A member, and hoping to stay that way, of the reality-based community

12 August 2008

When to fight

There's been an exciting set of developments in the world of beating up on the weak these past few days. As you may have heard (if you weren't too distracted by the puffery in Beijing), Georgia (not the US state, but a country that borders Russia) tried to see if the US had any time or resources to back it up while it beat up the little brother of the biggest, baddest muthafucka on the block (BBMFOTB)-- which is to say it attacked the South Ossetians to bring them back in the fold while they are under the watchful eye of the Russian Federation's "peacekeepers."

The US, distracted by two other wars in which it isn't exactly wiping the field with the opposition, pretty much has had to say, "You're on your own," without actually saying anything. Oh, sure, we've said, "Bad Russia! Don't do that!" You may have noticed how well this works with a teenager when the parent has never been able to impose discipline in the past. It works about as well when the US says it to another nuclear power.

So, many American commetators have called for the US to "do something." I'm especially amused by Mr. Kristol:
The United States, of course, is not without resources and allies to deal with these problems and threats. But at times we seem oddly timid and uncertain.
Yeah. Because we have so much leeway for action, here. I mean, what's a nuclear war?

One day maybe we'll start to realize that being the BBMFOTB isn't much fun if we can actually get beaten up once in a while because we don't have enough sense to keep fights from starting in the first place.

Until then, we'll get to watch the Georgians, Iranians, Iraqis, Palestinians, North Koreans, and a few more suffer.

09 August 2008

Please can we prosecute President Bush for war crimes?

I realize that it would be fraught with political danger. I accept that a lot of Americans don't get that a President (and a host of his lawyers-- yes, I'm looking at you John Yoo and David Addington) is capable of violating the law of war, never mind the Constitution, and appearing to get away with it. I have met actual people who think that if the President does it, it's OK (even before this line of argument was being pursued in court).

I just think that allowing that kind of behavior is certain to lead all of us (those who are still alive, anyway) to a place we don't want to be. So proceeding with an investigation, and a trial, is the only way to prevent ending up in a very bad place.

Prosecute all war criminals, not just the ones from other countries....

On the Trail With Barack Obama

On the Trail With Barack Obama

Yes. There are many ways in which this poll is misleading. Unfortunately, ochairball is also misinterpreting the results. Ochairball assumes that none of the respondents noticed that the question seemed misleading, based on the yes/no answer they were expected to give.

Reflect that this may not be the case.

There are more than enough people in this world, who, when faced with a situation presenting a false choice, will give the perverse answer. I, for example, would be sorely tempted to answer this by saying "no", even if it were true that it would significantly lower fuel prices.

"How could this be?" you may ask. Well, I'm pretty comfortable with the notion that humans are causing a shift in climate that may either destroy the ability of the Earth to support human life or will compromise the habitats of most of the other species on the planet. "No more humans" is an unlikely prospect, given our technological capability, but making life inhospitable for 90% of the species that were alive at the start of human civilization is certainly within reach, particularly if we panic in the face of the only tool our political economy will tolerate (if only barely)-- economic pressure on the users of fossil fuels.

It seems we can't bring ourselves to accept that taxes on the emission of carbon are the best and only way government can actively reduce carbon emissions without also choosing a winner among the remaining technologies. Virtually everyone uses it in the US (to pick a random example), so by taxing, we'd force the burden of paying the price of getting us out of the mess on the people least willing to change their ways. Yes, it would be a pretty good idea to use some of the taxes taken this way to fund mass transit, since this would ease the transition for people who would otherwise be unable to feed or shelter themselves. In the end, though, those funds have to dry up and people have to make choices they can afford. This would only happen, though, if the course of the taxes were properly arranged, as those taxes would have long before risen to a level that chokes off all carbon-consuming industry.

So (and I'll bet you were wondering what any of this had to do with the poll), suppose a group of similarly perverse people with an inclination to demand more drilling everywhere are contacted in a poll, and asked exactly the question referenced by ochairball. They, too, know that gas prices won't fall immediately as a result of drilling oil in 5-10 years that would be a tiny fraction of our current needs. Maybe they're also interested in testing the idea gas prices will fall in the face of more drilling in ten years (McCain's argument on psychology). Maybe they just don't care what effect it will have on gas prices. Whatever the motivation, my bet is that more than a few (say 20%) would answer, "Hell yeah! Drill Here! Drill Now!"

I'm just sayin'.