Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Impromptu Investigative Reporting

Frankfurt contrasts bullshitting and lying; where the liar deliberately makes false claims, the bullshitter is simply uninterested in the truth. Rather, bullshitters aim primarily to impress and persuade their audiences. Whereas the liar needs to know the truth the better to conceal it, the bullshitter, interested solely in advancing his own agenda, has no use for the truth. By virtue of this, Frankfurt claims, "bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are."

In an editorial in today's paper, the editors of the Times Picayune take the Nagin administration to task for wasting money, that could be better spent on building inspectors (it's about time they thought of that), on new garbage cans. Though the editors couldn't quite bring themselves to use the word, the editorial strongly implies that the stated reason for buying the new cans is bullshit, as the word is used by Ivy League philosophy professors.

Philosophical bullshit is almost impossible to prove, but if a politician makes a statement that can be shown to be bullshit in the common, "That's bullshit, you lying sack of shit" sense of the word, the press should point it out. When I read Saturday's article, my first thought was, "Bullshit! The mayor's a lying sack of shit!* The new cans seem a lot smaller than the old ones." But, since I haven't seen any of the old cans in months, I didn't know how to prove it.

By chance, I had reason to ride home via the CBD yesterday, and I passed a can that looked just like the one pictured here on Magazine St. (between Poydras and Canal). Well, it appeared to be bigger than the new cans to me; it was certainly wider, so the volume would be greater. However, the mayor's objection was to the height of the cans. Unfortunately, I don't usually travel with a ruler or tape measure. So, I decided to stand next to it, and I observed that the top of the can, not the domed top, was just below one of the seams of my hip pocket. I rode to the next block to try the same test with one of the new garbage cans, which, BTW, are obviously narrower which much less girth. To be fair to the mayor, the top of the can, not the pointed top, was just above the same seam (the title did say "impromptu investigative reporting"), so there might be a half-inch to an inch difference. Maybe the mayor isn't a lying sack of shit, just a high-maintenance size queen to whom a half-inch is worth $670,000. Or, so I thought, until I noticed that the new cans all have a concrete base that's at least an inch thick. I'd have to say that the stated reason for buying new garbage can be called "bullshit" in either sense of the word, since some kind of base could probably been added to the old cans for a lot than $670 each.

Again, I hate to criticize one of the Picayune's best reporters, but if the mayor's going to have hissy fit about a size difference between the two types of cans, Gordon Russell should report the actual dimensions of the cans. Actually, I think that would be a better report for TV station: "'Six on Your Side'" asks, 'are the new cans bigger?'"

*I did warn that the subject would lead to profanity and exclamation points.

The profanity was fine but the eps were egregious.
The thing about eps is, you have to keep them in their place -- between quotation marks. I'll admit that it's fudging a little bit to use them quoting your own thoughts.
"high-maintenance size queen"

Your don't carry a tape measure with your at all times? She would fire you for that.
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