Smart people saying smart things

Smart people saying smart things April 28, 2013

Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas: “Gun control shows how Washington really works”

Gun control has emerged as an unusually clarifying test case for how Congress really works. On one side of the ledger is most everything that we think moves Congress: Public opinion, a national tragedy, the president’s bully pulpit, elite opinion. On the other side is everything we wish didn’t move Congress: a powerful but increasingly controversial interest group and, arguably, the minority’s natural incentive to foil the majority’s agenda.

Guess which side is winning?

Jean Ann Esselink: “Thank You Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Because of You, I Got My Money Back”

If you have an unresolved problem with a financial institution, here is an overview of the complaint process, and the place to get started. If you don’t need it now, I urge you to bookmark it for the next time you have been wronged in the wallet. Besides banks, the CFPB also accepts complaints about credit cardsmortgagesstudent loans, and credit reporting. They work quickly, and they get results.

Thomas MacAulay Millar: “Teach Consent! (But What Good Is Teaching Consent?)”

Even if you believe, as I do, that the predators are not confused and can’t be educated, there are two good reasons to believe that consent education can make the climate better. First, because there are rapists who are not that small percentage of predators. Second, the predators absolutely depend on what I call the Social License to Operate, the climate that explains away or excuses what they do in certain circumstances, calls it not rape, calls it the survivor’s fault, minimizes it and lets him get away with it. Without that, the rapists can’t do it over and over because they’d get caught, excluded from their social circles, disciplined by commanding officers or expelled from campus, and they’d either have to stop or end up in prison.

… The Social License to Operate is the set of beliefs that make rape seem like a continuation or extension of normal sexuality, instead of an aberration and personal violation. By normalizing rapists and rape, by blurring the lines between rape and sex, we create a culture where instead of responding to the crime like we should, there’s always room to argue for and or excuse or mitigate the rape and the rapist.

Peter Enns: “Tim Keller on Homosexuality and Biblical Authority: Different Crisis, Same Problem”

Maybe the way in which evangelical read the Bible and conceive of its authority is the problem in the evangelical system that needs to be rethought, rather than being the non-negotiable hill to stand and die on for addressing every issue that comes down the road?

This isn’t about evangelicals accepting or rejecting the Bible. It’s about thinking self-critically about how they read it and their approach to biblical authority.

The problem, though, is that the evangelical view of the Bible as God’s inerrant authority for the church is its ground floor raison d’etre. Evangelicalism exists, at least intellectually, to defend and promote this view. To ask evangelicals to do a critical self-assessment of how they read the Bible is in effect to ask them to assess the entire system.

Helen Lee: “Yet Another Reason to Love Trader Joe’s”

You would think more companies would be able to grasp the wisdom of this strategy, that paying your employees well and treating them as a valuble source of competitive advantage can actually help rather than hinder the bottom line. But for many companies, especially those that see themselves as low-cost providers, the flawed thinking goes that to save money in order to offer those discount prices, you have to offer low wages and benefits and expect high turnover. (Case in point: Walmart.)

But this is not just an issue for companies such as Wal-Mart. Christian companies often fall into a similar mindset as they try to balance ministry goals, economic challenges, and an aversion to wastefulness or excess in their spending. What they may not realize is that by treating their human resources as an expenditure and not an asset in which to invest, they are missing a huge opportunity.



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  • For the guys, have you ever had to put this much mental energy into simply going out?


    How would you feel if you frequently faced a choice between living your life like anyone else and following social rules

    Lousy; something similar to that was a strongly motivating factor for my choice of where I live, and I’m grateful that I have the freedom to make such choices.

    would you take the risk of being hurt and then being blamed for it or would you let life pass you by?

    It varies but I’ve done both in my time, and anyone who wants to judge me (or you, or whoever) for choosing the former is both free to do so and strongly encouraged to keep it to themselves.

  • As someone who often doesn’t feel dressed appropriately for my gender-at-the-moment, I can also attest to feeling threatened by the mere act of going outside and putting a lot of thought into whether I want to do so or take the risk and accomplish other things that make my life more fulfilling.

    Pretty much any group with visible differences from the group in power suffers this, I think… which is pretty much every group that’s not in power, given group characteristic homogeneity being used as a tribal identifier.

  • aunursa

    I regret if anything I wrote gave you the impression that I believe that “rape prevention is mostly or solely a matter of teaching avoidance.” That was not my intention, and I don’t believe it.

  • Lori

    If you’re attending a party, go with a trusted friend, and look out for each other; if you’re alone when leaving a shopping center after dark,
    ask for a security escort to your car, etc. I think that we should teach women such habits without the implication that it’s the woman’s fault if she is assaulted.

    Guys, if you’re going to a party and there’s any chance you might commit rape by having sexual contact with a fellow guest who has not consented or is unable to consent then be sure to always go with a friend who can be trusted not to rape or to help you cover up any rapes you might commit and who will step in to control you if you can’t control yourself.

    If you find yourself leaving a shopping center after dark and you’re not sure you’ll be able to resist raping someone in the parking lot you should call security and have them walk with you to your vehicle. You should also carry a whistle just in case you find yourself without an escort and about to rape someone. You can then blow the whistle to attract attention from passers by who can help you control your urge to rape.

    You should also think carefully about your clothing choices. Don’t wear pants that are too easy to get open and don’t go commando. You need to keep as many layers of fabric as possible between your penis and anyone you might sexually assault. You should also avoid clothing with pockets where you could carry a weapon or an object with which you could sexually assault someone. Sure, that will narrow your clothing options and the ones that remain to you may not be to your taste or may be uncomfortable or unflattering for you, but rape prevention is more important than fashion, right?

    If careful clothing choices are insufficient to discourage you from committing sexual assault there are a number of discrete devices on the market that will control your penis when you can’t control it yourself. Sure, you’d rather not have to wear a cage and you’d prefer to be able to pee standing up, but if your eye offends thee pluck it out and all that. Wearing a locking device on your penis every time you leave the house is a small price to pay for the security of knowing that you won’t rape anyone while you’re out.

    As I said the last time this topic came up here, I’m in favor of teaching women street smarts and self-defense. As someone else noted in that conversation, it’s not empowering to in effect tell women that there’s nothing we can do to protect ourselves and our only option is to beg men not to rape us. That said, we need to balance our rape prevention messages a lot better and we need to think them through much more rigorously. If a statement sounds ridiculous when directed at a man then we should think twice about directing it at a woman.

  • aunursa

    I’m in favor of teaching women street smarts and self-defense. As someone else noted in that conversation, it’s not empowering to in effect tell women that there’s nothing we can do to protect ourselves

    I’m glad that someone agrees that we should teach women (and men) safety and prevention tips.

  • I think we do a fine job of teaching men not to rape, and a terrible job of teaching men what rape is. Which is why if you ask most men, they will tell you honestly that they would never ever no never rape, but if you ask them if they would have sex with someone who hadn’t given clear consent, quite a lot of them would honestly say that they would.

  • EllieMurasaki

    That totally explains why, when (as I understand has happened) an onlooker to the sexual assault of an unconscious person says it’s rape, the assaulters stop.

    Oh wait they don’t.

  • Depends. Did they say “Hey, you’re raping that person!” or did they toss out the word ‘rape’ as a joke, the same way people who haven’t been taught better might speak of a sound thrashing in a video game? (I know what you’re talking about. Every thing I have heard abotu that screams to me that the person was using the term as thougtless hyperbole — that the very way they said it indicates clearly that they thought it was not “really” rape.)

  • Lori

    Oh give me a break. People are not disagreeing with you about that. You’re taking comments our of context for reasons I don’t fully understand. Also, way to miss the main point of what I said.

  • At risk of repeating another person’s response to you, your #5 immediately made me think of this blog post by Jim Hines, in which he quotes:

    If you’re promoting changes to women’s behavior to “prevent” rape, you’re really saying “make sure he rapes the other girl.”

    You know the old joke punchline, “I don’t have to be faster than the bear; I just have to be faster than you!” It’s generally funny because most of us aren’t being chased by a bear; the situation is rare enough that the statement becomes absurd.

    But a lot of women are told “Make sure you do everything in your power, no matter the cost to your quality of life, to be less rapeable than the next woman.” And it’s not funny at all.

  • aunursa

    No, I won’t give you a break. People are disagreeing with me. Their statements in context are clear that it’s wrong to teach women about safety. They’ve already been taught plenty (apparently this applies to every woman), most of the tips are worthless, and the mere act of providing such tips makes women responsible for their own safety and thus places the blame on them if they are attacked rather than on the assailant. Whether I quote a portion or the whole post, the other commenters are quite clear on the matter.

    “Just teach men and don’t teach women” is an entirely appropriate response to “men don’t know this shit and women do”.

    Regarding the rest of what you wrote: Of all the dumb things you’ve written, the rest of your previous comment was one of the dumbest. I wanted to highlight your one sensible point rather than embarass you further.

  • EllieMurasaki

    If it’s something you’d tell both men and women expecting it to keep them safe, it’s a safety tip. If it’s something you’d tell women alone expecting it to keep them safe, it’s bullshit. Why is this so hard to understand?

  • I mentioned above that my husband got mugged a few years ago. Here’s something I didn’t mention: he didn’t fight back. When the moment came, he froze. I’m immensely grateful that he did–I don’t like to think of what could have happened if he’d escalated things–but for a long time afterward he beat himself up over it. He’s a very gentle man, but he had fantasies of tracking the muggers down and beating the shit out of them.

    Now I’m trying to imagine what it would’ve been like if, on top of his self-recrimination, he had people actually TELLING him he had a responsibility to fight back and should have turned into the Karate Kid when danger threatened. And what it’d be like if every time there was a news story about a robbery, people said, “Well, sure, robbery is wrong, but the people who get robbed are equally at fault for not personally beating up the robbers.”

    I’m trying to imagine what would happen in society if those were prevailing attitudes, and what first comes to mind is a) a lot more muggings would escalate into injury or death, and b) a lot fewer mugging victims would go to the police, or even tell people they’d been mugged.

  • Lori

    Of all the dumb things you’ve written, the rest of your previous comment was one of the dumbest.

    Really? You position on this issue is that it’s “dumb” and “gibberish” to use role reversal to point out that some shit people say about rape is sexist and stupid? That’s what you’re going with here? Once again, you demonstrate why so few people want to talk to you outside the LB threads. FSM you’re an ass.

  • Baby_Raptor

    That was pretty deja-vu inducing…Except that it was *me* telling myself not to make a huge deal out of it so as to avoid breaking up the group, to just avoid him except when we were all together playing L4D or whatever in an attempt to not let my drama break up the social circle.

    Ugh. Rape culture, I hate you. You suck.

  • I just want to be clear here: are you saying that men and women do not face different threat profiles and therefore it is never the case that different defensive strategies are appropriate?

  • EllieMurasaki

    I’m saying that telling a woman not to walk by herself in a
    given neighborhood at night, if a man would not get the same caution in an otherwise identical situation, is bullshit.

  • Lori

    The problem is not with discussing the different threat profiles faced by men and women. it’s with saying that the solution to threats faced by men is to get tough on crime and the solution to threats faced by women is for women to curtail their lives and clothing choices and have babysitters when they go out after dark or move in herds like nervous wildebeests on the lookout for lions.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Replying to you because you’re the most recent comment on this thread in my inbox:
    If owning a gun and knowing how to use it worked, the military would be the safest place for a woman. It’s not.

    If women covering up their bodies worked, Afghanistan would have a lower rate of sexual assault than Polynesia. It doesn’t.

    If not drinking alcohol worked, children would not be raped. They are.
    If your advice to a woman to avoid rape is to be the most modestly dressed, soberest and first to go home, you may as well add “so the rapist will choose someone else”.

  • alfgifu

    Part of the problem is that it’s very easy to measure shareholder returns, and there’s a natural human tendency to prefer a single measure of success that is easy to understand. In the same category: the emphasis on GDP for how well a country is doing.

    A single, simple metric supports a straightforward narrative about the underlying situation. The trouble is, these nice understandable measures don’t actually reflect how well a complex organisation is operating in any meaningful way. But learning about lots of different factors and weighing them up is hard work, so it’s much easier for shareholders to focus on the immediate benefit to them.

    One current attempt to address this is the Integrated Reporting project. To quote from their website: ‘An integrated report is a concise communication about how an organization’s strategy, governance, performance and prospects lead to the creation of value over the short, medium and long term.’ The idea is to include social, environmental and other considerations alongside the bare numbers.

    There’s a consultation draft out at the moment on a proposed framework to support these reports. I’d highly recommend taking a look and responding – the more voices heard, the better.

  • aunursa

    I’m saying that telling a woman not to walk by herself in a
    given neighborhood at night, if a man would not get the same caution in an otherwise identical situation, is bullshit.

    That’s correct. I am in agreement with you.

  • aunursa

    You position on this issue is that it’s “dumb” and “gibberish” to use role reversal to point out that some shit people say about rape is sexist and stupid?

    No. You did not use role reversal. Role-reversal would have been this:

    Guys: If you’re attending a party, go with a trusted friend, and look out for each other; if you’re alone when leaving a shopping center after dark, ask for a security escort to your car, etc. I think that we should teach men such habits without the implication that it’s the man’s fault if he is assaulted.

    Instead you posted gibberish nonsense.

  • aunursa

    Each situation is unique, and the person threatened must determine for herself or himself what is the best course of action. And the type of threat may help the person decide whether to fight back. It may be better for a person not to fight back against a mugger, while it may be better to fight back against a would-be rapist or kidnapper.

  • Lori

    You really don’t get it do you? You’re so attached to your safety tips for girls that you can’t see how the policing of women supposedly in order to prevent rape effects us. You promote policing women’s lives in
    order to prevent rape but think it’s gibberish nonesense when that scropt gets flipped such that men’s likves are the ones being policed.

    So I’ll ask again, why is it smart and neceessary to
    drill women in the ways they must curtail their lives in order to prevent rape, but totally ridiculous to tell men to curtail their lives and choices in order to prevent rape. Are you even capable of wrapping your mind around the point I was making? It would appear not.

    I sincerly hope that no woman unfortunate enough to have you in her life is ever the victim of assault. First and formost because I hope no woman is the victim of assulat, but secondarily becaue your attitude would make her feel worse and make it harder to heal. No woman should have to deal with that.

  • Good point! Just wanted to mention that the number one “Best Places to Work” company on Fortune’s list in 2012 was Google, proving you don’t have to be privately held to treat your employees well. =)