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Good Murder

Posted by Ogged
on 04.12.03

Matthew Yglesias uses a thought experiment to respond to Daniel Drezner's dismissal of the impulse to keep one's hands clean of the current conflict. Matthew writes

the clean hands principle has a long and distinguished history in Western moral thought…many a classic ethical thought experiment is designed to provoke precisely the clean hands intuiton…Say you're a doctor who has five patients who are going to die if they don't receive organ transplants very quickly. Say there's a nurse in your hospital such that if you killed the nurse and parceled out her organs you could save all five patients — net gain in human lives: four. Do you kill the nurse? Just about everyone says no.

Sure they say no to that. Killing the nurse to save the patients isn't bombing Iraq to free Iraqis, it's bombing Louisiana to free Iraqis. Adjust the thought experiment a bit and you'll have a situation more analogous to that of the US and Iraq. Imagine an orphanage of 100 children, five of whom have become terminally ill. Imagine that you are nearly certain that one of the caretakers at the orphanage has deliberately poisoned the five children and you are confident that she will make others sick, though you don't know how much poison she has. You can kill the caretaker, but fifteen children, in addition to those ill, will die of fright when you do. Do you kill her?


 

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I listen, sometimes

Posted by Unf
on 04.12.03

This post got me thinking. Allow me to quote the relevant langauge in full:

The most important element of 'victory' -- the disarming of Iraq -- has proven to be a gigantic fraud. There has been no disarming because there were no arms in the first place. The only story of WMDs that hasn't been knocked down -- yet -- is the one about those 20 missiles. For all practical purposes, as far as is known, there are no WMDs. The Bushies lied like thieves. And who should expect otherwise? They lie about everything else. They make an honest man of Al Gore.

The first thing it got me thinking was that Max really doesn't like George Bush. The second thing it got me thinking it that it still seems awfully early to say no WMDs (or evidence that Iraq has recently and actively sought them) are out there. After all, US troops have only been in Iraq for a few weeks now, and it strikes me that they have been otherwise occupied for those few weeks.

However, those of us taking a let's-give-it-some-more-time approach to things (which would extend, I think, to questions of reconstruction and the shape of a new Iraqi government) should probably specify some kind of deadline for making definitive judgments. I'm thinking late July-ish. In fact, recent events suggest that Bastille Day would be especially apropos.


 

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Spare Us

Posted by Ogged
on 04.11.03

Drudge links to this bit of speculation that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Condoleezza Rice may face off for the Republican gubenatorial nomination in California in 2006. Two more ineffably unlikable candidates one can hardly imagine. In fact, not so ineffable: Schwarzenegger stinks of ambition and rank competitiveness, just like he did in the Pumping Iron movies; not so bad in a politician, as long as it's mixed with, well, with anything else, but Schwarzenegger strikes me as eager to run simply because it would be a great coda for his immigrant-made-good story. And somebody drop me a line when Condoleezza Rice exhibits just one tiny little nugget of self-doubt and reflectiveness.

Wasn't this going to be the reasonable and measured blog? My apologies, things have just been setting me off.


 

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Yes, I am not dead

Posted by Unf
on 04.11.03

Unf here. For all you new readers, I'm the other half of this blog. I've been horribly neglectful of my blogging duties of late. Fortunately, Ogged is a stalwart blogger and has more than made up for my absence. For those of you who care, I chalk up my absence to the fact that I could not go to Opening Day at Wrigley Field because it was like 8 f**king degrees that day and so have been depressed.

Either that or, very much unlike Ogged, I actually have a job that requires me to work from time to time.

I do plan to return to blogging and dazzle our loyal readers with my wit and wisdom over the next couple of days (and not insult them by calling them morons). Until then, enjoy this excellent site about tax policy, which I was surprised to discover is written in part by someone I actually know (sorta) in the flesh.

Also, for those looking for the lighter side of war, visit this fine site.


 

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EU and Stem Cells

Posted by Ogged
on 04.10.03

I guess not quite all the religious nuts made it to the new world. The EU votes to ban embryonic stem-cell research.


 

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Where's the Brake?

Posted by Ogged
on 04.10.03

Matthew Yglesias recognizes, in a particular, the core of the Bush Administration's political genius: they never overestimate the intelligence of the American public. Kevin Drum analyses another apposite instance. Put these two together and the full force of Matthew's question becomes clear: given that we're dealing with a public that will accept and even parrot poorly-argued, misleading, and simply untrue statements and an administration with a talent for making those statements, what can be said against an invasion of Syria that is not just a true and good argument, but will be rhetorically and politically effective?

This is an elitist argument. But it's about time to address the elitism taboo. The sorry state of primary and secondary education in the US is almost universally acknowledged. But one obvious implication isn't discussed: many people--liberal and conservative--are unfit to vote. That is, they do not have the proper training to analyze situations in such a way as to recognize even their own self-interest. Of course, as most political debates in the US are for/against or one/other, there are inevitably good arguments on both sides, but, as anyone who has watched pro- or anti-war protests lately realizes, the mass of people on both sides are inarticulate and ignorant and base their positions on an inchoate heap of opinions and emotions. This is not an anti-democratic argument. Quite the contrary, it is an argument for democracy against demagoguery. The legitimacy of democratic government trumps its inefficiency in all but the most limited and extreme circumstances; the right to vote belongs to each of us inviolably. But the distance between democracy and demogoguery is not a given, it has to be maintained by vigilance and effort. Here then, are a few steps that can be a part of that effort.

End all farm subsidies (read here to understand that this can work) and redirect those funds to primary and secondary education.

Read this book and model this course.

Institute a philosophy and logic requirement for high-school graduation.

Appoint Roger Schank Secretary of Education.

These may all seem politically infeasible, but as our President likes to say, I'm not here to negotiate with myself. We just undertook a war that I happen to support, but the fact that we undertook it on the force of weak and dishonest arguments is frightening.


 

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The End of Sunsets

Posted by Ogged
on 04.10.03

So Republicans want to revoke the sunset provisions of the Patriot, which would go into effect in 2005, and make the act permanent. I have just one question, half rhetorical, but half genuinely puzzled. Why? While they're getting great publicity from the fall of Saddam, why do something bound to be unpopular, even among many on the right? This kind of grab makes it very hard not to ascribe evil motives. Meanwhile, librarians are fighting back.


 

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Ali

Posted by Ogged
on 04.10.03

This story, about the boy who lost his arms and his parents in the bombing of Baghdad, is getting a lot of attention around the world.


 

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Heh'd Count

Posted by Ogged
on 04.09.03

Matthew Battles is the kind of reader a blogger needs. I posted a while back about being annoyed at the proliferation of "heh" as a comment. I tried to be kind and didn't mention the originator and chief culprit. But Mr. Battles has caught him out and has the data to prove it. Here's what he emailed me.

OK, Ogged. Now I'm annoyed. Thanks to your post on "heh", which I think I even disagreed with, I'm now annoyed by every Glenn Reynolds "heh" I see. On the other hand, it may also be the case that GR has stepped up the Hehing. Want data? The page I downloaded today contained 6 separate instances of "heh".
I think it's the smugness that gets me.
How about the "heh" watch? I'll start with some data:



Or maybe Instapundit is fronting for HEH Enterprises?

Indeed.


 

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Nuke the World

Posted by Ogged
on 04.09.03

I have a rather uninformed but strongly held opinion that we should use nuclear energy much more than we do. This, apparently, puts me in the company of Mark Kleiman. Take a look here for a good and reasonable discussion of the benefits of going nuclear.


 

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The Headlines

Posted by Ogged
on 04.09.03

The Al-Jazeera headline regarding the death of one of their correspondents yesterday: "Dead Al Jazeera correspondent deliberately targeted." Sure, this is "biased" but what we have to understand is that, in many ways, that's irrelevant. This is what people in the Arab world read and, often, believe. One of the arguments made against starting this war was that incidents like this become fodder for headlines like this; it won't be enough, with regard to public opinion in the region to have good intentions and practice restraint. The obvious retort is that we can't let ourselves be constrained by unfair reporting. But we can go about this campaign differently, especially now when almost all the resistance will come from people in civilian dress and the first and most important change is summed up in this quote from a US general. (story via Kaus)

My impression is that [the British] are much more sensitive to the fact that the fight is about the population in the cities, not the enemy forces in the city," he said. "Americans tend to see the fight as a medieval clash of the titans, with the population on the sidelines, while the British view it as a fight between two sides for the support of the people.

The rest of the article has more detail about how to successfully conduct a "liberation." Just about everyone agreed that we would win the war and some jublilation is inevitable, but the hard part is just beginning.


 

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I Spy...

Posted by Ogged
on 04.09.03

Two things jump out from this "Saddam Likely Dead" article.

On Monday afternoon, Saddam showed up with his bodyguard entourage and entered the building, the eyewitnesses said. The dictator was being tracked by the CIA, a CIA-recruited spy and a Delta commando.

Am I to believe that there's a lone commando trailing Saddam? If so--not to glorify the military and buy into the hype or anything--that guy is a stud.

U.S. informants did not see Saddam leave the building before the bombs hit.

Does this mean anything? We've all seen the crater the four bombs made. Just how close would you be staying after calling in airstrikes? Maybe they were able to keep an eye on the location from a distance, but "not seen leaving" isn't exactly...surprising.


 

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Dead Sons

Posted by Ogged
on 04.09.03

I have to admit that I haven't been worrying much about Iraqi military casualties, thinking that regular units had surrendered or deserted and that the Republican Guard members had thrown in their lot with Saddam, reaped the benefits for years and were now paying the price. But this quote from Dr. Safaa Khalaf at Umm Qasr Hospital convinces me that I was just blithe.

Many people here have sons who were soldiers. They were forced to join the army. Many people lost their sons.

We already know that people were forced to fight. What Tom Friedman describes in the piece the quote is taken from makes it pretty clear that the number of forced conscriptions was high and that fact, no matter what your views about the war, is just sad.


 

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Sparta Watch

Posted by Ogged
on 04.09.03

I wrote that we would know a sea change was happening in America when Sparta was the subject of revisionist rehabilitation. We're not there yet, but Maureen Dowd mentions Sparta in her latest column. We'll see if anyone picks it up...


 

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Supporting the Troops

Posted by Ogged
on 04.09.03

Jane Galt wonders why people opposed to the war claim to "support our troops."

All of our troops are volunteers. From what I can glean, a landslide majority of them support this war. In essence, they are going over to a foreign country, bearing immense personal hardship to do so, in order to fire deadly weapons at perfect strangers. If you think this is the kind of horribly wrong thing that most anti-war protesters, to judge from the signs, do, why on earth would you declare your support for the people carrying it out? It's like saying that you're against murder, but simultaneously declaring your "support" for the DeGenovese foot soldiers whacking errant customers.

A distinction needs to be made here between soldiers-as-citizens and soldiers-as-soldiers. The soldier-as-citizen may favor the war but the soldier-as-soldier has volunteered to participate in armed conflict regardless of his or her own beliefs regarding any particular conflict. Unless one is in principle opposed to the use of military force, it is this commitment that the soldier-as-soldier has made that makes him or her worthy of respect and support. To put it another way, one can support soldiers even when they are participating in a war one opposes because the soldiers have made the enormously impressive commitment to participate in a war their fellow citizens have chosen even if the soldiers themselves oppose it.


 

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Wipe that Face Off Your...

Posted by Ogged
on 04.08.03

Treated with the appropriate derision. Be sure to click on the pictures.


 

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Saddam and the Bomb

Posted by Ogged
on 04.08.03

Call me sentimental, but isn't getting ashed by a bomb a pretty easy way to go? Can't we hold off for a more public and painful demise? And nevermind my personal preferences, it would make great and effective theater. Well, you take what you can get.


 

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I'm OK, You're Gay

Posted by Ogged
on 04.07.03

There's a pretty interesting Andrew Hacker article about sexuality in the NYRB. There were a couple of bits that caught my eye. First is this very concise and obvious-when-you-hear-it explanation of changing genders and being attracted to the (newly) same sex.

...one woman made the change so she could become a male homosexual. He has been asked why he didn't remain a woman, who could as easily sleep with men. He replies that this misses the point: his basic identity is male and gay, not female and heterosexual.

And there was Hacker's gloss on the proclivity of conservatives (cheap shot, sue me) to think of homosexuality as a choice conditioned by environmental factors.

[This] seems to arise from a conservative wish that homosexuality did not exist, accompanied by the belief that eliminating it is possible. Hence the view of conservatives that identifying oneself as gay is either a freely made choice or results from events and influences in one's upbringing that could or should have been avoided.

Leaving aside the rather massive fact that "homosexual" and "heterosexual" are unhelpful terms, I would say that among those Hacker is calling "conservative" (whatever that means), the wish, at bottom, is very much for homosexuality to exist, so that it can be found and condemned.


 

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Snagonist

Posted by Ogged
on 04.07.03

Damn. I've recommended the Agonist a couple of times for having the best coverage of breaking news. But Sean-Paul Kelley, the man behind the site, took quite a few of his breaking news items from Stratfor and passed them off as his own. People can read the story and Mr. Kelley's response and decide what they think.

But one quote from the Wired story deserves some condemnation of its own. Columbia University Journalism professor Sreenath Sreenivasan is quoted as saying "If blogging wants to take itself seriously as journalism, then the rules of journalism apply: Don't plagiarize." First, why assume that blogging wants itself taken seriously as journalism? Blogging sometimes overlaps with journalism but it will be "taken seriously" on its own merits. Was the discussion of torture between bloggers "journalism?" No, but it was informative, honest and well-reasoned. And Kieran Healy's ruminations about a missing DVD certainly aren't journalism, but they do conjure a mischievous academic community to which many of us would like to belong. And why is "don't plagiarize" a rule specific to journalism? Plagiarism isn't bad because it's bad journalism, it's bad because it's dishonest. There are good, hard questions to ask of bloggers, but treating blogging as the amateur child of journalism misses the point.


 

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Nietzsche My Eye

Posted by Ogged
on 04.07.03

Brad DeLong has posted a particularly effective optical "illusion." For the incredulous, here are crops from boxes A and B for comparison.
compare.jpg

Brad notes that this is

the most impressive demonstration I've seen of just how *much* cognitive processing is going on in the rear of my cortex before the *I who is writing this* even gets a peak at what is coming in through the visual channel.

That's well (and precisely) put. But why be precise when you can shoot for prophetic? Here's Nietzsche in a similar, though less restrained, vein.

I maintain the phenomenality of the inner world, too: everything of which we become conscious is arranged, simplified, schematized, interpreted through and through-the actual process of inner "perception," the causal connection between thoughts, feelings, desires, between subject and object, are absolutely hidden from us-and are perhaps purely imaginary.

This sort of thing would be scoffed at in the academy today, but not because we've confronted the insight and articulated a view that accounts it, but just the opposite: we've barely begun to dismantle our accumulated fairy tales and the people doing the dismantling are, by and large, ideologically driven hacks who cost their project the credibility it deserves. Too bad for us.


 

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