Hey, APA: Take Your Licks
I can grant the dysfunction of our politicians over the study published by the American Psychological Association, but David Plotz is being uncharacteristically soft on what is, after all, a marked instance of using PR doublespeak to avoid taking responsibility ("Thank Heaven for Little Boys"). The APA is not fessing up, and it should.
You claim that the target article is indeed a deserving target, but you don't take on the APA's culpability in publishing it. In the first place, it was a peer-reviewed article, so at least three independent scholars, in addition to the editor of the journal, felt that the article included both legitimate empirical research and a reasonable theoretical construct. In the second place, if, as you seem to suggest in your "it was a dead letter" argument, the APA publishes articles that are not read, mean nothing, and clearly won't be taken seriously, isn't that a striking indictment of the APA's publishing pretensions? If it wants the articles it publishes to be taken seriously, the association should take criticisms of those articles seriously, and so should you.
You are not reading the APA's statement on this with your normal discernment. You write:"The APA distanced itself from the study, noting the association's long record of fighting pedophilia and insisting that the article does not mitigate the illegality and immorality of pedophilia." The APA's historical position on sexual abuse is perfectly irrelevant in assessing the meaning and claims of the target article. Critics of the article want to talk about what the article actually says, not about the APA's historical position.
Presumably, the APA wants the articles it publishes to be taken seriously. Presumably, if the APA thinks that reconceptualizing adult-child sexual contact so that some instances of it are no longer thought of as constituting abuse is simply a mistake, then the APA can come right out and say so. That the APA has conspicuously failed to do so is a major factor in motivating ongoing concern about the article.
Spring Green, Wis.
I take exception to Cyrus Sanai's assertion ("Death Stamps") that Oregonians, as seen by the actions of their legislature, are unintentionally "bribing people to go early" in order to save our precious Federal Medicaid dollars. Sanai fails to mention the methodology that is employed in determining which medical treatments will be covered. Specifically, it is not mentioned in the piece how preventable ailments receive a lower ranking, regardless of cost. In fact, it seems that Sanai wishes the reader to believe that this list was arbitrarily constructed. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Cracks in the Façade
Timothy Noah's image of the standard old public building ("Our Nation's Disposable Public Buildings") seems to be derived from Mayan or Egyptian pyramids, Greek theaters, the Roman Coliseum, and Notre Dame cathedral. A little checking might persuade you that these buildings were by no means the norm in the long lost Golden Age of public construction. By definition, you know of them because they survived. A much larger number of structures put up 800 or more years ago did not survive. The ruins or the disappeared outnumber the survivors by several thousand to one. If U.S. cities were abandoned tomorrow, would the survival rate of our public buildings be better or worse? I am not as certain as you are.
Turn Down Those Stereotypes
When you asked "Is Star Wars Racist?" (see "The Merchant of Menace?"), it caught my attention. I don't see much of a need to accuse George Lucas of being racist. While I am fully aware of the stereotypes you pointed out and agree with you to a point, I didn't pay attention to them until you brought it up. I have always felt that racism would eventually disappear if people like you would just drop it instead of making an issue out of it.