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Social Networking

Letters and other responses to stories from the November/December print issue of Pacific Standard.
(Photo: Preto Perola/Shutterstock)

(Photo: Preto Perola/Shutterstock)

Sudeep Reddy, economics reporter at The Wall Street Journal, opined that Helaine Olen’s cover story on biblically inspired financial adviser Dave Ramsey (“The Prophet,” November/December 2013) “will force you to think about how people use debt and whether the personal finance guru’s evangelism goes too far.” Other readers were put off by Olen’s critique that Ramsey’s advice ignores systemic problems of economic inequality. “I feel like Helaine Olen doesn’t really ‘get’ Dave Ramsey as a phenomenon,” writes “AmyP,” who credits Ramsey’s program with getting her family out of debt, at the blog Apt. 11D. “Admittedly, [Ramsey] does not pay a lot of attention to economic trends, but that’s because his advice works just as well in good times and bad.” At Ramsey’s own My Total Moneymaker forum, commenter “Sold the Kids” added: “Yeah, having a low income is tough. Having a low income with debt is tougher.” On Reddit, a commenter named “The Dot” sniped: “The author ... seems to have an agenda because Ramsey is (gasp!) making money by giving people advice on how to improve their lives. The message the author seems to be giving is most people are screwed and they can’t do anything about it so we should pity them. I wonder why Dave Ramsey’s more hopeful message wins more people.”

Reuters financial blogger Felix Salmon, who called Olen’s article “fantastic,” nonetheless finds himself “sympathetic” to Ramsey’s pragmatism. “Depressing stories about stagnating wages and the pincered lower-middle class, while important from a policy perspective, don’t actually do anything for the individuals being pinched.” Added Bloomberg’s Megan McArdle, who chronicled her own successful use of Ramsey’s system in a 2009 article inThe Atlantic: “There’s a reason that Ramsey’s core audience is evangelicals: His method is easier to follow if you believe in something even more sublime than a Harvard education.”

At the site Metafilter, in a lengthy thread about Charles Homans’ piece on the Soviet Union’s senseless obliteration of 180,000 whales (“The Vanishing,” November/December 2013), commenter “Iridic” gloomily quoted Melville’s Moby-Dick: “These ... Leviathans, they have two firm fortresses, which, in all human probability, will for ever remain impregnable ... their Polar citadels.” Iridic added: “If only Melville knew.” Others argued over whether Communists or capitalists had done the most environmental damage. The Soviet Union had “even more impressively bad environmental practices than the already impressively bad Western nations and Japan,” opined “XMLicious.” “There is no one with clean hands,” responded “No Robot.” “Remember the buffalo? How about the Plains Indians? This is about mankind’s savagery and contempt for lives that differ from his own.” At the website Tapestry, Jana Kinsman was sufficiently moved to draw a poignant slideshow summarizing Homans’ article. “Hopefully, we can look at this and learn,” her cartoon-self says.

A recent study from the University of California-Los Angeles challenged Subway’s reputation as a healthier fast-food chain. It found that teenagers eating lunch there consumed more calories than recommended, as did teens eating lunch at McDonald’s. (“You Can Lead a Teen to Healthy Food, But...,” Quick Study, September/October 2013). Evelin Sullivan wrote to emphasize that the two chains still aren’t equivalent. The Institute of Medicine recommends 850 calories for an average teen’s lunch; the teens in the study averaged 955 calories in their Subway lunches, while those dining chez Ronald ate 1,038. “In other words, they consumed almost twice the number of extra calories at McDonald’s,” says Sullivan. “Surely this is a significant difference.”

Lorenzo Albero (@theneedtoask) tweeted about our story on online privacy, and the lack of it (“Your Privacy Settings Make No Sense,” Five Studies, November/December 2013): “An easy rule of thumb ... ‘Nothing you do online is private.’ See, how easy is that?”

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This post originally appeared in the January/February 2014 issueofPacific Standard as "Social Networking." For more, consider subscribing to our bimonthly print magazine.