Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A gift from the Internet Gods... in other news, Scotland still not a country

Once in a great while the Internet Gods drop a gift in one's lap.

It appears that my cowardly internet stalker Lisa of quiz team Group W fame had her email account hijacked by a spammer while I was away on vacation. It was one of those non-blind CC attacks in which email addresses from one's contact list and/or recent sent emails is used as a spam list.

On Tuesday, July 12, 2011 at 12:13 AM I received in both my personal and quiz-related email inboxes spam from Lisa's AOL account which also drew the email addresses associated with the parody blog aimed at this one out of her contacts list. Lisa claims she has nothing to do with that blog.  But look at that gun smoke. By my estimation that's enough evidence to decide a civil case, what with the more-llikely-than-not standard of proof. This is good reason for Lisa not to give me cause to file one.

Part of the frustration involved in arguing with a person who hides behind multiple internet identities in multiple forums to attack me has been a base level of intellectual and other dishonesty. At least on the pages on her crappy TV show blog, where she has two whole pages devoted to calling me an "asshole," she must de facto admit that she is responsible for the content. The continuing lies and changing stories about which wilting comments she has made about me in which forums (including this one until I banned her comments for sockpuppetry) are immature and tiring.

In initially arguing the Scotland question while having several people yelling at me in a bar I made what is a social mistake pretty much only in the anti-intellectual United States; I pointed out that I knew the answer to a straightforward boolean status of a place being a country or not because I spent four years in a program for Comparative and Developmental Politics, and had the toolkit as it were for examining the question readily at hand.

Similarly if someone were arguing with a doctor about whether or not some bodily structure is a bone or not, I would expect that person to eventually point out that, hey, I went to frickin' medical school, so, uh, maybe I know this one. This isn't a substitute for explaining why that is - I have in fact wasted hours and days of my life patiently explaining to the extent that people will patiently listen the hows and whys of this fact on this site and at least three others, usually arguing with Lisa and her sockpuppets- and claiming that my mention of 10 years' experience in education and as a professional in geography education (!) is all just an "appeal to authority" argument is just more intellectual dishonesty on her end.

Lisa having dropped out of 10th grade, this seems to have hit a nerve, a large one connected to the lizard brain, and has sent her into enough of a fit to attack my quiz blog through a series of fake names, attack my internet sales venue, create a parody blog of this one (which she disowns) and two pages of direct attacks on me on another unrelated blog (which she really can't disown).

Coming from a working class background myself I get where some of the venom comes from, but honestly I wouldn't accept withering attacks on my education and intelligence from a Harvard professor - especially not Harvard, egad! - let alone someone whose formal education stopped in their early teens. (Coming from a working class background myself I should also point out that I'm not going to let an underachiever piss on my self-attained educational accomplishments and an income stream of mine in order to boost her self-esteem.)

I did at one point misstate that Lisa earned a GED; as she points out on the "asshole" page she did not. Had she done so she would have actually taken a series of high school classes to which most Americans are now exposed, and perhaps be vaguely familiar with the use of reference materials, standards of proof and maybe even social norms when discussing a topic. Lisa did take a "three-Rs" basic skills test to be declared whatever the State of New York considers minimally educated to enter the world, and so far as I know has escaped well into adulthood without encountering actual classes in the sciences, math and social studies beyond the 10th grade level. So thanks for the opportunity to set the record straight, Lisa, since we have you in print on this website and others giving your opinion of what my education prepares me to understand and explain.

Life lesson: People who live in the basement of someone else's house (owing to a lifetime of reduced socioeconomic standing based in a lack of educational achievement) shouldn't throw stones.

Lisa's wearying little pseudo-intellectual parlor trick is to switch between at least three mutually contradictory "methods" of determining what a country is in a hamfisted shell game. Whenever anyone tries to box her into one failed position and stick with it through a logic train in hopes of arriving somewhere, she'll drop one argument completely and run to another. If even one of them held water this might not be so pathetic.

1) A country is an area that was formerly independent, even if it isn't now. No, it isn't. Are Hawaii, Texas, Vermont, California, Bavaria, Sicily and Andalusia "countries" these days? Does anyone say that, ever? Would anyone like me to start accepting Vermont as an answer to Speed round questions requiring countries? Also Lisa claims repeatedly that "Northern Ireland is a country", even though that isn't even all of Ulster, and was never independent. So she's not actually using this standard all of the time even within the UK while making her other arguments.

Beyond this Lisa and others have started pretty much every argument with me by claiming that Scotland has country trappings now, such as a parliamentary body (Pennsylvania has two of those) or a land border (Maine, anyone?) or distributed paper [but not coin] currency that is graphically different (as do the 12 Federal Reserve Bank regions). Anyone who truly believed that "country" is a function of what used to be would not argue these points in their favor, let alone begin an argument there.

2) "The" dictionary says Scotland is a country. Well, there isn't one dictionary, is there? For every sloppy private publisher - we know that there isn't any body that regulates and coordinates these things, yes? - who claims that there are "four countries" in the UK another will define the UK as one country with "four territories" or something other. Because dictionaries contradict each other (assuming you want to read these entries the way that a religious fundamentalist reads a religious text, a problem by itself), even from one entry to the next, certainly from one edition to the next, all written by different people, Lisa selects dictionaries that, quoted out of context, support her and ignores all the ones which do not. Other people and I have asked her dozens of times how she determines which dictionary is then "correct", forsaking all others, and get no answer. She doesn't seem to have considered that there is more than one form of English in the world with different published reference works, and certainly has no answer for why this is a determination made in the English language and no other. Does she imagine that the global community discusses whether or not to recognize a country based in English dictionary definitions?

In any event in my Speed round quiz question I asked for 14 European countries meeting certain requirements on a list that included Spain, France, Portugal and so forth. That number 14 is important as it should in the mind of any sane person remove any doubt that there are too many subdivisions of actual countries for me to have expected their parts and not the whole as answers, and that only independent political entities were expected as answers. Even Lisa's team understood this and answered "UK" and not any parts thereof at the time. Any time she makes any fizzling arguments about supposed ambiguities in the term she takes special care to avoid this context while proclaiming loudly for three years that I was wrongly applying context. This isn't about the accuracy of my quizzes, it's about Lisa having psychological issues to work out with me as her inflatable punchy clown.

I maintain a geography reference work is preferable to a/any/some general dictionary/ies for answering a geography question. Silly me. In the United States, the official, federal government reference for these things is the CIA World Factbook, which clearly lists the United Kingdom as a "country" and Scotland as a "first-order subdivision." Likewise Pennsylvania and Ontario are "first-order subdivisions." There would be dramatic real-world consequences attached to the federal government also calling parts of other countries countries themselves.

God forbid I bring up the fact that I worked for a number of years in geography education and in fact for a stint even for the US Department of State.

3) The common person in a bar/ the listener determines what a country is. Somehow Lisa takes both sides of a series of ongoing modern and post-modern debates in linguistics and philosophy as to how meaning is determined. I don't think this is a conscious process on her part, I'm just describing what happens. Sometimes, after spending paragraphs or pages promoting the idea that the dictionary provides a proscriptive, definitive definition of what a country is, Lisa will then reverse herself 180 degrees and begin arguing that each individual listener creates the meaning of a word.

Why I'm the only one not allowed to be "the listener" in this situation and do the damn quiz job by marking the papers by one standard is left unstated, and likely unconsidered.

Lisa also like to use out of context quotes from political science articles that she Googles selectively to try and prove me "wrong." Sometimes this results in almost humorous misreadings of the text if one consults the original. Interestingly none of these sources mention the UK or Scotland directly, they are usually concerned with the appropriateness of the new recognition of nascent states. For all the Googling, she seems to have trouble finding anyone, anywhere who claims that Scotland belongs on a list with Spain and France. (You'll note too that these are issues of present and potential future, whereas argument #1 is that Scotland is a country because it was one in the past!)

Most pathetically, Lisa will quote varied lists that there could be said to be 19X or 20X countries in the world. What's astounding about this is that all of those lists display the United Kingdom and not Scotland nor any other part thereof as "countries."  This is easily understood as no body is currently representing itself to the world as the government-in-exile of a country called Scotland and there is therefore no international debate on the issue.

I believe we learned not to present directly contradictory evidence to our arguments the first day of 11th grade.

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