I suppose that (or more generally, the lack of emotional feedback whenever we write something atrocious) is why we so often feel licensed to write horrible things about others without concern for how it will make them feel.
Green’s article is a little bit vague on exactly what constitutes “a defeatist foreign policy tone” and what constitutes “a strong American leadership role.” Zach, could you fill in some of the details for me?
I tend to think that strong leadership requires both the vision to know where you’re going and the empathy to inspire others to follow you. To the extent that “strong leadership” is competent leadership, it means knowing when to step back and let others shine. But I suspect Green means something more bellicose.
Is “strong American leadership” something coherent—or is it just the same tired insinuation that Democrats are flopsy and weak?
Property Rights vs. The State vs. A Story I just Made Up
Whakahekeheke has written a thoughtful post and lengthy post about the centrality of property as a social institution through time. Like all grand arguments, it begins before written history and goes from there. I would like to discuss a trick he pulls at the beginning of his argument and encourage those of you who care about making vaguely sound arguments to never, ever make the same mistake. But first, let me tell a story about the divine right of kings.
Early humans were made up of small groups of hunter gatherers. As you might imagine, some hunters were stronger than others. Some were trickier than others. For a long time, the strong hunters would wear themselves out hunting and the tricky (and rested) hunters would attack them from behind and take their food. The strong hunters were exhausted from a day of hunting and gathering, so they would lose the fight. This was, of course, before the development of altruism.
Before too long, some of the smarter hunters realized that they could form a society to poach the kills of their neighbors. A strong leader arose—and all the hunter gatherers brought her what they had gathered—and she distributed it. This led to the strong hunters surviving longer and allowed the clever hunters to turn their talents toward other things—like inventing tools. Because the leader was able to distribute food according to need, waste to spoilage was reduced and the collective societies rapidly outcompeted the individualist societies. In order to make sure that the various hunter gatherers didn’t fight over the largess distributed by the leader, the hunter-gatherers invented the concept of property to describe the things the leader had granted individuals that other individuals could not take without risking societal wrath. Hence, the very concept of property is dependent on a strong central power distributing goods and services.
The only real problem with this account is that I just made it up. I invented a fantasy early society and used it back up statements about how the world should be now. Let’s turn to part of Whakahekheke’s post. Unlike mine, his story tells about how important private property was to early societies. He reaches very different conclusions based on a madeup story. If you this sort of story, you can also find made up stories written by Hobbes (who made up a very brutal story to justify the divine right of kings), Locke, Rousseau, and other great luminaries. They all told slightly different stories. They arrived at radically different results.
The whole point of prehistory is that it wasn’t written down. We can deduce a few things from archeological digs. Anthropologists can study other cultures to determine how many hours of hunting and gathering it takes to feed a person or whether there are any patterns we can generalize. But, for the most part, we’re on our own about the details. Whakahekeheke’s made up ancestors are remarkably libertarian. My made up ancestors were collective authoritarians.
If you want to commit a thought crime with your own origins myth, you can take two other pointers from Whakahekeheke to make it less obvious that you’re just creating fiction. First, add citations to academic sources that support various details of your story such as an article on tools available to hunter gatherers or an economic model exploring incentives in hypothetical primitive societies. Show that that you didn’t make up the dots—and maybe nobody will notice that you made up the connections—and that you base your conclusions on the connections you made up. Alternatively, you can just cite to a story somebody else made up as if their perceived authority makes it true. Second, illustrate your story. That kind of effort shows you care.
I’ll throw in another trick for extra credit. You don’t have to start with hunter gatherers. You can use the Bible or the Founding Fathers to make up an origins myth too. This one is a bit trickier because you can’t fabricate things wholesale—but you can probably take a few quotes by a few people who agree with and suggest that everybody agreed with them. After all, if somebody thought like you did two or three hundred years ago, you must be right.
Constructions of Race and the Other in Fantasy Worlds
Jessica and a number of others have started a very interesting discussion about constructed cultures in HBOs adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones.
The basic academic background, for anybody not familiar with it, involves the critique of our tendency to portray other cultures (or genders, etc.) not as they are but as we envision them to be.[^2] We write stories about others that amount to distorted images of our own flaws and desires. Then, when we actually meet other cultures, we expect them to conform to the fantasy we have created of them. We expect them to act like our reflection in a funhouse mirror rather than, say, people who are a lot like us except might do some things differently. Where we are rational, they are irrational. While we are people of science; they are ignorant. We like freedom; they are terrorists who hate freedom. We are made of flesh and blood; they are made of magic, anger, and cats. We are us; they are The Other. Even more concerningly, when we expect people to act in accordance with our myths about them, they sometimes conform to and internalize our expectations.
This critique could accurately be applied to a television show that portrays another culture as a Western fantasy rather than as it actually is. A movie where somebody goes to an unspecified Asian location full of ninjas, gongs, elephants, and math whizzes could be appropriately criticized even if these images weren’t the expressly negative caricatures in WWII propaganda. It portrays people as we might pretend they are rather than as they actually are.
Does this change when we move to a fantasy world? Martin’s Dothraki are fantasy Mongols. A sprinkling of historical fact about a culture is mixed with myth to create something that is both larger than life and less complex than life. The Dothraki are based more on our stories about the Mongols than on the historical reality of the Mongols. Is that a problem? The Dothraki are passion, pride, and honesty poured vaguely into the shape of the Mongol Empire. Does borrowing certain elements of an actual historical moment bring with it a duty to the culture those elements were borrowed from?
When considering this, we should also consider the spaces north of the Wall. The continent of Westeros is surrounded by threatening Others. The Dothraki are the Others across the ocean. Beyond the wall are the Others named The Others. We also eventually get some terrifying magics popping up in the South. None of these Others are as fully developed as Westeros because the story is primarily about Westeros. (That, in itself, isn’t a problem. The Godfather develops the Corleone family better than the other families—because it is their story. At some point, a story determines what it’s about and what it isn’t about and we’re all thankful that the authors (excluding Tolkien) don’t spend more words than necessary developing supporting characters.)
It’s impossible to separate our history from their history. We are television viewers on Earth, so we are bringing our history to the show — and so are the writers. The standard fantasy setting is firmly within medieval times, which is part of our history. To discount the effect of Martin’s experience and knowledge of history when writing the books/show is, in your words, silly. He knows exactly what a shining white maiden in charge of the only fully brown characters on the show connotes.
I don’t entirely agree. We can separate our history from the history in the show because their history is imagined and our history is not. Our history is made of actual people and events. Their history consists of nothing but images and connotations. Hopefully those images and connotations help us learn something useful about our own history. Or if they don’t, maybe they’ll at least entertain us. When Dany takes a (limited) leadership role among the Dothraki through the bloody surrender of the mantle of the shining white maiden woman (who was protected through abuse and abused through protection), Martin is working on our expectations. But to what end? If creating fantasy cultures (or fantasy creatures) from our myths about actual cultures is inherently problematic, the entire fantasy genre is intrinsically flawed. But if isn’t inherently wrong, any criticism must be more sophisticated than simply identifying potentially problematic images Martin has borrowed from.
Charli Carpenter raises an interesting point in her most recent LGM blog post, one that I brought up earlier today in a brief exchange with the Short Form Blog curators; she writes:
What I find fascinating about the international reaction to his arrest is the importance of this man being brought to trial. At no point I am aware of during his years of hiding was it argued that he should instead be taken out by a targeted killing – partly because it was recognized that justice for his victims required a trial. Recent empirical research demonstrates that these courts have not only been able to effectively carry out prosecutions, but have had a number of other important positive side-effects, with few of the negatives originally feared. I remain puzzled that the ad hoc tribunal model has not been seriously considered for KSM, OBL or other terrorist masterminds.
As I have argued — on this blog and in a couple of recent academic articles — people need to have an experience of justice, they need to see justice done, and this is why courts — whether ad hoc like the ICTY or permanent like the ICC — and even institutions that promote a different understanding of justice — like South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission or Rwanda’s gacaca process — have such an important role to play in transitional justice efforts.
While I don’t mind ad hoc tribunals when there is no alternative, I find the suggestion of such tribunals for U.S. use hugely problematic. We have a functional justice system that provides a meaningful trial for defendants. Our courts use established law and provide a wide array of protections to reduce the risk that unpopular defendants will be wrongfully convicted.1 We threw together some ad hoc tribunals with the military commissions act—which turned out to be a Constitutional disaster. (The military commissions are better now, primarily because they’ve mirrored protections in the civilian courts. But it’s not clear that they would offer any advantage over civilian courts except that they’re more palatable to the Republicans’ blood lust.)
If we can actually manage capture some of these guys alive, let’s give them a fair trial.
Yes, there are problems. Yes, we should try to fix them. No, there isn’t another court system in the world—established or invented—that I would trust to provide a better trial. ↩
Activism, the internet, and trying to be less useless
We bloggers have gotten awfully good at identifying problems. We’ve made a hobby of spotting the deficiencies in other people’s actions, words, and thoughts. We’re less good at solving those problems. This sometimes makes the internet an unpleasant place. (I’m certainly guilty of this unpleasantness at times.)
To some extent, we’re limited by the medium. You can write things on the internet, but direct action is impossible. In light of this limitation, I would offer two things we all (myself included) could attempt to do to make the intenet is a more useful thing. First, we can couple criticism and problem identification with tangible actions that might be taken to constructively address a problem. Second, we ought to live out our own suggestions.
I sometimes feel that the internet is a perpetually boiling tea kettle. Perhaps all that energy could be harnessed to do something powerful.
I simply don’t know enough about the Phillippine’s Reproductive Health Bill to be able to offer any informed comment on it. On occasion, I’ll be confident enough in my position and my understanding of a conflict to take a stand on what I think another country should do. This is not one of those cases.
Capitalism does not work unless there are losers in addition to winners. Using taxpayer money to bail out a company that can’t get it’s finances in order is a recipe for disaster: it’s like if one of your loved ones is a herion [sic] addict and you keep feeding their heroin addiction becuase you don’t want them to go bankrupt. Eventually you, yourself, will go bankrupt.
He’s right on the first part. (The metaphor about bankruptcy and heroin addiction doesn’t really make any sense. Both GM and Chrysler went through bank and returned to profitability and the bailout didn’t actually hurt the U.S. balance sheet. So it’s more like if you have a loved one who made some terrible, heroin-related decisions, asked for money to pay for rehab, successfully recovered, then got a job and paid back all the money you loaned him, with interest.)
But Mr. Positive is right that GM and Chrysler’s need for a bailout should have consequences. However, those consequences must be rationally related to the decisions that led to the problems. Symbolically beating autoworkers isn’t going to fix capitalisms. Capitalism doesn’t work unless the losers are the people who deserve to lose. If you can shift your losses onto somebody else, you’ve broken the market.
Your point is good, but your examples stink of hope. It has taken me some time, but I finally totally reject the Hegelian model of history- or that we would be capable or recognizing the direction of our historical path regardless and not simply look back and state, “see just as we said it would- happy everyone came around.” We are all political pundits….
The notion of a “wrong side of history” is capable only with hindsight and is totally worthless.
Jasen has correctly determined that today (like most days) I’ve drenched myself in hope-scented cologne. In all seriousness, he also has a good point. Many efforts to chart trends and predict the future are wrong. That said, it does not follow that our efforts to chart trends and predict where things are going are inherently futile. There is always a (significant) possibility that any statement about the future is wrong. But the probability of error does not mean any prognostication efforts are futile.
COuld support for marriage equality reverse? It could. But it would require some huge influx of unforseen fresh support on the anti-equality side. Could the United States determine that equality before the law is no longer something it values? Maybe. Nothing is certain. But some bets are better than others.
We can put this sort of thing to the test. Recent polls show support for same-sex marriage at just about 50%. I believe that two years from now national support will be higher than it is now. Would anybody care to take the opposite side of that bet?1 (The stakes are internet glory or eternal shame.) While Jasen is right that the future is uncertain, I think he’s overly pessimistic about the probability that we can successfully predict where things are going.
I don’t think I’ll find any takers on this one, because I’m pretty sure we all know where this issue is headed. That includes the people who don’t like where it’s going. ↩
We are in a period of political oscillation, not party dominance. In 2002, Republicans imagined riding the post-9/11 wave to the “permanent Republican majority.” By 2004 Bush was reelected by the lowest margin of any president ever reelected; the Republicans lost the Congress in 2006. Democrats saw their 2006-08 surge melt away in the midterms of 2010—especially at the state level, where Republicans now control much of the post-census redistricting.
We live in a divided nation where there is little consensus on what the nature of our problems are (too much spending? too low taxes?), or about what to do about them (cut spending? Increase taxes?). In these circumstances, winning elections is not the result of national mandates backed by broad public consensus. It’s about turnout and idiosyncrasies. In 2012, the odds favor the Democrats, at least at the presidential level. But these can change if the economy collapses, and in any cases presidential success does not necessarily translate into broad public consensus.
So a Democratic surge? Sure. For now. But a year is a long time in politics. Three years (til the next midterm) is an eternity.
My parents-in-law have a high-strung corgi named Gibson. When Gibson took a trip to the beach, he wasn’t sure about the surging waves. He’d run in terror as they crashed toward him. Then, as they receded, he chased the vanquished enemy away. Triumph! Except … what’s that? Another wave! Oh no! Run! Who could have predicted a reversal like that?
Political pundits are a lot like Gibson the Corgi chasing waves. Waves happen. Chasing them back and forth is fun and pointless. But some types of political movement surges are more than waves lapping in and out. The tides shift. Demographics change. People’s understanding of how to treat eachother justly shifts. Political parties shift their position to take this into account. The Republicans are realizing, for example, that fighting marriage equality is a loser’s game. The Democrats have realized that a credible plan to address the deficit is necessary. Republicans will soon realize that eviscerating Medicare is not an acceptable way to address the deficit.
The democrats may be riding a wave that will shortly crest and eventually withdraw. But the Republicans will need to advance with the tide if they don’t want to drown.
“And for the first time since November, the idea that Democrats might have a shot at winning back the House is no longer a laughing matter.”—
Politico, reacting to the Democrats special election victory in a traditionally conservative New York district.
Apparently I didn’t get the memo on the Democrats previously bad chances of winning back the house. I was pretty sure they already had a better-than-even chance of winning back the house in 2012. Although, the results in this particular election are a bit surprising. The Democrat handily beat the Republican—though there was a third party conservative drawing away 9% of the vote. However, if the Republican had gotten all of that candidates votes, her margin of victory would have been less than McCain’s margin of victory in that district in 2008.
So … you can’t actually predict the future by reading tea leaves. It doesn’t work. It’s a made up thing. So is any claim that we can predict the political future by the outcome of the NY-26 election.
Here’s what happened. NY-26 is one of those ultra conservative districts. The guy currently holding the seat resigned in beefy-picture related shame. Republican Jane Corwin was going to win. Then a Democrat turned into a Tea Partier and spent $3 million of his own money to fight outsourcing to China.1 He’s going to lose. But he may take a good 10% or more of the vote from the Republican. On his path to 10% he got in a huge kerfluffle with Corwin’s campaign manager/sneeky camera attack guy. Now the Democrat looks like the person in the race who isn’t a clown.
Then came the Ryan plan that would, effectively, end Medicare as we know it. As it turns out, that concerned a lot of the older, more reliably Republican demographic. Now, the combination of anxiety from older Republicans and the incompetence from the conservative candidates might toss this election to the Democrats. The ultimate result of the election really won’t have a broader meaning. We won’t get much useful insight into the 2012 election (unless exit polls reveal that anxiety over Medicare swung an unexpectedly huge number of conservatives over the age of 55 to vote for a Democrat).
I’m reading case law on intentional infliction of emotional distress. Generally, you can’t be sued for hurting somebody’s feelings, unless your “conduct was outrageous and extreme beyond all possible bounds of decency and was such that it can be considered as utterly intolerable in a civilized community” and the “emotional distress was serious and of such a nature that no reasonable person could be expected to endure it.” As you might imagine, this standard is not met very often. When it is met, it usually involves the sort of egregiously dickish statements usually reserved for YouTube comments.
While this sort of behavior is a pestilence on society, a greater violence is done by wilfully trampling basic human concerns to maximize profits. Decisions callously made in boardrooms cost people their careers, their homes, their health, and sometimes even their lives. If the only goal is profit, is it too impersonal to be malice? Is the “I don’t care enough about you to be malicious” defense viable? Can the single-minded pursuit of profit ever be malicious?1
This is a serious question for the lawyers, law students, and people who for some unknown reason are thinking of becoming one or the other. If the mugger were to claim “hey, I was just trying to maximize my profits, it wasn’t anything personal,” we wouldn’t claim he lacked malice. Does the same ever apply to white collar crimes? What about non-criminal torts? ↩
Did you ever find any good conservative political writers on Tumblr?
I haven’t found as many as I would like. There are, of course, a lot of libertarians—but that’s a bit different than being conservative. I can find any number of good political writers, good conservative writers, conservative political writers, and good conservative political bloggers who largely aggregate other people’s content. But finding all four in the same blog is extremely difficult. Here’s what I’ve got:
Zach Vaughn is a good political writer—though he hasn’t flashed his conservative credentials too much lately.
What do you think about ROTC? Ideologically as a government program, and from a pragmatic "person who went through college and probably had to think about it at some point" perspective.
The existence of ROTC means a military with educated leadership and a lot of people who get a chance at college who otherwise wouldn’t have had it. Perhaps even more importantly, it means that military leaders are educated in non-military schools. I don’t see a lot to dislike about it.
(And, while I have no objections to criticism of the military or militarism, providing an education for soldiers and former soldiers is one of the more admirable things our military does.)
If you have a fire in your belly that is kind of a problem, you’re either mulling a Presidential run or stricken with a nasty stomach flu. If Palin is now in the race, things will get awfully interesting.
My plans for today involved a lot of rapture jokes. Barthel is making that awfully difficult. He writes:
And so we joke about the rapture not because belief itself is ridiculous but because such certainty within faith is unfounded. The idea of a rapture you can put on your day-planner is a depressingly simplistic way to view both the world and the divine. God works in mysterious ways; God does not send you an Evite. We hope always for change to come suddenly, drastically, and without our involvement, because why not? But that easy wish for sanctity, for being elevated to the elect not because of what we’ve done but merely who we are, is one that permeates our culture.
I want to offer a counterpoint in defense of easy salvation. (Then I’m going to try to go back to writing rapture jokes.) While practically nobody actually believes the Rapture will happen at 6:00 tomorrow, the belief in some sort of relatively easy salvation is fairly central to the claim of Christianity. However narrowly or broadly we define “the elect,” Christians tend to agree that it includes a lot of people who (how should I put this?) might not have scored as high on the SAT as we did. This is appropriate for a religion that lists humility as a virtue.
Many of us have a self-image wrapped up in how accomplished and successful we are. If those who (in our conventional view) are neither accomlished nor successful are elect, we either want nothing to do with it or we want some way in which we can be a bit extra elect. Afterall, what good is election if we didn’t have to suffer for it? Yes, we’re committed to egalitarianism and equality—but we also want to be recognized for our exceptional level of commitment. The idea that our accomplishments may not actually set us apart and above in any way that is ultimately meaningful is at odds with our notion of value.
In that sense, the Evite Elect may understand something about value that we do not.
So…I’m not really sure how we know the day and the hour.
I think using a word like “know” is epistemologically problematic and problematically judgmental. Are you certain? Can you be certain? Does knowledge (gnosis) suggest an artificial barrier between those who have eaten of the fruit and those who have not eaten of the fruit?
Regarding the rapture, I feel it is better to focus on expected outcomes. If we don’t believe the rapture is tomorrow, we live the best and fullest life we can, knowing our time is limited and we could go at any moment. If we do believe the rapture is tomorrow, we live the best and fullest life we can, knowing our time is limited and we could go at any moment, and make rapture jokes.
When I got the memo, I assumed the May 21, 2011 6:00 p.m. date was Eastern Standard Time. It turns out it’s 6 p.m. at the International Dateline, which is going to conflict with some standing Friday night commitments.
I sent God a prayer asking him to reschedule for maybe some time in August. He’s usually pretty cool about that sort of thing. I think we’re a go for August now, assuming that works for everybody participating. I know this rapture thing has been rescheduled a few times before, so let’s all try as hard as we can to clear our calendars on the August 15, 2011. Let’s do 6:00 p.m. EST this time.
Your suit looks great—but when you’re raptured out of it, there won’t be anything to hide the a bit of paunch. It’s time to hit the gym. And, since you’ll be showing up naked in front of all the saints and angels, you should do something about that back hair situation.
It’s not to early to warm up your post-rapture game.
“After years of war in Iraq, we’ve removed 100,000 American troops and ended our combat mission there. In Afghanistan, we’ve broken the Taliban’s momentum, and this July we will begin to bring our troops home and continue a transition to Afghan lead.”—
The literati sent out their minions to do their bidding. Washington cannot tolerate threats from outsiders who might disrupt their comfortable world. The firefight started when the cowardly sensed weakness. They fired timidly at first, then the sheep not wanting to be dropped from the establishment’s cocktail party invite list unloaded their entire clip, firing without taking aim their distortions and falsehoods. Now they are left exposed by their bylines and handles. But surely they had killed him off. This is the way it always worked. A lesser person could not have survived the first few minutes of the onslaught. But out of the billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia emerged Gingrich, once again ready to lead those who won’t be intimated by the political elite and are ready to take on the challenges America faces.
The literati minions had overloaded their servers. The sheep stood sheepishly in a line like lambs awaiting slaughter. Newt was happy to oblige. The literati would not sow communism and literacy across America on his watch.
Gingrich peeled a stray tweet off his pinstripes, cracked his sizeable neck. He curled his right hand into a fist—then curled his other right hand into a fist. Newt only uses righteous right hands. Perhaps once he had been a weak and equivocating centrist, but he’d met a lady named Liberty—and she’d turned him into a Newt.
When we need to raise money through taxes, let’s just swallow the bitter pill and do it openly and honestly. The idea that we can finance government operations primarily by increasing taxes on bad things seems a little short-sighted.
I’m not opposed to sin taxes—particularly when they have positive social benefits. But I worry they lead to perverse incentives. When a legislature is focused on raising money rather than eliminating problematic behavior, it’s likely to lead to less elegantly crafted policy and perverse incentives.
Many states spend a lot of money advertising the lottery. It brings in money for schools—mostly from people who need the money. Sin taxes tend to be similarly regressive. They disproportionately effect those who aren’t sufficiently enfranchised to get the tax on something they like voted down.
Generally speaking, I don’t like recess appointments. The Senate should have a chance to confirm Presidential nominees—and if the Senate has issues with a particular nominee, they should be able to conduct whatever investigation is reasonably necessary.
But at some point, recess appointments are necessary. If the Senate abdicates its authority, there is nothing wrong with a recess appointment. Fourty-four U.S. Senators have said that they will not confirm anybody as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unless they get to make some changes to the law. It’s time for a recess appointment.
Filibustering a particular, controversial candidate is, in itself, problematic. Categoring filibustering every potential nominee until you get your way is a dereliction of Constitutional duty. There’s nothing wrong with a recess appointee.
I believe I literally threw John Eldridge’s Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul across the room. Before that, I know I threw An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Mood and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison at some point in college. I don’t know if Jamison’s perceived offenses would upsed me as much today—but I’ll stand by my throwing of Eldridge.
While I am not a habitual underliner, there is quite a bit of underlining in my copy of Stoppard’s Travesties. There’s also a lot underlined in Sartre’s Existentialism and Human Emotions.
The Sotweed Factor by John Barth
George R. R. Martin’s Dance with Dragons. Yes, there’s a lot of more literary things I’ll read eventually…but they don’t pull me with the same force.
Really glad to have a strong tea-party blog on my dashboard. There really aren't nearly enough extreme libertarian views expressed on Tumblr (OR THE INTERNET FOR THAT MATTER!!) so it's really brave what you do. Keep fighting the good fight. Ron Paul '12.
This is a fake message. If it were from a real believer, he would have written it the right way: Ron Paul ‘12/’16.
Do you know of any religion/theology blogs on tumblr worth following?
I don’t. I’m a lot more closely tied into the political blogs than I am to the theology blogs. AZSpot occasionally touches on some issues. SDS has, in the past, written on religion, though he’s been a bit quiet lately. Liberal Christian might work too.
I can, of course, connect you with quite a few atheists. Daniel Holter and I have had a number of good conversations on the topic. Also, Mills. (Edit: Daniel Holter mentions that he is not comfortable with the atheist label. He also would not consider himself a theology blog. I’ll just characterize him as a guy who occasionally writes intelligently and with an open mind on religion. Mills should be characterized the same way. He might prefer the philosophy tag.)
But I don’t think any of these would be properly characterized as theology blogs.
This is a shift from or previous realpolitik approach to the Middle East. We’re still interested in stability—but our understanding of our “national interests” have been expanded to include promoting things we value as well as preventing things that might harm us.
I realize it isn't your job to locate missing persons, but I think I've seen you dialog with correlationstonone, and I was wondering: where the hell did that guy wander off to?
His blog implodes once in a while. I take it personally every time. The last time he went off, he reappeared pretty quickly. This time, he thinks he may be done for good. Apparently having children helps people prioritize things.
Finally! A conservative blog. I was getting tired of being flooded with liberal garbage all over my dash. It seems like all there is on tumblr, maybe even the internet nowadays, are damn liberals. I'm glad to find a conservative blog though
Either I’m being mocked or somebody is about to be really, really disappointed. While I suspect it’s the first one, I hope it’s the second.
Squashed, I don't know if this question is relevant to your blog, but if it is, where do you think sexism originated?
I have no idea. It’s an interesting question. If I had the answer, it would certainly be relevant to my blog.
I don’t think we have records of a time before sexism—so any hypothesis we might offer would really just be a guess. We could speculate about gender interactions in early human societies—but we’d really just be telling ourselves stories.
If anybody has a better answer than that, I would certainly welcome it. (And by “better answer,” I mean any answer at all.)
Hi Squashed! Would you mind telling us which blogs you follow? Seems like an interesting list out there!
Right now, I’m following 103 blogs, about half of which are defunct. I’ll limit it to five recommendations for now. Because I try to get a diverse set of viewpoints, I generally follow people who disagree with me in an interesting way.
Zach Vaughn has had some very good analysis of the Republican primaries. Supposedly he’s a conservative or something, but he’s okay.
AZ Spot has posted a lot of thought-provoking links, but I think both I and he would caution you to keep some of them at a critical distance. In other words, just because he posts something doesn’t mean he endorses it.
Saving Paper is a truly fantastic blogger who … wait? Is he not here anymore because he had a kid and quit the internet? It took me an extremely long time to get my dashboard in place and I’m still bitter about this one.
Ari Kohen has some very good thoughts on international relations and human rights.
Mother Jones is a bit old media—but has really had some fascinating stuff lately.
Edit: Uh-oh. I can’t count to five. I’m using a numbered list next time. (Also, I left off a few people I regularly interract with who have in one way or another asked not to be recommended because they can’t handle the pressure of internet fame.)
Apparently I angered a few people (“everyone”) with my post arguing that processed food was not actually cheaper than unprocessed foods. It appears that this makes me an “elitist.”1 Or it least it means I’m a serious let down to that portion of the blogosphere tasked with ensuring purity of language. While I’d generally try not to get involved in other people’s recreational outrage, this one is a bit more personal. Establishing an intelligent approach toward confronting and eradicating poverty is one of a handful of issues I’m truely passionate on. I’m not going to resign myself to being an out-of-touch elitist on that unless I’m sure there’s a good reason.
The original issue was whether it is possible to eat a healthful meal for 88¢ or less, provided you have access to a supermarket. It is. There are some side issues regarding whether this requires access to cooking elements or access to a farmer’s market or specialty store. It does not.2 There is also the outstanding issue that everybody has a unique situation and a unique set of priorities. While I wish I could write something that would be helpful for everybody, I can’t do it. Finally, there are concerns that discussions of health and diet can be exceptionally personal and exceptionally sensitive. Since frequently overlaps with our disaster of a national dialog on fitness and body image, it’s easy for people to infer a level of condecension that really isn’t there.3
In light of that, I want to isolate a few facts, and you can tell me which of the things I believe is wrong:
A perceived budget crisis is causing certain politicians to strip away programs that protect the most vulnerable.
That budget crisis is caused, in substantial part, due to expanding healthcare costs.
Health is intimately and inextricably connected with diet.4
Our national food policy plays a substantial role in our national diet.
For better or worse, dietary patterns formed early in life have a significant effect on quality of life later on.
Certain patterns of food growth consumption connected with food have substantial and detrimental effects on the environment. These patterns can change and have changed.
As food makes up roughly 20% of the budget of those at or near the poverty line, the ability to control the cost of food can have a significant impact on a family’s ability to pay other bills.
Foodies can be obnoxious.
Despite #8, if we treat any discussion of food and diet, whether on a practical level or on a policy level, as off-limits or inherently elitist, we’re not helping anybody, least of all ourselves.
Addressing areas where people lack meaningful choices does not require taking away choices from those who have the luxury of making them.
A lack of knowledge is a lack of empowerment.
The suggestion that any discussion of poverty and surrounding problems must be limited to hushed voices and the identification of injustices perpetrated upon low-income communities, implicitly denies the volition and voice of those communities.
The claim that eating prepared (and frequently highly-processed) foods with dubious nutritional value is necessary for the low-income community because they are less expensive than less processed foods is verifiably false.
There are enough real problems surrounding production, processing, and distribution without inventing problems that aren’t actually real.
In light of this, I’m unclear what it was that made my thoughts on food elitist. Was it a tone thing? Are the foods I eat elitist, un-American foods like quinoa? What’s the real issue here? Did I cross the wrong person in an unfamiliar part of the Internet? Would it have
Upon reflection, I think I’m an “elitist” because I used terms like “quinoa” and “farmer’s market.” Guys, these are real things. They’re not plots by wealthy leftists to make your food taste bland. Quinoa is one of those super grains that other countries treat as a staple and we tend to ignore. Farmer’s markets, in addition to the economic benefits to farmers, are a very good way for many people to get high-quality yet very affordable produce, provided people live close enough to the market. Fortunately, they’re frequently available in places where regular supermarkets are not. Due to problems like food desertification (which is also one of those elitist terms for a real thing), this is a very good thing for a few million people. ↩
Since the cap was set at 88¢ per person per meal, I encouraged the person posing the challenge to be aware of alternative food vendors such as farmers markets or specialty stores. Grocery store prices are often higher on less commonly purchased items. Similarly, for reasons doubtlessly having to do with supply chains, they do not vary as much seasonably. There are some dishes you can’t cook for 88¢ during the winter that you can cook for 88¢ in the summer. ↩
Lest anybody worry that I am personally judging their eating habits, let me be blunt. I occasionally eat vegetarian corn dogs. If I’m alone for dinner, I might eat an entire box of them. With the health benefits of a deep-fried fair food and the taste of a soy product, there may be no greater food-related shame. ↩
Lest I cause further misunderstanding, I am generally uninterested in berating anybody’s food or health related choices. My concern is when we mistake something necessary for something optional either by accusing those who don’t have choices of making bad choices or by advocating coercive policies on the false claim that people do something because they have to rather than because they choose to. ↩
In fact, Joe’s real name was Samuel Wurzelbacher, and he was not a licensed plumber. He had no plumbing business, and was in no financial position to buy one. Aspirations aside, he was in debt and owed the state substantial back taxes.
In other words, the real Samuel Wurzelbacher was precisely the sort of citizen who would have benefited most from Obama’s proposed policies. Yet the distance between what “Joe” imagined his status to be and its reality says a great deal both about the inflated condition of the American dream, and the deflated reality of the American worker. Joe the Plumber, in other words, was a perfect cipher for the complications of class anxiety afflicting many Americans.
I try to avoid the “Christians are hateful, ignorant bigots who are a danger to humanity” rhetoric. Sometimes I slip up. Because of people like Fred Thompson here, who is, in fact, comically hypocritical.
Also, because every single day I read about things like the religious right’s war on women, poor people, queer people, and people of color where religious people in the US cloak their hate in quotes from Scripture. Every single day I see the terms “atheist,” “feminist,” “liberal,” “socialist,” and “progressive” used as slurs. Every single day I read someone, somewhere saying that “atheists are smug assholes.”
False, my friend. I may be a smug asshole sometimes, and you are welcome to think that I am, or even say it to my face (on the internet, of course). But my being a smug asshole (if, indeed, I am) occasionally doesn’t necessitate that you extrapolate that out to be a description of all atheists.
I would feel a lot more sorry if your criticism didn’t come in the form of an attack on atheists in general, but you’re right. I was wrong to say what I said. It was unkind of me, and I apologize.
The original criticism of Christians was a criticism of hypocrisy. This puts me in an extremely awkward awkward spot. I read Ms. Lapsed post the moment that “dizziness” side effect of a medication kicked in and my off-the-cuff response wasn’t particularly … balanced. And, since her response was so reasonable, it’s going to look awfully bad when I go after her for an error I just committed. But I’m going to do it anyway. We could all do better on this one. (But first, Ms. Lapsed, is right. I should have made my attack more personal.)2
Ms. Lapsed reads, about every day, about people doing very bad things in the name of Christianity. She occasionally generalizes and makes unkind statements about all Christians. Every day, I see atheists saying unkind statements about all Christians … and (today at least) I implied that religious intolerance was a symptom of all atheists.
Since we’re dealing in stereotypes already, I frequently hear accounts of people in poverty spending all their money on drugs and alcohol. But drawing irresponsible generalizations from those statements is pretty horrific. I guess we should all try to avoid it.
In a desire to pretend like we all have actual names, I’m going to go with Ms. Lapsed for a while. ↩
Recently, I have seen seen quite a few people claim that eating a healthful, balanced diet is only possible for the economically privileged. If this is true, the proponents of this claim suggest, perhaps discussion of nutrition and health is an inherently classist discussion.
The claim isn’t true. A balanced and healthful diet is eminently achievable on a limited budget. As with challenge you’ll face with a tight budget, it requires a bit of initiative, a bit of knowledge, and a bit of effort. But it’s possible.
Edit: My original post was remiss in not emphasizing that everybody’s situation is different. I have offered some suggestions that I believe will work for most people in most circumstances. There are always exceptions—particularly for those in food deserts or those in the shadows of domestic violence. There are also frequently other options available such as food banks for food assistance that I have also omitted.
For less than 88 cents per serving, provide me a meal that is healthy AND gives me as much energy and protein as the Banquet meal [below]. It needs to be able to be prepared in a microwave or requires no heating (I only have a microwave and a fridge/freezer in my room). It also can’t require going to any specialty stores, as I don’t have the gas $ to drive anywhere further than my local Kroger or 99 Cents Only stores.
The specs on the Banquet meal are:
Total fat: 21g
Total carbs: 56g
I’m going to tweak the requirements a slightly higher commitment to eating well. The claim “not motivated to eat well” is a different problem than “too poor to eat well.” So we’re going to modify the “No specialty stores” requirement. Frequently, your least expensive food is going to be at a farmers market. Or perhaps an Asian grocery store. There’s an awfully good chance that one or the other of these will be closer than your Kroger or dollar store. I won’t ask for any massive sacrifices. A Google search should do.
I’m also going to scrap the microwave only requirement. I’m sympathetic to the limitations of transitional housing. Unfortunately, limiting food to microwave-only food functionally rules out anything that requires actual cooking. Practically speaking, this limits us to fresh food, frozen food, canned food, and food with a lot of preservatives. Due to costs of shipping and storing frozen foods, the cost of cans for canned foods, and spoilage in fresh foods, your least expensive foods are likely to be dried foods—which generally require cooking. I won’t expect you to have a full stove/oven combination. You can get a used hot pad, electic frying pan, slow cooker, or a rice cooker (which is much more versatile than people imagine) for about three bucks at a thrift store.
Without further delay, here are a few dishes that should be able to accomplish everything you need for less than 88¢ per serving. In all cases, I’m going to try to save an extra 8¢ per meal so you can buy some sort of spice or seasoning once a week.
Is he staking out the middle? He’s criticizing Ryan’s Medicare plan—which is going to distinguish him from the serious deficit hawks. Perhaps he wants to be the old school Republican in the race?
It may also calm the nerves of a lot of worried old people.
Maybe Newt is just playing to his demographic.
Gingrich is like a pair of foxes with their tails tied together, setting fire to everything we cherish. There’s craftiness, panic, and a lot of random and destructive motion. It’s hard to tell whether his criticism of Ryan’s plan was clumsiness or a deliberate attempt to stake out a political position.
But speaking of Newt’s game, did you hear he owed half a million dollars to Tiffany’s? I’m guessing he ran that tab up buying expensive gifts for Mrs. Gingriches three through seven.
it’s easy to forget that one of the most important things a President does is appoint competent regulators and set the regulatory tones. The Bush Administration took the stance that government regulation is inherently incompetent and thus regulators should stay out of the way as much as possible. Not surprisingly, this led to a lot of incompetent regulation.
The Obama administration has asked regulators to do their job. It appears they are now doing their job. For each of our frustrations with the Obama administration over a lack of progres or an ill-conceived compromise, there are dozens smaller bits of progress like this.
The Obama administration is sort of like a restaraunt where some of the entrees are luke-warm. But the appetizers and side dishes are brilliant, the atmosphere is great (excluding the obnoxious guy at the next table), and the drinks list is out of this world. (And maybe dessert will be comprehensive immigration reform.)