“Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby mathmannix » Thu Jan 22, 2015 3:13 pm UTC

addams wrote:Sheldon from The Big Bang Theroy

...which is why I said "funny", not "wise". Sorry if this is inappropriate for SB, however.
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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby mcd001 » Thu Jan 22, 2015 3:21 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:I'm going to shut that one down right here. That's not how burden of proof work. You're making a positive claim, and were asked to support it. Your support is "I sorta just know". Don't try to divert scrutiny from that lackluster backing by insinuating that TGB is out of line in asking for it.

Would actual examples from actual Senate Hearings of actual people addressing actual Senators as ma'am without being corrected or seeming to ruffle any feathers be sufficient proof that ma'am is an acceptable and respectful honorific even for female Senators? Because the only arguments I've read here that the use of ma'am to address a Senator is inappropriate or disrespectful seem to boil down to this: Senator Boxer corrected the Genera for his usage, therefore the General's usage was wrong.

A link to Army Pamphlet 600-60 "A Guide to Protocol and Etiquette for Official Entertainment" was also provided, which states that 'Senator' is a proper means of address. This is true and not being argued here by anyone. The same guide says that 'Rank' is a proper means of address for officers, yet no one here is arguing that sir or ma'am are not also proper when addressing officers. The guide is silent on sir and ma'am as honorifics, probably because the writers of the guide didn't think it necessary to include something so obvious.

Certainly 'Senator' is a proper means of address; it does not follow it is the ONLY proper means of address. Unless someone can point me to an official protocol guide or instruction stating that ma'am is unacceptable terminology in the Senate, I see absolutely no basis for claims that General Walsh used inappropriate language or was in any way disrespectful toward Senator Boxer.

Below are excerpts from transcripts of three Senate Hearings, courtesy of the Government Printing Office. No appeal to personal expertise is needed:

Senate Hearing 110-165
COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES
ABUSIVE PRACTICES IN DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE CONTRACTING FOR SERVICES AND INTERAGENCY CONTRACTING
Senator McCaskill: I would appreciate it, Mr. Assad, and you do not need to do this today, but if in writing you would explain the DOD policy that makes it more difficult for us to keep a very strong handle on whether or not the interagency contracting is in fact competitive.
Mr. Assad: Yes, ma'am, I will be happy to do that. I am not aware of any policy that we have that would cause that to happen. But I will absolutely research it and get back to you.
. . .
Senator McCaskill: That is something I would like to know, and I would like to know if anyone has lost their job because of an Anti-Deficiency violation, the ADA.
Mr. Assad: Yes, ma'am.

Senate Hearing 110-198
COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES
CARE, LIVING CONDITIONS, AND ADMINISTRATION OF OUTPATIENTS AT WALTER REED ARMY MEDICAL CENTER
Senator Collins: Should we take a look at our VA and military health care system and consider a whole different approach of delivering services?
General Schoomaker: Ma'am, I think that--and I will just
give you my opinion, but I want to throw a caution out here. The military health care system in this country is the best in the world. There is no other country in the world that has it. Every one of our allies are looking at us and are--"jealous" is not the right word; or "desirous"--but they really like what they see.
. . .
Senator McCaskill: General Kiley, you just referenced, in response to Senator Collins's questions, about the chain of command. But you are in fact responsible for the culture of command within the MEDCOM of the United States Army, is that not correct?
General Kiley: Yes, ma'am.
. . .
Senator McCaskill: This is your statement that I just read you provided to the committee today.
General Kiley: Yes, ma'am. In the discussions, I was referencing the discussions yesterday. What we did in response to our concerns about families and the issues with families was to begin surveys of soldiers as to what their issues and concerns were. We have not gotten back all the surveys. We continue to do surveys.

Senate Hearing 112-180
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
SUBCOMMITTEE ON IMMIGRATION, REFUGEES AND BORDER SECURITY
AMERICA'S AGRICULTURAL LABOR CRISIS: ENACTING A PRACTICAL SOLUTION
Senator Feinstein: In any event, going back to the bill, I think most of you know about the H-2A reforms in the bill, but one thing I want to ask you about, yes or no, is: Would you put a 5-year limit on it? Now, again, this has no amnesty and no pathway to citizenship. Would you put a 5-year limit on it or would you have no limit? Mr. Black.
Mr. Black: Your 5-year notion, it is certainly something we would love to talk about. I think that is a good idea. It is a good place to start, yes, ma'am.
Senator Feinstein: OK.
. . .
Senator Feinstein. Would you gentlemen agree to--do you oppose e-verify for this purpose?
Mr. Black. Do I oppose e-verify?
Senator Feinstein. That is right.
Mr. Black. E-verify is a real problem without the fix and a viable guest worker program, yes, ma'am.

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby Azrael » Thu Jan 22, 2015 3:51 pm UTC

mcd001 wrote:Because the only arguments I've read here that the use of ma'am to address a Senator is inappropriate or disrespectful seem to boil down to this: Senator Boxer corrected the Genera for his usage, therefore the General's usage was wrong.

I think that's an entirely inaccurate portrayal of the argument, and just as poor of a response as trying to flip the burden of proof. I'd likely toss the strawman tag at that one.

People have discussed the appropriateness of Ma'am vs. Senator. People have argued that asking to be addressed by your formal title isn't an unfair request -- in essence, that Boxer wasn't wrong with her request per the initial question.

But people haven't made the claim that since the General was corrected that the General must be wrong.

mcd001 wrote:
Azrael wrote:I'm going to shut that one down right here. That's not how burden of proof work. You're making a positive claim, and were asked to support it. Your support is "I sorta just know". Don't try to divert scrutiny from that lackluster backing by insinuating that TGB is out of line in asking for it.

Would actual examples from actual Senate Hearings of actual people addressing actual Senators as ma'am without being corrected or seeming to ruffle any feathers be sufficient proof that ma'am is an acceptable and respectful honorific even for female Senators?

Sure. You're the first to do so. Thank you.

So hey, we've established (more or less) a lack of culpability on the General's behalf. But that doesn't make her wrong in asking to be called by her proper title either. You can still find her actions pretentious. You can still be pissed based on your earlier assumption that it was a knee jerk misandry.

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Jan 22, 2015 4:03 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Both are proper and often used. Especially in this context.

What's your basis for saying that?


[appeal to personal expertise]

What basis do you all have for saying otherwise?

I'm going to shut that one down right here. That's not how burden of proof work. You're making a positive claim, and were asked to support it. Your support is "I sorta just know". Don't try to divert scrutiny from that lackluster backing by insinuating that TGB is out of line in asking for it.


I have personal familiarity and ALSO cited an example relevant the case in the very same hearing. That's hardly just an appeal to personal expertise. Nor did I say that TGB is out of line, though I do admit to a little incredulity that someone could not be aware of how commonly sir/ma'am is used even in formal settings.

Azrael wrote:
mcd001 wrote:Because the only arguments I've read here that the use of ma'am to address a Senator is inappropriate or disrespectful seem to boil down to this: Senator Boxer corrected the Genera for his usage, therefore the General's usage was wrong.

I think that's an entirely inaccurate portrayal of the argument, and just as poor of a response as trying to flip the burden of proof. You might even toss the strawman tag at that one.

People have discussed the appropriateness of Ma'am vs. Senator. People have argued that asking to be addressed by your formal title isn't an unfair request -- in essence, that Boxer wasn't wrong with her request per the initial question.

But people haven't made the claim that since the General was corrected that the General must be wrong.


That's kind of what the word "corrected" means.

And when someone uses a correct term, and you tell them to use another correct term instead, that invariably comes across as kind of petty/jerkish. I have stated this repeatedly, so I cannot imagine that you reasonably believe that I am using any sort of a strawman here.

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby Azrael » Thu Jan 22, 2015 4:12 pm UTC

... what?

This quote:

mcd001 wrote:Because the only arguments ... boil down to this: Senator Boxer corrected the Genera for his usage, therefore the General's usage was wrong.


That quote is someone who agrees with you coming pretty close to strawmanning the arguments of the people who don't agree with you. I don't think you're doing so because a) it wasn't you and b) you aren't saying those words. But if you're going try to claim victory regarding how you can't "correct" someone who wasn't wrong, talk with mcd001 about his word choice.

Let's back up: The Senator asked/requested/demanded that the General use her title. There, that's less loaded language.

Mcd has established that he wasn't in the wrong based on common usage. But his lack of culpability doesn't mean she was therefore wrong to ask him to use 'Senator'. We've established equivalence, and people are perfectly justified in having a preferred term, and asking people to use it. Ever have someone ask you to use a shortened version of their legal name?

So again, was she pretentious? Maybe. Combative? Not really if you watch the video. Disrespectful? I'm sure there will be a lot of disagreement. Harmful to the military, per the OP's friend? We've all passed that one off already.


Tyndmyr wrote:I have personal familiarity and ALSO cited an example relevant the case in the very same hearing.
Citing the same General addressing a male Senator in the same hearing doesn't mean the male Senator just didn't care. Citing several examples of different people addressing Senators in different context establishes use. Give mcd the credit they deserve for the leg work.

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Jan 22, 2015 4:47 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:... what?

This quote:

mcd001 wrote:Because the only arguments ... boil down to this: Senator Boxer corrected the Genera for his usage, therefore the General's usage was wrong.


That quote is someone who agrees with you coming pretty close to strawmanning the arguments of the people who don't agree with you. I don't think you're doing so because a) it wasn't you and b) you aren't saying those words. But if you're going try to claim victory regarding how you can't "correct" someone who wasn't wrong, talk with mcd001 about his word choice.

Let's back up: The Senator asked/requested/demanded that the General use her title. There, that's less loaded language.

Mcd has established that he wasn't in the wrong based on common usage. But his lack of culpability doesn't mean she was therefore wrong to ask him to use 'Senator'. We've established equivalence, and people are perfectly justified in having a preferred term, and asking people to use it. Ever have someone ask you to use a shortened version of their legal name?


There are different contexts for asking to use a different title. Inviting someone to call you by your first name, or a shortened version thereof, is an act of friendliness and familiarity. Senator is not that. If anything, it's the opposite of that.

Consider these two examples "Professor Farnsworth, what about the blah blah blah?" "Please, Call me Hubert".

Vs "Professor Farnsworth, what about the blah blah blah?" “You know, do me a favor, could you say Doctor instead of Professor? It’s just the thing, I worked so hard to get that title so I’d appreciate it..."

Obviously, the former comes accross as friendly, and the latter, comes across as entitled/arrogant/focusing on emphasizing the power difference between them.

So again, was she pretentious? Maybe. Combative? Not really if you watch the video. Disrespectful? I'm sure there will be a lot of disagreement. Harmful to the military, per the OP's friend? We've all passed that one off already.


Disrespectful, sure. Actually harmful, nah. It's way short of that. I think it's even short of shaming. I don't think that there's any reasonable expectation of shame from that. But a lot of folks feel strongly about the military, and thus, treating them disrespectfully often is unpopular.

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby mcd001 » Thu Jan 22, 2015 5:31 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:I think that's an entirely inaccurate portrayal of the argument, and just as poor of a response as trying to flip the burden of proof. I'd likely toss the strawman tag at that one.

People have discussed the appropriateness of Ma'am vs. Senator. People have argued that asking to be addressed by your formal title isn't an unfair request -- in essence, that Boxer wasn't wrong with her request per the initial question.

You're right, people have discussed that. But those weren't the only arguments being made. Several people have also stated or suggested that ma'am is disrespectful, incorrect or inappropriate. For example:

morriswalters wrote:Animal crackers. Come to my house, play by my rules. Ma'am is certainly a polite title, I called my mother ma'am, and any other women of uncertain status. Was the Senators status unknown to him? He got careless and she spanked him. I actually thought she was relatively polite.

Azrael wrote:In a military context when addressing a Senator, the correct title is Senator. In a military context when addressing an officer, it would be Sir or Ma'am.

Azrael wrote:Except, as previously noted, 'Senator' was the appropriate response.

These (and others like them) are the statements I was responding to, not any statements asserting that Senator Boxer wasn't wrong. (I think she was, but without knowing what was in her mind at the time, that's simply my opinion.)

Azrael wrote:But people haven't made the claim that since the General was corrected that the General must be wrong.

Again, you are correct. I went back and reviewed the entire thread and could find no instance where someone said the General was wrong. Some of the arguments I read implied he was wrong (to use the term ma'am), and I jumped to the conclusion that this meant they were saying the General was wrong (a fine shade of difference). No one actually offered Senator Boxer's objection as the reason that he (or his usage) was wrong, so I stand corrected.

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Thu Jan 22, 2015 6:40 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Consider these two examples "Professor Farnsworth, what about the blah blah blah?" "Please, Call me Hubert".

Vs "Professor Farnsworth, what about the blah blah blah?" “You know, do me a favor, could you say Doctor instead of Professor? It’s just the thing, I worked so hard to get that title so I’d appreciate it..."
In my mind, excusing the request greatly undermines the other connotations. A flat "It's Senator Boxer to you." seems the best opposite to "Please, Call me Hubert.".
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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby morriswalters » Thu Jan 22, 2015 7:50 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Disrespectful, sure. Actually harmful, nah. It's way short of that. I think it's even short of shaming. I don't think that there's any reasonable expectation of shame from that. But a lot of folks feel strongly about the military, and thus, treating them disrespectfully often is unpopular.
And herein lies the difference of opinion.

Normally, listening to an exchange like that I would listen to tone. She neither bullied, nor whined, she simply made a request to be addressed by her title, as is her right.

Where lies the disrespect?

Was it that she interrupted him?
Was it tone?
Does he have any special status? Had she done that to, say, Azrael, would it have been disrespectful?

I suggest that the piece of yours I quoted lays out how you view this. The short version would be that he is part of the Military and you should never interrupt General officers. To do so is disrespectful.
mcd001 wrote:Several people have also stated or suggested that ma'am is disrespectful, incorrect or inappropriate.
What I said was "her house, her rules". Ma'am is not disrespectful. But in any venue I control I choose how you address me, particularly if I am senior or superior to you. It is what it is. You can call it petty or officious, or whatever, but it is not necessarily rude or disrespectful.

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Jan 23, 2015 5:30 pm UTC

Quizatzhaderac wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Consider these two examples "Professor Farnsworth, what about the blah blah blah?" "Please, Call me Hubert".

Vs "Professor Farnsworth, what about the blah blah blah?" “You know, do me a favor, could you say Doctor instead of Professor? It’s just the thing, I worked so hard to get that title so I’d appreciate it..."
In my mind, excusing the request greatly undermines the other connotations. A flat "It's Senator Boxer to you." seems the best opposite to "Please, Call me Hubert.".


Not at all. "Please, call me Hubert" is a request, not a demand. As is the original statement here. However, requests can still be rude(though a flat demand would surely have been seen as more rude).

morriswalters wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Disrespectful, sure. Actually harmful, nah. It's way short of that. I think it's even short of shaming. I don't think that there's any reasonable expectation of shame from that. But a lot of folks feel strongly about the military, and thus, treating them disrespectfully often is unpopular.
And herein lies the difference of opinion.

Normally, listening to an exchange like that I would listen to tone. She neither bullied, nor whined, she simply made a request to be addressed by her title, as is her right.

Where lies the disrespect?

Was it that she interrupted him?
Was it tone?
Does he have any special status? Had she done that to, say, Azrael, would it have been disrespectful?


Disrespect can be conveyed in a number of ways. Interrupting someone is mildly rude. Tone, I have no particular objection to. The content(changing a correct term to another correct term) is also rude.

It would have been disrespectful if done to anyone in exactly the same context.

Our society tends to place a greater weight on being rude to certain people(military tends to enjoy a degree of respect), so no doubt it would not have made the news if she was merely rude to a random person. Still, usually folks wouldn't do that in real life if they are trying to be polite and respectful.

morriswalters wrote:I suggest that the piece of yours I quoted lays out how you view this. The short version would be that he is part of the Military and you should never interrupt General officers. To do so is disrespectful.
mcd001 wrote:Several people have also stated or suggested that ma'am is disrespectful, incorrect or inappropriate.
What I said was "her house, her rules". Ma'am is not disrespectful. But in any venue I control I choose how you address me, particularly if I am senior or superior to you. It is what it is. You can call it petty or officious, or whatever, but it is not necessarily rude or disrespectful.


Being petty is rude, is it not?

And it is not solely her house.

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby morriswalters » Fri Jan 23, 2015 6:08 pm UTC

Sure it's her house. At that moment in time. It certainly isn't his. I elected her(or someone like her), I didn't elect him. And I don't know that being petty or officious is rude, although people like that can be difficult.
Tyndmyr wrote:Our society tends to place a greater weight on being rude to certain people(military tends to enjoy a degree of respect), so no doubt it would not have made the news if she was merely rude to a random person. Still, usually folks wouldn't do that in real life if they are trying to be polite and respectful.
I have a great deal of respect for the Military, I also have a great deal of respect for teachers and garbage men. All three are special. And in real life, people interrupt each other all the time. However I'll let it go, I was just making the point that he got special consideration because he was Military, otherwise we wouldn't be having this conversation.

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Jan 23, 2015 8:13 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Sure it's her house. At that moment in time. It certainly isn't his. I elected her(or someone like her), I didn't elect him. And I don't know that being petty or officious is rude, although people like that can be difficult.


It's a shared environment. She alone does not set protocol. Sure, she's elected, but as I do not think she was elected on the platform of "be rude to folks", I don't think that particularly comes into play. And plenty of other Senators were elected too. If they all felt that a change in protocol was necessary, no doubt they could do so.

Tyndmyr wrote:Our society tends to place a greater weight on being rude to certain people(military tends to enjoy a degree of respect), so no doubt it would not have made the news if she was merely rude to a random person. Still, usually folks wouldn't do that in real life if they are trying to be polite and respectful.
I have a great deal of respect for the Military, I also have a great deal of respect for teachers and garbage men. All three are special. And in real life, people interrupt each other all the time. However I'll let it go, I was just making the point that he got special consideration because he was Military, otherwise we wouldn't be having this conversation.


It is undoubtably true that politicans can frequently get away with being extremely rude(often, far more so than this) to average folk. This is a flaw, not a feature. I wish this, too would draw attention, but sadly, reporting is never entirely egalitarian.

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Fri Jan 23, 2015 9:53 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Not at all. "Please, call me Hubert" is a request, not a demand. As is the original statement here. However, requests can still be rude(though a flat demand would surely have been seen as more rude).
Okay fine, then we use "Please, call me senator" as the parallel, to remove the pleadative/imperative distinction. I submit that that parallel also has significantly different connotations to what Senator Boxer actually said.

All version indicate of proffered form of address. The simpler versions might imply "because you need to know your place" or "because that's not how we do things in the senate". Senator Boxer's actual statements gave explicit reasons that had nothing to do with the General.
morriswalters wrote:I was just making the point that he got special consideration because he was Military, otherwise we wouldn't be having this conversation.
It is undoubtably true that politicans can frequently get away with being extremely rude
It's not just an issue only report rudeness, because it was to the miltary; it's also an issue that it's only considered rude by military standards.
Quizatzhaderac wrote:Would he have a problem with a general publicly criticizing one of their captains?
The former, yes. It's unprofessional. Dressings down like that should be done in private, unless there's a very good reason why it has to happen immediately. Officers are not supposed to be publicly squabbling with each other.
I'm dredging this up because it seems an important cultural difference. The phrase "Dressings down like that" seems way out seems way out of proportion to me. This seems like the minimal amount disagreement to me. I'd also say disagreeing, contradicting, or correcting someone publicly isn't inherently rude if done the right way.
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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Jan 26, 2015 7:01 pm UTC

Quizatzhaderac wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Not at all. "Please, call me Hubert" is a request, not a demand. As is the original statement here. However, requests can still be rude(though a flat demand would surely have been seen as more rude).
Okay fine, then we use "Please, call me senator" as the parallel, to remove the pleadative/imperative distinction. I submit that that parallel also has significantly different connotations to what Senator Boxer actually said.


Yes. The differences are EXACTLY the point. I used Sen. Boxer's exact words, because that is the instance we are discussing here. If they seem more demanding/rude, that's because they are.

Saying "please, call me #firstname" socially is very different than this example. That's why I objected to equating them.

All version indicate of proffered form of address. The simpler versions might imply "because you need to know your place" or "because that's not how we do things in the senate". Senator Boxer's actual statements gave explicit reasons that had nothing to do with the General.
morriswalters wrote:I was just making the point that he got special consideration because he was Military, otherwise we wouldn't be having this conversation.
It is undoubtably true that politicans can frequently get away with being extremely rude
It's not just an issue only report rudeness, because it was to the miltary; it's also an issue that it's only considered rude by military standards.


It is ALSO rude by regular standards. It just also implies a lack of understanding of military customs in addition to regular ones.

Additionally, the fact that she gave explicit reasons does not excuse it. Worked hard for it? Yes. Of course. Literally every senator could make that claim, but not every senator is demanding the title. The given explanation is a very poor one, taken at face value. We must assume that she had another reason beyond the stated one.

Quizatzhaderac wrote:Would he have a problem with a general publicly criticizing one of their captains?
The former, yes. It's unprofessional. Dressings down like that should be done in private, unless there's a very good reason why it has to happen immediately. Officers are not supposed to be publicly squabbling with each other.
I'm dredging this up because it seems an important cultural difference. The phrase "Dressings down like that" seems way out seems way out of proportion to me. This seems like the minimal amount disagreement to me. I'd also say disagreeing, contradicting, or correcting someone publicly isn't inherently rude if done the right way.


This is, in part, because your example differs significantly from the specific instance covered. Public criticism is not exactly the same as forms of address.

However, officers are expected to be professional. If you have no excellent reason why you should be airing your differences in public, it is unprofessional to do so. Hell, even in the corporate field, the mentality of "praise in public, correct in private" has a lot of pull, and can be found in any number of guides for behavior, etc.

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby morriswalters » Mon Jan 26, 2015 8:07 pm UTC

There was no squabble. It takes two. She spoke, he corrected himself. End of story.
Tyndmyr wrote:However, officers are expected to be professional.
She isn't an officer.
Tyndmyr wrote:It's a shared environment.
No, it isn't. His power and hers are well defined. The Military base is his world and operates separately from the rest of the country. It has its own law and prerogatives. Hers is the civilian. I need not salute him and if he stands at my door I can shut it in his face and be damned to him, not something I can do in his world. She and the Government in general act to make sure that difference remains. Politely asking him to address her as she wishes is part of that prerogative, she is not bound to his protocols, only the bounds of politeness. It's arguable perhaps that she was being officious, but she may also be reacting to other things.

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Jan 26, 2015 10:29 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:There was no squabble. It takes two. She spoke, he corrected himself. End of story.
Tyndmyr wrote:However, officers are expected to be professional.
She isn't an officer.


You are responding to an example Quizatz proposed that is different from the original thing. This should be clear, as I pointed this out two sentences prior.

However, it is not unreasonable to expect our elected representatives to behave in a professional manner as well.

Tyndmyr wrote:It's a shared environment.
No, it isn't. His power and hers are well defined. The Military base is his world and operates separately from the rest of the country. It has its own law and prerogatives. Hers is the civilian. I need not salute him and if he stands at my door I can shut it in his face and be damned to him, not something I can do in his world. She and the Government in general act to make sure that difference remains. Politely asking him to address her as she wishes is part of that prerogative, she is not bound to his protocols, only the bounds of politeness. It's arguable perhaps that she was being officious, but she may also be reacting to other things.


Again, if you read the whole context, you will see that this is a response to the claim that it is her house. And if you make it another couple of sentences instead of willfully misinterpreting my statement, you will see that I reference "other senators" being elected as well. She doesn't just invent all the rules willy nilly. She does NOT have any official right or perogative to change protocol without agreement of others.

Bringing in saluting(something I have never claimed civilians need to do, obviously) is only further away from the subject of what was being talked about.

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Mon Jan 26, 2015 11:15 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Yes. The differences are EXACTLY the point. I used Sen. Boxer's exact words, because that is the instance we are discussing here. If they seem more demanding/rude, that's because they are.
Okay, just to be clear, of the four:

  1. It's X to you.
  2. Please, call me X.
  3. You know, do me a favor, could you say X instead of Y? It’s just the thing, I worked so hard to get that title so I’d appreciate it, yes thank you.
  4. Please, call me X. It’s just the thing, I worked so hard to get that title so I’d appreciate it, yes thank you.
You're saying that 3 is worse then four?
Are you interpreting 3 as an order or request?
If not, how is that "Exactly the point"? The only imperative version (1) is purely my invention.
Is 4 worse then 2 because of the excuse?
Hell, even in the corporate field, the mentality of "praise in public, correct in private" has a lot of pull, and can be found in any number of guides for behavior, etc.
That's a generalization, meant to indicate one shouldn't do 100% of correction in public. Senator McCarthy's actions (mentioned earlier in the thread) would certainly violate general social norms. An expert (senator Boxer is an expert on her own preferences) correcting a non-expert on a minor point of fact is very acceptable.
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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby morriswalters » Mon Jan 26, 2015 11:27 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Bringing in saluting(something I have never claimed civilians need to do, obviously) is only further away from the subject of what was being talked about.
You can take that passage to mean that in the world I inhabit, interrupting someone isn't rude per se, and what would be rude in the Military isn't always rude in the world. It happens all the time. In point of fact it would not be uncommon for someone in a meeting to be interrupted to correct errors of fact or for less substantive matters. And her house is the Senate. That doesn't mean she owns it. And I have yet seen any evidence that she broke Senate Protocol. I've took a whack at protocol in the Senate and couldn't find anything that speaks to it. And I watched quite a few Senate hearings before I realized how really useless they are, and in the ones I watched that one was a powder puff of an exchange. Senate hearings are not polite places, by any definition of polite you want to trot out. They are political theater. I'm open to persuasion, if you can point out some place that says, please address me in such and such way in the Senate is rude or against some protocol.

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Jan 26, 2015 11:49 pm UTC

Quizatzhaderac wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Yes. The differences are EXACTLY the point. I used Sen. Boxer's exact words, because that is the instance we are discussing here. If they seem more demanding/rude, that's because they are.
Okay, just to be clear, of the four:

  1. It's X to you.
  2. Please, call me X.
  3. You know, do me a favor, could you say X instead of Y? It’s just the thing, I worked so hard to get that title so I’d appreciate it, yes thank you.
  4. Please, call me X. It’s just the thing, I worked so hard to get that title so I’d appreciate it, yes thank you.
You're saying that 3 is worse then four?
Are you interpreting 3 as an order or request?
If not, how is that "Exactly the point"? The only imperative version (1) is purely my invention.
Is 4 worse then 2 because of the excuse?


You're making an equivalence that does not exist. "please, call me <first name>" is distinctly different than "please, call me title". That aside, on to the options.

1 is least polite, of course. 3 and 4 are fairly equivalent, but both are ruder than 2. Why? Because of the self-important addition. It isn't a real reason, we all know that. You're focusing on order vs request, still.

That is not my point at all. Requests can still be rude.

Hell, even in the corporate field, the mentality of "praise in public, correct in private" has a lot of pull, and can be found in any number of guides for behavior, etc.
That's a generalization, meant to indicate one shouldn't do 100% of correction in public. Senator McCarthy's actions (mentioned earlier in the thread) would certainly violate general social norms. An expert (senator Boxer is an expert on her own preferences) correcting a non-expert on a minor point of fact is very acceptable.


Both terms are generally acceptable.

Everyone seems to accept that sir and ma'am are acceptable(at least now, after an oddly long argument about it). So, why the fixation on her preferences here? Her preferences are not the issue they are discussing. So long as correct terms are being used, correcting is not proper.

morriswalters wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Bringing in saluting(something I have never claimed civilians need to do, obviously) is only further away from the subject of what was being talked about.
You can take that passage to mean that in the world I inhabit, interrupting someone isn't rude per se, and what would be rude in the Military isn't always rude in the world. It happens all the time. In point of fact it would not be uncommon for someone in a meeting to be interrupted to correct errors of fact or for less substantive matters. And her house is the Senate. That doesn't mean she owns it. And I have yet seen any evidence that she broke Senate Protocol. I've took a whack at protocol in the Senate and couldn't find anything that speaks to it. And I watched quite a few Senate hearings before I realized how really useless they are, and in the ones I watched that one was a powder puff of an exchange. Senate hearings are not polite places, by any definition of polite you want to trot out. They are political theater. I'm open to persuasion, if you can point out some place that says, please address me in such and such way in the Senate is rude or against some protocol.


Ah, yes, the "it's not rude, because they're normally rude" response. Yes, many senators are also often rude. Sure. Some politicians have said vastly more offensive things than that, absolutely. More extreme examples exist for most things. "It could be worse" isn't really an argument.

And, while senate exchanges ARE political theater, it's particularly stupid theater to show off being power-happy/rude to a segment of society that the US tends to respect.

It is generally rude to interrupt. It is also generally respectful/normal to use terms like sir/ma'am. Exceptions to general rules require documentation, not explicit documentation that the general rule applies in each specific instance. Exceptions do exist in most formal systems. For instance, various points of order may be called, which may interrupt people, due to violation of this rule or that. That's an explicitly made exception(and there are rules for how to handle that). Rules do exist in general for handling interruptions and the rules(both for the state senate and for lesser houses, generally stemming from the same sources) obviously frown on interruptions, though in practice, there is something of a game for many members of violating the rules a bit, while avoiding doing so enough to justify official sanction. So yeah, you have a lot of rude politicians.

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby morriswalters » Tue Jan 27, 2015 12:08 am UTC

You still haven't shown that it is rude and again we come back to he's in the Military we should respect him more. And political theater is what it is. Playing to an audience.
Tyndmyr wrote:And, while senate exchanges ARE political theater, it's particularly stupid theater to show off being power-happy/rude to a segment of society that the US tends to respect.
You don't like it when I use the word salute, yet we always circle back to the Military and why we should defer to them, because we might upset some one. Why is that?

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Jan 27, 2015 2:47 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:You still haven't shown that it is rude and again we come back to he's in the Military we should respect him more. And political theater is what it is. Playing to an audience.


No. I have at no time said that it is rude only because he is in the military.

Tyndmyr wrote:And, while senate exchanges ARE political theater, it's particularly stupid theater to show off being power-happy/rude to a segment of society that the US tends to respect.
You don't like it when I use the word salute, yet we always circle back to the Military and why we should defer to them, because we might upset some one. Why is that?[/quote]

Again....not about that. Not sure why you keep misrepresenting my statements.

If you INSIST on disagreeing that interrupting is rude, well.... http://lmgtfy.com/?q=is+interrupting+someone+rude

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Tue Jan 27, 2015 3:50 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:1 is least polite, of course. 3 and 4 are fairly equivalent, but both are ruder than 2. Why? Because of the self-important addition. It isn't a real reason, we all know that.
It took my awhile to understand what you were saying because the differences go the other way to me; 3 and 4 are much better than 2. It then appeared you objected to the best formatted request and possibly all requests.

By "It isn't a real reason" do you mean that <what she'd appreciate> is a vacuous reason, or that she's lying about why she'd appreciate it?
Everyone seems to accept that sir and ma'am are acceptable(at least now, after an oddly long argument about it). So, why the fixation on her preferences here? Her preferences are not the issue they are discussing.
Etiquette rules are there to guess the preferences of people we haven't met yet; the general rule gives way to the specific preference. It was perfectly fine for the General to walk in and call her ma'am the first time. Should she prefer to be addressed as "bitch", that's very weird and basically impossible to guess ahead of time, but that's her prerogative and "bitch" becomes the polite form of address for that specific person.
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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby morriswalters » Tue Jan 27, 2015 5:06 pm UTC

By implication it seems like you think that there is an implied risk in what she did because people respect his military service. If it was rude than the respect that people give him for whatever reason is irrelevant.

I don't think the Google search implies that what she did was rude in context, but since I don't want to put any more effort into this I bow to your point.

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Jan 27, 2015 7:04 pm UTC

Quizatzhaderac wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:1 is least polite, of course. 3 and 4 are fairly equivalent, but both are ruder than 2. Why? Because of the self-important addition. It isn't a real reason, we all know that.
It took my awhile to understand what you were saying because the differences go the other way to me; 3 and 4 are much better than 2. It then appeared you objected to the best formatted request and possibly all requests.

By "It isn't a real reason" do you mean that <what she'd appreciate> is a vacuous reason, or that she's lying about why she'd appreciate it?


The "I worked hard for it" is a vacuous reason. Why? Well, it can be said by literally every senator(any many another person holding titles as well!), so it has no explanatory power for why she cares and why another does not. It isn't the real reason.

Everyone seems to accept that sir and ma'am are acceptable(at least now, after an oddly long argument about it). So, why the fixation on her preferences here? Her preferences are not the issue they are discussing.
Etiquette rules are there to guess the preferences of people we haven't met yet; the general rule gives way to the specific preference. It was perfectly fine for the General to walk in and call her ma'am the first time. Should she prefer to be addressed as "bitch", that's very weird and basically impossible to guess ahead of time, but that's her prerogative and "bitch" becomes the polite form of address for that specific person.


Specific preferences do not invariably overrule general etiquette. Your significantly more unusual example illustrates this. If someone, in the Senate, wished to be called "bitch", I do not believe that everyone would nod and use this term. Why? Because it's very impolite. And this isn't a private conversation between only two people. Even if the person being addressed is okay with it, general etiquette dictates you not use that form of address in polite company.

morriswalters wrote:By implication it seems like you think that there is an implied risk in what she did because people respect his military service. If it was rude than the respect that people give him for whatever reason is irrelevant.


Well, if you're going to justify rudeness by "it's all political theater"(which is a strange justification anyway), then surely choosing to be disrespectful to a widely respected subculture is a somewhat unusual bit of theater. What's the gain? I understand why senators are rude to say, the IRS. They're an easy target, deserving or not. I still find that rude, of course. Political expediency doesn't make one NOT a jackass. But I'm not sure that even if you DID accept political expediency as a legitimate excuse, it'd help you out here. I'm not seeing the gain for her.

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby morriswalters » Tue Jan 27, 2015 7:38 pm UTC

Maybe it's as simple as it seems to be. She she wanted to be called by a title she had earned. And she felt that it was important enough to her to get it said, rather than waiting and saying to him when it would no longer matter, after the fact, General would you please call me by my title. I suspect in the scheme of things that it wasn't really all that important to the General or her. She was reelected in 2010, after the little dustup, so it didn't impact her there. And now she is retiring. So I guess that her constituents didn't punish her, assuming they knew, or cared in the first place. However none of that matters as I have ceded your point.

Edit

You continue to do that, bring up a widely respected subculture. Why? If she was rude, she was rude. And if she wasn't, she wasn't. Who she was talking to really doesn't have a tinkers damn to do with it. Does it?

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Jan 27, 2015 9:35 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Maybe it's as simple as it seems to be. She she wanted to be called by a title she had earned. And she felt that it was important enough to her to get it said, rather than waiting and saying to him when it would no longer matter, after the fact, General would you please call me by my title. I suspect in the scheme of things that it wasn't really all that important to the General or her. She was reelected in 2010, after the little dustup, so it didn't impact her there. And now she is retiring. So I guess that her constituents didn't punish her, assuming they knew, or cared in the first place. However none of that matters as I have ceded your point.


Sen Boxer doesn't call out everyone who calls her ma'am. In the senate, even. It can't be THAT big a deal to her. She also uses the term herselfwhen referring to other civil officials, instead of title. I'm gooing to go with "she wanted to be flaunt her power at the time".

Re-election is a remarkably coarse method of feedback. Plenty of politicians do something that their constituents care about, yet manage to be re-elected. She did lose about 5 percentage points in 2010, bringing her down to a 52.2%. Now, it's hard to directly attribute that, but it may have been a factor.

You continue to do that, bring up a widely respected subculture. Why? If she was rude, she was rude. And if she wasn't, she wasn't. Who she was talking to really doesn't have a tinkers damn to do with it. Does it?


She's rude either way. But who you are rude to can matter from the perspective of response. People are generally more willing to accept rudeness to those they dislike.
Last edited by Tyndmyr on Tue Jan 27, 2015 11:09 pm UTC, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby morriswalters » Tue Jan 27, 2015 10:52 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Sen Boxer doesn't call out everyone who calls her ma'am. [url="http://lybio.net/tag/barbara-levy-boxer-transcripts/"]In the senate, even[/url]. It can't be THAT big a deal to her. She also [url=http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/11/washington/11TRANSCRIPT-BOXER.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all&uses the term herself [/url]when referring to other civil officials, instead of title. I'm gooing to go with "she wanted to be flaunt her power at the time".
I've already ceded this point. She was rude. You can go anywhere you want, but it's idle speculation, there is no way for you or me to know. I just offered the simplest interpretation of the event. It could have been a secret code, pick any reason you desire. And the only metric that a Politician is frightened of is the only metric you have to measure. At election time, was she reelected?
Tyndmyr wrote:She's rude either way. But who you are rude to can matter from the perspective of response. People are generally more willing to accept rudeness to those they dislike.
I'm not certain of the point you are trying to make. If it is that she hates the Military, okay. There is no response otherwise. The only people that can reach her are her peers(and people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw rocks), or the electorate. If he looks at her the way I do, she is a blip, a momentary irritant like a stone in his shoe. She isn't in his chain of command and she doesn't control the promotion roster.(of course she could, if you want to engage in capricious flights of fancy, try to block his promotion since the Senate approves the list.)

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Tue Jan 27, 2015 10:53 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:The "I worked hard for it" is a vacuous reason. Why? Well, it can be said by literally every senator(any many another person holding titles as well!), so it has no explanatory power for why she cares and why another does not. It isn't the real reason.
So you accept her preference was as stated, but are arguing the preference needs justification, or at least if justified, must be done honestly.

That explanation can still be honest, if incomplete. She worked hard + something else in her mind -> she prefers "senator". The "something else" would certainly make a better explanation, but having worked hard could certainly be part of it.
Specific preferences do not invariably overrule general etiquette. Your significantly more unusual example illustrates this. If someone, in the Senate, wished to be called "bitch", I do not believe that everyone would nod and use this term. Why? Because it's very impolite. And this isn't a private conversation between only two people. Even if the person being addressed is okay with it, general etiquette dictates you not use that form of address in polite company.
Then I'm not sure why people should be your definition of polite. I'd hesitate to nod and use "Bitch" publicly to avoid the appearance of disrespect, but I'd still base my conception of respectful address on personal preferences.

How do you define "Polite" and what's the benefit of it?
Sen Boxer doesn't call out everyone who calls her ma'am. In the senate, even. It can't be THAT big a deal to her. She also uses the term herself when referring to other civil officials, instead of title.
Very good point. She also failed to address the General by title, which stands out when asking for formality.
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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Jan 27, 2015 11:27 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Sen Boxer doesn't call out everyone who calls her ma'am. [url="http://lybio.net/tag/barbara-levy-boxer-transcripts/"]In the senate, even[/url]. It can't be THAT big a deal to her. She also [url=http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/11/washington/11TRANSCRIPT-BOXER.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all&uses the term herself [/url]when referring to other civil officials, instead of title. I'm gooing to go with "she wanted to be flaunt her power at the time".
I've already ceded this point. She was rude. You can go anywhere you want, but it's idle speculation, there is no way for you or me to know. I just offered the simplest interpretation of the event. It could have been a secret code, pick any reason you desire. And the only metric that a Politician is frightened of is the only metric you have to measure. At election time, was she reelected?
Tyndmyr wrote:She's rude either way. But who you are rude to can matter from the perspective of response. People are generally more willing to accept rudeness to those they dislike.
I'm not certain of the point you are trying to make. If it is that she hates the Military, okay. There is no response otherwise. The only people that can reach her are her peers(and people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw rocks), or the electorate. If he looks at her the way I do, she is a blip, a momentary irritant like a stone in his shoe. She isn't in his chain of command and she doesn't control the promotion roster.(of course she could, if you want to engage in capricious flights of fancy, try to block his promotion since the Senate approves the list.)


I suspect that she wished to flaunt power at that point in time. If that's a result of an overall hatred of the military, I couldn't say(not having done adequate research). My point is that if she was doing this as political theater, it was a fairly unwise move.

The resulting reaction was fairly predictable, and probably unhelpful to her, regardless of re-election. The fact that she commanded a slight(and decreasing) majority for her re-election could easily be affected by any number of other factors(such as California being a wee bit democrat biased), but generally, it isn't considered beneficial to a career politician to play the part of a jerk. Hell, it might even have played a part in her decision to retire, albeit indirectly. That'd be hard to tease out, though.

Hell, the "you lie" guy got re-elected, and that was rude, was it not?

Quizatzhaderac wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:The "I worked hard for it" is a vacuous reason. Why? Well, it can be said by literally every senator(any many another person holding titles as well!), so it has no explanatory power for why she cares and why another does not. It isn't the real reason.
So you accept her preference was as stated, but are arguing the preference needs justification, or at least if justified, must be done honestly.

That explanation can still be honest, if incomplete. She worked hard + something else in her mind -> she prefers "senator". The "something else" would certainly make a better explanation, but having worked hard could certainly be part of it.


Maybe, but regardless, it isn't the actual reason. She may prefer to be called that, though I do find it interesting that she does not make a practice of similar corrections elsewhere. That further indicates that this was not her actual reason.

Specific preferences do not invariably overrule general etiquette. Your significantly more unusual example illustrates this. If someone, in the Senate, wished to be called "bitch", I do not believe that everyone would nod and use this term. Why? Because it's very impolite. And this isn't a private conversation between only two people. Even if the person being addressed is okay with it, general etiquette dictates you not use that form of address in polite company.
Then I'm sure why people should be your definition of polite. I's hesitate to nod and use "Bitch" publicly to avoid the appearance of disrespect, but I'd still base my conception of respectful address on personal preferences.

How do you define "Polite" and what's the benefit of it? [/quote]

Polite behavior is a set of social standards. Not every social group is identical, of course, but some elements of courtesy are very common. Generally, polite behavior is that which facilitates social interactions without promoting conflict. The example of "bitch" is often derogatory and generally highly disrespectful. So, it might well offend or discomfort someone that you're not even speaking to. That's a pretty overt example, but it's fairly clear.

Politeness is beneficial because communication is important and conflict is usually undesirable.

There are times, of course, when being impolite is excusable. If someone is rude to you, there's a certain acceptance for a similar degree of rudeness back. After all, it isn't entirely fair for only one person to be responsible for keeping conversation civil. A pressing need is also usually acceptable for a certain degree of departure from politeness. Surely, if someone is in danger of being injured, it is quite acceptable to interrupt them to shout a warning or the like.

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby morriswalters » Wed Jan 28, 2015 1:15 am UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:The fact that she commanded a slight(and decreasing) majority for her re-election could easily be affected by any number of other factors(such as California being a wee bit democrat biased), but generally, it isn't considered beneficial to a career politician to play the part of a jerk. Hell, it might even have played a part in her decision to retire, albeit indirectly. That'd be hard to tease out, though.
California at this moment is Democratic, period. They tried to use it in the election, she won. This isn't horse shoes. A win is a win is a win. She decided to retire because, pick whatever reason suits your particular bias. For the record the General is retired as well. As for the part indicated in blue above, that is exactly what politicians do. You obviously haven't been paying attention.

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby elasto » Wed Jan 28, 2015 10:07 am UTC

So long as being a jerk energizes your base more than it does the opposition's, then being a jerk pays off. You might as well claim that being willfully obstructionist and putting party politics before the good of the country doesn't pay off...

(Hint: It does: See the Republican party for most of Obama's presidency...)

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Jan 28, 2015 7:13 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:The fact that she commanded a slight(and decreasing) majority for her re-election could easily be affected by any number of other factors(such as California being a wee bit democrat biased), but generally, it isn't considered beneficial to a career politician to play the part of a jerk. Hell, it might even have played a part in her decision to retire, albeit indirectly. That'd be hard to tease out, though.
California at this moment is Democratic, period. They tried to use it in the election, she won. This isn't horse shoes. A win is a win is a win. She decided to retire because, pick whatever reason suits your particular bias. For the record the General is retired as well. As for the part indicated in blue above, that is exactly what politicians do. You obviously haven't been paying attention.


I'm fully aware that many politicians are jerks. And sometimes, to a far greater degree than the relatively minor stuff found here. I'm just not really a fan of that.

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Wed Jan 28, 2015 7:24 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Maybe, but regardless, it isn't the actual reason.
If one's going to take offense (you said 4 was worse than 2), it seems to matter very much why it isn't the "actual" reason; deception and a honest omission are two very different things. Which "social standard" does an honest omission violate? That is to say, the embellishment of the senator's request as opposed to the request itself or the interruption.

Generally, polite behavior is that which facilitates social interactions without promoting conflict.
So only generally? There are (potentially) situations rules and norms haven't considered, where politeness does promote conflict, even if the "polite" person knows it promotes conflict? Are we allowed to interpret offense/disregard of preference as a source of conflict, or only measure from actual conflicts?

From my conception, politeness is a reasonable effort to avoid offending people; which includes reasonable efforts to understand etiquette rules/ social norms and reasonable accommodations of people's preferences. The rules are just a means to the end and need to be questioned/changed/ignored when they fail at their task.
The example of "bitch" is often derogatory and generally highly disrespectful. So, it might well offend or discomfort someone that you're not even speaking to.
That sounds very much like you're considering the preferences of third parties. Actually, it seems like you're only considering the preferences of third parties: the General has an obligation to appear to consider the Senator's preferences, and the Senator is making things difficult by mentioning actual preferences. I realize this is a bit of a stawman, but I wanted to give you something specific to refute.
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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Jan 28, 2015 9:07 pm UTC

Quizatzhaderac wrote:
Generally, polite behavior is that which facilitates social interactions without promoting conflict.
So only generally? There are (potentially) situations rules and norms haven't considered, where politeness does promote conflict, even if the "polite" person knows it promotes conflict? Are we allowed to interpret offense/disregard of preference as a source of conflict, or only measure from actual conflicts?


Social behavior is complicated. Any one sentence summary will have exceptions.

Quizatzhaderac wrote:
The example of "bitch" is often derogatory and generally highly disrespectful. So, it might well offend or discomfort someone that you're not even speaking to.
That sounds very much like you're considering the preferences of third parties. Actually, it seems like you're only considering the preferences of third parties: the General has an obligation to appear to consider the Senator's preferences, and the Senator is making things difficult by mentioning actual preferences. I realize this is a bit of a stawman, but I wanted to give you something specific to refute.


Preferences of third parties are indeed quite important in public places. If it's you and your best friend or s/o in private, you might well choose to converse in a manner differently than you would in public, and that's fine. Public behavior is generally significantly more constrained than private behavior.

In fact, this is why the whole right to privacy deal is so important. Even if something is quite legal, private things becoming public results in all manner of social pressures.

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Wed Jan 28, 2015 10:08 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Social behavior is complicated. Any one sentence summary will have exceptions.
I'm asking a question about you and the definitions of the words you use. When there are exceptions and those social norms fail to serve their goals: is "politeness" obeying the norms or pursuing the goals?

You've also failed to address my question about whether you consider indulging people's preferences to "facilitate social interactions without promoting conflict"; and if not, why not?
Preferences of third parties are indeed quite important in public places.
You've explicitly claimed several times that the second party's (Senator Boxer) preferences are irrelevant, so how do you justify considering third parties but not second?
The thing about recursion problems is that they tend to contain other recursion problems.

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Jan 29, 2015 6:50 pm UTC

Quizatzhaderac wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Social behavior is complicated. Any one sentence summary will have exceptions.
I'm asking a question about you and the definitions of the words you use. When there are exceptions and those social norms fail to serve their goals: is "politeness" obeying the norms or pursuing the goals?

You've also failed to address my question about whether you consider indulging people's preferences to "facilitate social interactions without promoting conflict"; and if not, why not?


Politeness is about obeying norms. Goals are different from norms, and in fact, the goals of many people may not match social norms at all. Usually, norms are sufficiently flexible to allow for some diversity of goal, as that's an essential part of minimizing conflict, but there must inherently be goals that are outside social norms. As a trivial example, one could list the goals of most explicitly racist organizations as outside of social norms now.

Someone's preferences may not, in fact, fall within social norms at all. In the example here, a strong preference for senator over sir/ma'am is not a social norm, and is odd.

Preferences of third parties are indeed quite important in public places.
You've explicitly claimed several times that the second party's (Senator Boxer) preferences are irrelevant, so how do you justify considering third parties but not second?


Because of the venue. It's a public venue, and thus, most of the people present are third parties. This concern does not exist in private.

Now, politeness does not demand entirely disregarding second parties, but as they are simply one among many, in large venues, their opinion is of relatively little consequence. It would not be polite, for instance, to insult one's audience in talking to someone, even if that someone is entirely okay with the statements. They are simply one among many, and social norms are determined by everyone in that society or subset thereof.

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby ObsessoMom » Fri Jan 30, 2015 4:51 pm UTC

Okay, let's assume that minor rudeness occurred (whether or not we agree that it did in this case--just roll with it). Minor rudeness is a way of demonstrating power, and guys in positions of power do it to each other all the time.

If a male senator had been minorly rude to a male general, would we even be having this conversation? I think not.

Men in power are given more leeway to skirt social rules than women are. A powerful man who is a bit of an asshole occasionally is just throwing his weight around, as expected; a powerful woman who does substantially the same thing is considered way out of bounds.

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Jan 30, 2015 7:01 pm UTC

ObsessoMom wrote:Okay, let's assume that minor rudeness occurred (whether or not we agree that it did in this case--just roll with it). Minor rudeness is a way of demonstrating power, and guys in positions of power do it to each other all the time.

If a male senator had been minorly rude to a male general, would we even be having this conversation? I think not.

Men in power are given more leeway to skirt social rules than women are. A powerful man who is a bit of an asshole occasionally is just throwing his weight around, as expected; a powerful woman who does substantially the same thing is considered way out of bounds.


Perhaps. I do not disagree that many male senators have behaved rudely. I am entirely okay with also taking a dim view of male senators who throw their power around rudely.

Hell, I'd like to see ALL politicians be a little less arrogant and a little more respectful.

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Fri Jan 30, 2015 8:50 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Politeness is about obeying norms. Goals are different from norms, and in fact, the goals of many people may not match social norms at all. Usually, norms are sufficiently flexible to allow for some diversity of goal, as that's an essential part of minimizing conflict, but there must inherently be goals that are outside social norms. As a trivial example, one could list the goals of most explicitly racist organizations as outside of social norms now.
I asked about the goals of politeness. When the means (the norms) fail at their goal (social interaction), is "Politeness" blindly using the predefined means or selecting the appropriate means to the end?

The racist organizations are completely non sequitur as their goals are disjoint from the goals of any reasonable definition of "politeness".
It's a public venue, and thus, most of the people present are third parties.
I asked about considering second and third parties, not how they're weighed. If the third parties have a stake between "Senator" and "Ma/am", please mention it. Your arguments so far don't seem to be a the form "third parties outweigh second parties", but "second party's preferences don't belong on the scale".
.....Now, politeness does not demand entirely disregarding second parties
So, why the fixation on her preferences here? Her preferences are not the issue they are discussing. So long as correct terms are being used, correcting is not proper.
How do you reconcile these two? Does "politeness" merely allow disregard of second parties without demanding it? Unlike with the "Bitch" example, there are no externalities between "Senator" and "Ma'am"; so doesn't that leave the second party's preferences as the most significant factor?

I am arguing that the politeness of forms of address derives (in part) from preferences. Ceteris paribus: the second party's preferred term is the more polite term. Someone who shares the same goals as politeness (I'll call is person a "gentleman") will want to know people's preferences to better indulge them.
The thing about recursion problems is that they tend to contain other recursion problems.

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Re: “Could you say Senator instead of Ma’am?”

Postby elasto » Sat Jan 31, 2015 6:49 am UTC

I want to remind everyone what the Senator actually said:

“You know, do me a favor, could you say Senator instead of Ma’am? It’s just the thing, I worked so hard to get that title so I’d appreciate it, yes thank you.”


She didn't claim that the General's usage of 'Ma'am' was impolite or anything. She just politely asked if he could use her preferred title, gave her reasons - that there are obviously far fewer people who qualify to be called 'Senator' than 'Ma'am' - and then thanked him.

Comparing it to her asking him to call her 'Bitch' or whatever strains the argument to breaking point...


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