Good Intentions

Be humble about the limitations of your good intention. If someone is hurt or triggered by your words, it isn’t because they failed to understand your intentions. It is because your intentions don’t have the power to shape the meaning of your words in the larger social world.

— Feminist Hulk, “How to Like Woody Allen on Facebook

This week’s featured posts are: “9 Things I Think About Education and the Common Core” and “What the CBO Really Said about ObamaCare and the Economy“.

This week everybody was talking about ObamaCare’s effect on jobs

I cover this in detail in “What the CBO Really Said about ObamaCare and the Economy“.

Deep in an appendix of a new CBO report is a projection that, for a variety of reasons, workers will choose to work 2% fewer hours under ObamaCare than they would if they were desperate for health insurance. Over the whole economy, that totals up to 2.3 million full-time jobs. That got covered as if the CBO had said “ObamaCare will get 2.3 million workers fired.”

Eventually the fact-checkers weighed in and got the story right (raising the question of why the original reporters couldn’t be bothered to check facts). But the damage is done. For years, we’ll be hearing that “the CBO says ObamaCare will kill jobs”, the same way that we keep hearing “the IRS targeted conservative groups” and “Obama left people to die in Benghazi” long after both claims have proven false.

and Philip Seymour Hoffman

I’ve seen Hoffman in a few movies and appreciated that he was a very good actor, but I wasn’t prepared for the number of people who felt personally devastated by his death by heroin overdose at 46.

It’s well known that opinions change when an issue affects someone you know and care about. (Dick Cheney and Rob Portman on same-sex marriage, for example.) Celebrities are people we all feel we know and care about. So now maybe we’ll start paying attention to the growing heroin problem.

and Woody Allen

Last week I linked to Dylan Farrow’s account of being molested at age 7 by Woody Allen. Sunday Allen published his response. (In my mind I can hear Allen’s publicist pleading, “Don’t, Woody. Don’t. … At least let me rewrite it. You’re not doing yourself any favors here. Even people who believe you aren’t going to like you.” But you can’t convince a writer he needs somebody else to write for him.) Dylan then countered.

Allen repeated the defense he made at the time: Dylan was coached by her furious mother Mia Farrow, who was divorcing Allen after discovering his affair with Farrow’s 21-year-old adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn (whom he subsequently married).

Not that I doubt Dylan hasn’t come to believe she’s been molested, but if from the age of 7 a vulnerable child is taught by a strong mother to hate her father because he is a monster who abused her, is it so inconceivable that after many years of this indoctrination the image of me Mia wanted to establish had taken root?

Zoe Zolbrod had already addressed that possibility two days before (in a generally insightful Salon article discussing how the Allen/Farrow controversy interacts with the public’s pre-existing misconceptions about child abuse).

None of that is impossible, but it’s far less likely than people seem to believe. … [R]esearch shows that it is not more common for accusations made during custody battles to be proved false than it is for any other sex abuse accusation, which is to say that it’s not very common at all. … Research also shows that children are not nearly so suggestible on the topic of sex abuse as previously believed, especially school-aged children.

Kids make unimpressive witnesses because the details of their stories tend to shift depending on who’s questioning them and how the questions are phrased. So they often look like they’re making it all up when they’re not. But inducing false traumatic memories that persist into adulthood … that’s pretty difficult. If Mia Farrow has figured it out, I’m sure there are totalitarian governments that would like to speak with her.

and you also might be interested in …

Chescaleigh gives a lesson in a basic life skill: How to apologize when you offend people you didn’t mean to offend.

Here’s something you might look at if you’re interested in ethical investing: Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructre (HASI). (Bear in mind that nothing in my training or background qualifies me to give investment advice, so you should make your own judgment rather than trust mine. Also, since I’ve already bought some shares, I have a conflict of interest. Conceivably, if all my readers invested their life savings in HASI, it might drive the price up and make me a profit. Buying obscure stocks and then selling them after you’ve convinced other people to drive up the price is a con known as pump-and-dump.)

The idea is that there are many situations where sustainable energy investments would make long-term sense, if only you could raise the capital without paying too much interest. And even if you could, the increased debt might make your finances look shaky or involve you in market risks that are tangential to your business or public mission. So lots of economically sensible sustainable-energy investments don’t get made.

HASI specializes in finding those situations and providing the capital. For example, HASI owns the rooftop solar array on a Coast Guard base in Puerto Rico, and sells the electricity back to the Coast Guard. You can find other examples on the HASI web site.

It’s structured as a real estate investment trust, so it focuses on yield rather than growth (and may complicate your tax return). Current yield — which, as they say, is no guarantee of future yields — is 6.7%.

The Bill Nye vs. a creationist debate happened.

I tuned out about halfway through, but my impression is that the creationist championed such an extreme version of the theory that he probably did his cause a disservice. A lot of people who might support a God-had-something-to-do-with-it position are not going to buy that the fossils were all laid down by a global flood 4,000 years ago, or that language diversity is due to a literal Tower of Babel sometime after that.

A new front in the war on women: Right-wing groups are boycotting Girl Scout cookies. It sounds like satire, but it isn’t.

Now that an All-American college football player has announced that he’s gay, the NFL is likely to have its first openly gay player next season.

When someone at Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine‘s town hall meeting says President Obama “should be executed as an enemy combatant” and the next questioner says we should “impeach the SOB”, the congressman does nothing to rein them in or cool them down. Instead, he finds other parts of their statements that he can agree with.

Pay attention to John Sarbanes proposed law, the Government By the People Act. It parallels proposals in Lawrence Lessig’s Republic, Lost. Without a new Supreme Court or a constitutional amendment, you can’t limit the amount rich donors can spend on political campaigns. But you can encourage and subsidize small donors to create a path to Congress that doesn’t go through the rich donors.

Ta-Nehisi Coates interviews the mother of a stand-your-ground victim. .

Ezra Klein’s diagnosis of what’s wrong with journalism sounds a lot like my diagnosis in Confessions of a Blogger in 2006. But Ezra has youth, energy, talent, and big-money backing. I eagerly wait to see what he’ll do with it.

and let’s end with something amusing

I’m sure parents will appreciate (and may contribute to) the Reasons My Son is Crying blog. Here’s one:

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  • velvinette  On February 10, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    Doug, there is an article published last week by one of the researchers who have worked on the question of how hard it is to implant memories in the minds of young children, including about bizarre or traumatic events that was done in the wake of the child abuse trial of the Amirault’s and others during the ’80s. The researchers used the same methods used by the people who questioned the children in that case and others. They found it easy to create false memories. You might want to check it out. I believe it was in the Daily Beast.


  • By Buying and Owning | The Weekly Sift on May 25, 2015 at 10:52 am

    […] the world will eventually see its potential the way I do. (Sometimes it does. A year or so ago I mentioned Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure, which provides capital for sustainable-energy […]

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