Friday, May 31, 2013

Quotation Of The Day: Nazis Loved Meth Edition

From this article in The Atlantic:
Pervitin was the early version of what we know today as crystal meth. And it was fitting that a German soldier would become addicted to the stuff: the drug, Der Spiegel notes, first became popular in Germany, brought to market by the then-Berlin-based drugmaker Temmler Werke. And almost immediately, the German army physiologist Otto Ranke realized its military value: not only could the methamphetamine compound keep fighters (pilots, in particular) alert on little sleep; it could also keep an entire military force feeling euphoric. Meth, Spiegel puts it, "was the ideal war drug."
And it was, as such, put to wide use. The Wehrmacht, Germany's World War II army, ended up distributing millions of the Pervitin tablets to soldiers on the front (they called it "Panzerschokolade," or "tank chocolate"). The air force gave the tablets to its flyers (in this case, it was "pilot's chocolate" or "pilot's salt"). Hitler himself was given intravenous injections of methamphetamine by his personal physician, Theodor Morell. The pill, however, was the more common form of the drug. All told, between April and July of 1940, more than 35 million three-milligram doses of Pervitin were manufactured for the German army and air force.

Fridays Aren't Safe Days To Visit The Doctor?

I have to take the cat to the vet in about thirty minutes. He licks his paw until it's an open wound. I'm guessing living with me has finally driven him over the edge.

I'm grateful the cat is not scheduled for surgery, but I still hope vets are better doctors on Friday than human MDs. Via Andrew Sullivan:
Britons who have a planned surgery on a Friday are 44 percent more likely to die. And the few patients who had a leisurely weekend surgery saw that number jump to 82 percent. The skeleton staff working on weekends might be to blame.
similar study conducted in American Veterans Affairs hospitals found that the odds of a patient dying in the 30 days following surgery jumped when the surgery happened on Friday.
Kevin Drum adds some analysis here

It Ain't Never Simple Or Easy

Since the school year ended, I've been paying less attention to grammar. I've also spent a lot of time reading Dakota War College comments. At the risk of oversimplification, most of the comments fall into three categories. First, many commenters allege that they and their allies are true conservatives whereas self-described conservatives who disagree with them about a particular issue are RINOS. Second, the comments assert small government, low taxes, capitalism, and true conservative Republicans are good in and of themselves. Finally, all DWC regulars seem to agree Democrats are treacherous, incompetent, and unlikable.

Because many of the comments frame solutions to complex problems as both easy and simple, the comments frequently remind me of Animal Farm's mantras especially the most famous one "Four legs good; two legs bad." 

That's why this Alan Jacobs post is a must read. Jacobs does not "know nor care" whether he is a "True Conservative." He lays out his key principles: being consistently pro-life, subsidiarity, and valuing the wisdom that humanity has inherited. While those principles may resonate with many self-described conservatives, they lead Jacobs to write,
I am not and never have been a Republican. I feel roughly as alienated from that party as I do from the Democratic Party. I hold a number of political views that strong-minded Republicans typically find appalling: I think racism is one of the greatest problems in American society today; I am not convinced that austerity programs are helpful in addressing our economic condition; I am absolutely convinced that what many Republicans call free-market capitalism is in fact crony capitalism, calculated to favor the extremely wealthy and immensely powerful multinational corporations; I think that for all of the flaws of Obamacare, it was at least an attempt to solve a drastically unjust and often morally corrupt network of medical care in this country; I dislike military adventurism, and believe that our various attempts at nation-building over the past decade were miscalculated from the outset.
That quotation sums up a lot of what I believe as well. 

I'll See Your Brendan Johnson And Raise You One Tom Daschle?

That seems to be the crux of the Bob Mercer post:
 When you think about it, Tom Daschle is the best potential candidate South Dakota Democrats have for this battle, especially with control of the U.S. Senate increasingly looking to be at stake, and with U.S. Attorney Brendan Casey and former U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin each declining in the past month to make the race. And maybe, just maybe, that’s why the U.S. Senate[s current leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, preferred that Herseth Sandlin run and Daschle objected. Just all speculation of course for the first weekend in June, one year before the 2014 primaries.
I'll play prognosticator right now. If South Dakota Democrats are really pulling this stunt and Weiland is in the race as just a place holder, Daschle loses 54-46. South Dakota is more Republican than it was in 2004, and I'm certain the average voter will think the strategy too clever by half.

Update: I suppose it's possible Mercer is attempting satire. The problem with conspiracy theories is that someone believes them, or, it this case, thinks "Yeah, that's a good idea, let's do it."

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Why Didn't This Stuff Happen Before Finals?

First, A Northwestern University student is refusing to perform a song based on works of Walt Whitman because Whitman was a racist. The choral work does not contain evidence of Whitman's racism.

Whitman was a racist; he was also gay. Oh by the way, he was the best American poet of the 19th Century, and he cared for wounded soldiers during the Civil War.

It would have interesting to ask the young'uns if we should not read "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer," "O My Captain!, My Captain!," or "I Hear America Singing" because Whitman was racist or gay or both. It would also have been fun to extend the conversation to ask them if people should not buy Ford products because Henry Ford was an anti-Semite.

This Francis Beckworth sentiment matches mine on this issue:

You do yourself no good by not seeing the greatness even in people who have held disreputable ideas. To look at Walt Whitman and just see a racist is precisely what makes racism wrong: you don’t see the entire person–in all his complexities, virtues, and foibles–you just see the race. By doing this, you artificially flatten the person, and thus you literally lie to yourself, for you intentionally deny the truth that a great man can have within him both grandeur and vice. If you want to be better than Whitman, rid yourself of the habits of mind that in him resulted in the beliefs that you now find offensive. The ability to separate the wheat from the chaff is a sign of intellectual maturity. Thus, discarding the wheat because you can’t bear the chaff does not punish Mr. Whitman; it punishes you.
This post was published before finals, but I missed it until today. It also ties to my belief that literature is essential. From this Jag Bhalla Scientific American post:
It is in our nature to need stories. They are our earliest sciences, a kind of people-physics. Their logic is how we naturally think. They configure our biology, and how we feel, in ways long essential for our survival. . . .
Any story we tell of our species, any science of human nature, that leaves out much of what and how we feel is false. Nature shaped us to be ultra-social, and hence to be sharply attentive to character and plot. We are adapted to physiologically interact with stories. They are a key way in which our ruly culture configures our nature.

Chart Of The Day: What Americans Find Morally Acceptable Edition

From this IO9 post

Do Republicans Really Agree 95% Of The Time?

Let's stipulate that South Dakota Democrats are in disarray.

I suppose it's a wise move for Republicans to provide a contrast to the Democratic Party's inner tumult. There is, however, always the danger of overstating that unity. Ronald Reagan was satisfied with Republicans being in agreement 80% of the time. South Dakota Republicans apparently live in a Utopia Reagan could only dream of. South Dakota Republican Chairperson Craig Lawrence believes South Dakota's Republicans agree 95% of the time.
The chairman of the South Dakota Republican Party, Craig Lawrence, said most Republicans want unity.
“There are people that are so deeply concerned, in particular, about the nation’s debt that that bubbles over into frustration that sometimes causes people to be critical of other members of their party,” Lawrence said. “I have implored people to focus on the 95 percent that we agree on, not the 5 percent we disagree on. And people have been very receptive.”
Let's leave aside that the article that quotes Lawrence indicates that Kristi Noem may still challenge Mike Rounds for the Republican nomination for South Dakota's open U.S. Senate seat. Heck, let's even agree to consider the Howie-Ellis wing of the party as nothing more than malcontents full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

It's still hard to see 95% agreement. Republican issues seem to be smaller government, lower taxes less spending, values, and strong defense. Conor Friedersdorf points out that those goals frequently conflict:
The Republican coalition certainly encompasses limited government conservatives. But part of the right's challenge, going forward, is the fact that "limited government" is a tertiary priority for some in the GOP, and directly at odds with certain policy desires others in the coalition care about most. The aging cohort of Republicans who want government to keep its damned hands of their Medicare are in tension with limited government conservatives. So are the neocons who favor an ever larger military budget and more interventions than the average Republican does. 
There are limited government types, like Rand Paul, who find that many in their party are perfectly comfortable with expansive domestic surveillance as part of the ongoing War on Terrorism. There is also a tension between Republicans who oppose all tax increases on limited government grounds and fiscal conservatives who regard a balanced budget as a higher priority, and no longer believe that Grover Norquist and "starve the beast" will ever achieve it. And traditional values conservatives? They're keen on spending more money than limited government types if it means more financial incentives for having bigger families or policies meant to achieve a substantial decrease in abortions (with the added social spending that would entail). Plus they disagree with limited government types on gay marriage and the drug war.
Even if defense isn't a priority at the state level, it's tough to see 95% agreement among South Dakota Republicans on social issues like gay marriage, legal cannabis, or abortion. Even if they agree about that government should be smaller, I doubt 95% of them will agree how to best achieve limits.

I like hyperbole as much as anyone, but Lawrence doesn't seem to want his statement to be seen as hyperbolic. As a depiction of reality, Lawrence's claim stretches credulity.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Quotation Of The Day: Best Commencement Speech Intro Ever Edition

Joss Whedon, director of Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Avengers delivered the following to the 2013 Graduates of Wesleyan University:
This is going to be great. This is going to be a good one. It’s gonna go really well.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and… no. I’m not that lazy.
I actually sat through many graduations. When I was siting where you guys were sitting, the speaker was Bill Cosby—funny man Bill Cosby, he was very funny and he was very brief, and I thanked him for that. He gave us a message that I really took with me, that a lot of us never forgot, about changing the world. He said, “you’re not going to change the world, so don’t try.”
That was it. He didn’t buy that back at all. And then he complained about buying his daughter a car and we left. I remember thinking, “I think I can do better. I think I can be a little more inspiring than that.”
And so, what I’d like to say to all of you is that you are all going to die.
This is a good commencement speech because I’m figuring it’s only going to go up from here. It can only get better, so this is good. It can’t get more depressing. You have, in fact, already begun to die. You look great. Don’t get me wrong. And you are youth and beauty. You are at the physical peak. Your bodies have just gotten off the ski slope on the peak of growth, potential, and now comes the black diamond mogul run to the grave. And the weird thing is your body wants to die. On a cellular level, that’s what it wants. And that’s probably not what you want.

A Minor Musing About The New York Times Analysis Of The South Dakota Senate Race

This New York Times article about actual and potential Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate  has been getting a lot of play in the South Dakota blogosphere. Madville Times argues that the article illustrates "some of us Dems want to hear a solid Wellstonian candidate. . . South Dakota is not as conservative as those afraid to wear the Dem label believe."

Dakota War College writes, "it is inconceivable that Weiland is a serious candidate and Rick Weiland is a placeholder for a better candidate to jump in the race later down the line."

Political Smokeout reports there's a slim chance South Dakota State Senator Jason Frerichs may challenge Rich Weiland for the Democratic nomination.

I confess the Jason Eligon Times piece provides me far more questions than answers.

First, there's the most basic question of all: has liberalism made any dent in South Dakota’s conservatism? I know the Ellis-Howie fringe believe that South Dakota's more establishment Republicans are to Karl Marx's political left, but that analysis lacks credible evidence. It's still an open question how liberal a candidate can be and remain successful.

Second, there's a question about framing. The article quotes Matt McLarty who says, “I think they can respect that you’re a Democrat and you have a certain perspective, just as long as you don’t go full-blown Nancy Pelosi on them." Therein lies the cliched rub; if Stephanie Herseth Sandlin who voted against Obama's health care reform can be drowned with the Nancy Pelosi anchor, is there a South Dakota Democrat with the political skills to avoid being portrayed as a "full-blown Nancy Pelosi"?

Third, do candidates stands on issues and policies really matter or is it all perception? The Times ticks off a list voter actions that would seem to indicate South Dakota voters are less conservative than Republicans may believe:
It is a state in which residents have twice voted by wide margins to repeal bans on abortion passed by the State Legislature. Voters also recently increased the cigarette tax, passed an indoor smoking ban, and killed the Republican governor’s education reform bill, which would have weakened tenure for teachers and tied their ratings to student performance. And Democrats note that although South Dakota’s voters approved a same-sex marriage ban, they did so by a narrower margin (3.7 percent) than California’s (4.6 percent).
The voters may have moderate or even liberal views on some issues, but legislative candidates' votes on those issues don't seem to matter. I'm hard pressed to think of a Republican incumbent who lost a seat for supporting HB 1234, the education bill. On the other hand Herseth Sandlin loses even though she had a record of conservative votes.

Finally, there's a simple question about candidates. Eligon writes,
In a state with just over 530,000 voters, experts say that personality plays a big role in candidates’ success, and Republicans in recent years have simply put up candidates who connected with voters better.
I probably should go look at some numbers to confirm this point, but Republicans have a nearly insurmountable advantage West River. Can Democrats can field statewide candidates who win enough votes East River to counter Republicans' West River advantage?

If anyone has answers or I missed a Republican who suffered for one of the votes the Times mentions, let me know in the comments.

What Values Do Politicians Really Hold?

Ken Santema sends out a tweet with a link to this Mary Theroux post. Theroux contends that George W. Bush was not a conservative and Barack Obama is no liberal:
Mr. Bush was given a pass by conservatives who either thought an extraordinarily dangerous world required extraordinarily extra-Constitutional powers for the presidency, or who viewed him as a nice guy who could be trusted.
Mr. Obama is similarly being given a pass by liberals who like his rhetoric on gays or abortion or something. But the plain fact of the matter is he’s not a liberal. He demonstrably believes he can do whatever he wants, and that his motives and ability to do as he believes must not be questioned.
Coincidentally, Rod Dreher contends that "Progression" has won the day, a fact that makes it difficult to be a philosophical conservative as opposed to an ideological right-winger:
.  . . . as Alasdair MacIntyre has observed, all parties in American politics are devoted to Progression. It’s simply a matter of whether you are a “conservative” progressive, a progressive progressive, or a radical progressive. There is nothing conservative about a figure like, say, Newt Gingrich. I wonder, though, if we have a political culture in which it is all but impossible to be truly conservative, in the moral and philosophical, fullness of that term, as distinct from an ideological right-winger. I have my doubts.
Dreher either ignores the loud reactionary voices prevalent in American politics, or he relegates them to the "ideological right-winger" caucus. I'm not sure the latter is a correct assessment. Dreher correctly observes, however, the difficulty of developing and maintaining a philosophical consistency.

The common lack of concern for civil liberties and the perceived dominance of "Progression" or "ideologues" may have occurred because political parties accept as dogma "it's the economy, stupid." Focus on the economy can easily be summed up by a little girl in an AT&T commercial, "We want more; we want more," a sentiment that relegates non-material concerns like civil liberties to oblivion. Further, to privilege "more" one must accept progress as a primary value

Reviewing Michael Sandel's What Money Can't Buy: The Limits of Markets, Julian Baggini writes,

. . . Sandel argues we need a serious public debate about what values we want our politics to build and defend. That means dropping the illusion that politics is about no more than efficient management of the economy: it's about nothing less than competing visions of the good society.
Both parties, of course, claim to promote and defend values. Both parties, however, couch the values discussion in a utilitarian calculus beloved of high school policy debaters: adopt values in the way we say is best or risk extinction. Those threats, whether real or implied, limit the possibility of serious debate.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Yet Another Common Core Musing: Josh Verges Must Read This Blog Only Once A Week Edition

Josh Verges takes issue with the following statement I made on a May 23, 2013 post:
South Dakota uses Pearson to write its tests. The tests I have seen when I have been asked to administer them in the past ignore many skills that aren’t easy to test in favor of those that are easy to fit in a multiple guess format.
Apparently that statement is so egregious Verges doesn't care I posted an update shortly after it was written.

Verges stopped by to remind me that South Dakota will not be using Pearson to write Common Core Tests:
Pearson won't be writing the CCS-aligned tests. That task falls to two consortia (S.D. joined Smarter Balanced) that got huge federal grants. The ACT folks also are writing tests in hopes states will pick them, as Alabama already has.
Thirty minutes later, I responded with the following comment:
Thanks for the reminder. I had forgotten about Smarter Balanced.
After typing the comment, I also added the following update to the body of the post:
Update: In the comments Josh Verges stops by to remind me that Pearson will not be doing the tests South Dakota uses. I stand by my comments about their past work.**
Pearson did write the Dakota Step tests. They also provide SDDOE technical reports about the Dakota Step

I also maintain my concern that the Core tests will focus on minutia. For example, South Dakota's Core standards demand that basic students be able to "identify active and passive voice." Advanced students are to be able to "creatively apply active and passive voice and justify their choices." I work to get students to use active voice and avoid passive. I have no problem with the standard or testing it. I should proof my own work to write more actively.

The South Dakota Core Standards also ask students to be able to use hyphens properly. Word wrap has made hyphenation far less necessary than it was when I took a high school typing class. (Yes, it was typing not keyboarding.) I worry that the new tests will spend more time testing hyphenation than they will active voice; the former may be easier to test, but the latter is more important.

I also maintain another worry expressed in the May 23rd post: the biggest harm the Core will have is that  English departments will  teach non-fiction at the expense of meaningful fiction. Let me use the following David Mendelsohn paragraph as an example:
It was hard not to think of all this—of the Iliad with its grand funereal finale, of the Odyssey strangely pivoting around so many burials, and of course of “Antigone”—as I followed the story of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s unburied body over the past few weeks. I thought, of course, of canny politicians eyeing the public mood, and of the public to whom those politicians wanted to pander. I thought even more of the protesters who, understandably to be sure, wanted to make clear the distinction between victim and perpetrator, between friend and foe, by threatening to strip from the enemy what they saw as the prerogatives of the friend: humane treatment in death. The protesters who wanted, like Creon, not only to deny those prerogatives to an enemy but to strip them away again should anyone else grant them—to “unbury the body.” I thought of Martha Mullen, a Christian, who insisted that the Muslim Tsarnaev, accused of heinous atrocities against innocent citizens, be buried just as a loved one might deserve to be buried, because she honored the religious precept that demands that we see all humans as “brothers,” whatever the evil they have done.
Mendelsohn assumes readers will be familiar with the literature to which he alludes. More importantly, literature helps one make sense of the world. It is an especially powerful tool in a world with more questions than answers. Core advocates claim the Core will focus on classics like the Iliad and Antigone. I love the classics, so I have no qualm with the Core on that issue. Those same advocates seem willing to sacrifice regional works and 21st Century works such as Gilead, The Road, The Life of Pi, or The Amazing Adventures of Kavilier & Clay. I question the benefits of non-fiction replacing or preventing the adoption of contemporary fiction.

Verges also takes issue with Cory Heidelberger's posts about the Common Core. I will let Cory speak for himself, so that I can mention a couple of other concerns that I have with with Verges's post.

First, he quotes Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and refers readers to defenses of the Common Core without adding any balancing commentary or links to Core critics. His post focuses on testing, so he could have linked to some Diane Ravitch commentary about testing. The implication that Cory and I are the only ones concerned about testing is erroneous.

Further, Verges ignores that some Core supporters are beginning to argue that the Core and whatever tests accompany it illustrate "the Common Core needs a common curriculum."

I am not a conspiracy theorist. I don't think the Core is a U.N. conspiracy. South Dakotans do seem fond of local control. A common curriculum would weaken if not eliminate local control.

I erred; I posted an admission of that error. Verges, however, chooses to focus on the original error and ignore the correction. He also ignores any other testing or Core critics.

**Update: Verges does respond to tweets. He has updated his post to reflect the fact that I edited my original post after he commented. (8:53 pm 5/28/2013)

A Minor Musing About Political Scars

Over the weekend, Bob Dole expressed doubts that he and Ronald Reagan could make it in today's Republican Party. He also said the national Republican party should "put a sign on the national committee doors that says closed for repairs until New Year's Day next year and spend that time going over ideas and positive agendas."

I expect to hear many young Republicans challenging Dole's credentials and proclaiming him a RINO.

In South Dakota, I have read David Newquist's lament about the lack of young Democrats in South Dakota. I have read two responses; the latter offers a striking metaphor.

Coincidentally, I came across a Rod Dreher post about a "jeremiad" against Louisiana, Dreher's home state. Dreher writes,
 I should add that James’s jeremiad can be read as a screed by someone who hates Louisiana. It is rather, in my judgment, a piece written by a man with a broken heart.
I'm not a Romantic, so I'll suggest a different term, battle weary.  I don't begrudge youth their optimism; indeed, it is a necessary corrective to the pessimism brought on by weariness.

At the same time, the young optimists perhaps need to heed the discouraging words uttered by the tired old folk. Dole and Newquist will disagree on which ideas are best, but they both agree that ideas and culture still matter. Even simple images matter; the optimistic buffalo metaphor that I alluded to earlier needs to be tempered with the reminder that the buffalo were hunted nearly to extinction. The young need to remember that the ability to face the storm doesn't guarantee one will survive the hunter.

Machiavelli advised his prince to develop the qualities of both the lion and the fox. Those in the political wasteland need both the enthusiasm of youth and the wisdom earned by scars.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Tweet Of The Day: Political Bitterness Edition

I'm far from the world's biggest John McCain fan, but this seems a bit much, especially since it's directed toward a former POW on Memorial Day

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Quotation Of The Day: Why Are U.S. Army Bases Named For Confederate Generals Edition

From this Jamie Malanowski post at The Washington Monthly:
As it happens, I have an article today in the Times’ review section wondering why we continue to have US Army bases named after Confederate generals. There are at least ten: Forts Lee, Pickett and Hill in Virginia; Fort Bragg in North Carolina; Forts Gordon and Benning in Georgia; Fort Polk and Camp Beauregard in Louisiana; Fort Hood in Texas and Fort Rucker in Alabama. Some of these men were good generals, but most were mediocre at best. Most were ardent secessionists, some were slaveholders (Polk had several hundred), one was an accused war criminal, one became a leader of the KKK. But whoever may want to honor them, whatever they may want to honor them for, it does seem singularly preposterous to name US Army bases after men who led troops in battle against US Army soldiers.

Scripture And Song Of The Week: Revelation 21 Edition

Revelation 21
4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Quotation Of The Day: Love, Humility, Paranoia, And Politics Edition

From this James Poulos column:
Secular and Christian combatants alike oftentimes harbor very high opinions of themselves, as people who have it right and have the benefit of a community of fellow thinkers and doers of right. Yet both fear in their way that only their understanding of humility and love is the true one — that if they try to meet the other side on terms of humility and love, there will be a subtle trick, they will have given the game away, what they hate most will be smuggled in and overwhelm them, defenses down.
It turns out there isn’t very much evidence that this fear is founded either in reality or in human anthropology. At any rate, shouldn’t we all be more upset about what, as a consequence of that fear, our politics has become?

Will It Play In Rapid City? Or What Happens When An Atheist Delivers An Invocation?

I think I've scooped Cory on an atheist in politics story, the irony.

Arizona State Representative Juan Mendez delivered an invocation prior to the opening of a recent session of the Arizona House of Representatives:
Most prayers in this room begin with a request to bow your heads. I would like to ask that you not bow your heads. I would like to ask that you to take a moment to look around the room at all of the men and women here, in this moment, sharing together this extraordinary experience of being alive and of dedicating ourselves to working toward improving the lives of the people in our state.
This is a room in which there are many challenging debates, many moments of tension, of ideological division, of frustration. But this is also a room where, as my Secular Humanist tradition stresses, by the very fact of being human, we have much more in common than we have differences. We share the same spectrum of potential for care, for compassion, for fear, for joy, for love…
Carl Sagan once wrote, “For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.” There is, in the political process, much to bear. In this room, let us cherish and celebrate our shared humanness, our shared capacity for reason and compassion, our shared love for the people of our state, for our Constitution, for our democracy — and let us root our policymaking process in these values that are relevant to all Arizonans regardless of religious belief or nonbelief. In gratitude and in love, in reason and in compassion, let us work together for a better Arizona.
In some ways, this invocation seems more like a Joel* Osteen sermon than a prayer, but I'm being a bit more snarky than I should be on a Saturday morning.

Christians in the chamber could probably reference Philippians 4:8 and not have their souls endangered:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. 
 *This post originally referred to a Claude Osteen sermon. Claude Osteen was, a pitcher for the Dodgers and other teams during the 1960s and 1970s. The entry has been changed to refer to the smiling preacher Joel Osteen.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Wanting More Than Just The Facts

Over at Madville, Homeschool Dad (H.D.) makes a comment asserting the Common Core will threaten how history is taught:
Yes, the logic is the important thing, but so are the political ramifications. We cannot allow big government to change our history books to say something other than what actually happened.
H.D. seems to be saying he's a fan of Joe Friday and wants "just the facts." Facts, however, rarely exist in a vacuum. Writing at Ten Miles Square, Keith Humphreys gives the following quiz that illustrates the point:
Which US President dramatically cut federal criminal penalties for marijuana possession, was a forceful advocate for expanded food stamps and affirmative action, and worked closely with Congress to create the Environmental Protection Agency?
(a) John F. Kennedy
(b) Lyndon Johnson
(c) Jimmy Carter
(d) Richard Nixon
The share of GDP devoted to social spending increased from 22% to an unprecedented 26.7% in just the first three years of what UK Prime Minister’s Rule?
(a) Clement Atlee
(b) Ramsay MacDonald
(c) David Lloyd George
(d) John Major
As governor, he signed a bill that expanded access to legal abortion, over two million of which subsequently occured [sic] on his watch. He also passed the biggest tax increase in the history of his state. Who was he?
(a) Mario Cuomo
(b) Patrick Lucey
(c) Terry Sanford
(d) Ronald Reagan
As President, he delighted the wealthiest Americans by pushing for a decrease in the top income tax rate from 91% to 65%
(a) Ronald Reagan
(b) Gerald Ford
(c) Calvin Coolidge
(d) John F. Kennedy
After their election in 2010, the UK Conservative-LibDem coalition inherited a record annual government spending level of about 670 billion pounds. They introduced what was widely termed “austerity” fiscal policy, with government spending in the first year doing what?
(a) Decreasing by about 70 billion pounds
(b) Decreasing by about 40 billion pounds
(c) Decreasing by about 10 billion pounds
(d) Increasing by about 20 billion pounds
The correct answer to each question is (d). Kennedy cut taxes; Nixon increased government aid to poor people, and Reagan made it easier to get abortions. None of the facts mean anything without some context. All can be used or twisted to prove political points.

I'm not a fan of the Core, but the assertion one must teach only facts has always troubled me just as much as the Core does. Knowing what happened without knowing why an event happened or the implications resulting from the event is just as dangerous as knowing nothing

Quotation Of The Day: The Minnesota Twins May Be Losing But At Least They Have Their Health Edition

From this Jeff Passen post at Yahoo! Sports:
That's not an exaggeration. According to data compiled by the [White Sox], from 2002-2012, White Sox players spent a total of 4,026 days on the disabled list. The average across baseball was 9,496. The next-closest team in the American League over that time span was Minnesota, with 7,805 days. The Texas Rangers had 12,803, more than three times as many as the White Sox. [empahsis mine]

A Minor Musing On Place And Displacement

I'm politically displaced by choice as much as by circumstance, a little too liberal to be conservative and a little too conservative to be liberal. Perhaps, I'm liberal or conservative on all the wrong issues. In some ways, I'm like Kafka's Hunger Artist. (The story is well worth reading.) He starved himself because he never found a food he liked; geographically, I'm not sure I've lived in a place I've liked.

I suppose it is somewhat ironic that I have been following with great interest Cory's posts about place prompted by this David Newquist post. Coincidentally, I came upon this Ross Douthat post "When Place Is Not Enough"; Douthat makes two key points that I find pertinent.

First, Douthat writes, "[R]eal happiness depends, for many if not most people, on a connection between family, community, and place. But on the evidence of the recent American experience, place alone is not enough."

Second, he makes a key distinction: "I think the distinction . . .  — between a philosophy of rootedness and a philosophy that just stresses 'place' in general or idolizes the rural life in particular — is central to . . . [the] ability to offer a realistic response to the ills of contemporary American life." I'm a bit cynical,  so the idea that there's "a realistic response to the ills of contemporary American life" is a bit hyperbolic, but "rootedness" does seem more important than "place."

Applying Douthat's points to South Dakota prompts a few observations. First, South Dakota is not a monolithic "place"; the Bison-Lemmon metroplex differs significantly from the I-29 corridor region from Sioux Falls to Watertown.

In addition, Douthat points to a "connection between family, community, and place" as being central ingredients to "roots." I'm not sure that's enough; the practical concerns about paying to replace the family car's transmission or saving for retirement are things not solved by "family, community, and place."

Further, humans are not plants. The roots metaphor implied in "rootedness" ignores the desire for autonomy. Satisfactorily setting down roots demands that one be able to choose to remain. A person who lives in Illinois, New York, California, or Texas and quits a successful job and sells a comfortable house can move to South Dakota, buy a similar house and have money left over. The converse is not true. Although, one may still have "choices," those choices are rather like the ones Odysseus faced on his voyage home: sail close to the six-headed monster Scylla and lose crewmen or sail close to the whirlpool Charybdis and lose the whole ship.

Finally, to apply the roots metaphor, roots need good soil and cultivation to softened the ground. Politically and culturally, South Dakota seems to desire stability more than cultivation. Deserts are stable too, but little grows there.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Quotation Of The Day II: God Loves Atheists And Wants All Of Us To Do Good Edition

From Pops Francis's sermon yesterday:

The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”
Doing good . . . is a duty, it is an identity card that our Father has given to all of us, because He has made us in His image and likeness. And He does good, always.

Quotation Of The Day: Scandals Don't Replace Ideas Edition

This Ramesh Ponnuru column discusses the dangers about concentrating on scandals:
Congressional Republicans were right to press for hearings on all of these issues. But investigations of the administration won’t supply them with ideas. They won’t make the public trust Republicans. They won’t save them from themselves.

The Difference Between Art And Propaganda: A Post With Pictures For Brad Ford

Cory does a solid take down of Brad Ford's latest illustration of his inability to understand analogies or aesthetics, but he used words. Ford has trouble with words, so I'll try pictures and words.

Mr. Ford, this is propaganda. It may show the talent to create images but it's a cudgel to make a political point:

I believe the following art demonstrates how most artists react to the above painting:

Some folks claim art must be honest, so let's talk about honesty for a second. Brad, you posted this picture to accompany your post. It emphasizes the alley not the art:

Felicia Follum posts this photo of art alley that emphasizes the art:

South Dakota Magazine has a slide show of other images here.

A Few Musings About Common Core Failures

Josh Verges reports that Rick Melmer, late of the University of South Dakota and a former South Dakota Secretary of Education, will began working for the Common Core. I have little hope that Melmer will do anything to fix any of the Core's problems. I do hope he takes note of some of the Core's detrimental effects of education.

Valerie Strauss uses this Answer Sheet post to reprint a letter from New York City principals discussing flaws with Common Core tests. The letter identifies Pearson "a company with a history of mistakes" as part of the problem. The principals seem more positive about the Core than I am, but they point out a key problem that arises when the Core is tied to a standardized test:
In both their technical and task design, these tests do not fully align with the Common Core. If one was to look closely at the Common Core Learning Standards ( and compare them to the tests, it is evident that the ELA tests focused mostly on analyzing specific lines, words and structures of information text and their significance rather than the wide array of standards.
As a result, many students spent much of their time reading, rereading and interpreting difficult and confusing questions about authors’ choices around structure and craft in informational texts, a Common Core skill that is valuable, but far from worthy of the time and effort given by the test. Spending so much time on these questions was at the expense of many of the other deep and rich common core skills and literacy shifts that the state and city emphasized. The Common Core emphasizes reading across different texts, both fiction and non-fiction, in order to determine and differentiate between central themes—an authentic college practice. Answering granular questions about unrelated topics is not. Because schools have not had a lot of time to unpack Common Core, we fear that too many educators will use these high stakes tests to guide their curricula, rather than the more meaningful Common Core Standards themselves. And because the tests are missing Common Core’s essential values, we fear that students will experience curriculum that misses the point as well. [emphasis mine]
South Dakota uses Pearson to write its tests. The tests I have seen when I have been asked to administer them in the past ignore many skills that aren't easy to test in favor of those that are easy to fit in a multiple guess format.

I still believe the biggest harm the Core will is having English departments teach non-fiction at the expense of meaningful fiction. The fact that the tests that Pearson produces will cause schools to narrow their curricula further exacerbates that problem.

Update: In the comments Josh Verges stops by to remind me that Pearson will not be doing the tests South Dakota uses. I stand by my comments about their past work.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ingrid Loyau-Kennett Is A Real Hero

From The Telegraph, "Mum talked down Woolwich terrorists who told her: 'We want to start a war in London tonight'":
Cub scout leader Ingrid Loyau-Kennett selflessly engaged the terrorists in conversation and kept her nerve as one of them told her: “We want to start a war in London tonight.”

Mrs Loyau-Kennett, 48, from Cornwall, was one of the first people on the scene after the two Islamic extremists butchered a soldier in Woolwich, south east London.
The article continues:
Mrs Loyau-Kennett was a passenger on a number 53 bus which was travelling past the scene, and jumped off to check the soldier’s pulse.

“Being a cub leader I have my first aid so when I saw this guy on the floor I thought it was an accident then I saw the guy was dead and I could not feel any pulse.

“And then when I went up there was this black guy with a revolver and a kitchen knife, he had what looked like butcher’s tools and he had a little axe, to cut the bones, and two large knives and he said 'move off the body’.

“So I thought 'OK, I don’t know what is going on here’ and he was covered with blood. I thought I had better start talking to him before he starts attacking somebody else. I thought these people usually have a message so I said 'what do you want?’
Read the article; this woman epitomizes courage.

Too Big To Fail Banks Getting Bigger

I remain frustrated that "too big to fail" banks that bear a large brunt of the blame for the "Great Recession" have not faced any consequences. I'm more frustrated by the fact that big banks have gotten bigger. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren shares my frustrations as her questioning of Treasury Secretary Jack Lew illustrates.

Erika Eichelberger from Mother Jones summarizes a key part of the exchange:
"Let me try the question a different way," Warren persisted. "How big do the biggest banks have to get before we consider breaking them up?" she asked, adding that the largest American banks are 30 percent larger than they were five years ago. "Do they have to double in size? Triple in size? Quadruple in size? Before we talk about breaking up the biggest financial institutions?"
Lew said that too big to fail "is an unacceptable policy", but urged Warren to have some patience.
She'd have none of Lew's excuses: "What we've seen… is one scandal after another in these largest financial institutions," she said. "It's clear they have not changed their risk bearing practices nor have they decided that they're suddenly going to start following the law."
I've posted about "too big to fail" before and Troy Jones always stops by to explain that Dodd Frank will make matters worse. He may be correct, the fact that I teach is South Dakota is evidence that I lack financial acumen.It does seem, however, that those in charge of regulating large banks are content to do nothing. In this situation, doing nothing definitely makes matters worse.

Quotation Of The Day: The Real Perils Of Single Party Government

From this Jon Schaff column about South Dakota's "beleaguered" and nearly defunct Democratic party:
One-party government ends up being about personalities rather than party. It is more about who is buddies with whom rather than contests of ideas. That breeds a kind of cronyism and backslapping that can lead to corruption 

Weiland Misses Opportunity To Prove He's A Good Candiddate

Cory posits the following scenario:
Imagine Weiland lining up the best of both worlds. He tacks left to win the support of the truer blue anti-Blue Dog South Dakota Dems. Yet he gets the power elite in D.C. to poo-poo him, allowing him to tout his independent streak and let less partisan South Dakota voters know that he's their guy, not the creature of some Washington machine.
It's always a good idea for South Dakotans to run against Washington, so I think Weiland should follow that advice, but there's one problem: it still contains the word "imagine."  I must have missed yesterday's announcement that went something like this:
I'm glad the Majority Leader Reid clarified that I am not his candidate. I seek only to serve South Dakotans in the United States Senate. I look forward to working with South Dakota Democrats to forge a winning candidacy and with all South Dakotans as their United States Senator in January 2015.
That speech doesn't work in September when it begins, "Hey, guys, you remember that one time when Reid said I wasn't his candidate...Yeah, about that..."

Weiland had one news cycle to get that message out. I haven't seen it. Has anyone?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Has Bob Ellis Become A Relativist? Or Bad Things Happen If You Trust Brainy Quote But Didn't Listen To Your English Teacher

Stopping by Bob's RSS feed blog yesterday, I noticed a post leading off with this quotation:
“I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”—James A. Baldwin
Grad school was a long time ago, but I didn't remember Baldwin as the ideal Ellis conservative. I also remember this quotation as being part of his identity as a person of color in the United States. The entire quotation bears me out:
I don't like people who like me because I'm a Negro; neither do I like people who find in the same accident grounds for contempt. I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually. I think all theories are suspect, that the finest principles may have to be modified, or may even be pulverized by the demands of life, and that one must find, therefore, one's own moral center and move through the world hoping that this center will guide one aright. I consider that I have many responsibilities, but none greater than this: to last, as Hemingway says, and get my work done.
I had forgotten about the bolded sentence, however. Does Bob really believe that situations, "the demands of life," can justify pulverizing one's "finest principles" like, oh I don't know, maybe the Republican Party platform? That certainly would be a news flash to get the South Dakota blogosphere in a whirl.

Let's be clear, I'm not attributing Baldwin's world view and atheism to Ellis, but this incorrect application of a quotation serves as an example. Writers should know who expressed the sentiments they quote and the entire context of the quotation before they use it to prove a point that the original writer never intended.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Let's Open This Post With Prayer, Or Not

Roaming around the Interwebs, I came across the fact that the Supreme Court will take up the practice of prayer at public meetings. The case involves the town of Greece, New York. According to SCOTUSblog,
Returning for the first time in three decades to the constitutionality of saying prayers at the opening of a government meeting, the Supreme Court on Monday took on a case involving Town Board sessions in the upstate New York community named Greece, a city of about 100,000 people.  For years, it followed the practice of having local clergy — mostly leaders of Christian congregations — recite prayers to start Town Board public meetings.
Because this situation sounds similar to the one in Rapid City, the decision may have implications in South Dakota. SCOTUSblog points out that the the Court may decide to rule narrowly, however:
The Supreme Court’s agreement to review the decision might be interpreted as an indication that the Justices could be preparing to make a major pronouncement on religion in the public sphere, but it also might be understood as an intent to focus solely on the specific facts of the practice as it unfolded in this one community.
One thing is certain, there will be much screaming, shouting, fist shaking, weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth about the decision before and after the fact:
As the case develops, though, it almost certainly will draw wide interest from advocacy organizations and religious entities, if for no other reason than the Court has not examined the specific question in some thirty years.
Given that everyone will hyperventilate about this case sooner or later, I think I'll try to make it sooner. My previous post had baseball allusions and I'm currently watching the Twins lose to the Braves, it seems fitting to conclude let Annie Savoy from Bull Durham conclude this post:
I believe in the Church of Baseball. I've tried all the major religions, and most of the minor ones. I've worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan. I know things. For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I heard that, I gave Jesus a chance. But it just didn't work out between us. The Lord laid too much guilt on me. I prefer metaphysics to theology. You see, there's no guilt in baseball, and it's never boring...

A Minor Musing About Aaron Hicks And Brendan Johnson

Cory Heidelberger and Pat Powers, as is their wont, are engaged in a spat about whether the Brendan Johnson faction of the South Dakota Democratic Party is using Rick Weiland is a placeholder.

I have trouble believing that people who practice politics professionally would be so stupid as to believe that idea worth considering, much less decide to act upon it. That being said, South Dakota Democrats have not won many elections recently, so they may be working under the adage, "desperate times call for desperate measures." If so, they would do well to consider the example of Aaron Hicks, the current center fielder for the Minnesota Twins.

Since the 1980s, the Twins have had Hall of Famers like Kirby Puckett, all-stars and gold glove winners like Torii Hunter, along with the more-than-serviceable journeyman like Denard Span patrolling center field. During that same time South Dakota's Democrats have had Tom Daschle and Tim Johnson elected to the United States Senate. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin has also won statewide election as South Dakota's lone member of the House of Representatives. I'll leave it to readers to determine for themselves which politician is the equivalent of a hall of famer, and all-star, or a journeyman

Kirby Puckett retired in 1996; he died in 2006. Hunter now plays for the Detroit Tigers, and Span plays for the Washington Nationals. To use the trite phrase, they ain't walking through the Twins' locker room door.

That leaves the team with Aaron Hicks who had good stats in AA ball, but Hicks is currently hitting .139 with 3 home runs and 15 runs batted in. He has struck out 37 times. He may have all the tools, and he may one day become a serviceable journeyman or go on to win a few gold gloves.

Brendan Johnson,  by all accounts, is a charismatic young man who has all the tools to succeed in politics, but his time in the U.S. Attorney's office is the political equivalent of AA ball. In time, he may become the political equivalent of a gold glove winner or all-star, but it's also a safe bet the results of his first campaign will have him hitting near or below the Mendoza line.

Rick Weiland may resemble Carlos Gomez more than he does Torii Hunter, but that doesn't mean that a plan to have him hold a line on the ballot so that Brendan Johnson can eventually become the Democrats' candidate will bear fruit.  In fact, it's probably doomed to make all involved look  inept.

A Minor Musing: Aquifers Running On Empty

David Frum points to this New York Times article discussing the depletion of the High Plains Aquifer. The Times describes the aquifer as
a waterlogged jumble of sand, clay and gravel that begins beneath Wyoming and South Dakota and stretches clear to the Texas Panhandle. The aquifer’s northern reaches still hold enough water in many places to last hundreds of years. But as one heads south, it is increasingly tapped out, drained by ever more intensive farming and, lately, by drought.
Frum concludes,
Finding ways to maximize calorie production while minimizing the need for irrigation will be the central challenge for industrial agriculture in the 21st century. Groundwater irrigation has made area farmers rich, and kept countless towns alive across the high plains. For many of these little towns, that era is rapidly coming to an end.
And like so many other tragedies of the commons, the declines of these great aquifers passed largely unnoticed until it was far too late to reverse. Sad. 
The Times may believe that this region has enough to last "hundreds of years," but it is prudent to look at places that are experiencing water shortages, learn from their mistakes, and do everything possible to prevent repeating them.

This article is also a reminder that the 20th Century's resource struggle was about oil, but many believe the 21st Century's resource struggle may well be about water.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Capitalism Destroys Everything: What Are They Doing To Batman?

First, there was this movie:

Now, there are Batman car seats.

Is nothing sacred?

Quotations Of The Day: Stacks of Bibles And Graphic Novels Edition

From a Sara Beck article in The New York Times: Stacks of Bibles, and Graphic Novels,
To readers of philosophy, “logos” means reason and rational argument. To readers of the Gospels, it is the word of God made incarnate in Jesus Christ. But for seekers of all kinds on the Upper East Side, Logos is also a cozy bookshop with a lumpy recliner and a black cat named Boo Boo, who sleeps near a stack of Bibles.

“Really, we are two shops in one,” said Harris Healy, the owner, gesturing to a display table piled with Father’s Day books on grilling and graphic novels. “We have a religious side and a secular side.”
“I guarantee we’re the only nondenominational Christian bookstore in the world that hosts an interfaith sacred book salon led by an atheist Jew who was educated at a liberal Methodist seminary," [Ben Siegel, an employee,] explained, offering a hint of his own unorthodox background.

Scripture And Song Of The Week: Genesis 2 Edition

Genesis 2
18 And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
19 And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.
20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.
21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;
22 And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Minor Musing About Personality, Principle, And Civility

It's Saturday afternoon and I should be correcting final projects, but I'm cruising the blogophere and discovering all sorts of things that trouble me greatly. In light of my previous post, I suppose the theme for the day is pain and perversion.

Yesterday, Pat Powers asked a provocative question: Are intra-party political differences  basically personality driven or are they principle driven?

I used to teach Shakespeare's Julius Caesar regularly, and I thought the play described political disputes quite accurately. In the play, Caesar complains of Cassius's "lean and hungry look." Marc Antony responds that Cassius is a "noble Roman" . The noble Roman had earlier wondered "upon what meat doth this our Caesar feed?" and proclaimed "the fault . . . lies not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings." (Act I, sc 2) Shakespeare has lead me to believe that a desire for power or personal pride provides the fuel for most political squabbles. That belief put me in the "personality" camp.

I'm also in the personality camp because I believe the "how" is as important as the "what." If, in a weird alternate universe, I would agree with South Dakota blog bloviator Bob Ellis 100% of the time, I know that I would still take every opportunity to make him spit, sputter, and turn purple with rage because it would be fun. In that strange wonderland, he and I might vote for the same candidates in a general election, but never in a primary. It would be all about personality not principle.

Today, however, I came upon something that makes me doubt. Weekend blogging for The Washington Monthly, Kathleen Geier points to this Right Wing Watch Pete Santilli profile. Santilli hosts an Internet talk show that broadcasts conspiracy theories and attracts some high profile guests:
in the past couple of months, Santilli has attracted two major gun activists to his show: National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent, who used the opportunity to call President Obama a Nazi, and Gun Owners of America director Larry Pratt, who worked with Santilli to flesh out his theory that President Obama is raising a private army to overpower the U.S. military. Pratt, in particular, is taken remarkably seriously among the GOP – he has been partially credited with taking down a background checks measure in the Senate last month.
Santilli recently said the following:
I want to shoot [Clinton] right in the vagina and I don't want her to die right away; I want her to feel the pain and I want to look her in the eyes and I want to say 'on behalf of all Americans that you've killed, on behalf of the Navy SEALS,' ... the families of Navy SEAL Team Six who were involved in the fake hunt down of this Obama bin Laden thing, that whole fake scenario - because these Navy SEALS know the truth, they killed them all - on behalf of all of those people, I'm supporting our troops by saying we need to try, convict, and shoot Hillary Clinton in the vagina. Anybody opposed to that, you are a domestic enemy.
Although his calling Hillary Clinton “[t]his ‘C U Next Tuesday,’ Hillary Clinton” would indicate otherwise, Santilli apparently isn't a sexist when it comes to doing violence. Earlier in the show, he expressed his desire to shoot President Obama, former Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush along with former Florida governor Jeb Bush "in the loins."

I don't know if Santilli can be seen as someone whom one opposes merely because of his alleged personality. Remarks like his destroy the very civility that make political discourse possible; opposing Santilli and those who give legitimize him seems to be the most principled thing one can do.

If one wants to listen, the show can found here.

Is Consent A Lodestar? A Saturday Morning Musing About Football, Porn, And Responsibility

Big Boy Bloggers Rod Dreher, Alan Jacobs, Noah Millman, and Conor Friedersdorf have been having a long and interesting discussion about this n +1 essay about a reporter embedded with a company that produces BDSM porn. This Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry post has most of the links. The Friedersdorf post is here

Before clicking on the article that starts the exchange, be warned; Jacobs writes, "Witt [the author of the n+1 essay] is an acute observer with no moral compass at all, and I find both her inability to orient herself ethically and her rather placid acceptance of that non-orientation disturbing. I read her essay with care but wish I had never seen it."

Many of the posts discuss the moral implications people enduring pain for gratification. Friedersdorf views the crux of the argument as being about consent:
The ethos of consent is regarded as a lodestar because its embrace is widely seen as an incredible improvement over much of human history; and because instances when the culture of consent is rejected are superlatively horrific.
With an introduction that mentions BDSM, morals, consent, and something so "disturbing" that a well-read college professor wishes he "had never seen it," I have no choice but to write about the National Football League.

Yesterday's Washington Post has a Sally Jenkins, Rick Maese and Scott Clement article about a Post survey of National Football League players. The results are rather alarming:
  • Nine in 10 former NFL players reported suffering concussions while playing, and nearly six in 10 reported three or more. Two in three who had concussions said they experience continuing symptoms from them.
  • More than nine in 10 players reported suffering at least one major injury while in the NFL. More than half reported three or more; one in five reported five or more.
  • Forty-four percent of former players said they have either had a joint replacement or have been advised they’ll need one.
The survey reports that most players played to make better life for themselves and their families. Most have no regrets:
The Post’s online survey of more than 500 retired players paints a rare portrait of the toll a career in the NFL has on the long-term health of those who competed in the bruising game. The results also present a striking paradox: Nine in 10 said they’re happy they played the sport. But fewer than half would recommend children play it today
The money doesn't seem to last as long as the pain, however.
A Washington Post survey of retired NFL players found that nearly nine in 10 report suffering from aches and pains on a daily basis, and they overwhelmingly – 91 percent – connect nearly all their pains to football.
The article continues the point about pain:
Few professions leave their work force with such lasting bruises and scars. The NFL and the league’s Player Care Foundation, an independent charitable organization, sponsored a study at the University of Michigan in 2009 that surveyed 1,063 former players. About eight in 10 reported suffering from pain that lasts most of the day. Among younger retirees, aged 30 to 49, one in three said he was unable to work or limited in work. And almost 30 percent of them rated their health as only “fair” or “poor.”
Ten percent of those under 65 in the Michigan survey needed surgery they could not afford, 16 percent needed dental care they couldn’t pay for and 8 percent could not afford prescription medicine.
With one breath these men claim to have consented to endure pain so fans watch them perform; yet in the next breath, many seem to indicate doubts about consent:
Nine in ten players surveyed by The Post reported playing while hurt during their careers, and 56 percent said they did so “frequently.” Nearly seven in 10 (68 percent) said they felt they had no choice in doing so.
“If you didn’t hurt while you were playing, then you weren’t playing,” [former linebacker Darryl] Talley said.
Forty-nine percent of the former players surveyed said they wish they’d played while hurt less often.
Dreher describes the events of the porn shoot as "torture" that the actress admits to having enjoyed. Enduring hits that causes three concussions sounds a bit like torture to me. So do the surgeries that Don Majkowski endured:
Seventeen years removed from his NFL career, ex-quarterback Don Majkowski says he can no longer hold down a job. He can’t stand for long periods, and sitting is also tough. He has undergone nearly 20 surgeries related to football, including 11 on his ankle, three on his shoulder and two on his back. He has a 12-inch scar on his stomach, and he can’t walk very far because his left foot is fused with his ankle by a pair of metal plates and 13 screws. “It’s like walking on a pirate peg leg,” he said.
There's a sexual component to BDSM that most people find far more repulsive than the gladiatorial nature of the NFL. Yet, it all seems to come back to the fact that performers in both venues consent to suffer pain and debilitating injuries to entertain others and earn a living..

I've been working with the high school young'uns a bit too long to put together a cogent philosophical conclusion. If I can get them to see The Odyssey as an illustration that being human is being troubled, I think I've done my job.

In the matter at hand, all I have is troubling questions that I'm not sure the original essay, the Post article, or the bloggers satisfactorily address: How much autonomy does one really have to consent? Further, is there a consequential moraldifference between watching an paid porn performer beaten and bruised for her own gratification and watching a paid NFL player beaten and bruised to win a football game?  More importantly, how much moral responsibility do consumers of pain for pleasure bear for the damage done to the performers?