Subject: Read My Dumbed-Down Book
Re: " The Book Club: Machiavelli (James Fallows and Sarah Lyall)"
From: Stanley Bing
Date: Thu Nov 30 8:49 a.m. PT
I was scandalized and surprised this morning to find myself savaged by not one but both of Slate's august book aficionados, and feel some reply is in order. First, I am taken to task in genteel fashion by Ms. Lyall, and honestly, I have little problem with her civilized criticisms, if such they be. Well, perhaps a few. First, she accuses my book, What Would Machiavelli Do (HarperBusiness, $21), of being "an aggressively dumbed-down stocking stuffer." I am frankly overjoyed to find my book recommended by so influential a venue as Slate for holiday shopping, but must mildly protest the adverb. I admit my book is dumbed-down. So are most good things in our culture except, of course, for Slate. But I reject the notion entirely that I was aggressive in the effort. I think I was rather gentle and, incidentally, quite straightforward about it, stating quite clearly in my introduction that my book was for readers who were neither sophisticated, intelligent or at leisure enough to wade through the tedious original.
Readers of my best-selling book (HarperCollins, $21) will find it warm, witty, easily accessible and quite useful to anyone who finds themselves insufficiently mean-spirited for the daily tasks that lie before them. Again, that's more than can be said of the original, which is abstruse, laden with superfluous examples from ancient European history that mean nothing to the average reader of today, and not one bit funny. Ms. Lyall also suggests that I read Machiavelli wrong, that he was a much nicer guy than I took him for. I think this would have come as a surprise to Machiavelli, who while he was personally a very nice fellow (as, I hear, was Albert Speer), did not hesitate to essentially empower his senior officer with a philosophical rationale for whatever brutal, sly, nasty thing he wished to do as an executive. That, at any rate, is my story, and I am sticking to it.
Perhaps Jim Fallows is right. The Machiavelli thing is just a device. Was Proust's madeleine not a device? Melville's whale? My point is that mean, narcissistic people run the world. This attack on my poor pseudonym does little to dissuade me from this hypothesis, which is the central conceit of What Would Machiavelli Do (HarperBusiness $21).
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Subject: Fray 1, Chatterbox O
Re: " Chatterbox: Katherine Harris Pulls the Helpless Routine—Again!"
From: Paul Decker
Date: Mon Nov 27 7:42 p.m. PT
Katherine Harris was correct in rejecting the partial recount, just as Gang Gore is wrong in its arguments that the partial recount from Dade County should be included. The relevant statute is not, as Chatterbox believes, 102.166(4)(d), which simply deals with the standard for determining whether a recount should be conducted, but instead 102.166(5), which gives a county canvassing board the following three options if there is an error in the vote tabulation determined by a partial manual recount:
(a) Correct the error and recount the remaining precincts with the vote tabulation system;
(b) Request the Department of State to verify the tabulation software; or
(c) Manually recount all ballots.
Note that (c) requires a manual recount of ALL ballots, not all but 1,000. If the recount is partial, it isn't the recount specified by 102.166(5)(c).
OK, so it appears Katherine Harris was within her rights to reject the Palm Beach County ballots. Nevertheless, she did have an alternative that would have let her accept them. She could have shut her office down prior to 5 p.m. on Sunday, which (under the Florida Supreme Court order) would have given the Palm Beach County recounters until 9 a.m. Monday to finish.
This gesture would clearly have been a popular one; it wouldn't have changed the outcome in Florida unless Palm Beach County suddenly started counting dimpled chad; and it would have played well with all the media in Florida. So why didn't she do it? Perhaps because, as Chatterbox opines, Katherine Harris is more like the stylish but bumbling Natasha Fatale than she would like to admit!
Subject: Housewifery as a Profession
Re: " Everyday Economics: Why Men Pay To Stay Married"
Date: Mon Dec 4 10:02 a.m. PT
The author is trying too hard. The reason men are worth more divorced (or single) and women worth more married has much more to do with disparities between the income of the average male and female than it does with any kind of differential in marital satisfaction. This is particularly true of married couples who tend to divide earning and homemaking duties traditionally—the male bears the responsibility for earning and the female, while she may have a job, typically earns less and compensates by doing most of the domestic duties. When they get divorced, the average ex-husband keeps what he was "paying" for the domestic services, while the average ex-wife sees a reduction of her income because she has, in a way, lost employment. In most cases, if men are paying for the privilege of being married, it is not particularly mysterious as to what benefits they are paying for. For some women, providing those marital "benefits" to their husbands (chores, child-rearing and "wifely duties") are by far their most marketable skills—particularly as the years go by.
This arrangement is by mutual agreement and is beneficial to both—until something happens and divorce becomes necessary. At that point, a generous divorce settlement for the wife is a bit like a "golden parachute" to sustain her until she can re-establish herself financially (probably by getting remarried). Is that unfair? I don't think so.
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Subject: Those Who Can't Play Ball, Report
Re: " Moneybox: Ad Report Card—Why ESPN's Ads Always Score"
From: Emily Paster
Date: Tue Nov 28 1:51 p.m. PT
One of the things that makes ESPN's commercials so brilliantly funny is that they pretend that sports conventions also apply to the world of sports reporting. Moneybox cites one such example, where the anchor shows up for work and is greeted like an NBA player coming out onto the floor before a game. Another example is the commercial where one of the Sportscenter anchors appears to be tired and is flubbing his lines and the show's producers have to bring in a "closer," like a baseball team would, over the tired anchor's heated objections, of course.
I'm sure there must be name for this device—where the person chronicling an activity begins to adopt the activity's conventions into his chronicle—but I haven't been able to reach an English professor all day. Nevertheless, what is so charming about it in the case of ESPN's commercials is that it both exposes the absurdity of many of the conventions of professional sports, and reveals what we have all suspected since seeing the sports reporters on the college paper: Sports reporters, more than any other kind of reporter, long to be their subject, namely athletes. In sports, those who can't do, report. By blurring the lines between the athletes and sports journalists in their commercials, ESPN mocks itself more than anyone else, which is kind, considering that its audience members don't even get to be sports reporters.
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