Re: Situations

1

Cohen:

It's also ... that we know his bottom line. As his North Vietnamese captors found out, there is only so far he will go, and then his pride or his sense of honor takes over.

By this method, for instance, we know that McCain would never support the torture of prisoners.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:06 PM
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a lot of philosophers are vaguely familiar with situationist psychologists who think that there's very little predictive value to our folk-psychological character concepts.

Isn't this a widely held view across pretty much every discipline that studies the mind and behavior? If not, why not?

Also, what makes it even more absurd is that ROFL Cohen is arguing that because McCain was a POW he will be able to resist calls to... well, what? The ellipsis after "therefore" in your summary of his argument is actually specifically descriptive of Cohen's ideas about McCain's fundamental, uncrossable lines are: he just kind of trails off until wishful thinking.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:07 PM
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Ahem: Richard Cohen.

Also, I want Richard Cohen to go swimming in Charles Krauthammer's pool.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:07 PM
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Doesn't everybody think of the presidency as basically an award? A blue ribbon of sorts? It's not about governing.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:08 PM
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Thanks in large part to John Doris and Gil Harman, a lot of philosophers are vaguely familiar with situationist psychologists who think that there's very little predictive value to our folk-psychological character concepts.

I think about the Doris interview to which Weiner linked a lot in connection with McCain for just this reason. But it might be the case that you go with the electorate belief system you have, not the one you want, and that therefore you have to either accept the statement about McCain and move on or attack it in small rather than at its base.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:08 PM
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Also, I want Richard Cohen to go swimming in Charles Krauthammer's pool.

I would donate to build Krauthammer a deeper pool.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:08 PM
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Not to smear history all over your philosophy thread, but there's no better example of the mistaken assumption that battlefield courage translates into civilian leadership than the case of Union generals in the postbellum period. See, for example, US Grant and William Sherman. There are probably examples closer at hand, but I prefer to dwell in the nineteenth century.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:11 PM
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6: "dive in again, Chuck. This time it'll work for sure."


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:11 PM
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What's also interesting about McCain is that he doesn't seem to see the problems because he reasons monotonically from "John McCain has teh virtues." (Josh Marshall's made a lot of this point.)


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:11 PM
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7: there's also no better example of how poorly suited fighter pilots are to politics than all of them.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:11 PM
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The same is true for athletes, of course. But sports are just a metaphor for war, right? Or is it the other way around?


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:13 PM
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Perhaps more to the point, the sort of extraordinary physical courage McCain showed--because it matters a lot that he was tortured--may be the least useful characteristic for the POTUS to have. Is there anyone on earth less likely to be subjected to physical coercion? Or are we planning to defund the Secret Service?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:13 PM
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Oh look Ari knows real examples. How cute.

I think our surprise at the failure of generals to display political courage is like our surprise when, having come up heads four times in a row, a fair coin comes up heads again.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:15 PM
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11: And actors.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:16 PM
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9: the Army War College Thesis article in the NYT really drove this home for me; he believes that all of foreign policy (which is the only part of government he cares about) should be driven by the goal of making his life as a young POW undergoing torture easier. He reasons exactly and solely from his own experience. We must do everything we can do make twenty-something fighter pilots believe in the cause they were fighting for when they get shot down; to this end, no sacrifice is too great!

It's really fascinating how much it does represent the fighter pilot mentality (e.g., superstar who is at the center of a massive enterprise to keep him alive and happy, and in return must face incalculable risk with calm professionalism). Ol' Sky Captain "One Note" Andy Rooney.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:16 PM
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If accomplishments and fine qualities from 40 years ago are sufficient proof of those same qualities existing now, Michael Jackson would be considered a damn awesome guy to this day.

Also, there are few situations more clear-cut as to who is the bad guy and what the right thing to do is than the one that McCain faced extremely well in Vietnam. He hasn't shown particularly good judgement in any less transparent, which is a worrying sign. Perseverance and sheer cussedness for honor mean nothing without being able to tell the truly honorable side.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:16 PM
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11: there have been athletes who made fine politicians. (Okay, I can only think of one. But I bet there's more.)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:17 PM
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10: If Chuck Yeager's still alive, he's totally got my vote for president -- or god even. But only if he runs with Chuck Norris.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:17 PM
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You are so totally wrong. All those keyboard commandos WOULD TOO be brave under torture, because they did not cry when their orc was killed by a paladin.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:20 PM
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Isn't the point just that unique skill sets aren't usually transferable to other venues? This is why I try to avoid seeing even the best painters give public lectures about their art. Sometimes they're good, sure, but usually it's just crushingly evident that their medium is the canvass.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:23 PM
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Shorter 20: This post is stupid.

Even shorter 20: Labs is stupid.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:24 PM
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20: I think that way of putting it doesn't do justice to what's interesting about the thesis. The point is more like: our ordinary conception of what the skill set is or what it's good for is wrong in an important way.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:25 PM
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Shorter 22: ari is banned.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:26 PM
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Finding that it's Richard Cohen, not some unfamiliar personality to try to get a sense of, does make it easier to dismiss.

The will to connect these two kinds of courage, more particularly to derive everything from the possession of a young man's battlefield or wartime courage, is what interests me. I say will because it's more than ignorance, a sort of social imperative.

Wonder how this works in Cohen's social circles, how it's reinforced. Presentation seems too adamant for there to be much disagreement going on around him.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:26 PM
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23: tell me how my ass tastes, Ari.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:26 PM
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Ah hell. 25: I will now taste my own ass.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:27 PM
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This is why I try to avoid seeing even the best painters give public lectures about their art

So courageous, ari. Have you ever considered public office?


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:28 PM
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I think this post gives Richard Cohen too much credit -- as if it is a normal thought an intelligent person might have that since John McCain showed courage as a POW in Vietnam the fact that he lies again and again about his positions on the issues is irrelevant. This isn't an intuitively sound argument that may have a flaw -- it is just idiocy.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:29 PM
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25: Oddly, almost exactly like Shaq's.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:30 PM
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27: If you prefer, you may substitute "musicians" for "artists." Etc.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:32 PM
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28: I guess that's the question: is he speaking for a class or just being an individual, isolated idiot?


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:34 PM
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The implications that Obama is a traitor make a lot more sense now. After all, what did Viet Cong* torturers prove, if not that John McCain would never sign a paper betraying his country? We have no such proof for Obama - for all we know, as soon as Osama got him in a headlock, BHO would sign the Unconditional Surrender to al Qaeda!

Obviously, McCain will happily flip-flop on anything less, but who cares? At least he won't sign papers that Our Enemies want him to sign.

* Actually, wouldn't they be ARVN?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:37 PM
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But, peep, part of the point is that people are less likely to believe he's really flip-flopped or won't do exactly what he says he'll do because he's already proven he's not That Kind of Man. For an awful lot of people, facts don't change the impression.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:40 PM
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31: Do Cohen, Broder, Weisberg and a few other of those jock-sniffers that rode on McCain's bus constitute a class?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:40 PM
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mistaken assumption that battlefield courage translates into civilian leadership than the case of Union generals in the postbellum period

I can't let this smear pass by; Grant I believed showed courage and leadership in sticking with Reconstruction at least in principle, and should get some credit for it. So we can hate Hayes.

Know little about Sherman.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:42 PM
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Shouldn't we admire Sherman for having the fortitude to turn down the opportunity to be president ? (Not that I know enough about Sherman to know if he ever really had that opportunity.)


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:43 PM
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22 is correct in that the issue is that the concept of "courage" does not reflect any particular generalizable underlying reality; the issue is whether there is a skill set at issue at all.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:46 PM
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* Actually, wouldn't they be ARVN?

I am fairly sure McCain wasn't flying for North Vietnam, so no.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:47 PM
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39

If Chuck Yeager's still alive, he's totally got my vote for president -- or god even. But only if he runs with Chuck Norris.

But only if they run naked. America deserves two buck Chucks.

Look! John McCain "is aware of the internet."


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:48 PM
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I has a flavor, Populuxe.

39.1 was terrible, terrible genius, though.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:51 PM
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I think I'm just agreeing with Sifu in 37 here -- it's that pre-pwned thing when you click open the comments to say something and find it said in the very last comment -- but I don't think there even is something called "courage" that usefully describes political scheming to become President and decisions made under torture. McCain wants to become President and has been acting rationally to maximize his chances of doing so. The whole "if he were COURAGEOUS he would agree with me even when it's unpopular!" is layering our own drama on top of their cold calculations.

I think McCain doesn't really care too much about domestic economic policy anyway, so his flip-flops in that area aren't really a principles issue for him.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:53 PM
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35: Bob?

36: I don't think there was ever a draft-Sherman-for-president movement. Probably because Grant went first and made people think twice about having Union generals, especially his good buddies, run the country.

37: Being a good soldier carries with it a set of skills, no?

39.2: But probably not it's traditions.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:54 PM
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37: Being a good soldier carries with it a set of skills, no?

Well, sure, but the question is whether "courage" per se is a single skill, or even a set of skills, that can be meaningfully or coherently described singularly.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:56 PM
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Speaking of coherence, 43 finds it in short supply. Hopefully Ari will be able to decipher my intended meaning.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:57 PM
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45

It's also -- and more important -- that we know his bottom line.

Namely "John McCain is always right." Ugh.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:59 PM
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+,


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:59 PM
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41.2: For quite some time I've been looking for a quote from JFK, circa the 1960 campaign. In said quote, which I'm increasingly sure I've made up, Kennedy was responding to an adviser who wanted him to weigh in on some bit of domestic policy, quite likely the Civil Rights movement. "Domestic affairs aren't really the president's business; that stuff's for pussies," or so I've imagined he said. In other words, McCain, a soldier just like JFK, is Kennedyesque -- in addition to all of his other virtues.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:00 PM
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readfoxgolhordes!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:00 PM
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33: That would be a plausible argument, but it is not what Richard Cohen is arguing (I just now followed the links till I got to the actual column and read it). Cohen actually goes through a long list of issues that McCain has flipped on -- and then says all this doesn't matter for McCain, because his record as a POW proves that he has a core, and , for all we know Obama may have a hollow center like a cheap chocolate Easter bunny.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:00 PM
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If you look at it cold, although it's a triumph of the human spirit it's also a really good reason McCain shouldn't be President: people who have had extreme things happen to them shouldn't be in executive positions. Unfair, but true.


Posted by: Jeff Rubard | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:01 PM
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||

Best monument ever.

|>


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:01 PM
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42.1: Sorry. Funny how people recognize my comments.

Checked out Wikipedia and Grant ws pretty bad overall. But probably C+ to B on Reconstruction and black Civil Rights. He persisted longer than he had to, and with ever decreasing support.

Ya know, I just can't get into the columnist bashing, since I never read those guys and don't care what they say.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:02 PM
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44: Right. I knew what you meant the first time. And I've been thinking about it since. So, I wonder: is courage any different from any other ineffable talent? I'm sure that's a stupid question. But I'm kind of stupid, especially so having dragged my family and dog across the country yesterday.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:03 PM
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53: well, what talent, right? Some talents, like e.g. "recognizing the color blue", or "standing on one leg for a super fucking long time", are quite obviously discrete things which generalize to any particular circumstance where they would be applied. Other skills, like "getting people to do what you want" or "lying convincingly", are less generalizable, but given the commonalities among people, probably usefully discussed as character traits. "Courage" as a quality gets more into the era of things like "being justifiably humble about your accomplishments" or "avoiding hurt feelings" in the category of things that are almost totally situational and sort of useless to talk about as persistent character traits. I don't know if there are other examples that are as commonly misconstrued as ineffable pieces of identity as "courage" is, but I'm sure they're out there.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:08 PM
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#40. Heavens. That man needs to eat more prunes.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:11 PM
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Political courage is such BS because it's part of our wild romanticization of politics. These guys aren't Horatio at the bridge.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:15 PM
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"getting people to do what you want"

This, assuming it's not the result of coercion, often ends up being put down under the category of "charisma," which isn't so much more definable than "courage."


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:17 PM
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Thanks in large part to William Shatner, I am vaguely familiar with situationist psychologists who think that there's very little predictive value to our folk-psychological character concepts.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:18 PM
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These guys aren't Horatio at the bridge.

More like Horatio hearing some guy going on and on about some guy named Yorick?


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:18 PM
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like a cheap chocolate Easter bunny.

Racist


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:19 PM
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54: Okay, but true courage -- which, let us stipulate, there is very little evidence to suggest McCain possesses -- is something that often can come in handy. And such a trait, whether it's a skill or something else entirely -- probably the latter, right? -- would have implications for politicians. It would also certainly be the sort of thing that would be helpful under actual, not to be confused with partisan, fire.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:19 PM
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57: I rescind my attempt to invent a valid category. I'm willing to further admit that any attempt to create valid categories of social talent at this point are ascientific and quite possibly doomed to failure.

Standing on one leg a long fucking time while identifying the color blue, however, I reaffirm as a coherent skill.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:20 PM
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61: so you're saying that "true courage" is the ability to risk physical danger? Under what conditions? Any? And why would that be useful for politicians?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:21 PM
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http://www.unfogged.com/archives/comments_4567.html#186399Obligatory link to archives.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:22 PM
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I think I put the wrong tag in there. link


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:22 PM
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Possibly the greatest archives link I've ever seen.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:23 PM
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60: When the category is "things that are hollow", isn't a cheap chocolate Easter bunny the first thing that comes to mind?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:25 PM
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Can we start impugning his war record yet? Or is that purely October-sports?


Posted by: Rottin' in Denmark | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:29 PM
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68: is it his fault he was brainwashed by the VC to become a secret fifth columnist attempting to destroy the US from within decades past the cancellation of Operation Gimpy Bastard by the secret ChiCom biomedical team that -- for all intents and purposes -- created him? No it is not.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:31 PM
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61, 62:I presume he meant "Profiles in Courage" kind of courage, like the guy opposing Johnson's impeachment or Kennedy bucking LeMay.

Not to be necessarily confused with contrarianism or stubbornness, which neither I not George Bush know anything about.

there's very little predictive value to our folk-psychological character concepts.

FL covered it all in the post.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:31 PM
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70.1: but the point is that "Profiles in Courage" kind of courage isn't a single thing in any meaningful way.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:33 PM
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56: that'd be a convenient argument for politicians who have none. "Willingness to prioritize policy outcomes of your actions over possible political consequences to yourself" is real enough. Though, if you're better than D.C. conventional wisdom at figuring out the odds of a vote actually putting your ambitions in jeopardy, you can do good while doing well, and "degree to which you are good at playing a Frank Capra character to the press" does not actually correlate well with how effective or moral a politician you are.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:33 PM
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It would also certainly be the sort of thing that would be helpful under actual, not to be confused with partisan, fire.

It would be pretty useful if the terrorists hijacked Air Force One, like in that Harrison Ford movie, and then the President had to open his own personal can of whoop-ass.

I don't know whether Obama or McCain would be better in that situation. On the one hand, Obama is a lot younger and would probably be better in a fight. But he would probably try to negotiate, hold a demonstration of some sort, some kind of useless community organizing thing. Also, McCain could actually land the plane after the terrorists killed the pilot.

And we already know that McCain wouldn't talk if the terrorists tried to torture him to get national secrets. They better have at least five years to spare to do it, I can tell you that! Obama would fold in six months, tops.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:37 PM
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You joke, but just wait until the aliens arrive in their giant ships. Who will suit up then?


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:42 PM
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This, assuming it's not the result of coercion, often ends up being put down under the category of "charisma," which isn't so much more definable than "courage."

Don't think I agree with this. I think that Sifu's exactly right that "courage" is a very approximate concept, one that is far from translatable across situations (even physical courage doesn't always translate - base jumping is clearly courageous in some sense, but there's no reason to think that base jumpers would be brave under fire).

But "charisma" describes how people respond to an individual, and I have trouble conceiving of it as a one-off event. Like the unlikable nerd who, in an emergency, uses previously-untapped charisma to get people to follow his leadership. Does this happen?

Charisma obviously ebbs and flows, and doesn't affect all observers equally, but I feel like it's a real trait, and one that isn't just situational (look at BHO's charisma in big rallies and in that video at his HQ after the primaries were over).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:43 PM
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I think instead of debates, we should torture the two candidates on live television and see which of the two breaks first and expresses support for the opposing candidate's platform.

The track record says McCain would win, but Obama might surprise. And if he did, we could vote for him secure in the knowledge that we really know what he's made of. Inside.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:44 PM
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Also, McCain could actually land the plane after the terrorists killed the pilot.

No, he couldn't. Air Force One is a 747, and McCain was trained to fly A-4 Skyhawks.

/unfunny internet pedantry


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:46 PM
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I'll grant that courage is hard to categorize, thus my use of "ineffable" above. But the willingness to face what one fears, especially things that well might be unpleasant, is something like courage, isn't it? And the ability to do that without losing focus is probably another element of the same trait. In which case, yes, courage is something that leaders can use.

Examples: going before AIPAC and telling the irrationally angry Jews to fuck themselves would require courage; or, borrowing from the past, deciding that fighting a civil war rather than allowing the Union to fragment required courage; ad did refusing to buckle under to the isolationists in the run-up to World War II. The problem here is my inability to separate courage, which do think has political utility, from judgment, which is clearly far more important.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:46 PM
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I don't know whether Obama or McCain would be better in that situation.

One's black, one's white; one's old, one's young. Obviously they'd pair up to fight the aliens/terrorists together.


Posted by: Gabriel | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:46 PM
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There are other problems: missing words, transposed letters, general inability to reason, finding myself in my parents' home in Cleveland, etc.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:47 PM
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But the willingness to face what one fears, especially things that well might be unpleasant, is something like courage, isn't it? And the ability to do that without losing focus is probably another element of the same trait.

But see, this is what we're casting doubt on. The willingness to face one's fears in one situation does not translate to other situations; the fact that somebody can face down e.g. their fear of snakes does not mean they will be able to face down their fear of disappointing their father.

77 actually makes a point I was thinking of making about the transportability of skills.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:50 PM
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"Willingness to prioritize policy outcomes of your actions over possible political consequences to yourself"

True enough. But A) it's rare that said consequences really involve losing an election, B) remaining politically viable is part of being effective, C) if something you support is genuinely, for real, politically unpopular, you ought to think hard about whether you are actually, you know, wrong about it. Democracy can be a good decisionmaking method.

I think most of the problems politicians have is this kind of combination of laziness and lack of imagination in following some stupid Beltway consensus or consensus among advisors that they haven't really investigated very hard. I think it's relatively rare that they actually choose something that their constituents, if properly informed, would disagree with, and in such cases the politician is often wrong anyway.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:50 PM
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Decision '08: New Hotness vs. Old and Busted?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:50 PM
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but the point is that "Profiles in Courage" kind of courage isn't a single thing in any meaningful way

Sifu, you may be better read here than I am, and if so just say I'm wrong, but I don't think you're right. I think there is actually, a single meangingful "Profiles in Courage' kind of thing. (Or at least there's good reason to think so, and little reason to think otherwise, at least for a lot of the things we'd put under that umbrella.) That's actually a fairly narrow set of activities. What there is not is any single meaningful human quality that envelopes everything we traditionally try to group under the label "courage"--rescuing people from a burning building, standing your ground when badly outnumbered in a fight, admitting personal mistakes, taking unpopular stands on issues of principle, confronting opponents, speaking truth to power, hitting a game-winning three pointer, etc.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:53 PM
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81 sort-of continued: the real lesson from psychology (or, okay, from cognitive science and the failures of AI, which is all I actually know about), is that our ability to determine actual functional groups from introspection and anecdotal observation of behavior is very, very limited, and continuing to try to do that is just going to lead to us inventing new categories which are as fallacious as the old categories.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:53 PM
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75 helps. Maybe actual courage, if such a thing exists, is importable to any situation. In other words, a base jumper that will also face enemy fire and tell the machers at AIPAC to fuck off is actually courageous.

Put another way, my five-year-old son loves roller coasters. And he enjoys movies and books that would scare other kids. But he's terribly frightened of the dark and of disembodied voices (even nice ones). I don't think he's courageous for doing the stuff he likes. But if he learns to control his fear about the dark, disembodied voices, and all sorts of other stuff, well, then he's a maverick and should be president.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:54 PM
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75: I agree that charisma is not as much of a discrete situation dependent attribution as courage. I don't know that it's all that easy to define, though. Hasn't Bush's charisma - or I guess, the number of people who find him charismatic - waxed and waned with situations?


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:55 PM
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No, he couldn't. Air Force One is a 747, and McCain was trained to fly A-4 Skyhawks.

Bullshit! The tower would talk him down, fill him in on the differences in detail, and his innate studly pilot skills would do the rest. This would add just enough suspense to the ending -- it would be boring if he'd been trained on a 747.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:55 PM
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63

"so you're saying that "true courage" is the ability to risk physical danger? Under what conditions? Any? And why would that be useful for politicians?"

The Presidency is a dangerous job as history shows.

Personally I am afraid of flying which would be a serious problem for a national politician.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:56 PM
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86 to 81, even if only by accident. And now I think I'm done commenting out of my ass -- which tastes like peaches. Because really, I have no earthly idea what I'm talking about. I can't define courage. And I'm a tremendous coward.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:56 PM
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I haven't read the thread, but there are also philosophers who think that Doris et al. misinterpret the data, you know; I'm pretty sure that at least one of {Jeff Seidman, Alice Crary} dispute the conclusions typically drawn by such situationist types, but since I no longer have Crary's book with me I can't confirm or disconfirm my suspicion regarding her.

And actually Seidman perhaps talks more about the view that, if empirical factors can cause one to transgress a supposedly deontological principle, it was actually utilitarian all along, and denies that it's correct.

But one must be careful about how courage-in-committee-meetings, predicted from courage-on-the-battlefield, is supposed to manifest itself; it might be too strong to insist that it manifest itself in actually doing the courageous thing.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:58 PM
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I am imagining someone talking about courage in the voice of the priest talking about marriage from The Princess Bride.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:58 PM
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he's terribly frightened of the dark and of disembodied voices (even nice ones). ...But if he learns to control his fear about the dark, disembodied voices, and all sorts of other stuff, well, then he's a maverick and should be president.

He better get that voices thing under control. The White House is completely haunted; last thing the nation needs is your kid running screaming onto the South Lawn in his underwear when the ghost of Abe Lincoln comes to him in the night and tells him what the nation needs him to do.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 2:58 PM
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This thread, so far, is refuted by Jackie Robinson and Bill Russell.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 3:00 PM
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93: He has a preternatural ability to differentiate allies from enemies, usually by using the eyes as a window into the soul. So he should be fine. Unless Lincoln's ghost is wearing sunglasses.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 3:03 PM
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96

Or am I thinking of Bennett Helm? Shit, I used to have a brain.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 3:06 PM
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97

Or ... or ... or ...

Fuck.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 3:06 PM
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97: A brilliant depiction of the frustration of not being able to remember something. I felt like I was there.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 3:09 PM
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Actually I was thinking of Kieran Setiya, who cites Gopal Sreenivasan.

Though maybe those other people also say similar things. I don't know. I suppose there's a straightforward adaptation of some of the things Helm says into the same general point.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 3:09 PM
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100

Kobe demonstrates courage everywhere.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 3:09 PM
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101

deciding that fighting a civil war rather than allowing the Union to fragment required courage

But is it the kindof courage that is foreshadowed by battlefield courage? Lincoln made fun of his own "war" experience, suggesting that he hadn't been brave even in the face of no danger. But he wasn't afraid to wrestle frontier toughs as a young man, so maybe he did possess physical courage as well.

Maybe the proper concept isn't courage so much as sang froid.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 3:10 PM
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Some talents, like e.g. "recognizing the color blue", or "standing on one leg for a super fucking long time", are quite obviously discrete things which generalize to any particular circumstance where they would be applied.

It's not obvious to me that "recognizing the color blue" is particularly discrete.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 3:19 PM
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Given that I was banned way up in the 20s, can I retract everything, except 78.2 and the funny stuff, I've said since? Judgment is all that matters. Courage is both impossible to define and likely, where it exists, to create more problems than it solves.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 3:24 PM
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100:Kobe!

You mock. But not only did Robinson and Russell demostrate couurage in two unrelated areas, on and off the field, but were predicted to do so. I don't think it is required that the fine grain characteristic be universally demonstrable (in any area) nor that the prediction or correlation be always accurate. Only sometimes, in some areas, to be useful as a broad characteristic.

Let us check MoH recipients, before Medal inflation, which may be a better gauge of battlefield courage.
I give you Audie Murphy, who went into acting without talent or the usual physical attributes (no Rock Hudson, he). And I give you Bob Kerrey, who dated Debra Winger.

And I have given you the only MoH recipients I can think of. (Inouhe?)


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 3:29 PM
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A series of links brought me to this thread, which is pretty detailed.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 3:29 PM
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82:
"I think it's relatively rare that they actually choose something that their constituents, if properly informed, would disagree with, and in such cases the politician is often wrong anyway."

That "if properly informed" does almost all the work in that sentence, doesn't it? If you're genuinely convinced that an action is right, you tend to think that most people would agree with you if properly informed.

"Remaining politically viable is part of being effective" is true, but is also the all purpose overused excuse for lack of political courage. The risk of a vote losing you the next election or losing the Democrats their majority is usually: (1) remote (2) hard to calculate exactly; the contribution to bad policy is far more certain.

I agree that most political cave-ins are not actually on votes that would likely put you at serious risk of losing your job or losing the Dems their majority, and that the problem is as much lazily following Beltway consensus as genuinely playing the odds--a savvy Democratic politician from many districts can be very effective & very liberal without taking much personal risk of losing his/her seat. But the willingness or lack thereof to take any political gamble for policy results, even if your odds are actually pretty good, is still relevant.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 3:37 PM
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To me the real questions here have nothing to do with whether Who's the Funnyman Here? Richard Cohen is in fact right or wrong? (BTW he's wrong, wrong, wrong and wronger.) To me he is both pushing the argument on the public as well as to the rest of the national political press of "This is an important part of the narrative? Do we agree?"

The real questions then are:
"Is this how the members of the press are going to play it?" Most of them yes, would be my answer.
and
"Will this resonate with the public?" The propensity of the public to believe this bit of folk psychology is more relevant than whether it is in fact right or wrong. And I think most will. Really it is about the only thing he has going for him for anyone who isn't in the crazed 25%, so I don't think (hope) it is enough to put him over the top, but it is the crux of one big battle Obama will be fighting through the whole campaign.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 3:39 PM
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Shorter 107: We get the Richard Cohens we deserve.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 3:41 PM
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McCain has some guts, sure, but I established years ago that 9/11 hijackers have more courage than bomber pilots.


Posted by: Bill Maher | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 3:50 PM
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OT, but necessary. I retract the statement about Medal inflation, at least in respect to the MoH.

Seven awarded since Vietnam.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 3:52 PM
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You go to an election with the media you have, not the media you might want or wish to have.


Posted by: Don Rumsfeld | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 3:53 PM
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Come to think of it, does McCain *have* flip-flops? And if so, isn't that a little dangerous for a man his age? He could trip in them and break a hip.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 4:34 PM
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102: Insofar as there are specific receptors in the retina which respond to that color (which I... think there are... uh oh) it is.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 5:23 PM
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Insofar as there are specific receptors in the retina which respond to that color

There are, in a broadish sense. But it's not that simple. Color receptors distributions are surprisingly non-homogenous across the population with no obvious effect (on average) on the ability to perceive color. The brain is a strange place.

||
You know what's really stupid? Let's say you haven't played your instrument for a long time, and last night you overdid it to the point of loosing a lot of skin on your fingers. Then it would be really stupid to dice up a bowl of jalapenos with those same fingers, uncovered.
|>


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 5:30 PM
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It's not obvious to me that a person's recognizing the color blue, and there being receptors in a person's eye that respond specifically to the color blue, are the same thing, at all.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 5:34 PM
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re: 113

Colour perception is pretty strange. It doesn't come down to just retinal receptors that respond to particular wavelengths of light. See Land's famous experiments where he 'games' colour perception using restricted sets of wave-lengths of light, for example.

A version recreated here:

http://land.t-a-y-l-o-r.com/


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 5:35 PM
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That should be "a person's ability to recognize the color blue", of course, since obviously the presence of the receptors isn't the recognition of the color.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 5:35 PM
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"Played your instrument" is a euphemism, isn't it? To the point of losing the skin on your fingers?? Gross.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 5:36 PM
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Let's say you haven't played your instrument for a long time
IYKWIM, AITYD


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 5:36 PM
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114: Let's say you haven't played your instrument for a long time, and last night you overdid it to the point of loosing a lot of skin on your fingers.

Self-abuse: Ur doin it rong

(pwned on preview, but mine is canonical)


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 5:37 PM
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dammit, pwned by Brock. And Brock wasn't even very quick.



Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 5:38 PM
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112: does McCain *have* flip-flops?

What we should be asking is: Does Obama have NLF tire-sandals?


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 5:38 PM
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John Kerry showed considerably more physical courage than McCain by ordering his boat directly into the teeth of enemy fire, and Richard Cohen stood up for Kerry against the flip-flopping charge in the same way, so it makes sense... Wait, that didn't happen? Cohen never stood up for Kerry the way he's endlessly defended McCain? Huh, I wonder what could explain that?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 5:46 PM
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And I have given you the only MoH recipients I can think of. (Inouhe?)

Smedley Butler, of "war is a racket" fame (who supposedly stood down the Businessmen's Plot to depose FDR in 1933, although I think neither at the time nor now are people really convinced that this actually amounted to a real plan). I thought Chesty Puller, but he was a multiple Navy Cross recipient. Alvin York.

(Why doesn't America have a George Cross? Is it just because assholes like John Tenet would get it?)


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 6:39 PM
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We need more names on the model of "Smedley Butler" and "Chesty Puller."


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 6:42 PM
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THEN maybe we can have a George Cross.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 6:42 PM
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We haven't had a carp thread in awhile, have we?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 6:51 PM
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what i read today, stupid yahoo news, that Sarkozy's wife Carla Bruni run before him scared during the havoc caused by that israeli soldier who committed a suicide
how people can be so judgemental, anybody'd run, before or after, how does it matter?
strange that the journalist had to mention that
if Sarkozy run before his wife it would look even like comical


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 7:01 PM
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Smedley Butler and Chesty Puller were both Marines. Thus endeth the lesson.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 7:14 PM
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whereas Big McLargehuge and Flint Ironstag were members of the Air Force.


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 7:22 PM
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Alvin York, Audie Murphy.

What I just found out is that it was given between the war to Richard Byrd and Charles Lindbergh, who were certainly daring aviators, but not quite what we expect.

The typical recipient has died, usually trying to save others. People who fling themselves on grenades are the archetypal awardees.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 7:52 PM
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People who fling themselves on grenades are the archetypal awardees.

I heard stories of this type from the Korean war. The Chinese had a famous hero of this type named Huang Jiguang. He's still very famous in China, but, IIRC (and I can't document it) there's some question as to whether he ever actually existed. There's no doubt that such heroic martyrs existed, but Huang's hagiopgraphy apparently is riddled with inconsistencies.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:05 PM
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I do believe that going most-way through grad school prepares one for being held and tortured as a POW. Locked in a small uncomfortable space with little light or human contact or decent food or healthcare. Enduring the torment of uncertainty, boredom. Mulishly refusing to cooperate, to write anything, or to better one's condition. Physical torture would be bad, but at least you'd know you were real.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:19 PM
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Eighteen US soldiers won Medals of Honor for their actions at the massacre at Wounded Knee. But I think the award meant something different back then. I think it was given out for all kinds of things, including tying good knots. Or something. Anyway, I do know that more people won MOHs for Wounded Kneed than any other single engagement, including D-Day.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:32 PM
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Ari would say that, being a Communist.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:33 PM
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||

Iris is, at this moment, still complaining about the results of the primary:

AB: More people voted for Barack Obama.
Iris: No fair!

Now AB is explaining the concept of HRC endorsing BHO. "Yeah, but is she gonna convince people to vote for Barack Obama? [...] Why should I vote for him? I like she's."

America, you have 16 years to have a good female candidate for my daughter to vote for in her first presidential election. You're on notice.

|>


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:35 PM
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Mulishly refusing to cooperate, to write anything, or to better one's condition.

I'm writing some things!


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:51 PM
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136: Unfortunately, President Hager won't be elected until 2032.


Posted by: Gabriel | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:53 PM
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America, you have 16 years to have a good female candidate for my daughter to vote for in her first presidential election. You're on notice.

Jenna Bush will be of age by then. Her biography is becoming more and more centrist, in preparation for the inevitable.


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:54 PM
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more people won MOHs for Wounded Kneed than any other single engagement, including D-Day.

Well, it's not as if the soldiers at D-Day were slaughtering Injuns. I mean, that's inherently Honorable, so it only takes a little extra to get the Medal of Honor.

Now, if there were a Medal of Greatest Generationism, D-Day would've rocked the fuck out of it.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:56 PM
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ZOMG I quit


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:56 PM
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peter, I will fucking hunt you down and kill you if Jenna becomes President in 2024.

The fourth strip on this page is, I believe, the iconic contemplation of the possibilities of a JBush presidency.

"Is this truly the only Earth I can live on?"


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:00 PM
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People who fling themselves on grenades are the archetypal awardees

The latest two in Iraq were this kind.

With trepidation and no disrepect intended, I am reminded again of General Patton:"The idea is to get the other guy to die for his country."

Audie Murphy didn't get honored for getting killed on the way to the pillbox. Wounded Knee is obviously an atrocity, but I would kinda prefer that the nation's highest military award would be awarded, well, not for dying, ya know. Dying ain't the job.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:15 PM
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Not dying is its own reward.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:26 PM
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Guys, You are all aware of George Prescott Bush, son of Jeb? Comes with added hispanic ethnicy, which is a benefit and a hassle.


Posted by: Tiny Hermaphrodite | Link to this comment | 06-25-08 1:47 AM
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