Posts at the mirror site

March 6, 2007

I tried again, and still can’t get the import function to work. So, a quick note that there are two posts at the mirror sites that do not (as yet, anyway) appear here.

Does Anyone Care About America’s Prison Industrial Complex? by Rob
howdy and a tip of the bush kangaroo tail by skippy


Technical difficulties

March 6, 2007

Grrr! Yesterday I thought I’d found a good solution for including posters who would prefer to stick with Blogger/Blogspot. Because WordPress allow you to import posts from other blogs, I figured that I could have those people sign up as contributors on a mirror site I set up on Blogspot, and then I could simply import those posts so that they would display here as well. I have used this feature a number of times, so I had every reason to believe it would work this time as well.

Sigh. The best laid plans of mice…

It is *not* working. Here’s what I’ve gotten the first half dozen or so times I’ve tried to import posts from the new Blogspot version of this site.

Trouble signing in
We were not able to gain access to your account. Try starting over.

No idea why that is, or if it’s a temporary issue, or something related to the switch to the new Blogger. Will try again tomorrow, though.

Independent Bloggers’ Alliance mirror site

March 4, 2007

I set up the Independent Bloggers’ Alliance site at WordPress for a reason. I’m sure I did. At the moment, though, I can’t remember exactly what that reason was. At least some of it had to do with the ease of using tags, so that, if the site got big

I mention this now, because I am becoming more aware of some of the limitations inherent in WordPress–the most relevant being that *most* people use Blogger/Blogspot, and I think that’s put an unnecessary stumbling block in the way of adding new contributors.

I don’t know, ultimately, what the solution will be, but yesterday I spent some time creating a mirror site on Blogspot. Okay, that’s when I discovered *one* of the reasons for using WordPress–adding the site banner was a lot easier there.

But here’s the deal…if you’d like to be a contributor to the Independent Bloggers’ Alliance, and Blogger/Blogspot would be easier or more convenient for you, drop me an e-mail at ohiorenee(at) and I can send you an invite. WordPress has a function where I can import posts from another blog, so your posts will appear here even if you aren’t signed up at WordPress.

Learning not to bite

March 4, 2007

Earlier this afternoon I read an essay by field negro at My Left Wing. He was reflecting after attending the viewing of a dear friend’s father, and at the end of the post, he writes:

It was so weird being in that packed room with all those people and family members coming to pay their respects. Respects to a man who had stayed with his wife, raised his family, and kept his roots in his community and contributed to the well being of his city. This is one reason I suspect that he disliked my people, because he thought that we were the very antithesis of what he represented. But if the poor guy had taken the time to try, he would have seen that there are many black grandfathers all over the city who are just like him. Who, if he had reached out like his son had, probably would have been able to change his thinking and his heart.

So I spent some time turning this over in my head. I was already thinking about race after having watched the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright talk about the theology of Black liberation. And that led to thinking about empathy, perspective, and why we humans are so intent on being crappy to each other.

I was also thinking about the eye for an eye verse from the Bible, and how it means only one eye for one eye.

Throughout the world today, and throughout the long history of humanity, the dominant tradition has never been one of trying to fit the punishment to the crime, much less has it involved the notion of rehabilitating the offender. The dominant approach has always been one of allowing the officials to exercise their unlimited desire for vengeance and retribution.

Justice was conducted on the basis of blood feuds. Retribution knew no limits. Typical of this ancient mentality was the speech of Lamech who boasted to his many wives: “I have slain a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain was avenged 7-fold, then I am avenged 77-fold!” [Gen. 4:23f.]

We do have a tendency to go overboard, don’t we? But why do we hate, and why do choose to do things that are hurtful, either physically or emotionally?

I’m sure there are a number of answers, but at least in part, hate usually comes from fear and ignorance. And we hurt people (whether with fists, words, or weapons) when we are hurting–or when we are anticipating being hurt. But another part of it is that we lack empathy. Or, conversely, we often find it easier to behave humanely toward one another, and insist on justice for others, when we are capable of feeling each other’s pain.

Which brings me to the title of this post, “Learning not to bite”. While I was thinking of all the things I mentioned above, I thought to myself, “What would it be like if we could arrange it so that every time someone said something hurtful to someone else, they would automatically feel the pain they caused?”

And that reminded me of something I read in parenting books and advice columns when our kids were little. Someone would ask, “I’ve been told that, when my toddler bites me, I should bite him/her back to show what it feels like–is that a good idea?” The answer, of course, is no, but one specific suggestion I recall is this…as the little one prepares to chomp, do a little sleight of hand that results in the child biting his or her own arm. This would cause the child in a very literal way to “feel someone else’s pain”. Of course, at that pre-verbal stage, I’m sure they aren’t thinking that way. It’s probably more like, “It hurts when I do this–so I won’t do it any more.”

As we get older, though, we become more capable of reflecting on what someone else might be feeling. That doesn’t mean we always do. But we’re can, if we’re intentional about it. And field negro’s post reminded me of one of my own “Aha!” moments, when he mentioned being the only Black person at the viewing. I thought back to one of the first times I rode the bus with Demetrius to the south side of Chicago to visit his Mom. At some point, I realized that I was the only White person on the bus, and that was an odd, uncomfortable feeling for me. I’d never been in a situation like that before, where I was the only one “of my kind”.  And I’ve only had a handful of similar experiences since then.

Much more often, Demetrius will be the only Black person when we go somewhere. The only time I remember us specifically noticing and remarking about it out loud was when we attended a Monkees reunion concert, and it was a rather amusing realization at the time. But at other moments, I’ve wondered what that would be like spending much of my life in situations where I am the exception rather than the norm. And I realize that those of us who are in the majority tend to take it for granted that “that’s the way it’s supposed to be”.

Some thoughts on classical conditioning

March 2, 2007

 Crossposted at My Left Wing and Booman Tribune

I’ve been meaning to do a post springboarding off of Maryscott’s essay about the response to last year’s Post article, but other things keep getting in the way. I have these little flashes of insight about what I want to say, and I jot them down so I don’t forget them. My purse now contains quite a collection of scraps of paper, covered with potential nuggets of “wisdom”. Readable to no one but me, sadly, and by the end of the day, I just never have the energy or focus to sit down and synthesize them into what I want to say.

But this morning, I woke up with this one thought I wanted to get across, and decided to go for it. Then my computer started giving me unhappy warning boxes about one thing or another, which sucked up precious minutes. I have way less time than I thought. But I’m going to write this thing, dammit. I just want to get this one idea across, and can revisit it later in depth.

Classical conditioning.

It is used in advertising all the time–pair a product with something that already gives you a good feeling, and hopefully the viewer will learn to associate that feeling with your product. Let’s say you are selling film, and your ad is going to show the vibrant, realistic colors your brand of film can capture. You might show, say, golden retriever puppies playing on a lush green lawn. That would certainly be a good way of demonstrating vivid colors, right? (The following is a lab and not a golden retriever, but it’s a picture I’ve got, and I bet it will make many of you smile…)

There are, of course, many other possible images that could be used to make the point, “our film captures vivid, realistic colors”. For example, say, live, up-close shots of open-heart surgery. What? You say that wouldn’t give you a happy feeling? Me neither. So I’m not going to show you a picture of that.

The point, though, is that the people who make commercials make these decisions all the time–which images, music, lighting, etc. will create the desired positive emotion. Or, in some cases, negative emotion. You might want to evoke negative emotions if you are showing another company’s product. Or a rival candidate. We see that all the time in political ads–using tone of voice, dark music, unflattering lighting, etc. to create negative emotional responses towards a certain candidate. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen only in political ads, but in contexts that are actually supposed to provide “news”.

My dad is a lifelong conservative, and is always going to be against the candidates I like. On the issues, that’s a given. But I think his strong, visceral distaste for Howard Dean went beyond the issues. I became aware of this one day when he was going on about Howard’s angry face, and the way he yells and shakes his fist. And I realized that he gets his “news” almost exclusively from sources that reinforce that perception. They do this intentionally, of course.

One of Dad’s most frequently visited web sites is Drudge. He is always incredulous that Demetrius and I don’t like that site. He claims that it’s just a clearinghouse of links to different articles. Sure. But it’s also a propaganda tool. If there’s a headline about Howard Dean, one of those “angry” pictures will accompany it. You certainly won’t see a picture like the one I’ve got in my banner here. No, that wouldn’t achieve the desired purpose. Another example of this kind of intentional use of pictures to evoke or reinforce a negative response is when right wing bloggers discuss Rachel Corrie. Of course they don’t use the image you see on her memorial site. They use, instead, a very unflattering angry-looking photo. As if that should make people feel less compassion for her–less outrage over the manner in which she died.

So, back to the article about Maryscott O’Connor, which appeared in the Washington Post. I find it patently absurd that so much criticism was directed at Maryscott for the way she “allowed herself to be portrayed”. In particular, the unflattering picture that was chosen to accompany the piece. Why not direct the same amount of energy toward calling the media to task every time we see them trying to reinforce those “angry left” stereotypes?

Cat herding

February 25, 2007

Booman posts “What are we trying to do?”

As I see it, Daily Kos and Jerome Armstrong have not articulated a goal that has any synergy with my goals. We still have a huge amount of common interests. But I am primarily interested in shifting the debate to the left, while they seem to be interested in boxing in the netroots into traditionally acceptable parameters of debate.

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“What kind of alliance are we?”

February 24, 2007

Last night after work, I approved a comment by liberalamerican. It contained some things I wanted to address–at very least, the question I used as a title to this post. And then I couldn’t find the comment to respond to it. One of the many reasons this can be a slow process. Turns out it was a response to “About“, and I hadn’t actually written anything in that section yet. The default WordPress blurb is the only thing there.

So, here I sit, determined to actually write something in complete sentences about the raison d’etre of this blog. I’ve closed the door to the study so that I can try to tune out whatever pointless fight the kids might be getting into. I’ve shut one of the dogs in here with me so that I don’t have to worry about her getting into the trash while I’m working. And I’m trying to tune out whatever power tool the neighbor is using right outside my window. White noise, Renee. Just let it by meaningless “white noise”. So, these are a few of the challenges in trying to move forward with a project like this when blogging is not your day job. Below the jump, I’ll try to address some of liberalamerican’s points and questions the best I can.

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