Sarah Palin and other bumbling gifts from well meaning males

When I was all of fourteen I received my first gift of jewelry from a male admirer–a bracelet that looked like an expansion watchband from a man’s watch. It was ugly. It was masculine. It was totally unfashionable and inappropriate. All of my friends were getting friendship rings from Woolworth’s and I wanted a friendship ring too. So I told him I wasn’t ready to go steady–as if I knew what that was–and gave the thing back. Yes, he had poor taste in jewelry, and for me that was a deal-breaker, but he wasn’t any worse than all the other 14-year-old boys, and in some ways he was much more interesting. We connected again in our senior year, then lost touch after graduation. Until the twenty year reunion. I arrived in my Mazda hatchback, and he arrived in his Mazda light truck. Maybe I should have taken that bracelet after all.

Now we have a presumptive nominee of the Republican party, John McCain, who is offering us a female vice presidential candidate as his running mate. Everyone is busy digging up the usual bad news that accompanies a candidate newly in the public eye, but is she really any less qualified than say, Dan Quayle or Spiro T. Agnew?

While no one really believes that women will vote for a presidential candidate based strictly on identity politics, nominating a woman is obviously meant to appeal to the woman vote. How sweet. He notices us, even if this Sarah Palin candidate is supposed to be a religion dominionist, whatever that is, and anti-abortion (but is that just for herself or does she want it enshrined in law for those who don’t share her religion?) and oh, dear there’s the polar bear thing. I like polar bears. And she’s in bed with oil. Drill, drill, drill. Still, McCain is courting us. He’s trying. In his own special, bumbling way. Sarah Palin is that slightly inappropriate gift that shows McCain believes we are important. Should we just smile, say “thank you” and accept the homage? Or will Palin’s flaws be a deal-breaker?

What about the other brand? The word in the Democratic party circles from the nominee is that women voters are supposed to “get over it” (even if only half the voters chose Hillary) and that women are supposed to fall in with zombified lockstep just because Hillary has now endorsed the Democratic nominee. It’s not just a matter of the Democratic candidate not courting female voters. There is more than a suggestion that the recent campaign against Hillary Clinton was knowingly, cynically, and intentionally sexist.

There aren’t any good choices in this election, at least for women voters.

Whetever else happens, there’s one thing we can always count on. Get ready for more negative campaigning.

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If you could find the Free Speech Zone, what would you say?

The Free speech zone at the 2008 Denver convention was a lot harder to get to than I thought. As I was crossing a street, a guy in plain clothes with a coiled wire stuck in his ear asked me where I was going. Did I look lost? As a matter of fact, I had just heard about something called “tent city” where there was a lot of free speech going on.

I found out later there was a huge event going near Confluence Park, but this guy directed me the other direction, up a dead end sidewalk. Three wheeled bicycle taxis, the kind they have in New Delhi, were carrying passengers with plastic identification credential cards hung around their necks. Everyone else was walking.

After twenty minutes or so, I arrived at a very controlled entrance. Only the people with the credentials were getting past that point.

A conversation with another security person directed me further along the sidewalk. Turn at Seventh street and go to Auraria, he said.

After another twenty minutes or so of walking, I found myself alone in the middle of nowhere, and there it was. The cage.

Only a 360 degree view made possible by the miracle of YouTube can do it justice:

I checked the speaker’s schedule, and by some streak of luck, it was my turn to speak. (Yes, it’s full size in case you want to download it and zoom in to read…. J. Stalin’s topic: “This is awesome”; A. Hitler’s topic: “I agree completely.” )

My words of wisdom, spoken across the empty, unbroken expanses of concrete? “El corazon tiene razones que no tienen razon.”

The silence was deafening.

Separation of church and state: Keep atheists out of religion

I was intrigued to see the following sign near the state capitol building in Denver:
I like the idea of separation of church and state. Our current President has injected way too much of his personal religion into the government, not to mention funding them with public monies. And the newest batch of presidential candidates are falling all over themselves trying to pander to various religious, and especially evangelical groups. I say let’s put religion back where it belongs–in churches.

So when I looked up this organization I was expecting to find something high minded that I could agree with. Instead I found an organization that apparently exists to try to discredit religion, especially Christianity. Case in point: a few months before the convention, this sign in Denver had read “Imagine no religion”.

Going a little bit further, if you look at their little quiz called “What Do You Really Know about the Bible”, you will find an interpretation of Christianity that is a caricature of real churches and real Christians. For instance, here is question number 2, along with the supposed answer:

2. What is the penalty for working on the Sabbath?
Answer: A

1. You will be stoned to death. –Isn’t this an excessively violent punishment from a supposedly “Good Book?” What is the harm in working on the Sabbath? It seems the only harm is to the ego of the Sovereign, who demands respect with no respect to human needs.

“Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the Lord: whoseoever doeth work therein shall be put to death. Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the sabbath day.” (Exodus 35:2) For the chilling application of this law, see Numbers 15:32-36, where a man who picked up sticks on the sabbath was stoned, “and he died; as the Lord commanded Moses.”

Anyone who can nap in the back of a church for six weeks or so should be able to see the problem with that answer. First of all, like most of the website’s other answers this one is conveniently from the Old Testament. The last time I checked, people who followed the Old Testament were called Jews, not Christians.

Second, it completely ignores the quarrels Jesus and his disciples had with the Jewish authorities over this very question of doing work on the sabbath. After all, they were known to gather grain to eat on the sabbath and Jesus was once accused of healing on the sabbath.  Jesus wasted no time in telling off these religious leaders and calling them hypocrites. But maybe that wouldn’t fit in with the narrative the “Freedom from religion” website has decided to put out with whatever ax they are trying to grind.

What a disappointment. The type of tolerance they ask for themselves is not something they are willing to extend to anyone else. Do yourself a favor. If you want to know about science, go to a college campus. If you want to know about religion, stay away from this bunch. Their idea of “separation” of church and state starts with the destruction of church.

Whining: Sarah Palin is out of touch

Don’t talk about fairness, Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin advises Hillary.

“…when I hear a statement like that coming from any woman candidate with any kind of a perceived whine about that excess criticism or a sharper microscope put on her that doesn’t do us any good.

Women in politics, women in general wanting to progress this country. I don’t think it bodes well for her because a statement like that, again fair or unfair it is a reality, and I think it’s a given.”

In other words, says Palin, don’t mention the double standard, don’t point out misogyny, don’t rock the boat, don’t try to set healthy boundaries. Just work harder and be a good sheep.


When Martin Luther King gave his “I have a dream” speech, did he worry about a “perceived whine”? When a certain radio personality referred to a women’s basketball team as prostitutes did Marc Morial of the National Urban League worry about a “perceived whine” when he responded, “It’s important that we stand with the women of Rutgers who are deeply hurt by the highly insensitive comments of Don Imus.” Would we have ever had an Emancipation proclamation if Abraham Lincoln had said, “whether slavery is fair or unfair, it’s a reality, it’s a given.”

Governor Palin is out of touch.

Maybe being governmor has given Sarah Palin a different perspective on things. Maybe living in a governor’s mansion, she doesn’t get dissed a lot. Or maybe she is just so cute, with winning beauty contests and all, that she can just bat her eyelashes and guys forget to be crude to her. Not every woman is lucky enough to be born beautiful or rich or even smart, and time and age can take away all of those advantages.

Hillary Clinton is not out of touch. True, she is richer than most of us, and lives a privileged life compared to most of us, but that doesn’t stop her from staying in touch with what American women are thinking and experiencing. Before Hillary decided to make an issue about the way her campaign was being represented, she did something I bet Sarah Palin never thought of. She asked ordinary women what they thought. And when the democratic leadership was writing a platform that was supposed to include a statement condemning hate speech against women, she got in touch with her mailing list again and asked them what they thought.

So when Hillary stands up and speaks out against the hatred, the gender-based attacks, and the just plain vulgar and crude anatomical remarks that have been the hallmark of the campaign against her, she is not just speaking for herself. She is speaking for all of us.

The character and integrity Hillary Clinton has shown in speaking out is something that can never be taken away from her.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Free Speech Zone cage thingy at the Denver convention

Following a rumor about a free speech cage at a place called “tent city” I went looking for some interesting anarchists or something equally colorful I could listen to so my Denver Convention experience would be complete. I didn’t find my anarchists, but after a twenty minute walk that led to a closed-off section of a six lane highway, I did find the official free speech zone–surrounded by a cage.

IN this video you can see a small platform with a microphone inside the cage. In front of the platform is a rather intriguing speakers schedule.

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What a free speech zone looks like in Denver this week

Free Speech.

Does free speech means you can say whatever you want as long as it’s away from anyone who might be disturbed by the content of the message? I don’t think so. The whole idea of free speech is to have your message out where people can hear it.

Here’s where today’s march for Hillary supporters was shunted to.

This is what a marching permit gives you in Denver this week–at least for Hillary supporters. Down an alley and into this bit of sidewalk. A huge parking lot separates the marchers from anyone who might inadvertently catch a glimpse of a Hillary rally sign.

This is what Democracy looks like.

UPDATE: For video of the cages, barbed wire, stun guns, etc. prepared for protesters, here is the link. My favorite, after a 40 minute walk I find the actual “Free speech zone and test the live mic. And here is the YouTube I made of the occasion for posterity.

New math and old math

Anyone who has chuckled over the various versions of the “you have two cows” political system paradigm will enjoy this math paradigm.

Teaching Math in 1950:A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?…..

Teaching Math in 1960:

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?

Teaching Math in 1970:

A logger exchanges a set “L” of lumber for a set “M” of money. The cardinality of set “M” is 100. Each element is worth one dollar. Make 100 dots representing the elements of the set “M.” The set “C,” the cost of production contains 20 fewer points than set “M.” Represent the set “C” as subset of set “M” and answer the following question: What is the cardinality of the set “P” of profits?

Teaching Math in 1980:

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.


Teaching Math in 2010:

El hachero vende un camion cargado de lena por $100. Su gasto de produccion es……..

Of course the temptation is always to personalize something like this, and I have to admit that I did learn math with the 1970’s system. That’s actually pretty close–hee, hee, it’s a great parody.  Now that I am myself a teacher, must also admit that I use the 2010 method with my students.  Pero mis estudiantes son los madres de los que estudian matematica. Their children speak perfectly fluent English and often help their parents translate.

(via Arul John‘s joke pages )