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“just do what I tell you”

[ 160 ] August 19, 2014 |

Sunil Dutta, a former LAPD officer and current professor of (ugh) “Homeland Security,” on interactions with police officers at the Washington Post:

And you don’t have to submit to an illegal stop or search. You can refuse consent to search your car or home if there’s no warrant (though a pat-down is still allowed if there is cause for suspicion). Always ask the officer whether you are under detention or are free to leave. Unless the officer has a legal basis to stop and search you, he or she must let you go.

Great! But wait–just a few sentences earlier in the article:

if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you…

Evidently the Washington Post doesn’t employ editors, because if they did, Professor Dutta would have been asked to clarify which of the above statements he’s actually serious about. I have a pretty good guess.

Spokane, too

[ 47 ] August 19, 2014 |

Unfortunately, Seattle isn’t the only major city in Washington whose sole daily newspaper hackishly promotes the political and (percieved*) economic agenda of the family that owns it.

* I say perceived because it turns out the race and class biases of rich white people are misleading: public transit is not, in fact, bad for retail.

What’s wrong with white people?

[ 57 ] August 18, 2014 |

“Fully 65% of African Americans say the police have gone too far in responding to the shooting’s aftermath. Whites are divided: 33% say the police have gone too far, 32% say the police response has been about right, while 35% offer no response.

Whites also are nearly three times as likely as blacks to express at least a fair amount of confidence in the investigations into the shooting. About half of whites (52%) say they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in the investigations, compared with just 18% of blacks.”

More here.

National identities have consequences

[ 97 ] August 6, 2014 |

Newishlawyer, in the comments to my previous post:

I think there is an unwarranted assumption that Zionist=Likkuidnik in general.

I consider myself a Zionist. I have never been a fan of Likkuid or Hamas. I’m absolutely on the side of people like Rabin. Yet sometimes it feels like when I say I support the idea and right of a Jewish state to exist, people think of me as a Likuidnik.

I would say that Israel should do a unilateral withdrawal and still people in settlements “best of luck” unless it is with help to move back to Israel proper.

On one level this is a fair point. There is no reason to assume that all Zionists support Likud’s policies.

That said: if you support creating a religiously ethno-nationalist and democratic state, you can’t simply disavow any responsibility for the conduct of a right wing nationalist party. In democracies, one faction never retains control forever. The ideology, conduct, and treatment of perceived enemies of the nation we find in Likud seem pretty typical of right wing nationalism generally (they seem worse because the occupied territories and Hamas belligerence provide some unique opportunities for bad behavior). You simply can’t count on a state with a religious ethnonationalist identity that isn’t going to have a belligerent conservative faction in charge occasionally.

Furthermore: Likud’s current policies reflect the composition of the political coalition they lead, which includes a parties that represent a fast-growing and influential anti-modern ultra-orthodox population*, and a recent immigrant group who came from political cultures without a the liberal traditions that promote treating members of the outgroup with equality and respect. The increasing size and power of both of these populations is hard to divorce from Zionism, and they also make the likelihood of a political coalition for the kind of liberal Zionism newishlawyer would like to support increasingly unlikely to emerge. A Jewish Israeli state as part of a two state solution once seemed the best and most reasonable path to peace to me, along with most of the world. That, along with newishlawyer’s policy preference of unilateral settlement withdrawal, are all but dead now, and demographic changes that follow directly from the commitments, policies and priorities of Zionism are a non-trivial part of the reason why.


*Thanks to rewenzo below; this is not the untra-orthodox political party; that is Shas, which is not currently part of the governing coalition. Insofar as their growing presence makes a governing liberal political coalition less likely to emerge a weaker version of my initial point stands.

What’s different this time?

[ 156 ] August 5, 2014 |

I’m intrigued by the number of pundits who previously professed strong support for Likud’s policies are experience a crisis of faith this time around. (Prominent examples: Linker, Sullivan, Chait, Klein.) Don’t get me wrong, this is a very welcome development–the fewer “what else can they do?” dead-enders the better–but I’m curious what’s motivating it. What new information does the current war provide that the 2011 and 2012 iterations (to say nothing of the staggeringly inhumane treatment of Gaza over the last decade, or the refusal to lift a finger to meaningfully curb settlements) did not?

One possible answer is that the quiet part is being said rather too loudly, as calls for ethnic cleansing becoming rather more frank and unambiguous, and coming from more prominent sources. But I don’t know.

Update: readers inform me that Sullivan’s position is not new, and that he has been a critic of Israeli foreign policy for some time, and he doesn’t belong on the above list. I’m only an occasional reader, but upon reflection this seems correct; his inclusion on this list was inappropriate. I’ll leave the link up because it’s worth reading.

“Sex Demons”

[ 144 ] July 16, 2014 |

If you  enjoy bad things happening to bad people as much as I do, you should be following the implosion of the Seattle-based Mars Hill Church, which began a couple of years ago but has really picked up steam in 2014. More and more former members are going public about their bizarre and abusive treatment at the hands of Driscoll and co. The bad publicity from the twin plagiarism and use of church money to pay for NYT best seller list manipulation didn’t help, but the creepy and abusive treatment of followers seems to be the main mover here as the money is drying up and layoffs are taking place, and Driscoll is ordering his followers to stay off the internet.

For many years I lived a few blocks away from his flagship location, during the Church’s baffling, depressing growth. Once, on a drunken bar boast, I went to see one of his sermons, and was completely unprepared for the depths of misogyny he packed into his rambling 75 minute sermon. At any rate, the purpose of this post is to recommend Stacey Solie’s longform piece in Crosscut, from which I learn “Sex Demons” is more than just a deep album cut from the third Spinal Tap record:

Blogger Matthew Paul Turner has posted another disturbing account by another exile of Mars Hill, a woman who under the psuedonym “Amy” describes what it was like to get marital advice from Driscoll.

“Once, when I shared with Mark that I felt neglected in my marriage, he told [me] that I was being a nagging wife and that I needed to suck it up. That was something Mark preached about a lot — the nagging wife.”

Later, Driscoll told her and her husband that she was beset by sex demons.

“Mark stared hard at Amy and began yelling questions at her ‘sex demons’. His fierce glare seemed to look past her as he screamed his questions at her face. He asked the demons what their names were. He asked them about sex. He asked them about Amy’s past sexual sins. He asked them about Amy’s current lustful thoughts. He asked them if they were planning to destroy marriages in his church. And then he asked whose marriages were they planning to destroy and how.


Advocate of murdering cyclists also hypocrite

[ 410 ] July 10, 2014 |

Nice catch by Atrios. Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy evidently believes that the appropriate punishment for violating the rules of the road on two wheels is immediate execution by the nearest willing and able automobile-wielding citizen, but attempting to punish violators the rules of the road with four wheels by requiring violators pay a small fine is an appalling act of government overreach.

A couple of other points. While Milloy’s open endorsement of murder is thankfully relatively unusual, some other elements of this column are familiar but misleading and deserve attention. This sort of anti-bicycle crap is usually trotted out in the context of providing grounds for opposition to public investment in infrastructure for cycling. This debate often takes place in cities with a sufficiently liberal population such that sneering at the poors who ride bikes is not likely to work, so it is implied or stated that the cyclist is the dread “hipster” with too much time and disposable income, imposing his hobby on work-a-day motorists. (Milloy attempts to tie his opposition to biking infrastructure to his worries about the effects of gentrification.) But, of course, it’s nonsense: poor people are considerably more likely to use bikes as a form of transportation than rich people. This is should be entirely unsurprising, when you consider the relative costs of the two forms of transportation.

Second, this column uses the tactic trotted out in comment sections everywhere (including here): anecdotal accounts of bad and dangerous behavior by cyclists is used as reasons to not support cycling infrastructure investment. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense (I generally oppose most road expansion, and I think drivers who speed and otherwise violate laws that make driving safer are a menace, but I’ve never attempted to use the latter as a reason for the former), and it’s not clear it presents an accurate empirical picture of the situation (bike-car collisions that result in a fatality are far more likely to be the fault of the motorist than the cyclist). Be even if we take this at face value, and stipulate that dangerous bike behavior is presently a scourge on the city, it’s actually a better argument for the building more bike infrastructure. The reason cyclists seem reckless in cities with terrible bicycle infrastructure is that those who would be safer and saner cyclists simply don’t ride. You’re left with only the desperate and the daredevils. But as better cycling infrastructure brings out less reckless cyclists, we begin to see a ‘calming’ effect on the larger cycling community. Measured by intersection or by city, the more cyclists on the road, the fewer accidents and deaths per mile traveled.

Today’s prosecutorial abuse of power

[ 227 ] July 10, 2014 |

I rarely endorse a “flying monkeys of the internet—attack!” plea, but I do believe Dan Savage is correct in calling for the good and decent people of the internet to do whatever lawful things they can to make Claiborne Richardson’s life as difficult as possible for the foreseeable future, at least until he ceases and desists in pursuing this unconscionable prosecution. American adults have, as a group, always had a rather unhealthy obsession with the sex lives of teenagers, but this is a particularly absurd and appalling overreach. Ideally our child pornography laws need to be clarified to prevent creeps like Richardson from pursuing such prosecutions. But in the meantime, we should do the only thing we have the power to do, which is to shine the brightest light we can on this abuse of power.

Update: Thanks to Skidrow Wilson in comments for providing some background on Paul Ebert, Claiborne Richardson’s boss, who apparently doesn’t let pesky matters like “exculpatory evidence” slow down his career:

This Paul Ebert’s third nomination. Ebert, you may remember, made the list several years ago for refusing to investigate the massive corruption among public officials in Manassas Park, Virginia in their efforts to shut down David Ruttenberg’s Rack & Roll pool hall. In 2008 and 2009, Ebert was the special prosecutor in the Ryan Frederick case. Frederick shot and killed Chesapeake, Virginia Det. Jarrod Shivers during a drug raid on Frederick’s home. Frederick had no prior criminal record, and says he thought he was being robbed. Which is credible, given that police informants had broken into Frederick’s home days earlier to obtain probable cause for the raid, part of a possible pattern of illegality among police informants Ebert found unimportant.

Ebert tried Frederick for capital murder. He attempted to change the venue, arguing that bloggers and Internet writers had made it difficult for the state to get a fair trial. He told jurors Frederick was a pot-crazed killer, then sought to exclude video of Frederick’s post-raid interviews at the police station, where a clearly despondent Frederick bursts into tears and vomits upon being told that he had killed a cop. Best of all, Ebert put on the stand a perfectly-named jailhouse snitch named Jamal Skeeter who claimed that during their one hour per day of rec time at the jail, Frederick repeatedly boasted about killing Shivers and mocked Shivers’ widow. Skeeter was so utterly devoid of credibility, fellow Virginia State’s Attorney Earle Mobley made the admirable and rare move of speaking up in  mid-trial to say that he and other area prosecutors had determined Skeeter was a professional liar, and had stopped using him years ago.


[ 28 ] June 19, 2014 |

The annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, APSA, takes place every Labor Day weekend, beginning on Thursday and going through Sunday. When I lived in Seattle, I this annoyed me primarily because of the conflict with Bumbershoot, an excellent music festival that took place over that holiday weekend. I’ve occasionally heard people grumble about the timing of the conference, for a variety of reasons–it created more conflicts than necessary, the cost of flights, trains and hotel rooms are generally a bit higher, and the timing of the conference often meant having to cancel a class during the first week of the term for many people on the Semester calendar. I’m inclined to agree with all three of these arguments, and as such view the scheduling of APSA as suboptimal. So when I saw this petition circulating on facebook, I figured why not and clicked through with the intent to add my name. After reading it, however, I decided not to do so. Reasons #1 and #3 are sound, but #2 is not:

2)  The Academic Job Market.  Due to its timing, the APSA Annual Meeting does not play as useful a role in the academic job market as it might.  Whereas other disciplines have systematically incorporated initial interviews into their annual meetings, the APSA Annual Meeting falls awkwardly before most application deadlines, which makes it difficult for most departments effectively to screen applicants at the Annual Meeting.  Enhancing APSA’s role in the job market would be beneficial to both applicants and hiring departments.

A number of disciplines, including economics, english, history, and philosophy, have followed this model, where initial interviews for tenure track jobs took place at the annual meeting. This is, as I understand it, typically a “long short list” of candidates, maybe 7-12 people. After these short interviews, 2-4 top candidates go for a much longer and more involved second round interview in the form of a campus visit. My understanding is that both philosophy and history are seeing a move away from this model, using skype/phone interviews for the first round. Most political science departments go straight to the campus interview, or do a round of phone interviews first. I’m quite skeptical of the assertion of the superiority of this model; no evidence is given that a 30 minute interview in a hotel room in the middle of a conference provides particularly useful information above and beyond what is already in the application packet and could be ascertained through a phone interview. But beyond that this strikes me as a terrible idea for two reasons. First, it degrades the experience of the conference itself; making inherently miserable and stressful for all graduate students attending. Second, and more importantly, it imposes a significant cost on the many broke graduate students (to say nothing of adjuncts and the unemployed) who may be applying for jobs. Even with judicious cost-cutting measures, the costs of attendance can easily exceed a thousand dollars. Many–perhaps most–graduate students do not have notable conference travel support from their departments or universities. (At UW, the policy for PhD Students was that we could be reimbursed for airfare only for up to three conferences during our time in the PhD program. I know plenty of people who would have been happy to have that level of support). Their educational debt is likely sufficiently crippling without imposing a $1,000 cost for being seriously considered for a job. This is a particularly acute concern when the search for a tenure track job often takes several years, with the first few years out of graduate school spent in visiting or temporary faculty positions with little conference travel support (and, of course, many job seekers will never actually find a tenure track position). Third, a good part of actual value of conferences for graduate students is an opportunity to present and get some feedback on your work, but APSA is often off the table because it’s the most competitive conference in American political science, with acceptance rates in some sections as low as 10%. Graduate students would be more likely to get this benefit at a smaller regional conference where they’re more likely to get on the program (and smaller conferences are often quite a bit cheaper to attend).

I’d be happy to see APSA moved back a few weeks, but moving toward this job market model strikes me as a plan for which the costs significantly outweigh any possible benefits. I won’t be signing this petition.

“Traditional” masculinity: incoherent and odious

[ 250 ] June 4, 2014 |

In the case of Douthat vs. DeBoer, we find for DeBoer and reject Jonathan Chait’s strange finding that Douthat’s rejoinder to him is “persuasive and highly interesting.”*

DeBoer (writing in the immediate aftermath of the Santa Barbara shootings):

There’s an even deeper problem, though, for men who explicitly embrace traditional masculinity: there’s nothing traditional about knowing you’re embracing tradition. Whatever their virtues or vices, the manly men from long ago that these bros imagine they are emulating didn’t spend all their time thinking about what it meant to be manly men. Indeed: it’s precisely the unthinking acceptance of the gender hierarchy that gave these men the “confidence” (read: entitlement) that neo-masculinists want to emulate. But you can’t think your way to an unthinking prejudice. If you have to read a website to tell you to be traditionally masculine, you will never, ever be traditionally masculine. You can’t choose an unchosen attitude. John Wayne did not have a blog. And I truly believe that it’s the combination of this association between masculinity and the capacity for violence on one hand, and the ambient postmodernism we live in on the other, that creates these monsters.

The last two sentences strike me as a non-sequitur and a dubious overstatement, respectively; as Douthat rightly points out, Wayne’s masculinity is just as self-conscious and performative as the contemporary manifestations of toxic masculinity. But the larger point here is one I concur with quite strongly, and wrote about here: contemporary conceptions of masculinity are fundamentally toxic to both self and society, and anyone concerned with human freedom and flourishing should celebrate the relegation of the celebration of a meaningful, normative thing called “masculinity” to the historical dustbin.

Douthat’s response has half a point: Deboer’s discussion seems to conflate different versions of masculinity:

I mean, I understand his point insofar as ”the celebration of violence, sexual entitlement, throbbing misogyny, and a fake self-confidence” are problems that have always particularly infected the male half of humanity, and the sexism inherent in traditional gender hierarchies has allowed men to get away with violent, entitled, hateful behavior on an often-epic scale. But he’s making an argument about “traditional masculinity” as something distinct from “sexism,” as a cultural problem unto itself — an unworkable model for male aspiration, a life-ruining ideal, that straitjackets today’s young men with its toxic, sex-and-violence-saturated demands.

And I just don’t quite know what he’s talking about, because in our culture — Western, English-speaking, American — the traditional iconography of masculine heroism doesn’t really resemble this “Grand Theft Auto”/”Scarface” description at all. I mean, yes, if the “tradition” you have in mind is Pashtun honor killings, then I agree, traditional masculinity would be better off extinct. But where American society is concerned, when I look at the sewers of misogyny or the back alleys of “bro” culture, I mostly see men in revolt against both feminism and our culture’s older images of masculine strength and self-possession, not men struggling to inhabit the latter tradition, or live up to its impossible/immoral demands.

Take the one icon De Boer tosses off as example: The Western-movie hero, the John Wayne figure, the unselfconscious manly man. (Wayne himself, of course, was just as self-consciously performative in his way as any contemporary pick-up artist guru: He didn’t have a blog, but he was an actor with a stage name …) From De Boer’s description of what “traditional masculinity” entails, you would think that the archetypal movies of Wayne’s genre celebrated mass murder and sexual entitlement, or throbbed with palpable misogyny, or made true manliness look like a matter of imposing your will at gunpoint and then reaping your reward in bedpost notches. But watch some famous Westerns from the pre-Peckinpah era: Do you regularly see characters bedding a steady stream of willing women while shooting their way to fame and fortune? Surely not as often as you see men, in the style of the lead characters in “High Noon” and “Shane,” reluctantly shouldering a burden of violence and paying a heavy moral price; not as often as you see men (including Wayne in several of his most iconic roles) who don’t get the girl, don’t get sexual fulfillment (not a major theme of the genre, to put it mildly) or the life of domesticity they want, precisely because of their identity as gunslingers and the obligations and/or sins that accompany that way of life.

Now one can critique the “lonely gunslinger” trope on all sorts of ideological levels, but it’s very hard to see the kind of masculine ideal embodied by Shane and Will Kane as looming large, in any meaningful way, in the fantasy lives of contemporary misogynists. Whereas what clearly does loom large is a much more contemporary fixation: The male hero as lothario/ruthlessly effective killer predates the 1960s (every eras has had its outlaws, its fascinating anti-heroes, its Casanovas), but it comes in much more strongly in American culture with James Bond and Hugh Hefner and Howard Roark, and then with the ‘roidal action heroes and Bruckheimer fantasias of the 1980s. If you’re seeking a full-throttle of “celebration of violence,” the place to turn is “Bonnie and Clyde” or “The Wild Bunch,” not the work of Marion Mitchell Morrison. If you want “sexual entitlement, throbbing misogyny, and … fake self-confidence” layered on top, I recommend “Top Gun,” not the filmography of John Ford.

And the same point obtains if you widen your cultural lens beyond the Western and action genres, and look at “traditional” images of masculinity elsewhere in the imaginative landscape of the pre-sexual revolution past. De Boer says he wants a 21st century model of masculine heroism that isn’t ”anti-strength … anti-confidence or anti-leadership or anti-toughness,” that isn’t “anti-sex,” that avoids a simple “association between male strength and the capacity for violence,” and that doesn’t reductively associate “a man’s value with the number of women he has sex with.” I’d like that too! But I don’t see what’s particularly anti-traditional about that vision, since an image of masculinity that fulfills all of those conditions was not only present but ubiquitous all across the popular entertainments of the 19th and early 20th century.

Douthat wants to separate cultural conceptions of masculinity into two distinct and discrete models, pre- and post-sexual revolution, in order to rehabilitate the former and rescue it from the irredeemable taint of the latter. (Set aside here that he obviously overstates the non-sexual nature of the traditional image of masculinity.) Here’s why this can’t work: contemporary conceptions of masculinity draw haphazardly and inconsistently from both. It’s not, and has never been, a coherent ideology, so it can draw from both in entirely contradictory ways (consider our horrifying visit from “That Incel blogger,” a blogger in a movement enraged by the failures of pick-up artist techniques: he decries the evil of women not having sex with him on demand, while at the same time laments.…”a lack of female premarital chastity”). It’s less a narrative and more a pastische. Since both versions of masculinity are built on unearned and underdefended privileges and entitlements based on gender, they never made much sense to begin with. Both the modern and more traditional versions of masculinity are fodder for the confused, disconnected, and insecure to attempt to piece together a sense of self based on one’s genitalia and what it’s supposed to mean; expecting that to make sense or maintain internal consistency isn’t plausible or realistic.


Adventures in Republican public opinion

[ 86 ] June 4, 2014 |

58% of Republicans believe that global warming is a hoax.

63% of Republicans believe that we should limit the release of greenhouse gases from existing power plants in an effort to reduce global warming.

Writing for an audience

[ 30 ] May 31, 2014 |

I want to begin by thanking Rob and Scott for the idea here, and for including me. It’s nice to not only have a ‘home’ on the internet, but to have one populated by the many  thoughtful and challenging people who live here. That we’re still going after 10 years is remarkable, especially given the typical lifespan of a blog.

The truly long time readers of LGM may remember that in the early days–the first couple of years, roughly, if memory serves me correctly–Rob, Scott and I posted roughly similar quantities of material. For a couple of years, I was a daily (or, at least, several substantive posts weekly) blogger. It didn’t seem hard to do. Then, one day, it did seem hard. I didn’t really understand why–I didn’t feel ‘burnt out’ particularly, or bored with or tired of blogging or the blog, or anything like that. While perhaps part of the story is that I was getting busier elsewhere in my life (I was just entering my “full time adjunct” stage while also trying to get more serious about writing the damn dissertation), I don’t think that’s the whole story. I think, although I didn’t recognize it at the time, that I found my greater awareness of a ‘real’ audience intimidating, if not paralyzing. Prior to this blog I’d never really attempted to write for any sort of public, beyond the narrow academic community I was hoped my scholarly work would eventually be read by. When I started blogging, I didn’t really write for a public either, at least not self-consciously. I didn’t really internalize the possibility that other people–beyond my co-bloggers and a handful of friends from graduate school who I knew read the blog–were really there. I gave little thought to audience, and wrote about whatever I liked, in whatever way struck me at the moment.

Awareness of audience was great in one way–my posts could become not just a record of whatever was on my mind at the moment, but the start of a conversation. But as our readership grew from double to triple to (unfathomably) quadruple digits and beyond, I became a much more self-conscious writer. Am I sure I’m right about this? Do I actually know enough about this to hit publish? Is this actually an interesting insight or repackaged banality? Is the idea I think I’m expressing too half-baked for public consumption? Does anyone reading this actually care about this topic? As Rob has pointed out to me on multiple occasions, these are strange questions to obsess over in light of the fact that we built this blog and its audience by writing about whatever the hell we felt like writing about. But these questions are hard to shake; and many an idea for a blog post has been scuttled because of them. It’s led me to conclude that part of being a writer–a real and successful one, who writes significant for large audiences regularly–must surely be an ability to manage one’s awareness of audience. To be able to turn it on and off as necessary to guide one’s writing without impeding it is a skill I wish I had. I think I’ve made a some progress in that area, but I still find it a real challenge. At any rate, it’s a small price to pay for having an not just any audience but a responsive and impressive one we’ve got.

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