Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Vacuum Decay, Verneshots, GRBS, Global Warming, Bird Flu...Earthquakes, Tidal Waves, Dogs and Cats Living Together...and Now: The Gay Apocalypse

From that wacky Meduim Lobster over at Fafblog:

"The falcon cannot hear the falconer, the pink-dimmed tide is loosed - and what gay beast, its hour come round at last, minces cattily towards Bethlehem to be born?"
Conservation: Not Just for Virtue Anymore

Um, whereas energy conservation used to be merely (please mentally insert scare quotes around the previous word) virtue, now president Bush is urging us to engage in it.

Like all nutty ideologies, anti-conservationism seems to have tripped over the facts. When push comes to shove and results are important, even this administration has to admit that conservation is important.

See, the reason it's good to be part of the reality-based community is that reality is, well, reality-based...
#2 al Qaeda Man in Iraq Killed?

Well, here's another in the long line of "number two men" we've gotten. (From al Jazeera)

Dunno whether to believe this stuff anymore.
Scott Horton on Prisoner Abuse

You've probably seen this at Balkinization by now. If not, please do go read it.

It frequently strikes me that the people who seem to have the most respect for the military are the least outraged by these revelations. Similarly and on a bigger scale, those who profess the most respect for the United States are least outraged when we do something wrong. I consider myself strongly pro-U.S. and at least somewhat pro-military (that is, I have a good bit of respect for the institution). And it makes me sick to hear about what we and our agents have been doing. Among other things, Horton drives home the point that the very principles that make the U.S. military admirable have been violated by the abuse of prisoners. The more information we get, the more our military begins to look like just another bunch of thugs--to look, that is, like almost every other military in the history of the world.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Flu Wiki

I'd recommend that you check out the flu wiki (which I learned about on The American Street).

Plan for the worst, hope for the best.

Saturday, September 24, 2005


Gosh, I'm starting to wonder whether these guys are honest...

The administration and the current Republican leadership seem to be taking a page from the Reagan administration's playbook--they're doing so many illegal, unethical and incompetent things that there's no way for the public to keep up with them. The public can only keep about one scandal in mind at any given time, so if you're going to do one thing wrong you might as well do ten or twenty.

Imagine what would be happening if liberals exhibited 1/100th of the frothing-at-the mouth demonic fury that conservatives displayed in their pursuit of, e.g., the fabricated Troopergate scandal or laughable Whitewater "scandal."

Can you believe that these are the people who are running the world?
AEI/Brookings Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Iraq War

Very interesting. Of course I'm in no way qualified to figure out whether these guys are right, but at least the analysis comes from folks on both sides of the spectrum.

Thanks to Statisticasaurus Rex for the link.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

What's a Sexist?

So, when I think of a sexist, I usually think of someone who more-or-less explicitly thinks that members of one of the sexes are morally inferior to members of the other sex. "Morally inferior" is lingo that's sometimes used to try to make it clear that not just any old beliefs about any old kind of inferiority make you a sexist. So, for example, I believe that women as a group are inferior to men as a group with regard to strength, but that, according to most sane people, does not make me a sexist.

What if, however, Smith doesn't have any explict beliefs about the relevant kinds of inferiority in the other sex? Suppose, even, that Smith explicitly believes that the sexes are morally equal. Roughly: their lives are equally valuable. And Smith isn't just saying the words--Smith really believes it.

Now: what if Smith is, however, more sympathetic towards members of Smith's own sex. Say Smith is more readily moved to action by images of members of Smith's own sex suffering than by images of members of the other sex. Say Smith on average gives $50 to charities that run ads featuring the former kinds of images, but only $35 to charities that run ads featuring the latter kind.

Is Smith a sexist?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Stop the Mass Murder in Darfur
Kristof, Mercenaries, and the Genocide Intervention Fund

Nicholas Kristof again tries to redirect our national attention to the catastrophe occuring in the Sudan. One might see this as a particularly high opportunity cost of the war in Iraq, though it is, of course, unlikely that we would have done anything to stop the Darfur tragedy anyway. Conservatives have repeated the litany of Saddam's sins ad nauseam, but it's clear that this is merely a post hoc attempt to justify a war undertaken for (allegedly) prudential reasons. (They were, you'll recall, all for Saddam when his atrocities were more-or-less in our national interest.) Even if we weren't overstretched in Iraq, we'd still be sitting on the sidelines in the Sudan. Well, too bad we're not just sitting on the sidelines, actually, instead of making things worse...

Last year I suggested that liberals should start thinking about funding mercenaries to defend the innocent in the Sudan. Although some liberals howled about this suggestions (I've since switched comments from Haloscan to Blogger, so the howls are gone), I stick by it, and, as I've noted, such solutions have worked in the past.

Now there's a group at Swarthmore, the Genocide Intervention Fund (GIF), that seeks to take similar action by sponsoring African peacekeepers already in the Sudan. As far as I can tell, they don't use money to purchase weapons, in part because the people who are likely to contribute to such an organization--liberals--are often irrationally averse to the use of force. (At any rate, that's one of the reasons suggested by this piece in the Sudan Tribune.)

Even if we stick with the GIF approach of not paying for weapons, we could supply the troops with enough other supplies that it would free up money in the AU to purchase more weapons for the peacekeepers. This may be a better idea than funding mercenaries--it's at least more practicable. On the other hand, mercenaries, like those of Executive Outcomes that brought order to Sierra Leone, are probably more reliable and less likely to do damage of their own than troops from, e.g., Nigeria which make up much of the AU force, and which have a history of abuses on peacekeeping missions (in, e.g., Liberia and Sierra Leone).

But whatever the solution, any even minimally rational and humane person must acknowledge that something must be done in the Sudan. We simply cannot stand by and do nothing.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

F*ck a Duck

Man, farm animals are to Bill O'Reilly like Jessica Alba is to me: a source of quite considerable fascination. Apparently not content with having flings with falafel and loofas, BO'R is now focused on goats and ducks. In fact, there's some evidence that this voyage of self-discovery has brought group sex with single-celled organisms into his sights, given that he has begun warning about the dangers of (note: I am not making this up) "poly-amorphous" marriage.

(Media Matters, via Atrios)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Life Imitates The Onion

My friend BethTheSociologist alerted me to this (at BoingBoing). Some say it's funnier to read the Onion parody first, then the straight story.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Our Man Al

This (from Kos, via Rilkefan's Rilkeblog) reminds me why I volunteered and voted for Gore.

Damn, reminds me also of the opening of Farenheit 9/11, the slowmo pics of Gore waving to the camera, and the voiceover asking what might have happened if the Florida votes had been counted. W couldn't even be bothered to cut his vacation short. Al was out there chartering flights and unloading boxes and wouldn't even talk to the press about it, lest it be politicized. That's a helluva guy right there.

Reminds me also of the differences between recent Democratic and Republican ex-presidents. Carter builds houses for the poor. Reagan mostly just rode horses. Bush '41 (and Quayle and Norman Swartzkopf) made mega-bucks by, among other things, lobbying Sierra Leone--on behalf of rich hunters--to let people come in and shoot their few remaining lions.

As you know, I disagree with the Dems on a lot of things, but they sure do nominate better human beings for president.
Tomorrow's Weather: Blood, Frogs to Fall From Sky

O.k., that's the end of my snarkiness over President Bush taking responsibility for the sub-optimal response to Katrina. Look, few people are more cynical about Mr. Bush than am I, but he's right in this case, and he's doing the right thing. It's easy of course, to say a bunch of bad things about the guy--that there are many other failures that he's failed to own up to, that he should have learned to take responsibility for his actions long ago, that, given his record, we should conclude that this is another cynical and poll-related ploy, that taking responsibility won't bring back those who died as a result of his errors. This list is not a sneaky way of putting these criticisms on the table; it's just a way of acknowledging that I recognize them and feel their force.

But consider, just for a moment, that Mr. Bush may be an actual human being, and treat him like one. It's possible that he's learned some valuable lessons from Katrina. It's possible that this acceptance of responsibility--though not quite an apology, and not quite as obviously heartfelt as one might like--is sincere. Bush is an important man with an important problem--an inability to recognize his own weaknesses and acknowledge his mistakes. We should reward him for making progress on this front at least by not ridiculing him for it. If ordinary human compassion doesn't motivate you here, perhaps this will: a very efficient way to make him worse would be to ridicule him whenever he starts to get things right.

My good thoughts, for what they're worth, go out to the President today. Admitting that you were in part responsible for an error of this magnitude is not an easy thing to do, and I wonder how many of the people who will be ridiculing him today would be able to admit such an error themselves.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Kagan On Iraq: Short on Reasons

In today's Washington Post, Robert Kagan again tries to defend the position that going to war with Iraq was justified on national defense grounds. It seems that he may have abandoned his previous project of trying to argue that the administration went to war for good reasons. Which is good, since those arguments were miserable failures. His new lines seems to be, roughly, that there were good reasons to go, even if those weren't the reasons that motivated the administration. I plan to go through his case in detail, but no time now.

He's right to point out that many people who were previously either ambivalent or in favor of the war have turned against it, and he's right to point out that the administration's decision should be assessed on the basis of what we knew then, not what we know now. But he's wrong to suggest that what we knew then provided us with sufficient reason for going to war. The evidence was simply far too weak. I, like many others, briefly found myself more inclined in favor of the war than I should have been, but that was in large part because the administration's insistence that it was the right thing to do initially convinced me that my own assessments of the evidence were in error. At the time I still believed that the administration could be trusted--at least with regard to something as important as the decision to go to war. They were undoubtedly better informed than I was, many of them were smarter than me, and they just seemed so damn certain that I concluded that I must have been missing something. That, combined with my desire to eliminate Saddam for humanitarian reasons lead me to think that invading Iraq was, if not an optimal, then at least a reasonable thing to do.

Since that time I have, of course, come to realize that I should never have trusted this administration. Their certainty about the national defense case was irrational, and they never had any intention of doing the kinds of things to rebuild Iraq that would have made invasion justifiable on humanitarian grounds--even though they later adopted the humanitarian case as their own when the WMD case collapsed under scrutiny.

At any rate, Kagan's claims have to be taken with a grain of salt given the administration's pre-war propaganda campaign, which included impugning the patriotism--even the sanity--of any who opposed the war. They trumped up a case and used the power of the presidency to persuade and bully people into accepting it. To try to defend their case now by, in effect, pointing out that many people fell for their propaganda back then is loathsome in the extreme.
Philosoraptor Feels the Love

Check out this interview with Mark Kleiman, gentle reader, in which he lists this humble blog as one he "admires."

Aw, shucks...'tain't nothin' really...

This, of course, solidifies my opinion that Kleiman is possessed of a keen and discerning intellect...
Our Response to Katrina: Not so Bad?

Well, here's someone I'm not familiar with, Jack Kelly, expressing the position I've been getting ridiculed around here for mulling over. (via Instapundit. Maybe my new motto should be "I read Instapundit so you don't have to.") Kelly is sure that our response was better than average, however, whereas I've just been wondering whether that's true. But the mere fact that FEMA didn't save everybody, and didn't do so right away, doesn't really constitute an indictment of their response.

Anyway, before I get yelled at again (not that I mind that, really), let me just make it clear that it isn't at all clear to me that Kelly's right here, just that his position shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. My favorite quote in the piece, from a retired Air Force logistics officer:
"We do not yet have teleporter or replicator technology like you saw on 'Star Trek' in college between hookah hits and waiting to pick up your worthless communications degree while the grown-ups actually engaged in the recovery effort were studying engineering."

Heh heh. Agree with the guy or not, you've gotta admit that's pretty damn funny.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

And Speaking of Tora Bora...

Check out this piece in the NYT by Mary Anne Weaver.
Mark Danner: "Taking Stock of the Forever War"

I highly recommend Danner's piece in today's NYT magazine. I hope he's wrong, but if forced to bet, I'd bet that he's largely right. I do disagree with him about one significant point: he seems to deny that part of what motivates bin Laden is a fundamental disagreement with Western liberal principles. I'm not sure how anyone can deny that such disagreement constitutes a significant part of his motivation, but Danner clearly knows more about this than I do.

His line is that we stuck the conflict with al Qaeda into the moral/political/ideological boxes that we already had on hand. Us: good. Them: evil. Hulk: smash. We seem to have always had those conceptual boxes laying around, and we had plenty of surplus ones left over from the Cold War, and, hey, why waste 'em? Instead of asking the questions we needed to ask about bin Laden's motivations, instead of facing the fact that he was in large part reacting our our policies--and that those policies were in large part themselves unjust--we simply went with the he's just evil story.

Well, he is evil, he's just not just evil. He's a bad man--sort of a Pat Robertson with ideological 'roid rage--but he's reacting in part to our policies. Ignore either element, and you can't understand the situation. Or so it seems to me, relatively casual observer that I am.

Problem is, our current leaders aren't men given to deep thought or careful study, and they have little respect for those who are. Try to really understand our enemies--even if that understanding is in the service of defeating them--and the terrorists have already won. Go out swinging blindly or you hate America. Try to separate fact from fiction, eschew wishful thinking, and you are a pasty-faced denizen of the reality-based community. Real men act; girly men think. Support our troops. God bless America. Mission accomplished.

There's an opposite element on the left, of course, which thinks that everything is our fault and bin Laden is just misunderstood. That element of the left, however, is tiny and marginalized. The aforementioned element on the right is large and in charge.

As you know, I've frequently asserted that, though it may not be clear who's winning the (in Danner's (and Joe Haldeman's) phrase) "forever war," nobody could have imagined four years ago that we'd have done so badly. No rational person could have thought that it would be such a near thing in 2005. It's as if E. J. Dionne had just gone four rounds with Mike Tyson and it still wasn't clear who was winning; you'd better keep your money on Tyson, but you'd better be really, really concerned, because something has gone very, very weird. Danner agrees, insightful chap that he is.

If we had rational leadership, I wouldn't be that worried even now. This struggle is winnable, though I'm beginning to doubt that we'll actually win it. Bush has made almost the worst possible decision at almost every juncture, and now he seems determined to stay what may be the worst possible course--staying in Iraq without putting in enough troops to win. Even if the Democrats evolve into vertebrates and win in 2008, I expect that Republicans will return to Clinton mode and thwart every effort, as they twarted Clinton's efforts to attack al Qaeda.

If I'd have been in charge of this thing--and, mind you, I'm an incompetent pointy-headed philosophy professor with no experience ever accomplishing anything--we'd have won in Afghanistan rather than doing our best to lose in Iraq. There'd be a national park at Tora Bora where people could come to see the dark smudge on the floor where Osama bin What's-His-Name used to be. We'd have taken that 200-odd billion dollars we've wasted in Iraq and made Afghanistan into something like a Western liberal paradise. Democracy, free market, good roads, good schools, a community college system, rural electrification, Five Guys Burgers and Fries. The message would have been: we are terrible in battle and benevolent in victory. Attack us and die immediately. Be good to us and we'll be good to you, sharing the blessings of liberty and prosperity.

If we'd done that--if we'd made the moral and prudential difference between ourselves and bin Laden rather more clear--al Qaeda might be just a bad memory today, September 11, 2005.
FEMA Directors, Competent and Otherwise: A Wee History

In keeping with my new policy of not writing posts, but just linking to Kevin Drum, instead of writing something of my own I'd like to link to this post by...well, you get the picture...

As I've argued in the past, most of us don't know enough about FEMA and disaster management to tell how good/bad FEMA is under W. I've also been wondering how bad Brownie really is compared to other FEMA directors. Turns out, the chronology looks like this: under Bush '41: incompetent cronies; under Clinton: James Lee Witt, competent; under Bush '43: incompetent cronies.

There seems to be a pattern of some kind there, but I can't quite put my finger on it...

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Administration Drops Ban on Katrina Body-Recovery Reporting

Well, this is good news.

So why ban reporters from reporting on body-recovery efforts in the first place?

Explanation 1:
To protect the dignity of the victims.

Explanation 2:
To protect the administration from criticism.

I'd like to think that the former explanation is the true one, but I'm just about done trying to give these people the benefit of the doubt. Their ban on photographing coffins coming back from Iraq was obviously politically motivated...a policy one might expect from some totalitarian hell-hole, but not from the U.S. If not for that policy, I'd not even consider the latter explanation here. But, sadly, I find myself regarding these two explinations as approximately equiprobable.
The Daily Howler: Facts about Hurricane Response

(Via Instapundit, via Mark Kleiman)

As the DH admits, this ain't much, but it's a start. You'll have to scroll down to the section titled "Katrina Creep."

The most important point in the post is that this cursory survey of info about past hurricanes indicates that federal response normally takes days to get on-scene.

The second most important point is this one: liberals are beginning to act like conservatives have been acting over the past 15 years, wontonly and irrationally spewing blame at their political opponents, automatically and vociferously arguing that partial and conflicting data clearly and unequivocally indicate conservative nefariousness. Actually, come to think of it, this may be the most important point...

Lastly, but still somewhat importantly, the DH points out that Clinton cancelled his vacation before Andrew hit, even thought he'd just been on a rather lengthy mission to New Zealand and had planned to do some golfing in Hawaii on the return trip. Bush, of course, couldn't be bothered to cut his month-long vacation short.

(Incidentally, Krauthammer assigns blame like so. His ranking doesn't seem unreasonable to me, but he is, of course, an intellectually dishonest partisan hack so his opinion on the matter gets no weight. What surprised me about this is that he managed to force himself to put Bush on the list at all. Maybe that's to give the thing some veneer of objectivity.)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Philosoraptor's Car Wreck

Warning: boring personal post.

Got in a car wreck first thing this morning. The other car blatantly ran a red light--probably trying to make it through the ultra-super-tail-end of the yellow light...damn I hate that shit. I was able to turn the nose away at the last minute, and so what would have been a T-bone turned into something rather less than that. But my trusty '95 Taurus, The Indestructable, the Great White, is rather clearly totaled. The impact was on the driver's side door, and now the door doesn't quite close...and you know what body work is like.

But no injuries, and a witness stopped to give me his card, so it should all be cool. The folks who hit me seemed to be immigrants--they spoke only Spanish and this is an area with a large immigrant population. I wanted to tell them that my friend Peter had practically given me the car anyway, and that I'd gotten way more than my $750 out of it over the years, but there was no way to get that across. And the car has a degenerative brake condition anyway.

But now I face a dilemma. Having gotten more than my money's worth out of the car, recognizing that its demise was looming anyway, and not wanting to make life more difficult for people whose lives may be difficult already (though their car was a bit nicer than mine, I should add), I have some inclination to not even report it to their insurance. On the other hand, the guy pulled a an incredibly *$*#*&$ing bone-headed move that could easily have hurt somebody, and I don't think he should get off scott-free for that. Furthermore, his insurance company is Nationwide, and I think that was the company that screwed me over when a tractor-trailor ran a red light and obliterated my '76 Nova back in grad school...

One option would be to submit the claim to Nationwide and give the money to Katrina relief in Peter's name. Another, of course, would be to submit the claim and get a new friggin' car...or part of one... But Johnny Quest and I have been talking about down-grading ourselves to a 1-car duo anyway. Don't want to be greedy here.

Anyway, after getting hit by a truck while biking this summer, and now this, I'm starting to think that the road might be a more dangerous place than I thought...

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Bush and Katrina: Kevin Drum Explains It All For You

Drum says some reasonable things about what is and isn't Bush's fault re: Katrina.

Currently, it is the fact that is pissing me off the most about this whole thing is that the head of FEMA appears to be a demonstrably unqualified and incompetent political crony. That would be business as usual for this administration. I've tried to suspend judgment about this pending the reveleation of more information, but it's getting more and more difficult to do so. Given this administration's record up to this point, it seems less and less reasonable to continue giving them the benefit of the doubt.

My guess is that the Bush Defense System is currently working overtime on a way of making this out to be Clinton's fault...
Clinton on Katrina: "Our Government Failed Those People..."

The Big Dog has weighed in. Clinton is someone I take very seriously. Unlike some politicians one might name, he's smart, well-informed and thoughtful, and he puts public policy before politics. He's not part of the blame-Bush-first crowd, and his unequivocal condemnation of the government's response is important. He's also right to say that here's what we need to do:

Now: get this situation as fixed as it can get;

Soon: appoint an independent commission to determine what went wrong and who, if anyone, is responsible.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Irish Trojan on the Administration and Predicting Katrina and Its Effects

Via Andrew Sullivan, there's this, which you've probably already seen. This guy predicted it, and apparently, anybody who knew anything about New Orleans and hurricanes should have been able to see this coming.
Pre-Katrina Blanco Interview

Dug up by Hesiod over at The American Street. Not clear to me how much this really tells us, but it's something.
Plenty of Katrina-Related Blame to Go Around?

Blogger's blogger Kevin Drum provides us with this round-up of Katrina information.

Still sounds to me like there's plenty of blame to go around, though the bulk of it still seems to be landing on FEMA. I know operations like this must be extraordinarily complex, but it still sounds like it wouldn't have been that hard to do quite a bit better.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Grover Norquist: Drowning the Government, Step 1?

This may be kind of unfair, but it's poignant...I offer it as food for thought rather than any kind of definitive commentary. Dunno how it's creator meant it.

(Via the inimitable Lies.com.)
Katrina-Related Misdeeds and Incompetence by the Administration?

On the one hand, I don't like those who simply look for reasons to criticize the administration. (There are, after all, so many legitimate reasons to do so.) Furthermore, I have some inclination to think that our attention should be on the disaster rather than politics.

On the other hand, it's not like people like me can actually do anything about this (other than giving money, which doesn't actually take up time or energy). So trying to say something true about the administration's response seems like a reasonable undertaking.

First let me say that laypeople like me don't know much of anything about how difficult such operations are and how they normally proceed. So our judgments should be tentative at this point.

However, I must say that I would never have guessed that our response to a disaster like this would be so sluggish and anemic. Although I am under the impression that such operations are more difficult than many people think, and I would never expect the government to take care of a problem of this magnitude anything like overnight, I've been surprised and alarmed by how half-hearted and inefficient our response has seemed. Surprised and alarmed enough that I've resolved to tuck away some extra extra water and granola bars in case anything similar ever happens around these parts.

Again: having no real understanding of these matters, my expectations may simply have been wildly unrealistic, but Kevin Drum reports passes on some info that seems to support my impressions.

I don't want to sing the same note over and over, but I can't help being reminded of the early stages of military action in Afghanistan, up to and including the Tora Bora debacle: our response seems to be timid, half-hearted, and proceeding at half speed. And that does not seem to be the fault of the yeomen on the ground.

[Addendum: An Instapundit reader says that FEMA advises local governments not to expect federal aid for 72 to 96 hours after a disaster. This gives us some objective touchstone for evaluating the administration's response.]

[Some comments on this post at Centerfield are interesting, including some of the more restrained parts of Tully's. Centerfield, incidentally, is one of the saner parts of the 'sphere.]

[Reuters pulls few punches, referencing the administration's "botched" rescue efforts, it's attempts to shift blame, and Bush's "rare admission of error".]

[Die-hard knee-jerk Bush partisan David Frum possibly making sense. Possibly a first at the NRO.]
The Ethics of Hoarding and Quasi-Hoarding, Part II

Neither the comments nor the e-mails I got about the first discussion of hoarding addressed the toughest kind of case, to wit:

Realizing that things don't always go as they should, Smith keeps a medium-sized store of supplies in his basement. This requires a moderate investment of time and money on his part. Others in his community fail to do so. Then disaster strikes. It isn't clear when help will arrive. There is, let's say, a 50/50 chance that Smith's supplies will see him through the disaster. Note: Smith does not run out and buy up supplies when disaster looms, he's already got them as part of a policy of preparedness, perhaps recognizing that this is his civic duty, perhaps doing it for that reason rather than for selfish reasons. So, if hoarding is stockpiling supplies after disaster is imminent, Smith is not hoarding.

Which of the following is true, or closer to being true?

A. Smith is obligated to divide his supplies up more-or-less equally among people in his community, perhaps even giving everyone one meal, exhausting his supplies.

B. Smith has no (moral--nobody cares about legal) obligation to give any of his supplies away. Keeping them all to himself does not make him a bad person. After all, his neighbors in essence cut their own throats. It is as if they had squandered all their money while Smith diligently saved his, and then they demanded that he give them some of his because he has so much.

Now, this is the kind of case that often drives people to want to consider a third alternative, but the middle way will just muddle the issue. You might say that:

C. Smith has to give away half his supplies and he gets to keep half.

But given what we've supposed in the case, this is really not much different than A, so we might as well consider A.

I'm somewhat inclined to think that these cases are similar to "cut the rope" cases--cases in which there is good reason to believe that the only real options are (a) everybody dies and (b) someone survives. The supply/hoarding cases are more confusing because of the epistemic problems mixed in with them. Unlike cut-the-rope cases, it's far less clear what will happen as a result of either decision. But, as usual, it's important to settle the question of principle before we start mucking around with the practical complications.

Any ideas?
Getting into Southern Louisiana: A Query

Does anybody know whether it's possible to get into the disaster area in Lousiana? A guy I sort of 'net-know is thinking of trying to find his mom. I'm concerned that he might get down there and not be allowed into the area.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Gotta Love This Guy

I'd suggest that maybe he should be President, but that'd violate my decision not to whine about politics while this disaster is still disastrous.

He could be an assh*le in person, of course but (except for the degree in Human Resources) he sounds like a guy you could get behind. After years in academia, I kinda miss people who realize that one of the best ways to get things done is to come out cussing...

Friday, September 02, 2005

Shop 'Til They Drop

Is it bad that Condi Rice is shoe-shopping while the situation in New Orleans deteriorates? Some people are outraged, but I don't know enough about the Secretary of State's duties to know whether there's anything she can do about domestic problems. It kind of looks bad, though, I have to admit. Imagine what would have happened if Hillary Clinton, as mere First Lady, had done something similar...
The Berlin Airlift

Atrios--with whom I frequently disagree--makes his point elegantly here.
Welcome to the Third World

I don't have TV these days, so I've yet to see any video footage of New Orleans. I just know what I read in the papers. But it seems hard to avoid the impression that a sizeable chunk of the U.S. descended into third-world and/or state-of-nature conditions with astounding rapidity.

I suppose we won't know the real story about all this for some time, but the accounts so far make me reflect on Statisticasaurus Rex's point that it is our civic duty to be prepared for disasters. If your house is destroyed, then such preparation might be for nought, of course, but there are lots of bad things that can happen short of that. Some people may be too poor to have extra food on hand, but that's not the position most of us are in.

It would be interesting to know how many people now stranded and miserable are in that condition because they were too poor or old or sick to leave, and how many are are in that condition because they chose to stay. Conservatives, of course, are more inclined to blame too much, though liberals are inclined to blame too little. That is, conservatives often assert that people are responsible for things that they are, in fact, not responsible for, whereas liberals often excuse things that should not be excused. No doubt the miserables in New Orleans are a mix of the unlucky and the stupid, but I, for one, have no idea what the proportions are like.

Incidentally, had I been there I'd probably be one of the stupid. I've always wanted to ride out a hurricane, and I might just have laid in a supply of beer and waited. Shows how much I know.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Liberal Blogs for Hurricane Relief

Go give, ya big lugs.