It is a basic linguistic principle of civilized discourse that
so long as there is an acceptable and upright interpretation for
someone’s remark, it should not be given a devious meaning.
Moreover, as one of my teachers often says, it is easy to reject
and denounce the statements of others, but the worthy task of
every intelligent seeker is to try to understand people who hold
different opinions. This is particular[ly] necessary when such
statements originate in a different linguistic and cultural
domain. – Ali Quli Qarai,"Lost in Translation: Ahmadenijad and the Media"
Should we make a greater effort to understand those with whom we have differences?
The all-too-human — and self-preserving — impulse is to do the opposite, treating the words of the Other warily, lest they club us in our caves once we are lulled to sleep.
Inevitably, this habit results in some misunderstanding and deeper ill will. I say this as someone who has managed to create both, despite my more noble intentions, and working in my native language. As Ali Quli Qarai points out, the divide widens when cultural and linguistic differences come into play.
Iranians, being linguistically a very sophisticated people,
speak a lot in hints which are invisible to outsiders. Americans
in comparison tend to be straightforward and often as primitive.
Simple declarative sentences and directness have their own ways of being misleading, of course. But he is not not critiquing how we speak — only how we listen.
To the Slaughter has the news about the purge/resignation of Susan Albright as editorial page editor at the Strib. Her departure and the move to "localize" editorial coverage reflects my rumor/speculation/suspicion that the days of a strong metro progressive editorial voice are numbered.
Bad news for the state. Good news for MinnPost, Minnesota Monitor and other emerging progressive media.
Back in my running days when we were trying to build the sport, smaller road races typically had a two mile "fun run" to encourage joggers and kids.
Most started with a scramble and ended with a strung-out line — a few sprinting madly at the end, some missing the finish line altogether and a lot of gangly form that told you who probably wouldn't be back. Then there were the rare kids who motored along, usually near the front despite the age of the competition, who were clearly born to run.
These kids were well-known and closely watched on the circuit. Some of them were lost to puberty, others to excessively high expectations — their own or their parents'. It was sometimes hard to tell.
Many Minnesotans who ran in the late-80s are likely to remember one little kid and his dad. The father was a tall Native American who ran back in the pack. The tiny boy ran easily and without pretense near the front, typically beating older kids. He was a race director's nightmare when he won, though.
Because giving out the awards, they'd have to pronounce Forrest Tahdooahnippah.
Forrest kept running and achieving in school. That can be a challenge for kids from tribal backgrounds, where the culture doesn't strongly reinforce the individual rising above others. Forrest went to Stanford and is pursuing a law degree at the University of Minnesota, where he's running on the cross country team for one last season.
You don't have to be a runner to love his story in today's Strib.
The King and I have a bit of a back and forth going in the comments section which I have left there in case it is getting too off in the weeds. I have little enough interest in my own arguments, so I don't expect you to show up and cheer for my increasingly esoteric points.
But still, a little more.
What King and I have both done is restated the other's arguments in ways with which the speaker doesn't agree. I did it with this:
I find it extremely comical that an economist can overlook how
corporations enjoy the protections of government — particularly through
lobbying, political back scratching and the courts.
Then King responded:
Good heavens, no. I don't overlook it. I call it "rent-seeking"
and I abhor it. [NOTE: Don't bother clicking on his link unless you have 10 bucks or you're an academic with a JSTOR account.] Economists have long recognized its existence and the
inefficiency of it. Where Charlie and I might disagree is how to cure
And he returned the favor:
He would argue that there are not enough government restrictions on
economic activity and seek political solutions to put more on.
Good heavens, no. I'm not the prototypical lefty that the right loves to hate. I didn't argue for government restrictions on the email gatekeepers. But I also fail to see how their action is "economic activity" or how the user who wants to receive or send widely published material using their service is violating terms of their agreement. I abhorred their practice and called them on it, but I didn't call my Congressman.
My issue with such activity is that it's political; it represents private interests using their economic power (money and control of assets) to suppress, in this case, ideas. In other cases, it may be to exploit a vulnerable population. This is not the same, as the professor implies, as being against commerce and corporations.
In fact, unlike college professors who study business — a useful, but not strictly essential activity — I have conducted it, risking my capital, losing sleep, creating jobs, providing services and paying taxes to support public universities and their tenured salarymen who enjoy, in the words of a professor friend, "the best part-time job in the world."
So when I criticize particular business practice, it comes out of familiarity with and regard for what business contributes to society and the genuine contempt an honest business person has for the sharpster and the greedhead, the chiseler and the freebooter.
So King and I are not so far off in some areas. We are probably pretty close on business taxes, trade barriers, corporate rent-seeking and most government subsidies for economic development. But I do think government ought to seek to restrain exploitation of employees and customers and seek to prevent poisoning the earth in the name of economic activity. I don't believe the Chamber of Commerce and fine print in financial documents are a sufficient brake against plunder or usury. I don't think handing billions to William McGuire so he can personally redistribute it and standing by while children and families circle the drain is a good bargain for society. I don't think trimming a few similarly flaming capitalist wicks will bring our economy to halt.
We also would agree that the email contract is small potatoes. I didn't make it "an example of government protection of corporate power." I simply offered it as a mundane example of how corporations routinely wield power, and that those who see the government as the sole enemy of liberty should not be so blithe about the glories of living in a free market economy.
King Banaian has responded to my recent post on the apparent "special handling" given left-leaning content by certain email services.
Short version: I think when commercial services transmit political expression in an uneven-handed manner, consumers ought to object. King sees their action as a perfectly legal exercise of contract rights. By truncating it here, I don't mean to dismiss the nuances of his argument — which perhaps I already over-simplified in a follow-up here — so read his reply.
To be clear, I was primarily characterizing experiences and quoting comments from other email users, not my own. I learned about Truthout's troubles getting its mail to subscribers because my ISP does not arbitrarily override my wishes ... as far as I know. And I was not calling for government intervention in the case. Rather, I expressed bemusement at how some free marketeers seem to think that less government means personal freedom flowers.
Yet here were AOL and Yahoo acting more like Big Brother than Big Brother.
Since the users of these free email services signed an agreement that can be interpreted as allowing the providers to do whatever they want — and, since users are not compelled to use those services — King argues:
But as long as exit is possible, in what sense are you censored?
This is dangerously close to the question asked of date rape victims: You agreed to go out with him; you accepted the drinks he offered; the door was not locked and he did not tie you down. In what sense were you violated?
In other words, some will detect coercion where others may ask only, how could you be so stupid?
Did these companies commit a prosecutable offense? No. Should they be called out as abusers? Yes.
I'll have more to say on this, but right now, other duties call.
My chief bikemate, two friends and I will be biking in Portugal between September 30th and October 14th. If I read things correctly, sprinting for cyber-cafes at the end of the day will be considered rude. And honestly, I enjoyed a break from the Web and blogging during a trip to China two years ago, so I don't expect to post anything during that time.
But I have a few more readers now than then, and I'd like to keep you, so I will be parceling out a few evergreen posts that I've saved for my absence.
For a dash of timeliness and some Minnesota character, Ollie Ox of A Bluestem Prairie has consented to drop by and leave something for you while I'm gone. If you already read her, you know she covers Minnesota's First Congressional District with depth and a regard for the facts, plus a close attention to the reporting being done by the area's newspapers.
I've left her with the keys, but no instructions, so I'll make no promises about what you'll find.
Norman Hsu's lawyer claims the FBI took advantage of his client by interviewing him after he was discharged from the hospital after recovering from an overdose of
Calling the agents' behavior "a legal scandal," Brosnahan said it was
"absolutely wrong" for them to interview Hsu without a lawyer and while
he was in a fragile medical condition.
In the federal complaint, authorities said Hsu "initiated contact with
FBI agents in Colorado on three separate occasions" and that, after
being released from a hospital to a Colorado jail, Hsu told the agents
he wanted to speak without his lawyers present.
My sister and her partner were the agents who interviewed Hsu and obtained his confession to major fraud that involved using investments from new suckers to pay off earlier investors. She assures me they did not engage in water torture, Indian burns or any of the other techniques I taught my younger siblings.
Hsu's wrinkle in the Ponzi scheme was using ill-gotten funds for charitable and political contributions that enhanced his credibility with high-buck investors. It appears he had little actual interest in influencing the politicians who took his contributions. Giving big to Hillary Clinton simply boosted his visibility.
Allow me to brag on my baby sis for a moment. She was also involved in getting the confession from Chelsea Gerlach and enlisting cooperation from others involved in high-profile eco-sabotage cases throughout the west. You would not want her on your trail, but if you did get caught, you'd want her to be the one to take you in.
What interrogation techniques work, according to her? You treat people as human beings. You let them know you're only after justice, not to make a name for yourself.
You won't see my sister's name on the Hsu case. That's just the way she and her partner want it.
According to A Bluestem Prairie, it appears that "the Pawlenty administration's interpretation of the flood relief bill is at
odds with what its local authors intended for small business recovery."
The blog notes press reports in southern Minnesota indicating legislators who wrote and passed the bill had something else in mind:
of this interpretation Saturday Rep. Ken Tschumper was flabbergasted.
He was the chief author of the bill, but "I never heard anything about
that — Pawlenty's people said 'trust us'. They said it would be flexible
and they said it would be forgivable loans. Some of us are really angry
how this is being carried out."
No, these aren't the transgressions of low-ranking soliders; it's the handiwork of private contractor Blackwater.
The misdeeds that got Blackwater booted by the Iraqi government surely represent an extreme version of the pitfalls of privatization. But the themes of waste and corruption sound remarkably similar to charges leveled against government that privatization is supposed to remedy.
The freemarketeers have initiated a steady drumbeat in favor of wider use of private corporations to deliver public services — from wi-fi and park concessions to schools and prisons to tollways and public works departments. Turning citizens into consumers will produce greater accountability from the service provider, they argue — and pay no attention to those shareholders behind the curtain demanding a high return on their investment.
For the record, I believe there are instances where private interests can provide valuable public services. For example, in cases where particular expertise is required, where risk can be better borne by the financial markets and when unusual situations demand speedy response. But there are other situations where government turns over public assets such as parks, timberlands, existing tollways and lotteries in exchange for upfront cash that are bad long-term policy. Worse, government does itself no favors when it deals with connected corporations and shuns both oversight and transparency.
An example closer to home is the dispute over awarding the I-35W bridge replacement contract, where the work went to the high bidder. Since MnDOT went with an out-of-state team rather than one of its regular contractors, there's no whiff of cronyism. But because the decision process lacked transparency — and, according to two of the losing bidders, may have been misleading — what very well might be the correct choice comes off badly.