The world gets less funny
1) I wrote a letter to my dad - I was writing, "I really enjoy being here," but I accidentally wrote rarely instead of really. But I still wanted to use it so I wrote, "I rarely drive steamboats, dad - there's a lot of shit you don't know about me. Quit trying to act like I'm a steamboat operator." This letter took a harsh turn right away...
...and then at the end of the letter I like to write "P.S. - this is what part of the alphabet would look like if Q and R were eliminated.
2) On a traffic light green means go and yellow means yield, but on a banana it's just the opposite. Green means hold on, yellow means go ahead, and red means where the fuck did you get that banana at...
I also liked how'd he explain why his eyes were closed by mentioning that he has an audience enjoying the show more drawn on the inside of his eyelids.
We've got a live one I report, you decide
Cleverly, Birch argues that the grant of jurisdiction by itself would have been fine, but the four parts of the law which require the Court to ignore previous state court judgments make the whole thing unconstitutional. In the first part he cites to a concurring opinion in INS v. Chadha which cites to the Federalist Papers for the proposition that the Framers enshrined in the constitution separation of powers principles because of past legislative interference with the judiciary and their desire to avoid it in the future. Then he argues the following: The Supreme Court held in the 1871 case of United States v. Klein that Congress couldn't legislate the rule of decision for a particular case. Terri's law set the standard of review for a particular case, as well as denying the applicability use of several other judicial doctrines to that case. The standard of review often determines the rule of decision and the 11th Circuit had held last year in Florida Progress Corporation v. Commissioner that the standard of review is for the court to decide. He then discusses other ways in which "Congress direct[s] what particular steps shall be taken in the progress of a judicial inquiry," which was held to be unconstitutional in the Plaut case.
In his second section he argues that the unconstitutional part of the act isn't severable from the constitutional grant of jurisdiction because severability isn't applicable if the severed statute wouldn't operate in the manner intended by Congress. This section is remarkably unpersuasive, since it assumes that given a choice between passing no law at all and one which only granted jurisdiction without any other changes, Congress would have chosen no law at all.
In case anyone is wondering, I don't know anything about any of the cited cases and am simply summarizing Birch's argument.
This is clearly correct, though it may not prove as much as Matt (and I) would hope. There is no empirical evidence that I know of about how a radically Islamic democracy would behave (is there some period in Iranian history where people want to claim it was a plausible democracy? I don't see how this would be done, even at the late-90's height of the reform movement). It could be that such a democracy wouldn't think it's nearly sufficient that the United States powers to dominate in the Middle East are substantially reduced, and that they also desire to reduce the United States standard of living at home. Now, that last clause sounds a lot like, "They hate us for our freedom!" Since that's a position I don't hold (I think it's a joke), I should be clear that what I mean is that even if the United States influence in the Middle East waned quite seriously, there could still be a lot of anger at the United States over old wrongs, real or perceived.
When people say things that are absolutely idiotic, such as that someone who has killed other people or is considering suicide needs to see the results of an essentially meaningless electrical resistance test (United States v. Article or Device, etc., 333 F. Supp. 357 (D.D.C., 1971)) to realize "this is something I need to handle," it is patently unfair of the Times to let them make a fool of themself in public. Rather, the reporter should pat him on the head, thank him for the interview, and then run away before he cracks up laughing. Science fiction author worshipping cultists are people too, you know.
The main thing I learned from this story is that I regret having never stopped at the scientology table, since it sounds like it would have made a good anecdote.
Best argument ever
This pretty much speaks for itself, but it's too much fun to let it. First of all, the quantification of knowledge itself is so funny. Also, why is the present year set to year zero for the purposes of this, rather than making year zero say one thousand years or two thousand years ago? Oh, because this would show that knowledge has increased greatly over time, and make it absurd to set out present "knowledge-units," at near zero, which is a key rhetorical point. Overall, this is an argument for thorough going skepticism about anything. If "we will know more in the future about area of knowledge X" counts as an argument for "all current beliefs about X are false," then it counts as an argument for "all current beliefs about everything are false".
Update: Unsurprisingly, Leiter has weighed in, and it's fairly clever. See the first update.
They're really both about him distorting the language of others. In one, he complains about the media's refusal to use the word terrorism in describing the Chechen attack and basically, massacre, at the school in Beslan. He cites to twenty articles, most of which to describe the attacks as terrorism, but also use other words like hostage-takers or attackers, or what have you. So his complaint isn't that they don't use the word terrorism, it's that they sometimes use other words. Basically he wants everyone discussing terrorism to turn into a really bad writer. To be specific, the problem here isn't that every news agency clearly has the right approach to referring to terrorism, but rather that the examples which Pipes adduces do not support his point, and in fact run contrary to it.
In the other, he distorts Tariq Ramadan's language while arguing in support of the denial of Ramadan's visa. Ramadan was going to come teach at Notre Dame, but then had his visa denied because of some remarks he'd made. As the opening paragraph shows, the source linked to here is very far from neutral about Pipes in general, but his argument on this particular issue is solid independent of his other views on Pipes.
So, as far as I know, Daniel Pipes is not to be trusted.
It seems to me that what's actually happened is that there are two versions of the book, an English one and an Italian one, rather than one being a translation of the other. Of course, one of the two is chronologically prior. But is that all it takes for one to be a translation of the other? I don't think the distinction between Italian original/ English and Italian version/ English version is a distinction without a difference. The difference is that in the things which I want to call proper translations, the translator is limited to the source text in order to determine how the original author would have expressed his or herself in the new language. But when an author is writing their own work in a second language, there is no such constraint. They have direct access to their intentions, rather than being limited to a secondary source.
I'm pretty sure Nabokov has written an essay on this topic, but I can't remember what he said. Any thoughts from readers are also much appreciated.
Borrowed Social Security Wonkery
Oh, and I might as well add that one lesson which we might want to draw from this is that, given the uncertainty about whether or not there is a social security problem at all, it really may be better to wait and see if there is a problem before making any changes, even minor ones. Unless the changes make sense independent of any funding gap, but thats not the situation being argued about.
Shout outs and a complaint
Help fight John Bolton's nomination for U.N. ambassador, and see what Scott P. is up to. Scotty, I assume you caught Holbrooke's statements this week?
Yesterday's Times crossword involved, in four different locations, writing three letters in one square. Is this wholly novel, or have they pulled that kind of crap before?
Oh the Places You'll Go...
On the United States, I'm being very literal about the not getting out of the car part. So New Hampshire counts because I got out of the car at the State Liquor Store, and Delaware because I've bought gas there on the way to D.C. I'm not sure if I've bought gas in Alabama on the way to Atlanta, so I'm not counting that:
Also, due to the lack of geographical continguity, it's rather odd to me that the World map claims I've been to Hawaii, while the U.S. map correctly notes that I have not.
Anyway, there's a scene where Timothy Busfield, as Danny, comes into C.J.'s office to give her a goldfish. But he had muisunderstood Josh's advice, because Josh recommend (vaguely) that Danny give her goldfish crackers, not an actual fish. Her facial expressions as she goes from perplexed to surprised to laughing are just outstanding, and her laugh is just wonderful, uplifting but a little jaded sounding.
The kind of brainteaser I'm less good at it
Now, having googled it, the organization behind the protest explains it as, "...identify[ing] with those like Terri who cannot cry out on their own behalf." Which is a meaningful message and I suppose putting tape over your mouth communicates that. Though writing "Life" on the tape implies that they are mind readers (or they deny that anyone ever wants to die), and identifying themselves as being the victim has a lot of hubris to it.
Things you'll never need to know how to do
The more interesting one: You have twelve indistinguishable objects and a two sided balance. Eleven of them way exactly the same amount, one of them is either heavier or lighter than the other eleven. Given three weighs, explain how to determine which of the twelve it is, and whether it's heavier or lighter.
I'm sure the answers to both of these are googleable, but that wouldn't be much fun now, would it?
Next, the ad says that, "He asked for all ideas to be put on the table." This is a reference to his 2005 State of the Union speech, in which he did use very similar language to that. But in the next minute or so, he listed what was non-negotiable, including, "We must not jeopardize our economic strength by increasing payroll taxes." So any plan which is made up entirely of benefit cuts is acceptable. Also, while he did not specifically state that private accounts were a non-negotiable aspect of reform, he strongly suggested this. While I object to these first two parts of the commercial, the next part is much worse.
Progress for America then asks, rhetorically? "Can you think of any ideas the national Democrats have offered?" They then show a stopwatch ticking off ten seconds, and don't say anything. The final message is to tell Congress to stop playing partisan games with Social Security. Like the man said, I agree with the second part. As for the first part, there are a host of problems. The first is that the ad doesn't make the claim that Democrats have nothing to contribute to the Social Security debate, which would be easily refuted. Instead, they just strongly imply that Democrats are engaging in partisan games.
The second problem is that use of the qualifier "national." For any particular Democrat one were to bring up, this propaganda organization can claim they aren't national. For instance, if I site to the Diamond-Orszag proposal from the Brookings institute, which is a plan to keep social security fully funded forever, I would probably be told that I have to cite to someone holding a national political office, even though Brookings is a nationally recognized think tank and the ideas coming out of it tend to garner far more support from liberals than conservatives. Obviously, many other Democrats in journalism and the academy have proposed reforms for social security in the future. Also obviously, many Democrats don't believe there is a social security crisis, just a future funding shortfall which can be fixed without drastic measures.
But to actually answer the question, here are plans by Harry Reid and Howard Dean, and John Kerry (the Kerry plan is pretty weak, I have to say) for Social Security reform. So there are some contributions from national Democrats. Also, George W. Bush has refused repeatedly to announce what his Social Security plan is, so it's absurd to ask for other plans to counter it. Finally, the obvious reason that Democrats aren't being far more vocal about advocating for small reforms which they are in favor of is that once the bill is in a reconciliation committee, they have every reason to believe the bill would be changed into one they oppose. This is what happened with the Medicare drug benefit. So, who's playing partisan games?
Edward at Obsidian Wings is keeping an eye on unrest in Kyrgyzstan. This is one of the many important stories being overshadowed by the fiactacle. I'm not sure that the substance of his post supports the notion which I take from his title that democracy is on the rise, if unstably so. Rather it supports the idea of a democratic crisis with the possibility of things heading towards either massive instability, further autocracy, or further democracy. Actually, I take it back, I think his title isn't particularly optimistic, though it is hard to ascertain quite what the meaning is of Democracy Hiccing Up* in Kyrgyzstan , even with the asterisk explaining that Hiccing Up is: the present continuous form of "to hiccup," in some circles anyway.
Greg at Belgravia Dispatch picks a fight with Matt Y over what our future plans should be for troop levels in Iraq. I'm rooting for Matt, but Greg seems to me to have gotten the better of him for now.
Ogged links to a solid Stephanie Zacharek article on the phenomenon of celebrity blogs. The best bit was: The grandfather may have said it better in "A Hard Day's Night" -- "I was supposed to be getting a change of scenery, and so far I've been in a train and a room, a car and a room and a room and a room" -- but the essence of the musician-on-tour experience (and, presumably, its isolation) isn't lost on Moby.
David Brooks gets himself dis-invited to some Republican dinners, or congratulated at the same dinners for being able to convince liberals that he's really a reasonable guy just by writing one column condemning blatantly corrupt Republican practices. I haven't decided which yet.
So, if one takes the sentence "Legally, it's debatable" to mean that the law may or may not prohibit whatever the referent of "it" is, there is no support at all for that in the article, nor in any law I've ever learned. Now obviously the law isn't going to prohibit idiosyncratic grand jury assessments in the sense of punishing them with incarceration or even fines, but one might imagine that the law would provide some procedural safeguards such as allowing the evidence to be resubmitted to another grand jury or otherwise protected from the personal policy preferences of grand jury members. Now there could in fact be such procedural safeguards that I've never heard of, but the balance of what I've seen suggests that there aren't. Maybe I'll ask my Crim. professor tomorrow. As far as I can tell, both upon the evidence in the article and my limited research, there is no legal debate.
As for the ethical question at hand, it is in fact a tough one. One relevant piece of information which isn't addressed is the process one goes through before ending up on a grand jury. What if anything is a grand juror required to agree to in order to be placed on the grand jury? If they enter into an agreement such as, "Uphold and apply the law as written," or anything like that, they would have an affirmative obligation to do so. My check of the Arizona Revised Statues on Juries reveals no such obligation. The closest the statutes come is 21-413 which reads: The grand jury shall return an indictment charging the person under investigation with the commission of a public offense if, from all the evidence taken together, it is convinced that there is probable cause to believe the person under investigation is guilty of such public offense.But it doesn't provide a remedy if the grand jury fails to do this, and there is no mention that the grand jurors actually have to agree to this in order to be on the grand jury. There is a mention of a questionaire, but the statute doesn't cover what sort of questions are asked. If the questionaire asked something like, "Would you be willing to indict someone under a law which you think is bad policy or too harsh?" and the grand juror in question answered yes to that, this would suggest to me that he is obligated to indict under the conditions mentioned in the column. Finally, the grand jury may have recieved an instruction like the one at issue in US v. Navarro-Vargas (.pdf file), which stated that the grand jury may not "consider the wisdom of the laws enacted by Congress." The 7th Circuit upheld such an instruction, over vigorous dissent by Judge Kozinski.
Without any affirmative agreement, the grand juror in question has no obligation to ignore his own opinion of the validity of laws. The system is certainly not dependent on jurors checking their intuitions at the door. As Randy notes, one of the functions of a grand jury is as a check on prosecutorial discretion. This requires not only that the grand jurors prevent prosecutors from bringing a case where they don't perceive probable cuase, but also to stand in for the sense of the community in whether or not the limited resources of the prosecutor's office should be deployed in a particular matter. Finally, there is one safeguard against truly idiosyncratic grand jurors which mitigates the harm of sticking with personal preferences. Grand juries don't need to be unanimous, under Arizona law grand juries consist of between twelve and sixteen people. Only nine of them must vote to indict. This further suggests that there isn't a presumption of an ethical duty for grand jurors to adhere to existing law, since the system can function even when they don't.
I know this is really long, but I have two final points. Randy flatly contradicts himself when he says in the first paragraph, "petit jurors...must convict if the evidence warrants" and then later says, "Employing the more radical tactic of jury nullification in criminal trials, for example..." By acknowledging that jury nullification exists, Randy shows that the earlier claim is false. Whether or not jury nullification should exist or not is a very difficult issue, but it does exist. The other is that I think an argument that what the grand juror wants to do here is ethically praise-worthy because laws making viewing of pornography and possession of marijuana felonies are bad policy, while if the grand juror were to to do the same thing in refusing to indict under a law that I think is good policy, such as date rape laws, he'd be doing something wrong, can't really get off the ground. One can argue that the jurors policy preferences are pernicious, but not that he or she can't apply them.
Persistence of Memories
At least point 3 is original
1) On the legal issues, I can't understand why someone would think that "federal government intervention will lead to swift resolution." The entire point of the Federal government intervention is to avoid the relatively swift (two weeks maximum) resolution (Terry's death) which was about to take place. Now, rather than this definetly being resolved within two weeks, the Schiavos have 30-days to file with the Federal Court for the Eastern District of Florida, though they will move for a preliminary injunction immediately, since the feeding is presently disconnected. I think it's extremely likely that the Federal Court will grant the injunction, a standard formula for injunctions is based on the severity of the harm if there is delay and the probability of winning on the merits. If the courts thinks there is some small chance of deciding for her parents later on, they will grant the injunction as soon as possible, since she is certain to die without it in two weeks.
2) On the ethical issue, I'm going to assume that everyone reading here thinks that there are some cases where autonomy trumps the life (living will cases, at least). So the question is what do we know in hard cases where we lack clear intent. The principle proposed by Alameida and others to "err on the side of life" has some intuitive appeal, but it's in danger of swallowing the rule. (I think the point I'm about to make is stolen from Hilzoy, not certain though. Update: Sadly, yes) What if the living will provides for the future self being brain dead, but not in a PVS? What if it specifies removing ventilation, but not removing nutrition and hydration? If we err on the side of life there, we're at risk of ignoring the general intent behind a great number of living wills. The odd thing about this case from my perspective, besides the separation of powers issues, is how well the proceedings worked. The parents had numerous oppurtunities to appeal, the husband gave up his ability to make the determination himself and instead gave the state court the ability to use its discretion, and still we have the current mess. So despite what appears to me to be a remarkably well designed system in Florida for adjudicating end of life decisions, we still have this mess. I'm not really sure what improvements can be made to avoid this in the future, other than everyone having living wills. Maybe make filling out a living will part of some process that most people go through, like registering for a drivers license, though that strikes me absurd.
3) Most morbidly, this whole situation keeps reminding me of the Seinfeld episode "The Comeback." It's probably most well known for the line, "The jerk store called and they're running out of you," but one of the subplots is about Kramer watching a made for TV film called Coma. He makes a living will which gives Elaine the power to decide to unplug him from assistance, but then it turns out that he only watched the first half of the film and didn't know that one could recover from a coma. He then wants to change the will, but goes into a coma after being hit by a tennis ball and wakes up thinking that Elaine is about to kill him. Funny stuff, that.
Studies in the Obvious
Update: DeLong points out that the portion of the article referring to the Clintion health-care plan as "economist packed" is also inaccurate, based on his perspective as a Clinton administration economist.
But back to my main point, it seems odd to me that there would be an attempt at piecemeal, rather than whole-cloth, reform of the security coucil. If one new permanent seat is being added, and there's enough energy for reform there, isn't it a good time to do all the work?
A cruel and very unusual post
This week, kind words for Randy
As far as question two goes, I again agree with Randy. Charging high school students for recommendation letters is a) just icky and b) means there is no reason to believe a word of the recommendation letter, since the teachers incentive is now to be asked by as many people as s/he feels s/he can handle writing for to write letters. A good way to do this is to spread the information around the high school that the teacher writes very positive and helpful letters, irrelevant of the quality of the student. As for ways to solve the problem which the teacher said led to the policy of charging $20/ letter, namely students asking for more letters than they plan on using and then "letter shopping" to get the most beneficial package of recommendations, there are other ways of doing that. The most obvious, which Randy hits on, is asking the student to provide postage, and addressed envelopes to the teacher directly, and taking the student out of the recommendation sending process. But I can imagine colleges not liking this, since it would be more convenient for them to have all of their submissions from a given student in as few communications as possible.
In that case, I would suggest a fairly elaborate system in which the school announces a policy of having every teacher include, as the first and last line of each recommendation: If the sealed envelope containing this recommendation has been tampered with in anyway, please assume that the student in question is undeserving of attending your fine institution. Then bring back wax seals for envelopes, or some other interesting way of indicating they've been tampered with. Or charge the students money per recommendation, but make all funds payable to the school itself or another charity. Though that still gives an advantage to wealthier students in "letter shopping."
Finally, on the third letter, I think the letter-writer could win a judgment in civil court over the person who was parasitic off of their advertisements. The judgement would probably be less than the cost of makingthe case, so it will never happen, but on the facts of the letter, the other party fraudulently and knowingly misrepresented their garage sale as the one which was advertised, and caused economic harm to the letter-writer by doing so. Maybe they'll settle the law suit.
In fact, given that Volokh has just written an article on crime-facilitating speech and other related issues, I'm surprised he didn't move his analysis to that level, discussing what the officials should do if they really think the shirt will lead to crime.
See, that wasn't so hard
Wonders of the Internet
1) They maintain a blog.
2) They post re-mixes of Jesse Jackson campaign speeches on their blog.
3) They link to other people who have re-mixed Jesse Jackson campaign speeches on their blog.
Daily Show on Lebanon
Oh, and the bit on the schism in the Anglican church was great, especially the joke eliding the difference between Anglican Bishops and Chess Bishops. Watch it when they repeat this episode tomorrow.
Fake politics are less depressing than the real thing
What the show needs now is for Santos to do something that he thinks is right morally but will hurt him politically and have it actually hurt him politically. So far, every political risk he takes to go with what he thinks is right has paid off. That's boring. Same general idea, but going in the opposite direction, one of the campaigns should do something unambiguously unethical to the other campaign, and it should work.
Oh, and are Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, Martin Sheen and the rest of the regulars happy working half schedules?
I'm sure Will will fix the neologism at some point, so let me assure that you at 6:25 the combination of characters which starts this post does appear in the linked post.
Comments on West Wing 6.17
Upon reflection, I don't think the Canada border dispute plotline worked that well. Because the situation was so absurd, the best way to play it would have been the characters to take it really seriously, rather than have the characters constantly talking about how the situation was so absurd and that they can't really take it seriously. Maybe if the military dispute with Canada plotline hadn't been used in both South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut and in Canadian Bacon it would have worked the way it was used in this episode. But the way it was played ended up being unsatisfying. However, Kate's resolution of it was both clever and in character.
The main plotline with the Congressional scheming was really fun. It did a good job of developing Santos and Cliff, and the new guy Congressman they introduced who lives in his office was pretty good for a one shot character. Also, the Democratic House members having a slumber party in that office was a much better variety of absurd then the Canada material. It also sets up Cliff as a future White House staffer under the Santos administration.
Jed's quarrel with his co-Nobel prize winner was done pretty well, but they should have brought out more of Jed's extremely nerdy side from the early episodes. A little of it came out, but this would have been a great oppurtunity for some of Jed's patented pointless trivia.
As for the final plotline, I will be adding something about voting rights for people under 18 to the hypothetical political platform I have in my head, which is mostly made up of redistricting reform and some changes in criminal law and civil procedure. It seems like one good solution is to keep the categorical inclusion of anyone over eighteen while dropping the categorical exclusion of all of those who are under. Then create some kind of test so that under eighteen year olds who are interested can gain the right to vote, though I'm not sure at what age we would want people to become eligible for testing. While some might find this problematic, I would be happy if most voters gained access to their voting rights earlier and had to engage in some civic republicanism. The main difficulty I foresee is getting consensus that the content of the test is non-partisan.
But it's his most recent post that I expect will soon be getting quite a bit of attention. In it, he discusses how the Democrats can retaliate if the Republicans use their "Nuclear Option." Briefly, the nuclear option for the Republicans is to change the Senate cloture rules for ending a filibuster of a judicial nominee. This would allow the Senate to pass all of Bush's judicial nominee's on a party-line vote, and the change can be made by a simple majority and the approval of Vice-President Cheney. While many people have discussed ways the Democrats can retaliate by severely hampering the ability of the Senate to do anything, Mark has a modest proposal (except he actually uses the term "modest proposal" to describe it, which creates some doubt that it may be a satire) for how the Democrats should respond.
He wants to utilize California's initiative system to change the way Representatives are elected in California. In particular, he wants them elected by party slate. In order to avoid certain legal/constitutional problems with not having representatives divided up by discrete districts, there would be district level primaries with a Democrat and a Republican winner for each district. Then, the state as a whole would vote for either the Dem or Repub slate, which in current California would certainly be the Democrats, despite their Republican governor.
This left me wondering: What is the game theoretic term for "Move that only makes sense if it is the last move so that your opponent cannot retaliate?" Actually, I'm not sure that having every state adopt this system would be a net negative for the Democrats. The recent election indicates that there are more states right now which are over 50% Republican than there are states which are over 50% Democrat. But that doesn't mean there are more Representatives from such states, since the Senators count for a disproportionate number of electoral votes in the small states. So it turns out the number of Representatives from states which voted for W. in the 2004 election is: 224, while there are 211 reps from Kerry states. This would be better for Democrats than the current 232-201 balance but is quite likely to pose new obstacles for becoming the majority again in the near future. The numbers don't sum up because of a vacant seat and one independent.
Kozinski and Neuborne on the death penalty
They didn't disagree with the result in Roper, and Neuborne also approved of the reasoning. After Neuborne gave a litany of important cases which he thinks the Judges decided based upon their personal moral beliefs (but were not inconsistent with the text), Kozinski said something along the lines, "Sure you're fine with it now, but how are you going to feel when the Thomas Court starts doing that?" Neuborne seemed remarkably sanguine about the idea. I'm not, which is the main appeal some variety of textualism has for me. I want to constrain the power of judges, because my fear of judges who disagree with my policy preferences doing evil is greater than my hope of judges who agree with me doing good.
While I've written about my issues with Roper, I don't understand at all the objection that Kozinski raised about Kennedy counting the states which don't have any capital punishment as being against capital punishment for juveniles. Kennedy is counting to determine the "evolving standards of decency," and wants to know how many states consider capital punishment of juveniles to be indecent or otherwise bad policy. The answer to that question has to include the states banning capital punishment all together, they clearly think capital punishment of juveniles is indecent, even if they don't think it's more indecent than capital punishment of adults. Excluding them, and then finding that a majority of the states which approve of the death penalty also approve it for juveniles is clearly the wrong answer.
Kozinski also tried to make a lot out of, "How do you deter people from committing crimes after they've already been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole?" That's a hard question, though of course solitary confinement is one alternative. Also, this problem doesn't go away with a wide ranging death penalty, because how do you deter people who are currently appealing their death sentence? You can put them in solitary confinement, or you can kill them the minute they're convicted in the first trial, but otherwise the problem repeats itself at a lower level.
Also, Kozinski wasn't as funny as I've seen him be in writing or in reports of other speeches. Maybe it was just the topic though.
At least the Black Helicopters won't be a problem
This is a remarkably short sighted view, since it's premised on the idea that we'll always remain the world's only super power (also that there are no ethics in international relations, only realpolitik). Many intelligent people seem to think that China and India will be quite powerful in the course of the coming century, and the United States might want a robust system of international law to constrain their actions. But apparently Bolton isn't one of those people.
More fun with contrarian argument
1.The student writing to the Ethicist may be a strict Kantian. In that case she would probably will as a universal maxim, "One should not participate in Affirmative Action." If she is a Kantian, it would fully explain how her belief that affirmative action shouldn't exist entails an obligation to not take part in affirmative action. The rest of this post assumes that she is some variety of consequentialist on the topic of affirmative action.
2. Opposing the existence of an institution isn't a sufficient to create a moral obligation to not take part in that institution.
Example: Suppose that a person (call her Marie Antoinette) believes that democracy is wrong and that no one should have the right to vote. Marie no more obligation to not vote than anyone else does. Rather, they should make use of legitimate means within the system to try to have the their policy-preferences made law.
3. Point two isn't enough to argue for my position below re: affirmative action. The particular reasons that one wants the institution to not exist come into play. For instance, if Marie believed that each act of voting caused harm to/ violated the rights of some person or persons other than herself, it would appear that she has an obligation not to vote.
4. It is possible that the student who wrote to the Ethicist does think that each time an individual makes use of affirmative action they are causing a harm to and/or violating the rights of some other person or persons. If the school she is applying to is using a quota system (which is illegal) or something which functions like a quota system (which is possible), the student is simply wrong that her taking advantage of affirmative action unjustly harms anyone, regardless of her belief that affirmative action is wrong.
Example: Assume that affirmative action is unjust, and that in a just world a strictly "merit" based system would be used, and that merit is fairly detectable. The student might therefore assume that by making use of affirmative action, she is causing one person to unjustly not get in on merit, or causing a group of non-affirmative action eligible people to have their chance of getting in on merit unjustly decrease. But this belief is false. In a quota or quota-like system, her use of affirmative action would exclude someone else from getting in who would have gotten in due to affirmative action, not someone who would get in due to merit. On the other hand, her getting in based on merit leaves the number of people getting in under the quota-like system constant. So now she is in, one more person who would not have gotten in has gotten in due to affirmative action, and one person who would have been accepted in the merit world has been excluded. So, under a quota, if you are an affirmative action opponent, you should absolutely make use of affirmative action in order to reduce the harm on those who would get in under a merit based system.
5. The example in four depends on the quota like system. In a system which does not include any element of a quota, the student does have a moral obligation based upon her hypothetical belief that each occasion of participation in affirmative action unjustly harms some person or class of people. It's important that I qualify what I mean by having no elements of a quota. Imagine a system of affirmative action for redheads. If it is totally un-quota like, this system would allow for the possibility of there being zero redheads among the admitted class despite the affirmative action. It would allow for this in the case where all redheaded applicants, with whatever affirmative action factor is added on to their merit level, still have a lower total score than enough non-red headed applicants to fill the entering class. Any system which won't allow for this has a quota of "greater than zero." Under a system with a quota of "greater than zero," people who are opposed to affirmative action should still take advantage of it, since they are crowding out other people who would benefit from the affirmative action, not people who would get in on merit.
6. I think there is an error in the reasoning in point five. Point four is correct.
Monitoring the Ethicist
The issue Randy is dealing with is the obligations of a minority applicant who is opposed to the existence of affirmative action. The applicant refused to disclose her race in the portion of the application which explicitly asks about it. But in her personal statement she wants to discuss race and experiences in which race is inherently bound up. The applicant is worried that doing so is hypocritical because she doesn't want to take advantage of affirmative action while disagreeing with its existence. I want to dispute that there is any obligation for even the most ardent opponent of affirmative action to avoid using it. I'll argue this by analogy.
Let's say there's someone who doesn't think rent control should exist. This person thinks rent control violates the rights of land owners and gives renters an undeserved windfall gain. Let's call this hypothetical person Robert Nozick. Is he under some obligation to not take advantage of the existence of rent control? I would suggest that he is not obliged to. Of course, he is going to look bad making use of a practice which he says is unjust. But really, he thinks the whole system of laws should be changed in such wholesale ways that his position is best understood as saying "In an ideal world rent control wouldn't exist." Now even if he is completely right about that, the bare fact tells you very little about how he should behave in the world of the second-best where we actually live. In particular, unjust rent control may function in opposition to other systematic injustice in the real world or it may be that the owners who rent control is being imposed upon aren't the rightful owners in a Nozickian sense and therefore don't have the moral standing to object to rent control. In short, it can be perfectly ethical to take part in an institution while simultaneously acting in a sincere manner to eliminate it.
Similarly, the bare fact that this student opposes the existence of affirmative action places no obligation on her to avoid the existing program. Other students are going to benefit from the practice, so by opting out she risks making herself worse off than she would be in the ideal world of no affirmative action. The main reason I see for her decision to opt out is that the contrary position makes her rhetoric less effective.
As for Randy's advice, it's not terrible. Telling the student they may want to rethink affirmative action isn't crazy, though Michigan's diversity rationale certainly isn't the only one behind the program. Rather, it's the only reason courts like to hear as justification. On the other hand, someone who bothers to write to Cohen about affirmative action probably does care a good deal about the issue and has given it a lot of thought. So it's sort of condescending to say that she should rethink her belief. His joke about not robbing banks because he doesn't know how to divvy up the loot is moronic, but he tends to say things like that every once and a while and I've come to accept it.
Oh, in case I was being too subtle or you didn't follow the link, Nozick really did take extreme advantage of rent control laws.
Update (2:00): This post has been revised. Also, to clarify my view: As I said, I think the belief that something shouldn't exist doesn't tell you how to behave in the world where it exists. It does create an ethical obligation to act towards a world where it doesn't exist. If, and only if, her mentioning her race made affirmative action more likely to continue existing, then she would have a very real obligation not to mention her race. Since I doubt the truth of the antecedent clause, I doubt that she has any such obligation.
Now is the Time on Sprockets When We Dance!
And as we talked, I remembered all the reasons I’m so fond of St. Louis, and why I’m glad Nick is going to college there, and even more glad that he’s not staying on the carefully manicured lawns of Wash. U., but actually getting out and canvassing the city– not just for John Kerry (or Chuck Berry), but as part of his architecture program, one course of which required him to propose and design an urban-renewal project for a section of the urb that needs serious renewing. These days, though, my fondness for St. Louis is tinged by pity, and pity is among the cheapest and most insulting of emotions. May’s Department Stores, the third largest public company in town, is folding its tent; American Airlines, having ingested the sorry remains of TWA, has cut its St. Louis flights by fifty percent, leaving behind a giant sucking sound at Lambert International Airport; and the historic downtown area– which has, alas, fallen prey to the kind of fools who think you can revive a downtown area by building more stadiums and parking lots, and who don’t realize that after the Blues and Rams games let out, everyone heads straight to their cars because there isn’t a single index of ordinary life (like grocery stores) within ten miles– is a study in depression, economic and affective.
If you care about St. Louis, read the whole thing. It's really good.
On a separate note, I saw Gunner Palace. It's good, I recommend it, but it's not what I was expecting. In particular, it's much less intense than I thought it would be. I'll put togehter some comments about it tomorrow. Of course, a running theme on this blog has been that every post I say in writing that I am going to write in the future does not get written.
|The Balance Sheet|
in spring training games compared to the regular season:
World Series Winner
|Reg. Season |
|2000||New York Yankees||13-21||.382||.540|
|1999||New York Yankees||14-19||.424||.605|
|1998||New York Yankees||15-12||.556||.704|
|1996||New York Yankees||16-15||.516||.568|
|1993||Toronto Blue Jays||11-19||.367||.586|
|1992||Toronto Blue Jays||13-18||.419||.593|
|1988||Los Angeles Dodgers||21-11||.676||.584|
|1986||New York Mets||13-13||.500||.667|
|1985||Kansas City Royals||12-15||.444||.562|
|1982||St. Louis Cardinals||13-11||.542||.568|
|1981||Los Angeles Dodgers||12-14||.462||.573|