Friday, December 08, 2006

This Blog has Moved!

Come visit me at my new, bigger, brighter, beta digs: here.

This blog will self-destruct as soon as I get around to it, or as soon as I decide the comments here are either worth keeping, or not.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

New blog of the day.

Adopt a microbe

Too cute.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


So – my mother, who is prone to providing unwanted advice, pressed this into my hand after dinner on Sunday. She wanted me to give it to my son. I think, instead, I’ll post it for your bemusement. The following is verbatim. Imagine the impact this might have on a teen who is, for various reasons, lacking alternative sources of information. I won’t bother refuting all the inaccurate or misleading statements – who has time?

“Choose you this day, whom you will serve.”

The usual feelings of invincibility possessed by teenagers, lead them to believe
It won’t happen to me.” As a matter of fact, these things happen with alarming regularity.

92% of LDS teens say they have seen at least 1 “R” rated movie in the last year. A common statement is: “There was just a little bit of bad stuff in it.” SO: If you had a bowl of delicious soup with just a little cockroach in it, would you eat it?

Teens say “Media does not affect me.” Of course it does. Nike sales soared 378% when Michael Jordan said to wear them, and Nike paid him 27 million dollars to say it.

57% of high school kids do not list parents, relatives, historical figures, literary figures, religious leaders (including Christ) as their heroes. They list, in order, movie stars, rock stars and athletes.

The internet has become a pernicious in-home source of animalized sex which installs itself on out computers.

In interviewing 14 year olds who had seen a very popular PG rated movie no less than 5 times, (they were considered “experts”), they were asked if the movie contained any four letter words. They said they thought there were three or four. Actually, there were101. Asked if there were any sexual overtones in the film, they said “no”. Actually there were 7 sexual conversations and one sexual scene.

In 1991, the most common four-letter work in “R” rated movies was the F word. The #2 word was the SH word. All thigh school kids list those same two words as the most common profanity at school. The use of profanity has increased 650% among high school kids since the motion picture industry changed its code in the 1960’s to allow vulgar language.

When a movie star went on TV to encourage women to start smoking a specific cigarette, the sales to women of that particular cigarette increased 312%.

Epidemic world wide. Used to be only two major sexually transmitted diseases (gonorrhea and syphilis) Now there are over 50. Some are incurable (Herpes and AIDS) and some cause death (AIDS).

No 1 communicable disease in the world is gonorrhea (now possibly CMV)
40-50% of infected women are under age 20.
15-19 is the peak age for occurrence in women
20-24 is the peak age for occurrence in men
It is sexist. 50-60% of the infected women do not know they have it until it has caused pelvic inflammatory disease, which is one of the leading causes of infertility. After only one infection 20% are sterile. After three infections, 75% are sterile, because of blocked fallopian tubes and scarring.

12,000 high school kids every DAY become infected with a sexually transmitted disease. Some are infected with a disease which lasts a whole lifetime, and they are capable of transmitting that disease for life. Teen pregnancy can only occur during 72 hours of every month, and affects only 50% of the population (girls). However, STD’s can happen any time to either sex.

Once a person has had a sexual encounter with anyone besides a disease-free spouse, it will require 4 chaste years before that person can be sure he is not going to turn up with something awful. Some diseases take that long to manifest themselves.

Some of the most beautiful words in the English language are the names of some of the worst diseases – and some create horrible problems for unborn babies. Listeria monocytogenes, Chlamydia, cytomegalovirus are examples.

Chlamydia: One in two people in the US has it, so you have a 50% chance of contracting this awful bacteria which is the most common STD in the US right now. Like gonorrhea, which is also “curable” it leaves 20-25% of women sterile after only one infections. Transmission to a baby during bright causes serious infections in the infant.

HPV (human papillo virus) There is no cure for this one. It causes venereal warts which last a lifetime. These increase the risk of uterine and certical cancer, and cancer of the penis in men. There is no such thing as “safe sex”. 300,000 of these little viral critters fit into the period at the end of this sentence. How much accidental contact is it going to take to cause an infection? It’s a virus. It will infect everybody it comes into contact with.

Herpes: Both Herpes Type 1 and Type 2 are on the increase and are no longer limited to just the lips, or just the genital area. Both types are found in both places. If is uncurable and results in repeated outbreaks of not one, but dozens of fever-blister-like sores in the most private of places. A mother who has an active case of herpes must have her baby by Ceserean section because if she has a vaginal biurth, the baby bears a 50% chance of contracting herpes, and 50% of the babies who get it, die, in spite of treatment.

This is the number 1 public health problem in the nation, although the rate is going down every week between 70 and 120 Utah teens gets pregnancy.

In 1989, one in every 4-5 babies born in the US was born to a single mother. By 1995, if was 1 in 3.

1/3 of all abortions are performed on teenagers. In Utah in 1991, 18% of pregnant teens chose abortion. Very few chose adoption.

Pregnancy before agte 18:
Increases the risk of birth injury to the baby 5 times.
Doubles the risk of toxemia (pregnancy-induced hypertension)
Doubles the risk of the baby dying.
Increases the divorce rate for pregnant couples who marry 3 times.
Only 6% of teen fathers take any responsibility financially or any other way for their babies.
It costs the government $68.5 million a day to help families whose first child was born during the teen years or without marriage.

Over 90% who do not abort the pregnancy, keep the babies and raise them in poverty. A high percentage of our nation’s children are being raised by uneducated, single mothers, living in poverty. Some children are abused or neglected by mothers too young to understand their responsibility. And those mothers have given up their youth, their proms, their high school graduation, etc. And they have a baby not sealed in the covenant.

Guys will give “love” in order to get sex. Girls will give sex in order to get “love”. Sex is not love and is a shabby substitution for it. A girl or guy needs to “prove their love” like a moose needs a hatrack. No definition of “love” includes exploitation of the other person, or insisting upon destroying that person physically, emotionally, financially, educationally, or spiritually. True love is protective.

Most birth defects are not controllable. Some are. A baby is born with a birth defect every 2 minutes. The most common question in the delivery room is: “Doctor, is my baby alright?” In one out of every 13 cases, the answer is “no.”

The saddest birth defects that our nations children have to live with are those 100% preventable defects caused by their parents.

Fetal alcohol syndrome (leading cause of mental retardation in the U.S.)
Prematurity due to sexually transmitted disease, or teen mother.
Small for gestational age babies because of maternal smoking
Addicted babies born to addicted mothers.

One neonatologist calls these behaviors ‘the earliest forms of child abuse’.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


So, I rented Hard Candy last night. Interesting movie – a “tables turned” scenario in which the predatory pedophile photographer becomes the victim of the protagonist fourteen-year-old putative victim. She tortures him, subjects him to a pseudo-castration, and eventually coerces him into suicide. She’s the hero.

And it struck me – this is the essence of sado-porn. Anything is acceptable, given the right context. We’re supposed to be cheering for the young heroine, as she drugs the adult man, ties him down, plays out what he believes is a castration surgery, and then pretends to dispose of his testicles in the garbage disposal. Watching this movie, it’s apparent that any act, no matter how grotesque, sadistic, or violent can be not only acceptable, but laudable. The audience, horrified at the depravity of the victim, is supposed to cheer.

More overtly horrifying examples of contextual manipulation come to mind. The Sharon Tate murder, for example, or the social milieu that must have made Auschwitz possible, or perhaps the gassing of the Kurds, or Pol Pot’s antics in Cambodia; horrifying acts deemed laudable within a carefully created context.

Any given act can be considered socially desirable, given the right context: the firebombing of Dresden and Tokyo, the nuclear incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Oklahoma City or the World Trade Center.

The destruction of Iraq, the corrosive impact of the Homeland Security Act, or the election of a petty, brutal little man to the highest office of the most powerful country in the world.

What separates the heroes and the villains? When does is an act of sadistic aggression, or wholesale destruction, become unacceptable, regardless of provocation? Apparently, the answer is never. When pushed sufficiently to the edge, any act becomes acceptable.

If this premise is accepted by a sufficiently large group of people, then they are fodder for manipulation. So long as there is a sufficiently persuasive despot who can instill a sufficient degree of fear and paranoia, any act of aggression can be recast as an act of self-defense.

The protagonist in Hard Candy is afforded the license of the righteous victim, and we identify with her.

A movie is such a little thing, isn’t it? A contrived scenario, whose purpose is to titillate, or entertain. This is just one little piece of sado-porn: extreme dehumanization of a dehumanizing villain. But this is the same phenomenon that promotes genocide – we only find the impulse laudable, because of the context from which we are viewing it.

This is the point on which there is no separation between the political right and the political left – no-one questions the process, only the context in which the impulse to objectify and destroy the villain is employed. Both parties condone vigilante justice, so long as they can identify with their respective victims, and the context in which victimization is viewed can be manipulated to justify a like response.

And until we recognize this, the substantive differences between political philosophies amount to so much window-dressing.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Link to long Switters thread on Wag.

81 Replies!

Well, maybe half of those are mine, but still!


Anon and "Misterioso" were priceless. Thanks guys! [Shaking head in wonder]

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The end of my dream.

I’ve lost a day or two. Life has been unusually stressful, and I’ve regressed – found ways to distract myself from things that (urgently) need doing. In the mean time – mom’s chemotherapy (insulin-potentiated – lower doses of the same drugs, but not covered by insurance or Medicare, because it’s “experimental”) has left her so anemic her doc is urgently pressing for a blood transfusion. (She refuses – doesn’t trust the blood supply. We might be able to talk her into family donations, once we all figure out what our blood types are.)

So, I’ve been finding increasingly creative ways to keep from doing my work, but still not sleeping much, of course. And tonight I fell asleep in front of my computer.

And had a prolonged dream – I remember it was so vivid (that’s the nicotine patches giving a shout-out I’m sure – the damn things really throw slumberland into Technicolor). I can’t remember most of it, except it’s intensity.

But I remember the end of my dream. I’m leaving my house – not the one I just moved out of, or the one I just moved into, but the one we lived in before; The one where the memories were good - twelve or thirteen years of good memories. We were usually broke, and we faced real challenges – my daughter’s infant health problems, the years of fertility treatments, the majority of my graduate school. But we had good times, too – my wife and I playing “Mickey’s World of Illusion” until late into the night, after we’d bought the Genesis for my son, or the Canasta marathons, or twelve thousand showings of The Brave Little Toaster, my son’s favorite movie.

My wife threw me a surprise birthday party in that house once – invited my faculty mentors, my friends from graduate school, and my family. She threw some Halloween parties there too – games for the kids and their parents (like, donuts hanging from the ceiling, and couples vying to be first to eat theirs – with their hands ties behind their back). I miss her, the way she was back then. I miss her air of openness, and innocence, and playfulness.

But that was before the hardest years – the years when she was missing, much of the time. I’d get the call from my son, first once or twice a week, then every day, and later, her absence was communicated in silent commentary. First she’d call and say she was on her way home (but never arrive), then she’d say she was going out for “ a little while”, and later, she quit calling altogether. I remember sitting with my son, in the cab of the U-haul truck, after we’d moved her into an apartment, saying “She’s excited” with a confused, hurt look on his face.

I remember how he resisted, when she asked to come home again. I was more conflicted, but I was also afraid she’d be dead soon, if I didn’t take her back. I remember how hard it was to try to put all of the hurt behind us, and heal the parts of our relationship that’d suffered so much. And I remembered how it felt, when she projected base motives on my attempts to reconcile, and my gradual acquiescence into the role of a eunuch martyr – no wants, no desires, and no real self.

The end of my dream: I’m leaving my house, in the afternoon. My wife is sad, but not talking about it much. My daughter is out back, sitting on a hammock we never had, acting peculiarly calm, but with that sadness I can always feel under the surface. I play the father role, saying goodbye to her – telling her I’ll miss her, but that I’ll be seeing her often. And I maintain it until I get around the hedge (which I tore out about our third year there – replaced with a chain-link fence I put up myself), and as I approached my car, I started to sob – quietly, at first, but then louder. I couldn’t stop. I just kept sobbing until I woke up.

That’s what I’ve been running away from this last two days – God, I miss her, my beautiful, compassionate, spitfire of a little girl. And I’ll miss my petite, energetically idiosyncratic and otherworldly mother. I miss my wife, before shame (both old and new) transformed her fierce love for her children, and husband, into brittle anger, and stifled whatever openness she’d managed to hold on to. I miss my son, when he was innocent, and his wounds were more obvious – less buried under the guise of teenage sarcasm and angst. I miss all those things we shared together as a family – the sense of shared purpose, and care for each other. I kept our family together for years and years. It nearly killed me. And I nearly never noticed.

Thank God I woke up, but waking up also means noticing how much I’ve lost – how much we've all lost.

I just nodded off there for a day or two – too sad to acknowledge it. But now I’m back.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Some last observations on my little Kos incursion.

Out of 207 comments showing, I can read 73 of them. While logged in, I can no-longer see the poll I put up, though it reappears when I’m logged out (the number of visible comments remains the same). The results are below:

Does troll-rating stifle meaningful discourse?

Yes 11 votes - 19 %
No 25 votes - 43 %
Depends on the troll 13 votes - 22 %
What, you mean like now? 8 votes - 14 %

57 Total Votes

Only 43% of users indicated that troll-rating has no deleterious impact on discussions at kos. 22% indicate that the impact is situational, depending on the person being rated. 19% state it has, presumably, a uniform negative impact on the quality of discussion, while 14% indicated it was having a negative impact on discussion in the post I wrote. I intended both the “now” and “Yes” categories to be counted as “yes”, though in retrospect, some of those might have viewed the impact as situational. In any interpretation, over half of those responding acknowledge at least some negative impact exerted by troll rating. I’d love to go back and follow up, querying about the significance of the impact, but I can’t – I’ve joined Switters in the camp of users banned by Kos. I can no longer even comment, let alone write posts of my own.

Scanning the comments I am able to read, however, and comparing them to the poll results is informative. Why, do you suppose, doesn’t the directionality of the comments reflect the results of the poll? I’m left to conclude that either people are afraid to state an unpopular opinion out loud, or that those opinions were immediately troll-rated, and therefore invisible to me. Impossible for me to know, not having trusted user status, though this does bring up a point – if there is anyone reading this who is a trusted user, I would greatly appreciate an email with the copied comments included in their entirety ( It would be helpful for me to see the obviously continuing discussions occurring which were invisible to me.

I won’t identify you, of course.

Many of my own comments are also invisible to me. I wish I could remember how many I wrote (I composed them there, rather than on a word processing program, saving each one). If I had to do it over again, I’d save what I wrote. It never occurred to me that my own comments might become invisible to me – the person who wrote them.

Switters lasted much longer than I did, because he rarely responded to comments. For me to get banned, all it took was one post on an unpopular topic, written in a manner that was intended to be inoffensive (debatable, I’m sure – though not by me! ;-)), and my attempt to respond to as many comments as I could, without rancor.

The vast majority of the criticisms I faced were essentially ad hominem attacks – I was accused of being a troll, or a sock-puppet. Objections based on the content fall into a couple of categories: Switters wasn’t funny, Switters was offensive, most of his posts were movie reviews – not appropriate for the site, and finally, that my motives were suspect (on the site to “defend the honor of Switters”, rather than to engage in honest dialogue).

Of all arguments, only the last would seem (to me) to have any validity. I attempted to counter this by steering the discussion back to the content of my original post – the deleterious impact of censorship on discussion, and how it seems incongruent for this to be occurring at kos. I never really had the chance to discuss this much, however.

Of those offended by the content of Switters diary, the most vocal was “Eternal Hope.” I attempted to engage her in a discussion about the value of parody, which she then attempted to misdirect by comparing Switters to a KKK propagandist, and then accusing me of being him. This latter, she attempted to support by providing a mangled quote by Switters on the Wag blog [her version: “'Teanciousk (sic) will have the last word.”]. When I responded with the accurate quote ["And leave it to TenaciousK to have the final word."], she troll-rated my response and it disappeared. Eternal Hope is a trusted user. [I don’t know what criteria they are using to determine what users are trusted, but it is obviously, seriously flawed.]

Rita in DC, another trusted user, provided misinformation to support the contention I was a sockpuppet; “The Switters sockpuppet family was smaller than some people surmised, according to Kos in a brief reply to my report a while back. However, a couple of the suspected user names were indeed Switters sockpuppets--previously banned, IIRC--and Kos did some more banning. Yawn. I'll send him another report.” Difficult for me to imagine there is an iota of truth to this – all of the people I am aware of, posting at kos, have been posting as themselves, and no-one else [exception being ZB, posting under DawnCoyote’s nic because he didn’t want to wait for his own, and Ender’s diary, which included (correctly attributed) posts written by other people].

I had one user leave a positive comment – that I seemed unusually sane for someone from Utah, and that the diary was interesting. One user initially supported my position (Robokos), but later reversed himself, and accused me of being an academic (?!?). Another user stated only that she or he was not like the people active on the thread – no more.

Some last comments from the thread, to illustrate the theme:

What the hell (1+ / 0-)

does Your charge of Groupthink have anything to do with THIS diary or the diarist "switters"?

maybe up comment -- but my comment was directly addressing the Diary -- 'switters' is a waste of bits -- and it has nothing at all to do with 'groupthink'

end the war in Iraq

by josephk on Fri Oct 13, 2006 at 03:17:27 PM MST

· You misunderstood my comment. (0 / 0)

The groupthink charge is in the response to Switters.

As far as dialectics go, I was referring to the distressing parallels between the enforced conformity and censorship here, the enforced conformity and suppression of opinion in both national political parties, and the enforced conformity and careful control of information/dialogue maintained by the current administration.

Dialectics are one way of talking about continuum on a single dimension. The national political dialogue is stuck - and has been carefully stuck there by a concerted effort by the party presently in the majority.

The comments here resemble a feeding frenzy. Go back and look at my post again. I was trying, carefully, to make a point.

Was I being inflammatory? Where?

All the charges of sockpuppetry, troll, etc. What do they have to do with what I actually wrote? It's eerily like being charged with being unpatriotic, because I was against the war.

Whether you agree with the content or not, the process I refer to is inherently problematic. That is my point.

Note how that point never really gets addressed. People were too busy fingerpointing to notice?

Did you notice where I corrected misinformation spouted by a "trusted user" above, and then she troll-rated my comment into oblivion? Her (inaccurate and unsupported) allegation now stands without challenge.

You don't find this to be distressing, from a process perspective?

Feel free to disagree with me, but all the name-calling is just insulting. And dishonest.

"Paradise is exactly like where you are right now, only much, much better." Laurie Anderson

by tenaciousk on Fri Oct 13, 2006 at 04:04:16 PM MST

o We've now reached the point where (0 / 0)

it's safe to say that any further discussion of switters and his pals is just trolling. Indeed, we reached that point a long time ago. If you think switters was done wrong by DKos, contact Kos or a frontpager and make your case. Beyond that, quit flooding this site with diaries and posts about switters. This blog isn't about switters and his pals. Get over it.

by Warren Terrer on Fri Oct 13, 2006 at 06:00:33 PM MST

I don’t think there’s anything I can add.