Patterico's Pontifications

12/17/2009

Goldstein Fails to Address the Part of the Sarah Palin Example Dealing with Language

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:10 pm

Jeff Goldstein evidently overlooked the part of my Sarah Palin post that was about language, even though I put it in bold. Let me restate it simply.

What if Letterman knew young 14-year-old Willow was the girl at the game? Should that have caused him to change the phrasing of his joke?

Remember, Letterman said:

One awkward moment for Sarah Palin at the Yankee game, during the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.

Saying “her daughter,” it is clear, was ambiguous. Goldstein is sure he meant Bristol. His commenter Pablo, among many others, thinks he meant Willow. I’m not sure which he meant.

But what if we assume, for the sake of argument, that Pablo & Co. are right? That Letterman knew it was Willow? Should he have changed the phrasing??

Pretend that, before Letterman tells the joke, someone comes up to him and whispers:

You know, Dave, the daughter Palin had at the game was Willow. She’s 14 years old. Why don’t you change the phrase “her daughter” to “her daughter Bristol” — so that Willow doesn’t inadvertently get hurt?

Should Dave:

a) Refuse to change the language — after all, he knows what his intent is. If some listeners don’t get it, to hell with them. If many believe that a 14-year-old girl has been made the butt of a sex joke, that’s on them.

b) Add one word to the joke (“Bristol”) to make it clear it’s not about a 14-year-old — because, after all, a speaker should take account of how listeners, even those attempting to interpret his language according to his intent, might reasonably misinterpret his language.

Slightly modified version of the question: what if Dave, in his professional comedy opinion, thinks that adding the word “Bristol” isn’t quite as funny? Should he leave out the word and go with the slightly funnier joke, even though he knows that many listeners trying to divine his intent will conclude that he is making a sex joke about a 14-year-old?

Call Me Crazy

Filed under: Obama,Politics — DRJ @ 6:39 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Earlier this week, Minority Leader John Boehner disagreed with the Obama Administration on bringing GTMO detainees to the U.S., and Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Boehner was talking crazy:

“Asked about fears some Americans might have about Gitmo detainees being transferred to a prison in Thomson, Illinois, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs today singled out House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, suggesting the tanned Ohioan’s comments were less than sane.
***
Continued Gibbs, “I will say this. I have seen some far crazier comments today — comments from people like John Boehner.”

It’s not just Republicans who the Administration thinks are talking crazy. Howard Dean disagreed with Obama on health care and now he’s on the receiving end of questions about his sanity:

“On Vermont Public Radio Tuesday, Dean called for Democratic senators to kill the bill.

“I don’t think any rational person would say killing a bill makes any sense at this point,” Gibbs said today.”

Obama vowed to change the tone in Washington and he did. Now if you disagree with the President, you’re not just partisan … you’re crazy.

– DRJ

The Jobs of the Future

Filed under: Economics,Government — DRJ @ 3:57 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has published a forecast of projected job opportunities for 2008-2018:


Source: The Editor’s Desk, Bureau of Labor Statistics

The good news is the BLS thinks there will be jobs. Two of the top three areas for job growth are “management, scientific and technical consulting services” and “computer systems design and related services.” These are vague descriptions that could mean anything from CEOs like Bill Gates to low-paying entry-level jobs. Odds are it means more of the latter than the former.

The bad news? The BLS projects big losses for high-wage manufacturing and mining jobs, and gains in these traditionally low-wage areas:

  • Working in physicians’ offices.
  • Working in employment services, e.g., helping people find jobs.
  • Working in general merchandise stores, presumably in stores like Walmart.
  • Working in local government jobs.
  • Working in home health care, nursing care facilities, and services for the elderly and disabled.
  • Working in full-service restaurants.
  • In the past, most of these positions were low-paying jobs held by high school graduates. I doubt things will change so much that these will become high-paying jobs — although there may be more college graduates doing them, in which case I wonder how they will repay their school loans. It’s also notable that most jobs appear to be government and health care positions. Apparently the BLS doesn’t believe many jobs will be created outside of government or health care in the next 10 years.

    – DRJ

    Scheduling the Senate Vote on Health Care

    Filed under: General — DRJ @ 3:45 pm

    [Guest post by DRJ]

    The Senate vote on ObamaCare may come on Christmas Eve:

    “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s plan to pass the Senate health care reform bill by Christmas looked increasingly in doubt Wednesday, as Republicans launched an offensive to stall the legislation and Democrats had yet to strike a 60-vote compromise.

    Senators privately considered one scenario Wednesday that would have them casting a final vote at 7 p.m. Christmas Eve…”

    [Note: Hot Air link provided to honor Patterico's Politico ban.]

    I hope Senators Lieberman and Franken aren’t each other’s Secret Santa.

    – DRJ

    Media’s Goal: Comforting Distressed Liberals

    Filed under: Media Bias — DRJ @ 2:31 pm

    [Guest post by DRJ]

    Bradley J. Fikes quotes from an article by Michael S. Malone, who considers what motivates the mainstream media to ignore stories like ClimateGate:

    “I’ve puzzled over this for a long time. I don’t entirely buy the argument that it is politics, pure and simple. I think it is more than that: that newspapers and their editors want to give their declining pools of readers what they want to read – and when the news, no matter how juicy, is not just going to be upsetting (that’s usually okay), but challenges their sense of the way the world works, the story has to be spiked, dribbled out carefully, or swathed in more comforting ‘analysis’.”

    Bradley has more thoughts at the link on what this means for the legacy media.

    So if you are looking for last-minute Christmas gifts, not only are newspapers great for use by conservatives as dog trainers, they also make fine gifts for liberals who need their intellectual Snugglies.

    – DRJ

    AP: Bad Job News is Good Recovery News

    Filed under: Economics — DRJ @ 1:59 pm

    [Guest post by DRJ]

    Today’s job report is bad but you wouldn’t know that from reading this AP headline and article, at least not based on the opening paragraphs:

    Economic reports point to gradual recovery

    “A report on unemployment claims and a forecast of U.S. economic activity pointed Thursday to an economy mending slowly, without the job growth needed to fuel a vigorous recovery.

    The number of newly laid-off workers filing claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week. But the four-week average for jobless claims, which smooths out fluctuations, fell. That was an encouraging sign that the labor market is gradually improving. The four-week average is now at its lowest point since late September 2008, when the financial crisis hit with full force.”

    Deeper in the article comes the real picture: An unexpected jump of 7,000 in new jobless claims, an increase of 5,000 in ongoing jobless claims, and an increase of 143,759 in people receiving extended job benefits. Could this be a one-time blip? Of course, but these are not signs of a “gradual recovery” unless you have a flexible definition of “recovery.”

    – DRJ

    Climate Change Talks Get a Jumpstart

    Filed under: International,Obama — DRJ @ 1:37 pm

    [Guest post by DRJ]

    Today’s Copenhagen climate change beneficiaries are poor nations who have renewed hope because the United States promised to mobilize more money:

    “U.S. backing for a $100 billion climate fund to help poor nations revived hopes for a deal to combat global warming on Thursday as world leaders met on the eve of a U.N. deadline for breaking deadlock.
    ***
    “The United States is prepared to work with other countries toward a goal of jointly mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the climate change needs of developing countries,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a news conference.

    Such funds would be more than all current aid flows to poor nations, a U.N. official said, and in line with demands put forward for African nations. “That’s very encouraging,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said of the U.S. pledge.”

    President Obama is discovering what many of his predecessors did best — buying popularity abroad by promising American taxpayers’ money.

    – DRJ

    Goldstein’s Losing Argument Supporting Sex Jokes About Sarah Palin’s Child

    Filed under: General — Patterico @ 1:38 am

    In a comment thread to a post trying to put dirt about me on Google — which doesn’t particularly worry because the source is now identified as a violence-threatening crank — Jeff Goldstein continues to defend David Letterman’s sex joke about Sarah Palin’s child. He doesn’t have the courage of his convictions to put his specific points in a full post, but rather makes his specific arguments in a mere comment. (His most recent post fails to set forth the same specific losing arguments.)

    I respond to each point below, but I am astounded by the conclusion:

    [F]rom a strategic standpoint, standing by and watching a bunch of screeching conservatives berate a comedian was troubling, because it reinforced what many Americans already believe about conservatives: that they are scolds who wish to legislate their own morality.

    Got that? The real victim was not Sarah Palin’s children, but David Letterman — “berated” by “a bunch of screeching conservatives” upset at a prominent TV personality making a sex joke about Sarah Palin’s child.

    One of Goldstein’s several failures of understanding is echoed several times in this passage: a fundamental inability to distinguish between a constitutional right to say stupid things (on one hand), and a non-existent “right” to say whatever the hell you want without fear of criticism.

    With rights come responsibilities. If we say something that deserved to be criticized, we may get criticized. There is absolutely nothing in the Constitution that says you get to be free from criticism for saying stupid things.

    Yet it is a common “defense” of stupid statements to say “well, I should have the right to say it.” Yes, and nobody is saying you don’t. We’re saying we have the right to call you stupid for saying it.

    I’ll refer to this concept again and again, because this fallacious mode of argumentation absolutely permeates Goldstein’s defense.

    With that in mind, let’s take his points one at a time.

    1) I said: “now that we’re speaking to each other again — however roughly — I’d like to put it to him directly: how in the world did he defend David Letterman for joking about the statutory rape of 14-year-old Willow Palin?” Goldstein responds:

    I didn’t. Letterman didn’t mention Willow. He mentioned Bristol.

    No, he did not say Bristol. He said:

    One awkward moment for Sarah Palin at the Yankee game, during the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.

    The daughter at the game was Willow, age 14.

    Goldstein assumes that Letterman meant Bristol — as Letterman later claimed he had meant to refer to Bristol. But as his commenter Lying Pablo said at the time, Letterman might have been lying:

    I’m gonna go with the latter [the concept that Letterman was lying when he said he was referring to Bristol]. [T]he former might have flown until after Monday’s A-Rod/slutty stewardess cracks and the ensuing OUTRAGE, he doubled down on Tues[da]y with the Spitzer joke. He (by which I mean the writers) couldn’t have not known on Tuesday that the kid in tow was Willow, not Bristol.

    In any event, he did not say “Bristol” as claimed by Goldstein.

    2) Next, I said: “What Goldstein didn’t seem to understand in that post is that nobody was arguing that comedians should be deprived of the right to make decisions — but that they should exercise those decisions responsibly. Specifically: teenaged children are off-limits when it comes to sexual jokes — even (especially?) teenaged daughters of political figures.” To which Goldstein responded:

    Bristol had a kid out of wedlock. The baby daddy had already been on the talk show circuit. Bristol was a public figure.

    Your idea of what is “responsible” differs from Letterman’s. And probably George Carlin’s. And Lenny Bruce’s. And Richard Pryor’s.

    Don’t care. In this context, my idea of what is “responsible” is clear: comedians should not make sex jokes about people’s children. It wasn’t funny when Deb Frisch did it to Goldstein’s child, and it wasn’t funny when Letterman did it to Sarah Palin’s child.

    And Goldstein never once addresses my point that what really supposedly made Bristol a “public figure” was 1) the fact that she didn’t get an abortion, and 2) the fact that a Big Lie pushed by the left suggested that her baby was really Sarah Palin’s. I think that accepting her as a “public figure” and thus fair game for jokes by late night comedians plays right into the hands of a false narrative being pushed by the left, as well as a desire to punish a girl for serving as a role model for young women who don’t want to sacrifice their babies on the altar of expedience.

    3) I argued: “First, the girl at the game was Willow Palin, aged 14, and not Bristol. All the linguistic arguments in the world can’t paper over that simple fact.” To which Goldstein responded:

    So? Letterman was making a joke, not doing a Discovery Channel special on the travels of the Palin family. I said at the time and I’ll repeat it again: Letterman didn’t have the first idea who Willow Palin was. The joke was about Bristol. He said Bristol. The behavior he was lampooning tracks with the public narrative of Bristol.

    Again, he did not say Bristol. Goldstein has no idea whether Letterman knows who Willow is or not. I did, at the time Letterman made the joke. Why are we to assume Letterman didn’t?

    Mocking Bristol could have tracked a broader (yet false) “public narrative” of mocking all of Sarah Palin’s children as trailer trash. Why are we to assume that the aging lecher Letterman would be above such a disgusting tactic?

    As for language theory, I argue that it matters whether the actual girl at the game was Willow. If (as Pablo argued) Letterman knew the girl at the game was Willow, that should have caused him to modify his speech to specify which daughter he was joking about. Changing his speech in that way would be desirable, to avoid a hurtful effect on the listener Willow — even if he didn’t “intend” it. Knowing the likely reaction of a totally innocent listener, Letterman should not have phrased his joke in a way that it would suggest the real butt of the joke was a 14-year-old child.

    This goes to the heart of the linguistic debate I have had with him: the fact that, under some circumstances, a speaker’s knowledge of the likely effect on a listener (here a 14-year-old girl) can justifiably cause a speaker to phrase comments in a different way. Otherwise, you’re defending making a sex joke about a child, knowing that a 14-year-old might take it as a totally uncalled-for joke about her.

    4) I said: “Second, the idea that anyone could consider this joke funny (and while Goldstein said he didn’t find the joke funny, he nonetheless defended Letterman for telling it) ignores the fact that the equation of Bristol Palin’s pregnancy with “snowbilly trashiness” is just another Big Lie of the Left.” To which Goldstein responds:

    Of course it is. That’s why the joke was made for this audience. It was lazy. So? Letterman has the right to tell bad, lazy jokes to an audience that is receptive to such jokes.

    There’s that fallacy again: the confusion of First Amendment rights with the idea that one has the right to remain free from criticism for idiotic speech. Nobody is talking about yanking Letterman’s constitutional rights here. So the fact that he has such rights is irrelevant.

    At the time, Goldstein wrote his post explicitly to “justify” Letterman’s joke. There is no justification for it. He has the right to say it, and we have the right to criticize him for it.

    I have already addressed Goldstein’s passive acceptance of the Big Lie of the Left, as well as the way he ignores Bristol’s refusal to abort her child — and how that refusal is exploited by the left to make her seem trashy, rather than what she is: principled.

    5) Finally, I said: “The argument, linguistically speaking, is simple. Sure, the intent of the speaker is what it is. We should strive to determine it. But when your philosophy of language impels you to utterly ignore the way your speech will be received — even when that speech has the effect of dragging a 14-year-old girl into the spotlight as the casual object of derision for a disgusting old joke-teller (who, as it happens, has some little morality issues of his own, as we later learned) — it turns out that the effect on the audience is not something to be ignored after all.” To which Goldstein responds:

    a) I have never said the effect on an audience should necessarily be ignored. That’s rhetorical strategy. Covered this in the Hot Air piece. Likewise, nothing in intentionalism “impels you to utterly ignore the way your speech will be received”. Nothing.

    But you have suggested it again and again, with sanctimonious lectures on how conservatives CANNOT modify their message to guard against a poor reception by the audience — or else THE TERRORISTS HAVE WON!

    b) Bristol Palin, again, is not a 14-year old girl

    Willow Palin, again, is.

    c) Nothing about intentionalism leads me to “justify a very public verbal assault on a 14-year-old girl”. I justified Letterman’s right as a late-night comic in the US to do a joke in a monologue.

    Yet again: a right to do a joke does not equal a right to do jokes without criticism.

    This is the famous argumentation that is supposed to leave lesser mortals quivering in their boots? Conflating First Amendment rights with the non-existent right to be free from criticism? Insisting on the importance of SPEAKING YOUR MIND AND IGNORING THE LISTENER’S LIKELY REACTION — even if an innocent 14-year-old girl is made the butt of a sexual joke told by an aging national comedian?

    I am not impressed by this logic — nor should any rational person be.

    L.A. Times Laying Off Even More People

    Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 12:42 am

    More layoffs at the L.A. Times.

    We used to hear that this paper was profitable — just not enough so to cover Sam Zell’s debt.

    I wonder if that is still the case. In fact, I doubt it.


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