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Let Us Judge

Posted by Ogged
on 03.29.14

It's hard to see how Henry doesn't have Josh dead to rights on the "sponsored content" issue. Sure, there are differences between TCS, which was primarily a sham astroturfing operation that published some legit-ish pieces, and TPM, which is a legit operation trying to make some money in what it thinks is a "firewalled" way. But, like Henry says,

You simply can't run an investigative journalism outfit with your right hand, and take money from lobbyists who want to shut down information disclosure with your left one.

And I think Witt and Alex's comments on the CT threads flesh out exactly why that's so. As Witt says, taking money or gifts from an organization makes you favorably inclined to that organization, no matter how impartial you think you are. She quotes a study:

Considerable evidence from the social sciences suggests that gifts of negligible value can influence the behavior of the recipient in ways the recipient does not always realize.

And in this case, we're not dealing with gifts of negligible value, but money that TPM needs to run its business the way it wants. The conflict is obvious, and if this were any organization other than his own, it would be obvious to Marshall that PhRMA doesn't need editorial control to get the editorial outcome that it wants.

Even that is more speculative than we need to be. Alex lays it out at CT and more fully on his own site.

I think a lot of astroturfing is basically the same idea - trying to inject your propaganda into search results, and specifically news search results. This is where TPM comes in. Getting your crap onto a page in the domain talkingpointsmemo.com immediately gets it googlejuice, and also defeats the filtering. If Marshall means any of his excuses, he'll set a robots.txt line to exclude the advertorial from search.

At a glance, I don't see anything like that in TPM's sitemap or the sponsored content's page source, and Josh didn't respond to the question at CT. TPM is being used by PhRMA, and if you don't want to call it astroturfing because it has a different byline and a "sponsored content" note at the top, fine, but it's still qualitatively different from banner ads. Josh says,

We might change the color or tint of the disclaimer. But I don't think this is an issue of hues and type faces. A reader would have to be truly, truly oblivious to miss that this is an article presenting the viewpoint of an advertiser.

But that evinces a naivete about how things work and how people read online that I find hard to reconcile with Marshall's savvy. Is it just a coincidence that PhRMA's full-page ad is framed and typeset like a regular TPM story? Of course not; it's part of the point. And surely someone who's been online as long as Marshall knows that a habituated web reader's eyes go directly to the beginning of the main content on a page, and only someone already looking for a byline or a note on the page would be likely to see it, let alone take the extra step of hovering over "What's this?"

I've been reading TPM since it started; in my brief correspondence with him, Marshall has been unfailingly gracious; he's friends with my friends; I'm on team Josh, and want TPM to continue to do well, but it seems like his very savvy--knowing that they'd get flack--has blinded him to the fact that this is a real misstep.


 

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Lessons of Flight 370

Posted by Ogged
on 03.29.14

We sure have put a lot of crap in the ocean.


 

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I Feel There's Something On Your Mind

Posted by Ogged
on 03.28.14

Helen Keller describes listening to Beethoven by placing her hand on a radio speaker. Say what you will, but a handjob from Helen Keller was probably pretty awesome.


 

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Umpires Suck, The Science

Posted by Ogged
on 03.28.14

It's baseball, but actually a pretty interesting look at unconscious bias.


 

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Don't Be Getting Caught

Posted by Ogged
on 03.28.14

This wage fixing story at (not just) the big tech companies seems like quite a big deal.


 

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Do I Get Half a Point if I Say Terry Richardson?

Posted by Alameida
on 03.28.14

Fashion or porn? How do you do on this COMPLETELY NSFW AT ALL quiz? They kick you off the first time you get anything wrong, so I've never made it above 6 yet, the bastards. I'm exhausted from...bleh horrible work problems, pending dissolution of my business partnership, I'll tell y'all later. So I'm not staying up late trying this repeatedly. Putting in American Apparel ads seems like cheating.


 

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Various Updates

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.28.14

1. Sifu Tweety updates us on Hugo Schwyzer. "Is this dude a not-very-deep-cover MRA mole or what?" wonders Sifu.

2. I think I've figured it out: what I've always called crooning is, I believe, people singing in a very low head voice.

3. Just for funsies, Osgood Yousbad reveals that a very dark gray tile exists.

March%2028%2C%202014%20%281%29.JPG

March%2028%2C%202014%20%282%29.JPG


 

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Something We Can All Agree On

Posted by Ogged
on 03.28.14

College athletes don't need to be paid, they're getting a free education. So here's an A- (love that minus) paper from an athlete at the University of North Carolina.

Meanwhile, players at Northwestern have won, pending appeal and litigation and perhaps legislation, the right to unionize, which has morons making arguments like this, that now they'll have to pay tax on their scholarships, and boy, won't they be sorry. Take a look at that headline, "College athletes may not realize consequences of becoming employees," and tell me that Taylor Branch, whose book (four bucks!) has the skinny on the NCAA, isn't right to talk about the "whiff of the plantation" surrounding college sports.


 

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Fresh Salt, You All Know The Drill

Posted by LizardBreath
on 03.27.14

Who's around NYC on Thursday, 3/27? Ajay is in town, and Fresh Salt is here as well.

Update: This is today, I usually manage to peel myself out of work between six-thirty and seven, but the bar will be there whenever any of the rest of you get there. As always, lurkers welcome.


 

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Obamacare not accepted here.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.27.14

I went to a new doctor's office this morning. When they took my insurance card, they asked "Is this marketplace or employer insurance?" I answered that it was from my employer. The receptionist said, "Great. We don't take Obamacare." I had a perplexed look on my face, I guess, because she said, "The marketplace has so many kinks that we're just not participating."

Is there any reason that this isn't totally kooky? I mean, why should the doctor's office have any idea if an individual plan was purchased on the marketplace, or if the individual just went to Blue Cross Blue Shield directly? Are they saying "no individual policies at all"?

Sure enough, there was a sign hanging in the office, which I'll put below the jump. I assume this is just civilian Republican asshattery, but it's obnoxious and misinformed.

March%2027%2C%202014.JPG


 

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Villainy

Posted by Ogged
on 03.27.14

--Hats off to my former representative, Leland Yee. Any old conservative can find himself in an unexpectedly gay sexual situation, but it's special to be a gun control advocate who gets himself charged with gun running.

--Oscar Pistorius: guilty as fuck, right?

--I really want to use a service like this, just because it seems cool and also like good citizenship these days, but it feels so pretentious. I have SECRETS. But not really. And there's the collective action problem. You first.


 

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Murfreesboro

Posted by Alameida
on 03.26.14

Watching this video about Abu-L-b's plans for Tennessee had a completely random effect. It was supposed to make me mad at anti-Islamic jerk-wads. That worked OK, although the comments were so stupid that it made me almost equally mad at the Raw Story readers. But it made me homesick! And I'm not even the fondest of Tennessee, on account of my step-dad's from Sewanee! (It's beautiful, though. I have a thing about being land-locked, but setting that aside, Tennessee would probably be a pretty nice place to live.) I realized that what made me homesick was the suppressed Southern accent of the newscasters, especially the guy that did the live reporting (and got pointless racist hassle he didn't even precisely describe. Though he didn't stand for any bullshit). Some people say they can tell I have a submerged, ice-berg-like Southern accent. It certainly varies. When I go home to S.C. it's noticeable for sure. When I talk to certain people also. Anyway, that reporter has this specific accent: "I'm educated, and not some hillbilly, but not some Yankee transplant either! Just regular folks like you, but a little like the real TV newspeople." Really, just the way everybody was saying "Murfreesboro" was tuggin' at my heart strings for no reason. I guess because I have a lot of step-family in Statesboro, and the "-boro" part is pronounced the same. (Wait, did everything in the South used to be called x-boruough, and we could neither spell nor pronounce it and people just gave up on us?) If you really want to feel pissed off and depressed about racial injustice you should read this.


 

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But first I gotta bang bang the boogie to the boogie.

Posted by Apostropher
on 03.26.14

Here, kill some time.

Are you an aspiring rap lyricist? Have I got the tool for you! RapPad is a site where you can compose your raps with the help of rhyme lookups, syllable counters, and a library of beats. It also puts you in touch with a community for discussion, feedback, and online rap battles.

But even if you're not planning on writing raps, it offers a unique kind of linguistic fun. With the "Generate Line" feature, you can give RapPad a line, and it will write the next line for you by pulling from a library of successful rap songs. I entered a bunch of famous first lines from literature, and got RapPad to give me back some gems.

Some worked better than others (Turning and turning in the widening gyre / I won't stop rockin' till I retire), but Auden did pretty well me for me.

About suffering they were never wrong
The gang-banging and violence is the sweetest song
The old Masters: how well they understood
Fistful of wood, twisted for the good
Its human position: how it takes place
Pockets swoll up like I just cracked a safe

Yeah boyee, have at it. Also, this video by DJ Snake and Lil' Jon is insane and awesome.


 

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Generic Brand Video

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.26.14

McSweeney's is funny, and making the video entirely out of stock footage is actually convincingly real, voiceover notwithstanding.

Via Help-Chalk, elsewhere.


 

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Hokey Pokey's Sad-Faced Tummy

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.26.14

ATM: About once every two months, Hokey Pokey throws up in the morning, and we keep him home for the day. Sometimes with a light fever. By midmorning, he's wolfing down food ravenously, and completely back to normal.

I'm not worried enough to take him to a doctor, but it's odd. Do some kids just have fragile stomachs? Or they get over a bug so incredibly fast that it's 2-3 hours? If it were last night's dinner, the timing seems a little weird.

This is mostly idle curiosity plus nothing in the queue.


 

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Emergency Contraception

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.25.14

(I'm obviously pro-choice, mostly because I don't believe in souls or that a newly formed embryo is inherently that special. It has the potential to become special.)

Frequently you hear "pro-lifers don't understand the science behind emergency contraception. They think it's an abortion pill, but it actually prevents implantation and jumpstarts your regular period."

I think this is a disingenuous argument. If you think special-ness begins at conception, then preventing implantation does send that special, fertilized egg down the toilet. No one argues "Life begins at implantation". I agree that EC is not an abortion, but it's unfair to say that pro-lifers would be on board if they only understood the mechanism. Being against EC is consistent with being pro-life.


 

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Wall Street makes my head hurt

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.25.14

I find the finance industry incredibly confusing. Not on a transaction level - I know that a lot of the individual transactions are intentionally overly complex, but I'm not confused about that concept.

What I am more confused about is how to think about Wall Street and the financial industry on a system-wide scale. I get that it's almost all just internal gambling on whether or not more people will agree with you that the item is worth gambling on. But what impact does it have, when it's not self-destructing? How do I make sense of the industry as a whole?

I read this line:

Then he proposed something truly radical: "Imagine if Wall Street investors were only able to make money by creating incredibly successful American businesses?" Maybe then we wouldn't need co-ops.

Please don't take that line too seriously, I'm just including it as an example - I read something like that and I don't know how to start deconstructing it.

What would meaningful regulation for Wall Street even mean? What would a financial industry ideally do, and only do? Just finance stuff and nothing more? Just be venture capitalists?


 

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Har Har

Posted by Ogged
on 03.25.14

Though I suspect I'm inviting a veritable avalanche of little bitchery, I think this is as good a theory of humor as any.

the benign violation theory, the idea that humor arises when something seems wrong or threatening, but is simultaneously OK or safe.

The way McGraw sees it, the benign violation theory does better than all the other humor theories in explaining the wide world of comedy. A dirty joke, for example, trades on moral or social violations, but it's only going to get a laugh if the person listening is liberated enough to consider risqué subjects such as sex OK to talk about. Puns can be seen as linguistic violations that still make grammatical sense.

Of course, he means that puns are a malign violation of all that we, as a society, hold dear. Tomayto tomahto.


 

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Residue

Posted by Ogged
on 03.25.14

Coates is unconvincing.

The African-Americans who endured enslavement were subject to two and half centuries of degradation and humiliation. Slavery lasted twice as long as Jim Crow and was more repressive. If you were going to see evidence of a "cultural residue" which impeded success you would see it there.

But the answer comes earlier in his own essay, when he notes that we don't need to theorize about the effects of material conditions on culture, when we can look at the facts. Set aside the African-Americans he's arguing with, Coates himself has written about how growing up in rough Baltimore shaped his view of himself, the world, violence, etc. That's your cultural residue, right there.

Now, I can understand, on "What the hell's a presidency for?" grounds, being really pissed that even an African-American president would play the game of blaming culture instead of confronting the material conditions which shape that culture, and on that point, I expect (hope?) that most "liberals" and "progressives" are right there with Coates. But that anger isn't sufficient to dispose of the culture arguments.

Finally, in the spirit of this bitchy little blog, things like "on y va" and "sharpening my own sword" are cringeworthy, are they not?


 

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Spoiled Rotten, Though

Posted by Alameida
on 03.24.14

Are your children incredibly spoiled vs. yourself at their age? I feel like toys are way cheaper and meals out in nice restaurants are way cheaper and more common. Hmmm?


 

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Hard-hitting journalism

Posted by Ben
on 03.24.14

Our readers want to know: how are things gettting better—all around us?

Here's a mean-spirited comment for you all to read and deride, or agree with, or whatever—do what you want with it! To me, the linked piece reads like the sort of advertisement masquerading as an interview one sometimes sees in, for instance, in-flight magazines.

Why is this, I wonder! Partly because of some of the things Charles says. "July the 4th would not be the same in this country if it were not for Chinese inventors. I think it's just very clear -- especially when it comes to innovation -- a richer planet is a richer, healthier, happier one", for instance; one should always be wary of the bare word "innovation", and the invocation of a Chinese invention over a thousand years old as an example of the spread of ideas from the developing to the developed world is striking, and it just doesn't inspire much confidence. But partly (I suppose this also falls into the category "things Charles says", but in a different way!) because it seems, contrary to what I understood the point of Vox to be, to be rather superficial. Ok, very poor people will spend part of their very little income on mobile phones. They are voting with their wallets! But how is this a big positive change—what is this enabling, why is it so desirable? Suppose I don't want just to hear that things are getting better (or that there are some specific things that are improving people's lives, or there are some specific measures that are improving), I want some context connecting these different things and some information telling me the character of the improvement: isn't that what Vox was supposed to be doing?

Maybe this is a totally unfair reaction to this piece! But it seemed rather fluffy!


 

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Equal Time

Posted by Ogged
on 03.24.14

My other kid.

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Medical conspiracy theories

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.24.14

Half of all Americans believe in medical conspiracy theories. First, anti-vaxxers are in a special category, because there is has been plenty of effort to correct these myths, and those who are still anti-vaxxers have become polarized and oppositional.

Aside from them, I'm sympathetic towards those who hold these conspiracy theories.

[M]ore than one-third of people thinking that the Food and Drug Administration is deliberately keeping natural cures for cancer off the market because of pressure from drug companies, a survey finds. Twenty percent of people said that cellphones cause cancer -- and that large corporations are keeping health officials from doing anything about it.

I mean, while the content is bonkers, the skepticism is accurate. Drug companies really do make decisions based on what is profitable, and really do lobby politicians to make things favorable for them to profit. Large factories do poison the environment and lobby hard to keep environmental regulations lax. Etc.


 

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Mama, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Assholes

Posted by Alameida
on 03.23.14

I have been meaning to post on this for a long time but was moved to do so by HBGB's "[w]e left at 5 am, Eastern time, and got home at 10:30, Central. This has been a very long day." Girl y looked at it and rolled her eyes and said, "call me from Doha." (We had unfortunate and unexpected 6-hour layovers when we flew last time. I didn't look at the schedule carefully, I just knew it was supposed to be a good airline! The girls are totally opposed to flying via Doha now.) My children are champion travelers in one way: long plane flights. The worst I think was me, alone, with a babe in arms and a three-year-old, to the East Coast via a couple hour layover in Texas (?! I don't know why this happened) where we had to go through customs and change terminals on a monorail or some shit, then immediately from JFK in a taxi to the side of the road just outside Queens, where we got onto the Hampton Jitney after a 20-minute wait in the November cold, drove to Wainscott, got picked up by my mom, and driven the last 1/2 mile to my granddad's house. I think it was 30 hours door-to-door.

They have been on flights like that once or twice a year every year of their lives, and they are l'il troopers. I've honestly had more than one fellow passenger come up to me at the end of the flight and say, 'I was bummed out when I saw who I was sitting next to, but it turned out your children are amazingly quiet. Great job!' I think this is a lot to do with their personality; neither is really the 'running up and down the aisle yelling' type. It's got to be partly due to my obsessive harping on manners, though. However, they are hilariously lame at car travel. Narnian car trips are never more than 45 minutes (and that's when there has been an accident on the highway during rush hour. There's not room to drive that long at normal speeds. You would come right out a teak wardrobe and into the South China Sea somewhere.) They regarded our 6 or 7 hour drive from D.C. to my brother's new property in West Virginia--yes, I too wondered how we weren't already in Kentucky, but there was no chance to drive fast--as intolerable.

But here's the thing I have been thinking about. Well, it's two things. One is, it's weird when you realize that your children think somewhere is "home" that isn't "home" to you. My children think Narnia is, in the words of girl x, "home, home, true home." She says she feels like she can never go to sleep in America in the summer because it's light till too late. No one ever goes to sleep until it's utter, pitch black out. There's no gloaming, just the swift terminator pulling night over everything like a curtain, at the very same moment every day of the year. I realize when we talk about things like this that I vaguely yet strongly feel as if I want my children to have a childhood that's "like mine" in some meaningful way. Or I assume that they do, because they must, surely?, and then I realize that their childhood isn't anything like mine at all. But my childhood was terrible! But it was beautiful, also. In whatever ways it was beautiful, it was different.

I remember thinking this once when they were playing with some other kids underneath this huge strangler fig, so big it had sent stalagtite-like creepers down to the ground and then thickened them into pillars of support for long, low, huge branches. We were at an expensive restaurant, seated outside, and since they were done and bored they went to play with some other kids on the grass lit up under the tree while the parents sat eating their $22 orecchiette or whatever. Which the children had already eaten. We had a favorite restaurant for a while and their favorite food there was fettuccine with wild boar ragù! Can you imagine? Being little and going to a restaurant and having mango juice and having the waiter know you wanted wild boar ragù on fresh fettucine? I mean, they shared an order, but seriously. When you were six?! Narnian prices have spiraled upwards so that we stopped eating out on Sundays at that kind of restaurant and get prata or else ramen like normal people. We joke about how they'll never be impressed with a motel pool, but damn, they will not be impressed with a motel pool. Is it an infinity pool with a great view of Mt. Gunung?

But why were we eating out on Sunday anyway? Because we have a live-in maid. It's the one day someone else isn't making dinner for us, or doing the dishes, or whatever. Now, only people who are insanely rich in America can employ people like this, while ordinary people can afford cars. In Narnia, someone with a median income could afford to hire a maid, but not own a car, since the certificate of entitlement to own a car often tops 70K (a certain number are released each year and then they are auctioned off), and the additional taxes plus actual car price mean your Honda Accord costs 120,000 Narnian dollars taken all together. At which point you might as well go for a BMW because it's only 30K more? Girl x and I were discussing the hats we had bought today that are made for Australian people at the beach, i.e. they are SPF 2 trillion. I have often told them that our cousin was so white when he was a blond, fat, pasty baby that when I took him to the stone beach at Martha's Vineyard I put him in the absolute shade, but also under a little covering thing, and I still turned back from my swimming constantly to look, for fear that his larval self would burn. And that I was 14 then, and had done a lot of babysitting. My daughters have never babysat anyone and will never babysit anyone because everyone has an auntie. In girl x's class, her new best friend, from Japan, does not have an auntie, something which her fellow classmates found actually shocking. She is alone among the 23 of them. Her mom makes insane perfect bento boxes with shapes cut out of seaweed with these paper-punch-type things you can get at Daiso (always $2!).

When I was a kid I had done a wide range of things rich people do (go stay at the Trippe's on Eleuthera, live in our beautiful house in Bluffton for free, stay at my grandparents' places) and things poor people do--namely, be broke. My mom knew right away she had made a mistake marrying my step-dad, but there was nothing for it. For a little while she worked at a factory on an assembly line in Georgetown, S.C., and we ate box macaroni and cheese three times a week. Later I realized she could have asked for help but was too ashamed. Asked her dad for money, I mean. Then she got a job that was a little bit better of a job, in an office, and stole food from the snack room. Lance Toast-Chees, still excellent. We had a convertible Camaro, a 68 I think, that was awesome. One time my step-dad let my brother put the gas in and he let it run to 10 more cents than they had and my step-dad was so angry. They found a dime in the back of the car, under the floor mats.

I really have no desire at all to be broke, and have actually dithered on this for fear of calling down the wrath of God, but my children life a really ridiculous life. I still help them comb their hair, and fucking cut up their food! Because their auntie does it, so if she's not there then...? When I was my daughter's age I could cook tons of things. Cutting up food, that's just silly. I do tell them they need to learn to do laundry and wash the dishes and stuff otherwise they're going to be confused assholes when they go to college. Girl y is better on this front, helping clean things.

How do they learn not to be assholes? Get lessons on treating people with respect; girl y's best friend used to order our maid around in a tiny imperious way, and I just stood around repeatedly and made her say please and thank you until I got some results. (But how did she act when I wasn't there?) Give things to charity, not just money but their own stuff when they outgrow it or feel like they have too much--they did feel that way. When we moved house we had to discard many of our belongings. We send our stuff to our maid's family and they decide who gets what (or she decides, depending.) I did have a giddy moment when I thought of the actual more than USD $1,000 worth of American Girl Doll materiel I was shipping out to a small barangay in Pangasinan. I LOLed. 10 girls got Emily from The Little Princess, basically.

Our maid's son suffered a terrible head injury falling from a tree that wasn't that high. Luckily she was home on vacation. They wouldn't let her son into the ICU unless someone promised to pay for the treatment. She called me, hysterical--but really, hysterical, I could barely understand her. I gave them my Visa card number and all that. I guess they have to have some policy. There was no MRI even there at the hospital in the regional capital--they had to send him to Manila in a medical van. They thought he might be seriously, permanently injured, and he was having seizures at first. My husband and I had a talk about it at the beginning and decided this was a good thing to spend money on, so we have been covering all his costs. He has made a really amazing recovery with therapy, and hasn't had a seizure in more than a year, and is back at grade level in reading, it's awesome.

So, sure, you can pay people good wages, and respect them, and you can give them excellent benefits, but you're still kind of stealing their motherhood for your own children. So much so that at the very start I didn't want to hire a mother to be our maid. But then I thought she, whoever she was, would be the best judge of what's right for her family? Lord Castock and I had an epic fight about this like 7 years ago, in which he thought the only mitigating factor is that I'm too ill to get out of bed much of the time and physically couldn't do all the stuff our maid does. derauqsd maintained that this sort of thing was fine, so long as one didn't pretend to be down with the gente.

But that's not even the point, my question is, given that things are so, is it possible for my kids to grow up fine and not be assholes? They're not now. They're lovely, really. But they're little empresses, still--just physically in the sense that they'd rather have help taking showers. Maybe all the other kids at Hogwart's will be equally spoiled so it won't matter? I'm equally alienated from everything that is normal American life so it's all square? There are confounding Third Country Kid factors? Sorry Al, you're already an asshole so them's the breaks? I realize one possible answer is, "it's too late; you've doomed your children to be assholes." You can say that. I won't have hurt feelings. Are your children incredibly spoiled vs. yourself at their age? I feel like toys are way cheaper and eating out in a restaurant are way cheaper and more common. There are toys in McDonald's Happy Meals I would have been excited to get as a legit toy when I was 6.


 

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Whatcha reading?

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.23.14

Currently I'm reading The Secret History by Donna Tartt, which is a super fun read so far. Y tu?


 

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