Print Story All aboard the blunder bus
Diary
By TheophileEscargot (Sun Nov 23, 2014 at 09:24:43 AM EST) Reading, Watching, Museum, MLP (all tags)
Reading: "In It Together: The Inside Story of the Coalition Government", "The Blunders of Our Governments". "5 Days in May". Watching. Museums. Links.


What I'm Reading
In It Together: The Inside Story of the Coalition Government by Matthew d'Ancona. "Inside Story" describes the book pretty accurately, with the strengths and weaknesses that implies. d'Ancona is apparently pretty much a part of the "social circle that became a government" and seems to have pretty good information on the detail of how things functioned within the first three years of the coalition. He's good on the relationships between ministers and advisors, in particular the vexed relationship between relatively liberal Iain Duncan Smith and the hardliner George Osborne.

Interestingly, Andrew Lansdale's wholesale reorganisation of the NHS seems to have come as a surprise to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, presented as a fait accompli that they had to reluctantly accept. I might have found that hard to believe except for the points made in the book below,, that the UK Prime Minister is peculiarly short of staff by international standards, with only a few advisors who can't really keep him informed. (I suspect the recent EU bill was a similar avoidable surprise.)

That highlights a couple of the weaknesses of the "Insider Account". d'Ancona doesn't really evaluate this government relative to other British and foreign governments: he just relates what happens. He also seems to share the ideology to the extent that it doesn't occur to him that their fundamental assumptions might be wrong (e.g. the standard Keynesian assumption that they might have actually harmed the cause of deficit reduction by cutting too much too soon).

Instead, he always presents the coalition sympathetically as struggling to strike a difficult compromises between the demands of the Lib Dems, of running a government, and of the Conservative Party base. But if you don't share the ideology, this looks a lot like a compromise between sanity and lunacy.

Overall, somewhat interesting to political obsessives, but no great surprises.

What I'm Reading 2
The Blunders of Our Governments by Anthony King and Ivor Crewe. This book got a lot of attention when it came out. It analyses in depth the biggest failures of British governments under Thatcher, Major, Blair and Brown; then draws general conclusions, making comparisons to foreign governments and successful British programmes.

Absolutely worth reading, though pretty horrifying if you would like to hold on to any optimism about Britain. It's all the more devastating for being absolutely calm and measured. It's not a partisan rant aimed at one party and offering hope for the other. It's not a libertarian screed complaining about government itself: they draw judicious comparisons to other nations where laws are pre-published to detect flaws, or genuinely bipartisan committees try to blunder-proof policies. The book even starts off with a list of successful government policies, which are used for comparison. However, they draw an overall picture of a system that is dysfunctional across multiple areas: from a Parliament that doesn't bother to scrutinize, irresponsible Ministers chasing advancement, to a degraded Civil Service short of skills and operational experience.

Here are some extracts from the final sections where they look at general causes of blunders in general.

Too much haste and too little deliberation are a problem:

British politicians in general have a curious habit of functioning in crisis mode - at high speed and in an agitated state - even when no crisis exists. They seem to enjoy it. It seems to give many of them a high...

Comparing the blunders committed in haste by activist ministers with the government successes listed in Chapter 2 is instructive. Many of the most enduring successes achieved by postwar governments had quite long gestation periods. The legislation authorising the creation of green belts was enacted in 1947, but green belts began to be created on a large scale only in the mid-1950s. The Clean Air Act lagged several years behind London's killer smog of 1953. Both the breathalyser and the compulsory wearing of seat belts arrived only slowly on the scene. It took more than a decade for the policy of selling council houses to their tenants to be fully bedded down. The ban on smoking in public places was also slow in coming.

Intriguingly - and contrary to received wisdom - Margaret Thatcher, although undoubtedly an activist, was never, until towards the very end, a woman in a hurry. On the contrary, she was content to take her time in connection with almost every important domestic matter. Although she took office in 1979, her ministers did not initiate a comprehensive overhaul of trade-union law until 1982. Privatisation, although something she always favoured in principle, did not become a central or even peripheral element of her government's policy until she was well into her second term. Similarly, when she was first confronted with the prospect of a miners' strike, she quickly backed off; but she then took steps to ensure that the next time the miners threatened to strike she would be in a position to stand firm.

Activist ministers can certainly congratulate themselves in one regard. They have made a substantial contribution in recent decades to expanding the sheer physical volume of the statute book. Although the number of individual Acts passed by parliament has not increased significantly in recent decades, the total number of pages of new legislation certainly has - from an average of 1645 pages a year during the 1980s, to 1803 pages during the 1990s to 2804 pages during the 2000s, an increase of 70 per cent over the three decades. The number of pages of new secondary legislation, in the form of statutory instruments, has also ballooned - from an average of 6644 pages during the 1980s, to 8705 during the 1990s to 10,421 during the 2000s, an increase of 36 per cent.

Lack of knowledge is a problem:
No feature of the blunders we have studied stands out more prominently - or more frequently - than the divorce between policymaking and implementation and, in human terms, between those who made policies and those charged with implementing them...

[On the Child Support Agency]. The ministers and officials in the Treasury who, along with the prime minister, insisted on the principal features of the new policy, with its heavy emphasis on revenue-raising rather than child welfare, were devoid of any relevant experience or expertise. For all their Whitehall clout, they were innocents in practical terms; they had no idea what they were doing. In any case, because the Treasury's policy would be administered by ministers and officials in another government department, no Treasury minister or official would ever bear any responsibility if things eventually went wrong. Officials in the Child Support Agency were thus landed with a complicated set of rules to administer, almost zero discretion in administering them and tens of thousands of exceedingly angry customers. Those involved at the top of the DSS were conscious that the policy they had devised would have been difficult to implement in any case, but the policy with which they were saddled simply could not be implemented. And it was not...

A striking feature of the policymaking processes that culminated in the blunders described in this book is that "the right people" were often not in the room and that neither the prime minister nor anyone else at the centre possessed both the knowledge and the clout " to challenge propositions and argue". Nigel Lawson challenged the poll-tax proposition but was seldom in the room, and no one in Margaret Thatcher's entourage felt it was his or her responsibility to argue the anti case, if only to act as devil's advocate. Gordon Brown was a law unto himself , and, quite apart from the delicate balance of political power between the two, Blair was seldom sufficiently well briefed to be able to challenge Brown's numerous policy propositions on purely intellectual and substantive grounds.

Rapid turnover of ministers and Civil Servants doesn't help:
The UK is an outlier in this regard. In Britain, holders of important portfolios come and go; in most other countries, they come and stay, at least for a while. Cross-national comparisons consistently show that ministers in other countries remain in office - and, more particularly, remain in the same office - for considerably longer periods than their opposite numbers in Britain. Among the few countries with higher rates of turnover are France and Italy. 1 The contrast between Britain and Germany, in particular, is stark. Reshuffles in Britain occur more or less annually. In Germany there have been only about half a dozen large-scale cabinet reshuffles in the entire history of the Federal Republic...

Furthermore, ministers are not the only ones who move around. No one seems to know how often senior civil servants, apart from permanent secretaries, move from one department to another or between unrelated or only loosely related posts within the same department; but, if it is "ridiculous" to rotate ministers "really quickly" , as the anonymous minister claimed, then the same must be true of rotating officials rapidly, especially as ministers inevitably rely heavily on those same officials. If both ministers and officials are rapidly rotating at the same time and in relation to one another, the results are almost certain to be suboptimal . When it was put to one cabinet minister that he must know less about the work of his department than the civil servants who worked under him, he replied vehemently that the opposite was true: he had not been in the department long and might not know much, but his civil servants endlessly came and went and knew even less than he did. Another minister complained, in connection with a specific project, that he had had six officials working on it under him in the course of two years and that only one of them had hung around long enough to be able to master the details of it; and, he added soulfully, as soon as that one official had succeeded in mastering the relevant details, he had sought and won promotion to a post in another department.

Lack of good management:
One strange feature of several of the blunders we have studied is that, although they had all of the characteristics of ambitious and complex projects, they appear never to have been thought of in those terms - as "projects". The ministers and officials involved treated them as though they were somehow a normal part of the ongoing business of government; and, even when individual projects were thought of as projects, they were not professionally managed as such. For example, the enormously complicated task of establishing the Child Support Agency - that is, of giving practical effect to the Major government's highly innovative child-maintenance policies - was initially put in the hands of someone recruited from the voluntary sector who lacked any high-level management experience. Similarly, having devised individual learning accounts without involving knowledgeable outsiders in their design, ministers and officials simply handed over the task of administering them to a private IT firm. It did not occur to them that the creation of independent learning accounts was a major project, one that needed to be carefully managed in close co-operation with the IT firm...

The upgrading of the London underground was a "project" if ever there was one; but in this case there was not even a nominal project manager. It is clear from the evidence that neither Gordon Brown nor John Prescott conceived of the enterprise as a project, one which, precisely because it was a project and a very large one at that, would need to be continuously and aggressively managed. They saw their public-private partnership solely as a highly desirable financial and accounting instrument. Their focus was on money and the accounts, notably the government's balance sheet, not on outcomes. Management, they seemed to think, could be left to look after itself. But, while some of the day-to-day and month-to-month management was in the hands of London Underground, some was in the hands of Metronet (which was notoriously badly managed), some was in the hands of Tube Lines (which was better managed), and much of it was in the hands of the many , many firms to which Metronet and Tube Lines chose to let contracts. Because so many organisations were in charge, none of them was.

Problems in the Civil Service:
In the UK, the possibility of serious operational disconnect occurring may actually have been institutionalised by the creation, beginning in the late 1980s, of executive agencies, what are sometimes called Next Steps agencies. 5 The idea was, and still is, to retain policymaking in the hands of senior Whitehall civil servants but to delegate responsibility for the implementation of whatever policy has been decided upon to these semi-autonomous agencies. The heads of the agencies in question are supposed to be told in broad terms by their ministerial and official masters what to do and then to be left largely free to get on with doing it. Professionalism, flexibility and efficiency are supposed to be maximised . Often they are, but the obvious risk is that thinking and doing may become detached, with policymakers relying on assurances given by agency heads and failing themselves to address practical issues of doability. That undoubtedly happened in the case of the English farmers fiasco, with Defra ministers and civil servants simply, but misguidedly, accepting the head of the Rural Payments Agency's assurances that he and his staff could deliver the most complicated payments scheme on offer...

Our study of blunders suggests that officials, at least in many government departments and in many policy areas, have become remarkably reluctant to speak truth to power. They do not want to speak largely because they believe power does not want to listen. Objection is construed as obstruction. Again and again in our interviews, former ministers as well as retired civil servants commented on the fact that, even when officials had harboured serious reservations about ministers' latest bright ideas, they had failed openly to express their reservations...

Another official in the same department added that there was a pervasive feeling that civil servants had to do everything they could to prove that they could be trusted by New Labour ministers: "We wanted to avoid a Sir Humphrey image. We became afraid to say 'No, Minister'."...

One career civil servant, whose department reckoned he "had earned his spurs" as a negotiator with IT suppliers, complained that his superiors had, in effect, given up on their own ability to negotiate and manage IT contracts and had concluded that the only way forward was to outsource. Before that, the department's systems had been developed mostly "in-house, with some external consultancy support" - and they had usually worked. The effect of relying wholly on outside lawyers and consultants, in his view, was that officials within the department ceased to be able to act as "intelligent customers". In turn, that meant that officials were not able to brief and, if need be, to warn their ministers. Outsourcing so comprehensively had, he believed, "added an extra layer of complexity" to the whole contracting and management process. The department had been "left vulnerable" and had "lost its ability to scrutinise". Another interviewee, in a different context, referred to what he called "the de-professionalisation of the civil service". Either because not enough civil servants were up to the job of supervising contract negotiations and drafting contracts, or because ministers believed they were not up to it, huge amounts of work were being subcontracted to exceedingly expensive law practices and consultancy firms.

MPS could scrutinize legisation better:
Germany... has a parliamentary system not unlike the UK's and a parliament, the Bundestag, that is almost as government- and party-dominated as the parliament at Westminster. Despite the similarities, the experience of the Bundestag shows clearly that a parliament in which almost all bills are introduced by the government and in which the political parties and their whips are at least as powerful as those in the UK can nevertheless enact legislation that is far from being "hastily considered and badly drafted"...

Unlike the UK's public bill committees , the legislative committees in Germany resemble in composition, and function in the style of, Britain's select committees. They are, in effect, "specialized parliaments within parliament", and their members typically know a good deal about the subject matter of the bills that come before them. The committee chairs, who may be members of the opposition, seek to promote agreement and facilitate progress rather than being studiously neutral. Government ministers and whips are not present, but civil servants and members of the committees' staff are. The committees themselves collect evidence and, if they want to, hold hearings. They usually confer in private , and their style of discourse is deliberately conversational rather than confrontational. Perhaps most important of all, the members of the Bundestag's committees see themselves as legislators, as actual law-makers. Their job as they see it is to improve legislation, not either to rubber-stamp it or obstruct it. Government-sponsored bills are, of course , almost always passed by parliament in the end, but only after they have been subjected to rigorous and normally quite non-partisan and dispassionate scrutiny. Moreover, in this regard Germany is far from being an outlier. The parliaments of the Netherlands and the Nordic countries function in much the same way. What may come as a surprise to many people in England is to learn that the legislatures of Scotland and Wales also function in much the same way...

It is hard to imagine many of the blunders described in this book - the poll tax, the original Child Support Act, individual learning accounts, tax credits, the setting up of the agency for recovering criminals' assets - having been perpetrated with the backing of statutes if those statutes had been subjected to the kind of detailed and relatively non-partisan parliamentary scrutiny that is normal in Germany, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Scotland and many other parliamentary democracies...

A striking aspect of the blunders we studied was how few of them had, or needed to have, a party-political dimension. A banded local property tax would probably have been acceptable to Labour from the beginning; the fight over the poll tax was quite unnecessary. Neither party actually willed the mis-selling of pensions, and Labour was never adamant in its opposition to the principle of personal pensions. The Child Support Agency was set up, as we saw, with Labour's full support. Both parties welcomed Britain's entry into the ERM enthusiastically, and both broadly supported the principle of holding a great national exhibition at the time of the millennium. The Conservatives did not object to individual learning accounts, and did not object strenuously to the idea of tax credits. The setting up of the Assets Recovery Agency had all-party support, and such debate as occurred over the wisdom of adopting the most ambitious method for making single EU payments to English farmers was never along party lines...

Ministers aren't accountable:
The almost total lack of ministerial accountability in the strong sense - of ministers being held to account for their actions and being penalised for their more egregious misjudgements and errors - is one of the most striking features of the British system of government. Or, rather, it would be striking if only more people were aware of it. The ancient doctrine of individual ministerial responsibility is breached far more often than it is honoured. The notion of a strong chain of responsibility linking officials via ministers to parliament, with ministers being held personally responsible for their blunders and suffering in consequence, bears no resemblance to reality...

Ministers are under constant pressure. They are shot at all the time. They spend a lot of their time dodging bullets, from the media as well as from opposition MPs and sometimes their own backbenchers. But they are seldom seriously wounded and almost never killed by the bullets; and, if they are killed politically, it is almost always as a result of gaffes and personal failures, not as a result of policy failures. Ministers' mistakes, however serious, almost never catch up with them.

The Prime Minister's office isn't much use in spotting problems.
By international standards, the British prime minister also has strictly limited staff resources. There are not many people , and certainly not many policy experts and administrators, who are his people, not anybody else's, and who work closely with him. The British prime minister, of course, is not entirely alone on the front line, but by international standards he or she very nearly is. Almost all the blunders we studied in detail exhibited some combination of, on the one hand, the fragmented departmentalism just described and, on the other, a Number 10 whose interventions were almost invariably sporadic and occasionally completely ineffectual...

The prime minister's Policy Unit, as it has existed in recent years, has been very small - still with only seven or eight members - and has been overwhelmingly occupied with day-to-day matters and policy issues of immediate concern to the prime minister...

Certainly the size of the British prime minister's staff - those individuals with significant political clout who work directly to and with him or her - is minuscule by international standards. The governments of all other Westminster-model countries have what amount to prime ministers' departments. Canada has its Privy Council Office, Australia its Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, New Zealand its department with the same name (but with the emphasis in both cases on the Prime Minister rather than the Cabinet). The heads of government of almost all European countries have more robust staff support than prime ministers in the UK... our study of blunders suggests that, far from the UK prime minister being too strong and presidential, he or she may in reality often be too weak to be able to ride herd, as the Americans say, on the activities of warring departments and impetuous ministers...

All of these episodes raise obvious questions about the curious mix that exists in the British system between departmentalism - inevitable in any large bureaucratic organisation - and a "centre" that is, in fact, only sporadically centripetal. For all the fashionable talk of "prime-ministerial power" and "presidentialism", the truth is that, looked at close up, British government turns out to be more chaotic than dictatorial. Neither the prime minister nor any other powerful institution at or very near the centre of government is capable in practice of checking and balancing, let alone controlling and directing, much of what goes on elsewhere.

What I'm Reading 3
5 Days in May by Andrew Adonis. Short book by a senior Labour Party minister about the 2010 negotiations between Labour and the Liberal Democrats about forming a possible coalition government. Most of it was written shortly afterwards, but a couple of chapters at the end were written three years into the Coaliton with a bit more perspective.

In retrospect, the negotiations were doomed from the start. Labour had fewer seats than the Conservatives. Adonis and Gordon Brown were convinced that "the numbers" could be made to work, but this seems to mean "barely surviving a confidence vote on heroic assumptions that there would be no rebels and some minor parties would never dare put the Tories in whatever they were offered". Also David Cameron and Nick Clegg had very similar backgrounds and ideologies as well as personal sympathy.

One fascinating revelation is that while the Lib Dems were in theory like Labour committed to a "slow" deficit reduction of halving the deficit in the next parliamentary term, their terms of negotiation with Labour insisted non-negotiably on a much faster pace. This tends to bear out those of use who are skeptical about what happens in secret coalition negotiations. Rather than fighting to preserve as much as their manifesto as possible, the Lib Dems were fighting to overturn the parts of their manifesto that the leadership clique didn't like.

Also interesting are Adonis' comments, as an experienced minister, on the Lib Dems eventual settlement with the Tories. He's astonished that they didn't insist on senior Cabinet posts which would have given them real power, instead settling for minor posts shadowed by hostile Tories.

One of Labour's key offers was a very early AV referendum, pencilled in for November that year, to take advantage of honeymoon effects and not let it be used as a referendum on a potentially unpopular government. Labour also guaranteed that they would campaign for a Yes vote.

It does seem that given what really happened: losing a much later referendum, losing on Lords reform; as a party the Lib Dems would have been much better off with Labour. It even turns out that the actual reduction in the deficit is much closer to the Labour/Lib Dem plans (possibly due to that pesky Mr Keynes).

Overall, an interesting account of hands-on political negotiations. Won't be of much interest if you're not into UK Parliamentary politics though.

What I'm Watching
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Pretty much as you'd expect if you've seen the first one. Some nice visuals, some decent scenes, and it's nice to see Middle-Earth again. Also too long and struggles to reconcile the portentous tone of LOTR with the much lighter Hobbit.

What I'm Watching
Singing in the Rain. Classic musical, some very lavish numbers, good if you like musicals.

What I'm Watching
Saw The Hunger Games on TV. I haven't read the books. Film was better than I expected: solid and well paced, though not desperately original.

Museums
Saw a Lacemakers exhibition in a local space: some nice artworks either made of, or loosely inspired by lace. Some clever, colourful works.

Links
Socioeconomics. Theories of the First Topsy-Turvy Doll. Come the glorious day, someone else will pay:

Citizens have unrealistic expectations because politicians have allowed them to think that the axe will fall on someone else. Depending on party ideology, those bearing the brunt of the cuts will be lazy welfare claimants, migrant benefit tourists, underworked public servants, over-bonused bankers or the rich. No-one is telling Mr and Mrs Middle-Income that they are going to have to pay more tax and/or see much more drastic public spending cuts.

Politics. Feminism is in danger of becoming toxic. The turn away from politics. How a $47 Shrimp Treadmill Became a $3-Million Political Plaything. Zero-Hours Academics: "According to London Met, casualisation in higher education isn’t a problem because everybody does it; according to the UCEA, it isn’t a problem because it isn’t really happening." Five questions for anyone who says “it's not racist to talk about immigration” .

Books. Kate Wilhem interview. Leigh Brackett's first draft of "Empire Strikes Back", Full PDF.

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All aboard the blunder bus | 64 comments (64 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
On ministers by wumpus (4.00 / 1) #1 Sun Nov 23, 2014 at 10:26:16 AM EST
I really don't know what is going on in Britain, but for any sufficiently large organisation in the US, expect policy to be controlled by a bungee boss. The idea is that an executive has to show results as fast as possible in order to move up and advance his/her career. This typically involve massive changes in order to game the most easily moved and visible metrics (the more it fits in a sound bite or power point bullet, the better). In the end, the goal of the worker in such a bureaucracy is to somehow keep a somewhat steady workflow regardless of the attention-seeking boss's flavor of the month.

One side effect of a Republican controlled Senate (note: Republican "control" for this case means 41 votes or more) is that since no replacements can be expected to be "advised and consented to", those serving at the president's pleasure are unlikely to be in this position.

Wumpus

Hunger Games by Vulch (4.00 / 1) #2 Sun Nov 23, 2014 at 02:18:48 PM EST
First two films are pretty good adaptations of the books by Hollywood standards. Usual problems of what to leave out to get a sensible running time but watching the first film before reading the book and vice versa for the second didn't leave me going "Argh" too often.



The feminism article by iGrrrl (4.00 / 3) #3 Sun Nov 23, 2014 at 03:53:30 PM EST
Someone did an analysis that I wish I had bookmarked. They looked at all the critical tweets on the shirt, and only three could be construed as personal attacks. Most of them were along the lines of, "That shirt? Really?!"

By contrast, the number of men who answered these with some variation of "Shut up, bitch" was appalling.

When women tell me they aren't feminist, I ask them two questions. "Do you want to be able to decide who you have sex with?" and "Do you want to own things." If the answer to those questions is "Yes," then I tell them they're feminists. That's it.

"Beautiful wine, talking of scattered everythings"
(and thanks to Scrymarch)

(Comment Deleted) by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #4 Sun Nov 23, 2014 at 07:37:26 PM EST

This comment has been deleted by the mariner



[ Parent ]
cool analysis. by the mariner (4.00 / 1) #5 Sun Nov 23, 2014 at 07:38:57 PM EST
https://twitter.com/roseveleth/status/532539812855959552

you don't have to look hard to find more along those lines. that's not some random idiot, except to the extent that the atlantic employs random idiots to write for them.

the problem with the picture you're suggesting here is that you're placing the opinions of random idiots, in the sense of people who hang around their houses all day posting their neurotic ramblings on the internet, on the same level as those of people who write for major publications. almost everyone, even the troglodytes at national review, agree that the guy shouldn't have worn the shirt. the disagreement is on whether he's the worst thing that has ever happened to science (which everyone fucking loves, by the way).

i think you have to grapple with the fact that the loudest voices on twitter (and worse, tumblr) among feminists and the social justice movement more generally are increasingly dealing in very personal scandal-mongering whose broader significance is at best symbolic and which is deeply alienating to anyone who doesn't obviously fit into their ideas about who the good guys are. add to this the appearance that it is all really about social competition and drawing page views to outrage journalism they write for various corporate media outlets and you've got an explosive, toxic new front in the culture wars in which almost everyone is an enemy of the left.

but freddie deboer says it better than me:

http://fredrikdeboer.com/2014/11/19/its-pretty-simple-really/

“Social justice” is an awkward term for an immensely important project, perhaps the most important project, which is to make the world a more equitable, fair, and compassionate place. But the project for social justice has been captured by an elite strata of post-collegiate, digitally-enabled children of privilege, who do not pursue that project as an end, but rather use it as a means with which to compete, socially and professionally, with each other. In that use, they value not speech or actions that actually result in a better world, but rather those that result in greater social reward, which in the digital world is obvious and explicit. That means that they prefer engagement that creates a) outrage and b) jokes, rather than engagement that leads to positive change. In this disregard for actual political success, they reveal their own privilege, as it’s only the privileged who could ever have so little regard for actual, material progress. As long as they are allowed to co-opt the movement for social justice for their own personal aggrandizement, the world will not improve, not for women, people of color, gay and transgender people, or the poor.

impressionable youth growing up reloading facebook and whatever see this stuff and they're like, oh hells ya OR they're like, jesus, these [insert whatever type of twitter activist/clickbait author] people are really going nuts over something unimportant, maybe i shouldn't identify with them or people will think that's what i'm all about too. of course a lot of people who believe in the broad goals of feminism, anti-racism, etc. blanch when they see things they at least thought they believed in being represented this way online.

[ Parent ]
"loudest voices on twitter'' by lm (4.00 / 1) #10 Mon Nov 24, 2014 at 08:50:39 AM EST
You must have an odd twitter feed.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
wow. by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #12 Mon Nov 24, 2014 at 09:19:48 AM EST
cluelessness as argument.

[ Parent ]
That was one of the three by iGrrrl (4.00 / 2) #14 Mon Nov 24, 2014 at 01:51:35 PM EST
And it still doesn't mean she deserved to be doxxed, told to die, or issued death and rape threats.

"Beautiful wine, talking of scattered everythings"
(and thanks to Scrymarch)

[ Parent ]
hm, that's a good point. by the mariner (4.00 / 1) #16 Mon Nov 24, 2014 at 02:29:08 PM EST
at least someone out there opposes death and rape threats.

interestingly, freddie deboer has more to say about this (in response to a similarly brave stance taken by matt zoeller seitz):

http://fredrikdeboer.com/2014/11/11/performative-morality-part-a-zillion/

So: what is the active moral question, here? What is the issue before us that has actual ethical valence? Is it “should there be harassment of people online”? Are there a lot of people who are pro-online harassment? No. Instead, a question of actual moral valence is how to oppose threats and harassment constructively, and how to do so in a way that does not invite ugly unforeseen consequences. For example, the campus Zionist movements in the United States have been very effective in squelching the free speech rights of pro-Palestinian students and activists, using left-wing argumentative strategies about harassment and hate speech to silence perfectly legitimate and fair political expression. Does Seitz have any concerns about that? Does he think that the institutions that he’d set against harassment and threats would be so virtuous and so effective that they would never work to silence controversial political opinions? Does he just not care? Does he see that as a necessary evil, a matter of breaking a few eggs to make an omelet? Does he have some sort of moral calculus in mind, trying to reach the least-bad outcome? I have no idea. All I know is that he thinks harassment is bad. Provocative take, there.

What questions of genuine controversy are being considered, here? No one is being challenged. Nothing is being hashed out. No moral progress can emerge from this kind of interaction. It is utterly inert as an ethical engagement. And yet Seitz has received the requisite digital strokes for it, ensuring that he will repeat the behavior in the future and that other people will emulate him. Meanwhile, the actual work of meaningful political engagement– wrestling with complex questions that are neither practically nor morally simple, by people of equally good faith, recognizing that often all options are suboptimal and the consequences of any action may be ugly — that is not sexy and it is not easy. All we’ve learned here is that Matt Zoller Seitz is more moral than you are, buster. Praise him!

So too with questions of sexual assault. Is “should there be less rape” a question of particular moral difficulty? Are people walking around saying “we probably shouldn’t try to reduce the amount of rapes happening”? No. Nobody is saying that. What some of us are saying is that in a country of hideous over-incarceration, with a ravenous police state and prison industrial complex, where we know the laws are never enforced equally, but are instead deeply unequal along lines of race and class, and where many police departments and prosecutors offices have routinely shown themselves to be racist, corrupt, or incompetent, attacking due process and contributing to the rush to prosecute and imprison is a terrible idea. That’s a debate we can have. That’s a debate with stakes. It’s an active moral question. “Should we reduce rape? Circle ‘Yes’ or ‘No'” is not. So which one do you want to spend your effort on?

I cannot understand smart liberal people who are so enamored with their own good intentions that they seem not to care at all about the potential for unforeseen negative consequences. I cannot understand  adults who think that meaningful moral questions have black-and-white, simplistic, right-or-wrong answers. I just will never understand that.



[ Parent ]
That's a lot of words for tone policing by iGrrrl (4.00 / 2) #18 Tue Nov 25, 2014 at 12:23:32 AM EST
And speaking up usually has more consequences, no matter how "politely" done, on the person speaking that it ever does on the behavior/statement/policy that the speaker is calling out.

I'm fucking tired of being polite, when an, "Excuse me, but..." is met over, and over and over again, with "Shut up, bitch."

"Beautiful wine, talking of scattered everythings"
(and thanks to Scrymarch)

[ Parent ]
it's not tone policing. by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #19 Tue Nov 25, 2014 at 08:05:04 AM EST
what i've heard from you so far in this thread is: everyone says "shut up, bitch" to professional feminist twitter commentators (except other professional commentators who are in broad, almost unanimous agreement that the shirt is a bad thing and who disagree only on how bad it is) and that no matter how vehemently professional twitter commentators express their views, they should not receive death threats. who says differently?

internet commenters say "shut up, bitch" to 3 year-olds on youtube. they're mentally unbalanced nobodies. their conduct does not prove anything one way or another.

[ Parent ]
You're creating an interesting category by iGrrrl (4.00 / 1) #21 Tue Nov 25, 2014 at 08:27:11 AM EST
This idea of "professional twitter commenters" is something you created to cover every person who has an opinion on Twitters? Fascinating. And did I say (look at my sentences, go ahead) that everyone says, "Shut up, bitch"? I did not. Just that the imbalance in response is real, quantifiable, and with a little bit of research you can find the data. No, I'm not doing your homework for you. You appear to prefer opinions. I prefer data.

Normal people, with fewer than 100 tweets or followers, got pounced on as soon as they used any hashtag associated with that shirt. Quantification of the tweets about the shirt revealed three personal attacks.

And yes, that was tone policing. "If you'd just say things politely, we'd listen." Years of experience tell women otherwise.

"Beautiful wine, talking of scattered everythings"
(and thanks to Scrymarch)

[ Parent ]
re: consequences of speaking up by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #20 Tue Nov 25, 2014 at 08:18:40 AM EST
given how little was at stake in this instance, this is pretty rich, but it is abundantly clear in this instance that the consequences were much worse for the target of "speaking up" than the speakers.

no one cares if you're polite. the question is: if you think online harassment is a serious issue, what do you think ought to be done about it. by the way, there is a position on this that you take up by using this rhetoric. it is the position that has brought WAM! into twitter moderation, resulting in silencing of legitimate, though obnoxious, political speech.

and get real. the professional twitter social justice movement does not say "excuse me, but..." they have considerable media influence and the power to drive media narratives against random individuals, which they use fairly mercilessly.

[ Parent ]
Do on line death threats count as free speech? by iGrrrl (4.00 / 1) #22 Tue Nov 25, 2014 at 08:28:54 AM EST
Interesting NYT perspective.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/30/magazine/do-online-death-threats-count-as-free-speech.html

What do you do about it? MEN, call out objectionable behavior in other men. Don't leave the work to women and the people harassed and threatened.

"Beautiful wine, talking of scattered everythings"
(and thanks to Scrymarch)

[ Parent ]
i'll respond to both comments here... by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #23 Tue Nov 25, 2014 at 09:14:21 AM EST
your suggestion is that men should escalate encounters with random people who camp out trending twitter hashtags. okay, but this is the online equivalent of going out on the street and getting in shouting matches with the guy yelling about the bible on the corner.

i would suggest that we should be less naive about what a trending activist/culture war hashtag really is: a huge public forum full of contention, both from professional political activists and crazy people, two categories with considerable overlap, i would add.

regarding the ny times piece: there's a crucial difference between the situation contemplated there and the situations that transpire on twitter in connection with online activism. this is not a random stranger and murder cases involving husbands, boyfriends, wives, and exes are common (even the majority?). by contrast instances in which some random idiot actually carries out a death threat against a stranger online are unheard of (as far as i know -- and remember, this is not a new thing, it's just recently become part of the activist media strategy to publicize threats to short circuit debate). even so, death threats are still bad and everyone's against them. they should be pursued as a criminal matter and robust protections against threats and intimation of violence should exist on twitter etc. see previous comment. this doesn't strike me as seriously grappling with the issues surrounding online harassment in connection with online social justice though.

(notice how in order to address the point about threats, i have to spend a half of a long paragraph writing disclaimers -- this makes it is impossible for people with even mildly differing views to effectively address anyone on twitter deploying this rhetorical tactic.)

perhaps you consider it just as obvious as i do that legitimate political speech must be protected, even when it is obnoxious, but again i have no idea because that is not the default position taken by people making arguments similar to yours these days.

anyway, it sounds like we agree that elite opinion, i.e. the kind of opinion that actually matters, is overwhelmingly against the shirt and disagreement exists primarily about how bad the shirt is and whether this guy should be an international news story over it.

finally, uh-uh, it's not tone policing. no one says it's "impolite" to post vacuous, sanctimonious moralizing. the point is that it crowds out considerations of actual controversy and importance.

[ Parent ]
crowding out is desirable by infinitera (2.00 / 0) #25 Tue Nov 25, 2014 at 09:23:54 AM EST
Our culture (shut the women up, keep the darkies out) fucking sucks.

[…] a professional layabout. Which I aspire to be, but am not yet. — CheeseburgerBrown

[ Parent ]
well, i'm a liberal. by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #27 Tue Nov 25, 2014 at 09:27:17 AM EST
you're not. i respect that.

[ Parent ]
ihbt by infinitera (2.00 / 0) #28 Tue Nov 25, 2014 at 09:28:07 AM EST
ihl, hand.

[…] a professional layabout. Which I aspire to be, but am not yet. — CheeseburgerBrown

[ Parent ]
wow, asserting enlightenment values by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #29 Tue Nov 25, 2014 at 09:30:14 AM EST
is trolling these days... what a long way we've come.

[ Parent ]
okay, you're right, i lied. by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #37 Wed Nov 26, 2014 at 10:45:19 AM EST
i don't actually respect anarchism as a political philosophy.

[ Parent ]
that's ok by infinitera (2.00 / 0) #39 Wed Nov 26, 2014 at 05:08:16 PM EST
You're in good company (nathan).

[…] a professional layabout. Which I aspire to be, but am not yet. — CheeseburgerBrown

[ Parent ]
yeah, and everyone else who thinks politics by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #42 Mon Dec 01, 2014 at 02:54:24 PM EST
matters and is worth thinking about...

[ Parent ]
So funny by iGrrrl (4.00 / 1) #32 Tue Nov 25, 2014 at 09:40:59 AM EST
The extremity of your arguments and your willful mischaracterizing of my statements is hilarious.

Many of the people who called out that shirt were neither "professional" activists, nor crazy.

They were women with PhDs, working as active and productive scientists, who collectively sighed out loud that they had to put up with the objectification and sexualized language yet again.

And I'm out. I'm a woman with a PhD, an opinion based primarily on data, and work to do.

"Beautiful wine, talking of scattered everythings"
(and thanks to Scrymarch)

[ Parent ]
yes, but first ones who did were by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #33 Tue Nov 25, 2014 at 09:43:26 AM EST
and the reason it caught fire was the professional activists.

cool re: the phd. i don't know anyone with a phd.

[ Parent ]
There have been a few here. by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #35 Wed Nov 26, 2014 at 05:26:12 AM EST
I'm not one of them.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
* smiles politely * by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #36 Wed Nov 26, 2014 at 10:11:45 AM EST


[ Parent ]
Neuroscience (n.t.) by iGrrrl (2.00 / 0) #38 Wed Nov 26, 2014 at 02:09:08 PM EST

"Beautiful wine, talking of scattered everythings"
(and thanks to Scrymarch)

[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #40 Sun Nov 30, 2014 at 01:08:00 PM EST

This comment has been deleted by the mariner



[ Parent ]
... by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #41 Sun Nov 30, 2014 at 01:11:05 PM EST

[sorry, wrong gif in prev comment]

[ Parent ]
i realize you're always partly trolling.. by infinitera (4.00 / 1) #24 Tue Nov 25, 2014 at 09:16:57 AM EST
But 'random internet speech' is personal. And the personal is political. So bring on the culture war, until exercises of power & privilege (e.g. "Shut up bitch") are no longer acceptable culturally speaking. "Scandal" is a minimizing word for normative behavior that "shouldn't" result in outrage. Of course it should - that's the whole fucking point, that the culture is the root cause.

[…] a professional layabout. Which I aspire to be, but am not yet. — CheeseburgerBrown

[ Parent ]
how do you minimize a bowling shirt? by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #26 Tue Nov 25, 2014 at 09:26:27 AM EST
the privilege of being able to say "shut up bitch" on the internet to a woman who writes for the atlantic is the privilege of being no one, having nothing to lose.

the culture is not the root cause, except to the extent that people are allowed, by the culture, to have differing opinions and the freedom to express them vehemently.

i think you should also reckon with the very real possibility that your side will lose the culture war. i didn't believe this was possible until recently with the rise of clickbait activism.

[ Parent ]
losing is fine by infinitera (2.00 / 0) #30 Tue Nov 25, 2014 at 09:37:14 AM EST
Does away with polite fictions.

[…] a professional layabout. Which I aspire to be, but am not yet. — CheeseburgerBrown

[ Parent ]
losing would be disasterous. by the mariner (4.00 / 1) #31 Tue Nov 25, 2014 at 09:38:20 AM EST
the indecisive wins of the 60s and 70s were bad enough.

[ Parent ]
huh? by aphrael (2.00 / 0) #43 Thu Dec 04, 2014 at 05:12:31 PM EST
> the culture is not the root cause,

of course the culture is the root cause, as otherwise there wouldn't be this tremendous disconnect between the number of people who think it's appropriate to say "shut up, bitch" to a woman and the number of people who think it's appropriate to say "shut up, dickface" to a man.

Women online are routinely subject to things that men online are rarely subject to; that's a cultural problem.
If television is a babysitter, the internet is a drunk librarian who won't shut up.

[ Parent ]
obviously there are possibilities besides culture. by the mariner (4.00 / 1) #44 Fri Dec 05, 2014 at 02:11:10 PM EST
but culture is a big part of the problem: young people from upper middle class backgrounds with advanced degrees and/or degrees from fancy schools are coming into contact with the truck stop public via twitter, youtube, and whatever else and don't know what to make of it when they don't share the same pieties you and i have been raised with. then they crow about how all of this proves their points about the patriarchy, systemic racism, etc.

here's a clue: these people calling writers for the atlantic "biches" are powerless. they don't hire people, they don't sit on admissions boards, they don't have much money, they won't be elected to public office, and they don't grow up to be CEOs. they're people who have little education, people who work jobs you would never take, people who have children with five different people and listen to insane clown posse.

women are not being raped on campuses by people who work at waffle house. and i'm sorry, but these people are not silicon valley vc bros, manhattan finance bros, or any other kind of bro its fashionable to whine about on tumblr.

the dynamic here is very simple: if you have a controversial opinion (and yes, many feminist commentators on twitter and tumblr do, whether or not you and i agree with their opponents) and you have a large audience, you will get angry responses from all over the map. source: been having controversial opinions on the internet for years, been called all kinds of things. that doesn't make it okay to call women "bitches" or any other variant spelling of the word. to reiterate: it is my considered opinion that stuff is NOT OK. but it doesn't prove anything a reasonable person doesn't know: there are still a lot of coarse, uneducated people and it is important to remember that if you have the sensibilities to be offended by their conduct, you probably have it a lot better in life than they do. (something about privilege comes to mind.)

however incomprehensible it is to you and i that there's a segment of society we have almost no contact with and which has almost no say in how the world works, they exist and they have twitter accounts. this doesn't mean they're going to roll back any social progress made in the last 50 years, no matter how many megachurches they give their paychecks to.

the dominant culture, which will be the one in which future generations are at least educated and in which those who rise to positions of power will have come up in is uniformly against calling women bitches. what more do you want?

[ Parent ]
what do I want? by aphrael (2.00 / 0) #45 Fri Dec 05, 2014 at 02:48:49 PM EST
> the dominant culture, which will be the one in which future generations are at least educated and in which those who rise to positions of power will have come up in is uniformly against calling women bitches. what more do you want?

I want women to be able to express opinions online and receive the same kind of abuse in response that men do.

That's not the case today.
If television is a babysitter, the internet is a drunk librarian who won't shut up.

[ Parent ]
if you go online right now by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #46 Fri Dec 05, 2014 at 11:16:20 PM EST
and start posting about how some demographic, especially one that contains a lot of downtrodden, fucking pathetic people, is full of rapists, rape apologists, and privileged sociopaths, foisting a culture of chauvinist domination on everyone else, you will get a lot of violently angry pushback. just pick your demographic, indians, cubs fans, the amish. think of it as a social experiment. they won't even stop to ask if you're a man or a woman. #yesallenglish

[ Parent ]
true and yet by aphrael (2.00 / 0) #48 Sat Dec 06, 2014 at 04:17:29 PM EST
a woman does not need to post the kinds of things you are talking about in order to be the victim of vicious abuse online.
If television is a babysitter, the internet is a drunk librarian who won't shut up.
[ Parent ]
no one needs to. by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #49 Sun Dec 07, 2014 at 08:57:11 AM EST
people are abused viciously online for no reason at all quite regularly, as you know perfectly well.

maybe you just want to make an abstract argument that women should be free of harassment online. fine, of course they should, but this is a question that is unconnected with any current event and it's somewhat vacuous when you offer no elaboration on what measures you think are warranted (and i remind you that there are proposals on the table put forward by the people from whom the rhetorical stance of merely stating "such and such is not okay" and leaving everyone else to either agree wholeheartedly or feel the shame of opposing social progress -- these proposals are remarkably illiberal and heavy handed) women who are currently and prominently complaining about online abuse are doing so within the context of the call out activism on twitter and tumblr. when you join a mob screaming for the head of some guy who wore the wrong shirt to work, you are not innocently minding your own business. of course it is their right to do so, but they should also expect pushback, not all of which will measured or civil.

[ Parent ]
your entire argument is: by infinitera (2.00 / 0) #54 Sun Dec 07, 2014 at 01:41:15 PM EST
"lol stupid feminists, trolled by rubes"

I'm sorry, but all elite consensus has ever done is shifted labor practices. Everything else is a long hard fight.

[…] a professional layabout. Which I aspire to be, but am not yet. — CheeseburgerBrown

[ Parent ]
no, that's not what i think is going on. by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #57 Sun Dec 07, 2014 at 01:59:18 PM EST
trolls are part of the savvy online feminist's media strategy. what i'm saying is that the rubes are powerless, their opinions are indicative of nothing important, and buying into the idea that their angry comments against the feminist hashtag du jour are indicative of a) an actual threat to feminists or b) powerful opposition to feminist ideology is foolish.

re: all elite consensus has ever done, tell it to the courts.

[ Parent ]
these courts? by infinitera (2.00 / 0) #58 Sun Dec 07, 2014 at 02:02:42 PM EST
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/08/opinion/pregnant-and-no-civil-rights.html

Elites don't give a shit. This is a function of popular attitudes towards fetal parasites, not elite consensus.

[…] a professional layabout. Which I aspire to be, but am not yet. — CheeseburgerBrown

[ Parent ]
the abortion issue is a mechanism of control by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #61 Sun Dec 07, 2014 at 02:10:15 PM EST
used to turn the poor against each other and render them incapable of collective action. i agree that elites don't give a shit about this issue because it never had any impact on them in the first place. it's always been possible to get an abortion if you have money and it will remain so, whatever stupid shit these people manage to foist on each other.

[ Parent ]
and so we're back at the beginning by infinitera (2.00 / 0) #63 Sun Dec 07, 2014 at 02:12:11 PM EST
Mechanism of control is the exact thing happening through social media.

[…] a professional layabout. Which I aspire to be, but am not yet. — CheeseburgerBrown

[ Parent ]
go on... by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #64 Sun Dec 07, 2014 at 02:13:23 PM EST


[ Parent ]
i think you believe in an effective technocracy by infinitera (2.00 / 0) #47 Sat Dec 06, 2014 at 12:35:29 PM EST
Which doesn't actually exist. Our governance is a joke, that makes culture all the more relevant.

[…] a professional layabout. Which I aspire to be, but am not yet. — CheeseburgerBrown

[ Parent ]
i don't think there's any question of governance by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #50 Sun Dec 07, 2014 at 10:24:44 AM EST
here. the point is that feminists who don't like dealing with the hoi polloi on twitter can do what the rest of do in real life: pretend they don't exist.

(except when 400 lbs. of them are parked in front of a grocery store self-checkout kiosk trying to figure out how to work that dern thing.)

yes, maybe this means some of the fragile souls of tumblr can't participate in feminist twitter action/strategy. political engagement isn't for the faint-hearted.

[ Parent ]
i try to convert people RL.. by infinitera (2.00 / 0) #51 Sun Dec 07, 2014 at 11:51:51 AM EST
At every opportunity.

Evangelical feminism.

Our consciousness as a nation does not exist except in regional hoi polloi. How do you think civil rights for gay people have happened except through change of that consciousness?

[…] a professional layabout. Which I aspire to be, but am not yet. — CheeseburgerBrown

[ Parent ]
our 'consciousness' doesn't matter. by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #52 Sun Dec 07, 2014 at 12:39:38 PM EST
and i didn't realize you eat at waffle house.

what matters is the elite consensus, which is what drove the gay rights movement to its recent successes. this is the source of received wisdom for lawyers and jurists, media and advertising professionals, the management and consulting elite, etc., i.e. the people who actually wield theoretically independent power in the system. it's true that there's some opportunity for populism to delay the inevitable or profit from it (see karl rove on gay marriage) but elite cultural values always win in the end.

that is to say: you don't have to convince the ham planets. their opinions don't matter in the long run.

[ Parent ]
i think we disagree by infinitera (2.00 / 0) #53 Sun Dec 07, 2014 at 01:14:53 PM EST
Both on the respect to be granted any people around us and the impact of a mass of a people.

[…] a professional layabout. Which I aspire to be, but am not yet. — CheeseburgerBrown

[ Parent ]
oh, you're a real humanitarian. by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #55 Sun Dec 07, 2014 at 01:50:56 PM EST
the guy who professes not to care about outcomes of political conflicts (since if we lose, it will at least clear the air about what people really think!) blanches at frank descriptions of his beloved masses. understandable. they are the good guys in all the books.

[ Parent ]
you've misidentified the target of said blanching by infinitera (2.00 / 0) #56 Sun Dec 07, 2014 at 01:54:20 PM EST
Your "Great Man"/elites theory of history.

[…] a professional layabout. Which I aspire to be, but am not yet. — CheeseburgerBrown

[ Parent ]
whatever that means. by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #59 Sun Dec 07, 2014 at 02:03:42 PM EST
trotsky felt comfortable saying the russian peasantry had no ability to exert political agency. i say the same thing of the american working class and now i'm somewhere between nietzsche and mussolini.

both statements seem obviously true to me, particularly with the decline of labor unionism in the US.

[ Parent ]
false to me, I'll close with Debs by infinitera (4.00 / 1) #60 Sun Dec 07, 2014 at 02:09:25 PM EST
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind then that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; and while there is a criminal element, I am of it; and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."

[…] a professional layabout. Which I aspire to be, but am not yet. — CheeseburgerBrown

[ Parent ]
a stirring quote. by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #62 Sun Dec 07, 2014 at 02:11:51 PM EST
it's funny how people who embrace the rhetoric of privilege have so little concept of what it is. i'm sure your solidarity is appreciated.

[ Parent ]
I can't think of any place I've worked by wiredog (4.00 / 2) #6 Mon Nov 24, 2014 at 07:30:49 AM EST
where that shirt would have been tolerated.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
That's probably an indication by anonimouse (4.00 / 1) #8 Mon Nov 24, 2014 at 08:15:43 AM EST
...of how far feminism has succeeded since (say) the 1970s.


Girls come and go but a mortgage is for 25 years -- JtL
[ Parent ]
Maybe by lm (4.00 / 2) #9 Mon Nov 24, 2014 at 08:48:46 AM EST
... or maybe it's an indication about how uptight the US is about sex.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Not really by anonimouse (4.00 / 1) #11 Mon Nov 24, 2014 at 08:55:18 AM EST
I can't think of many workplaces in the UK where that shirt would have been acceptable either. 

Girls come and go but a mortgage is for 25 years -- JtL
[ Parent ]
I work at a "controversial" TV channel by jump the ladder (4.00 / 2) #13 Mon Nov 24, 2014 at 09:38:18 AM EST
And you can wear pretty much anything to work, piercings and tattoos friendly as well but no way would you get away with that shirt.

[ Parent ]
Sexualizing a space that shouldn't be sexualized by iGrrrl (4.00 / 4) #15 Mon Nov 24, 2014 at 01:54:11 PM EST
That's what his language and his shirt did. Even people who are very sex positive know that there are spaces where sexualized language, behavior and clothing are not appropriate.

"Beautiful wine, talking of scattered everythings"
(and thanks to Scrymarch)

[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by wiredog (2.00 / 0) #7 Mon Nov 24, 2014 at 07:32:06 AM EST

This comment has been deleted by wiredog



[ Parent ]
Interesting how... by Metatone (4.00 / 4) #17 Mon Nov 24, 2014 at 05:44:22 PM EST
many of the sensible complaints from Dominic Cummings overlap with the Blunder book. (As opposed to his knee-jerk libertarian stuff.)

Does the lack of MP oversight start with Thatcher (possibly in 83 due to the large majority gained?) or is it already in place?

Interesting to me how the structural problem with civil service promotions is similar to that in tech firms. If you're good at something and want more money, your main option is to go for a new role. So techs become managers and (for example) Education civil servants move to Defence.

The Lansley stuff is cited by DC as well as evidence of the weakness of the PM office, but I think the problem is wider (and perhaps echoes the deficit issues.) There were many people, many respected people, who could and did say that the Lansley reforms were a road to spending a lot of money and not achieving very much. Fundamentally it would only have been the work of a single evening to collate some hard questions that Lansley couldn't answer.

The problem, as with the economy, is that Lansley's proposals fitted the ideological prejudices at hand - and in passing, most of the civil service (certainly in my experience of the DoH) has been successfully brainwashed with similar prejudices. I spent a lot of time researching the Lansley bill and the way it was written, passed and implemented as I was part of a group considering entering the support service market it created. (In the end I concluded that the political settlement was unstable and so it wasn't the right time to invest in such a venture.) Anyway, part of the story of the Lansley bill is partly that he created it out of his (and his think-tank aides) knee-jerk beliefs - but what was depressing is how much knee-jerk support it got from DoH civil servants. They were largely committed to the same ideological stance.

As another short example, most high ranking civil servants fully believe in outsourcing. They are ideologically committed to some weird pseudo-market strategy for government. They don't even try to answer critiques about knowledge as in your excerpt, the ideology trumps all critique.

Thanks! by infinitera (4.00 / 1) #34 Tue Nov 25, 2014 at 10:06:36 AM EST
The Blunders books sounds interesting. Not too surprising, hierarchies being what they are (yes, predictable anarchist response), but interesting. ;)

[…] a professional layabout. Which I aspire to be, but am not yet. — CheeseburgerBrown

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