Re: Someone Had Better Have Ended Up Sitting Out In The Sun With A Fine Mat On Their Head And A Case Of Corned Beef Next To Them Over This

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What does the Samoan traditional justice system look like? I'm interested to see how it compares to the Tswana system, which is pretty good, all things considered.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 5:58 AM
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Nyberg's wife seems even more deserving of judgement, to be honest, having run off and left her husband on his own with a) a full-time job b) a kid to raise and c) all the extremely stressful and complicated fallout involved in obtaining said kid to deal with.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 6:01 AM
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I ... don't follow that, actually.

I was all set to click on the link and discover some depraved tale of horrid child abuse, not a man deciding he wasn't cut out to be a single parent and sending his adoptive daughter to be cared for by her birth family.

(I'd hope, if he's still in touch with the Samoan family, that if Elliea wants to come back to the US when she's older, he'll support/sponsor her.)


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 6:13 AM
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Plus, I'm sure that LB knows far more about Samoan culture than I do, but I would guess that Samoans tend not to think: "What shall I do to this guy who's screwed us over? I'll stay in regular touch with him and call a couple of my kids after him. That'll teach him".


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 6:19 AM
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What it does confirm for me is how dubious I find international adoptions by couples from developed countries of children from undeveloped countries. One, it's not like there aren't any number of children in your own country in need of adoptive parents - and two, it's really obscene that wealthy families can literally buy a healthy child, even if their intent towards that child is kindly and well-meaning. Infants genuinely available for adoption because they were abandoned or their parents died, are unlikely to be of the high standard that Western parents are looking for... and so are not marketed to them by the babymongers.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 6:21 AM
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The people who ran the scam, a Mormon agency called Focus on the Family, are terrible people

The link says it's "Focus on the Children". Though Focus on the Family is pretty terrible too.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 6:26 AM
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Aaand off we go into the third-world orphanages debate again! Hurray!


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 6:27 AM
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2: I might feel differently if I'd seen the video, but you know, maybe Mike Nyberg was impossible to live with? I want to come out with some proverb like "never judge a woman for leaving a man until you've done his laundry for a week" but nothing comes to mind.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 6:27 AM
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7: Actually I didn't intend to discuss Third World orphanages, but Western wannabe adoptive parents who decide they want a baby and don't care much what or who they pay for that.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 6:29 AM
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but Western wannabe adoptive parents who decide they want a baby and don't care much what or who they pay for that.

There was a case in Ireland a couple of years ago about a couple who decided this, got a baby, then nine months or a year later decided they hadn't "bonded" --- and so they brought the child back to the orphanage.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 6:34 AM
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8: well, maybe he was. Maybe he was a horrible person. But I'm not the one who started judging him: that was LB, who reckoned he'd done a fairly contemptible thing in not going ahead with the adoption arrangement, and I was just pointing out that Mrs N had made exactly the same decision, only she did it without consulting anyone else, and seems to avoid criticism altogether. (She could, after all, have taken Elliea with her when she R-U-N-N-O-F-T, but she didn't.)


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 6:34 AM
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I had somehow not realized that Samoa was 30% LDS.

John Roberts' children were apparently adopted via the grey market. They were formally adopted from somewhere in south or central America. The birth mothers, however, apparently were spirited out of Ireland (where international adoption is illegal) so that they could give birth in a less restricted market.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 6:45 AM
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And here's where I start judging Nyberg: when his wife left, he decided that Elliea's family had only agreed to her living with an intact Mormon couple, not in a divorced family.

It seems to me that on the second pass, to be more of a 'borrowing', rather than the kind of absolute commitment that normal adoption represents.

So he sent her back to Samoa. That seems so wrong to me -- at that point, he'd made a commitment to the kid to raise her in the US, and her birth family had consented to that.

He did make a commitment, but what other commitments did he make along with it? Does it matter to her family that she was supposed to live with a couple? Does it matter to her family's temple? If the only issues were material, that is, if he was sending her back for trivial reasons ('I can't afford this! I need a Porsche!') I'd agree with you. But he has a track record (from previous to that) of doing the right thing (after the initial mistake) so if he says he needs to do that, I am inclined to believe him, absent any other information. Particularly since the kid is a 'loaner' rather than a permanant addition. The consent of her family and the kid's psychological well-being seems to me to trump the material issues.

max
['Conflicting commitments.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 6:46 AM
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I'm not sure he behaved worse than she did, especially since he seems to have kept in touch with the family.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 6:48 AM
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Plus, it also seems relevant that he believed (because he turned them in) that the adoption had been unfair to the family because it was arranged under false pretenses.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 6:51 AM
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Aaand off we go into the third-world orphanages debate again! Hurray!

The last time there wasn't much of a debate on that particular topic, just a debate near it.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 7:01 AM
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I want to come out with some proverb like "never judge a woman for leaving a man until you've done his laundry for a week" but nothing comes to mind.

do the sexes reverse in this proverb?


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 7:03 AM
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17: Oh, I'm sure they do. If anyone reads a story about a man who walks out on his wife, leaving her to raise a young adopted child alone while trying to handle the fallout from the dodgy adoption, their first thought is "well, you can't blame him for ditching her; she was probably really difficult to live with".


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 7:08 AM
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They were formally adopted from somewhere in south or central America. The birth mothers, however, apparently were spirited out of Ireland (where international adoption is illegal) so that they could give birth in a less restricted market.

Is that true? I took a quick look at the Irish Adoption Board website and it's true that it doesn't seem to have data on adoptions of Irish children from abroad, but the language of some of the tables is hard to interpret.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 7:11 AM
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19: Aha -- I found the following at some random website and have no idea if it is true: "Foreign adoptions are exceptionally rare, since adoptive parents must be resident in Ireland for at least one year." So perhaps not illegal, strictly.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 7:15 AM
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||

But What About the Men ...anyway, the following made me LOL

Jim Says: May 19th, 2009 at 3:58 pm

Women are better at everything than men. There are studies that prove this. Any studies that prove that men are better at something than women, like math and science, are biased and sexist. And why would you even study whether men are better than women at something? Even the idea is sexist.

Ok, now back to studies proving women are better than men -- at everything.

But laughing was so very wrong.

|>


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 7:16 AM
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17: If you can find a mixed-sex couple where the man does all the house- and family- work, while the woman's role is to be the family's high priest and financial provider, sure they reverse.

But in general, in mixed-sex couples, it's the woman who is expected to be the unpaid, uncomplaining servant of the man she lives with, not the other way around: and this is especially true in Mormon couples, given the LDS goes big on "traditional gender roles".

(From everything Orson Scott Card has written about the Mormon family, it's practically an article of faith in the LDS that you can't bring up children properly unless there's a Father and a Mother doing the bringing-up work - so Mike Nyberg's returning his adoptive daughter to her birth family may well have been at least in part dictated by the mandates of his religion. He couldn't have remarried as a Mormon unless he could have got his prior marriage annulled, and I'd guess that takes quite a while...)


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 7:21 AM
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My second-cousin-once-removed, Orson, is not entirely representative of all Mormons. He's dug himself fairly deeply into his conservative positions.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 7:34 AM
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I heard the same story, and I seem to recall that Mike told the Samoan family that he and his wife were getting a divorce and asked the family if they wanted Elliea to stay with him in the U.S. or return back to Samoa. The family responded that they wanted her to be raised by an intact family, and since the Nybergs were divorcing, they wanted her to return home. So Mike respected their wishes and took her back to Samoa. He didn't "send her back back to Samoa" simply because he was getting a divorce; he asked the family what they wanted, and it was they who decided they wanted her back.


Posted by: Random Lurker | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 7:37 AM
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Who can I drive away this time?

I was impressed with the steps the legal system in Kazakhstan appeared to take to avoid this sort of fraud.* The birth mother of our son was required to write out her intention to permanently sever her relationship with her new born in her own handwriting, a formalistic paragraph in Russian from which we learned that she tends to reverse letters (I have this condition also, and I half-hoped that our son would inherit this minor disability from his birth mother so we would have something odd in common, but he's showing no signs of it). She also had to appear before a magistrate to testify to her intention about a month after giving birth, shortly after the boy was sent from a hospital to the orphanage. Six months later she was formally notified again of the adoption proceeding, which was in the courthouse fairly near her home, and had another chance then to reclaim her baby, although she was not informed that it was an international adoption. She did not appear. From the court documents we now have the birth mother's address so our son will be able to try to find her some day if he is so inclined. I don't know for sure but it's possible she can get our address as well. Both the U.S. adoption agency and the Kazakh orphanage strongly discouraged us from contacting her before he's grown up, and we've accepted that so far.

The system isn't perfect and wouldn't be acceptably in this country. the birth mother wrote down a fake name for the birth father, and apparently no attempt was made to locate him.

Also since we spent several weeks visiting the orphanage for an hour or two a day, we have no doubt that he was in fact in an orphanage and had been from birth. Also no doubt that the orphanage personnel were doing the best they could with limited resources. We also have no doubt that there are more unwanted male babies than adoptive parents there, since the orphanage had lots of healthy boys past the age of likely adoption. No girls though.

It was also reassuring that in a situation where "gifts," i.e., bribery, are inevitable, the orphanage director elected to take hers in the form of a carton of children's tylenol. Less reassuring that the Minister of Education (who signed off on over 1000 foreign adoptions a year) insisted on Chivas Regal.

*"Apeared to take" because I have no way to determine if the documents I received are forged or induced by fraud.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 7:38 AM
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Mostly, I came out of the story judging the adoptive father who blew the whistle on the agency

This has already been covered, I think, but this strikes me as a very odd thing to have as your main takeaway. I haven't listened to the TAL episode; maybe he comes off poorly.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 7:41 AM
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the birth mother wrote down a fake name for the birth father, and apparently no attempt was made to locate him.

That's reasonably standard practice here. I know several people who've done it, or claimed not to know.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 7:42 AM
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23: He would certainly appear to be fully representative of the political wing of the Mormon Church, as evidenced by his sterling work for their campaign against human rights for LGBT people in California.

(Your second cousin once removed? Really?)


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 7:45 AM
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25: I think that's the problem: "appeared to take".

(Admittedly, a bribe in the form of children's Tylenol is reassuring as to the orphanage supervisor's character.)


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 7:47 AM
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24 gets it exactly right. Another aspect of the story (relevant to 11) is that Mr. N had bonded much more closely with the child than Ms. N.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 7:48 AM
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30: than Mrs N had with the child, or than Mr N had with Mrs N?
...actually both appear to be correct...


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 7:51 AM
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24: I don't think that's exactly right. What I heard was Nyberg saying that he believed her birth family wanted her to be raised by a married couple, so he told them he was returning her to Samoa on that basis, not that they had asked for her to be returned rather than raised by a single parent. I'm bringing in my preconceptions about Samoa here, but the nuclear family, centered on a married couple, isn't of central importance -- the larger web of extended family is what you pay attention to. I find it pretty implausible that her birth family (once they had consensually entered into an agreement where Elliea would be raised by the Nybergs in the US, while maintaining contact) would have affirmatively asked her to be returned due to the divorce (and if you listen to the story carefully, I'm certain that he didn't say they did).

My belief from the story is that the birth family had, by the time of the divorce, agreed to essentially an open adoption and hadn't withdrawn that consent due to the divorce. At that point what I'm thinking about is the kid, who's been raised from four to six in the US, went back to Samoa for a couple of months and was then told she was back in the US for good -- enrolled in school, not expected to do manual labor, having access to modern health care and dentistry, and so on. There's no indication in the story that the kid wanted to go back to Samoa (she's reported as having cried herself to sleep for months after having been returned for the first time) and given the consent of her family to the open adoption, I don't think it was in her interest or her family's interest for her to return.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:00 AM
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25 apparently differs from the procedure followed in Blighty chiefly in the absense of any serious check into the suitability of the adoptive parents. And that would be my principal concern with it. Not that I suppose the unimaginitives are bad parents, but the orphanage supervisor has no way of knowing that. For the rest, as ttaM says, if the father has never been a permanent feature of the landscape, non curat lex who he is, and why should it?

(Also, in English law the Minister for Education is not obliged to sign off on it - a judge does that. If he were, I suppose he's demand at least a luxury flat in central London.)


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:00 AM
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32: Did the adoption stand up given that it was contracted under false pretenses?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:06 AM
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34: I'm not sure what you mean by 'stand up' -- no one brought a legal challenge to it, AFAIK, given that the birth family had consensually agreed with Nyberg to a continued open adoption once they all figured out what had happened.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:10 AM
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27: In the United States (at least in my state) an adoption cannot be finalized for several years unless both parents consent. If hte father can't be identified or located, the jduge is supposed to make findings of fact as to the reasons the father can't gbe found, and they sitll hold up the process for a year or two in case he turns up later.

32: I left that part out, but there was a formal investigation into the adoptive parents as well, requiring submission of fingerprints, tax returns, absence of criminal records, medical examination, letters of reference, a social worker's report on the home environment, etc. All of that happened before we traveled to Kazakhstan. The results were incorporated into the Court record. The judge also asked us a few questions through an interpreter but they were perfunctory.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:14 AM
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35: I wasn't sure where in the timeline they had agreed to the open adoption.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:17 AM
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re: 36

I wasn't talking about adoptions. I was just mentioning that not putting the real father's name on the birth certificate is pretty standard here in certain social milieu.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:18 AM
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35: When they affirmatively asked him, a few months after he had initially returned her to Samoa, whether he wanted to take her back to the US and raise her there while maintaining contact with them.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:19 AM
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Still. Given the full story, and that the family is on good terms with the guy and he keeps in contact, I'm inclined to cut him a bit of a break. She'd be better off materially if she were here, but it's not clear she'd be better off overall with a father who was ambivalent about raising a daughter. I can't imagine how horrified he and his wife must have felt when Elliea learned enough English to tell them about her family.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:29 AM
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32: but, from your account, Elliea was going to go back to Samoa eventually anyway, right? "The Samoan families hadn't consented to having their kids adopted, but they had agreed that the kids would be taken care of by American families until they were eighteen."
And would that have been any better - raise a child for fourteen years in the US, until she can barely remember her life before the adoption, and then return her to the steaming Samoan hell of manual labour and inadequate orthodontics that you describe?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:30 AM
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it's really obscene that wealthy families can literally buy a healthy child, even if their intent towards that child is kindly and well-meaning.

Exactly. It's worth pointing out that all the same rationalizations mobilized in favour of international adoption about doing it all "for the benefit of the child" are barely distinct, if at all, from the rationalizations used to justify the kidnapping, theft or purchase of children from poverty-stricken parents for centuries. This was in fact a key aspect of the justifications for -- it may be in semi-Godwin territory but fuck that, it's really quite relevant -- the Trans-Atlantic Trade.

It should surprise nobody at all, ever, that such "adoptions" often shade into simple kidnapping (which AFAICS does apply here -- I don't see how the agency taking the child under false pretenses, and deceptively using conventions in the host society to ease that practice, can be anything other). It's a practice that isn't nearly regulated enough and deserves to be scrutinized at all times, the motives and the actualities, with the utmost suspicion.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:33 AM
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52:22-54:01

Narrator: Back in Utah, Elliea was soon at home again: sleeping in her old room, playing with her two brothers. She started up school in the fall. And Mike said he was so hopeful about the whole thing, that his wife would come to feel as close to Elliea as he did. But things didn't really improve.

Nyberg: In June was when she came back; in October, my wife asked me for a divorce.

Narrator: The past three and a half years had been rough on Mike and Carrie's marriage. The stress of adopting, and then giving Elliea back, was huge in itself. But on top of that was the investigation into the adoption agency, Focus on Children. The Nybergs were in constant contact with various law-enforcement agencies. The case had sort of taken over their lives. It was exhausting.

The day after they decided to split up, Mike called the Sos to let them know. Now he was asking them what they wanted to do: leave Elliea with him, or take her back.

Nyberg: Well, I knew full well that their idea for their daughter was to be here with an LDS family in the United States, but the key word there is 'family'--and an operative family, where there's a mother and a father, not a divorce situation. So I called them the next day, the Sos, and presented to them what was happening, and asked them what they would like to do. And they chose to have Elliea come back to Samoa.

Narrator: Mm hm.

Nyburg: And when they did, they said, "If you and Carrie ever get back together again, you can have Elliea again."


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:34 AM
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42 was me.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:34 AM
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My great-grandmother was a Card. As it were. I'm not precisely sure what kind of cousin that makes Orson.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:35 AM
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41: When she's eighteen, she'd be an adult legally and practically capable of making her own decisions. Samoa's not hell -- as countries that poor go, it's probably about as pleasant a place to live as any could be. There's not significant hunger, there's no malaria, violence is mostly strictly interpersonal rather than large-scale disorder and so on.

Nonetheless, Nyberg took a small child, and implicitly promised her a level of material comfort and safety that's not available in a developing country, and let her count on those expectations for years. Then he took that away because he was ambivalent about being a single parent, rather than because of her own wishes or those of her birth family. That seems like a significantly shitty thing to do to me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:37 AM
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43--Aha, so the Samoan family was also LDS. Well, that all makes some sense, then. Since the cultural barrier to divorce in LDS families is so high, the Utahn parents probably really were screwed up by the whole breakup.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:37 AM
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43 to 46. Your assessment of what supposedly happened doesn't match what he describes.

If in fact he did make the decision in consultation with the birth parents, I don't really see what the probably is, excepting that the whole situation never should have happened in the first place and there shouldn't be organizations trawling for children in the developing world.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:39 AM
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Problem. What the problem is.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:40 AM
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43: Mmmm. All right, that's what he said. If that's flatly accurate, that's better than I thought. But in context, I doubt it. If you listen to the whole thing, he presents it as affirmatively his decision to send her back -- he doesn't talk about having wanted to keep her in the US and having respected the Sos' authority to override his wishes. I may be wrong, but from listening to the story as a whole I had the strong belief that he presented the situation as "I can't take care of her anymore because I'm unmarried; would you like me to send her home to you?" and got a yes.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:42 AM
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excepting that the whole situation never should have happened in the first place and there shouldn't be organizations trawling for children in the developing world.

This, of course, is absolutely true. The adoption agency should have been strung up.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:43 AM
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50: And if he didn't assess himself as capable of raising her alone, he should have kept her anyway? Isn't that practically begging for a much worse situation to happen? Are those not precisely the sorts of situations where child abuse has a high opportunity to develop?


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:44 AM
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re; 50

You do seem to be reaching to find this guy at fault.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:45 AM
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Are those not precisely the sorts of situations where child abuse has a high opportunity to develop?

Um, he shouldn't have kept a commitment to a child because he was afraid it would be difficult enough that he might end up abusing her? That's not enough to keep me from judging; you take on responsibility for a kid, you take on responsibility for not abusing them.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:47 AM
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53: I don't think so. I'm making one leap of fact that's not in the story, based on my sense of what I know about the Samoan context. While I believe the birth family agreed to her return, I don't believe they affirmatively asked for it or would have seen the divorce as a basis for desiring it.

If I'm right about that, I think he treated her like a housepet, something that could be abandoned when it was inconvenient to care for her.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:50 AM
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The divorce rate among Mormons in the U.S. is generally reported to be the same as or just slightly lower than among the general population. Divorce is stigmatized fairly heavily, but it happens all the time.

It's true that Mormons get a lot of gender essentialism and nuclear family stuff preached at them. This is the most popular recent emanation from the hierarchy among active Mormons, it seems.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:51 AM
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Yeah, LB, I don't know. We have to read the guy as seriously misdescribing what happened, including making up their response.

Understand, I'm not saying that I believe adoptable kids are returnable or anything like that, but this situation strikes me as unique, given the agency's malpractice, the decision to try again with an open adoption, and his marriage falling apart early in the re-adoption process. I don't see any reason to doubt his story, especially given that he already has two children (so it's not as though Elliea is the only thing standing between him and swinging bachelorhood.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:52 AM
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I don't understand what he is supposed to have done, here.

The transcript in 43 clearly indicates what the wishes of the birth family were. So either he is lying about that, or he was supposed to keep her against their wishes? Really?

And your last sentence, there seems little or no evidence for that at all.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:53 AM
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54: Um, he shouldn't have kept a commitment to a child because he was afraid it would be difficult enough that he might end up abusing her?

I doubt he consciously processed it this way, but frankly, given the frequency at which it happens, more people should think it through this way and do so seriously. Child abuse isn't something that happens at the hands of bug-eyed monsters from Arcturus IV.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:56 AM
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Yeah, I didn't make LB's leap at all while listening to the story. It sounded to me like he was really hoping they would say, "Of course, she should stay with you no matter what your situation is," and that he was pretty torn up when they said "Bring her back." LB knows more about Samoan culture than I do, but I can definitely see, from the angle of a traditionally religious guy, a sense that he should not be raising this child outside of a traditional "family" without her birth parents' blessing. What I heard there was a lot of guilt and self-loathing about being a divorced person in a culture that is constantly screaming about how kids must be raised by A MOM AND A DAD.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:02 AM
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Also, it seemed doubly awkward that his wife did not want to parent Elliea. So while the boys might go back and forth between their houses, Elliea would just stay at his house, wondering why adoptive mommy didn't want to spend time with her? It just sounded like the sort of situation that would make a Mormon divorced dad think maybe it's not best for the child to be there.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:04 AM
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58: The transcript in 43 clearly indicates what the wishes of the birth family were. So either he is lying about that, or he was supposed to keep her against their wishes?

I think he's misrepresenting their wishes; I doubt he thinks he's lying. If you listen to the story as a whole, it seems very clear to me that the divorce as an obstacle to his retaining custody was his issue, rather than something raised by the birth family. He talks about having been unsure about whether he made the right decision, with no implication that a different decision would have required overriding any desire of the Sos' for her return -- it seems clear that he believes that he would have been able to continue parenting her with the continued consent of her birth family, if he'd thought that was the right thing to do.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:06 AM
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Agree with 53. This guy intended to adopt a child as a member of a couple. He then finds himself as a single foster parent. If he was the only adult this kid has, then yeah, I'd say he's committed. But given that the child had an intact biological nuclear family in Samoa, I can't blame him for reaching a mutual decision with the family that the best thing to do was send the kid back. I mean, he might be a jerk, but I don't see enough here to reach that conclusion.


Posted by: dramedy | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:07 AM
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61: Certainly, it sounds like an awkward situation. (I'd be judging Mrs. Nyberg more if there'd been enough information in the story to figure out what was going on with her.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:08 AM
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In partial defense of LB, I think she's right not to simply defer to Nyberg's description of what happened. When he says that "he knew full well" that the family didn't want Elliea raised in a divorce situation, his perception could easily be colored by his own beliefs. (Perhaps they did have that preference, but given Nyberg's own views about how big of a deal divorce is, he read it as a far stronger preference than it was.) When he says that he "presented to them what was happening", it's quite possible that his account was colored by his own beliefs about divorce, and that the family responded to the way he presented the issue. (From the family's perspective, knowing that Nyberg cared a great deal for Elliea, it might make good sense to trust his sense of the cultural meaning of divorce for the children.)

But I don't think we're in a position to believe affirmatively that that was what happened. And I do think that the last sentence of 55 is profoundly unfair.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:09 AM
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re: 64

I don't mean to be confrontational on this one, but you do seem to be going out of your way to be as uncharitable as possible to Mr Nyberg while withholding judgment on Mrs Nyberg.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:10 AM
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62: Still, it's hard for me to just put some blanket of blame on him. In Samoa, she had a mom and a dad and siblings, and in the US she had a divorced family, part of which didn't want her around. Who is he to say that growing up on a farm with a family is worse than growing up in a nice school without a "real" family? (Not my ideas here, but imagining his reasoning.)

I guess part of what bothered me about the story was at the end when all these American adoptive parents kept saying, "But it doesn't matter if these kids were basically kidnapped; these kids get the wonderful chance to live in clean, bright, commercial America!!" Nyberg was the only one who sounded like he was thinking about a kind of quality of life based on something other than money. If people with money should be raising the world's kids, then would we understand at all why the parents of the kids Madonna wants to adopt might say no?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:12 AM
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He was also the only parent who worked with Focus on the Children to send his child back once the scam unraveled. Everyone else hung on tight.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:15 AM
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65: Mmm. I'm in a funny position here, because although I'm culturally much closer to Nyberg than the Sos, I've known more people like the Sos better than I've known people like Nyberg, and I'm more inclined to empathize with them than with him.

If you look at what he says about them, they twice actively propose that Elliea live with him in the US -- first, leading to her initial return to the US from Samoa, and second when they unprompted suggest that if he remarries his ex Elliea could return to the US to live with him. I have a strong sense from context that they were not pushing for her return, they were accepting it on the basis that he couldn't care for her.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:15 AM
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65: Sure, I expect he's presenting himself in the best light possible. But if he honestly believed that the adoption was conducted in part based on their belief that she was going to a two-parent home (it would be interesting to see what the norms were -- were single parents eligible for adopting with this agency?), and instead he has a situation where he is divorced and his ex-wife who also adopted her (right?) is not interested in co-parenting, I can see why they might have thought Elleia might have been better back in Samoa, land of dental care aside.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:16 AM
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AWB-pwned.

Has no one mentioned Captain Lou Albano's terrible role in all this?


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:16 AM
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(That is, yes, of course, being raised in clean bright commercial America is indubitably better than languishing in an orphanage somewhere. But adopting kids who have parents who want them--or think they're getting them back--on the basis of "ew you have dirt floors and livestock yuck" is just bourgeois self-satisfaction.)


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:16 AM
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66: I'd judge her more, but I don't have enough information to judge her with any specificity -- all I know about her is that Nyberg says she didn't bond with Elliea and that she divorced him. I generally think ill of her, and would think worse of her, probably, if I knew more specifics.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:18 AM
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67, 72: There's a general question, and a specific question. Generally, the people who ran this adoption agency should be strung up, and parents whose children were fraudulently taken from them should have them returned -- thinking that any kid is so much better off in the US that it justifies kidnapping them for adoption is disgusting.

Specifically in this case, though, Nyberg and the Sos' reached a non-fraudulent agreement for an open adoption, suggested by the Sos, after he had discovered and remedied the initial fraud. That non-fraudulent agreement is the one he backed out of at the end of the story. And that seems to me like a failure of care in his relationship with Elliea.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:24 AM
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That non-fraudulent agreement is the one he backed out of at the end of the story. And that seems to me like a failure of care in his relationship with Elliea.

This claim is premised on him lying in the transcript provided in 43.

LB you still sound like you are reaching.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:25 AM
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Um, he shouldn't have kept a commitment to a child because he was afraid it would be difficult enough that he might end up abusing her? That's not enough to keep me from judging; you take on responsibility for a kid, you take on responsibility for not abusing them.
...If I'm right about that, I think he treated her like a housepet, something that could be abandoned when it was inconvenient to care for her.

I agree with ttaM that it's interesting that, to LB, it is the father alone who has made this commitment to the child, who takes on the responsibility, who decides to abandon the child because it's inconvenient... the mother seems to have no more agency or responsibility than a potted plant. And, no, sorry, "she didn't bond with the child" is not an excuse.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:28 AM
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75: Have you listened to the whole story? If you haven't, try it in light of what I say in 62 -- what he says as a whole about being unsure about his decisions doesn't make sense if the Sos were pressing for her return, rather than accepting it after he'd informed them that it would be inappropriate for him to keep her given the divorce. Depending on how the conversation went, the transcript in 43 could be awfully self-serving without being literally false.

I might be being too hard on him -- possibly they did actively seek her return once they found about the divorce. That's not the impression I got, though.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:31 AM
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Nyberg and the Sos' reached a non-fraudulent agreement for an open adoption, suggested by the Sos, after he had discovered and remedied the initial fraud. That non-fraudulent agreement is the one he backed out of at the end of the story.

But the non-fraudulent agreement had implicit terms, which were subsequently violated. And he asked the birth family whether that was important to them, or whether a new non-fraudulent agreement could be struck on different terms. And they said "no, we'd rather have her back."

That's according to all the evidence in the story. Your case against him rests entirely on the fact that you disbelieve every one of the statements above, based entirely on your experiences with Samoan culture. You've certainly got more experience with Samoan culture than I do (or than most people here), but even so that strikes me as a pretty thin argument. Is the culture really that monolithic?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:32 AM
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76: I don't know anything at all specific about what the mother did or didn't do. Generally, I think ill of her, but I can't judge her specifically without more specific information than was in the story. Certainly, as (I believe) she also adopted Elliea, she's equally culpable for walking away from that responsibility to her.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:33 AM
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"You have an obligation to this child because you are legally her parent." is very different from "You have an obligation to this child because you had an agreement with her parents to let her stay with you." Even assuming that it was Nyberg's call to send her home (which I don't think is necessarily the case), I wouldn't condemn him for deciding that it wasn't going to work out.


Posted by: dramedy | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:35 AM
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And he asked the birth family whether that was important to them, or whether a new non-fraudulent agreement could be struck on different terms.

No. He doesn't say or imply that he asked them if he could continue to care for her as a single parent and they refused. If he'd said that: "I told them that I was committed to caring for her myself, but that if they wanted her to return to Samoa rather than being raised by me alone I would return her, and they told me that they wanted her to return" I wouldn't think a bad thing about him.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:36 AM
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81: okay, fair enough. I shouldn't comment, I guess, since I havne't listened to the segment. Perhaps I was reading some things upthread out of context.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:38 AM
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Having listened to most of the story, it strikes me that the guy is concerned with ensuring that what was done was Right. I mean, seriously, within three years, Elleia wouldn't have remembered her family, and he could have just figured that she was better off in the U.S. and that her family would be okay with them raising her and ignored it. Instead, he blew the whistle, returned her to her family, and set about doing it the Right way. Note that had Elleia's adoption worked out, they would have been in the same place had he ignored the crime of the adoption agency. And he doesn't seem to have been inclined to think it was all fine because the standard of living in the U.S. was higher.

Given that, it makes me inclined to take his story closer to face value. It doesn't seem implausible that he believed that part of the adoption agreement was placing her in a two-parent home (and given what you say about children going to stay with relatives in Samoan culture fluidly, it doesn't seem all that surprising that they'd want her back. What would happen in Samoa if a kid was sent to an aunt and uncle who then due to changing circumstances couldn't take care of them?)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:43 AM
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81: that's really reaching now. He said "Well, I knew full well that their idea for their daughter was to be here with an LDS family in the United States, but the key word there is 'family'--and an operative family, where there's a mother and a father, not a divorce situation. So I called them the next day, the Sos, and presented to them what was happening, and asked them what they would like to do. And they chose to have Elliea come back to Samoa."

He's saying that he knew the Sos wanted Elliea in a two-parent family. So when he called them up and gave them the choice of what to do, they chose to bring her home. True, he doesn't explicitly say what the alternative was, but it's fairly obvious that it was "stay in the US under my sole care" - given that a) he was getting divorced and b) his wife had run off and didn't want anything to do with Elliea.

I really don't see a significant difference between your suggested line in 81 and what Nyberg actually said.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:44 AM
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||

Cute malaprop: a friend of mine just wrote in an e-mail that during a celebrity sighting, she acted non-chalant. (I always get totally chalant over those things and embarrass everyone.)

|>


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:49 AM
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What would happen in Samoa if a kid was sent to an aunt and uncle who then due to changing circumstances couldn't take care of them?

They'd come home, or go to another relative. The question is what it means to say that Nyberg 'couldn't take care of' her. It seems clear that materially he could have taken care of her; he just thought it was socially undesirable.

I think you're right that he was concerned with doing the Right thing. I'm judging him (assuming my sense of the facts is right, and that he initiated the return rather than responding to an affirmative desire of the Sos that she be returned) for deciding that his belief that growing up in a two-parent household is Right was more important than the safety and comfort of a child he'd agreed to care for.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:53 AM
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84: There's a lot of room in 'presented to them what was happening'. What he says is that before he even spoke to them, he 'knew' they wouldn't want her raised in a divorce situation. It seems to me that that's probably what he 'presented to them' -- bluntly stated, "I'm now in a situation where I know you wouldn't want me caring for Elliea any more -- what do you want to do about this?"


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:56 AM
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Also, I don't understand the title of this post. But I love corned beef.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:58 AM
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I guess I don't that as calling for harsh judgment, given that his belief that part of the safety and comfort for the child was a life with the family, and that, by the transcript, he did present them with the option (instead of just assuming they'd be okay with it, because he was rich). We have to read the option as "I don't want your kid any more -- want her back?" to get your reading, and that doesn't seem to square with what we know of the rest of the guy's character.



Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:03 AM
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Sorry, Samoan joke. One way of apologizing for serious, serious wrongdoing is to assemble traditional gifts -- fine mats and canned goods, mostly -- and sit in front of the person to be apologized to's house with a fine mat over your head until they acknowledge you and take the gifts. If they leave you out there until you die of heatstroke or thirst, that's their call.

(I have been told, but not by people that I counted on to be serious or reliable, that the apology ritual is a relic of ceremonial cannibalism -- that you're symbolically offering yourself to be eaten. That would explain the fine mat on the head of the apologizer; you'd drape a fine mat over a roast pig being given as a gift in the same way. But I don't know if it's true.)

Anyway, the people involved in the Samoan end of this scam should have spent a long time in the sun next to a serious pile of corned beef, mackerel, and ship's biscuit.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:03 AM
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Do we know whether the Samoan family is LDS? Because that's a real possibility.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:03 AM
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Yes. The story says they are, and they'd have to be -- the shared religion is what makes sending the kid to be cared for by another family make sense initially. They wouldn't have thought of some random Americans as 'extended family' without the church connection.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:06 AM
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I still haven't listened to the episode, but I'm not at all convinced, LB. I'd think a hell of a lot less of the guy if he'd said, "I know full well that their idea for their daughter was to be here with an LDS family in the United States--and an operative family, where there's a mother and a father, not a divorce situation. But I'd already made a commitment to the child, and I knew I'd be better able to provide for her safety and comfort than would the Sos." Which seems basically to be what you're wanting.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:10 AM
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I listened to the episode, and join the rest of humanity in being perplexed by LB's position here. It must have been something in his tone of voice that made her just not trust him.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:11 AM
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Well then it's more than likely that the Samoan family was appalled by the idea of their child's being in a single-father household. To an LDS family a "broken" home in Utah would not stack up as well to an "intact" family in perhaps less opportunity-rich Samoa.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:11 AM
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The LDS Church's Indian Placement Program took Native American kids form reservations and had them live with white Mormon families during the school year for civilizing/Christinianizing/assimiliating purposes.

The Book of Mormon predicts that Native Americans will embrace Christianity and become "white and delightsome" at some point. Mormons believe that Polynesians are also "Lamanites" to whom the prophecy applies.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:11 AM
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We have to read the option as "I don't want your kid any more -- want her back?" to get your reading, and that doesn't seem to square with what we know of the rest of the guy's character.

What's driving my reading is that I find the Sos' request for her return implausible unless he was forcing that option. They initially knowingly agreed to her fostering in America (and were defrauded by the shitty, evil adoption agency who put Elliea in a situation they hadn't agreed to). They again suggested an open adoption by the Nybergs once the fraud had been resolved. And even when they had agreed on her final return, they continued to look for possibilities that would allow for her return to the US.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:12 AM
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You find it completely implausible that a mormon family would want their child raised in a traditional mother+father household?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:14 AM
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91: I think so, given that they specifically wanted their kid to be raised by an LDS family in the US. Which would also explain why Nyberg was so sure that they wouldn't want their child raised by a divorced father.

And I don't think that's so unlikely, to be honest. Even if you don't have a huge religious problem with divorce, it's still shite being a kid whose parents are getting divorced. Especially if you know (and kids do know these things, they're perceptive devils when it comes to figuring out the state of play between the two most important people in their lives) that you personally are the reason they are getting divorced, because Mom doesn't love you, never loved you, and can't stand to be in the house with you any more.
I can completely understand why the Sos would want their child brought home from that, even at the cost of losing her access to American orthodontics.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:14 AM
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46

When she's eighteen, she'd be an adult legally and practically capable of making her own decisions. ...

What would her immigration status be?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:16 AM
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Presumably his thinking wasn't "omg I don't want this burden all by myself" but rather (being a Mormon) that it's Important for Kids to Have Two Parents?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:17 AM
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98: The 'traditional mother-father household' the Nybergs were when they initially adopted Elliea is already so wildly alien to a traditional Samoan aiga, Mormon or not, that I find it implausible that the divorce would change the acceptability of the situation. Elliea didn't come from a two-parent nuclear family, she came from a large, complex, extended family in which her parents were members. By sending her to the US at all, they were sending her to a family situation totally different from what they were used to or thought of as normal.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:20 AM
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100: Citizen, if Nyberg adopted her.

101: See, I'm being judgy partially because I'm guessing that It's Important For Children To Have Two Parents is partially I'm A Man And So It's Not Right For A Child To Be Primarily My Problem.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:22 AM
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I generally think ill of her, and would think worse of her, probably, if I knew more specifics.

Isn't that always the way, though?

I'm quite willing to assume I should generally think ill of anyone LizardBread thinks ill of, and think worse of them if I know more specifics.

Can we achieve comity in shared ill-will, here?

Nyberg's probably a jerk: his wife left him.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:22 AM
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Nyberg's probably a jerk: his wife left him.

What the fuck? Are you serious?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:23 AM
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86

I think you're right that he was concerned with doing the Right thing. I'm judging him (assuming my sense of the facts is right, and that he initiated the return rather than responding to an affirmative desire of the Sos that she be returned) for deciding that his belief that growing up in a two-parent household is Right was more important than the safety and comfort of a child he'd agreed to care for.

Like others I am having trouble understanding your position here. If the welfare of the child is the only thing that counts and America is so much better than Samoa then what was so bad about the fraudulent adoptions?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:24 AM
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103.2: Agreed.

Also, LizardBread is quite nifty, but not such a good pun. I should use my loaf in future.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:24 AM
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105: No, I'm trying to achieve comity.

(Or, yes, men whose wives leave them are always jerks, if you prefer to have a fight about that.)


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:25 AM
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what was so bad about the fraudulent adoptions?

Breaking family bonds without consent. Not a problem in a consensual open adoption like the one the Nybergs and the Sos agreed on after the fraud was uncovered.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:25 AM
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Aaaaand I see I've been pwned.

(For the record, it sounds from the summary like the guy's ex-wife kind of sucks, but--call me a sexist here if you want--I also believe that in general, marriage and divorce are both better deals for men than for women. And I think that the research bears me out on this one, so I'm sort of inclined to think that yeah, if a woman leaves a guy--especially if they and presumably their social circle have pretty conservative views about marriage--she's likely to have a good reason.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:25 AM
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103, 104 and 107 are, frankly, verging on the fucking ridiculous now.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:26 AM
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103

Citizen, if Nyberg adopted her.

So she will be able to move to the US when she is 18?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:26 AM
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108: Well, it's the same thing you said in #8, so I didn't know if you were making a joke or just going all-in on that position.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:27 AM
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I can buy that the Sos would not necessarily have called up Nyberg and said, "Hey buddy, you're divorced and therefore an effective parent. We want our kid back." But I can imagine Nyberg calling up the Sos and saying, mournfully, "OMG, my wife left me. Everything you wanted for your daughter here has fallen apart and I am so unbelievably sorry. I love her and will care for her if that is OK with you, but I also know it's not God's will that families split up. Also, my wife has no interest in her." He may have wanted to keep Elliea, but not really made a good case for it because of his own conviction that kids need two parents. He sounds like the kind of guy who would have called and apologized so much that they would have thought maybe this situation is a lot worse than just a "different" family situation.

So maybe we're saying the same thing, LB, but I guess I'm a lot more sympathetic to a guy who's raised to believe that if his family falls apart, he is a failure and an unfit parent. I think he also had a lot of residual guilt about having been an unwitting kidnapper--all the details about that first night when they stripped and chembathed this strange kid who had no kept asking for her mom just sound like a really intense and horrible kind of remorse.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:27 AM
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and therefore an effective parent.

Sorry, s/b and therefore not an effective parent.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:29 AM
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strange kid who had no kept asking

God, I am really shitty today. "had kept asking"


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:30 AM
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102: But if the traditional two-parent household is alien to the Samoan extended family, wouldn't the one-parent household be even more so, and potentially beyond what they might be comfortable with? IANASamoan, but I think I might want to retrieve my child from a faraway disintegrating family.

"white and delightsome"

"White and delightsome" and "horrible and degenerate" and the Scylla and Charybdis not just of the adoption threads, but perhaps also of Unfogged as a whole.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:30 AM
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How likely would a single father be in Samoa?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:31 AM
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she's likely to have a good reason

This is never a safe assumption for anybody's actions in regard to anything. People make bad decisions for reasons that retrospectively look insane all the time.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:32 AM
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re: 119

And is completely at odds with anything any sane person would have learned from watching couples in and out of relationships.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:33 AM
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114: Oh, we're probably not that far apart. I'm predisposed to judge the guy because I think he made a calculation in his head along the lines of "Which is better for this child I say I love and care for, have committed to being responsible for, and have accustomed to an American standard of living; on the one hand being raised by a single parent, or on the other hand a significant chance of untreated parasitic disease, an unlikelihood of education past the primary level, and a lifetime of manual labor," and decided that being raised by a single father was worse.

I find that a really unsympathetic position, but I can see that if I knew more people who thought of single parenting as the worst thing ever, I might be able to empathize better. I don't think this guy meant to be evil, I just don't like his values.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:36 AM
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Meh. While I dislike having to give BitchPhD points for anything, on account of her being a transphobic bigot who thinks sharing transphobic and misogynistic jokes is fun to do and not worth apologising for, I have to admit despite that that 110 is a pretty good summary of why I think, sans other information, that Nyberg probably was a prime jerk, given the datapoint that his wife was the one who left him.

A man who is awesomely determined to Do The Right Thing, even if that means giving up a daughter he's come to love, is as likely to be a jerk who's impossible to live with as a man who is equally determined he's going to hang on to a kidnapped child bought from a fraudulent adoption agency whose parents want the child back. (I wouldn't be surprised at all if part of Mrs Nyberg's "not bonding" with the child came from being required to give the child up by her husband, then required to take the child back.) But it could be that Nyberg was a jerk in other ways too.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:38 AM
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112: Ah, but I doubt that the "open adoption" deal that Nyberg and the Sos eventually settled on would have counted as an adoption for the purposes of citizenship.

114.2: very good point.

If nothing else, this thread has reminded me just how bizarre and inexplicable Americans are about a) divorce b) material comfort and c) the blind belief in the superiority of their own bit of land over everywhere else in the world.
There's an anecdote IIRC in one of Bill Bryson's books about a Swedish exchange student at his school in Des Moines, who's asked "If you could live in America or Sweden, which would you choose?" And when he replies to the effect of "America is very nice, but, you know, Sweden is my home, so I suppose I'd rather live in Sweden" he is met with complete incomprehension: no one can understand why anyone would rather live somewhere other than America.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:38 AM
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118: A single father is absolutely implausible -- an isolated couple with children, not intimately connected with a larger extended family is just about as implausible. Kids being raised in an extended family in which their father is locally resident and their mother isn't wouldn't be particularly surprising.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:38 AM
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There's not enough information to judge Brother Nyberg on the point in question. LB spins a plausible tale, but I find AWB's 114 equally plausible. Let's just give the guy a break and look for someone else to scorn.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:41 AM
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Well, the other part of his values that may be coming into play here is that adoptive parents would, I think, want to be damn sure that the birth parents did not want the child. Especially in the case of religious people, the ideal situation in the case of a surprise or financially burdensome pregnancy is that the child's own parents would somehow find a way to raise the kid, and not give it up for adoption unless the child's life with them would be totally unbearable. I'd have to say that if I adopted a kid and later found out the parents had not agreed to the terms of the adoption, I'd feel a lot of guilt about keeping the kid, even if the parents agreed to different terms later.

That is, maybe this partially about A MOM AND A DAD MAKE A FAMILY, but also, BIRTH PARENTS ARE BEST.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:42 AM
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123

Ah, but I doubt that the "open adoption" deal that Nyberg and the Sos eventually settled on would have counted as an adoption for the purposes of citizenship.

In which case she would have had a problem when she turned 18 if she had stayed in the US.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:44 AM
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There had to be some legal framework. They're not going to give the kid a tourist visa to the U.S.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:46 AM
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128: according to LB, the plan was for the kids to return to Samoa at the age of 18 anyway: "The Samoan families hadn't consented to having their kids adopted, but they had agreed that the kids would be taken care of by American families until they were eighteen".

While I dislike having to give BitchPhD points for anything, on account of her being a transphobic bigot who thinks sharing transphobic and misogynistic jokes is fun to do and not worth apologising for, I have to admit despite that that 110 is a pretty good summary of why I think, sans other information, that Nyberg probably was a prime jerk, given the datapoint that his wife was the one who left him.

Wow, it's like the second half of that sentence doesn't even know the first half exists!


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:50 AM
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transphobic bigot

Y'know Jes, you've made your feelings on this exceedingly clear and any time you'd like to dismount your high horse about it, I'm sure everybody else would appreciate it.

given the datapoint that his wife was the one who left him

That's just about the least useful datapoint ever.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:52 AM
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128: It all depends on what the Nybergs did legally. Given that they had either begun or completed the adoption process on the original fraudulent terms, I don't think that the later knowledge and actual consent of the family would have changed that -- it seems implausible to me that there would have been any difficulty with the Nybergs legally adopting her and so getting her American citizenship if she'd stayed in the US. If her adoption was incomplete when she returned to Samoa, I don't think she's got a path to citizenship, but I'm not sure, and I'm also not sure what happens if she's been adopted by the Nybergs under US law, and that hasn't been legally annulled, but she's not yet a citizen and is no longer resident in the US.

I don't think there's any way to figure out what her legal status is without more specifics.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:55 AM
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129: Right, but on the original plan, that was a lie, and the kids were formally adopted, which would make them naturalized American citizens. I'm guessing that Elleia's naturalization wasn't undone by reversing the fraudulent adoption, because otherwise the informal situation they seem to have worked out wouldn't allow her to come to the U.S.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:55 AM
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Personally, I think anyone who's ever been dumped is most likely a jerk. Why would someone dump you if you weren't a jerk?

This is also true of anyone who's ever been cheated on.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:56 AM
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Also, if your spouse dies, it's probably because you were poisoning them. Y'know, sans other information.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:58 AM
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Naw. The least useful datapoint ever is that AGRICULTURE USES 80% OF THE WATER IN CALIFORNIA. I will apply it to the Nyberg's situation if you like.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:58 AM
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There's an anecdote IIRC in one of Bill Bryson's books about a Swedish exchange student at his school in Des Moines, who's asked "If you could live in America or Sweden, which would you choose?" And when he replies to the effect of "America is very nice, but, you know, Sweden is my home, so I suppose I'd rather live in Sweden" he is met with complete incomprehension: no one can understand why anyone would rather live somewhere other than America.

Kids in Sweden might not have quite this reaction, on account of their proximity to other countries. But I bet there'd be a baseline universality to this experience.

I read the quote the other day:

What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child? ~Lin Yutang

which isn't totally relevant, but I just mean that nationalism is pretty common, everywhere.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 10:58 AM
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I'm not sure why we feel we have to assign fault w/r/t the divorce, in either direction. All we know is that what was supposed to be an SOP adoption overseas turned into a bizarre and stressful nightmare that made both parents react differently, both probably feeling horribly guilty and weird, each ending up feeling differently about the situation because of it. I'm sure Mrs. Nyberg thought she was doing the right thing in not getting attached to a kid who seemed destined to go back to her family, just as Mr. Nyberg thought he was doing the right thing. They were both probably really insistent to one another that the other was doing something very harmful to the child. They were both probably really stressed and confused and not acting their best.

Or maybe Mr. Nyberg doesn't flush after shitting. We don't know, and it seems absurd to assign blame from this distance based on basically zero evidence other than the fact that she left. She's not a cold-hearted bitch based on any evidence we have, and he's not a tyrannical asshole, based on any evidence we have. I'm much more inclined to guess that they both thought they were doing the right thing, but disagreed about what that thing was.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:04 AM
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Part of the problem is that international adoption really doesn't involve cross cultural understanding on the part of the parents. You get the kid then you raise the kid as an american, because the kid is one, because you adopted them. When it was determined that the adoption was fraudulent, it now became a different story.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:05 AM
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I'm not sure why we feel we have to assign fault w/r/t the divorce, in either direction.

I blame the girl. Based on re-watching old Buffy episodes on Hulu, I'm pretty sure she must have arrived with a curse that made her eyes glow yellow.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:06 AM
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based on basically zero evidence other than the fact that she left prejudice.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:08 AM
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135: The least useful datapoint ever is that AGRICULTURE USES 80% OF THE WATER IN CALIFORNIA.

No, it isn't. That's an extremely useful datapoint.

Let's just give the guy a break and look for someone else to scorn.

ΨΨΨΨ
Balko:

Uncertain of who or what they were dealing with, Hodge said deputies arrested the suspects and subsequent investigation revealed the individuals had an agenda which included not complying with orders given by authorities. They were discovered to be motorhomediaries.com activists...

MHD.com
Officer Adkins and another officer approached Jason and demanded that he produce his identification. After politely declining several times he was asked to place his hands on MARV. He also politely declined to do this. This led to him being pepper sprayed (blinding him for over an hour) and being placed in a choke hold before being handcuffed. He was then led to the back of the police car to sit next to Adam where he began to sing a song by Tracy Chapman.

It goes on. At length.
Ψ

max
['Activists! Driving around! In motor homes! OMFG!']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:08 AM
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See, I'm being judgy partially because I'm guessing that It's Important For Children To Have Two Parents is partially I'm A Man And So It's Not Right For A Child To Be Primarily My Problem.

(We'll Ignore The Other Two Children.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:08 AM
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I'm not sure why we feel we have to assign fault w/r/t the divorce, in either direction.

Yeah. I drew a little heat above for not focusing on Mrs. Nyberg's responsibility for the situation, but I don't think there's any way to meaningfully discuss the divorce or Mrs. Nyberg's actions without knowing much more than is in the story.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:08 AM
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142: Yeah, I didn't see any indication that they were going to be primarily his problem.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:09 AM
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it seems absurd to assign blame from this distance based on basically zero evidence other than the fact that she left. She's not a cold-hearted bitch based on any evidence we have, and he's not a tyrannical asshole, based on any evidence we have. I'm much more inclined to guess that they both thought they were doing the right thing, but disagreed about what that thing was

No, there's obviously not enough information to conclude that she's a cold-hearted bitch, but even granting that they both thought they were doing the right thing, her belief that the "right thing" was to want nothing to do with the child is, absent other evidence, somewhat unsympathetic. Especially compared to Mr. Nyberg's reaction (and I think the primary reason she was even brought up was that it seemed especially odd that the post singled him out for blame).


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:10 AM
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145=me.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:10 AM
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her belief that the "right thing" was to want nothing to do with the child is, absent other evidence, somewhat unsympathetic.

I stayed off judging her too hard for that given that all we know about her is what her ex-husband says.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:12 AM
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AB's German father was pretty saddened to learn that she - raised in the US since age 3 - considers herself American, not German.

This clearly proves something universal about Germans.

Also, AB's parents aren't married anymore, which clearly tells you everything you need to know about them.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:12 AM
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148: well I still don't know what we know and what we don't know, since I haven't listened to the tape. I'm just going on what's been said upthread. Your point makes sense (although your criticism of the Mr. still seems totally bizarre).


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:14 AM
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her belief that the "right thing" was to want nothing to do with the child is, absent other evidence, somewhat unsympathetic.

Naw, I can see it. I can see her getting pretty fatalistic about losing the kid to her parents, or feeling like it would be better to adopt a child who isn't essentially a "loaner." It's not just that the Sos didn't agree to the terms of the adoption as it happened; the Nybergs didn't agree to those terms either.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:14 AM
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I'd just like to chime in with agreement on the idea that we can assess that Mr. Nyberg is a bad guy by the fact that his wife left him is completely, utterly, and serious ridiculous.

Also, I don't see what the problem is. At that point it was an open adoption. If he can't care for the kid for any reason, whether it's his false belief that a one-parent household is bad, or other reasons, whatever. This is no different from the parents who gave up the kid in the first place.

As an LB fan girl, I hate to say it, but LB is not making sense.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:16 AM
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What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child?

When I was a child, we had a tradition of "international" dinner -- each week we'd pick a country and have a meal of that country's cuisine one night.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:17 AM
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re: 136.

This is quite true. Many places that may be third world shit holes to you are home to the people who live there and even if they would like their home to be better or different in a variety of ways, they do not want to live someplace else, they want to live in their home. I visited (lived in, travelled to, invaded, etc.) a fair number of countries during my military career and for almost all I can see ways in which they are--in ways big or small--better places to live than the US (well, the parts of Iraq I visited were uniformly shitty, but I only saw a small, sandy piece of it). But that does not mean that I want to live anyplace other than the US. It seems perfectly reasonable to me that someone from Samoa would not think that having to be raised in Samoa instead of the US was a terrible fate.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:18 AM
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When I was a child, we had a tradition of "international" dinner -- each week we'd pick a country and have a meal of that country's cuisine one night.

We used to do the bastardized, casserolized versions of international foods when I was growing up. (I bet there are some hilarious recipes out there for how to White Bread up an enchilada meal or curry dish, for the modern family on the GROW.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:25 AM
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153: It seems perfectly reasonable to me that someone from Samoa would not think that having to be raised in Samoa instead of the US was a terrible fate.

This doesn't explain why the Sos wanted to send their daughter to be raised in the US and then returned to them, though. Samoan culture or not, this still seems very weird to me. There's a big difference between sending your kid to be raised by an aunt on another island and sending your kid halfway around the world to be raised by strangers for 14 years.

It also doesn't explain why, in the anecdote told by another adoptive parent, they were followed around by Samoans pointing at the adopted kid and saying "Lucky baby, lucky baby." Clearly this anecdote is a self-serving one--the guy wants to justify why keeping the kid was a good move--but it does suggest that there is some kind of attitude that a kid raised in the US is actually better off.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:25 AM
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152,4: "International Night" was what we called a dinner made of leftovers. My mom tended to switch between Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Southern US (all white-breaded up, to some degree), so leftovers were like a world tour!! We loved International Night.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:28 AM
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129: I was about to respond "See 110" to whoever it was who didn't see why I thought Nyberg was probably a jerk, then realised that the 110 was by WHO? then thought, whatthehell, even if she is a transphobe, it was a valid point.

Also "probably a jerk" does not equate to "probably a bad guy".

I think BitchPhD is a jerk for refusing to apologise after telling a transphobic joke about how funny it is that some trans women fail to pass: I think the people who actually beat trans women to death for f ailing to pass are the bad guys. BitchPhD is just a jerk for seeing humor in this situation.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:29 AM
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Mm, I haven't had a meal of tacos, stirfry, manicotti and fried okra in ages...


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:30 AM
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but it does suggest that there is some kind of attitude that a kid raised in the US is actually better off.

Agreed. But that is not the same thing as saying that being raised in Samoa instead of the US was a terrible thing. Indeed, it is significant that the idea appears to have been that she would return to Samoa rather than live permanently in the US. This leads me to believe that the paramount concern might have been all of the advantages an US education and upbringing might have confered on her when she returned to Samoa.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:31 AM
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A White Bear is making a lot of good points here. Her theory of the divorce makes sense to me.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:34 AM
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But in general, in mixed-sex couples, it's the woman who is expected to be the unpaid, uncomplaining servant of the man she lives with

who do you hang out with? I don't believe I have ever personally met anyone in my entire life who actually believes this.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:35 AM
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157: I think BitchPhD is a jerk for refusing to apologise after telling a transphobic joke about how funny it is that some trans women fail to pass

??? When did this happen and what was the joke?


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:36 AM
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I worry about this fetishization of the US education as a way of giving a kid a head start when they go back to their home country. I mostly see it at the college level, usually with students who came to the US as high-school students or just before college, and it's true that they can get a good education here. But I'm not sure it's actually a helpful education for re-integrating back into their home country. When that's the expectation, they can be really resistant to English writing classes, to the point of plagiarism (Why do I need to learn to analyze English poetry? I'm moving back to China in a month.), or, when they really embrace the US education, they often end up wanting to stay and do grad school or a career here, and find that either their family or the immigration process are forcing them to go home. (I've had to write a number of letters for immigration courts pleading for students to be able to stay.)

I'm not saying they shouldn't do it, but my temporary-visa students often say that their parents are furious with them about how they've changed, the things they care about and their new worldview. US schooling teaches very different values from Chinese or Korean schooling. It's not "better," but it does have an effect on who the kid is when they're done.

Would little Elliea really want to go back to Samoa when she's 18, and probably highly prepared for a US college education and a career?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:40 AM
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|| I love brief wire service stories that are written in that dry journalistic tone, but outline an entire highly dramatic novel ||>


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:40 AM
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Also "probably a jerk" does not equate to "probably a bad guy".

I don't get this. If you're using "jerk" with a sense of "sometimes everyone is a jerk", then of course that's right, but you're not making a meaningful statement.

If by "jerk" you mean anything more than that, you're full of shit.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:42 AM
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Also, a lot of my temporary-visa students tell me they ended up in the US because they didn't get into the top one or two schools in their home country, and a mediocre college education abroad is more prestigious than a mediocre college education at home. So they're already being made to feel like losers. This is not conducive to a happy time at college far away from your family in a country where you barely (or don't) speak the language and have no idea what the hell your teachers are trying to do with their bizarre American methods.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:42 AM
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164 - Oh my.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:42 AM
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I don't believe I have ever personally met anyone in my entire life who actually believes this.

Then you obviously don't go out much.

- From this article in 2002, in heterosexual relationships, a man will do about 12 hours of housework per week, a woman will do about 27. Further, men regard themselves as doing their fair share of the housework when they do less than a third: which means, in general, men regard the larger share of work that women do for them as merely their due - they regard their wife or girlfriend, in that respect, as a servant, not a partner.

-In my direct experience, while women in mixed-sex relationships are generally well aware that they do more housework t han their partner does, they are also highly unlikely to spend much time complaining to him that he isn't doing his fair share.

-I know of no relationship in which one partner pays the other one to do housework.

So, when I say it's the woman who is expected to be the unpaid, uncomplaining servant of the man she lives with: yeah, that's how it is. She is expected to do the work: she isn't expected to complain: and she isn't going to get paid.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:45 AM
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a man will do about 12 hours of housework per week, a woman will do about 27

Sorry, I know this is no laughing matter, but I couldn't help but add in my head, "and the single woman will do about 1 hour of housework a week."

But that doesn't include cooking, which I don't consider work.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:49 AM
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160: agreed.

136, 153: yes, of course, but the point of the Swedish story was not that the Swedish student said he preferred Sweden, but that none of the American students could understand why anyone would prefer to live anywhere that wasn't the US - similar to LB's attitude that Nyberg had agreed to confer this magnificent blessing of a US upbringing on the kid, and was behaving badly by withdrawing it and condemning her to be (ugh) foreign.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:50 AM
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Arrgghhh. Nothing's more fun that reaching mean-spirited conclusions about people we don't know who are in tough moral dilemnas!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:50 AM
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162: 15th April. (She followed it up, once she had realized that a large part of her audience found the joke unfunny and offensive, with the kind of non-apology apology which conveys more a "sorry you were offended" than a "Sorry I was offensive" flavor, and compounded it in an e-mail to me admitting she didn't see any point in apologizing because it wasn't going to be an instant fix-it and anyway, what's wrong with telling sexist/misogynist jokes about conservative women?)

Basically: a jerk.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:51 AM
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-I know of no relationship in which one partner pays the other one to do housework.

Typical m/f relationship: man earns more than the woman, works longer hours outside the house, the couple budget jointly, share household expenses equally and enjoy (obviously) the same standard of living.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:55 AM
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161: The gender injustice in housework should be old news to everyone by now. I'm surprised you missed it. Jes covered the statistical end of it pretty well, but you should also be aware that many people think that this gender difference is not only just, but ordained by God. Again, I'm surprised you've missed these people. They have lots of big national organizations and are quite active in politics.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:56 AM
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LB's attitude that Nyberg had agreed to confer this magnificent blessing of a US upbringing on the kid, and was behaving badly by withdrawing it and condemning her to be (ugh) foreign.

Oh, I knew I was getting into this. It's not the condemning her to be foreign, it's the condemning her to really serious poverty, in a global sense, and all that implies.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:56 AM
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169: I found it embarrassing, when I had a week off work recently and couldn't afford to go anywhere, how much better my home looked when I was doing 3 hours housework every day. And that doesn't include cooking, which isn't work when you're just doing it for yourself and can do anything you feel like eating, whenever you happen to be hungry.

The key thing about mixed-sex relationships that I've personally noticed, is that when a woman and a man live together, suddenly she magically becomes responsible for cleaning up his crap as well as her own - while he gets Brownie points just for cleaning up most of his own crap.

(Like the time a friend actually stormed out because she had finally come to the end of patience after 3 years of being expected to pack her boyfriend's suitcase for him whenever he went off on a business trip - because "you do it so much better than I do" - which, 3 years earlier, had been kind of cute, then had become boring, and finally exasperating that if she refused, he'd sulk pointedly and take hours, constantly asking her where things were, if she stayed in.)


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:57 AM
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I hate it when Trans Men don't put their goddamn laundry in the hamper.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 12:00 PM
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a man will do about 12 hours of housework per week, a woman will do about 27.

Dusting and sorting the laundry are both optional. Vacuuming once a month is plenty. Boy, you look cute when you get mad.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 12:00 PM
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173: you confirm my point. The woman contributes considerable labor to maintaining their standard of living, which becomes invisible, and for which she does not get paid. If they're married and they get a divorce and she lives in a country with good divorce laws and she has a good lawyer, her standard of living may not go down by too much in consequence of the years of unpaid labor ... if she's lucky.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 12:01 PM
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172: I thought posting that joke was extremely out of character for her. It's 100% not funny, on top of being predicated on the natural hilariousness of sexual assault of transsexuals.

But if I had to guess why she didn't think it was a problem, I'd say (a) she likes her boyfriend and one can tend not to read malicious transphobia or bigotry into the jokes told by people we like, and (b) she's reading the joke as part of the ongoing liberal game of "Who can write the most unappealing story about hatefucking Ann Coulter?" That is, if she's reading the story as a writerly exercise in the Querelle de Coulter rather than a very bad joke that is only funny if wanting to hatefuck a transwoman is funny, perhaps it didn't come off as strongly about the latter as it did to me and you.

Personally, I don't buy the whole writerly exercise thing. There's a great book about how much of the misogynist writing produced during the Renaissance was not really an ongoing communal manifesto against women, but that women were so irrelevant that hating them in new and creative ways was just the normal subject of witty debate. Some might see this as a reason to say, well, maybe they aren't actually wife-beating rapists IRL (which is what all those "My wife is such a bitch" office guys sound like to me; they probably adore their wives and are just "playing"), but I'm inclined more, as an individual, to say that it promotes a culture of wife-beating and rape, which are real actual things, just like sexual assault of transsexuals is a real actual thing. In fact, I don't know any transsexuals IRL who haven't been beaten up or raped.

But the point is, I guess, that the boyfriend clearly doesn't know any transsexual people, or the joke wouldn't have been funny to him. I know BPhD does know transsexual people. I don't know why it was funny to her. But clearly she has a lot of trust in her boyfriend's motives that you and I don't owe him.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 12:07 PM
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in heterosexual relationships, a man will do about 12 hours of housework per week, a woman will do about 27.

only half of married mothers are employed full time. Ninety percent of married fathers are employed full time. Among mothers and fathers employed full time, the fathers spend more time (about an hour a day more) than the mothers do.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 12:07 PM
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People rarely question whether numbers like 27 hours can be realistic. Which, of course, they can't. 27 hours a week means coming home from work every day, doing housework until you go to sleep, and then cleaning all day for at least one day at the weekend.

I've repeated this several times, but I used to work as a cleaner: cleaning a hospital ward for mentally handicapped patients who, literally, shat on the walls. A full-time 'domestic' [essentially combined cleaner and kitchen porter] works around 27 hours a week. Anyone claiming to do that much in a normal domestic home is, respectfully, full of shit.

I can believe that a stay-at-home housewife with kids easily does that much, but as an average, in a world in which the vast majority of women are not full-time housewives? It's absurd.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 12:07 PM
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whoops, should have been "more time at work"


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 12:07 PM
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small kids are housework generating machines.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 12:13 PM
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I know BPhD does know transsexual people

She's sufficiently non-transphobic that she had a trans doctor deliver her baby. But that's neither here nor there. This is not a forum for you to extend your grudge against BPhD, whether you believe she's a jerk or not. Take it up with her in email, or at least put it in a post that's remotely related to the issue. At the moment, the jerkiest behavior points are accruing to your account much faster than anybody else's.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 12:16 PM
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"you" being Jesurgislac.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 12:17 PM
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185: I don't have a grudge against BPhD. And I didn't bring it up in this post. I apologize for continuing the conversation about it here.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 12:18 PM
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186: Oh.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 12:18 PM
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172: Huh. Guess I'm a jerk, too. Have to save that for a different day.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 12:30 PM
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At the moment, the jerkiest behavior points are accruing to your account much faster than anybody else's.

Can we like start a contest, with prizes?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 12:33 PM
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If you win, AWB uses your limerick in her sex diary.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 12:41 PM
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WIN A DATE WITH APOSTROPHER!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 12:43 PM
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When I was married, we were definitely the exception to the domestic chore rule -- I did very little, in any case, and he botched and bitched, and bitched about not being appreciated. And I never ceased thinking, "You did fucking laundry and loaded the dishwasher, what do you want? A cookie?" I worked 60 hours a week and nobody was sending me a goddamned thank you card for my efforts!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 12:43 PM
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Wait, I thought you got your own entry in her sex diary. Like, you know. Damn.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 12:44 PM
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194: Your "prize" awaits, Bave!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 12:45 PM
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Is it a booby prize?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 12:46 PM
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Courtesy of the Bonhoeffer Twitter:

The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 12:48 PM
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185: She's sufficiently non-transphobic that she had a trans doctor deliver her baby.

Oh, how nice. Do you suppose she's sufficiently non-racist that she had a black dentist check her teeth?

or at least put it in a post that's remotely related to the issue.

I forgot: this is Unfogged, where thread-drift is unknown and we all stick to the point all the time.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 12:48 PM
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"You did fucking laundry and loaded the dishwasher, what do you want? A cookie?"

Yes, please. Two would be nice.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 12:49 PM
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AWB, this could be a never-ending generator of nookie for you. After the "prize" encounter, you hold another contest, which necessitates awarding another prize, etc.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 12:54 PM
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No problem with going off-topic, Jes. But if you're going to continue to rant about this every time B gets mentioned, the banhammer will start swinging.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 12:56 PM
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I am also willing to hold contests.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 12:57 PM
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201: That seems like an awfully light use of the banhammer; we tolerate a whole lot of feuding around here usually. B's joke was, as Jes said, over the line. I took her apology as more sincere than Jes did, but that may be because my ox wasn't gored. I would be happier if Jes would drop it, but I don't think whatever loose versions of community standards we've got here requires it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:00 PM
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I forgot: this is Unfogged, where thread-drift is unknown and we all stick to the point all the time.

We really do NOT want to start a norm where we address points on topic by beginning by cataloging the other person's sins like Homeric epithets.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:01 PM
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re: 193

I've been on both sides of that inequality. Sometimes in the same relationship -- depending on work/study balance and so on. I've also been a right selfish/lazy bugger at times. I think it's a perennial problem even when both parties are working in good faith and all of us are inclined to interpret things in our favour.

Where I get irritated is that sometimes the numbers bandied about as gospel are so out of whack with what seems like reality for most people that it makes me question the methodology used to generate the numbers.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:02 PM
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Where I get irritated is that sometimes the numbers bandied about as gospel are so out of whack with what seems like reality for most people that it makes me question the methodology used to generate the numbers.

Other examples:

"People should drink 8 glasses of water a day"
"25% of women are raped while they are college students"


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:04 PM
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Huh. I'd never actually heard the term "banhammer" before, but google shows it to be fairly robust. I like this.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:04 PM
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Cala, the vile fornicator, has a good point in 204.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:05 PM
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B's joke was, as Jes said, over the line.

That's fine, and everybody's free to accept or reject B's apology as they see fit. Moreover, if B's comment had jack to do with TG issues, then hey, off to the races. But what I see is an attempt to hound somebody off the site based on something that didn't happen or even get mentioned here.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:06 PM
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204: Homeric epithets could be kind of awesome!

peep ("the unmemorable and degenerate")


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:06 PM
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201: I didn't rant about this because BitchPhD was mentioned, apo. I ranted initially because I wanted to refer to a comment by BitchPhD, as it was in itself a fine comment, and - having known so many bourgeois liberals of her type - didn't want her to think I'd forgotten or forgiven her transphobic comments, in public or in private (actually, "cissexist" would probably be a better word, like "heterosexist") as I was fairly sure she would, having already forgiven herself, be anxious to assume that everyone she offended had also forgiven her, but so long as BitchPhD is clear that I'm permanently at odds with her (unless she can actually bring herself to apologize publicly to those inferior trans types she offended. even though she's right to assume that merely apologising won't magically make everything all better) I'm fine with not ranting about or to her on unrelated threads.

I would also like to have a contest over who can write longer sentences than anyone else.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:07 PM
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Cyrus, the impassive Mede, responds elegantly!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:08 PM
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What happened to the pioneer of homeric epithets on the website, Tripp the Crazed!?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:10 PM
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I'm fine with not ranting about or to her on unrelated threads.

Then we're all good.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:11 PM
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I would also like to have a contest over who can write longer sentences than anyone else.

Now that is a really bad idea.



Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:11 PM
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211: but so long as BitchPhD is clear that I'm permanently at odds with her

Unfogged tradition would suggest that this could neatly be accomplished by the use of an incomprehensible acronym. BSLABPHDICTIPAOWH?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:11 PM
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215: Yes, god, nobody encourage Ben.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:12 PM
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That joke that Jes linked to is totally tastless. But Bitch has done a lot on her blog to promote equality and justice for transgender people, and so she still has plenty of credibilty with me as a thoughtful, non-phobic person.

The thread has probably moved on. Baby, etc.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:12 PM
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What happened to the pioneer of homeric epithets on the website, Tripp the Crazed!?

Did he leave in a huff after we refused his generous offer to be our king?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:13 PM
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Where I get irritated is that sometimes the numbers bandied about as gospel are so out of whack with what seems like reality for most people that it makes me question the methodology used to generate the numbers.

Heh. In that light... UNG could spend 45 minutes "cleaning the kitchen," during which he might manage to put away three plates, a knife and six spoons. At which point I might become tempted to respond that merely because he spend three times as much time on housework didn't mean he did three times as much housework.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:14 PM
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215:
Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo...


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:15 PM
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This sort of hurt feelings and failure to reconcile are what happens when people well known to be humorless venture into the realm of not only the "joke", but the "truly tasteless joke".


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:15 PM
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175

Oh, I knew I was getting into this. It's not the condemning her to be foreign, it's the condemning her to really serious poverty, in a global sense, and all that implies.

This depends on her going back affecting her US citizenship status which I don't think has been established.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:16 PM
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BSLABPHDICTIPAOWH. KTHX.

On long sentences.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:19 PM
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223: If she's raised in Samoa, she's going to be grindingly poor as a child, regardless of whether she's a US citizen (which we can't tell from the facts given, but which I doubt.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:20 PM
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222: Damn, I suppose I'm not allowed to respond that I didn't know BitchPhD was well known for being humorless...

223: Presumably if she has been legally adopted by the Nyborgs, she is as much a US citizen as their own sons would be if they'd been born in Samoa - which is to say, while it's possible there would be uninteresting arguments about whether or not she could be President, she has the right to a US passport and US residency rights.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:23 PM
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222
people well known to be humorless

You mean B? Sexist.

(I'll be here all night, folks! Try the veal.)

(Actually, no, not really here all night, but work is going badly today so if I can't find trouble to distract me I'm not above stirring it up.)


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:25 PM
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Well known here, certainly.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:26 PM
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The joke, at any rate, was basically a variant of the typical "Ann Coulter is mannish-looking" jokes. Too easy to be good humour, frankly. OTOH there are way, way too many people who think themselves in a position to pronounce upon which off-colour joke represents an Absolute Moral Failing, and we need less of that. There are lots of things going on that should be way higher on our collective radar than "ohmygod-BitchPhd-made-an-off-colour-joke."

I've seen brouhahas over jokes about everything from mocking Jonah Goldberg's weight (The Poor Man, Sadly No!) to portraying Michael Steele as a minstrel (Steve Gilliard, RIP) to how reprehensible it is to joke about "badass Bible stories" while Israel commits atrocities (this very site), and in many cases I find it really hard to side with The Affronted Parties. Not out of disagreement with their causes, but because they were demanding disregard of context in order to portray this or that joke as being the near-exact moral equivalent of joining a lynch mob. It gets bloody tiresome.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:26 PM
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Bah, Cryptic said it better in 222.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:27 PM
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Nyborgs

Pity the poor Samoan children adopted by Mormon robot parents.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:27 PM
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re: 220

Well, quite. If I put a load of laundry on, is that counted as 45 minutes of 'work'? If, for example, half the time I spend waiting is spend reading a book, or listening to the radio?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:31 PM
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I would also like to have a contest over who can write longer sentences than anyone else.

You win.


Posted by: Calvin Coolidge | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:31 PM
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What happened to the pioneer of homeric epithets on the website, Tripp the Crazed!?

Did he leave in a huff after we refused his generous offer to be our king?

I was trying to find the comment, a while ago, in which someone suggested that he was just providing his leadership from a distance.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:32 PM
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226: Here I'm out of my legal depth, but I think that when you adopt a child from overseas, they aren't instantly a citizen, they're just entitled to start the process, which then takes years and years. My guess is that even if she was legally adopted, she is not now a US citizen, and that Nyberg's not pursuing citizenship for her. But that's just a guess.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:32 PM
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YOU WILL BE ASSIMILATED!


Posted by: OPINIONATED NYBORG | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:32 PM
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229: I miss Gilliard. He had a real niche that hasn't been filled.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:33 PM
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168

So, when I say it's the woman who is expected to be the unpaid, uncomplaining servant of the man she lives with: yeah, that's how it is. She is expected to do the work: she isn't expected to complain: and she isn't going to get paid.

She is often paid in kind food, lodging, clothes etc.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:36 PM
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In Virginia, birth mothers frequently initially claim to not know who the father is. They frequently know or have been told that it is easier when they dont know the birth father.

It isnt.

They almost always know who the father is or how to find him.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:40 PM
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223, 225: Ordinarily it is not possible to obatina a visa to bring an adopted child into the United states unless the adoption is properly legally final in the nation of birth. Assuming this was done, before the fraud and all the rest camed to light, the adopted child of two U.S. citizen parents becomes a citizen upon reaching United States soil. We slapped a flag decal on our son's snuggly right at the moment the wheels of the plane touched down, but he was all stinky and screamy and squirmy, and didn't appreciate the solemnity of the occasion at all. Anyway, it's a near certainty that this child became a U.S. citizen and remains one, probably with dual citizenship in Samoa.

There is also no legal distinction between open and closed adoption. Whether or not the adoptive parents stay in touch with the birth parents, it's still an adoption.

Am I allowed to go back to the place in the thread where someone called me a slavetrader, or are we all past that?


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:40 PM
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236: Or not, you know, if the collective dumps you.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:41 PM
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180

I thought posting that joke was extremely out of character for her. It's 100% not funny, on top of being predicated on the natural hilariousness of sexual assault of transsexuals.

I agree it was not particularly funny but I don't see what it had to do with sexual assault.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:42 PM
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240: Huh, didn't know that. I think I was thinking of Domineditrix talking about a naturalization ceremony at which her adopted son became a citizen as a child -- maybe the rules have changed since then, or maybe there were special circumstances.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:44 PM
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218

That joke that Jes linked to is totally tastless. ...

The lines you people draw are hard for outsiders to understand. How would you classify Obama's special olympics joke? What about Reagan and Alzheimers jokes?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:48 PM
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Obama's joke: tasteless. Reagan jokes: hilarious.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:50 PM
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245 is right.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:53 PM
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Am I allowed to go back to the place in the thread where someone called me a slavetrader, or are we all past that?

This thread is all about dredging up bad feelings, so, by all means, go [back] to it!


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:53 PM
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Back in the day this thread would have gotten, like, 10,000 comments. It's really got it all.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:53 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:56 PM
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The lines you people draw are hard for outsiders to understand.

Same principle applies as the "Who's allowed to be racist?" issue: if the teller of the joke is of equal or lower SES/power than the target, then it's OK.

Locked-out factory workers joking about bad things happening to the bosses = OK.
Bosses joking about bad things happening to the workers they've locked out = not OK.

Obviously, this is also why it's OK for Jews to tell Jewish jokes, Catholics Catholic jokes, etc. Turns out to be less about membership than about power (which is why some black comedians can tell Jewish jokes, and vice-versa - both traditionally scorned out-groups, both have come up in the world).

This has been another episode of Explaining the Straightforward to Shearer.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 1:59 PM
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250: And yes, Obama was out of line with the Special Olympics joke. He apologized.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:00 PM
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237: Agreed.

242: Me neither.

See, I think Reagan and Alzheimer's jokes were and are both tasteless and perfectly fine. I mean, yeah, the guy really had Alzheimer's, way to kick him while he's down and all, but what's really being mocked there is the image-building, the right-wing deification of the man as Teh Best President EVAR.

A lot of good tasteless humour is either gallows humour, or turning an original bit of tastelessness or dumbassery back against itself. "Ann Coulter is mannish" jokes are twitting her and her fan's obsession with her totally femme Hot Conservative image. "The Pillsbury Pantload" was twitting Goldberg's tendencies to dispense homilies on manly martial courage from behind his keyboard which he transparently didn't apply to himself. "Rush Limbaugh is a drug addict" and "Jeff Gannon the cock-headed man-whore" are humour at the expense of the public moralizing each figure and their chosen Party were wont to engage in. And so on.

Obama's "Special Olympics" comment, by contrast, was basically just "I'm so bad at X it's totally retarded," which is tasteless and lame. He was right to apologize for it.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:03 PM
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250: Well, in fairness to Shearer, it's not always all that straightforward.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:04 PM
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240: Go!


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:04 PM
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Can I express my outrage here at the well-known bloggers who are prejudiced and virulently hateful towards men? So far I have only found one such blogger, which doesn't put it on a level with some other prejudices, but, you know, it's still annoying and stuff.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:04 PM
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255: Sure, go for it. Can't guarantee no one's going to argue with you about your assessment, though.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:06 PM
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I am outraged at the lack of preemptive co-outrage! Never mind.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:07 PM
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But if the traditional two-parent household is alien to the Samoan extended family, wouldn't the one-parent household be even more so, and potentially beyond what they might be comfortable with?

I was going to ask that. I'd imagine the Samoan family would think of the American-style nuclear family as a sort of dissolved extended family, and see a divorce as completely destroying what had already been only a minimally satisfactory arrangement.

I doubt they would look at the matter with our anthropological frame of mind, with the single-parent household being, along with the extended-family network and the intact nuclear family, just one of many viable kinds of family models.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:08 PM
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179: 173: you confirm my point. The woman contributes considerable labor to maintaining their standard of living, which becomes invisible, and for which she does not get paid.

But the premise of 173 was that the husband is earning more, yet the wife lives on an equal economic footing. Now, there are lots of IRL ways in which this can not work, but, on the face of it, it's quite clear that she does get paid. The fact that it doesn't come as actual paychecks is meaningless.

The shitty part (and the giveaway) is that the tendency is for women to do more domestic work regardless of pay/working hours. But that was explicitly ruled out in 173.

If they're married and they get a divorce and she lives in a country with good divorce laws and she has a good lawyer, her standard of living may not go down by too much in consequence of the years of unpaid labor ... if she's lucky.

Eh. My MIL did almost literally no housework, there was one child (who describes herself as having been "raised by wolves," as far as parental engagement goes), and yet her divorce settlement was generous enough that she doesn't work at all - and my FIL is nowhere near loaded. I think you're overclaiming by a lot, and that, at least in the US, "unpaid" domestic labor is taken into account in alimony calcs*. But this may vary by state, and Will probably will correct me.

* I'm not claiming, btw, that divorce is awesome for women - I'm creeped out by MRAs, and don't doubt that the courts can be plenty sexist. But it's not my impression that the concept of housekeeping/childrearing as contribution to the household is some radical legal concept.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:10 PM
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Jesus, you white people are humorless.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:10 PM
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(260 assumes that DS is playing along in order to pass, and hasn't been misrepresenting his race all along.)


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:11 PM
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Jesus is singular.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:12 PM
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No way, he Married Magdalene.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:12 PM
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255: You know, Ned, I don't think you can. You just don't seem to have it in you to do outrage on the internet the way some others can.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:12 PM
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I do not think lower SES is straightforward at all, depends very much on context. IMO being exposed to pervasive broadcast "humor" which lacks context or has a very complicated context, degrades real humor based on shared experience and understanding.

funny or not?

I really like the choice of script and fingernails.

The best jokes here IMO use a hyperlink to confound an expectation (hi, apo) or make clever allusions to obscure material.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:13 PM
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250

Same principle applies as the "Who's allowed to be racist?" issue: if the teller of the joke is of equal or lower SES/power than the target, then it's OK.

So why can't B target Ann Coulter? And can I tell racist jokes about Obama?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:13 PM
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When evaluating humor, I put my conscience and my funny bone in a jar and see which one eats the other. Or if they mate.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:15 PM
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You can't tell racist jokes about Obama.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:17 PM
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240: The rules on becoming a citizen changed around 2003, because it was in the news when we were starting to get interested in the whole deal.

237: thanks, here's a response to 5 and 42:

One, it's not like there aren't any number of children in your own country in need of adoptive parents

Actually, it's quite alot like that, at least if by "any number" you mean "a number higher than the number of parents interesting in adopting." In any event, it's quite plausible that a child in foster care in the United States faces better life prospects than a child in an orphanage in many other places. Why is it immoral to seek to improve an adopted child's life more rather than less (measured by changed life expectancy, for example)?

and two, it's really obscene that wealthy families can literally buy a healthy child, even if their intent towards that child is kindly and well-meaning.

I know it's different in the UK, but here in the United States many, many parents "buy" a healthy child through the mechanism of paying money for medical care that will make their unhealthy child healthy. After we got back we did some of that in fact. I don't see the obscenity.

Infants genuinely available for adoption because they were abandoned or their parents died, are unlikely to be of the high standard that Western parents are looking for.

I don't know what you mean by high standard. Pretty much the only information we had was date of birth and vaccination schedule, and we didn't really care about the vaccines since we could do that on return.

Two parent deaths are probably uncommon. Relinquishment of parental rights at the time of birth is not uncommon.

42
it's really obscene that wealthy families can literally buy a healthy child, even if their intent towards that child is kindly and well-meaning. . . . all the same rationalizations mobilized in favour of international adoption about doing it all "for the benefit of the child" are barely distinct, if at all, from the rationalizations used to justify the kidnapping, theft or purchase of children from poverty-stricken parents for centuries. This was in fact a key aspect of the justifications for -- it may be in semi-Godwin territory but fuck that, it's really quite relevant -- the Trans-Atlantic Trade.

Similarly, when I buy food and then eat it, my motives are quite similar to those of cannibals over the past centuries, who kill people and then eat them. It's all for nourishment!

It should surprise nobody at all, ever, that such "adoptions" often shade into simple kidnapping (which AFAICS does apply here -- I don't see how the agency taking the child under false pretenses, and deceptively using conventions in the host society to ease that practice, can be anything other). It's a practice that isn't nearly regulated enough and deserves to be scrutinized at all times, the motives and the actualities, with the utmost suspicion.

Similarly, someone once committed fraud involving food stamps. I saw it on the news! Food stamps shoudl be abolished or severely limited. It's a practice that isn't nearly regulated enough and deserves to be scrutinized at all times, the motives and the actualities, with the utmost suspicion.

Pleaes, check the extent to which a practice is currently regulated before you decide that it isn't nearly enough. In the past few years there have been about 20,000 internationally adopted babies coming into the United States, and higher numbers into the EC. there's quite alot of regulation. One fraud case or five doesn't prove much about the rest of the system.



Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:17 PM
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And I don't like being called humorless.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:17 PM
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266: The joke wasn't solely about Ann Coulter, but about a hypothesized actual transsexual woman. Similarly, racist jokes about Obama have application to black people generally -- a joke of the form "Obama is contemptible because he's black!" attacks Obama, which might be okay because he's President, but also attacks black people as a class. Not okay.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:17 PM
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James, B can target Ann Coulter if she wants; she oughtn't also target transgender people.

Similarly, you can tell racist jokes about Obama if you want to, but it would be pretty fucked up, since presumably you would be making fun of his status as a black man, and if my assumptions are correct, you don't have equal or lower SES/power than black Americans.

This has been another episode of Explaining the Straightforward to Shearer.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:19 PM
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You can't tell racist jokes about Obama.

White presidents bone interns like this, but black presidents bone interns like this.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:19 PM
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250: zing!


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:19 PM
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And which is why the Reagan/Alzheimer's jokes are tasteless, insofar as the primary humor is directed at Alzheimer's sufferers generally.

But not every joke referencing Reagan and Alzheimer's will have that character, just as not every joke referencing Obama's race will be untellable by a UMC white guy.

But you're better off not telling it.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:20 PM
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whoops, 274 to 266, not 250.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:20 PM
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I hate it when black presidents leave the toilet seat up.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:20 PM
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Actually, I'm with sheerer on one point: I don't see how the joke involves sexual assault. The guy is looking for a volunteer for a public, consensual teabagging. I get how the joke is transphobic: we're supposed to think that its normal for someone who is excited by a public teabagging to still be grossed out by a transsexual. But I don't see the assault.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:23 PM
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Knock knock!

Who's there?

Orange!

Orange who?

Orange you glad I didn't say 'black president'?


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:23 PM
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Homeric epithets

Don't forget rosy-toed Alameida.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:24 PM
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I suspect that fewer Reagan/Alzheimer's jokes would be told if Americans (eg, the media, Republicans, HS history teachers) would acknowledge that there was an issue there. There's definitely a laugh-to-keep-from-crying aspect to the fact that, according to some people who worked with/for him, the memory loss had probably begun by 1984, yet it's outrageous to talk about his presidency in terms of "we had a President working at increasingly diminished capacity for 4+ years." So people joke.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:26 PM
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276: Rats.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:27 PM
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The other thing about Ann Coulter jokes like that is that they tend not to have anything to do with the fact that she is the scum of the earth, but that she's not pretty enough, which translates to "like a transsexual." It's not only at the expense of transgender women, but also at the expense of any woman in the public eye, a reminder that, fundamentally, no one gives a shit what you say; the important thing is whether dudes want to bone you or not.

Yes, it's irritating that so many conservative women seem to have gotten attention for being wank material for conservative dudes. It's annoying that they market themselves as some magical combination of tits, frizzless hair, and a hatred for oppressed people. But obsessing about whether you'd like to touch them in a sexual way, and how you would do that, and what it would feel like, and whether it would be like having sex with some other kind of person you don't generally find attractive, strikes me as kind of psychopathic.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:28 PM
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Homeric epithets

Hairy-backed Ogged


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:28 PM
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278: It's a little attenuated, but even though it's supposed to be formally consensual, in the context of the joke the 'teabagging' can be understood as intentionally hostile and humiliating. Hostile and humiliating sex gets close to sexual assault.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:29 PM
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it's outrageous to talk about his presidency in terms of "we had a President working at increasingly diminished capacity for 4+ years."

Not to me it isn't, but I guess I'm regularly over the line. Anyhow, Reagan was a dim bulb even when he still had all his faculties about him. That we elected him twice speaks more to the diminished mental abilities of the American public.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:32 PM
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Hostile and humiliating sex gets close to sexual assault.

Not when it's consensual.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:33 PM
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Thesis: the success of a defense of an off-color joke is correlated to its success at being funny.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:33 PM
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but also at the expense of any woman in the public eye, a reminder that, fundamentally, no one gives a shit what you say; the important thing is whether dudes want to bone you or not.

But Coulter is some kind of weird celebrity/performance art figure now, by her own choice her looks are central to her persona. You see fat jokes about male celeb/political hybrids like Rush Limbaugh or Michael Moore, and you don't see a ton of looks-related jokes about Madeline Albright or Mikulski or Pelosi or Sebelius or any number of other women who are in the public eye for being, well, qualified for stuff. (I agree that latter has gotten noticeably better in my lifetime, as it becomes pretty much routine for women to be in public/powerful positions).


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:33 PM
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he memory loss had probably begun by 1984,

And memory loss is the least of it. Alzheimer's-type dementia is dementia. On the bright side, colleagues who work with that population tell me that people perform much better on all kinds of cognitive tasks the more they get to inhabit social roles in which they are presumed to be competent and useful. Being president of the United States has got to be therapeutically fantastic in that regard!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:34 PM
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When people start drawing lines, I am reminded of one of the lessons that Merlin teaches young Wart in The Once and Future King, by turning him into a bird.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:35 PM
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Same principle applies as the "Who's allowed to be racist?" issue: if the teller of the joke is of equal or lower SES/power than the target, then it's OK.

That, combined with LB's comment about attacking a class of people, sounds like a pretty straightforward as a description of how it works. If it's supposed to count as justification, though, I'm afraid I'm as much in the dark as James is. Are people really so much agreed as to how this sort of thing is calculated? The Bubba figure, for instance, is pretty controversial as an object of ridicule.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:37 PM
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261: I think Ari determined that I'm the illegitimate love child of Margaret Atwood and Golda Meir. I've just been running with that.

269: Similarly, when I buy food and then eat it, my motives are quite similar to those of cannibals over the past centuries, who kill people and then eat them. It's all for nourishment!

Yeah, see, this would be a cuter rejoinder if it weren't in a comments thread to a post about a kid actually being abducted from Samoa on false pretenses.

Pleaes, check the extent to which a practice is currently regulated before you decide that it isn't nearly enough.

Yeah, don't mind if I do.

I'm sure you are very nice people. But please don't try to substitute failed sarcasm for argument. And don't assume that law in the States is the only relevant law to the phenomenon we're talking about.

271: You can't tell tasteless jokes that aren't on some level about a larger class of people than the primary target. That's what makes them tasteless. It's just not always going to be very important that they're tasteless. It's the context that makes the difference.

Of course, sometimes it is important. If the tranny thing were a less peripheral part of B's joke, for instance, I'd be more sympathetic to Jersurgislac whose pseudonym I hope I'm not butchering.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:39 PM
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colleagues who work with that population tell me that people perform much better on all kinds of cognitive tasks the more they get to inhabit social roles in which they are presumed to be competent and useful.

this is UNBELIEVABLY true. I've noticed that people who have positions that give power and respect age far, far better than ordinary civilians, and are much happier and more energetic. Part of this could be selection for being vibrant/energetic in order to succeed, but I think status has an independent positive effect on health. Note this means that most every asshole politician you hate leads a better life than you do.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:40 PM
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I am reminded of one of the lessons that Merlin teaches young Wart in The Once and Future King, by turning him into a bird.

No more teabagging for young Wart. Only mammals have scrotums.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:40 PM
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a reminder that, fundamentally, no one gives a shit what you say; the important thing is whether dudes want to bone you or not.

There are certainly women who are part of the public conversation who aren't judged on bone-worthiness. Coulter's schtick is 90% "I'm hot" and 10% "I'm full of hate." Take away the claims of hotness, and she may as well be posting at Free Republic.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:41 PM
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I've just been running with that.

Black people are the fastest runners.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:43 PM
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you don't see a ton of looks-related jokes about Madeline Albright or Mikulski or Pelosi or Sebelius or any number of other women who are in the public eye for being, well, qualified for stuff.

You just haven't been paying attention.

Also, Mikulski, Napolitano, and others are routinely mocked for being single, with the implication that they're gay.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:44 PM
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you don't see a ton of looks-related jokes about Madeline Albright or Mikulski or Pelosi or Sebelius or any number of other women who are in the public eye for being, well, qualified for stuff.

Janet Reno notably absent. Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly?


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:45 PM
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Not to me it isn't

Well no, but if Yglesias went on MSNBC and talked about late-Reagan policies in terms of his Alzheimer's, he wouldn't get invited back. Which is why people make nasty jokes, because, in popular discourse, you're considered rude to mention it at all.

Actually not unlike tasteless sex jokes - I think that, when sex was a less open topic, a lot more people resorted to stupid sex jokes because you couldn't talk about it at all (not that people don't still joke about sex, but I think that it has moved to either more sophisticated jokes about the general topic or tasteless jokes at the still-edgy margins).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:45 PM
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290: I actually consciously switched from "dementia" to "memory loss" because I'm not sure that anyone has attested to the former as early as 1984. Maybe I'm wrong that there's a distinction, or that one come before the other. But I was trying to stick with the facts I knew.

To be earnest for a moment.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:47 PM
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For people who don't feel like sitting through the video linked in 298, it's a collection of clips of conservatives slamming Pelosi for having had too much Botox, etc.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:48 PM
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286

... Anyhow, Reagan was a dim bulb even when he still had all his faculties about him ...

What does "dim bulb" mean in IQ terms? You think he was dumber than McCain?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:48 PM
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298: Mikulski is gay, actually.

In the 90s the looks-related stuff with women was more common, but I thought it had faded. But I don't watch much if any cable TV, and never listen to Rush Limbaugh and like assholes. Maybe I'm naive.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:49 PM
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You think he was dumber than McCain?

Tough call.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:52 PM
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Also, Mikulski, Napolitano, and others are routinely mocked for being single, with the implication that they're gay.

Is this different from single male pols?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:54 PM
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Is this different from single male pols?

It tends to be phrased in more of a "so ugly they can't get a man" way. Not so different substantively, though.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 2:56 PM
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In response to 269

Actually, it's quite alot like that, at least if by "any number" you mean "a number higher than the number of parents interesting in adopting."

Yes, I do. There are more children in the US in need of adoptive parents than there are parents interested in adopting. The difficulty is that the majority of those children are not going to be nice, sweet infants too young to remember their original parents: they're going to be kids who have memories of their birth families, who never will be wholly the child of their adoptive parents - that, at least. Their emotional, psychological, and sometimes physical problems are also likely to ensure that they aren't the kind of kid couples looking for a child who will be wholly theirs will want.

In any event, it's quite plausible that a child in foster care in the United States faces better life prospects than a child in an orphanage in many other places. Why is it immoral to seek to improve an adopted child's life more rather than less (measured by changed life expectancy, for example)?

I guess you either think that kidnapping children for sale is immoral, or you don't. I think it's immoral even if the intent is to sell the child to a couple who will give the child all the - dubious - advantages of a medical system that's about 30th in the world. (If increased life-expectancy is an absolute good, ought Japanese parents who want to adopt be encouraged to buy babies from American kidnappers?)

Life expectancy for a woman in Samoa is 74.26 years. Life expectancy for a woman in the US is 80.97 years. Life expectancy for a woman in Macau is 87.45. Are Macau couples who want to adopt therefore justified in buying kidnapped American infants?

I know it's different in the UK, but here in the United States many, many parents "buy" a healthy child through the mechanism of paying money for medical care that will make their unhealthy child healthy. After we got back we did some of that in fact. I don't see the obscenity.

I see the stupidity, in trying to claim that when you pay for health care for your child you are thereby "buying a healthy child".

I don't know what you mean by high standard. Pretty much the only information we had was date of birth and vaccination schedule, and we didn't really care about the vaccines since we could do that on return.

Deaf? Blind? No legs? No arms? HIV+?

Two parent deaths are probably uncommon. Relinquishment of parental rights at the time of birth is not uncommon.

Especially in a country where the mother knows she will never be able to afford to care for her child. (British couples who want to adopt frequently go to the US for similar reasons - by British adoptive standards, the US is a Third World country for ready availability of poverty-stricken mothers who will give birth knowing they can't afford to support their child.)

Similarly, someone once committed fraud involving food stamps. I saw it on the news! Food stamps shoudl be abolished or severely limited. It's a practice that isn't nearly regulated enough and deserves to be scrutinized at all times, the motives and the actualities, with the utmost suspicion.

People need to eat or they die. Deeply suspicious. Ever so similar to kidnapping.

In the past few years there have been about 20,000 internationally adopted babies coming into the United States, and higher numbers into the EC. there's quite alot of regulation. One fraud case or five doesn't prove much about the rest of the system.

"Lots of people do it so there can't be much wrong with it!"


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:00 PM
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Wow, as soon as Read becomes unpopular for calling Unimaginative a slave-trader, someone else steps up to the plate to call Unimaginative a kidnapper.

In any event, it's quite plausible that a child in foster care in the United States faces better life prospects than a child in an orphanage in many other places. Why is it immoral to seek to improve an adopted child's life more rather than less (measured by changed life expectancy, for example)?

I guess you either think that kidnapping children for sale is immoral, or you don't.

Kidnapping children from an orphanage?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:10 PM
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Let me be the first to call Unimaginative an arsonist.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:11 PM
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Reagan's health .


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:14 PM
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309: What, ned, you don't think it's possible to kidnap a child from an orphanage?

(That's what unimaginative did, right? Because otherwise Jesurgislac's comments wouldn't make any sense.)


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:15 PM
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309: Suddenly, the problem becomes the hurt feelings of people who merely received kidnapped children, and who did not themselves actually kidnap anyone, and who don't know for sure one way or the other if the child they adopted was kidnapped.

Well done, Ned. Not at all cryptic.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:16 PM
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It tends to be phrased in more of a "so ugly they can't get a man" way.

Ah.

Not so different substantively, though.

Indeed. And Napolitano is quite striking, so it's a poor fit. Although the homophobic smear works as "X is a lesbian, ergo X is ugly," even though, were X actually ugly, you wouldn't need the lesbian part.

Anyway, when people are being nasty about politics, you're always going to get childish jokes about appearance and intelligence. It's worth paying attention to how it's applied, but DS is right that it's pretty tiring and tiresome to be vigilant about 3rd-grade-level insults.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:17 PM
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305

You think he was dumber than McCain?

Tough call.

How about Reagan vrs the average Senator or Congressman? Reagan vrs the average Republican Senator or Congressman?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:20 PM
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and who don't know for sure one way or the other if the child they adopted was kidnapped.

Because that's what orphanages do? Send out kidnappers to round up babies?


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:22 PM
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I'd add, since Unimaginative seems not to have realised this, the same rule as when women are discussing violent men and/or rapists applies: if it's not about you, it's not about you. If you, Unimaginative, are absolutely confident that the baby you adopted was legally and voluntarily released by the biological mother, and that in no way could wealthy-by-comparison Western parents looking for infants to adopt encourage the kidnapping of infants from birth families... then obviously, it's not about you. Why make it about you, if it's not?


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:24 PM
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42 wasn't about kidnapping.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:25 PM
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In fairness, I think that the average Republican Senator is clearly smarter than Reagan at this point. Republican Congressmen is a closer call, but I have no problem with the premise that at least a third are smarter than Reagan is.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:25 PM
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Reagan vrs the average Senator or Congressman

Not sure what constitutes average here. Smarter than Michelle Bachmann or James Inhofe. Not as smart as John Boehner or Mitch McConnell.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:25 PM
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Does walking the dog count as housework? (It's a household chore?) Because that would really bump up my total - I'm never going to get to 27 hours otherwise.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:26 PM
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316: To be fair, it's what happened in the story in the original post -- the adoptive parents were told they were getting a kid who had been in a group foster home, pretty close to an orphanage, and it was a flat lie -- she'd been taken from her family home under false pretences. It happened once, it can happen again.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:27 PM
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international adoptions by couples from developed countries of children from undeveloped countries

Yes, it's hard to imagine how unimaginitive, as half of a couple from a developed country that adopted a child from an undeveloped country, could think this statement was about him. How egotistical.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:27 PM
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Jesurgislac argued international adoptions were dubious, unimaginative argued that they were not.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:29 PM
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What orphanages do.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:30 PM
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322: this is not a very strong statement. This American Life also recently featured a couple whose children were switched at birth. One of the mothers, although she suspected the children had been switched, didn't say anything for some thirty years. This I suspect does not mean that everybody who has a child at a hospital should presumptively assume they have the baby of a stranger, which stranger knowingly took their baby.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:32 PM
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But it's not what happened in unimaginative's case, and I think "I guess you either think that kidnapping children for sale is immoral, or you don't" is a ridiculous thing to say to him. He's not defending the practices of the agency in the original post. It's quite absurd to suggest that parents who have adopted children from russian, rumanian, or chinese orphanages are likely to be adopting kidnapped children.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:32 PM
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326 would more correctly refer to a couple of couples, not just one.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:33 PM
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My mom sewed me an Annie dress when I was four or five, which I wore with great enthusiasm. Steada kisses, we get kicked!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:33 PM
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people perform much better on all kinds of cognitive tasks the more they get to inhabit social roles in which they are presumed to be competent and useful.

Damn. This line would have been useful in the "Gender in the Workplace" seminar I just sat through. Turns out Men in the Workplace are from Mars...


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:33 PM
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316: Because that's what orphanages do? Send out kidnappers to round up babies?

Where that's profitable:

The nine-page report by the embassy's Consular Investigations unit charges that some Vietnamese orphanages pay parents to put their children up for adoption in order to obtain donations from foreign adoption service providers, who fund most of the orphanages' budgets.

and the birth family is poor:

In an interview with Steve Inskeep, the Smolins say that an adoption agency described Manjula and Bhagya as two girls who had been waiting a long time for a home. But the girls insisted they had been stolen -- kidnapped from their mother.
The Indian mother was poor. She placed the children temporarily in an orphanage, and the orphanage essentially sold them.

E.J. Graff, associate director and senior researcher at Brandeis University's Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, refers to them as child finders rather than kidnappers - since sometimes the mother is paid to give up her child, told that she'll see the baby again.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:34 PM
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321 was not me.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:37 PM
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In fairness, I think that the average Republican Senator is clearly smarter than Reagan at this point. Republican Congressmen is a closer call, but I have no problem with the premise that at least a third are smarter than Reagan is.

This kind of thing is just weird. It depends entirely what you mean by "smart". I don't understand either the motive or reasoning behind speculating on who was "smarter", Reagan or Mitch McConnell. Certainly Reagan was not stupid, at least until his mind started to go. He was an ideologue, and ideologues organize their mind in particular ways. He was very effective at pushing his ideology.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:37 PM
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I'd add, since Unimaginative seems not to have realised this, the same rule as when women are discussing violent men and/or rapists applies: if it's not about you, it's not about you. If you, Unimaginative, are absolutely confident that the baby you adopted was legally and voluntarily released by the biological mother, and that in no way could wealthy-by-comparison Western parents looking for infants to adopt encourage the kidnapping of infants from birth families... then obviously, it's not about you. Why make it about you, if it's not?

You are obviously saying in these multiple posts that there is no way she could know the truth about this situation and therefore there is a chance her baby was kidnapped. Don't try to back out of that. Because it's true...how would she know the truth anyway?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:39 PM
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Well, in light of 331 I take back the last sentence in 327.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:42 PM
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327: He's not defending the practices of the agency in the original post.

He is, however, defending the principle of wealthy Western couples paying to adopt a healthy infant from a much poorer country, because life expectancy will be a few years more in the US. So yes, actually, he is defending the practices of the agency in the original post, insofar as the agency was getting infants from Samoa to the United States, where the infants would benefit on average by about five more years life expectancy.

It's quite absurd to suggest that parents who have adopted children from russian, rumanian, or chinese orphanages are likely to be adopting kidnapped children.

Is it? I don't think there are any instances where child-for-cash became the way the system worked, where the system did not become abused. It's the main reason most countries regulate international adoption strictly: people willing to buy small children are an incitement to kidnappers.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:43 PM
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334: You are obviously saying in these multiple posts that there is no way she could know the truth about this situation and therefore there is a chance her baby was kidnapped.

Am I? Only Unimaginative knows. I don't. I don't intend any personal accusation. But I do stand by the principle that in general, it's really fundamentally fucked-up - and it doesn't become less fucked-up because you can point to marginal differences in life expectancies between the country of origin and the country of adoption.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:47 PM
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331: isn't it practically the moral duty of American couples to adopt such babies? Clearly the family would only sell their child if they were either terrible parents or in desparate straits financially; in either case the child will do better with a first world family.

Forcible kidnapping is a different case.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:47 PM
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My mom sewed me an Annie dress when I was four or five, which I wore with great enthusiasm. Steada kisses, we get kicked!

Rory is playing this role in an upcoming play. I had just about managed to make that (and related) song(s) quit playing in my head.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:49 PM
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I don't think there are any instances where child-for-cash became the way the system worked, where the system did not become abused

No, no. this is just the free market working to ensure the optimal distribution of children. [/McMegan]


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:50 PM
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I think it's interesting that some people think "People who are willing to pay money in order to adopt children" are the ones perpetrating the original sin, the ones whose desire to "buy children", in other words, leads others to fill that market by kidnapping children. Interesting, and horrifying. Another way to think about the situation might be that people want to adopt children, and find that the adoption agencies charge various fees in order to do it, because like certain other entities, adoption agencies cost money to run.

Or, you could think of it as "buying children". And then, for some reason, totally dismiss the parallel way in which "paying money for health care" can be boiled down to "buying a healthy child".

Also, why would you reduce "quality of life" to "life expectancy"? Was it just to introduce the fascinating, preconception-shattering, tables-turning Macau hypothetical?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:52 PM
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342

Depends on the American couple. A Samoan adoptee would, essentially, be growing up black in the United States, and I should think there are some US cities compared to which he'd be better off being black in Samoa.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:53 PM
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My neighbor was obsessed with winning a role in the play, going so far as to write and record a song called "Let Me Be Annie For Christmas". "I'll teach Miss Hannigan / to laugh again / if you make my dreams come true." She actually won the role of Pepper in the Broadway production.

Also, the girl who played Annie in the movie went to a Catholic school that my Hebrew school shared a school bus with. We were stunned to find out that she did not, in fact, have red curly hair.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:54 PM
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My neighbor was obsessed with winning a role in the play, going so far as to write and record a song called "Let Me Be Annie For Christmas". "I'll teach Miss Hannigan / to laugh again / if you make my dreams come true." She actually won the role of Pepper in the Broadway production.

Also, the girl who played Annie in the movie went to a Catholic school that my Hebrew school shared a school bus with. We were stunned to find out that she did not, in fact, have red curly hair.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:54 PM
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My neighbor was obsessed with winning a role in the play, going so far as to write and record a song called "Let Me Be Annie For Christmas". "I'll teach Miss Hannigan / to laugh again / if you make my dreams come true." She actually won the role of Pepper in the Broadway production.

Also, the girl who played Annie in the movie went to a Catholic school that my Hebrew school shared a school bus with. We were stunned to find out that she did not, in fact, have red curly hair.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:54 PM
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My neighbor was obsessed with winning a role in the play, going so far as to write and record a song called "Let Me Be Annie For Christmas". "I'll teach Miss Hannigan / to laugh again / if you make my dreams come true." She actually won the role of Pepper in the Broadway production.

Also, the girl who played Annie in the movie went to a Catholic school that my Hebrew school shared a school bus with. We were stunned to find out that she did not, in fact, have red curly hair.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:54 PM
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Wow. Safari!


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 3:54 PM
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And I'd also question the idea that 'materially better off' simply is 'better off simpliciter'.

In fact, I'd want to question that identification pretty strongly.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 4:03 PM
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348 was a comment on 342.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 4:03 PM
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,i>I think it's interesting that some people think "People who are willing to pay money in order to adopt children" are the ones perpetrating the original sin, the ones whose desire to "buy children", in other words, leads others to fill that market by kidnapping children. Interesting, and horrifying. Another way to think about the situation might be that people want to adopt children, and find that the adoption agencies charge various fees in order to do it, because like certain other entities, adoption agencies cost money to run.

Another way to think about the situation is that when there is more demand than supply, people will have an incentive to create more supply. In the case of human beings, that incentive can lead to coercive or illegal practices.

You don't have to get to anybody's motives or benign or malign intent here. You just have to look at the economics to see that it's a potential problem.

As governments imperfectly and sometimes self-contradictingly attempt to regulate that problem away, they're either going to err on the side of false positives (children snatched from the loving arms of would-be adoptive parents because their provenance isn't quite clean) or false negatives (heartbreaking stories of birth families tricked or lied into giving up their children).


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 4:11 PM
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So pretend I did the tags right so that the first paragraph of 350 is in italics.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 4:12 PM
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341: Also, why would you reduce "quality of life" to "life expectancy"? Was it just to introduce the fascinating, preconception-shattering, tables-turning Macau hypothetical?

I don't know why Unimaginative reduced "quality of life" to "life expectancy" in comment 269. I did not, as it happened, know which country leads the world in life expectancy at birth until I looked it up to respond accurately to Unimaginative: my guess was Japan, but in fact Japan is third in the world. (The United States is 30th or 45th, depending whether you measure by UN or CIA stats.) But Macau is as noticeably ahead of the US in life expectancy as Samoa is behind it, which was an interesting symmetry of examples. Still, it's hardly my fault the data happened to be on my side of the argument, is it?

I think it's interesting that some people think "People who are willing to pay money in order to adopt children" are the ones perpetrating the original sin, the ones whose desire to "buy children", in other words, leads others to fill that market by kidnapping children. Interesting, and horrifying.

340. I'd say more horrifying than interesting that as soon as wealthy people willing to pay for healthy infants enter the equation, so do kidnappers to provide those children.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 4:12 PM
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319: I think that the average Republican Senator is clearly smarter than Reagan at this point.

Republican Senators: Clearly smarter than a dead person*.

*On average.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 4:17 PM
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319 333

I think 319 is attempting to make a joke.

As for my motive I get irritated with people who call Reagan stupid based on his ideology. He was clearly smarter than average.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 4:19 PM
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348: The adoption outcomes I've observed are so completely all over the map that I would hesitate to make any generalizations, including this one. The one observation I have made is that trans-racial or trans-ethnic adoptions require much more affirmative legwork from the parents than they sometimes appear to have anticipated. Some rise to the occasion marvelously. Others do not.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 4:19 PM
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33: Look at the tenses, PGD. It's a joke.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 4:26 PM
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re: 355

In the UK, as it happens, trans-racial adoptions are very strongly discouraged as a matter of policy.

I was just more generally pointing out, though, that reducing well-being, satisfaction, quality of life and so-on to material well-being alone is trite and stupid.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 4:26 PM
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354.last: It's all for different values of "stupid." You read memoirs from his own appointees, and it's apparent that he had stupidities that would have prevented him from succeeding as, say a middle manager - if an economist told him a set of numbers that contradicted his ideological presumptions, he would simply blink at him and repeat the ideology. This can be very effective behavior for a politician (esp. in an executive role) or an actor, but would come across as rank stupidity in most IRL situations.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 4:31 PM
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342-346: Talk about obsessed!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 4:46 PM
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354, 358: Right. Someone can have a personality and character leading them to consistently do and say stupid things without being particularly low-IQ. Calling them stupid may be unfair, but it's hard to distinguish operationally between the genuinely stupid and those who merely do and say stupid things.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 5:15 PM
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I was going to come back and say some more about the international adoptions thing, but Jesurgislac has already said it all.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 5:15 PM
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339: You will never get them out of your head. My friend E. and I still have an entire routine to "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile" that we'll perform if drunk enough.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 5:17 PM
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You read memoirs from his own appointees, and it's apparent that he had stupidities that would have prevented him from succeeding as, say a middle manager

This is what I was meant. I also remember that nearly every time Reagan spoke off the cuff, his press secretary would answer at least one question the next day with "What the President meant to say was..." I don't base my dim bulb assessment on his ideology. Cheney is plainly smarter than GWB. Mitch McConnell is plainly smarter than Eric Cantor.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 5:18 PM
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This is what I was meant.

"What the apostropher meant to say was..."

(My dad recalls that phrase too - he remembers it as a clear indication of dementia, since Reagan clearly couldn't be trusted to make a public statement about policy any more.)


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 5:26 PM
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363: Was that dimness or the onset of dementia? There were certainly articles by doctors in the leftist press during his presidency insisting that Reagan had Alzheimers.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 5:28 PM
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"What the apostropher meant to say was..."

Heh.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 5:32 PM
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358

354.last: It's all for different values of "stupid." You read memoirs from his own appointees, and it's apparent that he had stupidities that would have prevented him from succeeding as, say a middle manager - if an economist told him a set of numbers that contradicted his ideological presumptions, he would simply blink at him and repeat the ideology. This can be very effective behavior for a politician (esp. in an executive role) or an actor, but would come across as rank stupidity in most IRL situations.

I don't think this has anything to do with stupid or smart in the IQ sense. You can be smart and still be stubborn or ideologically rigid. It is normal to resist facts that go against your view of the world.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 5:32 PM
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IQ isn't a measure of non-stupidity, it's a measure of performance on IQ tests first and foremost and secondly it's a measure of abstract reasoning. Neither is a measure of smarts, particularly the kind that is useful dealing with messy real-world situations of the sort encountered by national leaders. Some of the stupidest people I know have genius level IQs.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 5:35 PM
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360

354, 358: Right. Someone can have a personality and character leading them to consistently do and say stupid things without being particularly low-IQ. Calling them stupid may be unfair, but it's hard to distinguish operationally between the genuinely stupid and those who merely do and say stupid things.

Everybody is occasionally stupid. The idea that Reagan was consistently stupid (as compared to the average person or even other politicians) seems based on dislike. How about Reagan vrs Biden?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 5:39 PM
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Please can we not encourage James to get going on the nature of intelligence.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 5:42 PM
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How about Reagan vrs Biden?

Another really tough call. I wouldn't want either one operating on me.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 5:42 PM
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368

IQ isn't a measure of non-stupidity, it's a measure of performance on IQ tests first and foremost and secondly it's a measure of abstract reasoning. Neither is a measure of smarts, particularly the kind that is useful dealing with messy real-world situations of the sort encountered by national leaders. Some of the stupidest people I know have genius level IQs.

Getting elected President twice would seem to indicate Reagan had above average practical intelligence.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 5:44 PM
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Reagan ≠ the Reagan campaign


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 5:45 PM
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369: Reagan and Biden aren't on the same scale that it makes sense to say one is smarter or stupider than the other. What's wrong with Biden is that he says stuff unguardedly -- saying "I wouldn't have my family get on a plane this week" or whatever he said about the swine flu isn't a stupid thing to say unless you're Vice President. That kind of thing makes him sound like a loose cannon, not an idiot. The sorts of things Reagan said made him sound like he simply didn't understand what was going on (which is perfectly possible in a person with an above average IQ who hasn't bothered to acquaint himself with the relevant information).

May I offer my theory, stated in a post on the Spitzer debacle, that smartness and stupidness are measurable on different scales -- it's possible to be both quite intelligent and very stupid.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 5:47 PM
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The thread has moved on a lot, but I have to call bullshit on LB's characterisations of "Samoan culture". It's not that the situations she describes aren't present and true, but there really isn't the monolithic sameness she's implying. Especially inter-religiously - the LDS church is very strong, and its members are often as much that as they are Samoan. It's entirely plausible (indeed, pretty likely) that they'd see a divorce as a bad place for their child to be raised. That's notwithstanding the fairly fluid and broad concepts of family you find.

So trying to characterise something as Samoan/not Samoan with broad strokes isn't a very useful exercise. I work a lot with the Samoan community in New Zealand*, and it really isn't all one block of sameness. You do see these sorts of arrangements, where children are raised temporarily overseas, and they're almost always arranged through close family or the churches. It's completely reasonable that the church bond would be important to them. That's not to say that Nyberg isn't a jerk in other ways, or even that he isn't lying about it all, but I find his story completely plausible. The case got a fair bit of media play here at the time too, and I didn't get the impression you did.

* Fairly large, since anybody born in Samoa before 1960 is a citizen, as are their first-generation children. That means there's often close relatives available the kids board with, but unrelated placements with coreligionists are far from unheard of.


Posted by: Robert Muldoon | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 7:06 PM
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Before this thread dies.

I must say I find the international adoption issue at hand here terribly difficult. Jes, DS and anyone else who points to the potential incentive to kidnappers has a clear case. It really trades on the question whether there are enough (healthy?) children in the US in need of adoption to meet the demand here, or whether parents in the US must or should look further. Unimaginative and Jes seem at odds over this question; I'm not inclined to look up any available statistics.

On the healthy children aspect of this, well, I was adopted on the grey market, in a sense. That is: my parents adopted me from birth. My mother worked as an RN on the ob-gyn ward of the hospital. The next adoptive child to come up coinciding with my mom's name on the list had birth defects -- this was known. Apparently the doctors and fellow nurses on the ward would not allow her to adopt this boy child, but made her wait for the next, which was me. This was against her wishes; she was fully prepared to bring the boy child home. The hospital staff moved some paperwork around, and she became my mother.

No lesson here that I can draw sensibly.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 7:13 PM
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375: If you check, I hedge at least a couple of times -- look at, e.g., 50 and 77. Certainly Samoans aren't monolithic, and I'm guessing about the Sos. I might be wrong, and if I am -- if her return was at their initiative rather than his -- I've been unfair to him.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 7:26 PM
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What happened to the pioneer of homeric epithets on the website, Tripp the Crazed!?

Don't know where Tripp is, but I have to disagree that he pioneered the use of Homeric epithets on unfogged. Rosy-toed Alameida did.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 7:56 PM
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378 was I.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 7:56 PM
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234: I was trying to find the comment, a while ago, in which someone suggested that he was just providing his leadership from a distance.

That was me, comment 936 in that thread.

"Leaving" is hardly a well-defined event. Tripp, for instance is merely providing his blog "leadership" from afar.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:07 PM
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It really trades on the question whether there are enough (healthy?) children in the US in need of adoption to meet the demand here

Healthy, and young. There is a strong demand for infants as opposed to older children.

This brief set of charts is a bit ugly/cumbersome to look at, but confirms my basic sense of a massive surge in available domestic infants in the late 1960s, followed by a substantial drop that has continued until today.

All the way back to the original post: Has anyone mentioned the trauma to the siblings? I can't imagine how horrificially frightening it would be to have your parents bring home a new child with all sorts of fanfare, absorb her into the family, and then have her yanked away. Talk about cruel and hard to understand. And a divorce on top of it -- yikes, not easy for little kids.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:16 PM
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Witt, that's the worst excuse for a link I've ever seen.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:17 PM
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The sad thing is that you're going to think that even after I provide you with the correct link.

(It's a pdf with 6 ppt slides to a page.)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:36 PM
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The idea that Reagan was consistently stupid

Reagan wasn't consistently stupid. He was consistently not particularly bright.

Which is fine for the average joe, and not so great in a president. We revisited this problem with interest in Bush Jr.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:15 PM
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The story that ajay mentions about the Swedish exchange student way back in 123 is clearly bullshit. I'm sure that Bryson really tells that story, but there's no way it's true. Even Americans understand the desirability of going home.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:16 PM
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I'm sure that Bryson really tells that story, but there's no way it's true.

I don't know about that. Hyperbolic perhaps, but bullshit? For what it's worth I've had a similar experience. Twice. Clearly doesn't represent a majority but there are people who have a bizarre conception of the relative merits of the US and basically everywhere.


Posted by: canuck | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:22 PM
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At least we're not Canada, eh?


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:23 PM
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385: Walt, are you kidding? It's not about not wanting to go home, it's about lacking the empathy to hear that the person considers [FITB country Americans think poorly of] as "home."

There is absolutely a group of human beings for whom it is essentially impossible to imagine their way into someone else not wanting the thing that they, themselves, would want.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:24 PM
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At least we're not Canada, eh?

more's the pity.


Posted by: canuck | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:27 PM
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About ten years ago I stayed in a hostel in Vienna and one of the other guys in my room was a Romanian who couldn't understand why anyone would want to live anywhere but Romania, then paused, then added that of course that's always how it is - people prefer to go home.

Soon, I will write books as successful as Bryson's.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:31 PM
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Muldoon, would you know anything about Samoan views on NZ vs. Samoa in terms of where they'd rather live/bring up kids, etc?

That might be an interesting parallel.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:42 PM
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385: I was in grad school with a Finnish student who decided to abandon his studies after four years or so and move back to Finland to work for Nokia or something. He said he wanted to raise kids and couldn't deal with how violent American pop culture was and how uptight we were about sex. (I know, the cliché Northern European line, but that's what he said.) And, honestly, it freaked me out a bit that he thought Finland would be a better place to live out his live and have a family. After a few years I came around (in fact, I kinda wish I knew Finnish), but that was my gut reaction. Doesn't everyone want to move to America?


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:13 PM
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I've had similar responses when people have suggested I apply for academic jobs in the US and I've said that it's not an option (too disruptive for kids, not good for my wife's career, never had a huge urge to live in the US anyway etc). And my brother's friends and workmates were frankly dumbfounded when he chose not to stay on in the US after working there 6 years.
And it's not like Australia is generally viewed as some kind of hellhole. It's just that foreigners of all kinds are *supposed* to want to move to the US, it's in the script.


Posted by: Nakku | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:20 PM
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I'm a little surprised by this: not all of us who live in the U.S. think it's the greatest damn thing in the world.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:34 PM
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Back when I went to the US quite a bit for holidays (I quit after 2004) I never met an American who thought I'd prefer to live in the US than at home (or at least, never encountered one rude enough to suggest that to my face) but I did, after the third or fourth visit, get people at home inquiring half-seriously if I'd like to live there. (To which I used to think, politely, are you mad? Rotten health care system, tiny amounts of vacation time, damn-all public transport, and only three different kinds of cheese? I was quite clear that I had rather live somewhere where I'd get 35 days holiday a year and be paid enough to travel to the US if I felt like it, than live in the US and get by on half the vacation time.)


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:47 PM
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but I did, after the third or fourth visit, get people at home inquiring half-seriously if I'd like to live there.

They might have been asking that because you kept coming over here. I began to get people asking me whether I might want to move to the west coast after the 3rd or 4th time I visited there. They were trying to be helpful.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:55 PM
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They were trying to be helpful get rid of you.


Posted by: Nakku | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 11:57 PM
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You know, that occurred to me. But no, they were being solicitous about my apparently torn affections.

thanks, though, nakku.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 12:07 AM
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397: If they'd wanted to get rid of me there were easier ways. Poison in my coffee.

396: Maybeso, but I was usually visiting places very far apart from each other - I've been to Washington, California, Arizona, Illinois, Maryland, New York - and the only state I paid a repeat visit to was Massachusetts: one of my oldest friends lives there. (No, tell a lie, I've been to California twice, but opposite ends of it.) It would be like saying "So, do you want to move to Europe, then?"


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 12:11 AM
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re: 393

Yes, I've had almost exactly the same conversation and given the exact same set of reasons -- wife's career, lack of urge to move there, etc.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 12:14 AM
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397 actually put quite a bad taste in my mouth. I'd not like to think that any time someone says, "Honestly, I don't want you to feel wedded to this place, and if you want to go, you should feel free to think about that" they mean it as an invitation to please leave. I'd rather think of it as a generosity on their part.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 12:20 AM
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401: Yeah. Hence the "poison my coffee" response: I really wasn't sure how to react to that, but I knew it tasted bad.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 12:43 AM
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401, 402: Sorry, it was just low-hanging fruit (though I'm impressed that it managed to offend you both). I would not seriously suggest either of your friends would mean any such thing. And if they did, Cads! Bounders!


Posted by: Nakku | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 12:53 AM
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403: Thank you. You're a decent sort of cad chap.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 1:19 AM
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which is tasteless and lame.

Long gone, but I could be seriously offended by this. Won't be, though. Priorities.

Jes is right that assumptions about moving to the United States from pretty much anywhere are sui generis. I mean I visit Spain and Portugal fairly frequently, but nobody ever asks me if I'm going to move there- they ask me if I had a good holiday.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 1:25 AM
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Certainly Samoans aren't monolithic,

Yes they are, I've seen their rugby teams.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 2:14 AM
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Americans do have a sampling problem partially driving the "everyone wants to move here" reaction -- our immigration system is so screwy that it's easy to know a bunch of foreigners living here and trying desperately to scrounge a way to straighten out their immigration status so they can stay. When that's your primary experience of non-US citizens, it's easy to overgeneralize.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 4:35 AM
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Americans do have a sampling problem partially driving the "everyone wants to move here" reaction -- our immigration system is so screwy that it's easy to know a bunch of foreigners living here and trying desperately to scrounge a way to straighten out their immigration status so they can stay. When that's your primary experience of non-US citizens, it's easy to overgeneralize.

Um, I think there are other aspects of US history that make people think that the US is a place to which people want to immigrate. I fully agree with the points made above that many Americans seems to not get the point that most people living in other countries really want to live where they live and would stay even if given a US visa and a free plane ticket. But I think hundreds of years of being one of the countries in the world most open to immigration and to which many people do immigrate contributes to that not getting it more than problems in the immigration system by a considerable margin.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 6:14 AM
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Worth noting that that's no longer as true as it once was; the US is no longer exceptional either in the number of people wanting to emigrate there nor in its openness to those who do, although it's still in the top tier in both categories.


Posted by: mealworm | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 6:31 AM
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I'd really like to move to the UK though. New Zealand might be more affordable, though. If I were an academic who could also do consulting to beef up the income, I'd try.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 6:33 AM
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re: 409

Yes, last time this topic came up and tracked down figures, and most EU countries have higher rates of immigration than the US and in many cases have a higher absolute percentage of foreign born citizens. That wasn't always historically the case, of course, but quite often in contemporary political debates Americans refer to Europe [especially Scandinavia] as racially homogeneous and fairly settled, which hasn't actually been true for decades.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 6:40 AM
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hundreds of years of being one of the countries in the world most open to immigration

Is this actually true? Bear in mind that it's not the same as saying "most of the population is descended from recent immigrants" or, for that matter, "the US has been very attractive to immigrants".


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 6:42 AM
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No kidding.

Is this actually true?

See quote above.

Bear in mind that it's not the same as saying "most of the population is descended from recent immigrants" or, for that matter, "the US has been very attractive to immigrants".

There is hair splitting going on here that is beyond my simple mind.

Sure, have it your way. It's terrible all the money we spent to put up fences to keep people in. Everyone know that. When I travel through Queens, all I see is the broken remnants of the Irish immigration of 100 years ago that are too broken to escape. It's terrible.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 6:52 AM
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Probably not true in the period 1814-1914 that it was easier to immigrate to than, say, Britain, France or Prussia or Sweden, because technically there were fairly few restrictions there either. But the fact is that millions of people did go to America (and Canada), whereas, apart from the Irish immigration into Britain, there was no comparable migration to other countries. Quite a few British losers wandered off to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa too, but it wasn't an international thing in the same way.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 6:52 AM
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the missing first line in 413 is
That wasn't always historically the case


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 6:53 AM
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"Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it." -George Bernard Shaw


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 6:54 AM
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Depends how you define "openness" I guess. In terms of raw numbers you'd have to say it's true. Bitter pill for us Asian-Americans, though...


Posted by: mealworm | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 6:55 AM
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412: It was true until the early part of the 20th century. Less so, recently, at least officially. One of the other distinguishing characteristics is being born here is sufficient to be a citizen in the usual cases (the immigration status of the parents is not a factor.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 6:56 AM
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One of the other distinguishing characteristics is being born here is sufficient to be a citizen in the usual cases (the immigration status of the parents is not a factor.)

This was true in the UK until the late 70s. Mrs OFE was born in Britain, left at the age of 3 weeks, and when she returned she got a passport for the asking. It is still true in many cases.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 6:59 AM
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419: Right, but it's not true of Germany.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 7:02 AM
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"we had a President working at increasingly diminished capacity for 4+ years." So people joke.


But it's ok, since we've since proved you can get 8 years out of limited capacity without disaster. cough.


Posted by: what, me worry? | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 7:03 AM
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But it's ok, since we've since proved you can get 8 years out of limited capacity without disaster. cough.

Define disaster.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 7:06 AM
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I also think that in terms of American mythology, it's significant that for quite a while, not only was immigration open, but that many, many immigrants were poor and their descendants generally did quite well. (Theses days legal pathways are skewed towards the more highly educated.)

419: I should point out that it wasn't always true historically, given various racist policies and exceptions. (It might have been better than some other places at the time, though. Hard to say.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 7:06 AM
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you can get 8 years out of limited capacity without disaster*

*Offer may be void in Louisiana, Wall Street, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Republican National Committee headquarters.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 7:07 AM
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392 suggests I'm wrong. Motherfucking Americans always fuck everything up for me.

It's not unreasonable for Americans to ask if you'd like to move here -- foreigners move here all the time -- but it's nutty for them to be surprised at the idea you'd rather live at home.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 7:10 AM
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re: 420

In many respects Germany is something of an outlier within Europe when it comes to citizenship rights.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 7:11 AM
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422/424 quite. hence the oh so subtle cough


I also think that in terms of American mythology,

What's interesting about this sort of thing is the way many American's carry a rosy-eyed view of some of this history around as if it were unchangingly true today, and furthermore compare it only to caricatures of other countries. This sort of received knowledge can often leave you looking pretty stupid in the company of people who actually know something about it (never leaving the country helps with that problem). For example, I'm always amazed when I meet someone who can utter rote statements about the superiority of the USA as a destination for immigrants on one hand, and broadly encompassing, racist sentiments about Hispanic people in the next breath.

It's like how many exceptionalism arguments break down to: we're exceptional because of things that where somewhat true 100+ years ago, compared to countries that don't exist, damn it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 7:17 AM
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we're exceptional because of things that where somewhat true 100+ years ago, compared to countries that don't exist, damn it.

I am happy to concede that US immigration policy in 1900 was far more liberal than that of Narnia. (only a handful of immigrants in history, and I think the Pevensies count as guest workers, given they eventually went home again)


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 7:49 AM
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427: I'm not sure the U.S. is worse than other countries in that regard, but the "land of opportunity/throw the bums out" rhetoric would be amusing if it weren't so annoying. (Though, praising the U.S. as a destination for immigrants and bitching about the immigrant wave du jour is *also* an American tradition.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 8:00 AM
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Didn't King Frank and Queen whoever get to Narnia too? And the Horse and His Boy and the Princess and Her Horse and some Telmarines? And Eustace and Jill and ....No wonder that place went on for seven books.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 8:09 AM
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I'd really like to move to the UK though. New Zealand might be more affordable, though. If I were an academic who could also do consulting to beef up the income, I'd try.

Nah, don't do it, NZ is very very very small. (Four million people! That's it. If you piss them off. you are utterly fucked. Consulting income -- no. Honestly.)

To be very unfair and blunt. NZ race relations are worse than those of the US or the UK, because you can't just take them for granted the same way you can in the UK or the US, (NZ takes the Tiriti O Waitangi kind-of-seriously,)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 8:09 AM
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But I think hundreds of years of being one of the countries in the world most open to immigration and to which many people do immigrate contributes to that not getting it more than problems in the immigration system by a considerable margin.

Seems to me America won its mythic status as the El Dorado of the immigrant -- the country where you could come from nothing, arrive with nothing, and build a fortune -- in a period of about a hundred years, between the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries. That tradition has since eroded somewhat, and America is now on the verge of losing its last great available pool of immigrant labour: the Mexican immigrants. (Which, well... using the Mexicans as a fixed source of cheap labour wasn't going to last forever.) The bloom is rather off the rose in talking about today's America as a place where people want to immigrate.

I doubt that Europe is set to replace the US as the world's immigration lodestone, though. The EU mirrors the US in its economic need for immigrants, but is no great shakes at welcoming immigrant populations AFAICT. The ugly wave of Islamophobia that swept Europe in the oughties -- producing, in large part, the careers of people like Silvio Berlusconi and Jean-Marie LePen -- would seem to be easily a match for any of the xenophobic panics America ever produced.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 8:14 AM
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NZ race relations are worse than those of the US or the UK, because you can't just take them for granted the same way you can in the UK or the US

????


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 8:15 AM
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433: I'm curious about that too. This is pure speculation, but might the NZ "worse race relations" she's talking about be a situation where treaty obligations to the Maori population are significant in relation to the size of the NZ economy/territory in a way that, for instance, treaty obligations to Native Americans aren't? That's what I'm guessing "(NZ takes the Tiriti O Waitangi kind-of-seriously,)" means.

The US race relations problem is one where where if everyone would just behave decently, we'd be okay -- there aren't really largescale areas where ethnic groups have seriously conflicting interests. If NZ does have such objectively conflicting interests, I could see that as a problem.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 8:28 AM
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NZ race relations are worse than those of the US or the UK, because you can't just take them for granted the same way you can in the UK or the US

Je suis inutile a cause de l'alcohol , therefore don't take what I say seriously, but you should remember that NZ tries to pretend that we aren't a settler society (tho in may ways we are --- see Whanganui etc,)

The difference is that ideally NZ accepts that pakeha are not tangata whenua. Sadly this ideal isn't often realised, so we have a conflict between the settler society and the idealised harmonic relationship.

However, the diff. between NZ and the UK is that in NZ white western culture is an offensively imperialistic framework whereas in the UK it is merely offensive and imperialistic.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 8:32 AM
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For those of us whose Maori is a little rusty, could you translate some of your terms here.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 8:36 AM
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The ugly wave of Islamophobia that swept Europe in the oughties -- producing, in large part, the careers of people like Silvio Berlusconi and Jean-Marie LePen

This is nitpickery, but I think that the force behind Le Pen could better be described as swarthophobia- he was doing well long before Islamic terrorism became an issue, he just disliked the Algerians because they were filthy Algerians.
Il Cavaliere, meanwhile, is also a pre-Islamic terror phenomenon, with his rise more due to his being amazingly rich, powerful and corrupt; and while there is anti-immigrant sentiment in Italy, it's equally directed at Roma or Albanians or West Africans.
The Islamophobics are more people like Pim Fortuyn in the Netherlands and Joerg Haider in Austria.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 8:37 AM
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USA as a destination for immigrants on one hand, and broadly encompassing, racist sentiments about Hispanic people in the next breath.

There are immigrants and then there are migrants. Immigrants want to stay and adapt to American culture and American ways. Migrants want to keep to the old ways and don't have plans to stay beyond some period of doing work. Europeans were immigrants; others, not so much. Never mind the actual desires of actual people, or the actual historical outcomes, or the actual statistics on immigration and migration.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 8:40 AM
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pakeha= white folks

tangata whenua= descendants of the original Maori settlers.

I think, for both of those. But Keir should correct me.

Maori's funny to look at -- there are some cognates from Samoan, but the orthography is different enough that it looks goofy. All those "wh"s.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 8:43 AM
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342: I meant, although I was totally unclear, that I'd move to the UK as an academic if I could supplement the lower academic salaries there with consulting. New Zealand seems like ti would be a place one could live in without the consulting.

This is, of course, a total fantasy, since I'm not an academic. I did once have a dream of becoming an academic lawyer with an expertise in comparative law and a specialty in some lucrative area--totally unrealistic, of course.

I do love the UK, though.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 8:46 AM
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Tangata whenua == lit people of the land, i.e the indigenous population/ It carries connotations of certain rights. (In the same way that entailed inheritances carry rights etcs.,)

Pakeha means settler, but also it carries connotations of settler in a framework established by the (Tiriti o Waitangi) Treaty of Waitiangi. (As opposed to landowner, which carries connotations of racist arseholes stealing land.)

(Basically LB is right.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 8:46 AM
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(The 'ng's look weird too. For some reason, the 'ng' sound is spelled 'g' in Samoan (and 'q', I believe, in Fijian') so I see an 'n' in front of a 'g' and trip over my tongue before I figure it out.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 8:49 AM
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I'm not sure the U.S. is worse than other countries in that regard, but the "land of opportunity/throw the bums out" rhetoric would be amusing if it weren't so annoying.

I don't see why even that would be an unusual sentiment. The message is "We give and give, and they take and take". Just like the decadent Europeans, scoffing at our umbrella of military protection. Of course they can afford to have public services, they aren't charged with the grave responsibility of world peace.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 8:54 AM
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443 nearly perfectly captures a brand of naive or (and?) willful ignorance that really is pretty common here.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 8:56 AM
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re: 440

What makes you think academic salaries are lower? Perhaps for the high fliers, but looking at rough averages they don't seem much different.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 8:57 AM
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Seems to me America won its mythic status as the El Dorado of the immigrant -- the country where you could come from nothing, arrive with nothing, and build a fortune -- in a period of about a hundred years, between the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries.

longer than that -- I'd say 1750 to 1973, about. The biometric data we have shows average Americans in the late 18th century as healthy as European aristocrats.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 9:03 AM
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Or, rather, pakeha NZ tries to pretend that NZ is the result of an entirely consensual set of deals between the Crown and Maori. There are obvious problems with this, viz. the Victorian Crown ( the Queen-Emperor of India, Great Britain and the Dominions Beyond the Seas) was a hyperpower and Maori didn't possess the same collection of fleets and guns and so-on.

However, part of the NZ national myth is that we aren't racist cunts like the UK, Canada, Australia and the US -- rather we have the Treaty ( == te Tiriti o Waitangi) and we aren't genocidal like the Australians.) Still, thjs is basically a racist frame.

Somebody else should do this, because i am both drunk and biassed.

But, note the ideal of a non-racist idea etc.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 9:05 AM
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re: 446

That's a function of population density, no? Rather than anything intrinsic to the American way of life.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 9:06 AM
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Perhaps for the high fliers, but looking at rough averages they don't seem much different.

Relative to cost of living?

There are lots of places in the US where an average academic starting salary (60k or so) is pretty reasonable. Not NYC, but many places. I've always had the sense from UK colleagues that they believe they are paid less, relatively.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 9:11 AM
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356: whoops. I'm even dumber than a current Republican Senator.

he had stupidities that would have prevented him from succeeding as, say a middle manager

Reagan was highly intelligent, even brilliant in his way. He was clearly much smarter than GW Bush, or Cheney for that matter. (Note that Reagan had multiple opportunities to get us into fuckups as severe as the Iraq war, but he took a pass on them). The problem is that liberals (and IQ tests) conceive intelligence in managerial technocratic terms. Also, people see intelligence as facilitating finding the right answer, so it's hard to ascribe intelligence to people you feel were pushing the wrong answers (as I think Reagan pretty clearly was).


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 9:12 AM
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433: I'm curious about that too. This is pure speculation, but might the NZ "worse race relations" she's talking about be a situation where treaty obligations to the Maori population are significant in relation to the size of the NZ economy/territory in a way that, for instance, treaty obligations to Native Americans aren't? That's what I'm guessing "(NZ takes the Tiriti O Waitangi kind-of-seriously,)" means.

The US race relations problem is one where where if 433: I'm curious about that too. This is pure speculation, but might the NZ "worse race relations" she's talking about be a situation where treaty obligations to the Maori population are significant in relation to the size of the NZ economy/territory in a way that, for instance, treaty obligations to Native Americans aren't? That's what I'm guessing "(NZ takes the Tiriti O Waitangi kind-of-seriously,)" means.

The US race relations problem is one where where if everyone would just behave decently, we'd be okay -- there aren't really largescale areas where ethnic groups have seriously conflicting interests. If NZ does have such objectively conflicting interests, I could see that as a problem.

Sorry, I should say that I mean that NZ has formalised bad* Maori--non-Maori relationships, whereas US society has accepted it is based off ripping off clever fa types.433: I'm curious about that too. This is pure speculation, but might the NZ "worse race relations" she's talking about be a situation where treaty obligations to the Maori population are significant in relation to the size of the NZ economy/territory in a way that, for instance, treaty obligations to Native Americans aren't? That's what I'm guessing "(NZ takes the Tiriti O Waitangi kind-of-seriously,)" means.

The US race relations problem is one where where if everyone would just behave decently, we'd be okay -- there aren't really largescale areas where ethnic groups have seriously conflicting interests. If NZ does have such objectively conflicting interests, I could see that as a problem.

Sorry, I should say that I mean that NZ has formalised bad* Maori--non-Maori relationships, whereas US society has accepted it is based off ripping off clever fa types.

* i.e. not ideal.

* i.e. not ideal. eeveryone would just behave decently, we'd be okay -- there aren't really largescale areas where ethnic groups have seriously conflicting interests. If NZ does have such objectively conflicting interests, I could see that as a problem.

Sorry, I should say that I mean that NZ has formalised bad* Maori--non-Maori relationships, whereas US society has accepted it is based off ripping off indigenous types.

* i.e. not ideal.

(If anybody knows more about indigenous/Maoridom, pls say so!


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 9:15 AM
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It's also interesting to go back and look at the Reagan-Carter debates in 1980, as I did a while ago. Reagan's level of articulateness and the intelligence of his answers are well ahead of current Republicans. The basic issue is that the public discourse hadn't been as thoroughly debased with nutty right-wing assumptions as it is today, so that Reagan actually had to have some ability defend himself against reasonable centrist-type questions (like: why escalate conflict with the Soviets?). Republicans have been thoroughly dumbed down by their own success.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 9:17 AM
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He would also literally frequently say things demonstrating that he didn't know about or didn't understand stuff that a normally competent person doing his job would have known about. That doesn't make him low-IQ, but it made him awfully hard to tell from someone who was low-IQ.

Calling Reagan 'stupid' may have been a misdiagnosis, but it wasn't pure snobbery.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 9:17 AM
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Keir is clearly having more fun than I am right now.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 9:18 AM
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He was clearly much smarter than GW Bush,

Way to set the bar high, there.

Reagan sometimes had the aw-shucks thing going in a way that might make him less bright that he was, but I don't (and didn't) see
any sign that he was smart in the way the Clinton obviously was. Not that this is the only quality you want in a president, by any means (and if that's all you've got going for you, it's not of much value). So, above average intelligence (before Alzheimers caught up too much, I mean) I'd buy. Brilliant, though? No evidence I've seen. Besides: pushing the wrong answers is one thing, pushing them past the point of good evidence they are wrong is something quite different.

GW Bush, on the other hand, showed every sign of being a solidly mediocre intelligence. Which I'd argue is something you don't actually want in a president.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 9:20 AM
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The biometric data we have shows average Americans in the late 18th century as healthy as European aristocrats.

How ironic that early 21st century American aristocrats are now less healthy than the average European.

451: Now who can argue with that!


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 9:21 AM
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re: 449

Perhaps relative to cost of living, although, again, that would depend where you live. A junior lecturer in, say, Glasgow and who has been working a couple of years is probably not on much of a different salary to that I'd have thought and cost of living wouldn't be extortionate.

I'm no expert, I'm just going by quoted salaries I see in the press when looking at possible future employment.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 9:23 AM
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It's a Thursday night here.

(And at Canty Thursday's basically a holiday, except for getting the shit ripped out of me by cleverer women.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 9:24 AM
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significant in relation to the size of the NZ economy/territory in a way that, for instance, treaty obligations to Native Americans aren't?

Isn't it more accurate to say that in the US the treaty obligations were (in some cases technically are) significant, but were basically all violated as a matter of course and have little practical effect now, whereas the treaty obligations in NZ have current effect.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 9:24 AM
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Ajay, I'm a Canty Uni student, getting very drunk is basically a birthright.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 9:25 AM
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He would also literally frequently say things demonstrating that he didn't know about or didn't understand stuff that a normally competent person doing his job would have known about.

Well, he had a different conception of what his job was than you do or his critics did. He wasn't there to bring competent management to the Federal government.

I think Reaganism harmed the country in the long run, pretty seriously. But Reagan was a successful transformational politician, and that was no accident -- it was an expression of his skills and vision. That's a very difficult and challenging thing to be.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 9:26 AM
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460: hey, I'm not condemning you here. Envying, yes. If I were as drunk now as I'd like to be, let alone as drunk as you probably are, I wouldn't be able to say anything as cogent as that about Maori politics.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 9:31 AM
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Thanks 444 (ToS)?

I want to work in the UK for a couple years so I can adopt a low-league football team and then go swanning about claiming to be a supporter of them for the rest of my life.

"Oh, I just fell in love with Doncaster Rovers, the spirit of the fans, and the meat pies".


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 9:32 AM
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Well, he had a different conception of what his job was than you do or his critics did. He wasn't there to bring competent management to the Federal government.

But that conception wasn't explicit. It's not like people would ask him questions about policy and he'd respond "Beats me -- that sort of thing isn't my job" as he might if people asked him about snowmobile maintenance. He presented a facade of being responsible for US policy, but just did it transparently badly.

You can say he wasn't really incompetent - that was part of his plan for conservative dominance. But he indubitably presented himself in public, whether deliberately or nor, as someone who had policy responsibilities that he didn't understand or concern himself with.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 9:35 AM
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I'm already partly there on the journey to total Anglophilia, by using phrases like "swanning about". Hence the pushback against the Penguin furniture.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 9:35 AM
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I just heard Phillippe Sands talking about his book on the torture memos on the radio, and I think that's the first time I've ever actually heard someone unselfconsciously use rhyming slang -- he was saying that Rumsfeld had told him a lie, and (I suppose to soften it a little) said 'porky pie' instead. Very goofy.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 9:40 AM
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By the way, I'm not exactly trustworthy on NZ Maori politics. I believe in the\NZ Labour Party so....


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 9:52 AM
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This is nitpickery, but I think that the force behind Le Pen could better be described as swarthophobia-

Islamophobia is usually a cloak for simple racism, absolutely. It's much like anti-Catholicism was used against the Irish.

447: Oh, so NZ has sublimated, passive-aggressive racism. That's pretty much like Canada (remember we "invented multiculturalism"), though NZ's particulars and window-dressing are of course unique.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 10:00 AM
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464: can't argue with that.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 10:10 AM
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Islamophobia is usually a cloak for simple racism, absolutely. It's much like anti-Catholicism was used against the Irish.

In Britain there is a long tradition of anti-Catholicism that is anything but a cloak for anti-Irishry. Goes back to the Reformation. Though I agree that one of the justifications given for being anti-Irish was that they were Catholic.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 10:13 AM
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Oh, so NZ has sublimated, passive-aggressive racism. That's pretty much like Canada (remember we "invented multiculturalism"), though NZ's particulars and window-dressing are of course unique.

Pretty much, although of course, as you say, one pretends otherwise.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 10:15 AM
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470: And Islamophobia goes back well before that, it just happens to be used as a cloak in the context of modern immigration.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 11:23 AM
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455

GW Bush, on the other hand, showed every sign of being a solidly mediocre intelligence. Which I'd argue is something you don't actually want in a president.

IIRC W's SATs indicated an IQ of about 125 which is well above average. What do you think is the minimum required? How would you evaluate JFK?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 12:47 PM
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453

He would also literally frequently say things demonstrating that he didn't know about or didn't understand stuff that a normally competent person doing his job would have known about. That doesn't make him low-IQ, but it made him awfully hard to tell from someone who was low-IQ.

Can you give some examples? And how low does your IQ have to be to qualify as low-IQ?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 12:51 PM
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[Reagan] was clearly much smarter than GW Bush, or Cheney for that matter.

I definitely agree that he was smarter than Bush in almost every way. His social intelligence was a lot higher. He was able to charm a wider group of people, and he got the religious right, but he was also able to appeal to more of the rich people in the Northeast etc. who just wanted lower taxes and yet he really was anti-establishment compared to Ford. But there was Hollywood glamour!

I'll have to think about whether he was smarter than Cheney.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 1:08 PM
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James, you seem to put far more emphasis on IQ testing than anybody else here. And I'd wager, moreover, that the cohort that performs very well on IQ tests is heavily overrepresented here.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 1:10 PM
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453: I could, but I'm not going to bother. Any reasonably sized list of examples would be insufficient to establish that sounding uninformed and confused was a general pattern for him. You were around during his presidency -- if you don't remember, I don't think a list of quotes of Reagan sounding out-of-it is going to convince you.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 1:12 PM
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Talking about IQ is stupid.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 1:16 PM
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I definitely agree that he was smarter than Bush in almost every way.

I don't. They were both empty suit presidents who were nearly incoherent when they went off script. Neither one was in charge of their administrations or their campaigns.

or Cheney for that matter

This, on the other hand, I can't even begin to understand. Cheney's nutty and evil, but he's certainly intelligent.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 1:17 PM
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476: There was a lot of this in the Bush/Gore election and aftermath -- people defending Bush as not really stupid, and anyway Gore flunked out of grad school so nyah! I'm perfectly prepared to admit that from following a public figure, you probably can't tell their IQ, and so thinking about whether someone is smart or stupid, as opposed to whether they say and do smart or stupid things, is misguided. But given that it's easier to call someone stupid than to say that they consistently, whether out of true stupidity, laziness, inattention, or in service of a clever plan requiring the appearance of stupidity, do stupid things, I doubt people are going to change the way they talk much.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 1:18 PM
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476

James, you seem to put far more emphasis on IQ testing than anybody else here. And I'd wager, moreover, that the cohort that performs very well on IQ tests is heavily overrepresented here.

When people talk about smart and dumb I assume they are talking about the quality IQ tests measure.

I would agree this is a high IQ group. I believe many high IQ people have warped standards about what is normal. When LB says Reagan came across as low-IQ I doubt she means below 90.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 1:21 PM
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He came across as a lot more confused and out of touch than I would expect the baseline of someone running a large organization, like the US, to be. God knows what that would translate to in terms of IQ.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 1:29 PM
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483

480

There was a lot of this in the Bush/Gore election and aftermath -- people defending Bush as not really stupid, and anyway Gore flunked out of grad school so nyah! I'm perfectly prepared to admit that from following a public figure, you probably can't tell their IQ, and so thinking about whether someone is smart or stupid, as opposed to whether they say and do smart or stupid things, is misguided ...

I don't agree. Both Gore's and Bush's SATs were known which gives a reasonable IQ estimate. Gore's were significantly higher making it a good bet he was smarter. Which doesn't mean Bush was stupid compared to the average American.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 1:29 PM
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483: But, you see, I don't give a damn whether or not Bush was, in some objective sense, stupider than the average American. I care that he consistently said and did remarkably stupid things. If he was secretly amusing himself by studying tensor calculus, that's great, but doesn't affect his public record.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 1:31 PM
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479

I don't. They were both empty suit presidents who were nearly incoherent when they went off script. Neither one was in charge of their administrations or their campaigns.

How about Nancy Reagan vrs Laura Bush?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 1:32 PM
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In the Thunderdome! Two First Ladies enter, one First Lady leaves!

Seriously, Shearer, what?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 1:33 PM
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479

This, on the other hand, I can't even begin to understand. Cheney's nutty and evil, but he's certainly intelligent.

Based on what?

And as VP or earlier? Some people think his heart problems have affected him mentally.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 1:37 PM
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480 has the characteristics that I would expect of a comment from a person who consistently, whether out of true stupidity, laziness, inattention, or in service of a clever plan requiring the appearance of stupidity, does stupid things.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 1:38 PM
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I'm hurt. Snf.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 1:39 PM
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484

But, you see, I don't give a damn whether or not Bush was, in some objective sense, stupider than the average American. I care that he consistently said and did remarkably stupid things. If he was secretly amusing himself by studying tensor calculus, that's great, but doesn't affect his public record.

This is why liberals come across as elitists.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 1:40 PM
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When people talk about smart and dumb I assume they are talking about the quality IQ tests measure.

They aren't. IQ tests measure a specific type of problem solving ability, one that tends to correlate with academic performance. They do not even attempt to measure aspects of intelligence on other axes, such as social or artistic intelligence. Calling the measured quantity "Intelligence Quotient" is spin, not description.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 1:40 PM
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490: We're elitists because we care about public figures' words and actions rather than their unexpressed intellectual potential?

Okay.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 1:42 PM
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And Islamophobia goes back well before that

I doubt most Anglophones between the siege of Vienna and 1973 had Islamophobia running any deeper than their generalized xenophobias of all types. Whereas anti-Catholicism was ubiquitous and an important instrument of state policy* in post-Henry VIII England.

* except, obvs., during periods of Catholic rule, when it became an important instrument of rebellion


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 1:44 PM
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Based on what?

Based on, for example, watching Cheney in the VP debates answering questions off the cuff.

This is why liberals come across as elitists.

Because we don't believe that SAT scores or IQ tests are useful determinants of who's smart and who isn't? I thought it was because we eat arugula.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 1:51 PM
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491: They might show some measures of artistic skill. I mean they show that I am visually-spatially retarded and that my motor coordination is pretty poor (bottom 17%). I'd be a bad visual artist.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 1:54 PM
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492

We're elitists because we care about public figures' words and actions rather than their unexpressed intellectual potential?

No, because you call people stupid who are smarter than 80-90% of the public. Which means you are calling 80-90% of the public stupid.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 1:54 PM
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Wait, I've reread 468 more carefully, and I don't think 493 is all that relevant. I think it's true, but what DS was originally getting at doesn't depend at all on the history of feelings towards Islam in any part of Europe. So never mind.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 1:54 PM
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Baseball fans are notorious elitists. They frequently call sucky people who are better baseball players than 99.9% of the public. Which means they are calling 99.9% of the public sucky.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 1:56 PM
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you call people stupid who are smarter than 80-90% of the public

Only if you think that stupid is determined by standardized tests. Which people have now repeatedly said they do not.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 1:57 PM
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496: Likewise, it is elitist for me to think of a fellow lawyer as an idiot so long as he's performing at the level I'd expect of Joe Median pulled off the street. Patients complaining of medical malpractice are unreasonable so long as the care they received was such as could be delivered by a randomly selected person of average academic potential.

And so on.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 1:58 PM
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Damn, JRoth pwned, and more pithily as well.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 1:59 PM
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This, on the other hand, I can't even begin to understand. Cheney's nutty and evil, but he's certainly intelligent.

nutty = does stupid things. Does stupid things = not smart. Reagan was smarter than both Bush and Cheney. Bush and Cheney cooperated to do extremely stupid things. When Reagan was given the opportunity to do stupid things (such as escalate the war in Lebanon or turn down Gorbachev's peace offer), he did not take them and did smart things instead, such as withdrawing from Lebanon and accepting Gorbachev's offer. When it looked like his super-large deficits would morph into truly impossibly large deficits, he accepted a tax increase from a Democratic Congress. Reagan damaged the country long-term in several ways, and did some evil shit in some minor-league Central American countries where he knew he could get away with it, but he never drove the whole thing over a cliff.

Cheney had the mannerisms that pop culture leads you to believe connote "evil genius" intelligence, but he was a lazy, arrogant, and foolish. He and Bush destroyed the credibility of their ideology, Reagan left his ideology stronger. As Togolosh said above, I'm really not interested in the IQ definition of smarts, that's propaganda. Political smarts include the ability to make good short-term decisions, communicate well, build coalitions, and choose the right times to compromise. Reagan was good at all that.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 2:00 PM
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500 has the characteristics that I would expect of a comment from a person who consistently, whether out of true pwndity, laziness, inattention, or in service of a clever plan requiring the appearance of pwndity, gets pwned.

Should've just written "KOBE" 5 times.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 2:04 PM
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502: It looks to me like you're assuming that Cheney had America's general well- being in mind. It's not at all clear to me that he did stupid things, if his only goals were to enhance his personal power and wealth (and maybe get some sadistic kicks out of the harm done to others).


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 2:05 PM
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There are all manner of faulty assumptions going on in 502, but I won't have the time to address any of them until later tonight.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 2:09 PM
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502: I don't completely disagree with you about Reagan, but DeLong frequently avers that there was a de facto coup in the Reagan WH when Baker (?) became Chief of Staff, and a lot of the original ideologues were driven out. I don't know if this is right, but it would reduce how much credit Reagan deserves for the sensible decisions you list.

That said, Reagan simply came from a less blinkered world than Bush and Cheney. The two of them really are well-represented by the warbloggers who idolize(d) them, whereas Reagan had lived a varied life and was open to the concept that his preselected ideology might not have 100% of the answer 100% of the time.

IOW, he looks good now because Bush was so much worse. But being blinkered 50% or 80% of the time is actually not a good thing.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 2:09 PM
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Reagan was an actor first. He was charismatic and likable.

In his prime, Reagan was probably smart for an actor. Smarter than schwarzenegger; about as smart as george clooney. By the time he was president, he was pretty old. Even without Alzheimer's, there is a cognitive decline as you age. And the presidency is a hard assed job. By his second term, there were real concerns about his cognitive abilities:

Morris: This was around October of 1987. He writes in his diary, "Dick and Patty came after dinner and things immediately livened up as soon as they arrived." That's on a Friday night. The following day he writes in his diary. "Oh, I was mistaken. They didn't come down until lunch time today." He's talking about his wife's brother and wife, intimates who visited the White House a lot. They were members of the family circle. The schedule said, Mrs., Dr. and Mrs. Richard Davis will be joining the first family after dinner tonight. So Reagan writes it down after dinner as though they showed up. He says, things livened up when they came. In other words, he was so divorced from real... reality at that time that he didn't even realize that these people did not show up. Which is funny, but it's also scary.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 2:11 PM
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499

Only if you think that stupid is determined by standardized tests. Which people have now repeatedly said they do not.

I expect there are plenty of people who think for whatever reason that Bush is smarter than they are.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 2:12 PM
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I expect there are plenty of people who think for whatever reason that Bush is smarter than they are.

I am pretty comfortable calling them idiots, and I am not a liberal.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 2:20 PM
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500

... Patients complaining of medical malpractice are unreasonable so long as the care they received was such as could be delivered by a randomly selected person of average academic potential.

Complaining about medical malpractice is one thing, saying a doctor is stupid is another. I am fine with saying Bush was a lousy President.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 2:21 PM
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That said, Reagan simply came from a less blinkered world than Bush and Cheney. The two of them really are well-represented by the warbloggers who idolize(d) them, whereas Reagan had lived a varied life and was open to the concept that his preselected ideology might not have 100% of the answer 100% of the time.

This is what I was getting at in 452. That background really makes you smarter -- just like arrogance and ideology really make you dumber.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 2:32 PM
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Cheney certainly has his share of low animal cunning, but I'm not convinced he's much of an evil genius. You can get away with all sorts of shit if you operate in strict secrecy and have an amen chorus that's happy to believe that you're doing the stuff you're doing as a rational response to information that only you can be allowed to see.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 2:32 PM
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No, because you call people stupid who are smarter than 80-90% of the public. Which means you are calling 80-90% of the public stupid.

While it's true that "stupid" can mean "stupid for a President" rather than "stupider than average," it's also true that the average is kind of depressing. Also what LB said about stupid being a category of its own. Many, many people who are sadly lacking in mental whateverness manage to get through life without behaving stupidly.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 2:38 PM
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mental whateverness

OMG this phrase is giving me major flashbacks to some epic fight here. What was it?


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 2:47 PM
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514: It had something to do with how smart you had to be to date Ogged.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 2:48 PM
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Ogged complained that his friends kept on setting him up with women who were insufficiently clever to be appealing to him (lacking in "mental whateverness"). He got jumped on as an intellectual snob; I didn't think he'd said anything terribly bad.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 2:49 PM
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515: how smart you had to be to date Ogged.

You must be smarter than this President to ride the Ogged.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 2:49 PM
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516: mostly what I remember from that thread was that his examples of "mental whateverness" involved such cognitive gymnastics as thinking to open a door quickly.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 2:53 PM
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Memories...


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 3:00 PM
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And, um... It's a little late now, but... I was kinda bitchy in that thread. Yikes. Sorry.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 3:01 PM
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And, um... It's a little late now, but... I was kinda bitchy in that thread. Yikes. Sorry.

I just went searching for my comments in that thread, and I am struck by how self-conscious I was about commenting at that point.

At some point I actually got comfortable around this place (and, if ogged were here, I'm sure he'd say that was a bad sign).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 3:15 PM
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One can't really have a serious discussion about how intelligent someone is. There's no such thing as intelligence.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 3:33 PM
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I definitely agree that he was smarter than Bush in almost every way.

This line of discussion is a snare and a delusion. LB is absolutely correct to point out that the whole question of smarts is as nothing beside the question of whether particular choices and decisions were correct or incorrect.

There's a whole long line of political "thought" and argument from the right that turns on some conception of the inherent qualities of individuals. It manifests in assertions such as "Clinton was a liar" or "climate scientists have a financial interest in exaggeration" or "GWB is a good man". From these global conclusions about character they then derive particular conclusions: "Because Hillary is a ball buster she musta murdered Vince Foster." It's all character and motive, and nothing about rational ways of predicting the probable consequences of actions.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 3:49 PM
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There's no such thing as intelligence.

Dogs are just lazy fucks.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 4:39 PM
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I'm not convinced he's much of an evil genius.

I don't think he's an evil genius either, but if you sat down across a table and talked to him, he could engage you in a broad range of topics and talk knowledgeably without coaching. You do that with either Bush or Reagan and they'd babble about freedom for a bit, then change the subject. But don't take my word for it. Go back and watch the debates with Lieberman and Edwards. He may believe a bunch of crazy stuff (though it's never been clear to me how much of it he actually believes and how much he cynically espouses), but he's a bright guy who thinks on his feet in complete sentences.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 5:02 PM
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I'm coming around to the theory that Cheney is easily frightened and terribly naïve about the world outside of Washington.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 5:08 PM
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518: mostly what I remember from that thread was that his examples of "mental whateverness" involved such cognitive gymnastics as thinking to open a door quickly.

Another example of mental whateverness had something to do with sharing a french-fry in an engaging manner. (I don't like actually reading the archives much these days, for whatever reasons.)


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 5:14 PM
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Cheney is easily frightened

He's a Nixon guy. Paranoia is the default setting.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 5:15 PM
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There's a whole long line of political "thought" and argument from the right that turns on some conception of the inherent qualities of individuals.

Not just on the right. Ever listen to KPFK? "Corporate" & "Executive" == "Evil Genius with hidden motives"


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 5:55 PM
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James: No, because you call people stupid who are smarter than 80-90% of the public. Which means you are calling 80-90% of the public stupid.

James, you're forgetting that (actually tested!) IQ declines with age. Quit rapidly as one gets way up there. It's entirely possible for Reagan to have started out as a intelligent man who read thick books and got something out of it. Followed by RR hitting his 60's and getting hit with a slowly growing tendency to 'forgetfulness', followed by his eventually getting sledgehammered by the actual onset of Alzheimers combined with the normal decay of IQ that comes with regular old age. (He had his actor's reflexes to fall back on ('stay on script') on bad days, and on good days he might well have been nearly as good as new.) Yet the entire time he would NOT have been smarter than the average bear in terms of IQ, even if he started out that way all while rapidly headed for dumber than the average dear. (He was in full-blown Alzheimers by 1990 or so.)

So you could call him stupid and not, in fact, be any more elitist than say, James Shearer, and maybe less so. He still would have possessed a lifetime of (slowly disappearing) experience, a big staff and Nancy Reagan to rely upon to get him out of jams.

max
['Have a nice day!']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 6:10 PM
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James, you're forgetting that (actually tested!) IQ declines with age. Quit rapidly as one gets way up there.

"Up there" means "close to 30", right? 'Cause I'm feeling awfully slow lately.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 6:20 PM
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Not just on the right. Ever listen to KPFK? "Corporate" & "Executive" == "Evil Genius with hidden motives"

Never listened to KPFK. They're not on the air here. I used to listen to the local Clear Channel AM station. Then I stopped turning on the radio.

The Clear Channel people (Limbaugh, Savage, and local types) seemed to think that the only way to judge the truth of an assertion was to look at the character of the speaker. Essential ad hominemism, or some such thing.

On the other hand, I've got some sympathy for the "Executive" == "Evil Genius " line. One of the tenets of fundamentalist capitalists is that individuals pursuing solely their own gain will inevitably produce the best outcome for everyone. Thus, always acting as selfishly as possible == good. That's certainly been the position of Enron and Lehman Bros. and Wal-Mart and Clear Channel. I find this position less than perfectly persuasive - and I'm not relying on anyone's character to make the argument.

And I've heard that intelligence can also decline with serious drinking followed by finding faith in Jesus. But, never having found faith in Jesus, I couldn't say for, um, what was I saying?


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 6:26 PM
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One of the tenets of fundamentalist capitalists is that individuals pursuing solely their own gain will inevitably produce the best outcome for everyone. Thus, always acting as selfishly as possible == good.

It's hardly the case that every business executive is a fundamentalist capitalist in this vein. Certainly not once you get out of financial services industries.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 6:46 PM
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That's certainly been the position of Enron and Lehman Bros. and Wal-Mart and Clear Channel.

This assumes that the people running those companies are/were interested in producing the best outcome for everyone.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 6:52 PM
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391: Muldoon, would you know anything about Samoan views on NZ vs. Samoa in terms of where they'd rather live/bring up kids, etc?
Ok. First stating a few caveats: firstly, I'm obviously anonymous and too much detail would probably be identifying, and secondly my experiences are probably a little biased, since I mostly see people who are already here.

That said, I think most Samoan-resident Samoans see NZ as a good place to have a child raised, more than to raise one. They probably wouldn't want to live here themselves, but see it as somewhere to "get an education" without leaving their culture (the way those arrangements are usually made, they're virtually like being with family on another island). Most of them don't actually do it of course, but there's definitely a concept that Samoa is where you live and where you'd want to live if you had the option. NZ-resident Samoans would never even think of going the other way however.

I will say I find Keir's categorisations later in the thread a little exaggerated, and I really can't buy "NZ race relations are worse than those of the US or the UK" (but certainly, yes, can't and shouldn't take them for granted). On a contemporary structural level, the Treaty is pretty well respected, but the occasional parliamentary pandering to the redneck vote makes you despair. "Honouring the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi" is a on pretty constant drum through the public service (even under this government).


Posted by: Robert Muldoon | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 6:55 PM
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There was certainly a large contingent of people who were interested in claiming that they were/are interested in producing the best outcome for everyone. That was the argument for the Laffer curve, and trickle down economics, and Reaganomics, etc. That is, they claimed that benefits for them - tax cuts for the rich, etc. - would necessarily and inevitably produce the best outcome for everyone. That the rising tide would lift all boats. Certainly Wal-Mart has claimed that their despicable labor policies are a necessary component in their ability to deliver the low, low prices that make so many wonderful things affordable for so many poor people. Enron claimed that energy market deregulation would necessarily and inevitably deliver the most reliable electric service at the lowest possible prices to California.

Perhaps there were business people (other than Warren Buffet aned the elder Gates) who believed and spoke for the importance of government regulation of markets and of taxes. But I don't recall hearing much of that.

Of course, whether they subjectively believed those claims, or were actually cynically manipulating the american electorate, I can't say.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 7:03 PM
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Further to that, I do think that structurally things go pretty well, and interpersonally it's very rare to see the kinds of direct racism you encounter on the street in Britain or Australia, though there's undoubtedly our fair share of such people. Even when things go badly you can see that (Foreshore & Seabed Act, say; the precursors of that were things working as they should through the courts, which were then followed by the cheap media beat-up and flustered legislative response. Even then, the parts of the Act other than the legislative expropriation are actually pretty good). Politicians are usually the problem, more so than anything else.

And that code of conduct breach means I must remain permanently anonymous.


Posted by: Robert Muldoon | Link to this comment | 05-21-09 7:13 PM
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493: I doubt most Anglophones between the siege of Vienna and 1973 had Islamophobia running any deeper than their generalized xenophobias of all types.

Well, that's a tricky one to measure, but I think that during the earlier part of that period, when any rural Anglophone living within 20 miles of the sea (like any other rural western European living within 20 miles of the sea) knew that he was in real and constant danger of being kidnapped and enslaved by Muslim corsairs, there was probably a fair amount of Islamophobia over and above the general distrust of foreigners as demonstrated towards, say, Poles.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-22-09 3:43 AM
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but I think that during the earlier part of that period, when any rural Anglophone living within 20 miles of the sea (like any other rural western European living within 20 miles of the sea) knew that he was in real and constant danger of being kidnapped and enslaved by Muslim corsairs

Whether you're right about this would depend on whether JRoth was thinking about the seige of 1529 or the one in 1683. If the latter, I don't think Samuel Pepys was as worried about Muslim corsairs in home waters as Henry VIII had been. By the next generation, you had Anglophone aristos being painted in Turkish dress and Lady Mary M-W brionging innoculation home from Istanbul. Hardly institutional Islamophobia.

If he meant the earlier seige, then of course you're right.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 05-22-09 5:48 AM
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I don't think Samuel Pepys was as worried about Muslim corsairs in home waters as Henry VIII had been

Given that the Barbary slavers were at their height in the mid-17th century, I'm not sure that's true. Pepys certainly knew about them..."8 February 1661... to the Fleece tavern to drink and there we spent till 4 a-clock telling stories of Algier and the manner of the life of Slaves there; and truly, Captain Mootham and Mr Dawes (who have been both slaves there) did make me full acquainted with their condition there. As, how they eat nothing but bread and water..."
In 1631, Baltimore in Ireland was virtually depopulated by a slaver raid, and multiple slaving raids on the West Country contributed to Charles I's unpopularity, because of his inability to protect his subjects. In 1640 the government imposed the Algerine Duty, an import tax specifically intended to ransom English slaves from captivity in North Africa.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-22-09 8:38 AM
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Holy smokes, I never heard of this Algerian slavery of Europeans.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-22-09 8:44 AM
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541: don't worry, few have, but it was big business at the time. For the whole of the 17th century there were way more European slaves in Africa and the Middle East than there were African slaves in Europe and the New World. Britain and Ireland got away fairly lightly, for obvious reasons, but southern France, Spain and Italy really suffered. Their coasts were pretty well deserted, and sea trade really suffered - obviously the crews of merchant ships were very valuable to have as slaves, because they could do more than simply row until they died. Ransoming Christian captives was a big preoccupation of the Church and of governments and other NGOs.

It's a big feature of historical writing of the period. Still around in some folk traditions: in the Netherlands, Father Christmas goes round with his sack and takes presents out of it to give to all the good children, and his assistant, Black Peter, is a Moor who puts the bad children into his sack and takes them away for ever.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-22-09 10:07 AM
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For the whole of the 17th century there were way more European slaves in Africa and the Middle East than there were African slaves in Europe and the New World.

Possibly true, but if so, only because African slaves taken to the Carribean were simply worked until they died - it's estimated that by 1540 about 10,000 slaves a year were being taken from Africa to the Carribean to provide labor for the plantations.

I strongly suspect those stories Ajay is telling about the Algerian slave trade to be greatly exaggerated, primarily because, um, there's no actual evidence that there was any period during the 17th century when the coasts of southern France, Spain and Italy were ever depopulated. There really isn't. Also, while I've never studied the history of the Spanish or Italian navies particularly, during the reign of Louis XIV (1638 - 1715) the French navy was one of the strongest in the world. There was a period in the mid-17th century when it was at low ebb, but this was because of the Fronde rebellions, not because of Algerian corsairs.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-22-09 2:40 PM
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Possibly true, but if so, only because African slaves taken to the Carribean were simply worked until they died

While galley slaves in the Mediterranean, of course, had a 35 hour work week and minimum 4 weeks holiday a year. And, I understand, a generous retirement package!
Look, you believe what you want, I'm not going to argue.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-22-09 6:10 PM
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How about a link? Even to one of those book thingies. One can forgive a certain amount of skepticism here.

Espesh about that retirement package.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-22-09 7:27 PM
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Mmmm, this not extremely scholarly source estimates about 8500 European slaves/year captured between 1580 and 1680.

More extensive than I'd thought without checking, but nothing on the scale of the 17th-18th century African slave trade. The primary cultural legacy in the West is probably in steamy erotic fiction.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-22-09 8:54 PM
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The very respectable Linda Colley wrote a big history of the north african slavery of europeans. It's called Captive and came out around 5ish years ago. It was a very real phenomenon. The raiders went as far north as Ireland---sometimes. It wasn't a wholescale enslavement, more like a bunch of grab-and-run snatches. There was something of a legal framework in place for slaves within Islam and a pathway for emancipation. Also, ransoms were sought and often paid. If I remember correctly (I found the book a bit dull, frankly, and didn't read very far or carefully), the Dey of Algiers would sometimes use groups of captives/slave/hostages as diplomatic bargaining chips. It was kind of the cost of doing business around that area, and it waxed and waned with geopolitics. Until the Americans refused to ransom their soldiers and fought a war, and then in 1830 the French invaded.

But, anyway, Ajay is right.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05-22-09 9:40 PM
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Captives! I haven't read it, but I'm a huge fan of Colley's (in both her history and her newspaper pieces from a few years back, linked in the archives somewhere) Britons, most of which I read a few years ago.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-22-09 9:43 PM
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There's a book on Slavs taken as slaves from the Crimean area up to the early modern period or so, but I can't find the title.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-22-09 9:46 PM
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Oh, yes, I totally knew that.

I don't know why I didn't get more into Captives when I tried to read it. It might have been the paralyzing dissertation anxiety vortex howling around my ears. I also felt keenly my lack of background in Islamic history.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05-22-09 9:49 PM
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I think she wrote an essay or review or something on Americans' interpretations of Americans' captivity narratives that was pretty critical, pointing out various generalizations that had a hard time holding up in light of comparisons with other English-language narratives. Very well done, and completely irrelevant to my dissertation or my orals preparation, whichever I was avoiding at the time.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-22-09 9:53 PM
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That makes a lot of sense. I've always been skeptical of literary scholars who make a big deal about national literary traditions without doing comparative studies of the genre across boundaries. Americanists have often seemed particularly prone to this kind of essentialism.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05-22-09 10:01 PM
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I can't seem to find the article - could be behind academic paywalls - so it's possible I'm confusing it with another author's. But it was a good article anyway.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-22-09 10:32 PM
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I knew Cervantes had been a slave in North Africa for a few years after being captured returning to Spain from Italy (he was ransomed), but I never really connected it to a larger phenomenon.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-23-09 12:05 AM
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Jackmormon: But, anyway, Ajay is right.

What, about everything, all the time?

No, Ajay's wrong. Specifically, the claim that "For the whole of the 17th century there were way more European slaves in Africa and the Middle East than there were African slaves in Europe and the New World" is wrong: the claim that Algerian corsairs destroyed the navies of France, Italy, and Spain is wrong: and despite the rightness of Ajay, I do not know of any widespread depopulation along the coasts of France, Italy, and Spain in the 16th century. Ajay's claims are not absolutely untrue, but they are exaggerations. It has always seemed worse to white Europeans that they're at risk of slavery than it should be that black Africans should be.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-23-09 1:35 AM
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the claim that Algerian corsairs destroyed the navies of France, Italy, and Spain is wrong:

Never actually claimed, it should be noted.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 05-23-09 2:57 AM
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542: or the whole of the 17th century there were way more European slaves in Africa and the Middle East than there were African slaves in Europe and the New World.

Jes has already covered this, but just to chime in a little further here: this is almost certainly an overblown claim. The total volume of the Atlantic trade exceeded the Corsairs' efforts by at least a factor of ten. The likely population of African slaves in the New World in the 17th century would have already exceeded the total of all slaves estimated to have been traded by the Barbary Corsairs during their entire span of operations.

(It's a side point, but ajay's attempt to be dismissive on the issue of the greater brutality of the Atlantic trade is also wrong. The plantation slavery of the Atlantic trade was, by nature of the economics involved, a more brutal business by far than the mostly service-sector slavery practised in the Islamic world. Galley slavery might have competed in harshness but was a tiny slice of the trade by comparison.)

The Corsairs did operate on a larger scale than popular history now remembers, though. It's hard to assess the claim about deserted coastlines, since the only place I've ever seen it is the poorly-sourced WikiPedia article that Ajay's account seems to follow. Maybe it's true, maybe false.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-23-09 8:44 AM
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DS might want to read some more on mediterranean history. There's some good stuff out there if you dip below wikipedia.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-23-09 4:43 PM
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556: What, Ajay can exaggerate but I can't? *sulks*


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 05-23-09 4:46 PM
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558: There's some good stuff out there if you dip below wikipedia.

You mean WRT the bit about deserted coastlines? I live but to learn, brother. If you have a source for that claim that's not WikiPedia, by all means point me to it; all I said was that WP is the only place I've ever seen it.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-23-09 8:01 PM
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I too found this story compelling, and found myself mainly disliking Mike for bouncing Elliea back to Samoa after having been given the gift of her return.

I googled Mike Nyberg and there was an article written about his story in Utah.

Here's the last section, it makes me dislike this guy more. In addition to the dates being suspect in this story, he tried pushing Elliea off to one of his sisters before returning her to Somoa. What a creep and a quitter.

http://www.sltrib.com/parenting/ci_6161820

"Through a friend with connections in Samoa, the Nybergs were able to locate the Sos. The girl's family told them of promises made -- and broken -- by Focus on Children: Sei would return when she was 18. They would receive money every month from the Nybergs. They would get photographs and regular communication.
"Those things never took place because we didn't know they were being told that," Mike said.
The Sos left the girl's future up to the Nybergs. After wrestling with the heart-wrenching decision, the Nybergs left Elleia with her parents and returned home without her.
"Our family loves Elleia with all of our hearts and doing what is best for the child isn't always easy," Mike said, his eyes brimming with tears.
After Sei had lived in Samoa for seven months, her parents contacted the Nybergs, saying they wanted her to return to America. If her parents fully understood the adoption now, the Nybergs thought, they would love to have her back.
Sei once again became Elleia. Nine months later, however, the Nybergs' marriage was in trouble, and they suggested she could be adopted by one of Mike's sisters.
The Sos decided it was best to bring their daughter back for good. The Nybergs returned her to Samoa in February.
"We know that she is with her family that loves her," Mike said. "And it may look like they're poor, but they're only poor monetarily. They are some of the finest, most honorable people I've ever met, and I have no hesitation saying this is a good place for her to be -- with her parents, who love her."
When Mike called two weeks ago to check in, Isaia answered the phone. Seeing his name on the caller ID, Isaia answered, "Mike! I love you!"
Because Focus on Children and its operators have not yet gone to trial, Mike said, he isn't ready to draw conclusions about the agency.
"If the adoption agency isn't found guilty, then the adoptive families in the U.S. don't have to worry about it," he said. "But if the adoptions are found to be illegal, there will be tough decisions to make for all involved."


Posted by: Brady | Link to this comment | 06- 5-09 3:35 PM
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Hey, thanks for that link -- it's a better story than anything I found about the Samoan end.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 5-09 3:53 PM
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This Focus on Children adoption agency that was the center of this adoption scam told the biological parents in Samoa, that their children were going to go to School in America. What is wrong with the educational system in Samoa?

The educational system in Samoa was "good" enough for the adoption agency owners own adopted kids, for Josph Smith sakes.
Yes, the Salt Lake Tribune reported on a story where the owners of Focus on Children sent their own two Romanian children to Samoa when they were very young. To be educated and raised until they were 18! Hello folks, is this weird stuff or WHAT? Huuummmmm, if the Samoan educational system is good enough for the Focus on Children adoption agency then,,,,,,,why in the heck would it not be good enough for the NATIVE SAMOANS?

I am still pondering my own question.

By the way the FOC owners did not give these two kids any legal documents to ever ever leave the Island of Samoa, so they actually could never get kicked off the island as they had no paper work that would allow that, because they would be immediately DEPORTED back to Romania!

This sure is a very bizzare story of corruption.

I have no interest in judging the Nybergs, but the Banks, that is all a puzzle that will never be solved.


Posted by: sue | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 3:11 AM
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