Smart people saying smart things

Smart people saying smart things March 20, 2013

William deBuys: “The least sustainable city: Phoenix as a harbinger for our hot future”

Phoenix’€™s pyramid of complexities looks shakier than most because it stands squarely in the crosshairs of climate change. The area, like much of the rest of the American Southwest, is already hot and dry; it’€™s getting ever hotter and drier, and is increasingly battered by powerful storms. Sandy and Katrina previewed how coastal cities can expect to fare as seas rise and storms strengthen. Phoenix pulls back the curtain on the future of inland empires. If you want a taste of the brutal new climate to come, the place to look is where that climate is already harsh, and growing more so –€” the aptly named Valley of the Sun.

Rachel Barenblatt: “3 Nisan: Slavery”

When you sit down for your beautiful Pesach meal, be conscious that slavery wasn’t just what (might have) happened to the Israelites in ancient Egypt. It isn’t just a shameful American legacy. It’s something that still happens, in a variety of ways. Our people’s central story holds that we were slaves to a Pharaoh in Egypt but our God brought us out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. It’s our job to be the mighty hands and outstretched arms which will free those who are enslaved today.

Chauncey DeVega: “Slavery Was Good for the Blacks: At CPAC Angry ‘Disenfranchised’ White Men Are the Real Face of the Tea Party GOP”

A political party is a type of brand name. It signals meaning and values to its members on overt, implied, and implicit levels. By example, if “Honda” or “Toyota” signal “reliability” to their buyers, “Tea Party” and “Republican” signals “white” and “whiteness” to the American public. The latter signal is heard by supporters and opponents of the Tea Party GOP. The racism of the Tea Party GOP is not a dog-whistle. It is an air raid siren. And until the Republicans can learn to mute its klaxon they will continue the slide towards political obsolescence.

Dan Wetzel: “Steubenville High School football players found guilty of raping 16-year-old girl” (trigger warning)

“It wasn’t violent,” explained teammate Evan Westlake when asked why he didn’t stop the two defendants as they abused a non-moving girl that Westlake knew to be highly intoxicated. “I always pictured it as forcing yourself on someone.”

That was part of the arrogance.

Arrogance from the defendants. Arrogance from the friends. Arrogance within the culture.

Arrogance based on the fact that this night, witnesses testified over and over, wasn’t strikingly different than any other night in the life of a Big Red football player.

Joan Chittister: “Who are the people who were waiting for Pope Francis?”

People are weary of hearing more about the laws of the church than the love of Jesus.

People are weary of seeing whole classes of people — women, gays and even other faith communities again — rejected, labeled, seen as “deficient,” crossed off the list of the acceptable.

They are weary of asking questions that get no answers, no attention whatsoever, except derision.

They suffer from the lassitude that sets in waiting for apologies that do not come.

There’s an ennui that sets in when people get nothing but old answers to new questions.

There’s even worse fatigue that comes from knowing answers to questions for which, as laypersons, they are never even asked.


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  • Breaking news: Tea Party workshop discovers racist dog-whistles call actual racist dogs. Film at 11.

  • LoneWolf343

    I posted this story to my Facebook the other day. One of my conservative followers basically replied with “Nuh uh, and liberals are racist too!”

  • Every time someone says that, when I ask them to elaborate, they point at the Democrat party of the 1800’s. >.>

  • Baby_Raptor

    According to Gawker, Ma’lik’s attorney has announced plans to repeal the verdict, because he shouldn’t have to spend the rest of his life on a sex offender list since “his brain isn’t fully developed.”

    I have mixed feelings about a life-long condemnation to a list, but this kid knew full well what he was doing. He and his buddy spent several days afterward trying to convince the victim that nothing actually happened. And that’s just the least triggering detail of what happened. At the very least, he deserves to sit in prison for awhile. All the sympathy he’s getting, all the whining about his life and career being ruined…Fuck that.

  • AnonaMiss

    Phoenix – especially its suburbs – is famously full of asshats who consider sacred their right to green lawns and a swimming pool in every pot backyard, while criminalizing leaving water in the desert to save the lives of “illegals”. It’s a city full of every “Arizona Republican” stereotype, without the excuse of rural isolation/tradition, and with absolute gobs of money.

    They deserve their environmental catastrophe and if it is (as I believe) inevitable, I only hope it reaches a critical point soon enough that McCain hasn’t retired yet, so that when he comes begging for aid the legislature can stuff his ‘No” vote on Sandy relief so far down his throat that he chokes on it.

    No city deserves the Sodom treatment, but Phoenix comes closest.

  • glendanowakowsk

    When’s the next Friday the 13th? Frederick Douglass is going to be one very busy ghost.

  • vsm

    Is the film Sam Fuller’s White Dog?

  • The thing that depresses me most about Steubenville is not what happened itself (not to downplay it – it’s horrifying and terrible), but the amount of victim blaming from supposed adults going around. Not just the usual “Drinking = asking for it” horseshit, but also repeated claims that this was “crying rape” after the video came out and even demands for the victim to be prosecuted for underage drinking, because that’s the REAL crime. Ugh. Just, ugh.

    There’s a round-up of some of the Tweets and Facebook posts expressing this EVIL, poisonous opinion at but TRIGGER WARNING: Rape, Victim Blaming, Misogyny – and on other topics, Racism, Homophobia and basically everything else you can think of.

  • aunursa

    Slavery Was Good For the Blacks: At CPAC Angry “Disenfranchised” White Men Are the Real Face of the Tea Party GOP

    Big Media and leftists (sorry for the redundancy) came to CPAC with an agenda, and high on the list was proving how racist CPAC is…

    At most you might [judge the group in the room] if you were foolish enough to believe Think Progress’s claim: “Several people in the audience cheered and applauded Terry’s outburst.” Immediately after making that claim, Think Progress embeds a video that gives the lie to their description…

  • “We’re not racist! The racist leader of the a racist group within our party didn’t get cheered in public!”
    That’s not exactly a defence. Especially not at a “Trump The Race Card” panel.

  • Becca Stareyes

    There almost certainly are some racist liberals. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t criticize racist conservatives, especially when the modern Republican Party seems to be keeping the thinnest of veneers of deniability about their courtship of them.

  • The_L1985

    And let’s not forget how the news is going on and on about how the rapists’ lives were ruined. What about the damn victim?

  • The_L1985

    So…his defense was “We’re not racist, and liberals are too?” Cognitive dissonance much?

  • The_L1985

    Because political parties don’t change in 150 years. Never mind that the Whig party was once a major party, and it existed for less than a century.

  • Carstonio

    To hear K. Carl Smith, one would think that the GOP was like General Foods fighting the Pop Rocks urban legend, or Proctor and Gamble defamed by fundamentalist demagogues. He treats the distrust by non-whites as simply a branding and marketing problem. His proposed solution is merely an elaborate version of “Some of my best friends are black.” As if they would say, “Oh, Douglass was one of us, so these folks must be okay.” The fact that Smith is black doesn’t change the patronizing nature of his strategy.

    Numerous commentators have been pushing versions of Smith’s advice since November. Non-whites would support us and our ideology, they say, if we could just deliver our message the right way and bypass the nasty media. To take this at face value, one would have to assume that these people have been asleep for the last 40 years. A political party spends decades trying to reverse the gains made during the civil rights struggle, undermining any program aimed at increasing equality of opportunity, and generally pandering to white resentment, and then asks why it does so poorly among non-whites. The ideological version of Norma Desmond still believing she has hordes of fans who crave her return to the screen.

  • LMM22

    All the sympathy he’s getting, all the whining about his life and career being ruined…Fuck that.

    The common liberal meme is that we should assume some of the blame, because, hey, rape culture, we haven’t *taught* them that rape is wrong, etc., etc., etc.

    I think that that’s the wrong approach to be taking. I can’t change pop culture. I can’t make sure the parents of a would-be-sociopath teach him to respect women. I can’t even dismantle a high school football team that teaches its players that they are gods.

    Here’s *my* meme: What we’re to blame for here is teaching them that, for them, rape has no consequences.

    I don’t want reduced misogyny in the media. (Well, I do, but that’s beside the point.) I want a sky-high conviction rate for rapists. Barring that, I want one stipulation of their release to be that they film a PSA for football players documenting everything that they will be missing out on because they chose to rape someone. (Speaking tour would be a bonus.)

  • LMM22

    It’s not the asshats. It’s not that the people in Phoenix are any more sinful than anyone else. That would be the wrong way of thinking about it.

    It’s that Phoenix, like Dubai, like other ‘modern’ cities, is founded on a modern form of hubris: the idea that human beings, human planners, human consumers, can do whatever they want to, because, no matter how bad the situation gets, science will fix it.

    And, as best they can, researchers and engineers try to. But natural laws are natural laws — and if water isn’t available in the middle of a desert, it’s not going to be available, let alone in enough quantities to supply the lifestyles that people are used to.

    If you want to see this in action, read _Cadillac Desert_. It’s old now, but it’s good. (The first two thirds are really interesting but dry (no pun intended). Somewhere around WWII, Reisner gives up and starts mocking all of the major participants and then it becomes hilarious.)

  • “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”

    We didn’t fix the culture twenty years ago, so the best we can do now is criminal justice.

    So we should ensure criminal justice.

    We should also fix the culture.

  • What about the damn victim?
    What’s she got to do with it? She didn’t even PLAY football![/misogynist]

  • LoneWolf343

    I did. I haven’ t look at his reply yet, because goddammit, I have trouble dealing with that kind of stupid.

    Though I did say that Dixiecrats don’t count.

  • LoneWolf343

    Yep. I actually reposted him before, long ago. He’s the “facts don’t matter” guy.

  • misanthropy_jones

    wow. who’d have guessed that yahoo sports reporters have a better grasp of the reality of rape than cnn?

  • Carstonio

    The concept of the “race card” involves assumptions that could justifiably be called racist. It wrongly focuses on the alleged motives of the person allegedly being targeted by the card. It treats being accused of racism as worse than actual racism. It defines racism as individual prejudice instead of systemic discrimination and skin-based privilege. It implies that whites who condemn racism or act to reduce it are motivated only by guilt or intimidation.

    The real “race card” is what Molly Ivins called “going mean on race,” or the Southern Strategy.

  • In response to the second piece, from my family’s Haggadah, we tinker with the words each year but the sentiment always remains


    In many lands, men and women have groaned under the burdens of malice, ignorance, and greed. This very night, which we celebrate so securely and joyfully here, is even now a night of suffering and anxiety for many sisters and brothers, across the world and in this very city. Some are hungry, some lonely, some in exile, some in captivity. Some are “illegal”, and live furtively among us, easy targets for exploitation as they pick our crops, sell us flowers and produce, and wash our dirty dishes in the hot kitchens of upscale restaurants. Those who control the wealth they produce would have us malign and distrust them; the powerful would always have us divert our frustration towards the powerless. But we are charged to resist such messages, and to remember that we too were strangers and slaves and must protect the strangers among us.

    Because we were slaves in Egypt and now we are free, we keep this Watch Night for all the children of woman and man, dedicated to the Light of Freedom. While enjoying our portion of liberty, we must always remind ourselves that freedom is indivisible; there is no true freedom for any of us until all of us are free.

  • LoneWolf343

    There are three major cable news networks in the USA. They all suck.

  • LMM22

    That’s not quite my point. Getting people not to rape because they see rape as wrong would be ideal. But that’s difficult — not the least because (as most studies have shown) we *aren’t* dealing with a diffuse culture of ‘toxic masculinity’ but with a relatively small population of repeat offenders. (*)

    In the absence of that, then, I will settle for the more base motive of getting people not to rape because raping someone has criminal consequences.

    As an analogy: The culture of Wall Street is generally acknowledged to be toxic. Enron, Goldman Sacks, all the other high-frequency traders — they’ve lost money and screwed people over time and time again. No one is going on about “changing the culture” on Wall Street. No one thinks that the solution is ethics courses for finance classes. Rather, the general consensus is that, if we want things to change, then we need to make sure that people on Wall Street are prosecuted, particularly for acts which are *already* blatantly illegal.

    The culture on Wall Street isn’t toxic because the traders don’t care about people. They don’t, but that’s not the reason any of them do what they do. The culture is toxic because the younger people see that they can commit blatantly illegal acts and not get caught.

    (*) Recidivism of sex offenders is generally claimed to be quite low (c.a. 5%?). But the rates of conviction are *equally* low — so low that the stats, AFAICT, are virtually useless.

  • Carstonio

    Apparently, even female reporters can ignore the true victims of rape while lionizing and martyring the false ones. When men do this, at least they seem to be protecting their privilege, probably fearing they’l be accused of rape themselves.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Did you note how Fox News released her name (and were the first ones to do so), but made a statement about how they refused to release the rapists’ names (that were already all over the media) “because they respect the privacy of children?”

    The victim doesn’t even exist to some people. She’s a complete non-entity.

  • Baby_Raptor

    “Big Media and the leftists (sorry for the redundancy)…”

    Man, you’ve got to stop using disproved lies and strawmen if you want real debate.

  • AnonaMiss

    My observation that Phoenix is full of assholes who deserve it is not entirely based on the linked article. I went to college in Tucson, the one of the two major liberal enclaves of Arizona. (The other is Flagstaff). I met enough Phoenician asshats to last a lifetime. The worst were the ones from Scottsdale.

    Tucson is also a good example of how you can do better at living in the desert than Phoenix does, environmentally speaking. For example, natural landscaping is a Thing there; and even if you’re not into landscaping, the default “lawn” covering is gravel, not grass. Open air pools are much rarer; buildings, including their roofs, tend to be painted light colors or made of tin to better reflect light; swamp coolers are a common and much less expensive method of cooling than AC; etc. It’s still guzzling water faster than is sustainable, but it’s a damn sight better than Phoenix.

  • In case I wasn’t clear about this earlier, I absolutely endorse enforcing criminal consequences for rape.

    I continue to disagree with the idea that we ought do nothing about the culture, but if discussing cultural problems in this exchange will be interpreted as somehow lessening my support for enforcing criminal consequences for rape (which is what seems to be happening ) then I’ll happily stop discussing cultural problems here.

  • Abby Normal

    That’s what gets me about this–in what universe is a normal response to someone who is passed out **unconcious** to treat them in this manner? It’s like saying that it’s okay to diddle a coma patient. Only a complete sociopath thinks that it’s okay to take advantage of someone that’s totally incapacitated–regardless of how they got that way.

  • Some complete sociopaths think their actions were unforgivable, too.

  • Lauren

    There have been a few studies done that suggest that rapists are fairly willing to admit that they’ve forced people to have sex with them, as long as the “r” word isn’t invoked (Lisak and Miller, and McWhorter’s studies come to mind).

    I don’t know if this means that these men know they were doing something wrong though, since we live in a culture that so heavily glamorizes male sexuality and aggression. But it is worth pointing out that these men are willing to admit that coercion was involved, and that they’re not fooling themselves into thinking that it was a case of “poor communication”, “accidental rape”, or whatever.

  • Ironically, that was the point of the CPAC panel in question. The guy hosting it was promoting himself as a “Frederick Douglass Republican”, and reminding people that it was a group of Democrats who created the KKK.

    Of course, that was a long time ago, and demographics and priorities or both parties have shifted considerably since then.

  • I would prefer to call out racists in general, regardless of their political affiliation.

    However, I will call out party platform or policies if I feel like they are courting or promoting racists. The racists are idiots and no party should be seeking votes from them.

    Let them whither into frustrated impotence as a voting block.

  • Michele Cox

    Oh, I like that very much. Thank you for sharing it!

  • Lori

    not the least because (as most studies have shown) we *aren’t* dealing
    with a diffuse culture of ‘toxic masculinity’ but with a relatively
    small population of repeat offenders.

    There are a lot of problems with these studies, not least of which is the difficulty getting good data to work with. We need to be really, really careful when evaluating them and when using them to draw conclusions that go beyond the data set.

  • Lori

    What has he ever posted that made you think he wants real debate?

  • Lori

    There’s never a good excuse for fluffing a story, but this was one where there was no need in any sense. The reality was more than bad enough. Putting the video and transcript up without comment was all the was required.

  • I have been to Tucson a few times for the gem show. I saw the landscaping there. The ten to twenty feet tall cacti were nice, I liked the “forest” of them on a hill. Apparently some people use them for target practice? The palm trees though look like they could use a drink. Right heat for them, wrong humidity.

    One of the things that surprised me most though was the building construction. A lot of very low density, low cost construction, at least where I was (which was admittedly most near the airport and air force base where land is presumably cheapest in an already land-inexpensive area.) I would have expected to see a lot more heat-chimneys, and high-albedo surfaces for energy-efficiency.

  • “Big Media and leftists (sorry for the redundancy) came to CPAC with an agenda… a recent story that is all over the liberal blogs…”

    Got that? Liberal blogs = Big Media! I had no idea!

    So evidently the story is a white man spoke, saying several racist things, and a black woman tried to ask questions but was not allowed.

    According to the blog post linked, this white man was allowed to speak, at length, saying racist things, and this black woman was not allowed to speak, but that doesn’t prove anything because… umm… hey, look over there!

    From the linked piece, a statement by the author:
    I’m sick of a point of view where parties see voters as customers who are always right, and have to be recruited or catered to.

    Got that? The author is sick of the view that voters need to be catered to! Political parties shouldn’t have to earn the votes of members and constituents! They should just, what? Obey their betters?

    Aunursa, will you ever try arguing in good faith?

  • In addition to all the other issues going on here, this also points to one of the big pathologies of the modern news cycle. There’s a strong bias toward having a victim the media can emote over. They want to show us a victim and tell us about a villain. Since the media doesn’t have access to the actual victim, they try to make the rapists into “victims” of a villainous “system”, because that makes a better narrative for them to sell.

  • banancat

    There have been other studies that show rapists think all men are rapists (or at least want to be, but aren’t brave enough to risk it). They think that most men do it or want to do it but are just better at getting away with it. So most rapists probably don’t view it as wrong except in some vague sense that they know society technically disapproves.

  • because they chose to rape someone

    I think that framing the thing society needs to do as “teaching men not to rape” or “teachin because they chose to rape someoneg men that rape is wrong” is true, but may be misleading. Because I think surveys are fairly consistent that most men actually do think they know rape is wrong. The place where it all breaks down is that an awful lot of them don’t actually understand what “consent” means. Those two young rapists even now don’t seem to actually comprehend that the thing they did was rape. We teach young men “Don’t rape” and then go out of our way to make sure that we give them a confused, contradictory and misleading understanding of what that actually entails, in what I suspect is a deliberate attempt to create little mental checkboxes that lead men to think that if they can just avoid hitting the right combination of checkboxes, then it’s “not rape”.

    And you end up with two high school football players who are trying to wrap their minds around the fact that they thought they’d left the right checkboxes blank, and even now, they think the problem must be that there were some checkboxes they didn’t know about or something. Because it never occurred to them that it isn’t about whether they lurked in a dark alley or whether they used force or whether they personally drugged the victim, but rather what makes it rape is that they chose to rape someone — that is, they made the decision that her consent didn’t matter. That’s what we don’t teach, that what makes it rape isn’t any particular detail or set of details about how it went down, what makes it rape is the decision.

  • LMM22

    Because I think surveys are fairly consistent that most men actually do think they know rape is wrong…. Those two young rapists even now don’t seem to actually comprehend that the thing they did was rape.

    I’ve read otherwise. (Yes, it’s limited evidence. But there’s limited evidence in both directions, and, honestly, I’m inclined the believe the data that I’m given more than the assumptions that I’m not.)

    I for one don’t believe the two men at all. I don’t think they didn’t know what they were doing, both based upon their subsequent behavior (*) and based upon the reactions of the people around them.

    But let’s assume they didn’t know. Let’s assume they’d be *so* contrite once they realized that what they did was rape. That still doesn’t change the message.

    When I was in my teens, we had to watch a video profiling a young man who killed someone while drunk driving. We saw him in prison. We saw him torn up over what he did. We saw the consequences of his actions. I say we do the same to football players today.

    (*) I’m an Aspie. I can hurt other people emotionally — seriously hurt other people — without realizing it. Once I do, though, I feel *incredibly* guilty. I don’t argue that what I did wasn’t wrong — not after thinking about it. If they actually *cared* that they hurt someone, even if they disputed the term, they wouldn’t behave the way they do.

  • The_L1985

    That’s absolutely disgusting. They respect the privacy of children who rape, but not of children who are raped. How can you even say something like that with a straight face on national TV?

  • Carstonio

    Did anyone else notice the irony of CPAC holding its event in a county where African-Americans make up the majority of residents, and where the Hispanic population is booming? Maybe they forgot to dig out their Tea Party guide to DC from from Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor rally. The one that advised scared white people to avoid the subway lines in that same county.

  • Lori

    I found Beck’s advice hilarious. I was living in DC then and we all laughed about the fantasy world he was describing. (Because it was laugh or cry.) The Metro in DC is actually really safe and telling people to avoid it means throwing them on the mercy of expensive taxi service or scarce and expensive parking. And of course the taxi drivers are all AA, so Beck was advising nervous racists to avoid a public place where there would be some non-whites and instead put themselves alone in cars with AA men*. Um yeah Glenn, makes perfect sense.

    The thing that strikes me about CPAC always being held in DC isn’t that bit of stupid though, it’s the contrast to what is more or less it’s Left analog, Netroots Nation. Netroots is held in a different city every year. The location selection is made with an eye to being accessible to as many people as possible over time. So, it’s on the east coast one year, down South another year, on the west coast another year. There is also at least some thought given to choosing places that can really benefit from the tourism dollars.

    Both CPAC and Netroots are in a fundamental way about power and they’re both very clear about what power matters most to them.

    *Note: The cab drivers are in far, far more danger from the passengers than the passengers are from them. My point is that anyone racist enough to avoid the Metro might feel differently about it. Although I guess that might be offset by the perception that the taxi driver is a servant, where on the Metro Those People are allowed to wander around like they own the place. /imitation racist.

  • I’ve read otherwise. (Yes, it’s limited evidence. But there’s limited evidence in both directions, and, honestly, I’m inclined the believe the data that I’m given more than the assumptions that I’m not.)

    I have heard both things.

    But let’s assume they didn’t know. Let’s assume they’d be *so* contrite
    once they realized that what they did was rape. That still doesn’t
    change the message.

    I don’t think they’ll ever be contrite, because I don’t think they’ll ever realize what they did, because even now, society has no real interest in teaching them. They’re going to go to their graves thinking that, sure, what they did was maybe wrong, but that it’s not like it was “rape rape.” They’re going to go through life being at best genuinely befuddled as to why they’ve been punished (more likely, they’ll go through life resentful of an unfair system that treated them as the rapists they were when “all they did” was some kind of “youthful indescretion”)