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Archive for July, 2009

Now This One I Get

[ 0 ] July 31, 2009 |

Washburn to Detroit, LHPs French, Robles to Seattle.

Unlike my snap assessment of the last major trade made by the Mariners (which Scott and I initially disagreed on) this one makes perfect sense for a selling club.  While the two pitchers coming Seattle’s way are probably not as “stellar” as the NYT blog suggests, it is an excellent return according to Dave Cameron over at USS Mariner.
What the NYT did get right was that Washburn was traded at perhaps the peak of his value, which is excellent GM-ing in anybody’s book.

Such A Dick

[ 0 ] July 31, 2009 |

Until reading this, I had assumed that “Mouthpiece Theater” was a horrible one-shot. (A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards…) But, no, apparently Milbank and Clizza are bringing the painfully unfunny as part of an ongoing series.

LG&M has been unable to confirm rumors that it was rejected by Pajamas Media for failing to meet their rigorous standards.

see also. Indeed, “[o]ne wonders how much of the Post staff’s time and resources were devoted to researching, writing, staging, shooting, and editing such an extraordinarily value-free contribution to the annals of political commentary.”

Fat Rights/Gay Rights

[ 0 ] July 31, 2009 |

Reading through the comments here and here and here I’m reminded of the many suggestive parallels between arguments about body diversity and those regarding sexual orientation.

To simplify a great deal, I’d say fat rights are where gay rights were at 30 or 40 years ago. Elaborating:

(1) Pathological disease/syndrome versus natural non-pathological (“healthy”) variation. As most people know, a generation ago same-sex sexual orientation was treated by much of mainstream psychology and psychiatry as a mental disorder, and was formally defined as such. Similarly, at present any variation outside a narrow range of body mass is formally defined as pathological.

The claim that a normal body mass is between 18.5 and 24.9 (this is the official position of the public health establishment) could be analogized to the claim that normal sexual relations consist of heterosexual vaginal intercourse, and that variations from this norm are pathological perversions/diseases of increasing severity. A loose analogy: you can imagine spectrum in which non-vaginal heterosexual sex = “overweight” (BMI 25-29.9), while drag queens = “morbid obesity” (BMI 40+). In this schema, a closeted GOP senator is mildly obese (In other words Larry Craig has a sexual orientation BMI of 32).

The fat rights movement wants people to recognize that body diversity is every bit as natural, inevitable, and desirable as diversity in sexual desire/orientation. From this perspective, the labeling of a narrow range of body mass as normal and the pathologizing of everyone outside of it as involuntarily sick or voluntarily deviant is completely arbitrary and unscientific, and does a great deal of unnecessary damage.

(2) Temporary state versus fundamental identity. In the traditional model, and still today for most cultural conservatives, many or most gay people choose to be gay, and therefore could choose not to be. The analogy with fat prejudice is obvious: the present climate of fat hatred depends in good part on the assumption, often rising to the level of an evidence-proof axiomatic act of faith, that fat people choose to be fat. The arguments in this area almost couldn’t be more parallel. “Everyone knows” how to stop being gay: Stop having gay sex. Everyone also knows how to stop being fat: restrict caloric intake and increase activity levels, forever. In both cases, you see, it’s a simple matter of a “lifestyle change.” And of course both arguments are correct: It’s perfectly possible, in theory, for people who strongly prefer to have sex with other people of the same gender to stop doing so, and become “normal.” It’s perfectly possible, in theory, for fat people to eat less, increase activity levels, become thin, and stay that way (become “normal,” i.e., thin). It’s perfectly possible in theory, but in practice almost no one in either category stays straight or thin, because it’s extremely difficult for gay people to limit themselves to either straight sex or abstinence, and it’s extremely difficult for fat people to transform their bodies into thin bodies and keep them that way.

Here is where the distinction between a temporary state and a fundamental identity is crucial. In a deeply homophobic society, you’ll have a certain number of gay people who, usually temporarily, but sometimes for long stretches and even for entire lifetimes, limit themselves to straight sex. In a deeply fat-hating society, you’ll have a certain number of fat people who, usually temporarily but sometimes for long stretches or even entire lifetimes, inhabit thin bodies. Are such people not “really” gay or fat?

(3) The possibility of transformation varies greatly among individuals. The extent to which sexual behavior and even sexual desire can be transformed falls along a wide spectrum, as does the the extent to which body mass can be transformed. It’s safe to say there’s a vastly higher amount of same-sex behavior in an all-male American prison than there is in an Afghani village controlled by the Taliban. There are per capita, vastly more upper class fat women in west Africa, where fatness is prized as a sign of social status, than in the USA, where it’s despised as a sign of poverty (the reverse is equally true — there are far more poor fat people in America than in west Africa. As several commentators have pointed out, famines are an effective cure for “obesity.”). The protests of many a liberal regarding how fat people can be cured of fatness with the right combination of willpower and sensitive interventions sound quite similar to the protests of many a cultural conservative that gay people can be cured of gayness with the right combination of willpower and sensitive interventions.

(4) People living in the fat closet tend to react very strongly when anyone tries to open the door. How many upper-middle class and upper class American women maintain a size 4 or 6 when, in a less fat-phobic society, they would be a size 10 or 12? For such people, the idea that the fantastic amounts of time, money, and most of all mental and emotional energy they’ve devoted to conforming to an arbitrary cultural norm must be justified by a socially respectable reason. In this case, the secular god of “a healthy lifestyle” does the work performed by the Book of Leviticus for the closeted gay cultural conservative.

It’s my belief that, in another generation or two or three, the casual fat hatred now flaunted by many an otherwise doubleplusgood-thinking liberal will look as shameful as the casual fag-bashing engaged in by his predecessors a generation ago.

Update: As several commentators note, many of the responses illustrate the thesis of the post well. Such responses evince levels of fear, hatred, wilful misreading, and sheer incomprehension which are characteristic of these types of social prejudices.

I’ve never denied the existence of a relationship between weight and health. This absurd strawman is thrown up by people who don’t want to engage with the claim that the extent to which higher than average weight has been shown to be an independent health risk has been grossly exaggerated. Indeed, given the level of fat hatred in our society at present, it would be remarkable if such exaggerations weren’t commonplace.

Nor have I ever said anything but good things about physical activity and healthy eating habits. I’m all for encouraging both of these, but it’s also remarkable the extent to which people believe that encouraging weight loss and encouraging healthy habits are actually identical activities, when in many ways these two things are often in pragmatic tension (many people improve their health habits and lose little or no weight, while many people have, as one commentator notes about himself, terrible health habits while remaining “ideally” thin. And many people pursue weight loss by very unhealthy means). The benefits of good lifestyle habits seem to be almost completely independent of whether these habits produce weight loss. Meanwhile, the bad effects of focusing on the supposed desirability of thinness are acknowledged by all but the most hopeless fatphobes.

In short, in an ideal world we would pursue public health initiatives to improve lifestyle without any reference to weight or weight loss. Yet given a choice between public health programs that demonize fatness as a strategy for improving nutrition and physical activity, and doing nothing, I believe the latter is preferable.

One basis of this post’s original analogy is my belief — and it’s shared by a growing number of academics and other critics — that supposed concerns about the health risks of higher than average weight are often proxies for aesthetic digust, moral disapproval, and class anxiety. (Not to mention the financial interests of the nation’s $50 billion a year weight loss industry). In other words, we’ve seen this moral panic movie before, with an ever-changing cast of characters playing the role of the folk devils of the moment.

Open Ashes Post

[ 0 ] July 31, 2009 |
Australia 263 all out.  England 116-2, bad light stops play.

Day 2 of the third test sees England with a slight advantage, which could have been a strong advantage following the Australia collapse had they themselves not lost two quick wickets.  

The Bell standing in for Pieterson project begins here, and over at the Ashes Blog they compare the two, not favorably for Bell.  Strauss is looking good on 64, and England enjoyed some fine bowling from Anderson (5-80) and Onions (4-58).
This one could very well end in a draw, with weather being an issue.
UPDATE: At the end of day 3, weather is indeed an issue, with the entire day a washout.  The scoreline above remains, with two days remaining.  I suspect a draw at the end of this one.

This Matters..How?

[ 0 ] July 31, 2009 |

The Broderite argument against politics in the United States Senate, at least when it comes to judicial confirmation hearings, has now been made by the man himself:

Both these senators decry the growing role of interest groups that lobby on judicial confirmations. Both have defied those pressures, Leahy in voting for Roberts and Graham in being the lone Republican to support Sotomayor in this week’s vote.

“I pointed out that Roberts was not someone I would have recommended to Bill Clinton or Barack Obama,” Leahy said, “but I did not want to see the chief justice of the United States confirmed on a party-line vote.”

Graham took the same stance on Sotomayor, saying he expected to disagree with many of her rulings, but gave great deference to Obama’s choice because “elections make a difference” and she is “clearly qualified.” He said he hoped it would serve as an example to Democrats the next time a Republican president makes a nomination.

If their examples spread, we might avert the ugly partisanship of recent confirmation fights.

What he doesn’t do is explain exactly why it’s a bad thing if Senators vote against judges who have a different constitutional philosophy. For those of us who don’t see “partisan” as a pejorative term, what exactly is the argument?

Loves Springs Internal? Wait, I Don’t Get It…

[ 0 ] July 31, 2009 |

Making the case for IUDs.

Good Deal

[ 0 ] July 31, 2009 |

Like Neyer, and unlike the Daves Brockington and Cameron, I’m inclined to think that the Wilson/Snell trade is a good one for the Mariners. (In fairness, neither of them knew initially that the Pirates were picking up a lot of the salary):

  • I don’t think the Mariners gave up much. As long as I’m vaguely competitive, I’ll give up 3 low-upside pitching prospects with no history of major league success for one high-upside pitcher with a little major league success any day. I also don’t see Clement as having much value — it’s always important to remember the distinction between “should be playing if your only alternative is Jose Vidro” and “good.” He’s 25, has no position, and his 173 ABs in Tacoma in 2008 are his only strong credential (and in the same year he was carved up by a similar sample of major league pitching.) Basically, aside from that he hits in the minors the way he’d have to hit in the majors to be interesting, and that’s not good enough. Cedeno, as Cameron concedes, is replacement level.
  • Cameron says that “Adam Everett is a similar player and signed a 1 year, $1 million deal with the Tigers last winter.” But this is highly misleading. I suppose they’re the same “type” of player in broad terms, but Everett hits nothing. Since 2005 he hasn’t had an OPS+ within 15 points of Wilson’s career average. They’re the same kind of player but Wilson is a lot better.
  • Relatedly, Cameron says that “the Mariners could still salvage this by moving Wilson before Friday’s deadline for a younger SS with more long term potential.” I don’t think this will happen, but that gets at the heart of the disagreement: I think Cameron is greatly understating how scarce talent is at shortstop. With one or two exceptions for taste, the class of shortstops who are significantly younger and substantially better than Wilson are among the most valuable properties in the game. If you have one, you’re not going to give him away. Put it this way: the Red Sox, an organization with huge resources and first-rate talent evaluation, haven’t had a shortstop nearly as good as Wilson since 2004. It’s a hard position to fill. If you go scavenging, you might get lucky and get a Jason Bartlett — but it strikes me as much more likely that you’ll get a Ronny Cedeno (or Tony Pena Jr. or whatever.)
  • This doesn’t necessarily mean that the Pirates “lost” the trade; positive-sum trades may happen less than they should, bit not every trade has a winner and loser per se. I’m not sure about the Pirates’ “trade everybody whether premium prospects are available in return or not” strategy, but now that they’re this far along there’s not much point in going back. It would be a fine trade for the Pirates if they dumped most of the salary; since they didn’t I’m less sure, but Snell and Wilson aren’t going to be part of the next competitive Pirates team, so they don’t have much to lose. But it’s a good trade for the Mariners if they have any chance of being competitive next year, and I don’t see why they wouldn’t.

A Compromise Too Far

[ 0 ] July 30, 2009 |

I now officially regret having voted for the President.  First, no movement on DADT.  Second, bailing out the very people who brought the global economy down.  Third, criminally not pushing for an NHS style socialized medicine for the United States.  (OK, I am angry about the first, moderately miffed about the second, and employing a sense of humor about the third — although one of the best things about living in the UK is the NHS.)

But this is too much.  Bud Light?  What the hell are you thinking, man?
If you have to prove you’re down with the folk, go for Busch, full on Bud, Old Milwaukee, or in a wink to hipsters everywhere, PBR.  But Bud freaking Light?
The NYT has an interesting, even entertaining analysis of this debacle, and correctly points out that the Blue Moon has no craft beer cred.  

Physcians Charging For Medical Services–How Shocking!

[ 0 ] July 30, 2009 |

It’s been a while since a troll has advanced it at our site, but I’ve always had a morbid fascination with conservative attempts to portray doctors who perform abortions as profiteers and hence, somehow immoral. This gets at some of the idiocies with this line of “argument.” Most obviously, any ob-gyn who was concerned primarily with profits would tend to abjure abortions, given that just delivering babies is more lucrative and generally doesn’t require hiring security to protect you from terrorists.

Assume a can opener

[ 0 ] July 30, 2009 |

Of all the absurd aspects of present panic over fat, the most absurd is the idea that it makes sense to spend scarce public health resources on trying to make people thinner. We have no idea how to make fat people thin. This overwhelmingly obvious empirical observation is routinely rejected by people who ought to know better.

Further thoughts.

Update: An interesting ideological aspect of this is the degree to which lefty folks who usually have no trouble understanding structural arguments turn into the offspring of Horatio Alger and Ayn Rand when it comes to fat. For instance, if you said to such people “We know how to end poverty. Just tell poor people to do X and Y, and as long as they do X and Y they won’t be poor,” and then it turned out that a social policy based on telling poor people to do X and Y resulted in failure 98% of the time, and in fact produced a net increase in the poverty rate, they would consider your opinion to be idiotic on its face.

Abortion Criminalization

[ 0 ] July 30, 2009 |

It’s a disaster.

Since you asked

[ 0 ] July 29, 2009 |

I admire the work Andrew Sullivan has done keeping the torture scandal in the public eye, and I like some of his other work too. So I don’t particularly enjoy pointing out that this is a ridiculous question.

But since he asked, I suppose it may be worth pointing out that people who believe that it’s possible Obama wasn’t really born in Hawai’i aren’t the sort of people who will change their minds because they’re shown a photograph of a piece of paper. Such people have a certain cognitive style, which is a polite way of saying they’re prone to delusional bouts of hyper-rational craziness. By “hyper-rational” I mean their nuttiness is manifested in their belief that every little random piece of information can be assembled into a complex theoretical web — that it all “makes sense” if you just look for the hidden meanings that are everywhere, but remain invisible to the naive observer.

There are always plenty of such people around, and it should be fairly obvious why it’s not a good idea for the president of the United States to try to placate them. That commentators like Sullivan lend, however unwittingly, any legitimacy to their delusions is unfortunate.

(Unlike Lou Dobbs and Rush Limbaugh, who I assume are merely running a scam when they ask similar questions, I’m assuming Sullivan is perfectly sincere. Perhaps he feels impelled to give credence to the birther lunacy because of his strange ongoing obsession with Trig Palin’s parentage).

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