You've probably already heard about Senator Napoli's slavering fantasies about just how religious and virginal, but then how brutally raped and sodomized, a woman would have to be to deserve an abortion in South Dakota, but Susie Bright has the video, if you haven't seen your evil patriarchal fuck today.
I read him as genuinely concerned with fetuses.
This guy was a friend of a friend. I understand the discovery was almost a relief to some of his friends who were waiting, because they'd already assumed the worst.
You're a sexy beast. You're beautiful, brilliant, compassionate, wise. Everyone should take your advice.
Taking my own advice, I've got a problem, and I think you might be able to help.
I'm a 26-year-old who lives in Brooklyn in an apartment share I found on Craigslist with four roommates. I'm in the process of breaking up with my boyfriend, and this past week was the first time I spent all five weeknights in my apartment--a momentous occasion; for the first time I'm actually living here. Last night, after taking my midterms, I was sitting around watching the American Idol results show with my roommates. Paris was the first contestant to advance to the final 12. She made a big show of clapping, waving her arms, and lifting her face heavenward. In fact, pretty much everyone was to behave that way (though some people refrained), but I didn't know that then, and Paris has frequently celebrated a little too vigorously while some of her fellow contestants were still waiting. I remarked, "Paris doesn't have a grownup sense of class about how to act when other contestants are still in danger." (Paris is 16 years old, and in my view lets herself act it more than any of the other young contestants.) One of my white roommates--I'll call him Adam--then turned to me and said, "You're saying that because you don't like black people." I pretty much figured he had to be joking, so I said something like, "You're right; I'm horribly racist." But then later on, when he called Katharine "boring," I said, "I don't think she's boring," and he said, "Yeah, because she's white." Still assuming he had to be joking, but not hearing even a twinkle of humor in his tone, I just looked at him perplexedly and said nothing. As the show continued, I noted that basically everyone was acting the way Paris did, and I didn't like it on any of them, even SEX GOD Taylor Hicks. Finally, it was down to Gedeon and Bucky. I have no particular love for either of these performers, but I really wanted Gedeon to be eliminated because if he were it would have meant I was four for four in my predictions this week (as I would turn out to be), so I rooted for his elimination out loud. Adam said to me "Big surprise." (Gedeon is black; Bucky is white). Finally I just couldn't see any clue that he was joking at all, so I lamely offered, "I like Mandisa," feeling totally fucking ridiculous that I was offering fandom of an American Idol star as evidence of the absence of racism, but resentful that I was put in this ridiculous position because he was using non-fandom as evidence of its presence. He seemed to narrow his eyes with some degree of hostility and said nothing. It really seemed to me like he was serious.
To answer the obvious questions: I have never had an unpleasant interaction with this guy. I haven't interacted with him much at all, but we've had two friendly forty minute (or so) conversations on nights when I've been there. I don't recall those conversations precisely, but I really don't think there was anything in them that would have given him context that would make him jump to such a wacked (to my mind) conclusion. I have no idea what I might have done to piss him off. Yes he sometimes gives people shit to be funny, but I've never felt that whether he was joking was ambiguous before. He seemed hostile to me last night. There were two other people in the room, who were either not aware of our interaction, assumed it was jokey, or were weirded out. When I wasn't addressing Adam directly I basically pretended it wasn't happening and made other comments about other aspects of the show, and the other two responded to me normally.
Anyway, this made me feel really bad, because now I feel uncomfortable in the space I have to start calling home. I'm also totally baffled. I told one of my black coworkers about the incident, and she also thought he was crazy. I suppose I should ask him if he was serious, but given that three other people besides me and him live in this apartment, I don't know when I'll get a chance to see him alone without making a federal case about it.
What should I do, Tia?
Baffled in Brooklyn
Gee, I don't know, Baffled. You've stumped me. Let's open it up for comment.
I may not know very much about philosophy or what the kids listen to these days or how to avoid the massive myocardial infarction I have scheduled for my forty-fifth birthday, but I do know this: it's a goddamn tragedy that Patrick Hughes isn't reproducing with Alameida.
Update: Apparently, the link isn't working for some people. But then, you know how some people are. If you're one of the unlucky, copying the link and pasting it in apparently works, or for the lo-fi crowd, it's the March 2nd post here.
Rob Helpy-Chalk, best known for calling me out when I get fast and loose with Peter Singer, is also in the business of prompting hilarious mental images:
In sworn testimony and interviews, they recount incidents in which an allegedly drunken Kinkade heckled illusionists Siegfried & Roy in Las Vegas, cursed a former employee's wife who came to his aid when he fell off a barstool, and palmed a startled woman's breasts at a signing party in South Bend, Ind.
"I think it was Roy or Siegfried or whatever had a codpiece in his leotards," Dandois testified. "And so when the show started, Thom just started yelling, 'Codpiece, codpiece,' and had to be quieted by his mother and [wife] Nanette."
Making fun of Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light, is a great way to spend time. Doing it in a way that also involves Siegfried and Roy: priceless.
The superficial made me look. Now you need to see it:
Good luck enjoying the weekend, suckers.
Rumsfield testified before Congress yesterday that if a civil war were to occur in Iraq, the plan would be for Iraqi forces, rather than American troops, to handle it. What does that even mean? When the violence level gets to a certain point, the US soldiers are going to stop leaving their bases? If so, what would be the point of keeping them there at all?
When Senator Byrd tried to pin him down on what the plan is in case of a civil war, he got this:
But how can the United States avoid being dragged into a civil war, Mr. Byrd asked. By bringing the Iraqi political parties together to form a unifying government, Mr. Rumsfeld repeated.
Great. If violence intensifies to the point where we can't help but call it a civil war, the plan is to unify Iraq politically. I can't imagine how I couldn't have thought of that in the first place.
Cato earns a serious demerit for trotting out Peter Singer for one of the response essays. What will a doctrinaire and unreflective utilitarian say about equality? I am absolutely in suspense! Elizabeth Anderson has a blog for crying out loud, and you couldn't get her to write a response? As a simple matter of self-defense, philosophers need to stop including Singer in these discussions like he's some kind of evil genius of moral theory. He's embarrassing, and preference satisfaction utilitarianism is an embarrassing theory. Just let's everyone pretend it never happened and move on.
Like Peter Singer himself, preference-satisfying consequentialism is both false and boring.* Philosophy offers so many opportunities to be either right or really, really interesting. Why not take them?
*He does not, strictly speaking, have a truth value.
It's time to re-design my workout! Here's the problem: three times a week, I have about two hours to change, get to the gym, work out, get home, and shower. It's not a lot of time. I need about forty minutes for cardio, which leaves only about forty-five minutes for the weights.
The current workout is like this. Day one: chest and back. Day two: legs. Day three: shoulder press and a variety of arm supersets.
The new thought: spend more time on big-muscle exercises* and less on the arms, since they're used in most of the other work. (I can build up the arms again quickly enough, should the need arise.**)
First question: this new thought-- is it good? Second: what should the new routine be? I'll assemble a workout from the (reasonable) suggestions and report back in a few weeks.
** no, I have no idea what that need would be.
And it's here.
Our beloved and departed leader has left us for the bright lights of the Washington Monthly, and is suggesting that non-Muslim Americans should admit that we really are, on some level, afraid of Muslims, own up to it, and work from there. I'm not sure that this is going to be a useful strategy for anyone for whom fear of Muslims is an actual problem.
I've had a conversation along these lines with a genuinely racist partner in a law firm I used to work for: "Come on, you're really scared of Muslims. Admit it; I don't want to hear that PC bullshit, when you're on a plane and the guy sitting next to you looks Arab, you're worried." (Now, his goal here wasn't to overcome irrational fears, it was to get my buy-in to some sort of ethnic cleansing program, but that's neither here nor there. Did I mention I quit that firm?)
The problem with saying "Just admit it, and we'll work from there," is that it isn't necessarily true, at least for people who live in reasonably diverse areas. I'm from New York, and while I certainly have stereotypes relating to Muslims (which, obviously, I should overcome -- stereotypes are generally a bad thing), the ones where I assume that they own small businesses are more powerful than anything relating to terrorism. I see a olive-skinned man who looks Middle Eastern, I associate him much more strongly with Ahtef, the guy who sells me milk and Ring-Dings, than with terrorism.
I'd suspect that this is true for most people who have the practical ability to reach out to make social contact with Muslims at all -- if you live in an area where there really isn't a Muslim community, there isn't anyone to bring a pie to as an icebreaker while you talk about your mutual fears. If there is a Muslim community, you know people from it, and they're going to be more salient images of Muslims in your mind than some guys from Leeds you've never met. I suppose there's an intermediate case, where you live someplace where there's a Muslim community reasonably close but you're completely socially segregated from them -- somehow, I just can't see the kind of social outreach Ogged describes as being successful.
Drum has outsourced his blogging to some Mexican dude. There goes the neighborhood. I suggest that we commence gentrification.
Salon's Broadsheet reports that a German perfumer is now marketing a fragrance called Vulva that "beguiles the senses with the scent of a real vagina, thus opening up completely new vistas for enhancing your sex life." Of course, opinions differ as to the desirability of any given scent, especially when it comes to perfume, but Broadsheet cuts right to the very first thing that crossed my mind.
But there's something I can't figure out: Who needs this product? The Web site calls the fluid "the object of every man's desire," so it seems it's being marketed to people who want to have sex with men. (Quick warning for anyone who wants to visit said Web site: Unless you want to view many Euro-trashy photos of a nude woman with the Vulva perfume vial covering her actual vulva, you probably don't want to visit the Web site.) But if you're a woman, and you want to use the scent of a real vagina to entice a man ... you already have a real vagina!! You don't need to buy this! If you're a man who wants to become the object of every man's desire ... is the scent of a real vagina really going to attract the kind of guy you're looking for?
I guess Vulva might be of interest to people who would like to have relations with women but can't, like prisoners and awkward adolescents. But the idea of those people sending away for this fragrance is a little too sad and weird to contemplate. And so another bizarre product searches for a market. Meanwhile, we can only hope the Germans are developing a companion fragrance (possibly named "Nut Sack"?).
Aside: this is the top story at Broadsheet right now, so for the time being you can read it here without having to watch the ad, which currently is a ridiculously long Sopranos commercial.
I'm a young woman in a relationship with an older man with kids. When I met him, his wife had left him months before after having an extremely public and embarrassing affair with a gigolo from work. We got involved very carefully and slowly, but now, two years later, it seems people have forgotten that I'm not guilty of breaking up the marriage! His kids' friends' parents meet me and have this "Oh..." moment and declare pointedly that I'm lucky to have "stolen" him away. There's even a popular novel out with he and his wife as characters, and he's the one depicted as having had the affairs. We're nice people who don't want to talk shit about her all the time, especially since the affair was the least of her sins, but I hate being treated like a prostitute by the neighbors. What should I do?
Bummed in Brooklyn
This time I know you're a woman, so hopefully there's no other horribly salient fact I'm misapprehending; this advice-giving is harder than it looks. First off: isn't it annoying how people want to cast you in their psychodrama, like, "You, yes, I see you in the role of symbol of all my marital anxieties. We start shooting tomorrow. Are you equity?" It's even worse when there's a preexisting cultural narrative they're squeezing you into; it's not just psychodrama, it's cliched psychodrama. As you may know, I was in a relationship with an older fella (yes, I used the past tense: bonus advice-giver info in the advice column; I'm transitioning into singlehood; perhaps this means bad date blogging to come); I never had it so bad as you because he's never been married and doesn't have kids, but I definitely have experience with feeling like people are constructing your storyline just by looking at you.
Anyway, you know all this. On to the advice!
It's always a good idea to weigh the importance of a relationship when considering how much you want to engage someone else about their behavior. Sometimes it's just not worth it to try to change someone's mind or make them act differently, because you don't really have to deal with them that much. Maybe you'll come to that conclusion about your neighbors.
But if you want the situation to change, I do think there's something you can do about it. You don't have to badmouth his wife to point out they've got it wrong (I agree badmouthing the wife is a bad idea, and it might make you look bad in the process). When someone says, "You're so lucky to have stolen him," you could say, "Well, we're both lucky to have found each other, but I was also lucky not to have to steal him; he and [mean ex-wife] were already separated when we got together." It doesn't correct their mistake about him, but it gets you off the hook. If those moments have already passed, and now you're dealing with people who've been thinking ill of you for months, you could try, at some moment when they're in your boyfriend's house waiting for the kids to be ready perhaps, inviting one of them into the kitchen to have a casual cup of coffee. Then, after a suitable number of pleasantries have been exchanged and you've demonstrated some sort of interest in their affairs, you could say, "You know, I get the impression sometimes that some of [boyfriend's] friends think that I broke up his marriage. I hate the possibility that people think that about me; it's not something I would do. [Boyfriend] was single when I found him." I imagine the neighbors will be taken aback, and try to disclaim any such belief. Probably the worst that could come of this is that they will think you a little weirdly confrontational, but they probably won't even think that, and maybe "weirdly confrontational person" is a more comfortable role for you than "lithe unattached young thing who slithers into any bed she likes, heedless of the consequences to kittens, Jesus, and America."
Yours in resistance to psychodrama,
Today, finally, I could buy something at the Zara in Takashimaya Ngee Ann City, What is the largest size they stock? Largest, people? Fucking US 8. Singapore: where regular people go to feel fat. Super-nice white wrap-dress though. Luckily husband X doesn't read this blog, or he's know I just spent S$119. I swear, if I never get thin again I'm going to sue my children for emotional distress.
Have you heard about your cousin? She's dating an African-American boy and some people on your father's side are making a fuss about it. I don't see what the big deal is in this day and age. If you brought home someone who was black, I wouldn't say a thing. I wouldn't mind if you married someone Jewish, either. Actually, that would be nice because you would always be home for Christmas. [Thinking hard] I really don't know what could surprise me....hmm...maybe an Iranian?
Are you OK? Do I need to do the Heimlich?
While we're on the topic of teachers getting fired for ridiculous reasons, consider Pete Panse, an art teacher at Middletown (NY) High School for over twenty years, a graduate of the New York Academy of Art, and a National Board Certified teacher (one of only two in his district). He is currently suspended pending hearings, which could result in permanent dismissal. His crime? Suggesting figure drawing courses to students.
Update: Kriston gives the "Yes, but."
An official from the Iraqi Ministry of Health claims that deaths resulting from Shiite attacks on Sunni Iraqis in response to the Feb. 22 bombing of the Askariya shrine were not tabulated in ministry death records, and that the death toll from such reprisals is closer to the 1,300 deaths initially reported than the couple of hundred we have been hearing about lately. (Via Susan G. at Daily Kos)
It's maddening not knowing what's really happening in Iraq, and having no solid way of judging between contradictory reports.
Cerebral palsy is hott. (Thanks, apo!)
Yes, this thread is space for me and Drymala, if he's around, to gossip about American Idol. Y'all can feel free to hijack it for your own purposes, too.
Someone whose real name is "T. Fliss" described the DKV trio, in a review of an AALY Trio + Ken Vandermark live album on Amazon, as playing "energy/avant music". Surprisingly, the term "energy music" doesn't seem to enjoy very wide currency, and what uses of it there are seem mostly to be along the lines of: music to be energetic to, or to spur on energy. But it's really the perfect term for unifying music in what one might otherwise think of as disparate areas—music that's expressive or exemplificative of energy. The unifying principle behind Brötzmann Vater und Sohn, Wolf Eyes, and Paul Flaherty, discovered at last! I suppose the links between noise and really raucous free jazz/improv aren't exactly unknown (I guess Borbetomagus have been successfully going back and forth for a while), but the impression I got from reading scattered reports online about the Victoriaville festival at which Thurston Moore curated a day and invited Wolf Eyes and Hair Police to play was that a lot of people were a put off by their inclusion (even though it turned out that Anthony Braxton played with Wolf Eyes during their set). So I think that if the term "energy music" were popularized (assuming it isn't already) and applied to these seemingly disparate areas, then such collaborations and stage-sharings would seem less incongruous.
Also, I remember reading about the new! Scott Walker! album! something like five years ago, before he produced the Pulp album or curated Meltdown. Fan websites were claiming that it would be out soon, really. But apparently he's taken vows not to release more than one album per decade.
And that's my lecture. Listen Thursday, 6-9am PST, for some hectoring (though actually I won't be playing much along these lines).
When Kevin Drum emailed me a few days ago to ask whether I'd like to guest post at the Washington Monthly this weekend, I looked into the soul of this, my adopted homeland, and I looked in the mirror and I thought, "Who's the only strategic thinker who can give this country the high-intensity, high-traffic liberal anime blogging it deserves?"
I'll see you there.
I've gotten four questions, so the advice column is off to a roaring start. Remember, kids, you can direct your questions to Labs, Becks, and Apo, too; they all said they'd give advice. Of course they, and everyone else, are welcome to chime in on this thread.
This is the second question I received, but I'm going to tackle it first.
I don't think my problem is real amusing, but it might generate some interesting discussion.
I bought a floor in this 3-decker last year. About 3 months ago, I discovered that the non-owning roommate of my second-floor neighbor downstairs is a level 3 sex offender, a violent serial rapist, listed on the web at the official sex-offender site and everything ("Highly Likely to Re-offend"). He was caught and convicted in the late seventies, did time in the loony bin until well into the eighties. He hasn't been caught doing anything since, but according to the man on the first floor, with whom he sometimes chatted before First-Floor started pulling down the blinds and pretending he wasn't home, he is still a vile misogynist. First-Floor wouldn't tell me what Mr. Rapist said, just said he was a creep, and that was before we found out about his record.
Now that I've had my deadbolts upgraded, I'm not actually afraid of the guy, but would like to get him out of the house. I have a strong desire to kick him down the stairs, but that would be wrong. We haven't spoken to the owner of the second floor unit where Mr. Rapist is living, but doubt if he would do anything, because he's been living there off and on for years.
Any suggestions on ways to get rid of Mr. Rapist are welcome. Also, can I ethically sell this place without telling the purchaser about Mr. Rapist?
It's not going to be telling people what they want to hear day at Ask the Mineshaft, I'm afraid, at least not on my end. So here goes: I don't think you should try to get rid of the rapist. This situation sucks, and I totally sympathize; I certainly wouldn't want him emitting his gross rapist vibes in my building. But he's gotta live somewhere. Getting rid of him would just mean fobbing him off onto someone else. And since your main concerns seem to be his creepiness and your property values, not safety, and you didn't mention any women in your building, it would be an unjustifiable fob.
Maybe you're thinking to yourself , "I didn't ask you what I should do; what about what I can do?" The only ideas that occur to this sage blogger are first, to just give asking your downstairs neighbor to kick him out a shot. After that, maybe you could try tracking down your local victims rights' group and asking them if they want him out of the neighborhood and have any ideas about bringing pressure to bear, or even contacting news media to see if they're interested. If the rapist sees his whereabouts are being publicized, he might feel threatened enough to move. But I wouldn't recommend either of these courses even on purely prudential grounds; the only way they could work would be by focusing public attention on your home, which could have lots of nasty unintended consequences. Maybe the Mineshaft will have other ideas.
And even aside from the fob aspect, I'm not sure that this asshole, at least at this point, doesn't deserve to be left alone. Despite his classification he hasn't been in trouble with the law for about twenty years. Let's hope that doesn't just mean he's getting away with it; if it doesn't, even the scummiest misogynistic fuckwads are entitled to some privacy if they've already been punished for their crimes.
The bad news continues: you are ethically obligated to disclose that you have a registered sex offender in your building. Sometimes I cut people (and myself) a little slack when one side of a transaction is far more powerful than another, so for example, I don't think it's wrong to accept a job even if you know you won't stay for very long, if you're badly in need of a paycheck, because the employer can absorb the turnover costs better than you can absorb unemployment. But that's not the case in a normal real estate transaction; the seller and buyer would presumably both be individuals or families, with the same stakes in the matter, and it would be further unjustifiable fobbing to keep the sex offender a secret.
What's more, you might well be legally obligated to disclose as well; you should check with a lawyer about the laws in your state. This page from the California Association of Realtors (pdf), says you'd have to disclose it; this page from the Nebraska AG says you don't. For preliminary information, you could try googling [your state] + "material fact" + "sex offender registries" and maybe "real estate."
These public sex-offender registries seem like a bass-ackwards compromise to me. If the government is capable of accurately classifying rapists as very likely to reoffend, maybe they ought to still be in jail. But is listing their names publically going to protect anyone? Not according to this paper; both Washington and Iowa tracked registrant groups and controls, and neither found a difference in rates of recidivism. The Washington study did find that registrants were rearrested more quickly, but intuitively I think that's likely to be a result of the law enforcement's registry; not the public notification aspect. In the meantime, they catch a bunch of non-risks in their net and deny them their full rights as citizens.
Yours in hatred of rapist scuzzballs,
Alright, everybody, if I gave lame advice, here's your chance to set me right.
(a) someone asked about Hume and moral judgment. I haven't read this stuff for a long time, and it's not my main thing, but the very rough idea is something like this.
Hume: moral judgments are not straightforward expressions of belief; they're not claims about facts. Instead, they're conative responses. We're gilding & staining drab reality with colors of sentiment.
Objection: when I see Ogged wronged, I sob; when I see W-lfs-n wronged, I laugh, yet I judge each action to be impermissible. Judgments of wrongness are therefore independent of sentiment.
Hume: right. Moral judgments are (actual or counterfactual) responses from the general point of view, not the perspective you normally occupy as an interested observer. It's an idealized position of some sort that allows for the requisite uniformity.
Rachel Cohon, in SEP:
Hume claims that people do not make their moral judgments from their own individual points of view, but instead select "some common point of view, from which they might survey their object, and which might cause it to appear the same to all of them" (T 184.108.40.206). At least with respect to natural virtues and vices, this common point of view is composed of the intimate perspectives of the various individuals who have direct interactions with the person being evaluated.
(b) you know that I'm not one of those people who spends half the class doing a George Carlin routine, right? It's just that kids today...well, kids today don't often walk into a classroom already fired up about eighteenth-century sentimentalism, you know, and in a context like this, erring on the side of too much enthusiasm is often the better way of missing the mark.
I will cite this post in any future legal action.
Inside Higher Ed has the sad story of Stephen E. Williams, formerly tenure-track (History) at HACC, now unemployed because he used the word "fuck" in class.
Donald Dodson Jr., who has taken several courses from Williams, called him "an excellent teacher," and said that the periodic profanity was part of his "blue collar approach" and a "conversational teaching style." Williams, Dodson said, uses this style to reach out to students. Dodson said that he's among the many students who take every course Williams offers — even though he gives tough exams.
As for the swearing, Dodson said it is something that isn't constant and is never directed at an individual. "It's just part of his style," he said.
The story as reported seems suspicious to me, but it hits close to home because, you'll be surprised to learn, an occasional obscenity is launched from my own honeyed tongue during some classes, and I had assumed that this wasn't a big deal. Maybe it is.
I understand that there are cases and there are cases: directing this sort of language at particular students would be seriously bad, and using, say, "fuck" in its sexual sense would be clearly over the line. This case, as far as we know, isn't such a case. It would be as if I said, "Hume, your sentimentalist view can't explain why our moral judgments are identical in cases where our emotional responses vary-- you're seriously fucked!"* (Which is, indeed, the sort of thing I might have said at various points in my teaching career.) Doing this sort of thing excessively: bad teaching! Once in a while:
not a problem! grounds for dismissal!
End result: the veto power of a very small number of students further constrains classroom performance. Maybe I'm just whining in favor of special treatment, since people in other professional contexts don't get to say these things. It's not the biggest of deals, after all-- but it is chilling.
*I know that Hume has an answer, but sometimes it's more interesting to set up the problem in a vivid way rather than drone, "and Hume considers such-and-such an objection; his reply is..."
Pat Forde asks the burning question: how did this become the Year of the Honky in college basketball?
Can the Year of the Mexican be far behind?
(In all seriousness, that is both scary and awful. So sorry to hear it, guys.)
The name Filliam H. Muffman keeps me chuckling throughout the day.
What is the saddest thing? Employing real em dashes instead of multiple run-together hyphens, but employing them with an inconsistent style. That is no way to get the ladies.
I'm very fond of Kevin Drum's blogging, it's measured, sensible, and reasonable – a blog you could tell your aging parents to read (and, in fact, I have. That and Talking Points Memo. I figured from there they could find anything else useful by following links, and I wouldn't have to tell them the rest of what I actually do read.) If he has a flaw, and he does, it's that he's overly cautious and centrist; prone to taking Republican-friendly positions where possible (this is sounding like damning-with-faint-praise, which is wrong. Really, he's great!).
Anyway, over the last few days he's been noticing that every blogging Democrat out there advocates universal health care, as does he. If Kevin Drum thinks a position is mainstream, it's completely non-controversial – Congressional candidates, you heard him: run on this one.
What exciting thing are you going to post about today?
Anticipating in Albuquerque
I'm going to announce a new project, an Unfogged advice column.
Who's going to be giving the advice?
Curious in California
I am, along with any of my co-bloggers who sign on. If they want to give advice, they can indicate so in comments. You can email your questions to me, tia@unfogged, or to the other bloggers who say they want to participate. If you want, you can indicate which of the participating bloggers you want to answer your--
Why would I want advice from a screwball like you, especially when you're doing this post in a too-precious-by-half question and answer format?
Skeptical in Skokie
You didn't let me finish. The beauty of the blog format is that when I give dumb advice, everyone can tell me in comments, and you'll get the benefits of all the Unfogged commenters' collective wisdom. Don't you wish Cary Tennis had comments?
Okay, I have a problem. I want advice, but say I don't want everyone to know that, just to pick a random example, "Apostropher" is secretly in love with his co-blogger. Now I don't feel comfortable asking the question.
Doubtful in Durham
You don't have to ask the question with your real name or your regular pseudonym. You can send your questions from any email account. I promise not to reverse DNS you and post your IP, unless your question was, "Katie thinks naming the baby "Hubbard" is a bad idea. I disagree. Can you help me extract my wife's polluting thetans?"
Is there any question too big or small for you to handle? Are you going to be nice? Because I think I've got myself stuck in here and Bessie's making an awful lot of noise.
Enervated in Emersonville
I'm willing to answer anything. You can probably expect everyone to behave as they normally do. In other words, I'll be a model of tact and sensitivity, and everyone else will be little gits. Ask for advice at your own risk. Also, do you have any saddle oil nearby?
Chris at CT has a post up on a paper on inequality by David Schmidtz. I haven't read the paper, but, of course, I'll blog about it anyway. Chris quotes this paragraph:
In a race, equal opportunity matters. In a race, people need to start on an equal footing. Why? Because a race's purpose is to measure relative performance. Measuring relative performance, though, is not a society's purpose. We form societies with the Joneses so that we may do well, period, not so that we may do well relative to the Joneses. To do well, period, people need a good footing, not an equal footing. No one needs to win, so no one needs a fair chance to win. No one needs to keep up with the Joneses, so no one needs a fair chance to keep up with the Joneses. No one needs to put the Joneses in their place or to stop them from pulling ahead. The Joneses are neighbors, not competitors.
'No one needs to keep up with the Joneses' seems to be analogous to the 'no one needs to have sex' line in the abortion debates: namely, it's true, but only if you lean extra-hard on need. As far as I understand things, we have some moderately good empirical evidence and longstanding anecdotal evidence that
(a) people care very much about relative position, positional goods, and so on;
(b) relative standing impacts subjective well-being, possibly health outcomes, and other sorts of seriously important things.
If this is right-- and I'm not the one to say so with much authority at all-- the Schmidtz line is far too quick to be at all satisfying. The question of whether relative position matters in this way is, of course, a complicated and important empirical question not to be dismissed by some reflections on our concept of 'neighbor.'
Oh, they say it's an optical illusion.
The press had better hope we win this war, because if we don't, a lot of people will blame the media.
(Glenn's post links to The Mudville Gazette's discussion of some recent NYT reporting.)
Just for my peace of mind, indulge me. I can imagine a situation where media coverage is (causally) responsible for a bad outcome: maybe we needed more troops on the battlefield, but didn't get them because of diminished support caused by negative press. (The truth of the coverage doesn't matter.) Or we could imagine that, as a matter of psychological fact, our enemies were emboldened by watching CNN. But the Iraq situation isn't like this. The most likely explanations for failure are terrible planning, insufficient initial troop commitment, and so on, and none of these would have been any different if the press coverage had been universally positive. In other words, if Iraq is failing it's failing because of what's happening in Iraq, not because of what's going on in the US media.
(For bonus points, come up with scenarios where failure hinges on the media but not a craven administration. The best I can do is the idea that insurgents wouldn't bother unless they thought they could hold out until US departure, and they wouldn't think they could do this unless they also thought that US media would drive down political support for the war. Fleshing out this scenario in a way that doesn't implicitly rely on a craven administration [update: craven, that is, in the sense of relying on polling instead of leadership, as the complaint goes, etc. etc.] seems sort of like threading a needle.)
UPDATE: Reynolds has updated the post.
Others write that if we lose the war it won't be the press's fault, but the fault of Chimpy McHitlerburton. Well, maybe. But even so, that won't change the fact that a press that looks in many ways as if it's rooting for defeat won't make an appealing scapegoat for a lot of people. Given the press's concern for how it's perceived in various communities, you'd think it would care enough to avoid being perceived as unpatriotic by the patriotic-American community. Yet the exquisite sensitivity that we see in other settings is not so apparent here.
You'll notice that I never mentioned Chimpy McHitlerburton. From the update, it's pretty clear that he's just noticing that some people might get mad at the press and some bad things might happen, and we wouldn't want that, would we?