Milder Despotism

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“At the end of my visit to Pediatric Alternatives, I found that I liked Dr. Kenet Lansman. I could tell that she was bright and caring and open-minded, and most impressively, she tried to think creatively about how to keep her patients healthy. She’s right that there is an epidemic of chronic autoimmune illnesses and autism among children, and a mounting body of research suggests that our aggressive pursuit of germs—both in our environment and in the human body—might have something to do with it”

Mother Jones discovers their morally charitable side when profiling an anti-vaccination pediatrician. This is refreshing! Normally, when we encounter people we disagree with, we want to paint them with a brush of moral condemnation. But this throws theory of causality and autonomy out the window.

The anti-vaccine pediatrician is, in my estimation, more morally problematic than most useful idiots in modern society that routinely receive condemnation from the partisan political pundits; but I could be wrong about that, so I’m hesitant to use strong moral language here. Strong moral language inhibits introspection and openness generally.

tl;dr we should all take a chill pill.

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“It’s only an “amazing shift,” though, only if you assume that pluralism is only for the truly powerless — that larger religious groups can never be disfavored or pressured by legislation, and that the rights of unpopular minorities are only important when the minority in question is too small to have any influence worth worrying about.”

- Ross Douthat, “Pluralism and Power

This is important. Dominant culture in America has moved and is moving quickly from one of intolerance - on race, on sexuality, on gender, on religion - to one of tolerance. As such, some of the laws that have historically been used to protect minorities from intolerance and discrimination could be used to protect majorities - or dominant, accepted minorities like Catholics - from intolerance and discrimination. 

This quickly gets us into the loop of “should we tolerate the intolerant?”

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The best sentence I read in 2013

Perfect description of us cosmopolitan millenials:

We are not relativists, despite our shitty late-’90s/early-aughts liberal arts educations, which only taught us to vote for Obama and write thinkpieces.

From Jay Caspian Kang: http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/10164745/beyonce-jennifer-hudson-year-divas

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Get Lucky: The Oklahoma City Model

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Take four top draft picks on a bottom-feeding team, season with growing pains and bargain-bin veterans, and marinate for three years. That’s the Oklahoma City recipe for a perennial fifty-win contender in the NBA, and one that other franchises explicity wish to duplicate.

It’s turning out to be harder than it looks.

Here’s the thing: teams with a reputation as cellar-dwellers tend to have that reputation for a reason. There have been countless teams that had long runs of top draft picks that weren’t able to create contenders. We may need to coin a term based off of the Cleveland Cavaliers to exemplify when the “Oklahoma City model” goes wrong.

imageCleveland has had a better run of draft picks than Oklahoma City had in building their contender. The Thunder picked at the 2, 3, 4 and 5 spots in the draft over three years. Cleveland has had two #1 overall picks and two #4 overall picks in three years. In Kevin Durant’s fourth year with the Thunder, they won 50 games in a competitive Western Conference and made the playoffs. It’s Kyrie Irving’s fourth year with the Cavaliers, and they sit at 7-13 - which improbably puts them on the playoff bubble in a pathetic Eastern Conference, but doesn’t put them on track to look like a 50-win team any time soon.

Cleveland’s picks have been used on Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and Anthony Bennett. Irving is a potential superstar who has stagnated, Thompson looked like a bust but has rounded into form, and Waiters and Bennett look like a mess this season. It could be that Cleveland’s youngsters just need a bit more seasoning before becoming playoff material. After all, there’s only one Kevin Durant - a transcendent scorer who almost immediately became one of the best players in the league.

This is actually the fallacy of the Oklahoma City model: there is only one Kevin Durant. The Oklahoma City Model might just be “draft one of the best players in the league” - which everyone already knew was a recipe for success.

The “Oklahoma City Model” for small-market success became a fad because Oklahoma City became successful, but we’ve seen all kinds of models for success over the years. We can look at the Indiana Pacers’ best-in-the-NBA success right now - a team that hasn’t had a draft pick above the 10th slot since 1990 - for a much different “model.” Indiana drafted well with the picks they had, made key trades - Kawhi Leonard-for-George Hill, T.J. Ford-and-change-for-Roy Hibbert and others - and made key veteran signings like David West to build a roster.

NBA general managers are self-interested creatures. It’s easier to explain a few years of losing with “following the Oklahoma City model” than to admit that it’s just plain really hard to build a contender when you don’t have one or more of the best players in the league. Bottoming out and getting a bunch of high draft picks is explained as a strategy with more sophistication to it than just getting lucky on one of the best players. What’s more explained by luck - landing a transcendent player with a top-5 draft pick, or assembling a roster of unheralded mid-rounders and free agents that can become one of the best teams in the league?

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"It’s not safe for you in this zoo."

This whole Kanye West interview is fantastic, but this rant in part six is illuminating.

"The way papparazzi talk to me and my family is disrespectful. We bring something of joy to the world. When people hear my music, they have a good time, and I should be respected as such when I walk down the street. Don’t ask me a question about something you saw in the tabloids. Don’t try to antagonize me. Because you know what? It’s not safe for you in this zoo."

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"For me, I’m a creative genius, and there’s no other way to word it."

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What Paul Krugman Never Does

It’s what Paul Krugman always does. 

Krugman, two days ago:

But wait: who is Kevin Warsh, anyway? Well, he’s a lawyer turned investment banker turned Bush appointee to the Fed turned Hoover fellow — not an economist at all. Now, I hate credentialism: there are plenty of fools with Ph.D.s, some fools with fancy prizes, and a fair number of first-rate economic thinkers without formal qualifications. Still, if someone is going to make pronouncements about how the whole nature of the business cycle has changed, you’d like some sign that somewhere in his life he has thought hard about, well, anything.

Krugman, today:

Notice that he is doing precisely what I never do, and making it about the person as opposed to his ideas.

Paul Krugman has learned a lot since two days ago though, so it’s okay that he’s completely flipped his position and forgotten everything he used to say.

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Wear the Crown

In Bill Simmons’ recent mailbag on Grantland, he published an e-mail from a reader that seems obviously correct:

City: Philly
Name: Dan C.

In The Wire when Marlo is about to begin his war with Avon to become the top dealer, he is warned “Anyone that wore that crown either ends up in jail or dead.” Marlo’s response is one of my favorite lines from the series, “At least they got to wear it.”

We question why athletes take PEDs despite the risks of getting caught, suspended and losing lots of money and fans, but is it possible they have that same mindset? To them, maybe they know full well they will get caught eventually, but the Bonds, A-Rods and Armstrongs of the world just don’t care and simply want to experience that joy of being on top of their game, even if it is just for a moment? If so, at least to me it makes them to appear more human instead of being dumb and naive, thinking they are invinicible and would never be caught.

[Ashamed side-note: I have not seen The Wire. Yeah, I’m working on it.]

The case of Barry Bonds is an incredibly fascinating one. One of the most common criticisms I hear from Bonds-hating purists is that he was a surefire Hall-of-Famer without steroids, so why did he ruin his body and his baseball legacy in pursuit of history? After all, he was already destined to be an all-time great. He already had history.

This seems to diminish what Barry Bonds accomplished while using performance-enhancing drugs. He went from a surefire Hall of Famer and one of the best players in the game to one of the most devastating offensive forces that the league has ever known.Check out his career comparables by year, per Baseball Reference:

Now I’m no baseball historian, but up until age 31, his career was, even with three MVP awards in the bank, pretty middle-of-the-road for a future Hall of Famer. Then look what happens: Duke Snider - a Hall of Famer, but kind of an unimpressive one. Frank Robinson. Ken Griffey. Mickey Mantle. Willie Mays. This is history.

I can’t name every Hall of Famer. I’m a relatively plugged-in baseball fan, though admittedly pretty ignorant of the history of the game. I didn’t know who Duke Snider was before performing this exercise. Ken Griffey and Frank Robinson are great players who will be memorialized more by baseball purists than the casual fan. Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays are all-time greats.

But Bonds’ greatness, at least as an offensive player, surpassed all of them for a period of time in the early-’00s. He inspired academic papers by statisticians about the wisdom of the intentional walk. He was intentionally walked to lead off an inning five times, surpassing the total of every other player since World War II combined. He got on base six out of every ten times he came to the plate for an entire season. If a player has a single month comparable to what Barry Bonds did for four seasons in a row from 2001-2004, he probably wins a “player of the month” award and is in consideration for that season’s MVP award.

So why did Barry Bonds take performance enhancing drugs? For the chance to evolve from an all-time great to a God of baseball. He succeeded and, Hall or no Hall, will be talked about for the next hundred years.

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jazzhate is a lie

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jazzhate has a ringpop spray paint stencil on the wall. WHAT

"It’s just the internet," Jame tells Hannnah Horvath, Struggling Writer™, when telling Hannah about jazzhate.com’s editorial submissions policy. This brings up the question: what the hell is jazzhate?

The best signs, going by Jame’s editorial pitches to Hannah, point to jazzhate as a New York lifestyle/culture website that cultivates the image of a start-up: desks huddled together in a loft warehouse space, no business attire dresscode, and a hip editor whose ideas of a good story are kind of bland but would be very interesting in the hands of the right writer.

Something sinister is afoot.

jazzhate pays two hundred dollars for freelance pieces to unknown first-time writers, which should be thrilling to Hannah. This is in line with some of the most lucrative gigs at some of the most established outlets known to writers. Courtesy of Who Pays? at whopays.tumblr.com, The New Yorker pays $250 for a blog post. xoJane (rumored to be the site jazzhate parodies) pays between nothing and $50. Elle Online pays between $40-75. The Awl pays $50. These are the outlets you’ve heard of, and while it may be intuitive that lesser-known publications would pay more in order to lure better writers and become more established, this largely isn’t the case. Many of the outlets you’ve never heard of don’t pay at all.

So where is jazzhate getting this cash? They’ve clearly got some funding infrastructure beneath them. It could be that they’re a vanity project from a few different investors, willing to put in the time, money, and image to make jazzhate a competitive start-up publication in the online space. What throws me, however, is Jame. Whatever kind of editor she is, she slings pseudo-corporate managementspeak that seems aspirational to middle-aged middlemanagers who lost the cool years ago. To wit, her “sign” that she seems proud of displaying to Hannah:

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We all rolled our eyes at that, right? The show’s target audience all thought that was pretty ridiculous? Maybe I haven’t worked in enough newsrooms, but are there zany, hip editors who have clichéd slogans like that where the younger workers don’tjust think it’s a whole big bullshit ploy?

The only conclusion: Jame is not a hot-property writer/editor who’s managed to secure investor funding for her lifelong dream project. No, she’s a corporate middlemanager shill who’s been assigned the vanity project of a board member who thinks this publishing house needs to compete in the hip online lifestyle space. Maybe it’s Condé Nast. Or the Hearst Corporation.

Do not be snookered by Jame, Hannah, but know this: you need to do whatever she tells you to do.It’s unclear how Hannah scored this in-person interview with this corporate journalism gatekeeper, but she needs to nurture that relationship. Hannah has no prospects, no future, and her pure talent as a writer is unproven to us, the audience. As Grantland’s Molly Lambert writes, paying “a first time writer with no credentials and 26 Twitter followers two hundred dollars for a post about a personal experience is an urban fairy tale.” Hannah wisely takes Jame’s advice, does some coke and gets a pretty good episode about it.

Hannah needs a pretty solid slice of keepin’ it real here. She asks if Jame is “hiring” her when Jame merely lays out jazzhate’s submissions and freelancing policy. Does Hannah not know what freelancing is? Does she know how to write? Does she even know how to exist as a Struggling Writer?

Tie your boat to Jame, Hannah. It’s really your only option right now.