Category Archives: Inexplicable

Numbskulls

This is a masterwork of numbskullery:

>I want our side to win. Or maybe more accurately, I don’t want our side to lose….As with any other form of violence, motivation is everything. A cop shooting a murderer is not the same as a murderer shooting an innocent victim, although both use guns, and at the end, someone is bleeding and dying.

>You’d be amazed at how many people find these things nearly equivalent. A leftist I know sees no difference between a Palestinian child dying from a stray Israeli bullet during a firefight, and an Israeli child dying when a Palestinian terrorist puts the barrel of a gun to the kid’s forehead and blows his brains across the back wall of the child’s bedroom. In his two-dimensional perception, the only important factor is that both resulted in a dead child. Avoiding true moral analysis and motivations allows him to skirt the concept of “evil,” a term which makes many liberals intensely uncomfortable.

>John Kiriakou said that waterboarding a terrorist stopped dozens of attacks. Dozens. Not attacks on military targets, but attacks on innocent non-combatants.

>That was the motivation.

>The terrorists who torture and kill our prisoners (never something as benign as waterboarding) don’t do it because they need information to save innocent people. They do it because they like it, because they want to hurt or kill someone.

>At some point you have to decide if a known terrorist having a very bad day (after which he goes back to a hot meal and a cot) is more of a moral problem than allowing a terrorist to blow up a building full of people.

>Yes, it’s good if we do it, when it’s for the right reasons. So far, it’s been for the right reasons. And no, it isn’t good when it’s done to us, for the reasons it has been done to us. Get back to me when some enemy tortures one of our soldiers in order to save innocent lives.

>Got it?

No, I don’t get it.

Via crucis

Mike Huckabee, bass-playing former Governor of Arkansas and actual Republican Presidential candidate, found another use for Jesus on the cross:

>”Interestingly enough, if there was ever an occasion for someone to have argued against the death penalty, I think Jesus could have done so on the cross and said, ‘This is an unjust punishment and I deserve clemency.’ ”

That’s not an argument for capital punishment, but for unjust capital punishment, unless, of course, Jesus was guilty.

What’s the big idea?

Sometimes op-eds can be entertaining for their emptiness. David Broder on Newt Gingrich:

>In the years since I first met him in 1974, I have learned that it’s wise to take Newt Gingrich seriously. He has many character flaws, and his language is often exaggerated and imprudent. But if there is any politician of the current generation who has earned the label “visionary,” it is probably the Georgia Republican and former speaker of the House.

No, I don’t mean to question here whether Gingrich is a visionary. I just wonder what Broder thinks he’s talking about. Here’s his evidence:

>but his presence in the field would raise the bar for everyone else, improve the content of the debates and change the dynamic of the race.

I wonder how. Broder continues:

>The fact that he is prepared to say plainly that Republicans, if they are to have a prayer of electing George Bush’s successor, must offer “a clean break” from Bush’s policies sets Gingrich apart.

Bush is at 29 percent. That’s not visionary, that’s obvious.

>His personal history and the scars he bears from leading the 1994 revolution that brought Republicans to power in Congress for a dozen years would make it hard for him to mobilize the money and support needed in an already crowded field.

Still waiting for the “visionary” evidence.

>he is right in saying that when “10 guys are lined up like penguins” for TV debates in which answers must be compressed to 60-second sound bites, the “big ideas” he wants to promote would probably be lost.

Right, the “big ideas.”

>So he is opting for American Solutions for Winning the Future, a policy and advocacy group for the Internet age that will be launched at the end of this month from the west front of the Capitol, where Gingrich staged his “Contract With America” signing at the start of the 1994 campaign.

>This effort, which is nominally nonpartisan, is aimed at developing fresh solutions to the public policy problems that challenge the nation, from health care to immigration to inner-city education.

>Gingrich is brimming with ideas on these subjects, but he is realistic enough to suggest that it may be five years before public opinion — and other politicians — are ready to embrace some of them.

Mind sharing, Newt?

>At the news breakfast where I saw him, he was as pumped-up about his new venture as he was when we first had coffee 33 years ago. Then he was a college professor, engaged in a losing House campaign but blessed or cursed with grandiose ideas about how the Republicans might — after more than 30 years — become the majority in Congress.

>He works and travels at a frenetic pace, drawing fresh ideas from visits last week to a Michigan hospital, a Microsoft plant and a health-care complex in Spokane, Wash.

>If big ideas and big ambitions can bring Republicans back to life, Gingrich is ready to supply them. And I have learned not to underestimate him.

Gingrich’s big idea seems to consists in having big ideas, his plan is to have a plan, and he will win by victory.

Science guy

John Tierney was a terrible columnist. Now he’s a terrible science writer:

>After looking at one too many projections of global-warming disasters computer graphics of coasts swamped by rising seas, mounting death tolls from heat waves I was ready for a reality check. Instead of imagining a warmer planet, I traveled to a place that has already felt the heat, accompanied by Bjorn Lomborg, the Danish political scientist and scourge of environmentalist orthodoxy.

Let’s reinterpret this. “After not doing any serious research on global warming, I went to talk to a famous and obviously unqualified skeptic, who, oddly, doesn’t really even doubt the reality of global warming.”

Unsurprising

Tom Friedman, Middle East Expert, today:

One of the most troubling lessons of the Iraq invasion is just how empty the Arab dictatorships are. Once you break the palace, by ousting the dictator, the elevator goes straight to the mosque. There is nothing in between � no civil society, no real labor unions, no real human rights groups, no real parliaments or press. So it is not surprising to see the sort of clerical leadership that has emerged in both the Sunni and Shiite areas of Iraq.

Not surprising? Tom Friedman on the possibility of a democracy in Iraq:

Right, exactly. And I don�t apologize for that. I�m not going to apologize for thinking that if we could find a way to collaborate with people there to build a different future in the heart of that world, which is afflicted by so many pathologies, that that wouldn�t be a really good thing. Tom Friedman on why we invaded Iraq:

What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, um and basically saying, �Which part of this sentence don�t you understand?�

You don�t think, you know, we care about our open society, you think this bubble fantasy, we�re just gonna to let it grow?

Well, Suck. On. This.

Okay.

That Charlie was what this war was about. We could�ve hit Saudi Arabia, it was part of that bubble. We coulda hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could.

Anything’s possible

According to well documented accounts, what Michael Gerson, prose warrior, says in today’s Post op-ed is flatly wrong. Later in the day the blogosphere will be alive with links to documents which will establish that is the case (start here for factual rebuttal). If I find time today I’ll post an update. I was more intrigued by the following claim:

>Four months ago, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could confidently declare: “This war is lost.” Now that is an open question. A recent Zogby poll found that a majority of Americans do not believe the war is lost. And this makes Democratic policies based on the assumption of hopelessness — rigid timetables and funding cuts — strategically irresponsible and politically risky. If defeat is inevitable, it makes sense to cut our losses. If defeat is only possible, preemptively ensuring it would confirm a long-standing Democratic image of weakness.

I’m going to break that down.

>1. Harry Reid said the “war is lost.”

>2. But a Zogby poll found that Americans–a majority of them–disagree.

>3. Therefore, “funding cuts and timetables” are (a) strategically irresponsible and (b) politically risky.

Out of curiosity, both victory and defeat ought to issue in “funding cuts and timetables.” If we win, we leave; if we lose we leave. But it’s odd that 3b finds its way into Gerson’s argument. As far as I know, Americans don’t have a vote in day to day military affairs. Even if true, in other words, whether Americans think the war is lost is irrelevant.

Naturally it’s not irrelevant politically. Democrats can appear weak, but that discussion should be meaningless to anyone but political hacks. Having been right about the prospects for success in military conflict has nothing to do with actual strength and weakness.

Finally, there’s a wide gulf between the inevitable defeat and the possible victory. In addition to the confused notions of victory and defeat for whatever is going on in Iraq (what’s defeated? Us? A strategy? A goal–what was the goal, and so on and so on), some on the right (SOR) hold fast to the “one-percent doctrine.” This involves treating as inevitable that which is merely barely possible. The whole thing, of course, is a raging sophistry (if sophistries can “rage”). “Victory” may still be possible in Iraq, but that depends on the meaning of possible. The irrelevant meaning is whether victory is possible all things considered.

The relevant question is given what whether victory is likely (if so, how likely), given what we are willing to commit to attaining it.

He or she blinded me with science

The New York Times reports on another crazy academic feud driven by politically correct orthodoxy.

>In academic feuds, as in war, there is no telling how far people will go once the shooting starts.

>Earlier this month, members of the International Academy of Sex Research, gathering for their annual meeting in Vancouver, informally discussed one of the most contentious and personal social science controversies in recent memory.

Note the phrase “social science controversies.” Here’s the story, more or less, in outline. J.Michael Bailey, a professor of psychology up the road here at Northwestern University, writes a book,The Man Who Would Be Queen, that challenges the way scientists think about the “biology of sexual orientation.” As the Times tells it, there began his troubles, because he dared to challenge some kind of p.c. orthodoxy:

>To many of Dr. Baileys peers, his story is a morality play about the corrosive effects of political correctness on academic freedom. Some scientists say that it has become increasingly treacherous to discuss politically sensitive issues. They point to several recent cases, like that of Helmuth Nyborg, a Danish researcher who was fired in 2006 after he caused a furor in the press by reporting a slight difference in average I.Q. test scores between the sexes.

>What happened to Bailey is important, because the harassment was so extraordinarily bad and because it could happen to any researcher in the field, said Alice Dreger, an ethics scholar and patients rights advocate at Northwestern who, after conducting a lengthy investigation of Dr. Baileys actions, has concluded that he is essentially blameless. If were going to have research at all, then were going to have people saying unpopular things, and if this is what happens to them, then weve got problems not only for science but free expression itself.

Odd that Dr.Dreger would claim that Dr. Bailey is blameless:

>Moreover, based on her own reading of federal regulations, Dr. Dreger, whose report can be viewed at www.bioethics.northwestern.edu, argued that the book did not qualify as scientific research. The federal definition describes a systematic investigation, including research development, testing and evaluation.

>Dr. Bailey used the people in his book as anecdotes, not as the subjects of a systematic investigation, she reported.

>The bottom line is that they tried to ruin this guy, and they almost succeeded, Dr. Dreger said.

Dr.Dreger seems deeply confused about the nature of the controversy. The controversy concerns (in part) whether what Dr.Bailey said was supported by the evidence. But on Dr.Dreger’s account, it doesn’t even qualify as scientific research. And she’s defending him. It’s hard to see, therefore, what sense it makes to call this a dispute about scientific research and political correctness. There’s no scientific research.

Go suck a lemon

Perhaps by way of an apology, Tom Friedman writes:

Is the surge in Iraq working? That is the question that Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker will answer for us next month. I, alas, am not interested in their opinions.

It is not because I don�t hold both men in very high regard. I do. But I�m still not interested in their opinions. I�m only interested in yours. Yes, you � the person reading this column. You know more than you think.

You see, I have a simple view about both Arab-Israeli peace-making and Iraqi surge-making, and it goes like this: Any Arab-Israeli peace overture that requires a Middle East expert to explain to you is not worth considering. It�s going nowhere.

Here (again) is something even you–the people who read Tom Friedman's column–can understand:

What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, um and basically saying, "Which part of this sentence don't you understand?"

You don't think, you know, we care about our open society, you think this bubble fantasy, we're just gonna to let it grow?

Well, Suck. On. This.

Okay.

That Charlie was what this war was about. We could've hit Saudi Arabia, it was part of that bubble. We coulda hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could.

Now that makes perfect sense. I don't need a Middle East expert to explain that to me. (h/t atrios for the transcript).