Wednesday, May 30, 2007

U.S. Torture of Prisoners Ineffective

Reports the NYT.

Jesus, there's just too much here to even deal with.

First, let me remind you that I am not one of those misguided lefties who think that torture is never justified. It is clearly justified in ticking-timebomb cases. The absolute anti-torture folks usually try to change the subject when those cases are discussed. Or they argue that they never actually happen, or that by acknowledging that torture would be permitted in such cases, we encourage it in other cases in which it isn't permissible. As we've discussd here in the past, none of those responses work. So far as we know now, torture is morally permissible--in fact, probably even morally required--in some cases. simply isn't clear that we actually face such a case. I'm skeptical, but willing to be persuaded.

And: classic ticking-timebomb cases usually stipulate that you have good reason to believe that torture will be effective. Without fairly good reason to believe that it's efficacious, it's just recreational torture.

One of the real problems with the right's approach to torture is that they're just too eager to do it. It's justifiable under certain carefully circumscribed conditions, but it simply isn't clear that many--or any--of those conditions are met. But the right seemed to be engaged in what amounted to a rush to torture.

If we (1) have good reason to believe that a person is a participant in some plan to do something wrong (e.g. kill innocent people) and (2) have good reason to think that torturing him is likely to allow us to disrupt the plan, and (3) have good reason to think that torturing is the only thing (within reason) that will allow us to do so, then we probably have an obligation to engage in torture.

(1) will vary from person to person, but it's farily clear that it's going to be met in the case of, say, KSM.

(2) may or may not be true, but this new report suggests that (3) isn't true.

If the administration had honestly tried to find non-torture-related methods of interrogation, but failed, then that would be one thing. But it seemed fairly clear that they basically couldn't wait for the chance. That's one of the most dispicable things about their actions.

And this, of course, is not even to touch yet on the mind-bogglingly preposterous idea that it's permissible to outsource our torture...and that it somehow leaves our hands clean.

Jesus. Some of these guys would have had stellar careers in the Gestapo.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Science and Altruism: 5/28/07 Edition

Whew. Too many confusions in here to sort out right now. Hard to tell how many of them are coming from the scientists and how many are attributable to the journalist.

To touch on some of the major points:

1. It is not a recent discovery that doing the right thing sometimes feels good.

2. Even if doing the right thing does sometimes feel good, that has few implications for questions about the nature and grounds of moral obligation.

3. Not to put too fine a point on it, but: doing the right thing does not always feel better than doing the wrong thing. Yet we sometimes manage to do the right thing in such circumstances nevertheless.

4. We already knew that some people seem incapable of distinguishing right from wrong. This defense is often misused...but if someone genuinely can't tell the difference, then we don't hold them responsible for their wrong-doing. None of what's in this piece seems to tell us anything new about that.

5. One does something wrong when one can tell the difference and does the wrong thing anyway.

6. None of this shows that the only reason we do anything is because it feels good. That question remains an open one.

These really aren't complicated points.
Kung Fu Fighting

You know you love it.

Best ridiculous song of all time?

Could be.
My Current Official Position on Iraq

Not trying to defend it, just making it clear for the record:

Stick with the surge. Make it clear to the Iraqi government that this is their last chance--but do not make this information public. If things are not turning around in about six months, get out in the least disastrous way possible, whatever that might be.

Democrats: in public, make a big show (for the benefit of the insurgency) of backing Bush and the surge. In private, make it clear to him that he's got six months before the sh*t hits the f*n.

In any case: do try to win in Afghanistan, which was, one might recall, the real war we were supposed to be fighting anyway.

So: I'm still not officially anti-surge. I suppose I still think that we as a nation owe the people of Iraq one last big effort to mitigate our enormous f*ck-up.

But I'm not optimistic.
Bangkok 8/Tatoo

Just finished John Burdett's Bangkok 8 and Bangkok Tatoo. Not really my kind of books--basically the only other detective story I've ever read was Jonathan Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn (which book I really like, incidentally). But I really enjoyed these books, especially Bangkok 8. I only finish about 25% of novels I start...the rest are quickly relegated to the box that goes to the used book store. So the fact that I finished both of these in rapid succession says...well, something. In fact, I note that the third in the series is about to come out, and I'm dangerously close to actually buying it even though it's new in hardback. This is basically a violation of my book-buying Prime Directive.

Anyway...I don't have a good mind for literature, so I can't really say anything interesting or informative about them, but I thought they were extremely entertaining, largely because the narrator is...winsome or something.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

This Modern World: Republicans Long For Shitty President of Yore


Jeez, after six years of W, Reagan is even starting to look pretty good to me...

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Neil Gaiman, American Gods

Well, since I turned in grades, I've been mostly hiking, drinking, and reading a lot of not-too-serious novels. I picked up Neil Gaiman's American Gods because (1) it was on sale at Barnes and Noble, (2) it had a glowing endorsement by Michael Chabon on the cover, and (3) the cover said it had won a Nebula award.

But this book is not good.

I realize that writing is hard, and I have a certain amount of respect for anyone who can write and publish a novel. And one doesn't want to be captious. But I wouldn't spend my money or time on this one if I were you. I made it about 120 pages in, but just couldn't go any farther. Weak characters, weak plot, weak writing.

I say give this one a pass.
Administration Lies and Incompetence, Episode Gazillion

In case there's anyone out there uninformed or intellectually dishonest enough to still be in denial about Bush et. al.'s lies leading up to Iraq, here's yet another truckload of evidence at the Post.

Turns out that analysts informed the administration that chaos was very likely to ensue after the invasion. The word "cakewalk," it seems, is nowhere to be found in the report.

But, of course, anyone who's still denying that the administration was incompetent and/or dishonest by this point is, well, incompetent and/or dishonest.
Income Inequality And (The Absence Of) Economic Mobility In America

Here are some depressing numbers, put together by a joint project by AEI, Brookings and the Heritage Foundation, and summarized by Drum.

So much for meritocracy and opportunity.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Arguments I Love: The "Who'll Do Your Dirty Work?" Argument

The immigration debate is just filled with amazingly bad arguments, but my favorite so far goes like this:

If we don't do x (refuse to enforce immigration laws, give amnesty to illegals already here, etc.), then there'll be no one to do the crappy jobs Americans don't want.

Oh, man, for connoisseurs of bad arguments it doesn't get much better than this.

Apparently there are a couple of ideas here. The argument is generally articulated in a vague and abbreviated form like the one I give above. That makes it largely a matter of gestures, presuppositions and suggestions. But those are clear enough. One idea here seems to be that it's o.k. to pay someone less than what their labor is worth so long as they're not American citizens. Another is that the market wouldn't take care of this problem (in the absence of illegal immigrants) by forcing employers and consumers to pay more. Another is that it's better to allow large numbers of illegal and undocumented immigrants into the country than it is to have to pay a fair price for e.g. hamburgers, lettuce and landscaping.

None of these ideas seems even vaguely reasonable to me.

I'm willing to listen to arguments on this issue...but not excremental arguments like this one. Irascible as I am, such patently crappy reasoning tends to push me in the other direction.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Carter v. Bush

If they weren't assiduously running the country into a ditch, I might find the Bushies' shrill responses to Carter's criticisms amusing. Note to the administration: calling someone "irrelevant" doesn't make their criticism false. And, by the way, isn't this the same lame-ass response they used when Dean asserted that the shenanigans of this administration were "worse than Watergate"?

Maybe what they're mad about is the fact that, after years of running Carter into the ground and deifying Bush, it's become clear to everyone that Carter was ten times the president Bush is. That must be rather a bitter pill to swallow.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Final Impact: John Birmingham Keeps Kicking Ass
Die, Nazi, Die

[One spoiler clearly marked below]

Well, now that grades are in and summer has officially started for me, I'm supposed to be getting some actual writing done.

Instead, I read the latest in Birmingham's Axis of Time trilogy, Final Impact.

O.k., let me start by acknowledging the obvious: Final Impact (like the rest of the AoT trilogy) is not (makes serious face) serious literature. The Sound and the Fury it ain't. But it isn't supposed to be. What it's supposed to be is interesting and fun and cool. And that it is. If you're anything like me, you really, seriously, no kidding won't want to put it down. It's one of those books you'll tear through even as you try to get yourself to slow down and make it last.

But you won't be able to, because what red-blooded American boy can resist a book about a carrier task force from 2021 accidentally transporting itself back to WWII to kick some Axis ass?

None, that's what. Er, which. Er, who. Er, you get the point.

There's nothing like dead Nazis to brighten your day, and Birmingham's books provide plenty of 'em...though there's actual and interesting plot and character-development, and the books are surprisingly well-written by the standards of the relevant genres (sci-fi, technothriller).

One point that might be relevant to most denizens of this blog: Birmingham's books are pervaded by a salutary sensibility--a kind of steely-eyed, level-headed, two-fisted liberalism. To give you the flavor of all this, let me just note that the carrier at the center of the book's 21st-century task force is the U.S.S. Hillary Clinton, named after the (assassinated) 44th president of the U.S., and described as "the most uncompromising wartime president in American history." (Well, 'uncompromising' can look like something less than a compliment in this context after the last six years...but nevermind that for now.)

So, if the right-wing politics of such technothrillers ordinarily put you off, the Axis of Time may be for you. In addition to fighting the Nazis, the Japanese, and the Communists, admiral Kolhammer's boys (and girls) have to fight the bone-headed conservatism of mid-20th-century America (and Great Britain, and Australia). And, I have to say, the books actually make you reflect a bit on this point: although we were the good guys...we really weren't all that good. We were still a radically racist and sexist society--a point that even folks like me tend to overlook.

O.k., one more point: [beware: mid-level spoiler]:
One of the interesting points Birmingham makes in the books is that even the arrival of a full-blown 21C carrier task force wouldn't automatically and necessarily have won the war. What actually happens is that the technology gets distributed in an odd way, and the Axis and Allies end up in a high-tech arms race. They obviously can't build F-22s, but they can build, e.g., AK-47s. I was really disappointed that the Allies stuck with the Sherman. I had visions of hordes of Pershings rolling over the Reich and giving the panzers what-for. Alas, 'twas not to be.
[end spoiler] the heck is my point here? Anybody? Anybody?

How about:

Final Impact: Philosoraptor say: check it out.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Cult of Culture: 5/17/2007 Edition

I'm about to complain about a minor and incidental comment made by an artist I never heard of. But I'm going to do so because it is representative of a widespread confusion that bugs me. Call it nit-picking if you want, but keep an eye out for it and I predict you'll see it all over.

I link to an excerpt (at Metafilter) from an interview with an artist who got six people to live in an extremely narrow, transparent, 4-story vinyl sort of apartmenty-thing for three weeks.

Now, the discussions of this project are surrounded by the normal kinds of silly but inconsequential confusions that normally come with this kind of art--the space is said to be 2-dimensional, but, of course, it isn't. And it's said to be an "experiment," but it isn't exactly. Still, it's kinda sorta cool and at least moderately interesting, so, hey, cut 'em some slack.

What I wanted to complain about was this quote:

"The design of the space constructs us in a way that departs from how we culturally understand ourselves (autonomous, private, and with options for movement). After six days in Flatland I feel more like a pet than a person."

O.k., first the space does not "construct us." This is just silly Po-Mo lingo that people pick up in art school. What he probably means is something like this: living in this kind of space is really different than what we're used to, and it makes us live differently; it also makes us think of ourselves differently, and makes others think about us--and maybe even themselves--differently, too.

But the space does not "construct us."

But anyway, that's not what I'm going to complain about. What I'm going to complain about is the claim that what's interesting here (if anything) is that living like this (or seeing others do so) gets us to "depart from how we culturally understand ourselves." Again, this is just Po-Mo cant. There's nothing particularly cultural about the relevant ways of understanding ourselves.

See, as a matter of fact, we don't ordinarily live in very narrow, transparent apartments. The reason living this way might make you feel different is because you're--as an actual matter of fact--living in a vastly different way than you--as an actual matter of fact--usually do. You normally have much more freedom of movement, you normally have lots more privacy, you don't ordinarily live with five strangers, etc.

So the question isn't "how might this change our cultural understanding [whatever that is] of ourselves," but, rather, "how might living in a narrow, transparent environment be different than living in some more ordinary way?"

The more disreputable reaches of the humanities and social sciences have adopted references to culture almost as a kind of verbal tic. You can insert 'culture' or 'cultural' almost anywhere in their discussions and few of them will bat an eye. But that's a mistake. Some things are cultural and some things aren't. Some things about us are caused by culture and some aren't. The old lesson of the social sciences was that it's important to know which is which. And they were right about that.

In the case at hand, what's at issue isn't anything particularly cultural, but rather a question about how a change in physical (i.e. non-cultural) environment might change us.

End pet peevishness here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Episodes in the Decline of Western Civilization: Corporatizing the Academy

"Minding the Academy's Business," by David J. Siegel. Worth a read. This is a real and growing problem.

[HT: The mighty Armenius]

Monday, May 14, 2007

28 Days Later?

Here's a review of 28 Days Later from Amanda at Pandagon.

I quit reading Pandagon pretty soon after Ezra left, but I happened upon this today. 28 Days Later is my favorite zombie movie--and I'm quite the zombie aficionado. But I'm also fairly dumb about movies, so take that into account.

At any rate, my question is: is she right? One commonly reads reviews of this kind--reviews that confidently assert that some kind of political or philosophical point is obviously being made...but it's often just not that clear to me. Now, I say this as someone who once denied that Dr. Strangelove contained any Freudian consider the source...

At any rate, Amanda writes:

...28 Days Later indicts the culture of violent machismo, thus the zombies move quickly and puke up blood and bile in an attempt to spew it all over their victims and infect them, too. Taken in context of the War on Terra , the symbolism is almost too obvious—rage and violence beget rage and violence and it continues to spin out of control, sucking everyone into it. Attacking Iraq in the name of fighting terror manages only to create more terrorists, as our violence and rage touches the lives of others and converts them into violent zombies like us.

Not an unreasonable interpretation...but not obviously and uncontroversially the right one. If offered as a genuine hypothesis--with the appropriate indications that it's a guess at an interpretation, hence likely to be false--that'd be one thing. What tends to puzzle me about things like this, however, is the confidence with which they're so often said.

A slightly higher-level point/question: is the claim here that the writer and/or director intend to make this point? If so then we could just ask them. I realize that appeals to authors' intentions are considered retrograde in Our Postmodern World, but that'd be the first thing I'd do, if I were really interested in this.

At any rate, if the movie were really intended to have an anti-violence message, you might expect the principals to suffer for fighting back against the zombies...but they don't. Of course it would be difficult to make a hard-core pacifist point in a movie like this, since the pacifists would be eaten apace... Still, maybe the thesis can be narrowed so that it's really anti-"rage" rather than anti-violence. But that might make the movie insufficiently metaphorical.

Thing is, I'm never sure to what extent specific bits of a movie are just story and to what extent they're intended to point to something bigger. Are the military psychos in the movie just...a band of psychos? Or are they really, as Amanda asserts, intended to say something about the military in general, men in general, etc? I can rarely tell.

Anyway, I'm rather cranky about movie interpretations since I saw some bozo (identified as a philosopher, but unknown to me) on the Children of Men DVD claim that that movie was a re-make of Y tu Mama Tambien. That's the thing about a lot of literary and film criticism--it seems like you can basically say anything you want and get away with it.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Hitchens: Suck it Up

Hitchens on the national response to the VA Tech murders.

A bit much, maybe, but he's right about some big swath of it, I'd say.

Most amazing part: the bit about Cornell ringing its bells thirty-three times, apparently putting the death of the murderer on par with the death of his victims...though what the president of Cornell says is so unclear as to be open to other interpretations.

[HT: mighty Armenius]

Friday, May 11, 2007

What's Wrong With College?

At the end of another academic year, I find myself reflecting on the nature of a contemporary American university education. I'm not going to go into this in detail right now, but just briefly:

There is a lot of reason to hypothesize that at least a large minority of students just aren't learning very much...and aren't learning the kinds of things they should be learning.

More and more I come to suspect that we're just cranking large numbers of student through courses in which they merely have to memorize some highly-simplified bullet points off of PowerPoint slides. I've been informed by a variety of sources that it's almost impossible to fail many classes. It's certainly true that many students expect As for C work. I'm afraid we're providing them with a big, 4-year amusement park--Partyland USA, exclamation point tm. We take their parents' money, give them a fun place to be, and let them go four years later with a piece of paper that says they're educated...but no education.

Not all students, of course. But a terrible lot of them. My guess'd be: between 25 and 50%.

This will vary from college to college, and my own institution seems to be an unusually bad offender. So take this all with an extra grain of salt.

Oops--gotta run.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Medical Mission Creep: "An Epidemic of Meddling"

At Reason, by Jacob Sullum.

[HT: S. rex]

Monday, May 07, 2007

Scripps Survey Seems to Confirm That Belief in 9/11 Conspiracy is Common


Quick response:

Absolutely unbelievable.

A couple of points to consider, though:

1. Again: in polls like this many people are often really just indicating that they recognize the possibility in question as a logical possibility. To say that x is logically possible is just to say that x is possible on the broadest possible construal of 'possible.' That is, that x is not absolutely impossible, i.e. that x is non-self-contradictory.

Hopes for this defense may be fading, though. Apparently those polled indicated that they believed that involvement of the American government in 9/11 was 'very likely' or 'somewhat likely.' And that's quite different from 'logically possible.' Though people often don't really understand what they're saying when they say such things.

2. Though it doesn't really make things that much better, the article I link to above seems to suggest that it's anger at the government that is driving conspiracy theories, not the other way around.

Though 9/11 conspiracy theories are spookily irrational, they may be an irrational reaction to actual nefarious activities by the Bush administration. That is, roughly: people may finally be coming to recognize how angry they ought to be at this administration...but that anger may be coming out in the wrong form. Instead of being angry at the fact that the Bushies exhibited a willingness to steal an election, they go whole-hog and latch onto wacky 9/11 conspiracies. By the standards of the American public, exhibiting a willingness to steal an election is a terribly abstruse and ephemeral thing. Since nobody knows for sure whether they actually stole it (and since there may not even be a fact of the matter), it's not the kind of thing most people get angry about.

Similarly with Iraq. The administration was careful to muddy the waters enough to give themselves plausible deniability. Their lies were generally in the form of exaggerations and misplaced emphasis. Again, something that might be too fuzzy for most people to riled up about.

So (if the above is right), and if people really are fairly simple-minded about such things...and if they're really, really agry...and if they let their emotions interfere with their evaluations of likelihoods (which we know they do), then...mix all this up get an explanation for this apparent insanity.

Very speculative...and doubly suspicious because so much of it coheres so well with my views about the other (i.e. non-9/11) issues...but there's a kind of first go at producing a tangle of hyptheses.

Sort of the punchline: the Bush dead-enders may try to spin this as: 9/11 irrationality causes anti-Bushism.

But my first guess, for what it's worth, is: Bush's awfulness causes 9/11 irrationality.

[HT: Statisticasaurus rex]

[O.k., stand by...

I skipped right over the following part:

The level of suspicion of U.S. official involvement in a 9/11 conspiracy was only slightly behind the 40 percent who suspect "officials in the federal government were directly responsible for the assassination of President Kennedy" and the 38 percent who believe "the federal government is withholding proof of the existence of intelligent life from other planets."

So this may change things considerably. The real point to be made here may be:

We already have plenty of evidence that Americans are a little these 9/11 numbers shouldn't really come as a big surprise. Remember: more Americans believe in ESP than believe in evolution. So maybe this information just poignantly illustrates a general fact we should have been worried about all along: that Americans are kinda crazy.]

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Liberal Legal Scholars Support Individualistic Interpretation of Second Amendment

Apparently important liberal legal scholars are finally recognizing that the Second Amendment...well, says what it rather obviously says: that individuals have the right to own firearms. [Says the NYT]

The anti-individualist reading of the amendment has simply never seemed even vaguely plausible to me, for reasons I've gone on about before. The amendment recognizes/grants a right, and states a reason for doing so. Even if the reason were in error, the right is recognized/granted. The anti-individualist reading requires wild interpretive contortions. Now, one might argue that the amendment is a bad idea, that it's predicated on a mistake, that it should be repealed or whatever, but it says what it says.

That having been said, I know virtually nothing about the law and legal scholarship, so I don't know what other considerations are relevant in such cases, to what extent conclusions about history are thought to be relevant to such interpretive questions, and so forth. But I've never personally read a case for the anti-individualist case that didn't seem to border on the casuistic.

My favorite quote from the Times story:

“The Second Amendment doesn’t guarantee the right to have firearms at all,” Mr. Burger said in a speech. In a 1991 interview, Mr. Burger called the individual rights view “one of the greatest pieces of fraud — I repeat the word ‘fraud’ — on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”

See, "A well-regulated militia being necessary for the defense of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed" "doesn't guarantee the right to have firearms at all"!!!!!!!!!!!!!! In fact, it's not even about arms, nor about militias, nor about keeping nor bearing, nor about free states! It's really about gardening and the 1932 olympics...though there does seem to be at least some concern with pelycosaurs and the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. But only very advanced legal minds can be expected to understand such matters.

I mean, jebus...

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Did Bush Know About 9/11 in Advance?

Tom points us to this completely insane poll result.

Heck, I'm not even sure Bush knew about 9/11 after it happened, much less in advance. In fact, he still seems to be a little unclear on what happened--e.g., who it was who attacked us.

The real question here, though, is: what went wrong with this poll? Because it simply cannot be true that 22% of likely voters think that he knew in advance...not to mention that another 22% are allegedly not sure.

One thing that often explains such "not sure" results is that people confuse the questions:

1. Is it logically possible that x? (i.e., does x entail a formal contradiction (something of the form 'P & not-P'))

With the question:

2. Is it a real and relevant possibility that x?

That's what happened in that famous poll a couple of years back that alleged to show that some freakishly high percentage of people thought that the Holocaust might not have happened.

As Richard points out in the previous thread, if results like this were accurate, it would be extremely important, because you can't run a democracy well if the electorate can't even get clear on the most basic and obvious facts. Think about the unbelievably heavy price we've been paying for that fact that so many conservatives continue to believe that Saddam was in on 9/11, that invading Iraq was a defensive action, etc. If the figures mentioned above were true, it would seem to indicate that a very large percentage of Democrats are even more deranged about 9/11 than many Republicans are. And that would, indeed, be a very frightening thing.

A desperate lunge at an explanation:
All the 9/11 conspiracy kooks have come out of the woodwork and (b/c of 9/11) turned anti-GOP, and now identify themselves as likely Democratic voters?)
Moral and Mental Problems Plague U.S. Troops

This, at the post, looks like very bad news indeed. American troops fighting in Iraq may be becoming less sane and less good. (Those things, in my opinion, often go together.)

Running off to a graduation ceremony right now, but will just note that, at a glance, it seems to me that the questions might have been unclear enough--and unclear in such a way as--to make things look worse than they really are.

Still, this is very bad news no matter how you look at it.

I doubt that these costs--perhaps some of the most significant ones--have been taken into account when the costs of the war have been estimated.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Actually, It's Not Just You...

From the Onion: "Bush Has One of Those Days Where He Feels Like 68% of People Hate Him."

No, Mr. President, it's not just you.

In fact, that's just Americans...
First Rain Forest Fossil Found In Coal Mine

Oh, man, this account sounds like it's from some kind of H. P. Lovecraft story:

Quoth paleobiologist-on-the-spot Howard Falcon-Lang:

"We drove down the mine in an armored vehicle, until we were 100 meters (about 330 feet) below the surface," he said. "The fossil forest was rooted on top of the coal seam, so where the coal had been mined away the fossilized forest was visible in the ceiling of the mine."

"We walked for miles and miles along pitch-black passages with the fossil forest just above our heads. We were able to make a map of the forest by the light of our miner's lamps."

He said the fossil forest is the largest ever found, covering more than 24,700 acres.

See, in philosophy there are a lot fewer fossilized ancient forests and armored vehicles.

Paleobiologists get to have all the fun.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

We Spent $500 Billion Making the World a Worse Place

$500 billion. That's what the Iraq war will soon have cost us, according to McClatchy.

That's ten times more than Bush said it would cost, and, to put it in a little bit of perspective, enough to send half the kids in American high schools to college--including tuition, fees, room and board.

If we'd spent this money making the world a better place, or making the U.S. safer, that would be one thing. Jesus, at this point I'd settle for breaking even on one of those scores. But the fact of the matter is, we spent that money making the world a worse place, and making ourselves less safe.

(Cue conservatives saying "who's to say what would have happened otherwise?" Cue me sending them all to introductory critical thinking class...)

I've said this before, but here it is again: need a plan to use that money in a more constructive way?

Here's one: burn it.

Yep, if we'd have put it in a big pile and burned it we'd have used it more wisely. At least we wouldn't have, in effect, shot ourselves in the ass. Christ, using it on the Iraq war was just this side of handing it all over to OBL.

It's probably not yet possible to comprehend the enormity of this f*ck-up.
A History of The Annihiliation of West Virginia's Forests

A brief account of the destruction of this part of the Allegheny ecosystem here.

I'm not a luddite or a neo-primitivist. I like having a (um, reasonably) warm and dry house. But sometimes you've got to wonder: do we really absolutely have to f*cking destroy every last bit of nature? I cut folks from the past a lot of slack, understanding that life was harder and so forth. But jebus, there's a limit.

Some of these pictures will just break your heart, including these [link fixed] shitheads, apparently proud to have cut down a 1,000-year-old white oak as big as a sequoia. Nice work, guys. Nice work.