Saturday, December 30, 2006

Cognitive dissonance? What's that?

In an excellent post at Unqualified Offerings, Jim Henley points out something I hadn't really thought of: the crime for which Saddam Hussein was officially executed, the Dujail reprisal massacre, is pretty much the sort of thing a lot of hawks are suggesting we do when they complain about our inadequate ferocity in Iraq. As Henley bluntly puts it:

Every time you read a complaint about “politically correct rules of engagement” you are reading someone who would applaud a Dujail-level slaughter if only we were to perpetrate it.
A harsh assessment, but it rings true with several conversations I've had, sadly.

This brings to mind a similar quirk of many hawks, who are generally the people most likely to advocate the use of torture on suspected terrorists. Quite often, their publicly stated position seems to be, "Hussein was a monster who had to be destroyed because he engaged in things like torture. By the way, let's start torturing people!"

To be fair, I'm pretty sure none of the neocons have advocated going to Hussein-level extremes like rape rooms or acid baths. Still, it makes me wonder: Are they oblivious to the fact that they're calling for us to do the sorts of things they damn Hussein for? Or are they just hoping everyone else will be?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

New stuff

Apologies for the dearth of new posts lately; now that I've got my new laptop and the holidays are coming to a close, that situation should improve. Meanwhile, I hope you'll check out my new article at

I'm also happy to say that work on my other blog has proceeded at a good pace, with reviews of Larry Niven, Poul Anderson (who is of particular libertarian interest), and some thoughts on science fiction at the movies. If that sounds interesting, please have a look.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Maintaining the public trust

I have no particularly strong animus against Gerald Ford, and I hadn’t intended to comment on his death one way or the other. But I ran into something that deserves comment.

I just finished reading this morning’s Chicago Tribune’s editorial pages. Most of the letters to the editor and the lead editorial were about the late Gerald Ford. The tone was universally worshipful- he was benevolent, he was wise, he was a compromising moderate who united people. In particular, his decision to pardon Nixon was praised as a great act of statesmanship, a way to restore American trust in government by avoiding the spectacle of a former president being put on trial. That jumped out at me. It is interesting that these people, who consider faith in government and the presidency a good thing, implicitly recognize and acknowledge the fact that to maintain the people’s all-important trust in government it is necessary to distract them from criminal acts committed by their leaders. Letting Nixon go to trial for his crimes like some commoner would have encouraged the public to think about the fact that the state’s highest official had broken the state’s own laws, and we can’t have that!

I doubt they think of it in precisely those terms- few people are that Machiavellian. But it remains the underlying principle of their argument.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, December 22, 2006

New articles up

I've got two new articles online today: one at Strike the Root, and another one at Hope you like them.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

They just don't give a damn anymore

So, apparently, in the mother of all copouts, the Time Magazine Person of the Year is "You." I would be honored, except that the 2003 Person of the Year was "The American Soldier," which means that I have a cousin who is now a two-time Man of the Year. I'm sure I'll be hearing all about that when I see him on Christmas Eve, the arrogant bastard. I can only hope that 2007 will be the year that Time finally recognizes the Bespectacled Poul Anderson Fanboy and evens things up again, or he'll be lording this over me for the rest of our lives.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, December 15, 2006

Science fiction blog is up!

At long last, my science fiction blog is up and running. It's just getting started, but if the topic interests you, I hope you'll have a look.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Since I've gotten a sudden influx of hits, I thought I'd provide a little recap of some of my posts and articles from the past for those who are new to the site. Here are a few of my favorites:

The story of how the evils of drug prohibition struck home for me

Thoughts on the nature of neoconservatism

The sad decline of Thomas Sowell

The menace of the center

Some thoughts on libertarian-leftist dialogue

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, December 11, 2006

Thoughts on liberal-libertarian alliance

I've been dubious of the whole "liberaltarian" idea from the get-go. (Despite my sympathy for left-libertarianism, which I consider a quite different thing.) I think reaching out to leftists is potentially quite fruitful, as I've written in the past, but mostly with leftists who already have at least some anti-statist instincts, or who can be turned in that direction; liberaltarianism, on the other hand, seems to be about allying with the Democratic Party and other more-or-less "respectable," mainstream liberals- in other words, people likely to be the most committed statists. (See my post here.)

So, I was reading the comments thread for this post at Unqualified Offerings, and it nicely illustrated why I'm dubious of the idea. The liberals in the comments bemoan the fact that some libertarians, citing liberal support for nanny statism and other attacks on personal freedom, are reluctant to become auxiliaries of the Democratic Party. The basic thrust of pretty much every liberal in the comments section is, "Yeah, we don't think there's anything objectionable about the state micromanaging your life, but who cares? At least we won't have you tortured to death without a trial. Now shut up, stop whining about this childish 'freedom' nonsense, and tell me how grateful you are."

In other words, they're pretty much a perfect mirror image of conservatives who would always tell their libertarian junior partners, "Hey, stop complaining about the theocratic tendencies, the crony capitalism, and the warmongering, and just be grateful we're not the Democrats." You know, the people libertarians are finally breaking away from?

These are the sort of people the advocates of the whole "liberaltarian" thing are contemplating crawling into bed with. It's possible that they're wildly unrepresentative of liberals, but the thread certainly fits my previous experiences quite well. I understood why many libertarians cheered for, even voted for, the Democrats in the last election. (I didn't care either way, frankly.) If you think the Democrats will slow or stop Bush's rampage through American law, temporarily turning to them as the lesser evil makes sense. I also understand the potential value of a brief alliance of convenience during the 2008 election, or temporary strategic alliances on single issues. What I don't understand is why, when libertarians are finally escaping from a long and abusive relationship with one major political party, many intelligent libertarians are now out to forge a similar relationship with a group similarly antithetical to our values.

Yes, the Democrats are complaining about Bush's abuse of government power. That's what political parties do when they don't have control. Remember all the libertarian rhetoric the Republicans threw around during the Clinton years?

For decades, too many libertarians let fear of communists, and then fear of Bill Clinton or Al Gore, turn them into tools of enemies of freedom. Let's not let fear of George Bush drive us to the same mistake again. We've wasted too much time and energy that way already.

More on this coming soon.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, December 07, 2006

New article

I've got a new article up at

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The ingratitude of peasants

Over at Rad Geek's People's Daily, Charles Johnson relates this quote from a police officer concerning the death of Sean Bell at the hands of police, and in so doing ignites a pet peeve of mine:

I love all you monday morning quarterbacks. You really don’t have a clue. I sometimes wonder why law enforcement officers offer there lives for the likes of you, your not worth it. But, hey, as you go through everyday lives don’t worry we will continue to DIE to protect you so you can make more money and get more things. Because it is our mission to “Serve and Protect”, even you.

I haven't taken a close interest in the Sean Bell case (I'm usually all outraged out after I read Radley Balko in the morning), but this set me off. This is the classic defense whenever armed agents of the state misbehave: if we ever do anything worthwhile, ever, this excuses any and every mistake, outrage, and atrocity we may also happen to commit, no matter how awful. Thus, the state’s agents become completely immune to criticism.

The police killed an innocent man or tortured a suspect? Soldiers willfully murdered noncombatants? Who cares, you ungrateful bastard? Very convenient.

Pity this sort of excuse doesn't work in the private sector. It would certainly make my job easier.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, December 04, 2006

Quick status update

Sorry for the dearth of posts lately. I just got a used laptop, and my technological illiteracy has made getting everything ready something of a trial. My home PC has too many distracting bells and whistles, so I decided to get something old and simple to do my writing with. Hopefully you'll see an increase in output here as a result, as soon as I've brought the damnably willful machine to heel.

Stumble Upon Toolbar