fund Consumer Watchdog, It is  widely believed - and some within Consumer Watchdog have confirmed it over the years - that much of its money comes from the trial bar. The group receives individual donations from the public, money from foundations, money from settlements that go into affiliated foundations for education and outreach that provide money to the main group and money from labor and other groups.

But individually, just who gives what is not available, Court said, "the donors can get harassed by politicians because people like us run ads about their (the politicians') conflict of interest," he said. He said nondisclosure as a civil rights tool, much as nondisclosure was important to the NAACP to protect its donors.

But critics of Consumer Watchdog are not convinced, saying the group is hypocritical for not disclosing donors while demanding full disclosure from those it attacks.(Capitol Weekly)

Or, in other words, you can't advocate for good government unless you are a perfect teacher's pet. But if you are advocating for giveaways to corporations? Well, no need to tell us who you are working for. We sure they are all just "job creators" trying to ...ummm...exploit labor to increase their own capital or something like that.  But hey, it's capitalism...so that's awesome!

Do we need some control over the funding of political? Yes, desperately. But the Left can't be forced to give up the tools and play on a different playing field as the Right.


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Growing Up With Science…and Ethics [Casaubon’s Book]

A few months ago, in practice for his first standardized testing (my three younger sons are homeschooled), Simon, my 9 year old (then in his last few months of fourth grade) took the New York State Regents 5th grade science exam from the previous year. He aced it. Actually, as long as Simon was taking it, his brothers wanted in too. Isaiah, his 7 year old brother (in second grade at the time) also aced it, missing only one question. Asher, my five year old youngest, in kindergarten, needed a little help sounding out the words, but when he was helped over the hard bits, also passed the exam. He didn't quite ace it, but still scored above 80%.

My son was a little annoyed that his five year old brother did so well on the exam, and, I think mostly to get said brother's goat, embarked on a discussion of how the exam was clearly for dummies, and that you'd have to be REALLY stupid not to pass it.

It struck me at that moment that while my son had passed one test with flying colors, in his rant, he was failing another one - the ability to imagine yourself in another person's shoes. Granted, 9 year olds aren't famous for their instinctive ability to do so, but it was definitely time for something new to think about.

I asked him to think about why he might be so good at science. He thought it was because he was smart and reads a lot, both of which are certainly true. Still, we considered that perhaps there are other reasons as well. We asked whether every child was the son of an astrophysicist and a science writer, in a house where science is part of nearly every dinner table conversation?

Simon was a precocious reader, and reading fluently by 3 1/2, and given a choice would read 6 hours a day (we try to gently discourage him), including many science books well above the heads of most kids his age. He has always loved to go to work with Dad and sit in on Dad's classes - when he was 5, he attended "The History of Space Exploration" as part of his birthday present, and was allowed to answer questions (usually not permitted) until my husband had to ask him (to the loud laughter of the class) to give the college students a chance to get one right now and again. He's a bright, precocious kid who takes his abilities for granted, as though they are natural. And some of them certainly are. Others aren't.

What might it be like if his parents had different priorities? What if the dinner table conversation was about something else? History or poetry or grandma's recipes, woodworking, baseball stats, music or finance? Would that necessarily mean that the kids who knew a lot about those things and not so much about science were stupid? What if the conversations were in another language, and he had to spend time translating into english to be able to answer them because he was not yet fully fluent in those languages. What if his parents worked long hours, and there wasn't any dinner table conversation? What if the only time he ran into the subject was in class - and his teacher wasn't that good?

What might it be like to grow up in house not overflowing with thousands of books for kids and adults, but without a single book, to not encounter books at all until he went to kindergarten? Would he still be a good reader, even though he's naturally talented in that direction? What if the only place to find a science book was at the library, and he didn't even know that that was the kind of book he might like?

What would it be like to have parents who, instead of having multiple advanced degrees had never graduated high school? What about parents who had done poorly in math and science in school, but were good at other things?

Would he want to be considered a dummy if he had to take an exam about baseball history or how houses are constructed, and he didn't do well? Simon's not the most coordinated kid - I asked him whether he want to be evaluated by his fine motor coordination to decide if he was smart or not?

Now my son had a point - the expectations for a 10 year old's science knowledge in New York are not impressive. Several of the questions on the exam were misleading, in a language that could imply multiple possible answers. We know that you can hold 10 year olds in other nations to higher standards than this, and none of this is to imply that wouldn't be a very good thing.

At the same time, as important as we believe Simon's science education is, I would not choose to permit him to believe that knowing more about something is necessarily an accurate measure of intelligence. We know, for example, the degrees to which cultural bias taints most examinations - a friend of mine's 10 year old was recently supposed to know that a picture of a rooster should go with the word "vane" as in "weathervane." Her urban son has probably never seen one, much less heard it named. It is the convention of our thinking that his unfamiliarity with a physical convention of a very different place makes him less intelligent than someone who would recognize the connection - but in fact, it is more accurately an acknowledgement of the kinds of places we assume smart kids come from.

Indeed, Simon ran into such an example when he was younger. Taking a picture-word test when he was 4, he did extraordinarily well. The examiner came out to talk to me and said that he'd gone all the way up to third grade level, missing only one word. She showed me the one he'd missed - a picture of an ironing board. My sheepish comment was "ummm...that's because I don't think he's ever seen one." I do own one, but I'm not much of an ironer.

The Amish children in the next town each stop school in 8th grade. Whatever you think of this, it certainly does not make them unintelligent - the ones we know are prolific readers from the local library and interested in a wide range of subjects, and nearly as knowledgeable about stargazing as my husband from watching the stars in their dark, rural backyards. Each of them has a physical intelligence that my children don't necessarily have - at only a year older than Simon, Amos, the son of an acquaintance of ours, built an elaborate tree-house on a complex design that Eric and I could never have matched. The plan he showed us for it was fully as impressive as any drafted house plan, the structure quite amazing.

That doesn't mean I would want my son to cease his education at the 8th grade to build full time - but neither do I want my son to believe that certain kinds of knowledge or access to formal education are the same thing as intelligence, or to sit in judgement of those who don't know what he does and call them stupid. And unfortunately, I know enough adults who do believe that those who know some things are smarter than those who know others that I recognize this as a real danger.

I'm proud of the fact that when Isaiah asked his father if he could buy an "H20" gun, Simon joked "I want an H2S04 gun" - and all my kids laughed and got the joke. I'm also proud of the fact that my son apologized for using the words "stupid" and "dummies" and got the point - that different people know different things, have different strengths, and that it is often not intelligence but exposure to different kinds of knowledge that are being examined. It is one thing to know that everyone should have a wide ranging and in-depth knowledge of a number of subjects, and another thing to achieve it equitably - most of us have areas in which we are "dummies."

We are living in a world that is paying a high price for inadequate education in the sciences - a world where so many people cannot evaluate the evidence for climate change and resource depletion that people who lie professionally can out-argue the scientists. This is a scandal, and it shouldn't be, and there's no question that better science education is necessary.

We also live in a world stratified heavily by race, class, gender and access to power, and it is equally true that we need a better ethical education, one that undermines the naturalizing of fallacious reasoning that categorizes "smart" and "dumb" by "familiarity with material made vastly more accessible to the priveleged." We just as badly need an education that ceases to devalue manual and domestic skills as fit only for the kids who "have no choice" but to learn to build and farm and cook. I've often told the story of how I asked my high school guidance counselor whether I could attend the local agricultural high school, and with horror he responded "No, Sharon, that's for kids who aren't going to a good college, not kids like you." Farming is hands-on-science, and it has proved to demand more intellectually of me than any other work I've ever done - the idea that good building, good mechanics, good farming, good cooking, etc.. are unskilled is ridiculous and should be abandoned wholly.

I told him I thought that New York State should require higher standards of science education - and that I'd also like to see them test that students can build a simple structure, cook a palatable meal from scratch ingredients, patch a pair of ripped jeans and nurture a plant through its entire lifestyle. We talked about why certain times and cultures value certain kinds of knowledge, and also about the degree to which the circumstances into which we are born shape our access to knowledge.

Simon was still annoyed that his little brother passed the test, but that I can live with. Later on he asked me if I'd be proud of him if he won the Nobel Prize (he did not specify in what subject wink). I noted that I would be, but that I would also be proud of him if he was a good man, and a kind one who did the right thing. Then he laughed and asked if I'd be proud of him if he won an IgNobel, and headed out to play. Fortunately, no answer on my part was really required.

Sharon


Read the comments on this post...

Also check out the featured ScienceBlog of the week: Inside the Outbreaks on the ScienceBlogs Book Club


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The forgotten front

The war on women continues apace:

In a strongly worded speech, Sebelius said Republicans are not only working to repeal President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, but also want to take away benefits in Medicare, cut back Medicaid and eliminate health services provided by Planned Parenthood.

"We've come a long way in women's health over the last few decades, but we are in a war," Sebelius said at a NARAL Pro-Choice America luncheon attended by about 300 people, who gave some of their loudest applause at her mention of the Obama administration's support for requiring insurance plans to cover birth control without copays.
"In other words, they don't just want to go after the last 18 months, they want to roll back the last 50 years in progress women have made in comprehensive health care in America," Sebelius said.

Well naturally. Viagra helps mostly older men achieve sexual pleasure, which is a fundamental right. Birth control, on the other hand, encourages the sluts to tempt them. Big difference. Huge.

On the larger issue, if you care about this keep an eye on it. While the Democrats are (mostly) seeing the usefulness of confronting the right on class issues, they are very likely to be searching madly for ways to find common cause with them on culture war issues. With all the successful anti- choice activity at statehouses around the country they may very well decide that women have to take yet another bullet for the team. It wouldn't be the first time ...

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