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I wish I could get paid to peddle ignorance.  (Hush, you.)  Seriously.  Douthat wants American Muslims to recognize that to fit into the American Protestant religious model,  they must reject radicalism in favor of bland assimilationist piety consonant with Western values.

I have an idea!  Maybe one of those moderate imams, you know, the trusted sort that Bush’s administration could consult with after 9/11, one of the good guys, should start a, what should we call it, maybe a Muslim Knights of Columbus or YMMA, a-a-a cultural center!  and put it in a modest, nondescript building in a major metropolitan area.  That would be a good way to show willing.  And they shouldn’t name it something foreign-sounding, but maybe pick an easy-to-pronounce Western name that evokes a place where scholars from all religions could come and work and learn together.

(I wonder where Opus Dei’s NYC offices are.  Christ on a cracker.)

Update: To be clear, the problem with this is that it’s pig-ignorance wrapped in delicate language:

During the great waves of 19th-century immigration, the insistence that new arrivals adapt to Anglo-Saxon culture — and the threat of discrimination if they didn’t — was crucial to their swift assimilation.

Of course, one can’t write the simplified version and be published in the paper of record as a nuanced conservative:

Many immigrants to the U.S. in the 19th century were met with violence and legal discrimination.   That is what is missing from our treatment of Muslims today.

Douthat’s whitewashing the past and ignoring that what allowed immigrants to assimilate despite horrid treatment was the very commitment to liberal ideals that he sets to the side in his first paragraph.   Does he think that Little Italy and Chinatown are there because it was really convenient to put all the restaurants together?

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I’ve mostly ignored this over the past few months because I believe that examining pictures of a pregnant woman with an eye to figuring out whether her shape is appropriate to the gestation of the fetus is morally degrading to the examiner.  But I have to say that I’m with Amanda here, and I’m very surprised at the quarters whence the newest round of conspiracy theory comes.

Don’t get me wrong.  It strikes me as completely plausible that Palin, a woman whose public persona is constructed around a conservative fantasy, the tough woman who proves liberals wrong by having Christ, a career, children, and a perfect coiffure, exaggerated the extent to which she was in labor during the plane flight (here’s one account, where the doc says she induced labor upon landing)  This would not be surprising for any politician whose career depends more than most on personal charisma and narrative.   I have heard that male politicians have sometimes exaggerated their influence in important legislation or their status as a war hero.

What bothers me is the epistemic leap from Palin probably isn’t wholly truthful big friggin’ shocker to Therefore, we have a right to demand the birth certificate of her child to prove that she’s  the mother. As near as I can tell the only reason anyone considers the latter question seriously is due to Andrew Sullivan’s hissy fit that started way back before anyone knew that Bristol was pregnant (which makes it next to impossible that there’s another candidate for the role of Trig’s Mother besides Sarah Palin); otherwise it would be a complete non sequitur.  Settling the question that Palin is Trig’s mother wouldn’t prove her Wild Ride story to be true or false.

The obvious parallel with birtherism annoys people, but there’s more in common than the fact that in both cases people are demanding birth certificates and bemoaning the lack of MSM interest.  In both cases, the demand for the birth certificate came after a bunch of common-sense evidence was rejected as easily fabricated.  And I’d be willing to bet that if Palin released Trig’s birth certificate tomorrow, there will still be people pointing out that sometimes adoptive birth certificates show the adoptive parents as the parents with no indication that the child has been adopted, and somewhere down in the abyss of Amanda’s comments there will continue to be arguments that because Palin was photographed wearing kitten-heeled boots, she’s can’t really be the mother.

what LB said, about this terribly daring article that seems to suggest that the importance of identifying and eliminating bias affecting women in the sciences cannot be determined unless science has established that men and women have the same innate* mathematical abilities.  To this I’d add the following:

1) This argument apparently only works for math. If we’re talking at the level of the facts people normally pull out here, there’s some research that suggests that at the tip of the tail, the brightest men are better at math than the brightest women, and the usual argument proceeds from here to conclude that this explains why men are more likely to be PhD’s in math, etc.  But similar research shows that the best female communicators are better than their male counterparts, and that women are natural consensus builders and yet no one suggests that top literature and political science departments are and should be female-dominated, because here we can easily see that innate tendencies can be overrun by other factors.

In fact, when girls get into gifted programs in greater numbers than boys, there are articles in the NYT about ways we have to ensure that the boys are tested properly, worrying about the biases and expectations of the teachers and testers.  This is a smart thing to consider.  Would that we took the same attitude towards preteen girls who struggle with math instead of writing them off because the top men might be better than the top women!

2. You (probably) cannot see the tip of the tail from where you are. The hidden assumption of these kinds of arguments is that the granting of, say, academic positions in the sciences at Harvard neatly tracks mathematical ability, and that the academic positions in question always go to the candidate who is best at math.  (It would make hiring easier…) I think it’s questionable whether the marginal utility of mathematical talent is sufficient at the top end across all scientific disciplines to explain any kind of hiring disparity.  Being a 1.23% better mathematician might be outweighed easily by a more creative head for experimental design, or a stronger work ethic, or a charming personality that encourages others to collaborate, or having an advisor run into someone at a conference and drop your name, or having a generous grant, or what have you.

Moreover, the purported difference in mathematical ability is not sufficient to explain day-to-day disparities in the professions.  Not everyone who is a working scientist or engineer or statistician or social scientist is in the top 1% of mathematical abilities.  Not even close.   Sometimes they let you be an engineer with only 650 on the Math SAT!  The relevance of the long tail for most very smart people: not so much.

2b.  Side note to philosophers: we’re not actually mathematicians. This needs to be said.

3. An uncomfortable alternative explanation suggests itself. Let me set aside the sciences for the moment.  Philosophy is about 25% female, and whenever this topic comes up, some  philosophers fall all over themselves explaining why more women don’t major in philosophy, why more don’t go to grad school, why women drop out along the tenure stream in ways that ensure it’s not their fault:  there are differences between men and women regarding mathematical ability, women just can’t handle or don’t like rigorous arguments, perhaps it’s time to consider that women just don’t like philosophy, or that they’re not as good as it as men, so of course the top jobs….

For some reason, the negative effects of the attitudes of senior philosophers towards the likely character traits of their female students on retention rates of said female students rarely comes up.

Not that I think that’s a complete explanation, or even one meant as more than a zinger; whatever leads to fewer female scientists and philosophers and engineers includes many factors, and the sensible thing to do would be to get up out of the armchair and… identify and eliminate such factors, if possible, as the House bill proposes.   We shouldn’t need to prove that men and women have identical mathematical abilities to discuss how to remove systematic barriers to entry.


*I have a problem using “innate” ever since I overhead this conversation at an x-phi conference:

“We psychologists try not to say “nature vs. nurture.”  “Why?” “Because it’s always wrong and it makes you look like a dumbass.”

Obviously, she needs to bring the wife along so that the boy might experience the Continent as a youngster should.

via Kieran.

From the web edition of Jobs for Philosophers, put out by the American Philosophical Association:

306. SAINT MARY’S COLLEGE OF CALIFORNIA, MORAGA, CA. POSTDOCTORAL RESIDENT, COUNSELING CENTER. Saint Mary’s College of California – Moraga, CA. For the 2010-2011 academic year. The Residency requires a 9.5 month, 5 day per week commitment in order to meet California licensing requirements of 1500 hours supervised postdoctoral experience. Qualifications: Psy.D, Ph. D. in Clinical/Counseling Psychology. College/University Counseling Center experience at practicum and/or internship level (desired). Fluency in Spanish (desired). Salary and benefits are competitive and subject to the availability of funding sources. Complete details are available at http://jobs.stmarys-ca.edu. Preferred deadline is 01/18/10. Open until filled. EOE. www.stmarys-ca.edu. (184W), posted 1/11/10

Yes, that’s right.  Once again, our esteemed national organization has accepted a listing for someone with a psychology degree. Wrong APA!  I’m sure there are charitable explanations, but my preferred non-charitable one is that the national organization is suffering from the same confusion as the typical acquaintance who hears a philosopher explain that he does philosophy and then asks if he’s allowed to prescribe Prozac or if he needs a medical degree to do that.

I’ve hesitated to post on this for a couple of days now, largely because I am in agreement with the conclusion: men, don’t hit on strange women in public, it’s obnoxious as hell.  But I find the reasoning to be pernicious, and since I’ve been thinking about it for three days…

The piece follows on the heels of this boneheaded xkcd comic, in which hero Stick Man decides not to talk to a strange woman on the train because he doesn’t want to come off as creepy, and it turns out she was trying to attract him by pulling out her netbook!  True love lost!  The takeaway, I imagine, is that nice guys lose, because they no longer read the universal symbol of desire that is the eeePC.

So, the piece.   It’s called Schrödinger’s Rapist.  Nice men should not approach women on trains because women think like this:

So when you, a stranger, approach me, I have to ask myself: Will this man rape me?

Do you think I’m overreacting? One in every six American women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. I bet you don’t think you know any rapists, but consider the sheer number of rapes that must occur. These rapes are not all committed by Phillip Garrido, Brian David Mitchell, or other members of the Brotherhood of Scary Hair and Homemade Religion. While you may assume that none of the men you know are rapists, I can assure you that at least one is. Consider: if every rapist commits an average of ten rapes (a horrifying number, isn’t it?) then the concentration of rapists in the population is still a little over one in sixty. That means four in my graduating class in high school. One among my coworkers. One in the subway car at rush hour. Eleven who work out at my gym. How do I know that you, the nice guy who wants nothing more than companionship and True Love, are not this rapist?

I don’t.

This is presented as a rational calculation, so I think I can say that it’s going to be completely irrelevant to point out that I don’t actually worry about rapists on public transit or when I walk home late at night. (Statistically, living near a campus, I probably reduce my risk of rape by walking away at night, and the thing I fear is getting mugged.  More on this in a bit.)  If the number’s one out of sixty guys who are rapists, I should be worried.  I’d be irrational not to.  Right?

Let’s take the number as given, and play with it.

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There’s something strange about the popular area of specialization this year:

doom

So this is not cool. It’s a little better in context, where Kealey is writing on the sin of “lust” as one of the seven deadly sins of the academy, and it’s meant to be lighthearted.  But it really should go without saying that female students are not “perks” and it’s entirely possible that the curvy young woman asking for help on an essay just wants help on an essay, and good advice would not say “look, but don’t touch”, but “be a professional.”

The problem here is not the common claim that Kealey was brave enough to voice that “look, don’t touch” ethic that all professors have towards their female students but are terrified to mention because of the fear of PC police.  It flirts with establishing the idea that female students should expect to be ogled, and as long as one goes home and tackles the wife* afterwards in lieu of taking up with the student, there’s no harm done.

*All professors are married men.**

**One wonders what the wife thinks about thoughts of undergrads spicing up their sex life.

Douthat:

This ideal has had a tough 10 months. It’s been tarnished by Palin herself, obviously. With her missteps, scandals, dreadful interviews and self-pitying monologues, she’s botched an essential democratic role — the ordinary citizen who takes on the elites, the up-by-your-bootstraps role embodied by politicians from Andrew Jackson down to Harry Truman.

Sarah Palin is beloved by millions because her rise suggested, however temporarily, that the old American aphorism about how anyone can grow up to be president might actually be true.

I’m sorry, what? “Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” or “humble beginnings” or “son of a millworker”  or whatever nonsense does not mean “remain mediocre your whole life and get handed the Presidency.”  Jackson was a military man.  Truman had decades of experience before becoming President.  Neither of them winked in a job interview. (Neither of them quit, either.) People love Sarah Palin because until she became McCain’s running mate, she was already a rising star in her own right and a darling of the conservative Christian wing.

I don’t know if Palin herself is to blame for how badly her national debut was mishandled (it’s not like McCain’s team was running an excellent campaign), but the knock on her most certainly wasn’t that she didn’t go to Harvard.    Her story is compelling.   Everything else wasn’t.

More to the point, the last three Democratic Presidents all fit Douthat’s imagined model.  Humble beginnings, check.  Working hard using one’s natural gifts, check.  Rising to great heights due to a combination of luck and those gifts, check.   It’s even true of Reagan.

I realize anti-intellectualism has always run deep in this country, a sort of crazy American blend of believing in education and hard work and the common man who can show up the snob all at the same time.   It’s a good crazy, most of the time.  But I’m not sure when it became a pillar of contemporary conservative punditry (I won’t say contemporary conservatism, because they send their kids to the Ivies, too, including Douthat) that working hard and succeeding meant that you were suddenly un-American.    The Connecticut Yankee wasn’t fancy, but knew what he was talking about.

And you have to wonder if that’s the message they mean to send.   Douthat says the message to America from Palin’s experience  is “don’t even think about it”, but increasingly the message from the conservative punditry re: Obama, Sotomayor seems to be “don’t succeed.”

There’s a newly prominent argument on the right that holds that if only we overturned Roe, happy Americans free of insidious judicial activism would ensure that women had reasonable access to abortion, like in Europe.  Since this isn’t the case, the poor anti-abortion Americans, barred from the political process, have no choice but to murder doctors (though everyone condemns it, tsk tsk tsk.)  Scott Lemieux has an excellent takedown that everyone should read, as does hilzoy.  I have but two things to add:

1) It is intellectually dishonest to pretend that anti-abortion groups and pro-choice groups are on the same page, and merely disagree over the  method of implementation, legislative or judicial.  There are states with trigger laws.  This is not a proposal being offered as a compromise, even were it not offered at gunpoint.

2) Once again, I point out that there have been several abortion-related cases since Roe, notably Planned Parenthood vs. Casey.   (And to get rid of the underlying problem you’d probably have to go back to Griswold.)  Many, many marginal restrictions are permitted, as are some major regulations.  To take the claim seriously that anti-abortion activists have been excluded from the political process and therefore must resort to terrorism, you have to ignore in the past 36 years since Roe and the seventeen since Casey, not only have there been a few Republican administrations and Republican-controlled Congresses, but Court appointments, too.  The ban on intact D&E was upheld in 2007, thanks to two conservative court appointments made in the 2000s.  What’s happened in the past year and a half that has disenfranchised these poor souls?

I think the onus should be on anti-abortion advocates to lay what they want, specifically, in detail, to ban or to permit, that they can’t accomplish now.  What is it?  No rosy talk of Europe, which contains all the things you want to…emulate.*  What is it that you want that you haven’t been able to get?  Why do you want it?  Specifics. Around 91% of all abortions are already in the first trimester.  What is it about remaining 9% that bothers you?  


*I can imagine many ways that women’s reproductive freedom could be sufficiently protected even if abortion was outlawed after the first trimester.   But I see that as somewhat beside the point.  We’re not starting the U.S. from scratch, and any reversal of abortion rights would occur in our current context.  Likewise, I know of many nations that do not have a Constitution with anything like our Bill of Rights that supports freedom of speech, but that wouldn’t mean I’d be sanguine if Obama suddenly headed up a campaign to get rid of the first Amendment.

I have little to say on the murder of Dr. Tiller than hasn’t been covered adequately elsewhere (e.g.).  But two persistent points have been getting on my nerves regarding late-term abortion in which Dr. Tiller had specialized.   So let’s have some data.

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As I am not a scholar of the law, I do not have much to add to the conversation concerning Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court.  Kevin Drum is almost assuredly correct about the end result following the mandatory political theater; Kieran Healy provides us with the program notes.

So in lieu of analysis, I have for you a mental toy inspired in part by the end of the spring semester and joyful graduation ceremonies everywhere and the rise once again, dissected here, of the zombie affirmative action meme.  (It says “GRAAADESSSS! GRAAAAADES!”)

Imagine you’re a political pundit.   Your little girl has just graduated from Yale Law School, where she distinguished herself at the Yale Law Journal.  Four years earlier you had wept with joy as your little girl, first in her family to go to college, graduated summa cum laude from Princeton.  You feel as if you would burst with pride at all she has accomplished.  You wish your father had lived to see this day….

…and as you hug her, you whisper in her ear your respica te, hominem te memento, that really, Princeton is nothing, Yale is nothing, and she’s must be an affirmative action student who never really accomplished anything at all.  You haven’t bragged to your friends.  You haven’t mentioned it.  Why would you?

What’s been amusing me in the past few days is the contrast between the hypothetical parent who would be thrilled to tears to have a child with half of those accomplishments, the hypothetical response of the friends and community of those parents, and the rush to paint Sotomayor as someone who isn’t very bright, rather common really, a dime a dozen, part of the new detestable affirmative action policy for the Supreme Court. Whatever the reasons to oppose Sotomayor legitimately, one of them is not that she isn’t qualified.

I swear you could get pundits to declare that salt is sweet if they thought there was an advantage in it.

Clutching Pearls

I tend to be on the cranky-about-affirmative-action end of the liberal spectrum, so if even the reactionary N. Merrill is peeved about some race issue, it must be awful. Yet I am peeved.

And the proximate cause of the peevishness is the way in which pundits have talked about Obama’s search for Souter’s replacement. See here and here and here for examples.

Three obvious thoughts, stated here only because I’m surprised and annoyed by the inanity of the pundit conversations so far:
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I haven’t posted at all regarding the torture memos because I’ve been far too angry to write much more than expletives or “seriously?”  But here is something poorly reasoned from the chief of the CIA’s Osama bin Laden unit*: that we need to be able to torture because one day, we might catch Osama, he might tell us that he knows where all of the bombs are, and Obama won’t let us beat him up in order to save American lives….

A response,one that contains no ventings of spleens, after the jump.

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The excellent Hilzoy has a post on why women stay with their abusers that is worth everyone’s time.  What she doesn’t do is give a direct response to Linda Hirshman*, who is here making a claim in her usual manner: say something indefensible wrapped up in a misty old-school feminism that is just near enough to a defensible position to give plausible cover.**  Here the claim is that unlike those other feminists who say “don’t ask an abused woman why she didn’t leave”, Hirshman knows that one must ask why she didn’t choose to leave, in order to respect women’s agency.

Sounds sensible, until you understand exactly what she means.  From the post describing the book:

The somewhat fictionalized memoir (Steiner says she changed some identifying details and combined some characters) follows earlier essays in which she chronicled her anorexia and financial dependence. In this latest episode of bad choices, her future husband gave her clear warning.

It seems that anorexia is being counted as a bad choice.   This is a particularly telling turn of phrase, and one that should strike us as odd; someone who said “I think we need to ask that anorexic girl right there why she just doesn’t eat, to respect her agency” or “This is just her choice not to eat” would at best be someone who profoundly misunderstood anorexia nervosa, at worst someone who is callously cruel.

And a similar problem arises for Hirshman’s position.  She’s not the first to consider this question (not at all), so she can’t be taken as calling for study of a neglected phenomenon, and the research has been done has said that it’s hard for someone to leave an abusive relationship because of any number of psychological and cultural factors.  And — it doesn’t require a full-blown battered woman syndrome.  The abuser is nice and completely normal the rest of the time.  The abuse happened in the middle of a nasty fight; he must have been pushed to it.  The abuser is nice and completely normal to everyone else.  He might actually need help.  It’s hard to admit to oneself that one is that woman.  (And that’s leaving aside financial or other reasons, like past abuse.)

And in both anorexia and abuse, there’s a sense in which the solution is simple, and in which the solution isn’t.  Start eating again! Leave the abuser!  But one would have to be exceedingly poorly informed or unbearably smug to think that that’s all that has to happen.

*Because Hilzoy is always even-tempered.

**I suppose the charitable explanation is that she doesn’t know how to manipulate tone.  But there’s a clear pattern, whether she’s pointing out that the abused woman’s husband left her (so she didn’t even leave), or calling upper-class stay-at-home-moms low-caste.

Dear Texas Legislature,

I am given to understand that you are considering making it legal for students over the age of 21 to carry concealed weapons on campus.   The thought is that doing so would prevent mass murders like the one that happened at Virginia Tech.

It’s a pleasant daydream for these Walther Mittys.  One can imagine any number of ways, all out of bad action movies.  The tall young professor with the twinkling blue eyes, his class interrupted by a gunman, athletically rolls under the desk, brings up his weapon, and fires two shots into the torso of the assailant… the alternachick literature prof who had been a pacifist until she learned the error of her ways in Guatemala, pulls her weapon from her organic hemp rucksack, and wounds the gunman in the leg…. the elderly don with the tweed blazer and bowtie, calmly firing his antique revolver, ejaculating “You shall not interrupt my lecture on Charlemagne, you cur!”

(“It says, ‘Puppies bark for it’, on the box.”)

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Pity the poor debt collector, who must needs collect on the debt of one who has departed this vale of tears with no estate to settle his earthly obligation.  Observe her stress, her yoga mat.   Ponder the careful control of her emotions and voice, the sympathy with which she calls the family of the deceased.  How hard she works to convince them that this is the final rose to lay upon the grave….

…. ignore the fact that one of the risks of being a credit card company is that your customers may die without the assets to repay you, and the business has insurance  to protect them against such eventualities.  Ignore the fact that paying the debt is not merely a nice gesture, but transfers responsibility for the debt to a family that may be struggling.  Ignore the fact that the collectors are not required to state that family of the deceased is under no obligation to pay debts.

Because reportering is hard.

This keeps getting better and better.

First, the American Philosophical Association moves its Central Division meeting from April to February.  The Central often serves as a location for interviews for visiting appointments for the following fall, which have usually been advertised in the February “Jobs for Philosophers”, an advertising service run (I use the term loosely) by the APA.

Dates of Central Division Meeting: Feb 18-21.

Dates of publication of the JFP:  Feb. 20.*

FAIL.

But everyone’s known about this for weeks!  What’s new from the recently published JFP?

This gem of an ad:

FLORIDA ATLANTIC UNIVERSITY – FAU, BOCA RATON, FL. ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, COUNSELING CENTER, Florida Atlantic University. The Assistant Director provides psychological services for Florida Atlantic University students and provides administrative and supervisory leadership of the Counseling Center and its staff during periods of the Director’s absence. In addition, the Counseling Center is seeking a clinical psychologist to coordinate the substance abuse program, supervise the main substance abuse treatment counselor and provide some assessment and treatment services.[…]

Yes, that’s right.  An ad for a clinical psychologist.

Presumably, the HR department at FAU was told to place an ad in the APA and picked the wrong P.

I am not certain why our governing organization didn’t notice.


*Leading to ads that end like this: … “Review of applications will begin February 13, 2009. Receipt at XXXX no later than March 7, 2009 to be considered for an interview at the Central APA. posted 2/20/09.”

In the comments to this post on last week’s Fish column, Jesse asks:

I read Fish often, but only from an uninformed perspective. I’m not an academic, so reading his pieces (and moreso the comments they elicit) provides a rare point of access into discussions on topics that otherwise I don’t get to discuss, quite frankly. But the comments reflect a consensus of Fish-crit. Can anyone offer a few bullet point criticisms of Fish or his most recurrent views? Is it mostly his pathos, or his actual positions? I may be begging “how” to read Fish, but only in the sense of a “how” among other “how’s”. Thanks!

Happy to oblige.   And since Fish has yet another poorly-argued barrel of drivel up today, timely, too!

The shortest way to express my annoyance with Fish is to say simply that he doesn’t answer Jesse’s fundamental question: what’s the academy like?   He has a rare opportunity and platform to explain the academy to laypeople, and he does it poorly.   The way I am going to describe this today: Fish consistently conflates tenure, academic freedom, and institutional culture.

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Having recently paid less attention to the situation in Afghanistan than to most other things, I didn’t realize that Karzai was no longer in our favor. (Sorry, “our”.) Also, I find the Times style of printing Vice President Biden’s FULL name irritating. Though I suppose I should count my blessings: at least they don’t spell out Robinette. And finally, the penultimate paragraph of this review reads:

The central plot mechanism of “Slumdog Millionaire”—Jamal (Dev Patel), a poor kid from Mumbai, overcomes his ragamuffin past and achieves fame, wealth, and selfhood by answering questions on a high-stakes game show—feels both cheesy and rigid. The movie is a Dickensian fable, but didn’t David Copperfield have to work his way up the ladder? As Jamal thinks over the questions put to him on the show, moments from his early life float through his mind, and some wrenching event delivers the right answer to him. Apart from a nagging implausibility—how could every question link up with an old memory?—I object to the way that the director, Danny Boyle, orchestrates Jamal’s life. Everything is seen in a flash—the boy’s mother is beaten to death, a man is set on fire, tiny goddesses appear out of nowhere—and nothing is prepared, explained, or understood. As slum children, Jamal and his friends are enchantingly beautiful, but the supersaturated color makes not just the kids but every surface and texture shine glamorously, including the piles of garbage that Jamal and his brother live among. Boyle has created what looks like a jumpy, hyper-edited commercial for poverty—he uses the squalor and violence touristically, as an aspect of the fabulous.

I agree in part with the above sentiments. But if you made it to the last sentence of that paragraph, don’t you think Denby should have inverted the final clauses? “Boyle uses the squalor and violence touristically, as an aspect of the fabulous — he has created what looks like a jumpy, hyper-edited commercial for poverty.” It seems like such an obvious improvement that I’m not sure why the change wasn’t made. Probably I spend more time thinking about things like this, and less concentrating on important issues — like, say, Afghanistan — than I should.

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