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Bloggingheads
03-24-2008, 07:03 PM

TwinSwords
03-24-2008, 07:52 PM
Whoa, dig the Ayn Rand hair-do!

http://www.design-engine.com/stories/independent.html

I wonder if that's done consciously. Don't get me wrong, Ms. Howley is a beautful woman. But I just can't help but notice that the libertarian is wearing the Ayn Rand hair-do.

uncle ebeneezer
03-24-2008, 08:05 PM
Yes. And with Will donning the country club sweater look, they look like they both may have just stepped of the grass tennis courts in Newport, and into the parlor for an afternoon brandy. Reminds me of "Match Point" or "Atonement".

Good diavlog though, so far.

otto
03-24-2008, 08:07 PM
That is all.

Globalcop
03-24-2008, 08:48 PM
If I've learned nothing else participating in forums, etc, on the web and in real life, it is that there is a certain type of person who simply cannot listen to things they believe are abjectly false and sit still. I am such a person.

At the age of 41 I am finally learning that simply listening to another I disagree with and staying silent is not always an endorsement of their views. And this is only when I'm faced with things I only subtly disagree with. I still welcome the opportunity to encounter those who espouse views I deeply disagree with, especially views that are more than just misguided but divisive.

I lived 40 years in Chicago, married a black woman in a church on 95th street (I'm white, from the North side) and have learned a great deal about confronting and engaging racists of all stripes in a diplomatic way.

What I've learned about Barry Obama from the past few weeks of dialogue is that he is the type of person who agrees with the hate, racism and anti-americanism he heard, or is just fine with having it be a part of his (and his children's life). Either that or he is utterly incapable of standing up for what he truly believes in.

I guess, unlike those who stand up for their views here, as a remarkably skilled, but nonetheless typical Chicago hack politician, he has learned to put his principles on the back-burner while he builds a coalition of votes. Just votes, for no reason other than to propel himself to power.

What does he really stand for? I don't think even he knows anymore.

graz
03-24-2008, 09:06 PM
Quote:
"What does he really stand for? I don't think even he knows anymore."

Well he stands for "Truth, Justice and the American way"

Look up in the sky, it's a bird, it's a plane - no it's Super(obama)man.

Now that you have unleashed the kryptonite.
I fully expect him to fall. Nice work.

piscivorous
03-24-2008, 09:20 PM
This is interesting, if trueThe Power of Cook County, Illinois
In the race for the most popular votes in the Democratic Party's presidential primary contests, Sen. Barack Obama's lead over Sen. Hillary Clinton is about 711,000 votes -- not including Florida or Michigan -- according to Real Clear Politics.

Of Sen. Obama's 711,000 popular-vote lead, 650,000 -- or more than 90% of the total margin -- comes from Sen. Obama's home state of Illinois, with 429,000 of that lead coming from his home base of Cook County.

That margin in Cook County represents almost 60% of Obama's total lead nationwide.

Interestingly, Sen. Obama's 429,000-vote margin in Cook County alone is larger than the winning margin of either candidate in any state.

Chicago Dems still know how to support their candidates better than anyone else in the country... It comes from a very controversial source so I'm leery of it but if true it is interesting.

cragger
03-24-2008, 09:24 PM
Tennis eh? I thought Will looked and sounded like he just woke up after a night of hard partying.

dankingbooks
03-24-2008, 09:41 PM
I enjoyed the discussion of prostitution. I generally support legalization, albeit with some serious restrictions. I do, for example, support the restriction on underage prostitutes, or on streetwalkers, who impose on innocent bystanders. But I have no use for the people, such as Donna Hughes, who support "abolition". That is, indeed, totally impossible - for more discussion, see here (http://anti-militant2.blogspot.com/#hughes_I), here (http://anti-militant2.blogspot.com/#Hughes_2), & here (http://anti-militant2.blogspot.com/#hughes_3). The latter is the most relevant to this diavlog.

I hate to keep bugging blogginghead boffins with my book, but it is just so relevant to this conversation. It's a novel about prostitution, which if you think about it, is really hard to do. I mean, ya pays your money; ya gets your girl. There is no drama in that. But my book is somewhat about how & why women become prostitutes, and more about why the customers become sex tourists (it is not a flattering picture). Beyond that, I've tried to write good, sexy fun (which after all, is what prostitution is supposed to be about). Anyway, I'll shut up and go way some day, but please check out Naked in Haiti: A sexy morality tale about tourists, prostitutes & politicians (http://www.dankingbooks.com).

piscivorous
03-24-2008, 10:00 PM
Here is another little tidbit about just how Obama is just a typical politician (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-050626obama-race,1,7205709.story?page=1) (from page 2 of the article)

Obama acknowledges, with no small irony, that he benefits from his race.

If he were white, he once bluntly noted, he would simply be one of nine freshmen senators, almost certainly without a multimillion-dollar book deal and a shred of celebrity. Or would he have been elected at all? What's that bit with Representative Ferraro all about?

uncle ebeneezer
03-24-2008, 10:01 PM
Glocalcop:

I've learned nothing

You could have ended your statement there.

What I've learned about Barry Obama from the past few weeks of dialogue is that he is the type of person who agrees with the hate, racism and anti-americanism he heard, or is just fine with having it be a part of his (and his children's life). Either that or he is utterly incapable of standing up for what he truly believes in

Or maybe your "classification" of hate, racism etc., are not shared by all people. Maybe you are taking an incredibly complex issue that is also very subjective, and over-simplifying it based on YOUR opinions. Maybe there are other people who see shades of grey where you see only black and white. Maybe you don't even realize what you're vision doesn't allow you to see. Or maybe you have such strong dislike for Obama that you are using this somewhat irrelevant issue as an excuse to cast judgement rather than engage in the nuanced discussion of race that Obama welcomed us to join with his speech.

Maybe Obama believes that his children don't need to be protected from the animosity felt by much of black America. Maybe, he even feels they should be exposed to this rage to better understand not only WHY many blacks feel this way, but also to understand that voicing displeasure with the country is, in fact, the American way. Maybe he trusts that his children are smart enough to see "emotional sermoning" for the hyperbole-laden dramatic production that it is. Maybe he trusts that his children can realize that a man who talks of AIDS manufacturing and also probably has talked about Jonah living inside of a whale is not to be taken literally. In other words maybe he has some common sense and grants that same possibility to his children.

Just out of curiosity, did you read Mike Huckabee's opinion on Wright's sermons and the overreactions that it has triggered? Is that just his starry-eyed Obama-love talking, or might he have a point?

Abu Noor Al-Irlandee
03-24-2008, 11:00 PM
Piscivorous,

It isn't true, or at least there's a mistake in there.

Obama won in Cook County by about 128,000 votes:

http://www.voterinfonet.com/results/020508/SummaryReport.pdf

The number for Illinois as a whole appears to be close to the correct margin of Obama's victory there. (It should be noted that Illinois is Clinton's home state as well --but it definitely went big for Obama).

You can get the state by state breakdown here:

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2008/president/democratic_vote_count.html

So, it is true that Obama in Illinois is the biggest margin of any one state, but Clinton won California by over 400,000 votes and New York by over 300,000.

Obama also won Georgia by 374,000 votes.

So, I won't argue that the numbers are interesting...but I'm not sure they prove whatever the person forwarding the numbers was trying to suggest that they show (some kind of corruption in Cook County or more innocently a very efficient Cook County machine...that does not appear to be true).

piscivorous
03-24-2008, 11:02 PM
Thanks

I will give the links a perusal.

Wonderment
03-24-2008, 11:09 PM
What I've learned about Barry Obama from the past few weeks of dialogue is that he is the type of person who agrees with the hate, racism and anti-americanism he heard, or is just fine with having it be a part of his (and his children's life).

His name is Barack, not Barry.

piscivorous
03-24-2008, 11:14 PM
I should have realized to check the
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2008/president/democratic_vote_count.html as I've used figures from it in previous comments but some time the obvious is obtuse. It seems that the state differential is correct but the Cook County figures are not. The county figures sited may actually be compilation of county statistics of the greater Chicago Area but I'm sure knowing the source that her intentions was to imply importunity of the Democratic machine and this defensibly puts this arguments to rest in my mind.

Eastwest
03-25-2008, 12:15 AM
On Will's Goofy & Erroneous Generalizations About Buddhism & the Dalai Lama

For those dim about the character of the primary world religions:

1) Buddhism is a non-theistic (as opposed to atheistic) teaching.

2) Support of monks, as in the case of the Catholic church, is entirely voluntary. It is simply held to be karmically virtuous to support others on the path of spiritual liberation, this as a cause for the effect of ease for oneself in pursuing the same endeavor in this or later lives.

3) Fundamental to all pre-Western traditions of Buddhism, everyone is involved in a process of reincarnation.

How these three points apply to the case of the Dalai Lama is as follows:

a) The Dalai Lama is NOT held to be a manifestation of any god. (Some do infer that this particular karmic continuum is associable with a particular bodhisattva, namely Avalokiteshvara.)

b) Rather he is understood to be simply a reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama.

c) In this, he is not categorically different from any of us who may, for instance, be reincarnations of say Herbert Hoover or Ayn Rand.

EW

graz
03-25-2008, 12:29 AM
Quote: Or maybe your "classification" of hate, racism etc., are not shared by all people. Maybe you are taking an incredibly complex issue that is also very subjective, and over-simplifying it based on YOUR opinions. Maybe there are other people who see shades of grey where you see only black and white. Maybe you don't even realize what you're vision doesn't allow you to see. Or maybe you have such strong dislike for Obama that you are using this somewhat irrelevant issue as an excuse to cast judgement rather than engage in the nuanced discussion of race that Obama welcomed us to join with his speech.

Just out of curiosity, did you read Mike Huckabee's opinion on Wright's sermons and the overreactions that it has triggered? Is that just his starry-eyed Obama-love talking, or might he have a point?[/QUOTE]

uncle ebeneezer:
Thanks for leading by example and trying to turn the hate into love.
It could be a never ending pursuit, and scorn is a lot easier and
immediately gratifying. But I am becoming more open to the possibility and rewards.

AemJeff
03-25-2008, 12:40 AM
The anti-patriotism rant was magnificent. I have nothing to add, but certain things demand public praise.

graz
03-25-2008, 01:33 AM
The anti-patriotism rant was magnificent. I have nothing to add, but certain things demand public praise.

I would like to second that and underscore that if enough swing voters cotton to Will's take, Obama will have a chance.
As much as race will be perceived as a deciding factor, I think Will had it right that identifying with McCain on this America first and foremost theme is powerful. Not decidedly so, but Obama will have to walk a fine line between pointing us in a new direction internationally and not insulting the sensibilities of the "America love it or leave it set." I think he has tapped into a genuine acceptance among a viable percentage of the electorate to put the stick down and proceed with caution. He hits the protect America priority button in most stump speeches. And I think this will help to offset hawkish attacks.

McCain = Shoot first ask questions later

Obama = Defend first, root out threats, employ diplomacy, alter the Bush/McCain mindset that presupposes we know best for everybody else.

Wonderment
03-25-2008, 01:36 AM
The anti-patriotism rant was magnificent. I have nothing to add, but certain things demand public praise

Yes! And not just as a beautiful philosophy, but also because they busted McBomb on the jingoistic essence of his campaign.

The part about patriotism as a mechanism to get (young) people to sacrifice their lives for the state is priceless. Libertarians should get equal time in pre-school education, to counterbalance governmental indoctrination of children with the Pledge of Allegiance.

Wonderment
03-25-2008, 01:50 AM
I love these two, so I hope this isn't viewed as insulting, but I thought the matching hairdos were maybe a weird mutation of the McClintock effect:

The McClintock effect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McClintock_effect), also known as menstrual synchrony, is a theory that proposes that the menstrual cycles of women who live together (such as in prisons, convents, bordellos, or dormitories) tend to become synchronized over time. -- Wikipedia

graz
03-25-2008, 02:02 AM
I don't know if I can buy the McClintock effect theory whole-hog in this case.
But I am enjoying thinking about it. That's a good one.

Blancandrin
03-25-2008, 02:30 AM
In the prostitution segment, Will Wilkinson and Kerry Howley cruise blissfully past the fundamental issues of prostitution. First mistake - Will frames the conservative position as a state interest in the prevention of vice. This is a stolen base - the conservative position would be a public or community interest in the prevention of vice. To refute the conservative position, you must engage this point rather than skip it.

Next Kerry Howley quickly jumps in over her head. First she accepts the persistent negative consequences of prostitution under a broad range of regimes, then blames these negative effects on the stigmatization of prostitution. This is a point that needs to be argued, not asserted. then she sets up a straw man, saying that the stigmatization of prostitution is the same stigma associated with female sexual activity, and opposition to prostitution comes from seeing women as sexually pure beings, and laws against prostitution exist to protect by law the sexual purity of women. Yes, it is easier to win when you address only weak arguments.

Then Will engages a weak Ross Douthat argument (is there any other kind?) against prostitution as a form of self inflicted violence. Douthat's argument is as obvious as it is inconsequential.

Back to Kerry, who wonders if the bad stuff associated with prostitution is inherent in the activity, or only there because the stigma attached allows only desperate women to to engage in prostitution. The Kerry proposes a real howler, asking if prostitution should be illegal assuming there's nothing wrong with selling sex for money.

Kerry: Let's assume we have eggs in the fridge. Let's discus how we should prepare them.
Me: First, why not check and see if we have the eggs?

Will says, "The harm from the prohibition and the stigma that goes along with the prohibition. " Will asserts that the stigma is a result of the prohibition. Asserts, not argues. The stigma is pretty obviously a result of the harm and degradation associated with prostitution.

Then both fetishize self autonomy. Self autonomy is valuable, but you have to weigh it against other interests, and defending an activity on the basis of self autonomy when the activity by definition requires more than one person is very weak.

Then Will mentions his dumb point that all forms of work require selling your body. So Will can see the insignificant commonalities prostitution has with other jobs. Can he see the important distinctions? Well, some of them. He does see the mechanism by which a part of the corrosive effect of prostitution upon the prostitute takes place, but only in the costs to the individual.

Kerry compares prostitutes to firefighters, surgeons, and soldiers in terms of the emotional hardening. Again, an enviable grasp of the meaningless commonalities. The differences are what make the other jobs worth that cost.

Women are capable of emotional control that allows prostitution to benefit them, says Kerry. Well, perhaps some are. How many? And should the law ignore the reality of prostitution and base itself on how things might work in the land of libertarians?

Howley and Wilkinson seem blind to the fact that individual actions have consequences for communities, so they address only the weakest arguments against prostitution. The ignore human nature, human biology, and human history, blithely musing about the desirability of tossing out the stigma against prostitution. Why not wish for big, fluffy wings for everyone? Or a third arm?

I'd like to hear a pro-legalization perspective that engages the arguments against it. Libertarians always seem so naive, so young. Maybe it's something most people grow out of.

Wonderment
03-25-2008, 02:30 AM
Here's two scenarios:

Jane has sex with John for money. Illegal.

Jane has sex with John for money, but he also makes a film of it, which he sells on the Internet. Legal.

bjkeefe
03-25-2008, 05:07 AM
Globalcop:

If I've learned nothing else participating in forums, etc, on the web and in real life, it is that there is a certain type of person who simply cannot ...

... stay on topic but instead will avail himself of every opportunity to vent his petty obsessions.

bjkeefe
03-25-2008, 05:12 AM
EW:

2) Support of monks, as in the case of the Catholic church, is entirely voluntary.

I don't accept that. You've ignored the very real effect of social pressure.

I have no experience with monks begging for alms, but I did get raised as a Catholic, and let me tell you, it was not at all easy back in those days to refuse to put something in the collection basket.

bjkeefe
03-25-2008, 05:16 AM
I mostly agree with Will's rant on patriotism, too, but I disagree on one point: There are certain things for which I am prepared to lay my life down to defend.

I grant that such an emotion is frequently manipulated and easily distorted, and I also agree that it's a mistake to think that only the United States stands for such worthwhile values. Nonetheless, the US is one of the best real-life examples, and it is usually the case that attacks on such values take place in the context of national identities.

seyoyo
03-25-2008, 08:49 AM
I really don't understand why people don't understand why a community worker in Chicago would choose immerse himself in that urban African-American community in South Chicago. It's obvious why he would do so. That's where his life work was, and that's where he could make the impact he sought to make. Wright's church was a big part of that community as it relates to community organising work. rejecting the church is a rejection of that community. That's why it's not only unfair but maybe even racist to inisist that Obama has to reject that community.

It's seeming that white America thinks that for Obama to be post-racial it has to join white America in taking distance from the parts of black America they loathe. That's exactly what he can not be to be a uniter and post-racial person.

To be the uniter he has to be able to legitimately claim and accept each community in America, warts and all.

piscivorous
03-25-2008, 10:37 AM
Freedom Never Cries (http://www.whatkindofworlddoyouwant.com/videos/view/id/706270)

Joel_Cairo
03-25-2008, 11:06 AM
Do Libertarians believe in procreation? If so, these two are gonna have some incredibly attractive offspring.

bjkeefe
03-25-2008, 11:27 AM
A video for which exclusive use of the word treacly (http://wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=treacly) should be reserved.

Are you using "old fashioned" to mean "unbearably superficial?"

piscivorous
03-25-2008, 12:04 PM
Only to those that are predisposed to view it in that vein.

uncle ebeneezer
03-25-2008, 12:38 PM
Blan, check out the 3/10 post on this site:

http://plumer.blogspot.com/2008_03_01_archive.html#5839072343217293439

Some interesting stuff. -- Uncle Eb

bjkeefe
03-25-2008, 01:00 PM
Only to those that are predisposed to view it in that vein.

Hard to say I was "predisposed" when the link offered no hint about what was in store.

Joel_Cairo
03-25-2008, 01:03 PM
Only to those that are predisposed to view it in that vein.

You mean a predisposition against tacky, saccharine, critical-though-disabling cotton-candy dressed up in the accoutrements of nationalism?

piscivorous
03-25-2008, 01:05 PM
Your quote was from some sort of "music critic" or "rating service" not from your head so It is the agents predisposition I was referring to. I was pretty sure from the get go that you didn't actually go there and listen or much less consider giving the charity organization that is hosting the actual video clip.

uncle ebeneezer
03-25-2008, 01:07 PM
Thanks Graz, not sure that I deserve as much credit as you offer, but I try to be respectful and state my case with minimal snark (with varying levels of success, admittedly).

Nothing bugs me more than holier-than-thou, self-righteousness. Unfortunately, Obama's speech has brought out alot of it.

One last point/question about the Wright Stuff: I'm still confused at how people don't get the Grandma/Wright connection. Obama mentioned his Grandmother's racism not to demonize her but to point out that he could (to paraphrase) "love the sinner but hate the sin". This was to help answer the question of "why didn't you denounce Pastor Wright". And I think not only is it a logically consistent answer, but it's the PERFECT answer. The answer is "for the same reason I don't demonize my grandmother. Because it's a tricky issue and many people have conflicting and negative feelings on race, and anger about injustice, but that doesn't mean you simply write them off or ignore what they have to say. It's just not that simple."

And it really troubles me that so many people who spend countless hours in churches worshipping a guy whose central message was of forgiveness, just CAN'T seem to make the connection. I mean, are they putting in ear plugs when they go to church? Now, one can say "well Pastor Wright and the members of his church should learn to forgive White people or the gov't or whatever" and that would be a fair point, but that still doesn't change the fact that they are making Obama out to be a jerk because he has the fortitude to put into action precisely what Jesus asks us all to do. It's commendable. And that's coming from the mouth of a complete Atheist (me.)

PS

bjkeefe
03-25-2008, 01:11 PM
Your quote was from some sort of "music critic" or "rating service" not from your head so It is the agents predisposition I was referring to. I was pretty sure from the get go that you didn't actually go there and listen or much less consider giving the charity organization that is hosting the actual video clip.

My words were original with me, although I do grant emulation of others' tones.

I did watch the video for as long as I could stand it -- a little less than halfway.

I don't have any idea about the charity. Maybe it is good. But that video was absolutely horrible. That's all I was commenting upon.

piscivorous
03-25-2008, 01:13 PM
I appreciate you for at least going even though you failed to see.

bjkeefe
03-25-2008, 01:14 PM
uncle eb:

I'm still confused at how people don't get the Grandma/Wright connection.

The vast majority of those who don't have no interest in so doing. The truth is, they are delighted to have this faux issue. It gives them an excuse to let out a little of that pent-up racism.

bjkeefe
03-25-2008, 01:15 PM
I appreciate you for at least going even though you failed to see.

Tell me what you saw that I missed.

AemJeff
03-25-2008, 01:27 PM
I think you've managed to mischaracterize just about every aspect of the arguments you’d like to refute and simultaneously mixed in a stream of ad hominem invective.

Will frames the conservative position as a state interest in the prevention of vice. This is a stolen base - the conservative position would be a public or community interest in the prevention of vice. To refute the conservative position, you must engage this point rather than skip it.

Why? The conservative position seems to be “the government shouldn’t interfere in our personal decisions, except when it should.” (The liberal position is no more consistent.) You’ll need to frame this more carefully before anyone seriously engages you on it.

Howley’s argument seems to be “you can’t disentangle the negative effects of stigmatization from the negative effects of the act itself.” Correlation is not causation.

The idea that selling sex for money is an unalloyed bad thing is a cultural assumption, not shared by everybody. You seem to start there axiomatically.

Your argument about self-autonomy seems confused, I’m not sure I can follow what you’re trying to say.

Almost every act has a consequence for a community, how we decide what gets regulated and how it gets regulated needs a more specific basis than this. The default assumption, in my opinion, should be the state only interferes to prevent imminent harm and cheating, which is why, as a liberal, I’m more comfortable with economic regulation than I am with the regulation of morals.

piscivorous
03-25-2008, 01:42 PM
Sometime you must see what you think the focus. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ahg6qcgoay4) It is a charity site.

Nate
03-25-2008, 02:22 PM
I was too focused on the chest hair, sorry. ;)

del
03-25-2008, 02:22 PM
Hi All,

I actually took some classes with George Kateb and I think he might have taken up Kerry's interesting point about, to paraphrase, "why would you want to be president of a country you hate?" in a way Will didn't. Namely, I think he'd be just as frustrated with Rev. Wright's use of religious rhetoric as he would be with McCain's patriotic rhetoric, as IIRC he says communities get themselves into trouble by "worshiping" either their own national or religious identities.
Thus, while Obama's personal perspective may be: "America is cool but we should all just cool out about it," I think Wright's remarks have now taken everything to a very "uncool" Falwell-y place . . . In turn, assuming Obama does survive to the general election, I wonder whether he's going to have to try (perhaps fruitlessly) some sort of "Barack Obama reporting for duty" BS to win.

Del

You_had_me_at_hello
03-25-2008, 02:26 PM
Thank you Kerry for mentioning sexism in the diavlog.

You_had_me_at_hello
03-25-2008, 02:57 PM
You know, I'm probably in the wrong. I'm probably ridiculously old-fashioned --
(maybe because the heyday of feminism was a little bit before my time). . .

but your comment (which I won't repeat here) was, I won't say "offensive" -- but maybe just a little "iffy". But I realize that you realized that it might come across that way. . .

You generally have really good comments though.

You_had_me_at_hello
03-25-2008, 03:41 PM
Never mind Wonderment, I just realized clearly that you were just trying to be funny. . .

bjkeefe
03-25-2008, 04:13 PM
del:

In turn, assuming Obama does survive to the general election, I wonder whether he's going to have to try (perhaps fruitlessly) some sort of "Barack Obama reporting for duty" BS to win.

(*shudder*) Please, no. When I saw Kerry say that at the beginning of his acceptance speech, I said right then, out loud, "He's just lost the election." I still have nightmares about that salute.

bjkeefe
03-25-2008, 04:28 PM
Sometime you must see what you think the focus. It is a charity site.

You've lost me. You began by linking directly to a specific video. Your subject line referred to the video. I noticed the site purports to be a charity thing. I don't care, as I already said. I asked you what you liked about the video. If you have no answer, but it was the charity itself that you care about, why did you not link to the site's home page in the first place?

I think you should wait till later in the day to start drinking.

Blancandrin
03-25-2008, 04:39 PM
I think you've managed to mischaracterize just about every aspect of the arguments you’d like to refute and simultaneously mixed in a stream of ad hominem invective.

Why? The conservative position seems to be “the government shouldn’t interfere in our personal decisions, except when it should.” (The liberal position is no more consistent.) You’ll need to frame this more carefully before anyone seriously engages you on it.


Beat that straw man!


Howley’s argument seems to be “you can’t disentangle the negative effects of stigmatization from the negative effects of the act itself.” Correlation is not causation.

The idea that selling sex for money is an unalloyed bad thing is a cultural assumption, not shared by everybody. You seem to start there axiomatically.


I'm questioning the assumption that "...selling sex for money is an unalloyed bad thing is a cultural assumption, not shared by everybody." Show me the culture where parents want their daughters to grow up to be prostitutes. When a stigma is prevalent independent of culture, it's probably not a cultural assumption.


Your argument about self-autonomy seems confused, I’m not sure I can follow what you’re trying to say.


Defending an act on the basis of the value of self autonomy doesn't get you that far when the act has significant consequences for other people.


Almost every act has a consequence for a community, how we decide what gets regulated and how it gets regulated needs a more specific basis than this. The default assumption, in my opinion, should be the state only interferes to prevent imminent harm and cheating, which is why, as a liberal, I’m more comfortable with economic regulation than I am with the regulation of morals.

This is just unserious. Goodbye roads and bridges, public libraries, zoning regulations, public schools, trash collection, water and sewage...

Abu Noor Al-Irlandee
03-25-2008, 05:18 PM
Blancandrin,

Excellent points and thankyou for countering the nonsense or Ms. Howley and Mr. Wilkinson on this issue.

There can be an interesting discussion with regard to prostitution or a lot of other moral issues about what is the best way to reduce the occurrence of prostitution or reduce the harms involved in terms of how the state and teh police should get involved, what the punishments should be, etc.

I appreciate the benefits in being a fringe idealogue (I, though not a libertarian, am an Islamist in America) but really it's not enough to just say we should question whether there's a moral issue involved in exchanging sex for money...one should stop and think, do I really want to try to change the culture so that trading sex for money is acceptable...so that sex becomes just another 'service' or another 'job' that people do? Wonderment's comment reminds us of the fact that the normalization even more so than the legalization of hardcore pornography has such a high cost in the human dignity of our society. Ms. Howley's argument is that (it seems to me, I just watched the diavlog but I did not investigate all of what she may have written on this issue elsewhere on the net) the stigma on prostitution is basically a side product of the stigma on women having a lot of sexual partners. I really think there's different issues involved, but be that as it may, I would still say (to use Blancandrin's test) that in any culture parents don't want their daughters to grow up to have a ton of different sexual partners. Of course, I'm sure Ms. Howley (and many others) would tell me that that's just because all cultures are patriarchal and sexist. Maybe so, but I still think people need to decide if encouraging people to feel free to have numerous sexual partners is the way we want the community/society to go.

I think this all goes to the interesting issue that was attempted to be raised in that diavlog with that Christian guy that bjkeefe attacked mercilessly...what would Ms. Howley and Mr. Wilkinson want for their hypothetical children? If they wouldn't want their daughter to be a prostitute or even just sexually promiscuous then their desire to want to see it be normal or acceptable for others is really just a kind of elitism (again, this is putting aside the government enforcement issues which can be discussed separately...I'm just trying to get to the issue of whether we can agree as a society that this is behavior which we don't approve of and of which we want to put a stigma (like Mr. Wright's famous example of Ann Coulter's speech -- we may not want to ban it, but we can all agree it should be stigmatized heavily.)

Personally, I always remember some dialogue from the movie Mi Familia (My Family) with Jimmy Smits. Mr. Smits' character is a guy who had a rough childhood and spent some time in jail but his do-gooder ex-nun sister gets him to marry a refugee from Guatemala so that she can stay in the country and not be persecuted back in Guatemala. Mr. Smits' character is all about the marriage was a political act or a nice thing to do for his sister or the girl but is clear that it is not a 'real' marriage. The girl, however, knows that they are married and is determined to be a 'wife' to him. When the wise old mother of Mr. Smits' character finds out, the former nun tries to argue with her that the girl could have been killed in Guatemala and this was the right thing to do even if it was 'cheapening' the act of marriage. The mother tells them (paraphrase) there are some things that are sacred and that we do not spit on because it is these things that make life worth living, it is these things that give human beings dignity. To me, sex has to be one of those things, when it is separated from love and marriage and turned into a commercial act, all human beings suffer because human dignity is sacrificed.

Anyways, that's what I think. I would not want to be part of any moral community that does not realize that. Again, the state's role and how something is enforced can be discussed and debated but the essential morality of the activity involved is something we should not lose sight of.

http://abunooralirlandee.wordpress.com

Glaurunge
03-25-2008, 05:19 PM
With respect to Obama's choice to associate himself with the African American community, I think a distinction should probably be made between "authentic blackness" in the eyes of other Blacks and in the eyes of Whites.

In America there's an unspoken rule that having one white and one non-white parent makes you the race of the non-white parent. Since America is a basically white country, I'd say this is pretty much the default position for most Whites in America. To them, Obama is going to be black regardless of the associations he has and the community circles he moves in. No matter how much golf he plays at the country club, he'll always be just black.

I'm not sure what the general African American opinion is on this. Is there usually skepticism of bi-racial blacks' authenticity and credibility unless they take active steps to publicly identify themselves as black?

piscivorous
03-25-2008, 05:29 PM
Let try and spell it out for you and Joel_Cairo then. I link to as site that helps support a charity that I give too, Operation Home Front (http://www.operationhomefront.net/), by using a donated country and western song to garner donations, and all you and Joel can see is the song and object to it. It is not the song that is my expression of patriotism it is the charity that is an expression of my "old fashioned patriotism." I generally but my money where my mouth is.


P.S. I meant to ask you did you see the moonwalking gorilla?

Abu Noor Al-Irlandee
03-25-2008, 05:35 PM
It's always dangerous to generalize about any whole group of people and especially when it comes to race, but I think the concept you mention is pretty widely shared by African Americans as well as whites in the U.S.

The historical legacy of this notion may go back to the notoriously racist concept of the "one-drop" rule but post civil rights and Black power I think this was adopted by the African American community in an affirmative way.

So, if we recall the Tiger Woods dust-up, not only would he not be regarded as anything other than "Black" by many whites but there was also protest in the Black community when he called himself "Cablinasian" because there's a notion (at least among many) that trying to embrace other parts of one's heritage is a way of selling out and trying to separate from the Black community. So, while commentators may say Barack Obama is both Black and white and of course he has talked about his white family members...I don't think you'd ever catch Obama saying "I'm white" or even "I'm also white." Somebody please correct me if Obama has made statements like that.

http://abunooralirlandee.wordpress.com

piscivorous
03-25-2008, 05:35 PM
Of course claiming that blackness, which provides all kinds of affirmative action benefits, might have nothing to do with why some choose to be black. Apply for an SBA loan, as a white man, and see where you fall on the priority list or claim your black heritage, or you American Indian heritage or put the company in your wife's name and see where you fall.

Abu Noor Al-Irlandee
03-25-2008, 05:46 PM
I don't think Obama nor Tiger Woods have applied for any SBA loans.

It is amazing to me that so many white people who of course spend half their time criticizing Blacks, women and other minorities for their supposed victim-mentality spend the other half of the time talking about how many unfair advantages these same groups supposedly have. These white people would find the notion of white skin privilege baffling and of course have "worked hard" for every little thing they've gotten in life but the society is so stacked against them. It is these white people who have the biggest most profound false sense of victimization that I've ever come across. Their view of the reality of this society is so distorted and out of touch with the real world that I think it can only really be called a mental illness or disorder.

http://abunooralirlandee.wordpress.com

Glaurunge
03-25-2008, 06:54 PM
Agreed. I'm not saying affirmative action (whatever that means) is a good thing or a bad thing, but the umbrage and resentment taken by some Whites really is astounding. In my experience they decry these sorts of programs, while simultaneously shunning any discussion of racial inequality as it pertains to black disadvantages and white privileges.

piscivorous
03-25-2008, 07:03 PM
I don't think it's just the we whites that have this attitude Could a white person do this routine? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpUSElgJcyI)

AemJeff
03-25-2008, 07:05 PM
Beat that straw man!

Say what? How is this responsive to what I said about how you framed your assertions?

Regarding cultural assumptions about prostitution: I 'll show you any number of societies where it's legal. The mother of the with girl associated with Elliot Spitzer didn't seem particularly exercised about her daughter's lifestyle choice. The degree to which people think prostitution is a bad thing seems to track loosely with religiosity.

Defending an act on the basis of the value of self autonomy doesn't get you that far when the act has significant consequences for other people.


The argument Wilkinson and Howley were making calls into question the nature of the consequences of a particular class of behavior. It also questions the logic by which some common assumptions about that behavior have been determined. You're just asserting the truth of those assumptions.

This is just unserious. Goodbye roads and bridges, public libraries, zoning regulations, public schools, trash collection, water and sewage...

Yeah I was being glib; but I think there's some categorical confusion here. Please explain to me how laws enforcing taxation aren't explicitly laws which enforce "no cheating." Sharing the burden within a society is not synonymous with inviting that society to enforce moral judgments on particular acts. Rather, I assert that the society has a moral obligation to provide a framework in which specific harms can be redressed. Slavery and coercion, e.g., can certainly be dealt with legally without making and enforcing a set of assumptions about specific acts about which not everybody will agree.

AemJeff
03-25-2008, 07:10 PM
The mother tells them (paraphrase) there are some things that are sacred and that we do not spit on because it is these things that make life worth living, it is these things that give human beings dignity.

That's the specific problem. If something is "sacred" to you, then you've made a decision regarding that particular thing. The law ought not to enshrine, or even recognize the state of being sacred. I recognize that for a self-described "Islamist" that this may seem alien, but in a pluralistic society we should be free to decide these things for ourselves.

AemJeff
03-25-2008, 07:24 PM
I mostly agree with Will's rant on patriotism, too, but I disagree on one point: There are certain things for which I am prepared to lay my life down to defend.

I don't think that there's an incompatibility there. I definitely didn't hear Will saying that he believed you shouldn't ever feel prepared to lay your life down in defense of something. Just not generically.

Abu Noor Al-Irlandee
03-25-2008, 07:25 PM
AemJeff,

As I said twice in my post, we can debate exactly what the law should do. We as a pluralistic community can still agree that we all hold certain things sacred. But my challenge to you would be to stop hiding behind theoretical discussion, if you want me to take you seriously, stand up and say "I think there is nothing wrong with prostitution. I want my daughter or mother to be a prostitute. I wouldn't be ashamed to have my picture on the news as a customer of prostitutes or for my children to know that I am a customer of prostitutes. Then again, I doubt I would believe you if you did. I think if you asked prostitutes whether they thought it was wrong and whether they'd want it for people they cared about or what they thought of their customers, you'd realize that even, or especially, the people who actually know what they are talking about know the reality of the situation.

Anyways, thanks for your contribution to the discussion. My last post (especially the part about the movie) was really just a pouring out of my heart rather than just a reasoned argument...but it was my honest reaction to what I feel is a basically false discussion. To state it as an oxymoron, the 'sacredness' to which the character in the movie refers is a kind of secular sacredness, at least in the sense that it is not based on any religious text, but a shared understanding of what it (should) mean to be a human as something higher than some kind of utilitarian pleasure seeking machine. While there are undoubtedly some things I think are sacred that you don't...I honestly believe there are things which enough of us can agree on that we have the right as a community to set it as a moral standard. I guess you're arguing that there can be no common morality in a pluralistic society, and I guess I'm disagreeing with that.

That's the specific problem. If something is "sacred" to you, then you've made a decision regarding that particular thing. The law ought not to enshrine, or even recognize the state of being sacred. I recognize that for a self-described "Islamist" that this may seem alien, but in a pluralistic society we should be free to decide these things for ourselves.

http://abunooralirlandee.wordpress.com

Abu Noor Al-Irlandee
03-25-2008, 07:34 PM
I have no idea what this routine has to do with what we were talking about, but perhaps I'm missing something. I do know that certain kinds of white people love nothing more in the world than to see Black people criticize other Black people. Anyways, thanks for raising the level of the bhtv comment board discussion on race to that of Michael Scott (Steve Carrell) on "The Office."

I don't think it's just the we whites that have this attitude Could a white person do this routine? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpUSElgJcyI)

http://abunooralirlandee.wordpress.com

AemJeff
03-25-2008, 07:45 PM
Abu Noor, The only way in which this discussion has any heft is in the context of how the state should be involved. You spoke passionately about your belief that certain things are sacred in the context of a discussion about the state's relationship to those things.

To directly respond to what you said, it’s precisely the theoretical aspects of this argument that I feel strongly about. The relationship of the individual to the modern day state is a topic of abiding interest to me. I could substitute “drug use,” “smoking,” “gambling,” or any number of other perceived vices for “prostitution” and make a substantially similar argument. In fact what motivated my entry into this particular discussion was that I believe my original interlocutor was mis-characterizing the arguments that Wilkinson and Howley were making.

Having said that: I have no particular problem with prostitution. Would I recommend it as a lifestyle? Probably not. It’s risky in any number of ways. However, I don’t think there’s an intrinsic difference between prostitution and any other human endeavor.

Eastwest
03-25-2008, 07:46 PM
RE BJ's:


Re: 2) Support of monks, as in the case of the Catholic church, is entirely voluntary.

I don't accept that. You've ignored the very real effect of social pressure.


I speak from 40 years of direct experience within Buddhist traditions and know what I'm talking about. You, as with Will, are generalizing about a tradition with which you apparently have little or no direct familiarity.

Understandable, I suppose, given that, aside from ethnic Buddhist enclaves in big cities, we mostly see only derivative and highly westernized forms of Buddhist practice in Europe and US such as "Beat Zen." etc. which, for the most part, are non-monastic in any case.

I can't really speak for why you felt "gouged" by being expected to contribute to the upkeep of your church-of-origin. (I left behind theistic traditions in high school and frankly haven't missed them a bit, especially given their rather checkered history of inspiring so much mutual intolerance, hatred, and violence. Seems to come with the psychic territory of righteous conviction that one's own god is the one and only truth.)

EW

Wonderment
03-25-2008, 09:27 PM
Personally, I always remember some dialogue from the movie Mi Familia (My Family) with Jimmy Smits.

Interesting. I know the film makers -- Anna Thomas and Greg Nava -- well. They got an Oscar screenplay nomination for a previous (and better) movie El Norte. They also gave Jaylo her start in films in Mi Familia, and later her star role in Selena.

As for prostitution, I come down on the legalize/regulate and be very vigilant side.

As to your argument that you wouldn't want to say your sister or mom as a sex worker, I think that's a cultural bias, not an absolute.

I have met people who are not at all ashamed to say their daughter is an "exotic dancer" (euphemism for lapdancer) or an actor in adult films (i.e., someone who has sex for money). Posing in Playboy or similar publications (as a prop for male masturbation) actually has considerable status in our society.

If you legalize prostitution (more than it's already legalized) people will find euphemisms they are comfortable with.

Who would you respect more, a street prostitute or a lobbyist for the tobacco industry?

piscivorous
03-25-2008, 09:52 PM
It has to do with double standards. Besides if you had watched the video long enough you would have noticed that most of the audience members shown were black.

bjkeefe
03-26-2008, 02:53 AM
EW:

I speak from 40 years of direct experience within Buddhist traditions ...

But not, presumably, from living as a poor person in some village in Tibet.

bjkeefe
03-26-2008, 03:07 AM
Let try and spell it out for you and Joel_Cairo then. I link to as site that helps support a charity that I give too, Operation Home Front (http://www.operationhomefront.net/), by using a donated country and western song to garner donations, and all you and Joel can see is the song and object to it.

Sorry if we missed the point. Your original post was nothing but a link to the video, labeled with the title of the video, and with a subject line that seemed all about the video, especially given the first two factors. If I link to a story on, say, nytimes.com, would you interpret that as my wanting you to read the story or my wanting you to subscribe to the NYT?

P.S. I meant to ask you did you see the moonwalking gorilla?

No, and the really funny part is, I knew what was going to happen. Turns out that same idea was shown by some psych professor years ago, so I figured there was no way I could miss it this time, and tried to do as the instructions said: count the passes. Amazingly, I did not see the moonwalker this time, either, until the second time around.

bjkeefe
03-26-2008, 03:12 AM
Could a white person do this routine?

Could a black person do a "You might be a redneck if ..." routine?

Could a non-[fill in religion] comedian do jokes about [religion]?

I'm not sure what it proves to say that a member of a group is allowed to go a little farther in remarking on his own group than another. This phenomenon is hardly unique to 21st century America.

bjkeefe
03-26-2008, 03:23 AM
pisc:

As I noted in my other comment on this, so what? Of course there's a double standard with regard to edgy comedy. As Night Train Lane said long ago, "It's okay for me to make ethic jokes. I'm an ethnic."

This whining about "double standards" and the like, simply because one can find instances like Chris Rock, is really pathetic.

And as for things like being denied an SBA loan or admission to some school, tough. Life is not always fair, in the first place. How do you think the person who didn't get into Yale felt when his slot was taken by legacy preferences given to George W. Bush?

In the second place, anyone who loses out in something like an open application process is so near the edge of not getting admitted on the merits anyway that I am inclined to think it usually serves as a convenient excuse for one's own shortcomings. It has also been the case that "I had to hire a woman/minority" is the cover story given by the one who denies the application, out of a misguided sense of politeness between two white people, when the truth really was, "You were not qualified for the position."

In the third place, you're overlooking double standards of a vastly different magnitude. Think of DWB, being followed by store security just because of skin color, disparities in drug sentencing laws, that study with resumés identical except for applicant name, to name but a few.

a Duoist
03-26-2008, 06:56 AM
Senator Obama's speech clearly established his bona fides with the African American community, which despite voting for him by overwhelming numbers (up to 90%), some seemed to think he lacked. That said, he can garner 100% of the black vote but if he lost every white vote he would be overwhelmed. He could win every Democratic voter, but he would then still lose the election. To win, he must put together some coalition of some kind, one which is Inclusive of some moderate Republicans, some Independents, as well as Democratic Party loyalists.

Read his speech closely. In the establishment of his bona fides with just one community, he unintentionally makes a separatist's argument. On Election Day, his supporters will not understand how this internal dynamic in his speech--the unintended dichotomy of an Inclusionist making an Exclusionist's argument--played out for so many moderates who would have liked to have voted for him, but decided to take a pass this time until a more Inclusionist, not separatist, argument is offered by an Inclusionist politician.

TwinSwords
03-26-2008, 08:00 AM
I always have to laugh at the conservative white people who are upset that black people can say "******," and white people can't.

I mean, why do they want to say that word in the first place?

Leave it to conservatives to whine about the oppression that discourages them from using hate speech.

Idiots!

bjkeefe
03-26-2008, 08:34 AM
a Duoist:

Read his speech closely. ... he unintentionally makes a separatist's argument.

Don't suppose you'd care to support your assertion with some examples?

I've been through that speech several times. What I get out of it is recognition of the legitimate gripes of various groups, a principled refusal to abandon a friend to cater to the gated community mindset, and some suggestions about what we'll need to do to come together. Seems pretty inclusive to me, once one stipulates that he was addressing adults capable of facing reality.

bjkeefe
03-26-2008, 08:37 AM
Twin:

I mean, why do they want to say that word in the first place?

Exactly. But then, the wingnuts always tend to be a little short in the vocabulary department.

Abu Noor Al-Irlandee
03-26-2008, 11:47 AM
That's cool. I'm also a big fan of their classic "El Norte." And I see Mr. Nava is the writer of a movie based on the Ciudad Juarez killings with Ms. Lopez that is out on dvd now.

I think it's a bit of a cop out to say that it's a cultural bias, because as Blancandrin said, I don't know of any culture that does not look down upon such activity, but your comments do give me a chance to clarify a misconception of what I was saying. Yes I do think there should be a stigma on prostitution because it is an immoral and harmful activity...I would hope that this stigma would prevent women from entering that kind of work and men from being customers. As to women who are already involved in it, it wouldn't be about trying to make them feel bad about what they've done, but it would be trying to increase their self-esteem and their opportunities so they would do something else. So I wouldn't want my mom or sister to be a prostitute because I love them and care about them, but if I did know someone who was a prostitute I wouldn't be ashamed to know them. I'd know that they did it out of absolute desperation, and I see the attitude of elitists who would never participate in such a thing themselves but who think it is alright for 'those people' because they 'chose it' as quite disturbing. It's just as silly as someone arguing that minimum wage laws take away people's freedom to 'choose' to work for less than minimum wage or that laws against selling one's organs take away people's right to 'choose' to sell their organs.
As I've repeated numerous times, if the methodology of enforcement currently employed only leads to more harm to these women and does not lessen the amount of prostitution than we should talk about different methodologies of enforcement, but society should be clear that we want to get rid of prostitution because we value human dignity, and if there is any such culture that does not embrace that value, I have no problem saying that, at least on this issue, that culture is wrong. Certainly we are not absolute cultural relativists and some values held by some cultures can be 'wrong,' right?

Posing in magazines as a prop for men's sexual enjoyment does not have any status among people I know, and I certainly don't think it should. Do you? (And again, the point is not to look down on women who have done that, for whatever reason, the point is to discourage its practice because it is despicable and degrading to all women and to all humans).

Interesting. I know the film makers -- Anna Thomas and Greg Nava -- well. They got an Oscar screenplay nomination for a previous (and better) movie El Norte. They also gave Jaylo her start in films in Mi Familia, and later her star role in Selena.

As for prostitution, I come down on the legalize/regulate and be very vigilant side.

As to your argument that you wouldn't want to say your sister or mom as a sex worker, I think that's a cultural bias, not an absolute.

I have met people who are not at all ashamed to say their daughter is an "exotic dancer" (euphemism for lapdancer) or an actor in adult films (i.e., someone who has sex for money). Posing in Playboy or similar publications (as a prop for male masturbation) actually has considerable status in our society.

If you legalize prostitution (more than it's already legalized) people will find euphemisms they are comfortable with.

Who would you respect more, a street prostitute or a lobbyist for the tobacco industry?

I'd probably have more respect for the street prostitute but I don't doubt that if you asked the street prostitute if she'd rather be a tobacco lobbyist she'd say yes in a heartbeat so it's a strange kinda respect that would want to keep her in her job as a street prostitute (something I'd never do, and I'd never be a tobacco lobbyist either and Thank God I have choices to do something else than either of those things. As to your prediction that if prostitution were legalized people would create euphemisms and it'd become more acceptable, are you saying that would be a good thing...the degradation and commercialization of women's sexuality as a societal goal?

http://abunooralirlandee.wordpress.com

Abu Noor Al-Irlandee
03-26-2008, 11:53 AM
Right on, Brendan

I was just thinking last night that there is a white person who basically does not just that routine but has created a whole genre of comedy based around it and his name is Jeff Foxworthy. I think Foxworthy's routine has less of an edge to it because he just has less of an edge than Chris Rock, but it's basically the same idea.

And I agree with all those who have commented to say that the real interesting question is what is it that makes certain white folks feel so bad about the fact that they can't make jokes about Black people or use the n word in public?

Bloggin' Noggin
03-26-2008, 12:08 PM
I'm sympathetic to Will and Kerry's view of patriotism, but I think they glide over the distinction between what is desirable as an ultimate goal and what is desirable in our current circumstances. In a world where everyone is free and nation states are a thing of the past -- where there is either a just world government or libertarian world-anarchy -- patriotic feelings would be wholly bad. But in our actual historical circumstances, we need a more nuanced view.
From a moral point of view, all persons are equal -- Americans aren't more important than Somalis. Morally, we should want what is best for all humanity. But if only one "tribe" in a tribalized world gives up its tribal loyalty, the effect is a kind of unilateral disarmament, which may NOT be best for humanity as a whole. A universalist tribe that foreswore tribal loyalty and pledged allegiance only to all humanity might simply be wiped out, teaching only the lesson that tribal allegiance and tribal power are important, and that universalism is for fools. Even from a universalist moral perspective, this outcome is probably worse than if the tribe had defended itself -- even despite the tragic inefficiency of tribal justice (revenge).
Unfortunately, given the actual state of the world, we are in the uncomfortable position of holding the universalist perspective AND the more tribal perspective in a kind of uncomfortable balance -- until we can achieve some kind of international social contract and emerge from the international state of nature.
The right wing view seems to reject the moral, universalist perspective in international relations and simply wallow in tribal loyalty. The idealist left wing view rejects all such tribal loyalties and seeks to act as though the international social contract had already been established. The uncomfortable liberal view in the middle, which I have reluctantly come to inhabit seeks ultimately to reach such an international social contract, and attempts to act as consistently with the universal dignity of all persons as possible within the limits of the existing nation-state system. Even deeply imperfect international institutions, as first steps toward a better system deserve more respect than they may seem to based simply on their objective merits, and yet there really may be times when justice and decency require us to act outside that system (Iraq at the time of the American invasion didn't seem to me to be such a case, while the intervention in Kosovo seemed a more plausible case). We certainly shouldn't be killing people in the hope of lowering oil prices for our citizens, but we have the right to look out for our own more vital interests in a world in which they are really threatened and where everyone else is looking out for theirs. There's no guarantee that in such a world self-abnegation would even redound to the general good of humanity. Self-abnegation may sometimes be called for, but it has to be carefully calculated.

Bloggin' Noggin
03-26-2008, 12:51 PM
I don't think it's just the we whites that have this attitude Could a white person do this routine? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpUSElgJcyI)

I can't view the routine right now, but I'll risk a comment on the general issue. I think it has less to do with being a member of the group in question whether a certain routine is offensive than a matter of trust that the apparently offensive remarks are not really meant offensively.
Stephen Colbert asked Andrew Sullivan when he chose to be gay, something that Sullivan might have regarded as offensive if a real right wing talk show host had asked it of him. But Sullivan knew Colbert wasn't really trying to trap him or make fun of him, so he thought it was hilarious.

If a straight friend who I know accepts me teases me about my lack of interest in sports by saying "you're such a fag!" I won't be offended. When Ann Coulter uses the word, even "jokingly", it seems different, because one suspects she means it differently. We judge people by (what we take to be) their intentions, not purely by outward behavior.

uncle ebeneezer
03-26-2008, 01:24 PM
Bloggin', intent and core-opinion is definitely important. We just recently had a guy join one of the bands that I play in who is gay. He's a great guitarist and really cool guy and he fits well into our style of geeky art-rock. He's actually the first openly gay person I have played music with in all my years as a musician (18 or so). And when discussing music, it's not uncommon for me to say something like "REO Speedwagon actually rocked in the early days before their music became so 'queer'...no offense, Ken" and he just laughs because he not only agrees with my musical point but also knows that his sexual preference has no judgemental impact on our friendship and the respect I have for him both as a musician and a cool human being.

It does also add an interesting element to our song-writing considering several of our songs play upon the old cliched formula for "cock-rock".

Abu Noor Al-Irlandee
03-26-2008, 01:37 PM
Interesting thoughts Bloggin Noggin'

I don't have time to go into detail now, but I just want to complicate the pardigm you set up in the first part of your post by noting that there is a long history of nationalist (usually thought of as even more tribalist than patriotic) movements which are also internationalist (often grouped by some kind of overarching international worldview such as socialism or Islamism but not always). Of course, nationalism started as a movement of the left, and was only co-opted later by right wingers.

This kind of "nationalist internationalism" works best when the group in question is under some kind of tyranny, preferably a foreign occupier and its loyalty is directed to a romantic notion of the nation and its ideals rather than to a specific governing regime.

I know liberals in America like to use patriotic in preference to nationalist and it makes some sense because there really is no "American nation" but patriot sounds too much to me like loyalty to the government although I know they are going for the notion of loyalty to the nation's ideals. You are going more here for loyalty to the self-interests of the nation but I don't buy it yet especially because the U.S. is the world hegemon (and I think more in need of being pushed back than being supported in the arena of global competition) and it is not necessarily true that there is one American interest separate from the interests of different segments of the American population.

I know those are brief thoughts but tell me where I'm wrong becasuse this thought experiment is part of my efforts to try to join a nationalist tradition like Irish republicanism with a universalist international ideology like Islamism.

http://abunooralirlandee.wordpress.com

bjkeefe
03-26-2008, 02:33 PM
I don't think that there's an incompatibility there. I definitely didn't hear Will saying that he believed you shouldn't ever feel prepared to lay your life down in defense of something. Just not generically.

Upon reflection, I think you're probably right about that, Jeff. Still, as I remember it, he went a little farther in his dismissal of nationalism or patriotism or whatever you want to call it than I could accept.

I guess I'm one of those "uncomfortable liberals" that Bloggin talked about below (in the threaded view) -- I'd like all of humanity to be one world, but the reality of the moment and the foreseeable future is that we are still mostly organized into countries, and my country offers a much better way of doing things, compared to a lot of other countries around the world. We own a lot, and maybe even most, of the responsibility for the resentment that much of the rest of the world has toward us, and we seem to have strayed from our ideals especially badly lately, but our way is still worth defending.

Of course, "our way" is not exclusively the province of the US, nor are all the enemies of the "American way" coming from without.

Bloggin' Noggin
03-26-2008, 03:19 PM
On the subject of whether prostitution is harmful to the prostitute (putting aside the question of legality), Kerry says that prostitutes are able to armor themselves against feelings that might arise in sex.
This is surely true, but the question would be whether forming this "armor" -- which on some psychological views would amount to dissociating oneself from one's body or one's sexual self might itself be harmful.
Insofar as this is a psychological question, not a sort of metaphysical question about what is "intrinsically demeaning", it seems like a difficult empirical psychological question.
Can prostitutes take off the armor when they want to make love? I understand that many prostitutes draw certain lines -- no kissing with clients, for instance -- that might make this possible.

This brings us into the territory of Dan Ariely's point about market norms and social norms. Recall his example of offering to pay your mother-in-law for the wonderful dinner she's prepared. From the purely "rational" economic point of view, your mother-in-law should be delighted with this unexpected income rather than being offended.
From that economically rational point of view, it seems crazy not to be willing to do something for pay that you would do for free. But it's clear that our sense of human dignity is wrapped up in the sense that, though we may sell certain services, we ourselves cannot be bought. This involves drawing some kind of line between services we will perform and those we won't for money. And this connects with Will's point that when someone hires him to write, they are in some way hiring his body, since he couldn't write without hitting the keyboard with his fingers. Consider a secretary who draws the line at getting her boss coffee -- what's the difference between getting coffee and typing one of his letters? If he demands coffee, then she's acting as his personal servant - the line between performing a professional service she was hired to do and being a mere extension of him has been crossed. Yet I doubt there's any very clear way to draw a rationally clear and distinct bright line between the two services in total abstraction from cultural context.
For this reason, I find Will's typing example to be an oversimplification.

What would Will say to someone who offered him large sums to write a powerful case for Statism? That would be a case where we might invoke the metaphor of "prostitution" for a writer. Given our current cultural assumptions about what one says in an article under one's own name, this would amount to selling one's integrity (where a ghost writer does not sell his integrity). If writing under one's own name did not have these implications, then perhaps it wouldn't be authorial prostitution.

I'm not taking a position on the broader point about legality -- or even on the question of whether there should be any kind of stigma for prostitution -- I just find the arguments offered insufficient. I doubt it should be illegal.

Personally, I think I might be flattered if someone offered me a large amount of money for sex -- and I could imagine being coaxed from a "no" to a "yes" by the payment or perhaps by the flattery. What I find hard to imagine is paying. Ross Douthat wants sex to be a sign of affection -- I don't raise the bar that high -- but it does seem that sex is at least naturally a sign of mutual attraction, and some kind of mutual self-revelation. Without that, it loses a lot of its point. Yet if genuine self-revelation is involved, it's something that can't be bought -- or at least something that shouldn't be buyable. Even if you don't expect genuine affection in sex, you might feel there was some analogy between paying for sex and paying to have someone be your friend.

graz
03-26-2008, 04:10 PM
Bloggin' Noggin - Quote: "Ross Douthat wants sex to be a sign of affection -- I don't raise the bar that high -- but it does seem that sex is at least naturally a sign of mutual attraction, and some kind of mutual self-revelation. Without that, it loses a lot of its point. Yet if genuine self-revelation is involved, it's something that can't be bought -- or at least something that shouldn't be buyable. Even if you don't expect genuine affection in sex, you might feel there was some analogy between paying for sex and paying to have someone be your friend."

If self-revelation is involved isn't it possible for only one participant (the john) to experience the transaction as consequential? To the same extent that masturbation could be construed as revelatory. The revelation would come from setting aside the details of the transaction and immersing oneself in the reality of the exchange? Notwithstanding the conscious acceptance of the exchange by both parties.

Wonderment
03-26-2008, 05:15 PM
I see the attitude of elitists who would never participate in such a thing themselves but who think it is alright for 'those people' because they 'chose it' as quite disturbing.

I don't think that's the argument. What I got from this dialogue and the previous one was the idea is that prostitution may offer BETTER choices than abject poverty to the lowest-income women.

For example, let's say you have a family that works the Cairo or Mexico City garbage dump for a living. They are illiterate and exposed to countless diseases on a daily basis. They have no mental or dental care, only enough daily income for a subsistence diet, and have a life expectancy of maybe 30. One of the girls or boys is attractive, however. I'm sure you can see how getting into the sex worker business might be not just a good career move for the boy/girl, but the income could also provide exit opportunites for the family stuck in the hell of the garbage picking business.

....society should be clear that we want to get rid of prostitution because we value human dignity, and if there is any such culture that does not embrace that value, I have no problem saying that, at least on this issue, that culture is wrong. Certainly we are not absolute cultural relativists and some values held by some cultures can be 'wrong,' right?


I don't agree. There are many forms of "prostitution." To me, lobbying for a tobacco company or a handgun manufacturer is a terrible form of prostitution, but I don't want to outlaw it.

Posing in magazines as a prop for men's sexual enjoyment does not have any status among people I know, and I certainly don't think it should. Do you?

I personally prefer a girl to get a Ph.D., but I would admit that most people I know would think a woman (or man) who appeared in Playboy/Girl was awesome. There are parents for whom this is the highest kind of aspiration, a culmination of a career in "modeling."

As to your prediction that if prostitution were legalized people would create euphemisms and it'd become more acceptable, are you saying that would be a good thing...the degradation and commercialization of women's sexuality as a societal goal?

Welcome to 1960, Abu.

Abu Noor Al-Irlandee
03-26-2008, 05:23 PM
Wonderment,

I assume, then, that you are against minimum wage laws and workplace safety standards, even food safety standards. Because certainly the same poverty stricken indigent person would be willing to work for less than minimum wage, and to work in unsafe conditions. I attribute this to their lack of bargaining power and believe society should intervene because the existence of such conditions as acceptable is harmful to them and degrading to all of us.

I will not reply to the rest of the post because your argument at every step is repulsive to me and a pretty good demonstration of the type of thinking that I think society should do its best not to fall into. So you can stand on those points and I'll stand on opposition to them.

Peace.

http://abunooralirlandee.wordpress.com

Oh, and about the 1960 comment. I'm an Islamist, so I believe the ideal society was 622 in the Arabian desert :)

Wonderment
03-26-2008, 05:28 PM
Personally, I think I might be flattered if someone offered me a large amount of money for sex -- and I could imagine being coaxed from a "no" to a "yes" by the payment or perhaps by the flattery.

This is not really a good analogy because in your imagination you would have absolute freedom to say no (or yes).

There was a similar problem with the 60s slogan "marriage is prostitution," although a case can be made that in some societies where women have no rights marriage can be a form of socially-sanctioned prostitution.

A distinction that's important is the degree of coercion involved in the transaction. The more coercion, the less human dignity and (obviously) freedom.

This was part of the fancy escort narrative in the Spitzer case. The $5000 escorts could supposedly choice to do it only with guys they liked and were attracted to. They had maximum freedom.

At the other extreme is the street crack addict with a demanding pimp who will beat her if she doesn't have sex with six guys in an hour.

bjkeefe
03-26-2008, 05:41 PM
Abu Noor:

Clearly, not an easy thing to decide. It'll probably come as no surprise to you to hear that I lean more toward Wonderment's arguments. For me, it basically comes down to the principle of one part of society not getting to impose its own moral values on another.

I do admit that I have some misgivings about legalizing prostitution, but they're more due to the worry that legalization won't do much to protect women from being forced into it, and may even remove some possible existing mechanisms that can help at least once in a while. But given a world where men were less able to exploit women, and adults were less able to exploit children, and the rich were less able to exploit the poor, I have no problem with leaving it up to the individual to make her (or his) own moral choices.

My mind changed about a lot of this when I had a brief fling with a stripper, who, believe it or not, I did not meet at her place of work. When we first met and got to the "so, what do you do?" part of the talk, she was able to pick up on my discomfort and explained the reasoning behind her choice. Basically, her ambition was to be a musician, which meant having another job to pay the bills. Her options were to work 40 hrs/wk and make X dollars, or work two nights a week, and not even on the weekend, and make 4X dollars.

I never felt comfortable going into her place of business, during or after our fling, but I did buy her reasoning. I think the same could, in principle, apply to going a little further and being a prostitute. Plus, you wouldn't have to listen to as much bad music.

bjkeefe
03-26-2008, 05:46 PM
BN:

What I find hard to imagine is paying.

I'm with you. I find it easier to imagine accepting money for sex than giving it.

uncle ebeneezer
03-26-2008, 06:17 PM
Bloggin' I think you mispoke. I think you meant you "imagine it being harder to pay than be paid." I imagine that actually "imagining" either scenario should be just as easy for you as imagining the other. Of course maybe that's just my imagination.

I'd like to think I would never pay, but then again if Jennifer Connelly saw me picking up a dime off th street and said "hey I wanted that dime, and I'll make it worth your while if you give it to me" I'd be hard pressed to see it as a grave moral sin to pay her...to give it to me.

Brendan, you're my hero. As a musician I'm supposed to date strippers, but alas I've never have been able to live up to the stereotype. Obviously dancing at a strip club is not nearly as big a deal as prostitution because of the difference in physical interaction involved. For the amount of $ that female strippers can make, to me it seems a no-brainer. I would gladly dance for a bunch of creepy girls that I wasn't attracted to, if it weren't for the fact that I don't really like to dance.

EricP
03-26-2008, 06:55 PM
By God, you two would have attractive kids. Good diavlog too!

Blancandrin
03-27-2008, 01:51 AM
Some libertarians see prostitution as a question of personal autonomy vs. an arbitrary cultural bias. Appeals to tradition and morality don't persuade them much. This is a quick and dirty evolutionary psychology based denunciation of prostitution. No need for morality, tradition, or religion.

What effect does prostitution have on the health and survival of a community? Compared to a community with low levels of prostitution, a community with high levels of prostitution will have:

1. a higher number of women with many sexual partners
2. a higher number of children without an identifiable father
3. a higher incidence of sexually transmitted diseases

The negative externalities (the costs to society) of two and three are fairly intuitive. Let me just add for the libertarians that illegitimacy increases the demand for vast social programs.

For effect one, the negative externalities are not as obvious, but they're real. Women with many sexual partners aren't as appealing to men interested in committed relationships, because there is more uncertainty as to who the father of any children is. This reduces the number of stable two-parent families. Fewer stable two parent families reduces the fitness of a community.
This is not a value judgement, it as an observation.

The advantages of stable two parent families, children who know who their father is, and reduced sexually transmitted diseases make prejudice against prostitution an adaptive meme. That is, an evolutionary advantage on for a community, not an arbitrary prejudice.

Your welfare depends in part on the health of your community, so support stigmas and laws against prostitution, for your own good.

Blancandrin
03-27-2008, 02:04 AM
Blan, check out the 3/10 post on this site:

http://plumer.blogspot.com/2008_03_01_archive.html#5839072343217293439

Some interesting stuff. -- Uncle Eb

Good post, very informative.

Wonderment
03-27-2008, 02:43 AM
Abu,

I assume, then, that you are against minimum wage laws and workplace safety standards, even food safety standards. Because certainly the same poverty stricken indigent person would be willing to work for less than minimum wage, and to work in unsafe conditions.

Yes, I believe in facing reality regarding what people may do to avoid dying of starvation. In an utopia like Arabia in the 7th century I'm sure there was no underground economy OR people foraging in garbage dumps to get by, much less prostitution. In the real world, however, we have these problems.

I attribute this to their lack of bargaining power and believe society should intervene because the existence of such conditions as acceptable is harmful to them and degrading to all of us.

Again, I am referring to circumstances in which society has already failed to help its most deprived members.

I'm an Islamist, so I believe the ideal society was 622 in the Arabian desert

Indubitably.

Wonderment
03-27-2008, 03:00 AM
Your welfare depends in part on the health of your community, so support stigmas and laws against prostitution, for your own good.

The same arguments -- enormous negative effects with few, if any, redeeming benefits -- could be made against addictive drugs like cigarettes and alcohol. Do you support prohibition?

Abu Noor Al-Irlandee
03-27-2008, 11:11 AM
Wonderment,

You continue to mix issues. If your point is that prostitution is wrong and society should seek to limit it, but you think it should be legal than say that. My contention in this argument has been that society is lost if we cannot start by saying that prostitution is wrong. Whether we then wish to make it illegal and how exactly we want to enforce the laws is a separate issue.

Also, I would be a little careful about the whole "I see reality and I am the one who actually cares about the poor and downtrodden" line of argument, especially when one is discussing with people about whom you know absolutely nothing of their background, what they have seen, or what they do on a day to day basis. That's just advice for tone, but it is definitely important that we do keep in mind the reality of different types of people in different situations and so I thank you for that.

If you really followed the line of your argument, then simply allowing prostitution to be legal wouldn't be doing nearly enough for the poor and starving. If you really care about them you should be a frequent customer. Somehow I don't think most people would agree that the people who really care about prostitutes as human beings are their customers, but it's free for you to argue if you're just a materialist.

I would propose a shocking notion that there are other ways to care about and help people than forcing them to sell their bodies or work for less than minimum wage, but I'm just a fantastical idealist living in the 7 th century. :)

http://abunooralirlandee.wordpress.com

Bloggin' Noggin
03-27-2008, 12:03 PM
This is not really a good analogy because in your imagination you would have absolute freedom to say no (or yes).



It was relevant to what I was considering -- namely whether taking money for sex was in itself demeaning.
My answer for myself (if I'm honest) is that I wouldn't feel demeaned so much as desired.
Insofar as there is coercion, it seems that it's the coercion that's demeaning. But of course, we have to make a distinction between coercion and the need to support yourself (and to make enough extra for drugs).

Of course pimps (and cops) can certainly be coercive -- one would imagine that legalization (which I know you support) would diminish that problem.

KH and WW were discussing the question of whether every "sex worker" is necessarily coerced, because no one who was truly free would choose such work. I doubt I'd choose to make a profession of it, but I could imagine freely choosing it on an occasional basis if the money were just a kind of added inducement. Unfortunately, I don't get such offers -- and have only once in my life been mistaken for a rent boy.

Of course, women may, as a general rule be less likely to see sex in the rather superficial way that most men do (including myself), but again that's something that could still vary from woman to woman.

Bloggin' Noggin
03-27-2008, 12:08 PM
If self-revelation is involved isn't it possible for only one participant (the john) to experience the transaction as consequential? To the same extent that masturbation could be construed as revelatory. The revelation would come from setting aside the details of the transaction and immersing oneself in the reality of the exchange? Notwithstanding the conscious acceptance of the exchange by both parties.

I'm afraid I don't get everything you are saying here. I guess I'm imagining masturbation as kind of the base-line comparison: What does one get from the duet that one doesn't get from the solo performance? My answer is "some kind of connection" -- even if that connection is more like the conversation with an interesting seatmate on the train or plane than like a deep, lifelong attachment. Does that answer your question?

graz
03-27-2008, 01:55 PM
Bloggin' Noggin:

After further review, I am not so sure what I was asking either.
But your answer is at the heart of it, thanks.

Wonderment
03-27-2008, 03:58 PM
KH and WW were discussing the question of whether every "sex worker" is necessarily coerced, because no one who was truly free would choose such work. I doubt I'd choose to make a profession of it, but I could imagine freely choosing it on an occasional basis if the money were just a kind of added inducement. Unfortunately, I don't get such offers -- and have only once in my life been mistaken for a rent boy.




I agree. I think it's indisputably true that coercion is not a necessary component of a sex worker transaction. Some men and women find sex work empowering and a means to economic betterment. A quick glance at a few of the millions of porn sights all over the Internet does not suggest a world of slaves without choices.

Of course, this would not be true in a utopian society. Given the choice of being a heroic war correspondent (a dangerous occupation that we should perhaps outlaw), a philosopher at Cambridge or a software billionaire, one is unlikely to choose tricking. But given the given, some people freely do.

Wonderment
03-27-2008, 04:09 PM
Just to quickly tidy up here before we keep repeating the same arguments over and over again:

If your point is that prostitution is wrong and society should seek to limit it, but you think it should be legal than say that.

I do not have a strong opinion about whether prostitution is right or wrong. I do think society should seek to limit it without criminalizing it.

My contention in this argument has been that society is lost if we cannot start by saying that prostitution is wrong.

I think that's a simplistic approach to a complex moral issue.

If you really followed the line of your argument, then simply allowing prostitution to be legal wouldn't be doing nearly enough for the poor and starving. If you really care about them you should be a frequent customer.

That is ridiculous.

I would propose a shocking notion that there are other ways to care about and help people than forcing them to sell their bodies or work for less than minimum wage, but I'm just a fantastical idealist living in the 7 th century.

Also ridiculous. I never claimed A) that people should be "forced to sell their bodies" or B) that we shouldn't find ways of helping those who do sell their bodies. In FACT, I am deeply opposed to sex slavery and deeply committed to helping poor people (prostitutes or not) have opportunities in life like life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, free health care and free education through college.

Peace to you from the 21st century,
Wonderment

bjkeefe
03-27-2008, 04:35 PM
Wonderment:

Just curious about this:

I do not have a strong opinion about whether prostitution is right or wrong. I do think society should seek to limit it without criminalizing it.

How do you square not having a strong feeling about prostitution being right or wrong (presumably, in some moral sense) with feeling that society should limit it? The latter part would suggest that you do, in fact, find something wrong with it.

I'm not trying to play "gotcha." I'm just wondering if you'd care to expand upon what seems like a bit of a paradox to me.

Wonderment
03-27-2008, 05:14 PM
How do you square not having a strong feeling about prostitution being right or wrong (presumably, in some moral sense) with feeling that society should limit it? The latter part would suggest that you do, in fact, find something wrong with it.

I just think it's something we'd generally want to avoid, like smoking, drinking and gambling.

Do I think smoking is wrong? I doubt I'd put it that strongly, but I'd certainly encourage all people not to smoke, not to invest in the tobacco industry, etc.

(We are getting to the point where we have the equivalent of "red-light districts" for smoking.)

I also think -- just to explore some of the issues raised here -- that there's a huge difference between some middle-class college student speculating on how much it would take for him/her to sell sex (what was that Robert Redford movie?) vs. the example I gave of the garbage-scavenging family whose son or daughter obtains sex work in a bar rather than starve in the garbage dump.

Most Third World prostitution is of the extreme desperation kind.

Bloggin' Noggin
03-27-2008, 06:02 PM
Hi Abu Noor,
I guess I'd begin with your remark about patriotism as "loyalty to the government". You admit that others might have in mind "loyalty to the ideals of the US" (in the case of American patriotism). I think I would take a kind of in-between view. Last time I appealed to the social contract metaphor of Hobbes and Locke (anticipated in Book II Plato's Republic). This time I'll appeal to Plato's metaphor of the "ship of state." If we think of the citizens of the state as all in the same boat together, then, although their interests may diverge in some ways, they do share a common interest in not crashing and in reaching land where they can replenish their food supplies etc. The loyalty involved in patriotism, I would say, is the loyalty of crew and fellow passengers of one ship to each other, not primarily to the captain (the government). But since one ship can only go one direction at once, there has to be some willingness to defer one's private interests in the interest of charting a common course. And that would mean some deference to the captain's judgments, though certainly not absolute deference.

If the captain had just inherited his position and he charted a course entirely in his own interest, then there's much less reason to defer to him, rather than to find a new captain. But in a republic (or other similarly legitimate government), this seems like less of a problem -- we've at least had a say in where we wanted to go.

Of course, whether one is a citizen of a certain state isn't like being on one ship in some ways: either you're on the ship or not, but whether there is a state and whether you are a citizen of it is itself partly a matter of mutual recognition and loyalty. Still, there are some real-world limitations on that. YOu can imagine creating a kind of MySpace State, with widely distributed members, a few here and a few there with a government of their own. But, if someone attacks members of such a state, how are they to defend each other? If the local government fails to enact pollution control laws that would appeal to members of the MySpace State, they will just have to like or lump the bad air, etcetera.
Then too, it's not really possible to start history afresh every five minutes and create entirely new governing institutions. We've inherited various governing institutions which we can certainly try to reform, but we're not usually in a position to make an entirely new social contract with just the people we choose. So I think the "ships" metaphor has something to it.

You point out that the people of one country don't all share the same interests, and this is certainly true, just as the people on the boat won't have all the same interests. But the people on the boat share an interest in not sinking etc. The people of the United States also share interests in defending against attacks and keeping the economy going well (though the distribution of the benefits of that economy can be a bone of contention) and in retaining their ability to influence government etc.

Presumably Islamism and International Communism would be best categorized as movements. If and when they become successful in a particular state, they will take over the "levers of power" of that state. If they manage to do it within two states, there's still going to be a big question of integration, since the different states will presumably have different institutions and customs. Despite communism's officially internationalist ideology, communist states didn't just meld together -- they retained their national identity. The Chinese kowtowed to the Russians as elder brother communists for only a very short time. I imagine that if Islamism is successful in Turkey, Pakistan and Indonesia, there will be similar results -- they won't just meld into Turkistanesia automatically.

As for America as hegemon, I suspect that our choice in the short term, realistically, is between having SOME country as hegemon (whether the US or someone else) or having a big battle for pre-eminence (or perhaps a bunch of small battles for regional pre-eminence). I'm inclined to think the latter option is probably often worse than the former, especially if the hegemon is aware that they are engaged in a non-zero-sum game and tries to manage the world order with restraint. Given the choice of potential hegemonic powers, I prefer the US -- certainly as an American, I do. But even if I put that aside, I doubt the world as a whole would be better off with Russia or China in charge.
That's not to say that I agree with the neocons that the US should do all it can to remain world hegemon -- that's self-defeating. Nor do I think that the US has behaved blamelessly in world affairs. I just think the best option we actually have realistically is for the US to use its power wisely, attempting to create and defend international norms and institutions that will manage the transition to the next hegemon and help to bind it once it has emerged.

bjkeefe
03-28-2008, 10:58 AM
Wonderment:

I just think it's something we'd generally want to avoid, like smoking, drinking and gambling.

At the risk of belaboring the point, I'll just note quickly that saying "we'd generally want to avoid" a thing seems indistinguishable from saying there's something wrong with that thing.

I can understand that you might not want that thing criminalized, or even less onerously restricted, like smoking is, but it does seem to me that you're making some kind of judgment upon the act itself. Which is a perfectly legitimate point of view, I hasten to add. I'm just picking a nit at what seems like a logical inconsistency, purely on the plane of abstract debate.

bjkeefe
03-28-2008, 11:06 AM
BN:

I agree with most of what you said to Abu Noor. But I do disagree with this:

As for America as hegemon, I suspect that our choice in the short term, realistically, is between having SOME country as hegemon (whether the US or someone else) or having a big battle for pre-eminence (or perhaps a bunch of small battles for regional pre-eminence). I'm inclined to think the latter option is probably often worse than the former, especially if the hegemon is aware that they are engaged in a non-zero-sum game and tries to manage the world order with restraint.

I think it's better for the world, and for the US, for the US not to be the "sole superpower." As I think has become obvious, the idea that the hegemon will be an enlightened despot/benevolent dictator over the long term is usually wishful thinking, especially from the point of view of the peons. I also think, from the point of view of the hegemon, that too much effort is wasted in maintaining the position of king of the hill. I like checks and balances, and I am happy that the EU and China are beginning to be able to provide these to some effect. The transition period back to a leveling-out is distasteful for us in the US, of course, especially in having to deal with the people who insist that the supremacy of the US be unquestioned, but in the long run, I believe it's for the good.

Bloggin' Noggin
03-28-2008, 01:17 PM
BN:

I agree with most of what you said to Abu Noor. But I do disagree with this:



I think it's better for the world, and for the US, for the US not to be the "sole superpower." As I think has become obvious, the idea that the hegemon will be an enlightened despot/benevolent dictator over the long term is usually wishful thinking, especially from the point of view of the peons. I also think, from the point of view of the hegemon, that too much effort is wasted in maintaining the position of king of the hill. I like checks and balances, and I am happy that the EU and China are beginning to be able to provide these to some effect. The transition period back to a leveling-out is distasteful for us in the US, of course, especially in having to deal with the people who insist that the supremacy of the US be unquestioned, but in the long run, I believe it's for the good.

Please note that I said I disagreed with the neocons about trying to maintain that status, and I limited the above to the short term. In the long term, I wanted us to continue strengthening international institutions and international law so as to manage conflicts with rising powers. A side note: so far, the EU is not really competing with the US or setting itself up as an alternative, except economically. Militarily, the US is still largely responsible for the current world order and the Europeans (despite strains) remain junior partners.
You say you don't like the world in which the US is the sole superpower, but as far as I'm aware, this world is actually better on the whole than that of the cold war: regional wars and violence are way down now that we are not fighting all those proxy wars, Latin America is largely democratic, many of the former Soviet satellites are democratic and their economies are growing (though inequality is also growing). There is still lots of misery in the world, and I certainly think the Bush administration suffered from neocon hubris, which is causing problems in Iraq and the Middle East more generally. So I don't deny your point, but I really don't want another cold war (or worse yet, a hot one).
I suspect that you are thinking of diplomatic and trade competition, which takes place within the structure of US military dominance as though it were all the competition that might arise in a bipolar or multipolar world. The example of the Cold War should make it clear that much worse conflicts are possible.

graz
03-28-2008, 03:10 PM
[QUOTE=Bloggin' Noggin;I suspect that you are thinking of diplomatic and trade competition, which takes place within the structure of US military dominance as though it were all the competition that might arise in a bipolar or multipolar world. The example of the Cold War should make it clear that much worse conflicts are possible.[/QUOTE]

Bloggin' and Brendan:

This is covered slightly in the last U.N. edition. Viewership of the U.N. edition is way down if the comments count is to be trusted. I wonder if that will risk it's cancellation. Anyway, Parag Khanna's "The Second World" addresses this subject directly. I haven't read it through, but it suggests that changes underway will force the reality of sole supremacy obsolete. Brendan, you seem to relish the U.S. being put in its place, Si or no?

bjkeefe
03-28-2008, 03:27 PM
BN:

All good points. I especially agree with you that the current situation is better than the Cold War, for the reasons that you cited, and because I no longer worry about a truly catastrophic nuclear war.

You're right about the EU being more of an economic balance than a military one. This is actually my biggest complaint about the "sole superpower" arrangement. Not only does the enforcement of Pax Americana provoke a focused resentment towards us, it is a huge drain on our budget. The opportunity costs to our national concerns, related both to the invasion of Iraq and the ongoing maintenance of a three-legged military force with global reach, cannot be overstated.

I do think it's a great thing that the US position after WWII gave Europe a chance to stop fighting each other, but I think we're at the point now where we can safely bet that Germany isn't going to attack France again, and that it's time for those two countries, among others, to stop letting us carry so much of NATO's burdens. I am less certain what to think about Korea, but that's another place where I'd like to see some sharing of the responsibilities. Baltimoron would probably have a lot more useful stuff to say here.

One last point: the difference between the Cold War and the new multi-polar world most likely to arise is that there is a lot less of an ideological conflict. The EU, unquestionably, has no interest in fighting with us, even through proxy wars, and while China is not (yet) quite so enamored of democracy as the EU and US, I really don't think they have much interest in being the new Soviet Union. My point is, I don't expect another perpetual military antagonism to emerge, even if (when) the US's comparative military advantage declines.

AemJeff
03-28-2008, 03:35 PM
... while China is not (yet) quite so enamored of democracy as the EU and US, I really don't think they have much interest in being the new Soviet Union.

I hope you're right about that. I think they'd like to see themselves as an Asian hegemon; and to that extent I believe they're potentially willing to go pretty far out on a limb, militarily (subject to, and proportional to, their economic success). Our close relationships, particularly with Japan and South Korea - and possibly India - could increasingly open opportunities for an intense rivalry between the US and China. IMHO.

bjkeefe
03-28-2008, 03:52 PM
graz:

This is covered slightly in the last U.N. edition.

Saw it. Loved it.

Viewership of the U.N. edition is way down if the comments count is to be trusted. I wonder if that will risk it's cancellation.

I don't think that metric (comment counts) tells the whole story. It may not correlate with viewership much at all. There are some diavlogs where it's hard to say much in direct response to what was discussed, and without those seedlings, the whole thread can stay pretty small.

Even if you're right about the lesser numbers, I'd bet that Bob will keep it going for a while, because he thinks it's important. I do have to say that I could do with more guests like Parag. Matthew Lee is usually pretty good, but given the glacial pace at which anything actually happens at the UN, sometimes the interesting inside baseball he discusses turns into a killingly dull recap of "This Week in General Hospital."

Anyway, Parag Khanna's "The Second World" addresses this subject directly. I haven't read it through, but it suggests that changes underway will force the reality of sole supremacy obsolete. Brendan, you seem to relish the U.S. being put in its place, Si or no?

I do look forward to reading that book.

"Relish?" That's a bit farther than I'd go. But I do strongly believe that more balance in the world will be better, both for the US and everyone else. Ideally, I like the idea of my country being less of a bully. I like the thought of hamstringing our ability to unilaterally invade other countries. I like the idea that we'd have to work harder to make friends, and that we'd have to negotiate instead of dictate to accomplish our goals. From a purely nationalist perspective, I think this could even make us stronger, in many "soft power" ways. Consider how much better American cars became, for instance, once we had to play fair with the Germans and Japanese.

As I mentioned to BN, I also like the idea of us not spending so many of our tax dollars on the bloated bureaucratic kudzu that is the military-industrial complex. The ongoing commitment to a philosophy that was created in the middle of Cold War paranoia is completely disheartening. I'd like to see Star Wars shelved except maybe for software development, and I'd like to see big cutbacks on toys like the F-22, to name but two examples.

Wonderment
03-28-2008, 05:13 PM
At the risk of belaboring the point, I'll just note quickly that saying "we'd generally want to avoid" a thing seems indistinguishable from saying there's something wrong with that thing.I can understand that you might not want that thing criminalized, or even less onerously restricted, like smoking is, but it does seem to me that you're making some kind of judgment upon the act itself. Which is a perfectly legitimate point of view, I hasten to add. I'm just picking a nit at what seems like a logical inconsistency, purely on the plane of abstract debate.

I think we're just mixing up a couple of notions of "wrong." I would say, for example, that murder, rape and torture are morally wrong. I wouldn't say smoking or prostitution are morally wrong.

But I would say, there's something "is wrong with" a lot of things like our national healthcare system, smoking, prostitution, NAFTA, etc.

In other words, I don't morally judge smokers; I do morally judge rapists.

There are other matters you might offer counseling about without morally judging them. That's how I think about prostitution, drug use, abortion, participation in the military, smoking, gun ownership etc.

If an adolescent came to me for advice on these subjects, I doubt that morality would enter the equation. For example, a kid presents his arguments for giving oral sex to strangers as a way to work his way through college and still have time to study physics and pursue his interest in classical guitar. I would tend to keep the prostitution arguments on the level of personal danger, health, long-term psychological impact, etc. I would NOT tell him prostitution was morally wrong.

Bloggin' Noggin
03-28-2008, 05:13 PM
Thanks for the "heads up", graz. I'm afraid I missed that one while traveling. I have been working my way back, but I might have missed that one. I'll make sure I watch it.
I think Brendan's right about comments and viewership on the UN diavlogs -- I often don't comment even when I find them interesting. He's also right that UN Sunday should be frequently devoted to general questions of international law, the role of the UN and international relations, and only sometimes to breaking news and UN scandals and suicides. Matthew Lee should appear about every third week. In fact this appears to be the trend lately.

uncle ebeneezer
03-28-2008, 05:35 PM
I always watch Si-Sat but rarely comment due to having nothing of substance to add beyond "cool." Also, I confess that sometimes I jump into discussions of topics even if I didn't watch the Diavlog. I try to fess up early on though so as to explain my ignorance that will surely not go un-noticed.

I disagree on Matt Lee. I think he makes any UN discussion infinitely more exciting, yes I said "exciting."

One thing I'd love to see would be biographical sketches ala Bob Wright's from way back. It would be interesting to hear more of the guest's personal stories, especially the more regular guests.

Bloggin' Noggin
03-28-2008, 05:40 PM
Wonderment,
It sounds as though you regard moral judgment as concerning only the treatment of other people. This is a natural and probably defensible position.
But Kant, for one, would have disagreed. He felt we had duties to ourselves and that we could let ourselves down, just as we can let other people down. Kant's own discussion of the duty not to commit suicide in the _Grundlegung_ is not the most helpful. But I highly recommend Thomas Hill's terrific essay "Servility and Self-respect", which makes a strong case that self-respect is a moral virtue.

We tend to associate morality very strongly with blame -- and when someone lacks self-respect, it seems pretty clear that blame would often be counterproductive. Yet, if morality is a matter of respecting persons as persons (not just because they possess some further quality), it seems very peculiar to make an exception in the case of just one person -- oneself. I suspect we should break the connection between morality and blame: moral evaluation can concern one's relationship to oneself, even if blame isn't usually the best response to a person letting himself down.

That is not to make any claims about whether prostitution involves lack of self-respect, but just to complicate the question.

Wonderment
03-28-2008, 06:02 PM
BN,

But Kant, for one, would have disagreed. He felt we had duties to ourselves and that we could let ourselves down, just as we can let other people down.

When I wrote that response to Brendan I was about to add in my example of the adolescent seeking advice that if s/he were a Kantian philosopher, there might have been a difference in my advice. I taught adolescents in high school and young adults in college for many years, so my examples are not entirely hypothetical. Kids do respond to philosophical arguments (probably more than adults).

I suspect we should break the connection between morality and blame: moral evaluation can concern one's relationship to oneself, even if blame isn't usually the best response to a person letting himself down.

Well, that certainly figures into a counseling discussion with a young person, even without getting too explicitly philosophical: how will you feel about yourself if you have an abortion?

Given previous discussions with Abu, I've been focusing here on limiting the "absoluteness" of judgments on certain behaviors.

I think we should do a very rough calculus of how seriously our decisions as moral agents impact the rest of society.

I don't view prostitution as an entirely victimless act, but I do think we should make rough assessments so we can say torture, for example, is really, really bad; smoking or riding a motorcycle without a helmet is only a little bit bad; and gays and lesbians getting married isn't bad at all.

AemJeff
03-28-2008, 06:15 PM
I don't view prostitution as an entirely victimless act

I can't say that I can detect the victim here. Certainly the person paying for sex can't be seen as a victim. The person selling sex might be a victim, but the victimization would be the result of coercion - if coercion is a factor - not the bare fact of selling sex. Of course, somebody reduced to doing so by circumstance could be seen as victim of those circumstances, but again engaging in the practice of selling sex is not the defining trait of that victimization.

I don't know if this is more a point of language or a point of morals, but by definition, I think, you can't victimize yourself. Anything you do by an act of free will is therefore not something which could lead to your being defined as a victim. I think this is an important distinction.

bjkeefe
03-28-2008, 06:31 PM
uncle eb:

I disagree on Matt Lee. I think he makes any UN discussion infinitely more exciting, yes I said "exciting."

I didn't mean to diss Matt. I will give him that -- he has made me more interested in the details of life at the UN than I would have believed possible. It's just sometimes it seems like there really isn't much to talk about, except the thirty-seventh iteration of "everyone agreed to do nothing about Darfur."

One thing I'd love to see would be biographical sketches ala Bob Wright's from way back. It would be interesting to hear more of the guest's personal stories, especially the more regular guests.

Meh. Or more precisely, feh. Maybe it's just that too much of the rest of what's out there is personal stories, but think the reason I like BH.tv so much is the high plane of intellectualism that remains nonetheless informal and unstuffy. It's hard to find this blend consistently anywhere else.

Don't get me wrong -- I do like to get to know the diavloggers. I guess I just prefer to learn about them gradually, gathering nuggets here and there. Call it a preference for Terry Gross's style over Oprah's. Or, to illustrate with extremes: When Glenn Loury talked about that hard time in his life, to illustrate a point he wanted to make? Incredibly poignant. When Megan McArdle talks about her family? Not so much.

If you meant the interviews Bob did for MeaningOfLife.tv, though, that's different. I loved those. But I would consider those less personal stories than expressions of an individual's beliefs and ideals, and possibly what led to their formation.

bjkeefe
03-28-2008, 06:41 PM
BN:

That is not to make any claims about whether prostitution involves lack of self-respect, but just to complicate the question. [emph. added]

That's not like you. ;^)

Wonderment:

Thanks for clarifying. I understand your distinction now, I think. You're saying that something can be bad ("to be avoided") solely because of the damage it does, whether physical or emotional, to the individual, and that such damage can additionally result in costs to society, and that there's no need to bring morals into it. Is that right? I agree, if so.

Both:

I, too, buy the concept of it being a moral good to take care of oneself, and it being moral to be a responsible member of society. I am dubious that prostitution, in and of itself, qualifies as something destructive to oneself, and/or to society. I suppose I have an idealized version in mind, but on the other hand, most of what makes prostitution harmful to individuals and society are elements peripheral to the act itself. In reality, though, I don't need a moral judgment to be disinclined to advocate for promotion of prostitution as a viable career path, since there probably isn't any way to remove all those peripheral elements.

Abu Noor Al-Irlandee
03-28-2008, 06:52 PM
I would be happy if Matthew Lee appeared even more often than he does now, but I think he should be allowed to or be asked to talk about other stuff besides just the UN.

http://abunooralirlandee.wordpress.com

Abu Noor Al-Irlandee
03-28-2008, 07:07 PM
Bloggin Noggin',

Thanks for your thoughts. I will focus on the last paragraph like others did, because I think it encapsulates what is the heart of my own feelings.

I think I probably have a much more negative view of U.S. actions around the world than anyone else who's commented on this thread, and I know all of you are liberals who are willing to admit that the U.S. does and has done some wrong. Still, I am aware enough of the limits of my own knowledge and of the evil of others besides the U.S. to say that I don't know for sure whether the alternatives (if someone other than the U.S. was exerting power over other nations) would be better.

I guess I kinda focus on my own moral responsibility. As long as the U.S. is an imperial power doing a good amount of going around the world using physical and economic power to serve its own interests I will have a big problem feeling loyalty to that entity. So, while in some ways American patriotism could be more attaractive to someone like me in that it is not tied to a single ethnic group (although nativists and other racists have throughout history done their best to create some kind of American race or ethnicity) I would find it much easier to be loyal in the sense you are talking about to the community on a ship if it were a small comfortable ship that didn't need to be out there as a massive bully pursuing its own interests (which I don't see as my interests, or at least don't want to be my interests) like Ireland or Norway or something.

http://abunooralirlandee.wordpress.com

thouartgob
03-29-2008, 11:57 AM
Originally Posted by AemJeff
Howley’s argument seems to be “you can’t disentangle the negative effects of stigmatization from the negative effects of the act itself.” Correlation is not causation.



I'm questioning the assumption that "...selling sex for money is an unalloyed bad thing is a cultural assumption, not shared by everybody." Show me the culture where parents want their daughters to grow up to be prostitutes. When a stigma is prevalent independent of culture, it's probably not a cultural assumption.



Show me society that isn't flagrantly sexist from today down through the ages. Show me a society that has a healthy attitude toward women and sex and still stigmatizes prostitution. That was the point it seems to me. You can't show me a society where prostitution is considered a rational act because there has been no society where women are considered rational actors. In the law extremely recently perhaps but not when you look at the way women are treated on a day to day basis. They are (at best) verbally abused all the time for indulging in behavior is considered natural for men to do. You cannot "tease out" the act of prostitution and its causes and conditions from the patriarchal substrate of the vast majority of societies.

Indeed it's this mindset behind the vilification of prostitution and more importantly prostitutes themselves that leads to more of it in the first place.

Treating women as diseased for expressing themselves sexually can lead to psychological states of mind that can foster dangerous behavior.

Undercutting the healthy dialog about sex that each generation needs to have with the subsequent one leads to a greater supply of "Johns" as well prostitutes

Conflating sexual activity with sin causes children to NOT report abuse and usually is a major contributing factor to the abusers behavior as well. ( there is a physiological issue as well but keeping sexual things hidden is a common tendency )

The list goes on

Show me a society where women aren't called "whores" at the drop of a hat for expressing their natural inclinations for sex ( and I don't mean selling it) that I believe was Kerry and Will's point.

bjkeefe
03-29-2008, 12:27 PM
thouartgob:

Liked your argument. The thought occurred to me almost immediately: you're right about societies being sexist throughout history. Isn't it ironic to think, then, of the old saying, "prostitution is the oldest profession?"

Wonderment
03-29-2008, 07:43 PM
Show me a society where women aren't called "whores" at the drop of a hat for expressing their natural inclinations for sex ( and I don't mean selling it) that I believe was Kerry and Will's point.

Or gratuitously without expressing any inclinations for sex. I'm reminded of the silent protests in Israel against human rights crimes and the occupation by (Jewish) Women in Black. They were taunted by men who spat at them and called them "Arafat's whores" and c-suckers.

thouartgob
03-30-2008, 01:09 PM
Or gratuitously without expressing any inclinations for sex. I'm reminded of the silent protests in Israel against human rights crimes and the occupation by (Jewish) Women in Black. They were taunted by men who spat at them and called them "Arafat's whores" and c-suckers.

This discussion just reminded me of another science saturday diavlog between John and George about Steven pinker. In the dingalink below they discuss the number of euphemisms in English over the years for sexually related issues.

http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/7735?in=00:49:55&out=00:52:35

I left some 30 seconds in beginning for context but the largest number of words at the end was 2000 words for a wanton woman. 2000 words are used to categorize and confine women over the years just in english. Imagine the weight of that stigmatization across cultures and across time. Jeez it seems being wanton is worse than murder and indeed when you look at what men do to control a woman's sexuality you could make a case for that. From burning witches and honor killings to female circumcision to the "slut shaming" (stolen from Will's website ) we have a common theme of a burning need for men to control women.

For some this kind of misogynistic behavior is justified and should be encouraged since such thinking is just baked into the male psyche (what happens in the female psyche is in comparison worthless) for others it is a manifestation of what some deity wants (male deity ?? ). It is only in the 3/4 of the last century or so that women were considered something other than property so in trying to come up with answers to questions about prostitution or female sexuality we need to come to grips with biases that may have little to do with what is really going on. The meme of the evil wanton woman, outside of male control, seems to me vestigial and about as useful as a chastity belt.

Bloggin' Noggin
03-31-2008, 03:07 PM
Hi Abu Noor,
Let me just say that I have some sympathy for your position -- it sounds close to what mine was a few years back (not to suggest that you will or should follow my own evolution on the topic).
I moderated my position a bit when it occurred to me how dangerous and counterproductive anarchy (at an international level) can be, and when I thought about how the Roman Empire had been in many ways a boon even to non-citizen subjtcts by imposing peace (on Roman terms) through the empire and permitting positive non-zero sum games like long-distance trade. I also thought about WWI and WWII vs. the "Pax Americana" in Europe after WWII. It seems on the whole preferable to head off the descent in to big wars, even at the cost of the US "meddling" more in European affairs as it did after WWII than to let them develop as the US did between the world wars. I recognize that your concern is not with Europe, but a similar case might be made elsewhere in the world

You say you don't see your interests as connected to US foreign policy. I can see this in some cases certainly, but part of American policy has been directed, not so much at dominance as at opening the world up for trade, keeping the seas open, suppressing would-be conquerors, etc. This is the kind of thing that we would probably want a world government to do, if we had one. Insofar as the US is performing this kind of role, its pursuit of its own interest may not be that far from the interest of much of the world (or of American citizens).

Of course, if global trade were an unmitigated evil for "the global South", as some people believe, then there would be reason to think our situation was zero sum. But I'm also less convinced of this than I used to be. I doubt the situation is as rosy ovarall as the globalism boosters like Friedman make it sound, but a lot of very poor countries do seem to have vastly improved their lot (though not without disruptions along the way) through global capitalism.

I suppose another influence on me was the crisis in the Balkans in the 90s. I didn't like interventionism, yet here was a case where we had the power to intervene and save people and it seemed wrong not to do something about it. (I felt the same about Rwanda, though of course we didn't do anything about that -- except to get Europeans and Americans out.)

As you recognize, none of this means I underwrite everything the US does in the name of American or world interests.