Tofu Tidbits* 11/20/11

  1. Change or irrelevance?
  2. Slackers revisited.
  3. Faux food.
  4. Psychology lies!!! Details at Anchor 4!!!
  5. Westbororo Baptist.

* Temporarily renamed in honor of the Nativity Fast, about which Mystagogy has some more information.


“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” General Eric Shinseki, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army. (HT Michael Hyatt)


Our temptation is to look eagerly for the minimum that will be accepted. We are in fact very like honest but reluctant taxpayers.

(Attributed to C.S. Lewis on the C.S. Lewis Daily Twitter feed)

Doing the minimum makes sense if you think The Human Predicament is that God is angry with each individual and needs to be placated, or that He’s like a tax collector seeking His due from each.

If, on the other hand, you (correctly) see that God is just fine, and that the problem is your own soul-sickness, who would want to do just enough to keep from flat-out dying?


Barbecue, while not an American invention, holds a special place in American culinary tradition. Each barbecue region has its own style, its own cuts of meat, sauces, techniques, all of which achieve the same goal: turning tough, chewy cuts of meat into falling-off-the-bone tender, spicy and delicious meat, completely transformed by indirect heat and smoke. It’s hard work, too. Smoking a pork shoulder, for instance, requires two hours of smoking per pound—you can spend damn near 24 hours making the Carolina style pulled pork that the McRib almost sort of imitates.
And for its part, the McRib makes a mockery of this whole terribly labor-intensive system of barbecue, turning it into a capital-intensive one. The patty is assembled by machinery probably babysat by some lone sadsack, and it is shipped to distribution centers by black-beauty-addicted truckers, to be shipped again to franchises by different truckers, to be assembled at the point of sale by someone who McDonald’s corporate hopes can soon be replaced by a robot, and paid for using some form of electronic payment that will eventually render the cashier obsolete.
There is no skilled labor involved anywhere along the McRib’s Dickensian journey from hog to tray, and certainly no regional variety, except for the binary sort—Yes, the McRib is available/No, it is not—that McDonald’s uses to promote the product. And while it hasn’t replaced barbecue, it does make a mockery of it.

A Conspiracy of Hogs: The McRib as Arbitrage. (HT The Browser)


Psychology, he argued in a recent blog post and an interview, has become addicted to surprising, counterintuitive findings that catch the news media’s eye, and that trend is warping the field.
“If high-impact journals want this kind of surprising finding, then there is pressure on researchers to come up with this stuff,” says Mr. Wagenmakers, an associate professor in the psychology department’s methodology unit.

Fraud Scandal Fuels Debate Over Practices of Social Psychology. Even legitimate researchers cut corners, some admit.

Speaking of sloppy, eye-catching “science,” how ’bout 6 Common Sex And Dating Myths, Debunked. Anyone want to bet against data-torturing on that one?


It’s a good day when you learn something new. I had a good day Saturday.

I learned that there’s a sort of nuance behind Westboro Baptist Church’s loutish-behavior with which I was unfamiliar.

[S]ometimes people go so far to the right that they end up on the left (and vice versa) …

To understand Westboro and its beliefs, stressed Margie Phelps, it helps to know that the church’s tactics have evolved during the past two decades and the 45,000 protests it claims to have staged at a variety of public events, including about 800 funerals. For a decade, the central message was that America needed to repent and turn away from sin. But as the death toll kept rising in Iraq, she said Westboro’s leaders concluded that, “It’s too late now. … This nation is doomed.” Above all, they were infuriated when many of the funerals for the fallen turned into patriotic rallies.
“We watched as the politicians, the media, the military, the citizenry and the veterans used the occasion of these soldiers’ deaths to publish a viewpoint,” said Phelps, describing the First Amendment arguments she used before the Supreme Court. “And we said, ‘We don’t agree with your viewpoint. God is not blessing America. It is a curse that that young soldier, the fruit of your nation, is lying in there in that coffin.’ …
“That is not a blessing of God. … The soldiers are dying for your sins.”
The bottom line, concluded Margie Phelps, is that Westboro Baptist simply “joined that public debate” on public sidewalks, while following all existing laws that govern public protests. Now, national outrage about the court decision has strengthened the convictions of the Phelps family.
“These are desperate times, calling for desperate measures and we are going to get these words into your ears,” she said. By focusing on military funerals, the leaders of Westboro Baptist “know that we are hitting three of your biggest idols — the flag, the uniform and the dead bodies. … We are going to finish this work. The Lord God Jehovah has our back.”

Do you hear another voice? Yes, it could be one of these guys — because the theological approach is similar. The formula goes something like this: America takes a certain set of actions, refuses to repent and, thus, calls down the wrath of God.

However, I also heard the voice of someone else who made big headlines three or so years ago by using the same basic theological point, only with a different sin as his theological starting point and framing device. Can you say, “God damn America!”

( back on March 6 – which I just encountered Saturday.)

Now maybe Margie Phelps, one of many lawyers in the family, just made that up for consumption by the Supreme Court (where Westboro Baptist won, by the way). I certainly think she exaggerates the extend to which “many of the funerals for the fallen turned into patriotic rallies” before Westboro started showing up. But as she put it on the March 23 podcast associated with the blog, they didn’t picket any private funerals; only those publicized in newspapers. They were not protesting the funerals, but the idolatry – of flag, uniform and dead bodies.

There’s a lot about that story that doesn’t cohere. And some of the Westboro signs, by typical Baptist standards of literalism, declared the damnation of the fallen soldier, not just that the funeral looked idolatrous.

But while I’m not yet ready to embrace them as fellow-laborers in the subversion of empire, “Westboro Bastard Church” in my prior blogs was maybe a little excessive.


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Bon appetit!

Having become tedious even to myself, I’m Tweeting more, blogging less. View this in a browser instead of an RSS feeder to see Tweets at upper right.

I also have some succinct standing advice on recurring themes. Maybe if I link to it, I’ll blog less obsessively about it.