Friday, December 14, 2007

The next Dr. Laura. Just with worse teeth, maybe.

Comes news from across the pond that Libby Rees, age 12, is about to publish her second self-help book. That's Libby at left with her first book—Help, Hope & Happiness—which she wrote at age 9. And there she is again, below right, all growed up. (One supposes Libby waited till 9 to start writing self-help because to do so before that would've been, well, presumptuous.)

"Like my first book, I wrote it from my own experiences because I was moving from primary to secondary," says Libby, demonstrating that an author can capably mangle a modifying clause at any age. "Changing schools is a really big event. I went from a class of 20 to one of 30, which was daunting." Her press release points out that this forthcoming work is "part of a three-book deal" she signed with her U.K. publisher.

A three-book deal. A three-book deal.

(Readers who have any level of involvement with the writing arts will understand why I give the phrase special emphasis.)

I don't want to be accused of reverse-ageism here—and yes, I do recognize that Ms. Rees is aiming at an audience of youthful peers, so maybe it's unfair to evaluate her based on standards set for much older people. But in a way, that's the point: I'm not sure the standards are any different for adults writing self-help. Libby Rees and her three-book deal symbolize so many of the flaws of the genre. First of all, why should anyone, even another child, regard the wisdom of any one random preteen as more valuable or "inspirational" than the wisdom of the many child psychologists and other accomplished professionals who rigorously study the domain (and who also, now, write books aimed specifically at kids)?

But really, the bottom line is this: When people at age 12 are already writing their second book about life and living... Does that not tell you just a little something about the entry requirements for this particular line of work?


Lana Walker-Helmuth said...

As long as the book helps other kids in similar situations, why not? I think it's great. (And brilliant marketing by the publisher.)

Probably most kids would rather read advice from a peer than a child psychologist.

What's with the teeth jab?

Akhetnu said...

The "pure wisdom of innocent children" gimmick comes to mind.

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve - What a surprise! This story reminds of the book I'm writing: Brooding, B*tchy, and Bloated. It tells the story of my own transition from age 48 to 49 and how daunting it feels. I know it will help many other women who are facing the same transition in their own lives. My book is based on my specific expertise, which is quite frankly not much more than an amalgamation of my unique experiences, including the very unique qualification of living on the earth for approximately 49 years.
Think Libby can find me a 3-book deal? ;)

Mary Anne said...

NOW you've written a post that really depresses me. This was something I could have lived without knowing. This post reminded me of a recent book festival I attended. I sat next to a woman who wrote a book (I kid you not) HOW TO SURVIVE A BAD HAIR DAY and OTHER MUSINGS. Being a fiction writer, I always hold my head down and sit quietly less I have to explain what fiction is, but I nearly blew when I heard her book being introduced. I had to work my behind off to get looked at by an agent and this chick couldn't comb her hair one day and got a book deal. She didn't even have the presence of mind to get a good hairstylist! What is happening to society?

Cal said...

It smacks of Dr. Phil's kids writing books. What do they know? I wouldn't want my kid to listen to them.

On your headline: is it true that they have teeth that are worse than Americans? I've heard that comment from many people, but have no first-hand experience to compare. Are dentists expensive or they don't brush their teeth like we do? I've also been told about the lack of use of deodorant.

Steve Salerno said...

I'm going to reserve comment on some of these thoughts till everyone weighs in--looks like we might've hit a bit of a nerve with this one (and for the life of me, I still can't quite figure out what's gonna "click" and what isn't)--but I knew I'd get a question or two about the teeth reference. The English as a society are famous, or I should say infamous, for having terrible teeth: yellow, stained, broken, uncorrected (when in need of braces, etc). Apparently it just isn't a priority to them.

Anonymous said...

This just gripes me no end. So if you have the smarts to put together a book idea or if you have the right marketing gimmick you can just get a deal, like that? And people who have been working hard in the industry for years get passed over. Reminds me of a few years ago, remember when 5 of the top 10 best selling books were wirtten by cats?

Mary Anne said...

I bet you Libby's parents knew someone in publishing. This reminds me of Kaavya Viswanathan's two book deal with Little, Brown, and company backy in 2006. You remember her, she was the 18 year old Harvard freshman who "internalized" Megan McCaffferty's chick lit books and was uncovered by the Harvard Crimson. Kaavya V.'s high school counselor was a published writer and helped get Kaavya V. the deal. Kaavya V. ended up losing the deal and paying back the advance. Now I must go dig up my childhood diaries so that I too can get a three book deal with my childhood pearls of wisdom.

Mary Anne said...

Cal asked,
"On your headline: is it true that they have teeth that are worse than Americans? I've heard that comment from many people, but have no first-hand experience to compare. Are dentists expensive or they don't brush their teeth like we do? I've also been told about the lack of use of deodorant."
Yes Cal, Europeans by far have worse teeth than Americans. We have fluoride in are water and much better access to dentists. As for the deodorant, I think you are thinking of the French. I can speak of the French, since my father was born in France and I am of French descent. The French get the "stinky" title, because they buy the least amount of deodorant and soap per capita than other nations of their ilk.

Steven Sashen said...

I'll soon send you the press release for my fetus's new self-help book, "A Light at the End of the Tunnel," an inspirational tale of one zygote's journey of growth and discovery that's sure to put and end to all that prenatal kicking and moving about.

Steve Salerno said...

So there ya have it: a scientific dissection of the problem. :)

Steve Salerno said...

And Steven: That is classic. You know, that would make a terrific satire.

acd said...

If children Libby's age need self-help books, that says less about the genre's standards than it does about whether we should be having children in the first place. The cause of the phenomenon is not all that important. In other words, it is irrelevant whether the state of the world today is actually getting worse or whether children's attitudes and expectations are simply changing. Sending kids to therapy, drugging them up just to function, now giving them self-help books, while they may just kill themselves anyway, or want to...I mean, come on. There is a bigger issue here than which solution is more valid than another, namely, why we keep adding to the problem by putting more and more children through all this. I just don't get it.

a/good/lysstener said...

I understand your point Steve, but this is a case where I think you're a little off-base. Everybody has some experience that is worthy of hearing. So maybe you're right, she isn't entitled to a "three book deal." But to write your post as if to imply someone of age 12 has absolutely nothing of value to communicate to her peers is I think a sweeping generalization. And an unfair one. At what age, then, does someone become worth listening to?

Lana Walker-Helmuth said...

All we're talking about is a BOOK -- a method of communicating a message that others might find interesting, enlightening, helpful, entertaining, whatever.

What's the big deal about writing about one's experience and sharing it in book form?

Steven Sashen said...


While I agree that "A Light..." would make a fine piece of satire, from reading the comments to this post, I think the joke might be lost on more than a few.

That said it's probably worth doing (we should talk about this. seriously!), and let's hope for a 3-book deal... we could follow this up with something for the about-to-be-conceived crowd, like, "Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in Your Fallopian Tube," or "I'm Okay, You're Ova" or "The Co-dependant Blastocyst"

Steve Salerno said...

Now, now, must learn to be respectful of other folks' gullibility.

But while we're on the subject, how about "MisConceived! Everything I Need to Know About Life I Learned in the Vas Deferens."

Or, if we want to be inclusive of some of our fellow species:

"The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Pupae"...?

Steve Salerno said...

Lana, Alyssa, et al: Let be me clear (and I still reserve the right to come back to this again later)--I have no problem with the idea of young people writing, per se. I mean, I've been a writer and a teacher of writing at advanced levels; of course I'm going to want people to write (and read; the statistics on reading for the current generation are truly scary). If she'd done a novel, or some other nonfiction work, I wouldn't have been sarcastic. But an advice book? How do 9-year-olds have the standing--in any sense--to write advice? Even if they've been through it? Maybe especially if they've been through it (or are we really saying that a 9-year-old's experience of a playground incident and her assessment of the wider meanings can be as valid as that of an adult who's given his/her lifetime to studying such phenomena?) When you hand money to a 9/12-year-old to do such a book, you are, in effect, certifying her as a professional advice-giver. That just boggles my mind.

I know that we all want to hold up the sanctity of individual experience. I've long been a champion of that myself. But I go back to what Wendy Kaminer so sagely wrote in her book I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional: that typically those who write self-help are no better situated to be giving advice than those who read self-help. And Kaminer was talking about adults!

Anonymous said...

Hello from London,

I just thought I would wade in the conversation with my two pence worth of knowledge.

Dentists here are only available privately and cost a fortune which is why English people have terrible looking teeth. They are used to having everything provided for by the government and are not used to spending any money on healthcare.

The publishers are capitalising on the government's growing curriculum of emotional intelligence for example worry boxes for children to write down anything that is worrying them and put it in the box before the lessons begin.

Steve, I think its something you mentioned in a chapter in SHAM.

Lana said...

I see no reason why kids shouldn't give advice to their peers.

Maybe we have differing ideas about "advice." Advice is providing a personal opinion about what to do in certain situations. I believe that advice can and should come from anyone, regardless of age -- it's a matter of sharing what works and doesn't work in the human experience. The receiver can take it or leave it.

I don't think most people see Libby as a professional advice-giver on par with an adult expert who is expected to give more than personal opinion. She's a bright, articulate youngster who is providing friendly, pal-to-pal *help*. If anyone thinks otherwise, then that is an entirely different issue!

(I'm experimenting with using OpenID for this post.)

Cosmic Connie said...

I'm kind of in between thinking this is patently absurd and thinking that it's NBD. Book publishing is a business, after all, with its purpose being to make money. Promoting the literary arts is not its primary focus and probably hasn't been for at least half a century. These days publishers grab any gimmick they think will sell, and they run with it. If the elder President Bush's dog could "write" a book, why can't a 12-year-old?

I know I'm probably stating the obvious, and that I'm also touching on a problem you have written about on this blog many times, Steve. In fact, it's a problem that Ron and I have bitched about too: it's more important for a book to be marketable than to have literary merit (I realize "literary merit" is kind of a subjective judgment, of course).

I do agree with Lana that kids would probably be more interested in reading about the experiences of their peers than in reading dry advice from a child psychologist. My personal opinion is that to really serve the reading public, the book would be penned by the kid for the most part (framed as observations and opinions rather than professional advice, as Lana suggests) -- BUT it would contain supplementary and supporting advice by an adult expert. Or at least it would have a good resource list at the back. (Maybe Libby's book does have the latter; I don't know.)

On the other hand (I'm always looking at "the other hand" and it drives me crazy at times), it's pretty silly that our society seems to need a book or workshop or even counseling to get us through every second of our lives, and to help us with even the most minor problems. Yeah, I know that when you're twelve no problem is minor, but my opinion is that at that age one can benefit from a more adult perspective that says, "This too shall pass."

But then on the *other* hand, if everyone has a book in them, that's potentially more work for Ron and me.

Wow. I'm torn on this one.

That said, I do like some of the other book ideas I've seen on this discussion, particularly Steven Sashen's. Steven, all I can say is that you have a fertile imagination.

Mary Anne said...

Lana Walker-Helmuth wrote:
"All we're talking about is a BOOK -- a method of communicating a message that others might find interesting, enlightening, helpful, entertaining, whatever."

I wish you would go talk to the publishers who turn down me and my writing brethen who have spent most of our lives learning and working our craft. After having nightmares last night of toddlers taunting my with their book deals, I came back and realized this post was NOT a nightmare. I seriously doubt Libby went to the publisher on her own and got her book published. Now the English/Europeans are better educated than Americans so she might have known what a publisher was, but she did not get this book deal by herself. This leads to the next question, WHY would a nine year old write a self-help book? What could be so wrong with your life at nine you would need guidance from another nine year old? I didn't take advice from nine year olds when I was nine. The kid next to me ate his boogers and paste! Do I need another nine year old to tell me NOT to do that? If I were a parent, I would rather my child read E.B. White's CHARLOTTE'S WEBB and we could discuss love and death when it was done. I would rather my child read de Beaumont's BEAUTY & THE BEAST and we could discuss what TRUE beauty is. I can think of so many better books for my child to read than another nine year old's musings on life. THAT is what the BIG deal is.

Lana said...

As a former boss used to say, On the other hand... she wore a glove!

If it's any consolation, Connie, I spin out looking at the many sides of an issue :-) The curse of being a Virgo with rising sign Libra?

Some researchers say that peers have vastly more influence in shaping kids than parents and other adults. I'm hoping that Libby's books are reviewed and edited by experts to make sure the advice is sound, but the kids don't need to know that :-)

Akhetnu said...

The main problem IS that publishing can often rest more on a gimmick or connections than on actual merit. A 'nifty' idea may be worth considering for a short column in the paper, but a three-book deal goes way beyond that. Let's not forget Eragon, which has been accused of taking every cliche and standard staple of fantasy and rehashing it.

I have encountered similar things in the movie industry, with its emphasis on blockbusters, sequels and remakes. That is why I ended up currently producing my animated film on my own.

I also novelized it over the course of a month, but that was more a literary exercise. I might slap it online later when I can retool it.

Lana said...

So, what are we really debating here?

That only certain books or authors DESERVE to be published?

That kids aren't qualified to give their personal opinion to their peers and shouldn't be allowed to put their advice into print? Especially for MONEY?

That only qualified professionals should write about certain topics?

That it's not fair that some little kid with no credentials or training is handed a three-book deal?!

Sorry if I seem to be dense about the problem...

Mary Anne said...

the London anon wrote:
"Dentists here are only available privately and cost a fortune which is why English people have terrible looking teeth. They are used to having everything provided for by the government and are not used to spending any money on healthcare."

A little off topic, but I'm quite curious. Since there have been many medical illnesses linked with lack of dental care, how does the government not provide for dental care? It would seem to be considered preventative medicine.

Yekaterina said...

The opinion that those who write self-help are no better situated to be giving advice than those who read it is an idea that people should at least consider, well worth crying out from the top of a mountain...or from a blog. It doesn't mean that we won't find interesting and/or useful information in such writings, we learn from our imperfect fellow human beings daily...because that's the only kind of human beings there are. The post is a cry to sanity. Bravo!

Steve Salerno said...

Sanity is something of which I've seldom been accused, YeKat (that would be your rap handle), but I do try...and I thank you.

a/good/lysstener said...

So then let me ask you, Steve, at what age does a person's life experience suddenly acquire value? Isn't that all very arbitrary?

The Crack Emcee said...

Two things:
1) "Dentists here are only available privately and cost a fortune which is why English people have terrible looking teeth. They are used to having everything provided for by the government and are not used to spending any money on healthcare."

This is a point to seriously consider as America is being sold the lovely-sounding 'Universal Healthcare': Its horrible hidden costs, like economy-crippling taxes, and the strongly-related spiraling sense of ambition.
'Universal Healthcare' sounds good. France's 35 hour work week sounds great too, until you discover they still do 40+ hours of work, leaving them much more exhausted at the end of the day than, I'm sure, most Americans desire. (Michael Moore's 'Sicko' just isn't so, and the acceptance of 'truth' from a man with no reputation for it is in no way healthy.) 'Socialist' medicine has weighted Europe down, turning it's people into the worried-well.You heard anon, unprompted: "They are used to having everything provided for by the government". Is that really the direction we want America to go?

2) "I spin out looking at the many sides of an issue :-) The curse of being a Virgo with rising sign Libra?"

Yea, that's it: Astrology.

The curse. The kid. The book. It's 'all connected' somehow,...

Cosmic Connie said...

So what's the solution to the health care problem, CMC? We have great health care in the US for those who can afford it. I'm one of those who generally can't. So I take care of myself and hope for the best. I'm one of the "worried-well" in the US, and I bet I'm far from the only one.

I'm not saying that getting the government more involved is the answer either. And as much as I enjoyed "Sicko" for accurately defining the problem, I thought Moore's suggested solutions basically sucked.

Sorry, Steve, didn't mean to hijack the thread.

Now I'll wander back off to my blog...

PS - I don't believe in astrology either. We Aquarians with a Libra rising sign are way too sophisticated for that. :-)

Lana said...

What, Connie?! You don't believe in astrology? I thought I was safe in making that (tongue-in-cheek) comment since you and Steve have mentioned your signs.

Anyway. I agree -- universal healthcare isn't the answer. I think the solution is to drive down the ridiculously high prices, which are, in part, inflated by the drug industry. We'll always be playing catch-up unless huge reforms are made where it counts.

Mary Anne said...

Crack MC Said:
"This is a point to seriously consider as America is being sold the lovely-sounding 'Universal Healthcare': Its horrible hidden costs, like economy-crippling taxes, and the strongly-related spiraling sense of ambition."

I don't where you are getting your statistics or information, but you might want to go to the Centers for Disease Control about how BAD the U.S is with the current healthcare CRISIS. It is actully costing MORE money in the U.S. NOT to have Universal Healthcare. One in for 4 people in this country is uninsured and guess who pays when they go to an emergency department (room)? That's right the TAX PAYER, because these people cannot pay their bills. Asia does pretty well with Universal Healthcare as does the U.K. France is not doing too bad either. In 2008 healthcare costs will rise 10% and more employers are no longer providing health care. Also guess what causes the most bankruptcies? Inability to pay medical bills and THAT is causing a nation of DEBTORS. PLEASE read the the ECONOMIC costs of lack of universal healthcare in the United States. As far as taxes go, we already pay for stupid stuff and CONGRESS has Universal Healthcare in the form of Medicare so it is easy for them to knock universal healthcare-they HAVE it! THEY have LIFELONG health insurance. If you need my references, I can give them to you.

The Crack Emcee said...

I'll suggest you all pay a visit to Panda Bear MDs blog for all questions about what to do: he's in the trenches and knows the ends and outs. Check out this post, in light of the previous quote "They are used to having everything provided for by the government and are not used to spending any money on healthcare.":

Lana said...

Very interesting Panda Bear post. the doctor makes a great point about the misguided idea that we have the "right" to healthcare, paid for by someone else. Also great points about taking personal responsibility.

Thanks, Crack MC.

Mary Anne said...

Sorry Steve, but I had to comment on this. Crack MC gave:
"I'll suggest you all pay a visit to Panda Bear MDs blog for all questions about what to do: he's in the trenches and knows the ends and outs. Check out this post, in light of the previous quote 'They are used to having everything provided for by the government and are not used to spending any money on healthcare.':"

Panda Bear is a resident doctor who by his own admission does not like working in "the trenches," which says alot about him. I think he chose the wrong profession, which says A LOT about personal responsibility in choosing a career. I have read his blogs, but I have also read the STATISTICS and ECONOMIC costs of healthcare in the United States VERSUS European and Asian countries. This are not OPINIONS or VIEWS, but NUMBERS. I have also read government data on this CRISIS. If you want VIEWS, please go to the American Medical Student Association. I am not looking at VIEWS or SECOND HAND information when I write of healthcare, but NUMBERS. As far as taxes go, which seems to be the biggest gripe about Universal Healthcare, what about our deficit? What about the "baby boomers" who cannot afford their medicine? Who is going to pay for that? The RICH can no longer afford adequate healthcare. MANY doctors no longer take "managed" healthcare insurance, but CASH up front leaving the patient to deal with the red tape. Unless you go to an emergency department (room is a misnomer) where the 1986 federal law states no ED (room) doctor can refuse a patient. Health care coverage is out pacing inflation and wage increases. That is why BOTH Republicans and Democrats are dealing with this issue.

Steve Salerno said...

Mary Anne, I'm not going to wade too deeply into this debate, except to note that--as I'm sure you realize--numbers, often, are not the pristine, unimpeachable things we might hope them to be. I'm sure you're familiar with the Disraeli quote about "lies, damned lies, and statistics." I will not deny that as a journalist who has sometimes written with an agenda in mind, I have turned to the statistics that seemed to bulwark the argument I was making. Other people might have come back at me with statistics of their own. There is nothing diabolical in that process, necessary, as long as all parties are making a good-faith effort to (a) use statistics that were compiled in some sort of orderly fashion, and (b) AVOID statistics that appear to be poorly sourced, or are the inevitable byproduct of a process that was bound to cause a deliberate skew.

I'll give you an example. When I was in college, the head of the Women's Studies program announced one day that campus violence against women had "tripled the previous semester, and we cannot in good conscience look the other way! We must do something about this!" And she was right: There had been one assault two semesters ago, and three assaults the previous semester. (And as it turned out, two of the assaults were by the same person on the same day, after a particularly rowdy frat party.) Now, I'm not disputing that an assault is an assault--but you see my point. Evaluated in context, as absolute numbers, the data were not all that significant.

This is why I have become so skeptical of journalism in general. And, in fact, it is one of the reasons I wrote the long piece for Shermer that, I am told, will run on eSkeptic in January and in the magazine in April. I hope that all from this blog will read it and give me their honest feedback.

The Crack Emcee said...

Mary Anne,

We may have a deficit but, believe me, we don't feel it like Europeans feel their tax burden. Hundreds of dollars in taxes just to drive a direct route (long distance) on the freeway? $100.00 a year just to watch television? $9.00 a gallon gasoline? No, no - we don't want any of that. Things may be "bad" but that would be crippling.

And I lived in France and they're doing a lot worse than "not bad". Get a few glasses of wine in a frenchman and, in no time, he's sobbing and telling you how hard his life really is. That was the whole point of Sarkozy's election: To finally break with Socialism and get the people back to work.

I know I'm in a minority on this but, about the baby boomers, they had their self-destruct party and, now, they should just *quietly* die and let the rest of us try to, culturally, put the country back together again. Personally, in case you can't tell by that statement, I'm sick of them. Look at this:

Mentioning Boomer problems is a sure way to turn me off.

Mary Anne said...

Steve, I TOTALLY agree with you about statistics and numbers, but that's why one must look at MANY sources before coming to a decision. One must look at the SOURCE of the numbers to see if there are hidden agendas or biases. I have done this with my views on healthcare in the U.S. I have looked at economic numbers for Europe and Asia in comparison to the United States and our GNP. I am actually an Independent and do not adher to ANY party, but this issue gets so riddled with incorrect data that it irks me a bit. That is why I pursued the topic.

Cosmic Connie said...

The ever compassionate Crack Emcee wrote: "I know I'm in a minority on this but, about the baby boomers, they had their self-destruct party and, now, they should just *quietly* die and let the rest of us try to, culturally, put the country back together again."

Crack, aren't you a baby boomer yourself, or pretty close?

Also, FYI, not every baby boomer was an endlessly partying drug addict. Even people who take good care of themselves often develop health problems as they get older. So are you saying we should just let all the baby boomers die while all the "good" people clean up the mess they left behind? Yeah, you're pretty much in a minority on that one.

And what about the "greatest generation" -- the World War II generation who raised the baby boomers? Many of these folks can't afford health care either. I know, let them die too. They're old, they're cranky, they're incontinent, and they're really a drain on our health care system.

And what about those young families who can't afford decent medical care for themselves or their kids? They should have thought about that before they reproduced. Might as well throw them to the wolves along with the boomers and the geezers.

Rolling my eyes and wandering back to my blog... but I'll be back. :-)

Lana said...

Boy, I'm glad that I'm a Joneser.

Cosmic Connie said...

I'm kind of confused about what Generation Jones is supposed to be. My understanding was that the Baby Boom generation comprises those born between 1946 and 1964. Yet the most common definition of Generation Jones is people born between the mid-50s to the mid-60s. Seems like most of the Jonesers are a subset of the boomers.

However, I think Crack's idea of baby boomers are the folks who went to San Francisco with flowers in their hair forty years ago during the Summer of Love.

As for the health care system -- we don't need government funded health care so much as we need to have a system that is structured in such a way that it's actually beneficial to the consumers (and, yes, the hard-working, caring doctors and nurses and other practitioners) rather than the insurance companies, the HMOs, and the pharmaceutical companies.

RevRon's Rants said...

As I listen again to the rants about the evils of impending "socialized medicine," I'd laugh if the arguments weren't so obviously borne of "conservative" spin, and so pathetic at their core.

Sure, Europeans are paying more for gas, and a lot more in taxes. The operative phrase here is "paying." Europe is paying, while we are wishing upon a star. Eventually, this country will have to pay the bills that have been run up over the last decade, rather than just add to the deficit. And we won't pay those bills with voodoo economics, either. Our kids will probably long for the day when gas only costs $9 a gallon, or when they only paid 30% of their income in taxes.

What we desperately need in this country isn't "socialized" medicine, funded by taxpayers, but rather a degree of *regulated* medicine. What we have now is a health care system designed to benefit insurance companies and HMO's, rather than patients, and the curiously misnamed "conservative" movement is to a large degree responsible for the mess.

While I'm all in favor of the government staying out of our lives, there are some areas where government involvement is the best possible mechanism. We have "socialized" mail delivery service, "socialized" police forces, and even a "socialized" education system. Where the regulation of those systems is geared toward actually getting their respective jobs done, things work well. But when parties with vested interests in the systems are allowed to regulate them, we have the worst possible situation.

Perhaps when our elected officials start acting in the interests of the country as a whole, rather than reaching out for the biggest campaign dollars or cow-towing to every minority group that whines abut how "disadvantaged" they are, we'd actually see some progress. But that won't happen so long as the donors keep spending and the poor, disenfranchised babies keep whining.

As to the suggestion that the baby boomers should just die, little need be offered in response. It speaks pretty clearly for itself.

And back to the original topic, I believe that children can offer valuable insight as to their experiences and mindset, but looking to them for solutions to the problems of childhood makes little sense. Their insights need to be weighed against the wisdom that comes after actually working through the experiences. Failing to moderate advice from children is akin to allowing the lunatics to run the asylum. We can learn a lot from our children; let's not learn how to be children all over again, with all the ineffective aspects of immaturity left intact.

Lana said...

Generation Jones is not a subset. It is the "lost" generation between the Boomers and Generation X. We had different formative experiences than the Boomers. According to Jonathan Pontell, "One major difference is that Boomers tend to be idealistic, Xers tend to be cynical, and Jonesers tend to be a balance of idealism and cynicism. Attitudinal research bears this out."

You can read more at Pontell's old Web site:

All very interesting, and debatable, of course!

Cosmic Connie said...

These are interesting topics, Lana, and thanks for the link to the site. Even so, from the standpoint of chronological age, most of the Jonesers do qualify as baby boomers under the traditional definition of boomers as people born between 1946 and 1964. Yet most of the Jonesers didn't go to San Francisco in the Summer of Love or to Woodstock in 1969 -- at least not of their own accord -- simply because they were too young. Perhaps the original category of baby boomers really was too broad. As you said,though, it's all debatable, and I think that as time goes by, we'll probably continue to refine our definitions of the different age groups. I guess we can't really call them "generations" any more, at least not if we define "generation" as "the average interval of time between the birth of parents and the birth of their offspring."

For that matter, though -- and this is getting back to Crack's remark about the baby boomers and their "self-destruct party" -- many baby boomers didn't do the hippie/druggie stuff either. They didn't "tune in, turn on, and drop out" in the sixties, they weren't necessarily promiscuous in the seventies, they didn't destroy their nasal tissue with coke in the eighties. I ask Crack, should all of the people who took reasonable care of themselves -- or even those who indulged in "youthful indiscretions" -- be thrown out of our health care system and left to die?

And for that matter, what about the significant numbers of Gen X, Gen Y, etc. who are apparently on a "self-destruct party" of their own -- as Steve wrote about in his recent post about the tragedy of his son's late ex-girlfriend? Many of these folks have youth on their side now. But when they start getting middle-aged and older they're going to have significant health problems. If nothing else, there's going to be a lot of demand for tattoo removal and surgical repair of pierced tongues and nipples and genitals. Will insurance or the government be expected to pay for that?

The point being, of course, that we can't "blame" a single generation (or age group) for all of the problems we face, any more than we can blame a single political party, or a single religion, or even the new age, for that matter...

But I guess all of this stuff does give us something to blog about.:-)

PS ~ Steve, I hope that some of the words I used in my comment didn't bump your blog down (or up?) to an NC-17 rating. :-)

Steve Salerno said...

One of the most rewarding aspects of blogging, to me, is the degree to which these things take on a life of their own, with threads peeling off in various directions. (Hmmm. Can a thread peel?) I've always been fascinated by the obsession with "generation," and how we so neatly (too neatly, I think) demarcate between Boomers, Xers, Jonesers, etc. It's interesting, though: My wife and I are not quite four years apart (she's the cradle-robber), and yet there's no disputing the generation gap that divides us: She's from the era of hanging out down by the bus stop, the guys with a pack of cigs tucked under the shoulder of their tee-shirts, crooning Frankie Valle songs (the guys are crooning, not the cigarettes)...whereas I'm Viet Nam, bongs, protest marches and the like; the whole Woodstock thing. And notwithstanding the few years that separate those generations, it's amazing the vitriol they can have for one another and the iconography they hold dear.

Btw, it's off-theme (kind of), and I've never been a great supporter of John McCain politically, but I loved his remark upon hearing that Hillary wanted to set aside funds to build a Woodstock Memorial in upstate NY. "I find that I can't really get 'into' what went on at Woodstock too much," he quipped. "I was busy at the time...." (Note to younger readers: And if you don't know what McCain refers to when he says should make it your business to find out.)

Steve Salerno said...

SS NOTE: This is an edited version of a comment from The Crack Emcee.

Mary Anne,

My problem with your numbers - AND YOUR CAPS - is that you're framing the issue all wrong: As you said, go to the emergency room and anyone can get first class healthcare here, while, in France, 75% live with homeopathy (that's "magic water" to those of you that don't know) and other medieval practices. My point is we get what we pay for and (as Steve said) numbers, alone, don't tell the tale. There's just too much we're not being told about how others really live.


I was born in '61 - close enough to the end to consider myself as merely an observer of the freak show. As you know, I never got spiritual, joined a cult, meditated, pursued yoga or healthy living, put flowers in my hair, or otherwise did anything to find I was a god or in any way the center of the universe. I'm a punk who (like The Ramones with Reagan) is, clearly, part of George Bush's America - the part that thinks the stuck-up open-minded pseudo-hippie types were the disaster that's befallen this country and, yea, look forward to the day they - and their twisted Maharishi-inspired influence - are finally gone. I think, for the good of this country they did so much to destroy, the Boomers should finally shut up and go quietly into the night. Let another generation speak for once.

And it's not a lack of health insurance that's the issue but access to good healthcare - which we have in spades - best in the world. To me, unnecessary whining amongst Boomers is a bigger part of the problem. I get it: They want it all. But is that realistic? Like a lot of Boomer complaints, the healthcare CRISIS (as Mary Anne would say) is just a problem that cooler heads, like Panda Bear's, would be able to fix, in a heartbeat, if the always-unreasonable Boomers would just get out of the way and quit muddying up the issue(s) by blindly comparing our multi-cultural New World to the much-older and more homogenous countries, like France and Japan, that are nothing like us and don't deal with half the issues we do. But, of course, that's just too much to ask of the generation known for their loud mouthed idiot self-centeredness.

And who, exactly, are these "wolves" you speak of? That's precisely the Boomer mind-set I dislike: They can't help the country function because they're always at war with it. Get over it. We live in the greatest place on earth. A place other people risk their lives to get to for "a better life". (Don't you see that, Con?) As a veteran, my problem isn't with the government, which I know does things wrong sometimes, but with ignorant civilians always suspecting it of *something* no matter what - ignoring the fact that many of them are idiots. They don't want America to work - nor do they want to suspect that they (yes, the supremely self-centered, paranoid, mind-expanded public) are a big part of the problem. I mean, name another country, in the history of the world, that gets attacked by outside forces and, for no reason at all, it's own people go on the war path to prove the government did it. They hold anti-war rallies that never mention the attackers - just the president. It's sheer madness, but you'll never see the Boomers grappling with that - or any of the other major assumptions about the nature of reality they've been wrong on. Boomers are the fruitcake generation and those of us that have come up in their wake are forced to suffer the consequences of their lemming-like folly. It's a sickness in itself. A national sickness.

And finally (speaking of sickness) we live as long as everybody else in the Western World, give or take 2-3 years. The idea that we're being cheated, or aren't getting our fair share in the healthcare realm, is just so much paranoid Boomer nonsense. They really need to come back down to earth. What we need more of is hard work on these subjects, which is something the corner-cutting Boomers were never big on either. (Did anybody really think all that free food at Berkeley's People's Park is really "donated"?) Hypocrites, thieves, and liars, but always with the best of intentions.. That's the Boomers I know.

Gag me.

Cosmic Connie said...

I understand ya, Crack, really. As you know, I agree with you on many issues. Like you, I love America, I dislike the new-age/New-Wage, and I don't think that what (sort of) works in France or England or even Canada will work in the US. I get all that.

But I think it's patently absurd -- and wrong -- to lump all of the boomers together. I live with a guy who did the "hippie" thing for a while, but he also volunteered for the military and fought in Viet Nam. He loves America too and wants it to work, but is no fan of Bush and isn't afraid to criticize the administration. (And he's not whining for the government to take care of him either.)

I misspoke (or mis-wrote) when I referred to "the wolves." It was an ill-conceived but quick way of expressing the idea that we should just throw an entire generation away and let them die.

And by the way, it's not just "the boomers" -- by whichever definition one chooses to use -- who are against the war in Iraq.

The Crack Emcee said...


Please leave my comments out of your posts. If you don't even imply that I exist then I'll do the same for you. Let's just forget each other: We never met, even online. That's the way I want it. This comment requires no reply: Just do it.


I generalise, of course, but the weight of the Boom Generation is real, and crushing, constantly crippling my ability to enjoy almost anything anymore. (I tie my personal pain directly to them, as you know) The damage they've caused will be with our country - and the world - long after they leave the stage. And, since their creedo makes them incapable of making apologies, I feel no need to apologize for my loathing:

They've been a disaster - and I'll be glad to see them go - even with me and my pain (hopefully) following at the end.

They turned on, tuned in, and, now, it's time for them to, truly, drop out.

I love the work of Chris Locke, and Christopher Hitchens, amongst others, but Boomers like them are rare. As P.J. O'Rourke said (in the link I posted, above) most want to force their nonsense down our throats before they go (I've heard too many tell me, to my face, they want a "civil war" over the direction of this country) and, damn it, Hippie ruthlessness is just beyond the pale - and darkly inspiring - obviously leading me to give up some of my own values (like tolerance and compassion for all forms of thought) and, finally, joining them in openly saying, "I don't care" - words I've always hated.

I am the obvious product of the Boomers influence - their "Demon Seed", so to speak; produced, forgotten, and abandoned, in their pursuit of spiritual fulfillment - but I'm, also, exactly what every Boomer parent wants and deserves:

The so-called "Love Child" who is glad to put their affairs in order.

Mary Anne said...

Crack MC wrote:
"And I lived in France and they're doing a lot worse than 'not bad'. Get a few glasses of wine in a frenchman and, in no time, he's sobbing and telling you how hard his life really is. That was the whole point of Sarkozy's election: To finally break with Socialism and get the people back to work. "

You've lived in France? Well, so have I. I am going to condense a few of my responses to this one post.

As I stated in a previous post, I have French citizen father and I am of French descent. My father was born in Brest, Brittany, France in 1939 during the German Occupation. My father voted for Sarkozy and spends have of the year in France so with my first hand experience I feel I can speak about France and do so.

By the economic numbers produced by the French Labour Department. From my findings, the biggest issue in France is immigraiton and dealing with NON-French and NON-Catholic immigrants. Their employment numbers and Gross National Product, do not show these economic problems. The EURO as of today 12/19/2007 stands at 1 EURO equals $1.44 dollar. Europe as a whole is not doing that bad.

I lived in Italy and Greece, but am not of their bloodline and feel it would be unfair for me to comment on their politics. I do belong to the Hellenistic society do to my work with Greece.

I capitalize for emphasize, because I am not that proficient with using italics with my blogger. Having stating that, I will use CAPS for emphasize in my postings.

I actually can speak to crying Frenchmen whenever I like, they are my relatives. I have lived in Asia as well as Europe.

I was paid to do a report on the ecomoic factors of healthcare in the U.S. I spent six months in the EDs of SF General Hospital (San Francico, CA) Highland Hospital (Oakland, CA) and Summit Hospital (now Alta Bates in Oakland, CA)so I have seen ED's first hand.

I base my views on healthcare from MY findings and MY experiences with this subject. I also base MY views on economic numbers.

If you are born in 1961, you are considered a Baby Boomer by the U.S Census Burearu, which states the last significant baby boom was from 1946 to 1964.

So far you have stated NOTHING that changes my views.

RevRon's Rants said...

I think it best that we leave the moderating - and baby sitting - to Steve. When I see a comment that really off the wall, I will sometimes comment. I will, however, remain adult and civil in my responses. If someone perceives a civil challenge to an idea they express as being threatening to their holy writ, so be it.

I've heard dramatically differing reports on the state of health care in other countries, and am prone to discount a great deal of the information that is offered by someone with a vested interest in the outcome. From my own research, I've found that Mary Anne's perspective seems most reasonable and accurate. While we in the US have the best health care available of anywhere in the world, it is, by and large, inaccessible to a significant portion of the population. That's what happens when accountants have authority over medical practice, rather than physicians, and when insurance industry execs and lobbyists get to write the legislation under which they must operate.

The same is true in every industry. In publishing, decisions are made by individuals with expertise in how well a given "product" will sell, rather than by those with insight as to how the book will impact humanity. One significant difference between the two industries is that I would imagine it to be very rare for a prospective reader to die for lack of a given piece of literature. I'd be willing to bet that the decision to publish the young girl - much less, offer her a 3-book deal - was influenced far more by novelty and her "cute" quotient than by the value (or even quality) of the information she had written. But what the heck, the decision was probably made by a baby boomer... 'Nuff said. :-)

Mary Anne said...

It is a myth that the U.S. has the best healthcare it does have the best emergency care though. That is why I chose to target EDs for my research, but EDs are primarily state and federally funded too.

The top health care belongs to France in first place and Italy in seond according to the World Health Organization. The U.S ranks 37 of industrialized countries. The U.S. also has the highest infant mortality rate of industrialized nations. The U.S. also has the highest number of surgical mistakes and medical misdiagnoses, which I found amazing with so many malpractice suits. The U.S. also has the highest rate of cesarean sections for women of an industrialized nation.

RevRon's Rants said...

While I'm aware of the fact that the health care that the average citizen in the US receives doesn't measure up to some other developed countries (to what should be the US' shame), the care that is available - if not accessible to most - is superlative.

Here in Houston is what is probably the foremost medical research and advanced treatment center in the world. Yet until the health care industry is run by those whose primary concern is... well... the actual health of the populace, even such potential will continue to go unrealized. So long as the industry is guided by accountants and lobbyists, and run according to guidelines set by insurance companies, we will fall far short in comparison to countries where the welfare of the citizens takes precedence over outrageous profits.

Lana said...

Mary Anne,
I've seen references to Dr. Barbara Starfield's article, "Is US health really the best in the world?" published in JAMA, July 26, 2000. She reported 225,000 deaths per year from iatrogenic causes, which makes doctors the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

Do you have any comments about this study? Are the doctors you talk to alarmed?

Cal said...

This comment is related to Steve's original post. I heard today where Jamie Lynn Spears, Britney's 16 year old sister, announced that she is pregnant. I'm not going to bash Jamie Lynn on this one...every one makes mistakes. But I heard that their mother was in the process of writing a book about how to raise your kids. I just find it hard to believe that any serious publisher would market a book by their mother after how Britney has turned out.

Steve Salerno said...

Cal, you stole my thunder: See today's post on the family Spears (a bit later).

The Crack Emcee said...


I make a simple request - for peace - and, despite my asking politely, you ignore it anyway: Way to go, Buddha Boy, you prove the worth of those great "teachings" every time you open your mouth.

Mary Anne,

'Gotcha' on the caps: Thanks for clearing that up.

I agree that immigration is definitely an issue in France, but, as expected, the recent riots were about economics, with Sarcozy himself saying knocking down the barriers of Socialism is a goal of his presidency. (I was telling french people that he was going to be the prez, back in '04, when many frenchmen were still, stereotypically, declaring him a "fascist" for saying something had to happen) I mean, when a simple train strike can bring the whole country to a screeching halt, your country has got a serious problem. I lived with a union organizer for a while and it was revealing that he never got what he wanted, but on he went, declaring that "now the bosses know!" What I knew was that he would be back at work the next day and everyone (the whole country) lost a lot of money for nothing. France is backwards, economically and otherwise, and I hope Sarkozy can wake it up before it collapses (again) under it's delusions.

And these side-by-side number comparisons you do, like with the dollar and the Euro, aren't very revealing: France - Europe even - doesn't do half the things America does in the world (like, as I said, security - a big ticket item, if ever there was one, that Europe refuses to pay for) and a low dollar can always mean we sell more goods to Europe. And how can the healthcare cost of a huge multi-racial, mostly immigrant, country, like the U.S., be compared to mostly homogenous countries that are only a sixth our size (France, Italy)? Seriously, our economy (above all others) is just too complex for a simple comparison - especially with France, which is, mostly, agricultural. Belgrade? Belgium? Italy? There's just no way to do it. Our country is dynamic compared with any European country - or Europe as a whole - without many of the simple-minded "old world" constraints, like everybody stopping to eat at the same time or most everything closing at 7PM, that seem ingrained in the European way of life. You can't just start a business overnight in Europe like you can here. You can't even travel with the same efficiency, unless you consider the train - or all those service roads cut in the days of the Romans - efficient. It's just a joke for me to think someone is trying to compare that easily.

I, too, live in the SF Bay Area and don't think (with it's own unrelentingly leftist Socialist bent) it's a good vantage point to comment on the cost of medicine, what with all the mind/body/wellness whackiness - and the Left-wing mindset - that exists here. Look at all the American medical schools that wrap us in nonsense - and that's nothing - just scratching the surface, really. Did you factor woo into your report? Did you count it as a negative? All the pure nonsense that gets funded? (SF General is famous amongst skeptics for it's, apparently regularly scheduled, bogus "prayer studies" alone.) After my divorce started, I once went to SF General for some anti-depressants and the doctor had so many woo-based books on his shelf that I just left without talking to him about anything. Who needs more of that when that's exactly why you're there? It made me feel like I was trapped with the doctor in Rosemary's Baby.

Or maybe I was,....

Mary Anne said...

Crack MC stated:
"France is backwards, economically and otherwise, and I hope Sarkozy can wake it up before it collapses (again) under it's delusions."

It is comments like this that make me sad to call myself an American. I was not going to further this train, because from what I can tell Crack MC, you do not have first hand experince with French politics, economics, or government to make your statements.

This is my LAST post on this, because I would have to use Steve's blog as a crash course in ecomomics of INDUSTRIALIZED nations and Steve's blog is NOT the place for that.

Crack MC you insult me by implying I would not have the knowledge or intelligence to know how to compare countries by size, exports, demographics, and other data. All those variables were and ARE taken into account when making comparisons of European and Asian countries to the U.S. I KNOW how to do research of INDUSTRIALZED nations, which France and the U.S. belong.

I was going to write this in French, but I don't think Steve reads or writes in French, so I am going to give a direct (translated) quote from my French father about WHY Sardosky was elected president of France.

"He is going to get rid of those filthy, disgusting heathen Arabs who are polluting France."

So Crack MC, economics is NOT the reason Sardosky was elected. Sarosky is taking a HARD line with the Northern Africans who are BORN in France, but NOT French and are being kept from participating in French politics. So I'm glad you love a racist bigot.

Mary Anne said...

I actually discussed this blog with a friend who lives in Europe. She thought it was funny my exchange with Crack MC. Just shows how "uneducated, isolated, and stupid" Americans are she said, but of course, she told me I was "different."

Her words hurt me, because I don't think this image was the one Alexander Hamilton (he personified the American dream),Thomas Jefferson, or WEB Dubois had. They believed that we were the experiment that could succeed and now we are the butt of jokes. At one time we were considered an educated and dialogue driven society. Now we are considered a nation of couch loving yokels with attenton spans of fleas.

I have heard my European friends and relatives joke with me about how "exceptional" I am for my ability to discuss other cultures, my education on foreign matters, and my ability to know history and geography. I am considered the exception and not the rule now.

At one time the U.S. was the ideal of other countries. We have had our growing pains and mistakes, but yet we had educated dialogue and INDEPTH exchanges. Now we give pat answers, superficical data, and sound bites masquerading as information.

It is just so sad.

RevRon's Rants said...

Hmmm, a ludicrous attack on an entire generation - to which both of us were born - followed by demanding "peace" when that attack is challenged. Striking blows is hardly the way to achieve peace. And wanting to silence any challenge... how "W." :-)

Cal - Britney's mother's book may well be a valuable tool for any parent... by teaching them how *not* to raise their children. However, to be fair to mom (who may or may not be a competent parent), some kids just screw up, despite their upbringing. And when you consider the circumstances of a lower middle class kid who suddenly has seemingly infinite wealth and the admiration of millions of her peers, it isn't too hard to see where she got confused, or where a good bit might rub off on little sister.

Steve Salerno said...

Ron, re Brit's mom and her book's utility: My sentiments exactly. In fact, those are almost exactly the words I used in my (belated) post on the topic, today.

See, as much as we sometimes differ, there's always common ground. ;)

The Crack Emcee said...

I said:

"a low dollar can always mean we sell more goods to Europe."

And todays Q3 GDP report states:

"The GDP growth in the third quarter marked the fastest pace of growth since the third quarter of 2003, when GDP surged up 7.5 percent.
The acceleration in the pace of GDP growth compared to the previous quarter primarily reflected accelerations in exports,..."

Just as I said,...

This subject's really more complex than you're allowing Mary Anne. I think you're trying to play 'gotcha' - a favorite game in the SF Bay Area - trying to prove something that you want to be true (that healthcare, and/or our government, sucks) when the truth is things are much better than that, paranoid, self-defeating Boomer filter will allow.

France - and Europe as a whole - has never seen GDP growth anywhere near what we've come to expect as "normal", much less even more growth, and our less-than-strategic-thinking leftist Americans - inspired by French nonsensical thinking - will, of course, always scream, simplistically, that a lower dollar equals disaster. (One of my best friends, who's politically kinda on the fence since I took on these subjects, called me recently, screaming, "What is Bush going to do about the dollar!?! What more is it going to take for you to abandon him?" He's since calmed down and is slowly learning that the immediacy of headlines don't always reveal the truth of a situation. As Mark Twain said, "A lie will make it around the world before truth is still putting it's boots on.") Declaring the United States of America a failure, every time it's discovered some aspect of it doesn't work *perfectly*, only reveals the immaturity of the complainers - not the deficiencies of the country.

Contrary to what leftists think, it's not bragging - or blind patriotism - to state this is the greatest country in the history of the world (The "New World" to those outside of our borders) but the place you have to start to accurately assess our "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation. We can only compare ourselves to ourselves, because there's no other country like ours, having started out light years ahead of the others in our thinking.

I think Americans have got to streamline our thinking, re-learn what our country is, and what it's capable of - in the ability of America's "can do spirit" to achieve great things - which has been beaten out of us, by Hippies, in favor of the, muddied-up, too-easy *success* of individual Maharishi-inspired navel-gazing. Those people were losers, hell-bent on trying to convince us we're an ugly country, when the truth is they were merely projecting their dark fantasies on us. Really - even with our problems - we're doing fine. So, considering all that, I think continuing to stop the nonsense is the best gift Americans can give themselves, and the world, this year:

Which should bring us back to that kid's book,...

RevRon's Rants said...

I shoulda read today's post before commenting, Steve, but I tend to zip past anything with Britney's pic or name in bold type. Mea Culpa.

Steve Salerno said...

Re Crack, Mary Anne, and The Ongoing Debate: Geez. I didn't realize we were going to have to go out and retain my old WSJ page-mate, Arthur Laffer, to sort this all out for us. But guys (or guy/gal)--though I'm still not sure why the facts and figures need to be surrounded by so many sly swipes at one another--I can't help but applaud you for your specificity and dedication to the cause. It astonishes me that so many people expect to be able to have these sorts of esoteric socioeconomic dialogues in a purely off-the-cuff manner.

Mary Anne said...

Crack MC stated:
" After my divorce started, I once went to SF General for some anti-depressants and the doctor had so many woo-based books on his shelf that I just left without talking to him about anything. Who needs more of that when that's exactly why you're there?"

You went to SF General? That is a county, state, and federally funded hospital paid for with TAXPAYER money. Are you under Medical or Medicare? Are YOU reaping the benefits of taxpayer healthcare?

I had assumed that with your vehemence you had PRIVATE healthcare. Don't you spend YOUR money on your healthcare as you are advocating everyone else does?

You're correct it is a COMPLEX issue and I hope you are paying for your health insurance, because I pay for mine.

Steve Salerno said...

And Rev: No prob, dude. Hell, two years into this, I'm still amazed that people read any of it!

Mary Anne said...

Steve asked:
"But guys (or guy/gal)--though I'm still not sure why the facts and figures need to be surrounded by so many sly swipes at one another--I can't help but applaud you for your specificity and dedication to the cause."

You gripe about this, but at the same time you encourage it.

Now you have allowed me to be called a Nazi, a "good German" refers to that, but did not let me respond to it. It would seem you are allowing that to happen again.

I responded to Crack MC's post, because it was a comment that was unfair to the English guest you had and probably lost. That is why I apologized to you for responding to it, because I knew it could go on. It was very deragotory one made about France and in my view one with limited information.

Why must we put down other countries? Why can't we LEARN from each? I do ask that if someone wants discourse with me they give me WHY they think the way they do and I will do likewise.

Steve, we are on a world stage and wouldn't it be nice to have some opinions and information from the citizens of this world? Can we do that without belittling other countries? This it the view other countries have of the U.S. and is not the one I want to keep portraying.

Steve Salerno said...

Mary Anne:

You wrote, "Now you have allowed me to be called a Nazi, a 'good German' refers to that, but did not let me respond to it. It would seem you are allowing that to happen again..."

I could be wrong, but to my knowledge, I have not rejected, censored or edited any of your comments. Certainly not of late. (And I certainly have done that to your chief philosophical adversary.) So I don't know what you mean when you say I "did not let [you] respond..."

Also, insofar as my administration of the blog and my attempts to keep things civil: Look, I've had this out with others, and as I've tried to explain, this is not an exact science. Almost all of these posts, once things get heated (as they will), involved judgment calls of one kind or another. It can be hard to know where to draw the line. I try to be fair. I know that I don't always succeed. But I can promise you this: I never intentionally put one member of our community at a disadvantage to another, or purposely let someone get skewered "just for sport."

To be honest--again--I don't really see why any of this personal venom is necessary. I know that in some quarters, highly personal sarcasm is considered the height of sophistication. From my POV, I'd much rather people brandish their sophistication by making elegant, well-reasoned, documented arguments that, perhaps, make someone else's ideas look silly--but that leave the person himself/herself alone.

RevRon's Rants said...

"I'd much rather people brandish their sophistication by making elegant, well-reasoned, documented arguments that, perhaps, make someone else's ideas look silly--but that leave the person himself/herself alone."

Inasmuch as it's your blog, Steve, it is within your power to *ensure* that such decorum and civility is maintained... *if* you choose to do so.

Mary Anne said...

Steve you might have let it go through, but a while back you allowed me to be called a "good German." I assumed at the time you did not know what a "good German" referred to.

Steve asked:
"From my POV, I'd much rather people brandish their sophistication by making elegant, well-reasoned, documented arguments that, perhaps, make someone else's ideas look silly--but that leave the person himself/herself alone."

Now this is a bit of a stretch, because it can be obvious from someone's posts that they come in with limited or personalized information. Ergo making the person's whose ideas do not hold up to feel slighted or out to prove they are right, which leads to personal attacks.

How can I debate algebra with someone who does not know their times' tables? People have various levels of education, life experiences, and knowledge. This is not a level playing field you have with this blog. No one on this blog, as far as I know, are Harvard debators who have the same training in debate so I do not understand how you expect people to uhderstand debate.

I am sure with a few of the comments you let go by, you are missing out on a few well-educated and thoughtful bloggers who think blogging on your blog is not worth it.

The Crack Emcee said...

Mary Anne,

First, yes, I pay for my own healthcare. I have no insurance and, in case you can't tell, I'm the type that prefers to carry his own weight.

"Why must we put down other countries? Why can't we LEARN from each?"

Because, since you seem incapable of giving your own country any props, preferring to suck up to others for approval, it's important to point out that all countries are not equal. America and Namibia? Sorry, America wins. America and Belgium? Sorry, America wins. America and France. Really, sorry, but America wins. Why that's embarrassing to you is beyond me: It makes me - a black American - quite proud.

Europeans can't turn their noses up at me, and make me feel bad for being black, like they can an African - I'm an American. I can look at their medieval mindset and marvel at how they've been able to survive this long being so damn stupid. One of my favorite stories is about asking a group of french people why they didn't more 24 hour supermarkets, and this woman - who thought she was being so damned smart - said, "Sir, if we had 24 hour markets, the owners would never get any sleep!" And, then, the group of them laughed at this silly American.

Of course, their tone changed around midnight when they needed something and couldn't get it because the village was shut down tight. Then they wanted to know how this whole 24 hour idea worked. And then they got sad, because America sounds like the paradise they'll never be able to equal. And they won't. Because they're too bleeping arrogant to think they could learn anything from us. I mean we have blacks running things and everything. Who's the major black french politician, Mary Anne? Name one - just one - to prove how worldly, and sophisticated, your adopted home is,...I'm waiting. There's surely blacks there. I've seen them, being forced to wait up to five years for drivers licenses. Selling belts, lighters, and other trinkets, to the swells in the South of France. Standing in one place, for entire days, begging for change without lifting their eyes, because if they make eye contact someone might smack them. Please, tell me all about this place I know nothing about. That racist hell-hole that has so much to teach my black American ass (with the dirty 1970s-style apartment buildings that look like they were built by the soviets, and all those crappy single-lane roads with no overhead lighting, and a diet that's so limited the average America would think he's in the Gulag) Oh, they're so much more advanced than we are.

And what, exactly, is wrong with Europe, finally, learning from America? We're, obviously, more advanced than they are. It just stands to reason they'd have more to learn. You know, like saying, "Hey, France, you guys would find your lives greatly enhanced if you'd start a program to standardize your toilets so you don't have to smell your own crap all the time! It really makes a big difference, when you're having a really bad day, which seems to be often over there." Or "Hey France, homeopathy is just water - why are 75% of you using it as medicine? Don't you have a brain?" You know, that kind of thing.

That's where I would start at least.

Steve Salerno said...

But see, Ron, let me delicately point out the difficulty in serving as moderator--by using your own very brief comment, above, as an example. Believe it or not, there are people who would interpret that short comment itself as "ad hominem," because you are implicitly--they might say--calling me lily-livered, or accusing me of bad judgment, or being a bad "host," or whatever you want to call it. I don't happen to feel that way--or if I do, I also feel that the point you make is worth a public hearing. (Clearly Mary Anne also leans that way, as one can tell from the last graph of her own comment, below yours.) Point being--again--this is not an exact science. I feel that I sometimes have to give people a bit more leash. And that's always a personal decision, and a judgment call, and I live with the consequences. I try to be as fair (and, yes, inclusive) as I can. And leaving aside some of the more "academic" blogs that remind me of the pseudo-intellectuality of much of what I encountered on American campuses, I continue to consider SHAMblog as good and as educated a mainstream forum for the exchange of ideas as there is.

RevRon's Rants said...

As I'd said before, Steve, if you honestly believe that ill-informed attacks on individual contributors - hell, even entire cultures and generations - add to the value of your blog, you are welcome to allow them. I don't consider - or imply - a lily-livered nature. I do, however, think you might be answering some need you're not acknowledging that has nothing whatsoever to do with intelligent discourse. Perhaps a sense that the "steak" needs more "sizzle." In this case, however, it's more akin to piling on ketchup.

Lana said...

I agree with Ron.

Some contributors here go far beyond the exchange of ideas. And Mary Anne is right -- most people have no idea how to debate constructively.

In some ways I can see the difficulty in moderating your blog, Steve. But because you do know when people cross the line (going into personal attacks), why approve those comments? There are plenty of unmoderated blogs where contentious debate is welcomed and encouraged.

You could even set up another blog that is unmoderated and let people have at it there.

Cosmic Connie said...

Hey, I just thought of another baby boomer who was on a self-destruct party for a rather extended period of time, via alcohol and other recreational substances. But he did serve his country, bravely fighting the war in Alabama. Later he grew up to be the nominal leader of the free world...

But again, he's a baby boomer!

Of course, he's not whining about lack of health care because he'll always have access to whatever he needs.

As my mother lies in the hospital facing what may very well be her final battle, my siblings and I are dealing with many of the issues we have been talking about here and some we haven't. One of the issues we've been talking about: I think my mom's quality of life over the past few years could have been much better if we'd had access to a level of care not covered by Medicare and her supplemental insurance. But at least she *has* insurance. I don't even have that.

At any rate, I just can't see where it's unpatriotic to talk about the problems with the US healthcare delivery system. We do have some of the finest doctors, hospitals, and research facilities in the world. Many of those world-class facilities are right here in Houston (as "Buddha Boy" pointed out). But most of these fine resources are all but inaccessible to a large number of citizens.

Whether this is "fair" or "unfair," I can't say. But it's a fact.

RevRon's Rants said...

To clarify a bit, Steve, you should know that my comment bore no resemblance to an ad hominem attack. Had I said that all SHAM debunkers - or baseball fans - were evil or idiotic, THAT would be an ad hominem attack, very similar in nature to those to which I've objected (and no more ill-informed). You know that I wouldn't make such inflammatory (and stupid) statements, even if I deluded myself into believing them to be true.

I have never commented with the primary intent of defaming or insulting any individual or group. I have on occasion pointed out what could easily be perceived as lapses in logic or the products of an individual's (or group's stereotypical) pathology; not with the intent of demeaning the individual or group, but as a means of addressing the ludicrousness of the comments.

I will admit that in the process, I have aimed ridicule at the commenter, but only in proportion to the ridiculousness of his assertions. Had I so ridiculed an entire race, culture, or nation, my comment would have appropriately been blocked, in my opinion, since such blanket denigration would constitute the kind of isolationist racism that intelligent people have worked hard to eliminate, and which I would hope not to encounter on your otherwise intelligent blog.

The Crack Emcee said...


I'm sticking to my guns:

He doesn't exist.

Who's "he"?

I don't know.

Then what am I referring to?


Tah-dah, I've acheived Zen.

Mary Anne said...

Steve, I hate to belabor a point, but this ORIGINAL blog was about a BRITISH child and a BRITISH publishing deal. You only got one response from a someone living in Britain about why this child got a deal. That is what I'm talking about when I mention stifling dialogue.

jpatti said...

Does anyone remember Zoom? A PBS tv show with a group of kids who wrote the show, acted the show, etc. I loved that show.

Seems like there was also a news show done by kids that I was fond of as a child.

I can absolutely see why kids would want to read a book by another kid. Almost all tv, books, movies, music is made by adults. to a kid, it's terribly kewl when another kid does it.