Saturday, March 15, 2008

Post-Finals, Pre-Breakdown Roundup

I'm feeling ill, and I've canceled my trip to Berkeley. I'm also extraordinarily high-strung given that I just finished all my finals. Maybe a round-up will cheer me up.

Right-wingers are playing a sick game of one-upsmanship on the Obama/Wright controversy (the winner questioned whether Obama is a good father of his kids).

Speaking of which, Hilzoy nails me precisely when she says "I do not feel, myself, like lecturing African Americans about the precise level of anger they should feel towards this country, or the extent to which they should identify with it....any more than I would want to tell a rape victim that she is, frankly, just a little too upset by her experience."

A Maryland bill which would enhance the rights of gay couples advanced in the legislature, but advocates think that bills which would legalize gay marriage or civil unions outright won't make it this session.

Bear Stearns is teetering on the edge of collapse, bringing the market down on top of it.

The head of the Pittsburgh City Council has written a scathing letter to Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kerns (R), who cited the body as an example of council "taken over" by gay activists.

Out of Arkansas: "A bailiff who forgot about a woman locked in a courthouse holding cell and left her there for four days without food, water or access to a bathroom has been suspended for 30 days but will keep his job, officials said Wednesday." The women was an illegal immigrant, which the cynic in me thinks might have something to do with the wrist-slap punishment.

The 10 worst products for men ever created is out. It makes me cross my legs in sympathy.

Finally, most new law partners remain male. But I thought the gender gap was just a matter of letting the new, "equal" generation come down the pipeline?


Mark said...


I hope you start feeling better.

On the Obama/Wright thing, when you quote hilzoy,

any more than I would want to tell a rape victim that she is, frankly, just a little too upset by her experience

You realize that is false. My guess is that you could imagine many scenarios in which a rape victim "is a little too upset" ... or even "way too upset." Say perhaps, if she decides that all men are to blame and engages on a mass Columbine style killing spree of men to "get them back." Or if even if she just spends the rest of her life, hating and angry.

It is clearly obvious that "too far" is a thing which you can discern. Just as it is also obvious that there is a wide area in which reasonable responses might fall. Rev. Wright's rhetoric seems to fall in the unreasonable category (Whites "created" AIDS to kill African blacks for example).

PG said...

Once you're taking action *against* people, you're no longer just angry, you're vengeful. If a rape victim spent the rest of her life hating and angry, however, I wouldn't have the arrogance to tell her that she's a bad person to feel that way. I would try to encourage her to stop focusing on negative emotions for her own sake, to make her own life better -- I wouldn't be a big enough jackass to tell her that men were so awesome and thus she was wrong to be angry at them.

Similarly, I think someone validly could tell Wright that his anger isn't constructive -- it doesn't build the black community or reduce the incidence of HIV. I could tell him that he might help his congregation more by inspiring them about what they can do, instead of spending so much time on what he believes people have done to them.

Telling him he is morally wrong to feel angry, however, is absurdly arrogant. And that is the response people are giving: not that Wright is being a subpar pastor, but that he is comparable to the Grand Wizard of the KKK.

Mark said...

How do you figure that is what I'm saying? Where did I imply that "he's wrong to be angry?" for in fact I said the opposite, that "there is a wide arena in which reasonable responses might fall."

And it seems to me that you're agreeing with me but wanting not to seem that way. You admit, as I suggested, that David is wrong to suppose there there is no way to discern "too upset". But, to make sure you distance yourself, you assign to what I said, things which I didn't say, in order to disagree.

Does that characterize the response correctly?

PG said...


You concluded, 'Rev. Wright's rhetoric seems to fall in the unreasonable category (Whites "created" AIDS to kill African blacks for example).'

You explicitly put Wright outside the 'wide area in which reasonable responses might fall.'

It's very odd that you're now attempting to claim you said 'the opposite.'

When you say someone is "unreasonable," you're pretty much saying that they're wrong. Indeed, it's one of the reasons that those opposed to same-sex marriage take offense at having courts say that their opposition fails the "rational basis" test: the court is thereby saying that their opposition is irrational -- not merely insufficient when set against another individual's rights, but utterly without reason.

Moreover, when people call on Obama to dissociate himself from Wright, they're quite clearly of the opinion that Wright is not merely excessively in his feelings, but downright wrong and somehow morally problematic in such a way that a presidential candidate ought not associate with him. Wright is being described as racist.

I never said there is such a thing as "too upset." What I said was that valid emotions can become counter-productive. This is something lawyers have to tell their clients all the time, and that is true for almost anyone engaged in giving some form of counsel. If I were a plaintiff's attorney in a med-mal case and the physician's insurer offered a good settlement, I would counsel my client to take it rather than let his entirely valid anger at the doctor override what was in his own best interests. Again, I wouldn't tell him he was being "too upset," because such a statement would be arrogant of me. I'm not the one who suffered the injury; it is not for me to say what is the appropriate level of upset. What I would tell him would be not to let his upset get in the way of moving on and getting better.

Please don't assume I'm agreeing with you, when I've read what you said and I don't agree. I quite clearly distinguished between the rape survivor's emotion (anger), which no one should try to dictate to her, and her possible actions (mass murdering men) that would be immoral. It's the difference between making abortion illegal because we believe it kills a person, and telling someone who is unwillingly pregnant that she is "way too upset" about her situation. The first may be right; the second is just an jackass way to behave.

Mark said...


I think we must have quite a wide distance between our given assumptions on basic things for your response makes no sense at all to me.

Let me try to again.

If I am angry, I might raise my voice. If I am very angry I might contemplate taking vengeful action. If I was extremely angry I might feel my vengeful action was justified and carry it out.

You note (for example):

Once you're taking action *against* people, you're no longer just angry, you're vengeful.

Right. You took your anger too far, and used it to justify actions which would normally be seen as immoral, but which, because of your extreme anger, found righteous. That was wrong. You. were. too. angry/upset.

We agree there. Being raped does not justify mass murder. Because thinking it is justified is a consequence of "being too upset", we therefore agree that there is such a thing as too upset. See.

Furthermore, perhaps when you say someone is being unreasonable that is the same as saying they are wrong. However when the rest of us say someone is unreasonable that means they have taken something, which might be justifiable, too far. That is not the same thing.

I have no idea what you are trying to say about abortion. Perhaps you're just upset about something. ;)

PG said...

Sigh. I am saying that "angry" is not the same as "vengeful." I have been extremely angry with my father sometimes, but I never have become vengeful toward him; in contrast, there was a kid in high school against whom I felt a much shallower and more momentary anger for making fun of me behind my back, but I became vengeful toward him. I was not "too upset" with the kid -- that was not the error. The error was in turning an emotion into wrongful action. You don't seem to distinguish between emotion as simply something one is allowed to feel, no matter how strongly, and the motive behind a wrong act.

There is a difference between anger, which expresses in words, tears, etc., and vengefulness, which expresses itself in actions. From Rev. Wright's decades of sermons, can anyone point to a negative impact experienced by a white person before Obama's campaign began? Wright doesn't seem to have become vengeful at any point, unlike, say, radical Muslim imams who call for followers to commit violence because Muhammad has been insulted.

The point I was making about abortion is that we can say that an action may be immoral for someone to take, without condemning as "too much" the emotion that such a person feels. One woman could feel only a mild sense of inconvenience and want to get an abortion; another woman who has been raped and her health endangered by pregnancy might feel a much stronger negative emotion, yet refrain from seeking to end it. Which one is "too upset"? Is your demarcation of "too upset" at the point where emotion becomes a motive for a wrong act -- and if so, by what wrong act do you declare Rev. Wright too upset?