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Is there any German compound that has motivated more English-language wordplay? Not recently, anyhow. Schadenfreudelicious is not new, but Josh Marshall saw a particularly apt target for it in the misadventures of Michael Duvall ("Late Boffo Scandal Update", 9/9/2009):

The big news of the day was President Obama's address to Congress. But we cannot forget the schadenfreudelicious scandal that got the day off to a roaring start. As you'll remember, California state Rep. Michael Duvall (R-Yorba Linda), a married champion of family values and traditional marriage, was picked up on a live mic at a committee hearing graphically boasting of his sexual encounters with not one but two mistresses (one of whom is a lobbyist with business before his committee).

After first insisting that he thought he was having a "private conversation", which one imagines is true, Duvall resigned his office shortly after noon California time.

As Victor Steinbok has pointed out to me, Rep. Duvall's earlier statement was also a classic non-apology apology:

I made a mistake and i sincerely apologize. I deeply regret the comments I made in what I believed to be a private conversation. This is a private matter and I ask that everyone respect the privacy of all involved.

The fact that the lobbyist involved has denied ever having had sex with him raises a technical question in the calculus of immorality: does Duvall come out better as a hypocrite, or as a hypocrite and a liar?


  1. Vincent said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 3:47 am

    The damnationometer sez:

    A relatively tepid, Lusty Circle 2 for his carnal sins, but Malebolge, Bolgia VI for hypocrisy, and Bolgia X for lies. Of course, sex with a lobbyist is probably treasonous, so that'll get him Antenora of Cocytus anyway regardless.

    [(myl) A lovely summary! But what if he lied (hypocritically and misogynistically) about sex with a lobbyist? Is that better or worse than if he actually did what he boasted about? ]

  2. hsgudnason said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 6:29 am

    I don't know which word is causing me the greater pleasure–schadenfreudelicious or damnationometer.

  3. Faldone said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 6:51 am

    If he's a fundamentalist Christian we can apply the Carter Test: thinking about it is as bad as doing it, so it doesn't matter whether he actually did it or not.

  4. Vincent said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 6:52 am

    If she's the liar, he's worse off in hell. Why do we take the lady at her word and not him?

  5. Vincent said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 7:40 am

    Well, since we're coining words, probably because it's perfectly acceptable to be an unapologetic misandrist in the academy.

  6. Graeme said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 7:55 am

    'Thinking about it is as bad as doing it'. As in 'the sin is in the mind'?

    Jesus is quoted as saying 'whoever looks lustfully on a woman has already committed adultery'. But that's not to be taken literally, in either criminal law or moral codes. It means that all bad actions start with a thought; and that we judge the mens rea/intention which is expressed in the actus reus/action (if you can forgive the legal jargon).

  7. AJD said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 8:15 am


    What are you talking about? No one's taking anyone at their word by default. The topic of the discussion, in fact, is whether it's worse if he's lying or if she is.

  8. Mark P said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 8:21 am

    I think it's worse if he lied about having sex with the lobbyist because it causes more harm to an innocent person (if we assume for the sake of argument that a lobbyist is innocent). To brag about committing what he believes is a sin, based on his apparent credentials in the family values mafia, indicates not just that he succumbed to temptation, but that he desired to sin and revels in his sin. He desires not only to sin, but to be known as one who commits that particular sin. Substitute "violation of ethical standards" for "sin" if you prefer less religious language. I'm just using language I assume he's familiar with.

    I would be interested to know how his confidant reacted to his statements. Was he talking to a committee member or to staff?

  9. Acilius said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 8:24 am

    "The calculus of immorality"- there's an interesting phrase. To me, it suggests something very different from Bentham's hedonistic calculus. While Bentham was trying to settle ethical questions by reducing them to empirical facts, "the calculus of immorality" seems to suggest the kind of idea Faldone brought up in comment 3, a comparative analysis of various forms of wickedness. So perhaps an impure thought damns its thinker, so that someone who has impure thoughts might as well go ahead and act on them; or perhaps impure thoughts are bad, but adding impure deeds to them makes them doubly bad; or perhaps we can make some other sort of equation.

    Of course, once we start worrying about impure thoughts we have to start examining our mental lives very closely. That examination can easily turn into a cheap kind of do-it-yourself psychoanalysis. That cheap sort of psychoanalysis can in turn lead to a perverse enjoyment of guilt and a glee in finding that others are as sinful as we are. We could call that glee shady Freudianism.

  10. Vincent said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 8:49 am

    Like I said, it's worse for him if she's lying. It's worse for both of them, in fact, so there's your incentive for her to lie.

    I didn't raise the spectre of misogyny or hypocrisy. Just thinkin' out loud.

  11. language hat said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 9:02 am

    I didn't raise the spectre of misogyny or hypocrisy. Just thinkin' out loud.

    Thinkin' out loud that "it's perfectly acceptable to be an unapologetic misandrist in the academy," and since you're the first person to bring it up, I'd say you raised it. Also, "misandrist" is far from being a coinage, considering that it's in the dictionary.

    Anyway, a delightful story all around.

  12. Vincent said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 9:42 am

    @language hat
    I'm more than happy to talk about my own issue offline if you're interested. I realize I'm veering off a bit lately. It involves violent right wing feminist Russian literary theorists with substance abuse issues and police records, and receiving death threats.

    I only realized this isn't a neologism 2 seconds after I'd posted, given that I have literally never, ever, encountered its use to the extent that it's an arab word for snow. I'm inferring that you had to check from your language – and a google fight between misandry and misogyny agrees.

    Is misandry in your spell checker's word list?

  13. Vincent said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 10:09 am

    Having never met you, it's perhaps unfair of me to assume you're also selectively tolerant of this sort of behavior based on your profession. I hope that you aren't.

    [(myl) I've spent a certain amount of effort, over the years, trying to spotlight and debunk examples of the pseudo-scientific variety, e.g. "Are men emotional children?"; "The vast arctic tundra of the male brain"; and many others.

    At least I think I have. I'm not entirely sure what you mean by "this sort of behavior".]

  14. John Lawler said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 10:25 am

    Love the data, hate the data-providing circumstances on occasion.

  15. Vincent said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 10:39 am

    Hate the data, the circumstances, the scene, the state, the consequences, the active and the passive abusers, and the loss to everyone.

  16. Jonathan said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 11:35 am

    Well, a priest of the Eastern Orthodox Church would penance him severely if he had actually committed adultery, but not if he had only lied about it. Bad thoughts are certainly bad in themselves, but bad actions are worse. Make of that what you will.

  17. Acilius said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 11:39 am

    "It involves violent right wing feminist Russian literary theorists with substance abuse issues and police records"

    Doesn't it always.

  18. tablogloid said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 12:17 pm

    The answer is simple: liar+hypocrite = politician

  19. Vincent said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 12:40 pm

    The cold war and stateside politics created some awfully strange bedfellows. Some of them got tenured.

  20. Chris said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 1:10 pm

    violent right wing feminist Russian literary theorists

    Are those literary theorists who happen to be violent, right-wing, feminist and Russian, or theorists who theorize about violent, right-wing, feminist Russian literature, or somewhere in between?

    And in either case, is there really more than one?

  21. Ken said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 1:53 pm

    I must be slow today, but I thought the only person's word we were accepting was Duvall's, since he was caught when he was boasting about the affair. Not sure how the woman's word enters into it.

    I love how Duvall has the stones to complain about "privacy" when, again, he was boasting about the affair to a colleague.

    [(myl) According to the most recent reports, both the lobbyist in question and Duvall himself now deny that there was any sex involved. Or at least, Duvall declines to admit anything:

    Assemblyman Duvall Denies Reports that He Had Affair
    I want to make it clear that my decision to resign is in no way an admission that I had an affair or affairs. My offense was engaging in inappropriate story-telling and I regret my language and choice of words. The resulting media coverage was proving to be an unneeded distraction to my colleagues and I resigned in the hope that my decision would allow them to return to the business of the state.

    As Josh Marshall puts it, "it was all just trash talk" on Duvall's part. However, these statements have to be interpreted in light of the fact that a possible quid pro quo of sex for votes would be, as I understand it, a serious violation of the law.]

  22. Nathan Myers said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 2:21 pm

    Acilius: shady Freudianism… I saw what you did there.

    Boingboing calls Michael Duvall "Open Mike".

  23. Vincent said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 3:05 pm

    This threadjacking was an entirely unintentional result of defending a position that slipped out of an emotional response. Listen: there are many really bad people in the world, slightly more than half of them are women, and slightly more than a quarter of all murders remain unsolved forever. I have another oddball theory.

  24. ShadowFox said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 4:16 pm

    The reports this morning said that Duvall is now claiming that "reports that [he] had an affair" are not true. This is almost like Tom Ridge complaining that the cover text of his own book is lying about the content of the book. All of these are a brand of political theatre in its most brazen form exemplified by Newt Gingrich claiming that a cell phone conversation between him and other Republicans that was illegally records and released to the press never took place because there was no evidence that it deed. Apparently, not being *legal* evidence is sufficient to make it not evidence at all.

    Duvall may be right–it just depend on what he meant by "affair" and "reports".

  25. HeyTeach said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 6:02 pm

    [Jesus said,] "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.' " (Mark 7:20-23)

    As a Christian man, as we can assume Duvall is, based on his involvement with "the family values mafia" (love the term), he would be familiar with the above passage of scripture. Based on his own publicly avowed standard of morality and THIS passage, he comes off better as a simple hypocrite, since that isn't mentioned per se here. Lying isn't either, unless you count "slander," as it could be considered if he lied about her involvement in the alleged affair.

    This is ALL about actus reus. If he has simply stopped with THINKING about an affair, or even stopped with INTENDING to have an affair, we would not be having this conversation. But he TALKED about it, whether it happened or not. So he's at least a hypocrite, where he looks best.

  26. Vincent said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 6:57 pm

    "this sort of behavior" i.e. the angry and self-righteous ranting of an individual who is long suffering at the hands of, primarily, opportunistic and violent members of the opposite sex, and no longer viewing it as an opportunity to be a better person.

  27. Mark P said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 6:59 pm

    If he had actually had sex as he says on the transcript I have seen, then dragging the other party into the public trashing of reputations would be inexcusably dishonorable, aside from the potential legal liabilities. If he is now telling the truth – that he was lying before – then trashing the other party's reputation is even worse, especially given the potential legal liabilities. If he is telling the truth about lying, then I think the most charitable characterization I can come up with is that he was behaving in the worst tradition of shameless, irresponsible, juvenile sexual braggadocio.

  28. Vincent said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 7:19 pm

    Finally on topic, Mark P., yes, there's nothing to condone about the man's behavior, one wonders what his mistresses saw in him.

  29. Brett said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 8:23 pm

    @Vincent– Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

  30. Vincent said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 11:38 pm

    That's one way of putting it… I feel just a little sorry for this big dumb guy who might have thought it was actually about him, but not too sorry for the lack of vigilance against the boldest and most shameful form of corruption. It was this woman's paid, job to pursue and influence him.

  31. Lemastre said,

    September 11, 2009 @ 5:28 am

    The Congressman was perhaps not just engaging in idle boasting, but committing gallantry. In this case helping the lady lobbyist garner a favorable performance review from her employer by testifying to the level of service she provided.

  32. Jay Lake: [links] Link salad for a sombre day said,

    September 11, 2009 @ 8:07 am

    […] sword of virtue against your enemies, your own armor had better damned well be spotless.) See also this post from Language Log. And yes, Duvall has since […]

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