Public Shamelessness

Having been poor is no shame, but being ashamed of it, is. 

— Benjamin Franklin, Sayings of Poor Richard

In this week’s sift:

  • Turn the Shame Around. It took Herman Cain to teach me what Occupy Wall Street is about: casting off shame and putting it where it belongs. The Powers That Be would have us be ashamed that we weren’t good enough to crack the top 1%. But what is really shameful is an economy that only works for the top 1%.
  • What Kind of King Do You Want To Be? Wednesday I had to explain to a teen-ager why the news is important. I told him that in a democracy the People are King, and the children are in training to be King. Whatever we need to know to be a good King, that defines what news is. And when we’re a bad King, people die.
  • Palin’s Big Con and other short notes. Did Sarah Palin bluff running for president just to con money out of her fans? Jon Stewart thinks so. Stephen Colbert apologizes to a ham that looks like Karl Rove. The secret “kill list” for American citizens. Hank Williams Jr., Scott Brown, and Rick Perry deal with PR problems. Occupy Sesame Street. And more.
  • Last week’s most popular post. It was a slow week. For the second week in a row, the short notes were the top new post. The Brilliance/Pointlessness of Occupying Wall Street and other short notes garnered 127 views. Meanwhile, Six True Things Politicians Can’t Say (from September 19) got 193 views. At 67K, it has accounted for about half of the page views since this blog moved to in July.
  • Expand Your Vocabulary. A new feature, which will alternate with This Week’s Challenge. This week I want to call your attention to the term composition fallacy: assuming that what works for one person will work if everybody does it. (The classic example is standing up to get a better view at a football game.) In politics, composition fallacies are used to make structural problems in the economy look like individual moral failings. One unemployed person can network and pound the pavement and retrain until he finds a new job. Does it follow that unemployment would go away if all the unemployed tried harder? No.
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  • Anonymous  On October 10, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    These are good, well thought-out and provocative. But sending them all in a heap just makes it a near-certainty that they won’t be read as they should. May I suggest spreading them out over the week?

  • ramseyman  On October 10, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    Let’s face it, some people have forgotten how to read. That’s a shame. Or, wait, not a shame, or, something other than the issue of shame whether determined in either direction, that’s it !


  • […] A related bad metaphor is the idea that saving money is like stock-piling goods. It works that way for an individual — putting aside money to buy a car two years from now works even better than buying an extra car now and storing it for two years. But the same idea doesn’t work for society as a whole. (That’s a composition fallacy, which I explained two weeks ago.) […]

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