Colbert, Wexler, and Geraldo

The following is a set of clips that I found interesting. The first is an interview that Stephen Colbert had with Rep. Wexler from Florida.

Harmless, right? Here's what comes next:

Knowing what my readership is like, I'm sure many of you will be scratching your heads at some of what went on there. Why is The Daily Show "snotty"? What was it that Wexler did not see coming? And since when is Geraldo the arbiter of what is cool/funny? What is Geraldo's deal?

Exhibit A (August 9, 2006):

Ouch. Why did he say that? Well...
Exhibit B (June 6, 2006):

Ah, case closed. A wounded man defending his pride the only way he knows - by trying to ward politicians away from the show of the man that insulted him.

Well, what about Wexler? For what it's worth, here's Colbert's response, albeit to people from the morning news:

A round of applause for Stephen Colbert.

Fear and Anxiety

It's been awhile since I posted. I've seen this happen to other blogs before. After a run of furious posting, the posts start trickling out a bit more slowly, then they just stop. Without becoming part of a larger dialogue, these things are just on-line diaries. And at the end of the day, when you're done with work and you've finally just gotten home, what do you really want to do? Spend a half hour writing a post that no one will read, or make yourself a nice dinner, watch some television, and then try and get your girlfriend to take off her clothes?

Anyway, I had a thought this morning. Incredible, I know.

I'm not entirely sure why I was thinking about this, but it struck me how people are always trying to find someone/something to blame for the problems that they see. I think the reason for this is pretty intuitive. When a specific problem can be attributed to a particular source, it's much easier to deal with. You can isolate the problem and work towards a solution, or at least dismiss it in some way.

When you don't know what the problem is, it suddenly becomes far more insurmountable. Without having a clear target to attack, it's harder to control whatever it is that's bothering you. You have less predictive power over when the anxiety will strike and this only makes things worse. 'Sourceless' problems like these seem to be what cause people to become deeply depressed and/or generally unhappy.

Some time ago, I read about a distinction between fear and anxiety. It categorized problems with identifiable sources as fears and the others as anxiety. I wish I could remember what article it was, because it was kind of neat if you're into keen word-mincing.

In any case, what I was thinking about this morning is how there's probably a very strong inclination to blame one's problems on the first plausible source, especially if you're possessed of a Type A personality and have a borderline compulsive need to do something about it. By blaming something else, it's a quick and virtually costless way of regaining a bit of control and composure.

Obviously, you can't just blame anything. Blaming your insurmountable feelings of inertia on a cheeseburger you ate in 9th grade won't ring true enough to pass even the weakest of internal dialogues.

That being said, I think the problem with this approach to regaining control is that it focuses too much on identifying the problem and not enough on solving it. In some cases, identifying the reason that the problem arose won't lead to a solution. For instance, if you're driving on a highway and your direction-giver doesn't tell you about your exit until it's too late, identifying that person as the problem isn't going to fix the fact that you now have to find a way to turn around and get back to that exit.

Ok, that's all.

She's All That - What about him?

In She's All That, we're taught that ordinary-looking girls (with nice eyes and flawless bone structures) can be made super-hot by switching their glasses for contacts, letting their hair down, and the application of makeup. While I think that most people know that there's a little more to it than that (I've never heard of makeup that covers up multiple chins), I think that there's a feeling out there that by giving a person a proper makeover, all sorts of hidden hotness can come out.

Here's my question. Are there any movies that say the same thing about guys, i.e. nerdy guys can suddenly become awesome, ripped and popular? Do I sound incredibly homosexual because I'm asking that question? Oh well. Just curious.

On lying

So I got caught in a lie this weekend. The details aren't important, but the fallout was pretty bad. There was a lot of discussion about this and that, being truthful and trustworthy, etc.

A lot of that got me thinking about lies as a whole. Is it ever ok to lie? To this, there are several responses.

I think the most conventional one is "No." From the day that we're born, people tell us that lying is bad. On occasion, we're given a thwacking if we're caught lying. We're told the parable of the boy that cried wolf to reinforce the theory that lying undermines people's trust in what you say.

Kant had a much more sophisticated response, which might be of interest to some people. Bypassing a lot of his discussion of rationality and ends, it boiled down to the fact that when we lie, we are making a decision for someone else and effectively place our decision-making faculties above the same faculties of the people that we lie to. For Kant, this is a big no-no, especially since an equal weighting of all such faculties underpins his entire moral philosophy.

Of course, absolute moral prohibitions run into problems when we start talking about either-or situations. Kant had a problem figuring out what to do when faced with the question, "What if a murderer came to my master's house and asked me where he was?" Relatively speaking, abetting the murder of your master seems like a greater evil than lying to a murderer.

Going with a bastardized version of Ignatieff's "lesser evils" theory, we could say that lying is permissible so long as we continue to recognize it as an evil, and only use it if abstaining would necessarily result in an even greater evil.

If that's the case, then we have to put together a pretty robust framework for figuring out what constitutes a "greater evil." Suppose I'm trying to sell a weak product so that my start-up and all of its employees can scrape through another meager year. Would that qualify as a reason to overstate the strengths of my product to customers?

Realistically speaking, I think this is the theory that's guiding most people, if they're being guided by anything at all. Most of us tend to figure out the pros and cons of a lie, and if the pros outweigh the cons, we'll go with it. The only problem is that this is a really loose way of dealing with ethical issues. If this was a widely accepted framework, GW Bush could easily say that all of his lies about WMDs in Iraq and all of the spinjobs he's done on torture and imprisonment without due process were done "for the greater good" of national security. Strong odds say that he would even believe what he was saying. But for a lot of us, I don't think that would make it right. Morally relativistic double-speak eventually leaves me with the feeling that you don't have morals at all.

Another response that I've heard is the "victimless crime" theory. Here, the lie is justified by the fact that it a) introduces a benefit into the world, and b) provides no downside. It's the moral equivalent of finding a $20-bill on the street. Sure it came from someone else's pocket, but they'll never even know they lost it.

A better example might be as follows. Suppose that someone you love and care about is having some sort of crisis of confidence. They just don't think that they're up to the task of doing whatever it is that they're supposed to be doing. To a certain extent, you think that they're probably right. But you know that these confidence issues will only compound their problems and make matters worse. And who knows, maybe if they got their confidence back, they'd do fine. So. Would it be ok to lie to them? Could you make something up that would make them feel a bit better about themselves and be right about it?

This is a tough one. I think a lot of people would probably say sure, go ahead. Their reasons might be as follows: a) you're not hurting anyone, so long as the person doesn't find out, b) this isn't even for your own benefit, it's for theirs; it's a selfless lie. But I think that a lot is hinging on the qualification in reason A. Supposing that the person does find out that you've been lying, then a lot of the self-esteem that you've been trying to build up might go poof! and vanish. Even some of the honestly good things that you've said might be considered to be garbage. Boy who cried wolf, etc.

Interesting note: Frankfurt's On Bullshit distinguishes between a liar and a bullshitter by pointing out that liars are actively trying to steer people away from the truth, whereas bullshitters don't particularly care about what the truth is or is not. Well, I thought it was interesting.

Oh Irwin

It is with great sadness that I note the passing of Steve Irwin. Aside from the fact that his last name has a passing resemblance to my first, the man was absolutely fearless. Many of my friends considered him to be certifiably insane. Still, his unrelenting enthusiasm for his job made many of us, including me, think that he may have been on the right side of that very fine line.

His means to fame - wrestling around with lethal, deadly animals - has been copied many times over by people like Jeff Corwin and other random zoologists that don't really know that much (I saw this guy on Shark Week that was a certifiable idiot). Hopefully, his freakish, excruciatingly painful-sounding death (stabbed in the heart by a stingray) will not have them all running for the hills.

On yellowness

"I think the reason that Sprint and Nextel are failing is because of the yellow."

This is a real quote, coming from the mouth of a person that is influencing a major corporation's acquisition strategy.

At first blush, I'm inclined to dismiss this as utter sillyness. When people are trying to choose between various phones and service plans, do they really care about the corporate color? Is Cingular's orange really so much cooler?

Well, maybe. Branding works in strange and mysterious ways, which are mostly incomprehensible to me. I will say this though. T-mobile turns me off with its pinkness. I defend this sentiment by thinking about how any T-mobile phone that I purchase will have a pink little logo on it, adding a feminine touch to even the most masculine of phones. Being the insecure person that I am, this means something to me.

So something is probably wrong with yellow too. Cingular is playing it safe with a tasty looking orange. I have no idea what Verizon's chosen color is - maybe the red that's in their little check mark thing?

Anyway, this can't be very interesting for anyone to read. I'll come back with something more intelligent later.


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