Ten Years Ago at Grasping Reality: June 19, 2008

Ten Years Ago at Grasping Reality: June 20, 2008

Sam Boyd Is a National Treasure: He reads Slate, so we don't have to poison our minds. And comments on William Saletan:

This is the same logic that people used to justify homeowners who didn't want to rent to minorities. That's just terrible, they clucked, but I wouldn't want to live in a world where the government told people who they could rent to. Well, as it turns out, that world is a lot better than the one it replaced...

It is a good point. Consider: William Saletan on contraception:

William Saletan, 2008: You bring your scrip to the pharmacy, and the guy at the counter says, "Sorry, we don't stock contraceptives." That's annoying and, in my view, stupid. But nobody's walling you in. Your burden consists of finding another pharmacy...

William Saletan on fair housing:

William Saletan, 1958: You go to the open house, and the real estate broker says, "Sorry, we don't sell to Negroes." That's annoying and, in my view, stupid. But nobody's walling you in. Your burden consists of finding another house to buy...

Is there a difference between these two? Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

Stupidest Man Alive (William Saletan/Slate Edition): From Avedon Carol: "The Sideshow June 2008 Archive: You know, when William Saletan was complaining that pro-choice people never do anything to promote ways to reduce the need for abortion, I figured he'd just been hit on the head with an Acme anvil and got amnesia about the existence of organizations like Planned Parenthood. However, I see that His Lordship actually thinks it's no big deal if women can't get contraception, so I'm beginning to suspect that, his protestations to the contrary, Lord Saletan is actually a secret supporter of forced pregnancy..." Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

Atlantic Monthly Death Spiral Watch (Marc Ambinder Edition): Outsourced to Publius of Obsidian Wings: "Marc Ambinder has been spending a lot of time lately defending John McCain. But this post on habeas was too much. Ambinder claims that 'on the question of what should be done to the Gitmo detainees, the candidates' rhetorical differences are greater than their policy differences.' That’s wrong. Really really wrong.... Ambinder is ignoring the fact that political rhetoric matters. McCain has adopted the worst sort of demagoguery on the habeas case. He claimed the decision was one of the worst in history. He also referred to writs of habeas corpus—one of the oldest civil liberty protections in Anglo-American law—as 'so-called, quote, Habeas Corpus suits.'..."

Meterror Impacts Once Again: And then there is the cross-section problem: we have what? 6000 cities each of roughly 100 square miles = 600,000 square miles of devastating impact cross section in a world of 200M square miles. That means only 1 out of 400 50M impacts will be "devastating" if we say that a 50 meter meteorite--2 megatons, Barringer crater-sized--hitting a city is our threshold for "devastating." So we are down to one devastating every 4,000,000 years--not the one every thousand years of the Atlantic Monthly's lead to Gregg Easterbrook's article...

Ask the Gemeinschaft: E. Roy Weintraub and Stephen Marglin Edition: Marglin's main line is that "The market undermines community because it replaces personal ties of economic necessity by impersonal market transactions..." I note in closing that the lead dust-jacket blurb for this volume was provided by the noted economist and social theorist Bianca Jagger (sic). Whatever was Harvard University Press thinking? I have always found it remarkable that Marglin cannot but assume that "personal ties of economic necessity" are a good thing. Whenever I hear somebody say that they wish I were bound to them by "personal ties of economic necessity," I think that what they really mean is:

I want a world where you don't get to eat unless I approve of what you are doing, so you will be very careful to do only things I approve of.

I don't like that world, much.

Perhaps the most ironic thing about Marglin's rants against associative gesellschaft... is that Stephen Marglin has spent his life... in a gemeinschaft: for forty years he has been a tenured professor in Harvard's economics department. Few positions in the world today offer a life more embedded in a structured traditional community than his. The gemeinschaft that is the professional community of Ivy League economists in which Marglin has been embedded for the past forty years has not treated him with "reciprocity, altruism, and mutual obligation" but has... done what gemeinschaften traditionally do to corral their deviant members and to discourage others from imitating them..... But it seems to have had no effect on Marglin's thinking, none at all, for reasons I do not understand...