Tuesday, November 28, 2006

This Post Donated To Science

Do "Universal Rights" Exist?

I started thinking about this yesterday when I was eavesdropping on a random conversation at Houlihan's. One party was claiming that "people don't have the right to tell countries what to do" or something along those lines. However inelegantly expressed, the sentiment got me thinking about the justification of humanitarian intervention and related concepts. Here in the US we "hold these truths to be self-evident..." and at least pay lip service to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". But these can be regarded as a kind of legal fiction; they're universal inasmuch as they're enshrined in our founding documents and we've all agree to play by that set of rules. They're not truly universal, though, but rather are limited in scope to that group of people and institutions which are bound by the US Constitution. So how then does one justify intervention into the affairs of a nation bound by a different social contract? To do so implies that both the intervenor and the intervenee are beholden to a trans-national set of rules. Whence spring these rules? Coincidentally, as I was writing the above words, I took a break and read this post by Ed at Dispatches. He succinctly states a (possibly the) fundamental principle of libertarianism, which seems germane to this discussion:
...each person owns themselves and has the self-determination that comes with that self-ownership.
If you accept this as an axiom then is becomes relatively easy to derive a moral system in which humanitarian intervention is justified. But, being axiomatic, its an arbitrary statement without further underpinning. I can claim that "each person is owned by their parents" or "every person owns what they can control" or any of a number of other permutations and be just as correct. When a conflict arises between different axioms how do you arbitrate that dispute? Absent any sort of voluntary mutual agreement (like the UN, for instance) it seems untenable to suggest that there's any reason to favor one set of axioms over another. Interestingly enough, this seems to be a case where the religious among us have the upper hand over the non-religious. The religious can point to their deities of choice, say "because they say so", and be consistent within their own framework of reasoning. The non-religious, on the other hand, generally have no such escape from the question. The materialist/naturalistic epistemologies that I'm familiar with accept that the physical world is non-normative and that axioms are arbitrary; such frameworks provide no mechanism for choosing one set of axioms over the other. You can argue consistency within a particular framework (like, say, Utilitarianism), but you can't provide a reason to accept one framework over the other (Utilitarianism vs. Formalism).

The Javascript Defense

The Ninth Circuit handed down an interesting decision yesterday regarding what it means to "possess" digital content, the gist of which is that it doesn't count as possession if you don't know that you have the content. Orin Kerr goes on to comment on the case, saying
If you don't know an image is there, you can't possess it. In most cases this isn't an issue: a suspect who seeks out an image and knowingly retrieves it will be guilty of knowing receipt, and there will usually be some evidence of dominion and control other than presence in the browser cache.
Assuming that Orin is correct it would seem to me that this ruling has made it substantially more difficult to prosecute people caught with unauthorized digital content. In particular I'd like to focus on the following phrases in Orin's post: "seeks out an image and knowingly retrieves it" and "evidence of dominion and control". "seeks out an image and knowingly retrieves it": All of the most popular web browsers Javascript, and many of them support additional host-based mechanisms for the generation of dynamic content such as Flash or ActiveX. Someone with unsecure browsing habits1 can easily have their browser mis-directed; you click on the "online Viagra" add (a legitimate, though sketchy, activity) and before you know it you've got a gazillion pop-ups for call services and online casinos. How, in such an environment, do you prove that a particular piece (or pieces, for that matter) of digital content was deliberately sought out and downloaded? The information available to computer forensicists in such cases (logs on the system serving content and local storage on the receiving system) doesn't provide them with enough information to determine whether a particular HTTP request was initiated by the user or by malicious software. "evidence of dominion and control": If the mere presence of content in the browser cache doesn't count, what does? The next level of certainty, it would seem, would be digital content located outside of the browser cache; such content has traditionally saved to local storage only at the request of the user. However, there are about a gazillion and one browser exploits that operate by causing the browser to download and execute content without the user's knowledge or permission. It would be a fairly trivial matter to write a program which downloaded unauthorized content to the user's hard drive and placed that content outside of the browser cache2. One can argue, in fact, that this demonstrates even less "dominion and control" that the cache example: a browser storing content in its cache is expected behavior (with corresponding configuration options in many browsers) whereas exploiting a browser to store content outside of the cache is unexpected behavior. It follows that a user has more "dominion and control" over expected behavior than unexpected behavior. This leads, in fact, to an interesting scenario: someone could deliberately infect a computer system with malware (the more the better) and then use that system to view unauthorized content. In such a case the presence of any amount of questionable material could convincingly be attributed to the malware. The trick, I think, would be for the perpetrator to be computer savvy enough to implement this tactic, but not so computer savvy that the prosecution can plausibly claim that they were deliberately using an infected system. The dilemma here basically boils down to proving that a user (as opposed to malware or malicious third parties) deliberately received and stored content. If the mere presence of contraband isn't sufficient then they have to do something truly egregious like print out pictures or set them as wallpaper or some similar activity, one which demonstrates conclusively that the defendant was aware that the content was on their system.
1 By definition, anyone who leaves child porn lying around in their browser cache. 2 This isn't that far-fetched a scenario; black hats often use hacked machines as convenient file storage.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Presumption of Guilt In Rape Cases?

Is it possible to reconcile Abyss2hope's suggestion
To use the consent defense, what is needed is not proof of lack of consent (stereotypical resistance) but proof that the alleged victim gave true, legal consent. If the alleged rapist says the alleged victim consented then proving that claim should be the defense team’s burden.
with the presumption of innocence on the part of the accused? It would seem that, in the situation above, the burden of proof is placed on the defendant rather than the plaintiff. Additionally, what kind of proof would satisfactorily demonstrate consent? Absent physical violence a plaintiff can still claim coercion. This is an especially difficult charge to counter given that the reality of the alleged coercion is determined, in large part, by the subjective mental state of the plaintiff at the time of the event i.e. its epistemologically impossible for the defent to prove that the plaintiff didn't feel coerced. I still claim that a better heuristic for assessing whether a particular sex act constitutes rape is whether or not a reasonable alternative to engaging in sex is available.

The Virtue Of Selfishness

No, this isn't going to be an epistle in praise of Ayn Rand (much). But I wanted to respond to what seems to be a throw-away line in a post by poputonian:
In a system that rewards self-interest, you just have to constantly act in your own self-interest, society be damned.
At the root of this statement is the belief that a person cannot act in their own best interest without somehow destroying the very fabric of society. This belief is demonstrably false. This is most clearly demonstrated by the "give a fish/teach to fish" dichotomy. Can we agree that, when possible, its better to encourage people to become self-sufficient than to keep them perpetually dependent on others? I'll assume that you, the reader, have made vague affirmative noises at this point (if you haven't I'd like to hear why not). So I'll go on to ask "Why is that?". If we prioritize "teach to fish" over "give a fish", then it seems clear to me that we see an inherent value in allowing people to become self-sufficient. To extend the (blindingly stupid1) analogy in the quoted research, we think its a moral good that people be empowered to pick up their own pencils. Doesn't it also follow from there that, if people can pick up their own pencils, then we should expect them to? The above is an inane example, so let me present something from the real world: financial literacy classes. Are these classes a bad thing? Again, the rustling coming over the intarweb tells me that you're shaking your head. But really, at the heart of it, don't these classes teach people to make financial decisions that are in their own best interest? Here we have a clear example of people acting in their own self-interest by doing things like staying out of debt and saving money for retirement. Since no one that I can find is coming out against financial literacy I'm left to conclude that such classes and the behavior they engender have a net positive benefit on society. So, you see boys and girls, its not necessarily the case that acting in your own self interest is a bad thing. It can even be argued that empowering more people to act in their own self-interest has a net positive benefit on society.
1 I hate this type of research with the white hot intensity of a thousand burning suns. It reminds me a lot of an of-quoted study linking violent video games to increased aggression. The things that this type of study measures (e.g. picking up a pencil or blasting someone with a loud noise) are lousy proxies for real-world behavior, seriously calling into question the general applicability of their findings.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Double Standards: Fun Police Edition

So, LA Times, let me get this straight: people shouldn't use magic mushrooms recreationally because there was this one person who was killed under the influence two years ago? I guess its OK for you to feel that way, just don't go around endorsing a recreational drug that was probably responsible for getting someone killed yesterday.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

That's Great And All...

Everyone seems to be lauding Jim Webb's editorial in the WSJ about America's "steady drift toward a class-based systems". My question to Senator-elect Webb is "What are you going to do about it?". Its all very well and good to recognize growing social inequality; such recognition by a public figure (a future Senator, no less) represents a big step forward. But identifying a problem is only step one of a multi-step process; you still have to identify a solution. And that is where, I fear, Webb falls short. He fails to offer a single concrete example of steps he'd like to see taken to remedy the problem. Rather he offers vague platitudes about recognizing the validity of working Americans' concerns; great, their concerns are valid, what are you going to do now? "Confront the growing unfairness in this age of globalization"? That's empty rhetoric, pure and simple; come back when you've got something to say. And to the rest of y'all falling all over yourselves to applaud Jim Webb, knock it off.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Roots Of "race suicide"

Amanda at Pandagon speculates that concerns over race suicide can be traced to the decline of agrarianism. I think its a lot older than that... it probably belongs on the short list of humanity's perpetual complaints, right next to "kids these days" and "things are getting worse". A quick Google search on the subject turns up items like:
44. The Desirability of Children in Athens.--Besides the oversight of the slaves the Athenian matron has naturally the care of the children. A childless home is one of the greatest of calamities. It means a solitary old age, and still worse, the dying out of the family and the worship of the family gods. There is just enough of the old superstitious "ancestor worship" left in Athens to make one shudder at the idea of leaving the "deified ancestor" without any descendants to keep up the simple sacrifices to their memory. Besides, public opinion condemns the childless home as not contributing to the perpetuation of the city. How Corinth, Thebes, or Sparta will rejoice, if it is plain that Athens is destroying herself by race suicide! So at least ONE son will be very welcome. His advent is a day of happiness for the father, of still greater satisfaction for the young mother.1
The source quoted is from 1910, so even if you assume the author is projecting then the concerns about race suicide predate the decline of agrarianism. When you think about it, concerns about race suicide ultimately reflect the fear that "us" is going to be overwhelmed by "them" through sheer force of numbers; such a fear is not specific to an agrarian way of life, but rather is probably present whenever two factions find themselves in conflict.
1 http://ancienthistory.about.com/library/bl/bl_text_wsd_sec44.htm

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


My level of annoyance with PZ's statement that "agnosticism is really just atheism under another name" probably reflects my own personal neuroses more than anything else. However, for the last time people, the two words are not synonyms. Agnosticism is an epistemological stance, whereas atheism is a religious belief. Jeezuz....

Are The Powers Of Darkness Appropriating "Neo-Pagan"?

Ed at Dispatches speculates that "neo-pagan" is the newest incarnation of "commie" or "secular humanist". He rightly notes that "neopagan"/"neopaganism" most specifically refers to a lump of non-traditional, (usually) nature-based religion. But he also says
This is just plain weird... It appears that he's just randomly choosing this term for everyone he disagrees with, as well as lumping them in together for no apparent reason.
Its not necessarily as weird as it looks; it might be part of an attempt to appropriate and subvert the word. Its like what happened to the term "atheist"; if you successfully associate a term with pedophilia and cannibalism* then you've gained an edge over people who self-identify using that term. Like atheists in the recent past, neo-pagans are still largely marginal in terms of their visibility in the public discourse, so people don't have a good, concrete understanding of the term. What understanding they do have is probably colored by inaccurate popular representations, making the term particularly susceptible to subversion. The lack of any sort of substantial representation for neo-pagans on the national stage means that no one is going to complain when the term is abused.
* Hyperbole alert... but not by much.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Too Good To Pass Up

Shorter Missouri House Special Committee on Immigration Reform: Immigrants are taking all the good jobs from people who don't exist. (via Pandagon)


Via Jesus' General I ran across a Harper's article about Ted Haggard. There's no point in piling on Haggard at this late date... he says he's done with that sort of thing <rimshot>. But read the description of worship services at his mega-cathedral cum Wal-Mart:

The band stood. A skinny, chinless man with a big, tenor voice, Ross Parsley, directed the musicians and the crowd, leading us and them and the choir as the guitarists kicked on the fuzz and the drummer pounded the music toward arena-rock frenzy. Two fog machines on each side of the stage filled the sanctuary with white clouds. Pod-shaped projectors cast a light show across the ceiling, giant spinning white snowflakes and cartwheeling yellow flowers and a shimmering blue water-effect. “Prepare the way!” shouted Worship Pastor Ross. “Prepare the way! The King is coming!” Across the stage teens began leaping straight up, a dance that swept across the arena: kids hopped, old men hopped, middle-aged women hopped. Spinners wheeled out from the ranks and danced like dervishes around the stage. The light pods dilated and blasted the sanctuary with red. Worship Pastor Ross roared: “Let the King of Glory enter in!” Ushers rushed through the crowds throwing out rainbow glow strings.
and compare with
Dionysos, also called Bacchos and known by various other ritual names, is supposed to have been a Thracian deity, but he is not listed in the Homeric cycle of divinities, and is generally thought to have come from the East.. The seventh Homeric Hymn tells the story of his miraculous apparition to the pirates who were abducting him in the Adriatic Sea. One of his names, Lyaios, would seem to come from the verb 'lu-' which means "loosen, let loose" and this function, performed with the drinking of wine, with ecstatic dancing and flagellation with the 'thyrsos', a rod with a sharp pine-cone tied to the tip, is central to his role. Accompanied by men and women who are in various states of self-induced trance like hyper-activity, he provides for large numbers of men and especially for women an emotional release from emotional repression through his psychologically liberating services.1
Same story, different players... so much for divine inspiration.

1 http://community.middlebury.edu/~harris/GreekMyth/Chap10Religion.html

Friday, November 10, 2006

Whither Computing?

A post on Slashdot wonders what's coming next? Here's my take: In the beginning there was the mainframe. It was good, but big and expensive. Then came the PC revolution. People bought PCs and did things with them that had once only been possible on mainframes. They were smaller and cheaper, and thus were good. Then came the network, which allowed people to share their work, and a million tiny departmental servers blossomed across the land. But then Gods of Infrastructure Management looked down on their creation and said "crap, its hard to keep track of all this equipment". So they gathered up all the departmental servers and put them together in one place so that they might be tended night and day by a legion of underpaid techies with questionable hygiene. And it was good, and the machines proliferated, and the data went forth and multiplied. Then the GoIM said "Jebus, we paid how much for this and it does what?" and "How the fuck am I supposed to back this up over the network?" and "I want a pony". Thus was born virtualization, SAN technologies, blade systems, IP KVMs, and a host of other devices to consolidate the data center down to a few racks of equipment. They are good, but big and expensive... but at least now they have a web interface!

Setting Standards For Home Schooling

PZ has an interesting post up regarding standards for home schooling which I'm ambivalent about. First, he calls for a reinstatement of state laws regarding certification of parents who home school, to which I have the following responses:
  • Why is certification necessary?
  • Assuming certification is necessary, does the current process of certification actually ensure quality pedagogy?
  • Is it possible to provide a quality education for children without being certified?
Starting with the first bullet, I can certainly appreciate the rationale for requiring public school teachers to be certified. Since the state requires that parents send their children to school the certification process (allegedly) assures parents that the individuals instructing their children will meet a minimum level of competence. But if they parent chooses to do the instructing themselves presumably they already have confidence that their children's instructor is of appropriate quality. To assert that the parents need to be certified by the state implies that the state has a legitimate interest in seeing that a specific student is educated to a particular level using a particular curriculum. The state has a vested (and perhaps legitimate) interest in assuring that some significant portion of the populace is well-educated (hence public schools), but to assert that the well-being of the state turns on a specific individual being educated in a specific way is by no means self-evident. Second bullet: Does the certification process really ensure quality pedagogy? I'm reminded of my father, a PhD in physics, who took to substitute teaching in his semi-retirement. At one point early in the game he started the certification process, thinking he might become a full-time teacher, but he didn't finish due to irritation with the certification program. He seemed to regard a lot of the requirements as superfluous and tangential; I'm by no means convinced that my father was teacher material, but at the same time I cannot dismiss his observations. Considering also some of the mouth-breathers I took classes from during my time in K-12, all of whom I assume were certified, I'm by no means convinced that being certified is a guarantee of quality. Item the third: Can people be quality instructors absent certification? This question is of particular interest to me, as my wife and I have seriously considered homeschooling our (still hypothetical, at this point) children. Though we're apparently in the minority in this regard; we've no objections of a religious nature, we just think we can do a better job. There's little in the K-6 (maybe K-8) curriculum that can't be taught by any well-educated person. More importantly, kids spend far too much time gluing macaroni onto construction paper in the early grades; face it, its state-sponsored daycare more than anything else. I've no reason to believe that between myself (BS in computer engineering) and my wife (BS in studio art/MD) we're more qualified that the average grade school teacher. But when PZ whips out the righteous indignation regarding religious exemptions to certification requirements I'm standing next to him with my fist in the air. I've made my position on religious exemptions abundantly clear. I've a non-religious objection to sending my kids to public school which is no less (and is probably more) valid than any religious complaint.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Commerce Clause Overreach?

One thing that I find more than a little annoying about the present state of things is how the Commerce Clause has been stretched to accommodate just about any behavior under the sun (see, for instance, Ashcroft v. Raich). More recently this question has popped up on SCOTUSblog in connection with the two abortion cases argued yesterday. Reading through the post, I'm struck by the following quote
Second, as Justice Stevens himself has recently explained for the Court, Congress's Commerce authority extends at the very least to the regulation of even nonprofit entities if they "purchase goods and services in competitive markets, offer their facilities to a variety of patrons, and derive revenues from a variety of sources, some of which are local and some out of State." Camps Newfound/Owatonna, Inc. v. Town of Harrison, 520 U.S. 564, 585-586 (1997). That almost certainly describes all, or virtually all, clinics and other facilities at which the abortions in question would take place.
I may be missing some legal subtleties here, but I'm failing in my valiant effort to imagine a group which the phrase "purchase goods and services in competitive markets" doesn't cover. I find myself asking what activity isn't covered by the Commerce Clause? Google doesn't provide a good answer to this topic, just a bunch of people complaining that the Commerce Clause is being abused Its an established principle1 of Constitutional interpretation that each word has a meaning. Can we extend this notion and assert that each phrase has a meaning as well? What I'm getting at here is that The Framers wouldn't have specifically said "among the several States" if they had intended for Congress to be able to regulate all forms of economic activity (which seems to be where things stand now) . Doesn't the Commerce Clause's mere presence indicate that they understood there to be a limit to Congress' power to regulate economic activity? Put more succinctly, it seems that the continued expansion of activity which is regulated under the Commerce Clause runs afoul of this implicit limit.
1 Wish I could find a cite for this... asserting established principles is not something I do lightly.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Next Steps Now That The Good Guys Are In Charge

I had a conversation with a friend of mine recently who asked me if I supported the Republicans or the Democrats. After making the obligatory disclaimer regarding my distaste for the two-party system I revealed, drumroll please, that I was in favor of the Democrats. My rationale for this stance is that yes, the Democrats are full of people with wacky ideas, but those ideas are usually grounded in some apprehension of the "real world". The Republicans, on the other hand, are full of people with wacky ideas that are grounded in supernatural revelation and similar irrationalities. Briefly, I think its more likely that Democrats can be swayed by reason; its really hard to argue with someone whose main justification is "God says so". So the next step, now that we have the helm, is to chat amongst ourselves about the things that we believe in. Frankly, I'm a lot more interested in that process (and expect to write about it more frequently) than I am in reiterating the latest list of atrocities over which I have no control. Additionally, us little folk have an obligation to start calling people out within our ranks early and often when we catch them being naughty. For example, the Governor-Elect of Massachusetts may have some issues with the First Amendment; let's keep an eye on him, shall we? Joy... let the games being.

Let's Hear It For Non-Stupidity

Very good. This would seem to answer my previous question about whether there was any reason why the minimum wage couldn't be indexed to inflation. Now if only more states (and Uncle Sam) would follow suit. The neat part about this, aside from preventing us from having to repeat this bit of political kabuki every couple of years, is that it permits better discussion of the issue. Without the ability to use inflation as a cover people will now have to talk directly (whether they want to or not) about the minimum wage in normative terms i.e. "workers deserve/should be paid more" or "workers deserve/should be paid less".

When Its Bush vs. Mondale, We All Lose

I had the privilege last night of attending the social event of the season. Ah, the heady experience of being crammed into a tiny NY apartment with 20-ish beautiful drunk people watching the election returns. The highlight of the evening was quite possibly the funniest interchange between two drunk people that I've heard in quite some time:
Fool #1: I can bench 250 pounds. Fool #2: Good thing I'm not a bench, you'd kick my ass.
I'm led to understand that Fool #1 eventually topped this by removing his pants, though I wasn't there to witness it personally. Regarding the Mondale vs. Bush bake-off-a-pa-loo-za: I'm glad that I've grown up in an era where the American palette has become slightly more sophisticated.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Vote By Mail Is Not Secret

Contrary to the assertions of a certain influential blogger type, the Oregon "Vote By Mail" system isn't secret.

Anonymous Voting and "Vote By Mail" systems

Vote By Mail seems to be a pretty good idea in most respects. But if you look at the manual from Oregon you'll note that the ballot isn't really anonymous; the procedures for opening a ballot (p. 71) have the same person (or group of persons) opening both the outer envelope and the secrecy envelope, providing all the information required to attached an individual to their vote. A better way to handle this would be to separate the opening of the outer and inner envelopes. Have one "opening board" open all of the outer envelopes and then dump the inner envelopes into a big tub or something. Ship the tub to a second board, and have them open the inner envelopes. This process effectively destroys the relationship between the outer and inner envelopes, thus preserving anonymity while still allowing vote verification. Though, as a side note, voting by mail will never really be truly anonymous, because a verifiable ballot sent through the mail (at least as currently instituted) contains both ballot and identifying information. It will still be possible for someone to associate your identity with your ballot if they are willing to violate election procedure.

¡Mancow, El Nacimiento!

Very cool, but I've one question. The article glossed over the interaction of the cow mitochondria and the human nucleus. Would such a chimera actually be viable?

Friday, November 03, 2006

Sci-Techs Are People Too

I've a few thoughts of my own in response to Sara's musings about the best and brightest in White Supremacist groups. Mostly she seems to be on track, but she's really falling back on some hoary stereotypes in her discussion of "sci-techs", most notably that they can be lumped into a single group from a cognitive standpoint. I'd like to start by asking her to point out specific studies that show that sci-techs really are distinctive from a cognitive standpoint. Sci-techs, taken as a whole, share a vague and nebulous cloud of similarities ("good at problem solving", "love of science", etc.), but they don't really start to look alike until you get into particular specialties. Engineers are good at engineering, mathematicians are good at math, etc., but its not necessarily the case that an engineer will be good at math or vice versa. Sci-techs are drawn to their fields because they have a natural aptitude for the type of work to be found therein, but this is no more significant that a natural musician being draw to music. Nor is her description of problem-solving among sci-techs particularly accurate. Most of the problems which sci-techs tackle are abstract and bloodless; suspension of emotion simply isn't a prerequisite for solving these problems effectively. The biggest single requirement for successful problem-solving within technical domains is the ability to concentrate on a problem for long periods of time. Incidentally, that's why people w/ Asperger's make good sci-techs, since they have the ability to focus (occasionally obsessively) on an issue for long periods of time. What Sara is actually alluding to, I believe, is the tendency of some sci-techs to apply analytic problem-solving techniques to the world at large. Of this tendency I will point out the following:
  • It is by no means universal; many sci-techs are just as passionate (and just as irrational) as the general public when it comes to discussing the world at large.
  • It can be taught; dispassionate consideration of public policy doesn't require any specific cognitive hardwiring, but rather a firm dedication to principle unclouded by personal biases.
I also disagree with her treatment of emotion as it relates to sci-techs. In addition to the above, where I argued that problem-solving doesn't require the suspension of emotion, I'd like to make the following points:
  • Suspension of emotion for the purpose of problem-solving doesn't imply that a person has no other emotional outlets.
  • Treating emotion like some sort of a fluid that builds up over time is trés Galen. There's been very little empirical study to support what is ultimately a folk view of emotion.
The heart of my gripe, getting down to it, is that Sara is falling back on a sterotype of sci-techs as cold, dispassionate individuals. These people are few and far between, even in the sci-tech community, so to speak of them as representative of even general trends among sci-techs is inaccurate at best. Making generalizations about the cognitive functioning of sci-techs is no more (or less) valid that making generalizations about people who work in the liberal arts or banking.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

What Now?

Well, shit... what now? In the face of this sort of a mess, I can understand why lots of people want to get the hell out of Dodge. But it seems to me that we, as a country, have accumulated a moral burden which takes the possibility of a 'strategic reverse advance' off of the table. In a nutshell, we've fucked up Iraq, and now we've an obligation to un-fuck it. How to do that? That's for the generals to decide, but I suspect that it would require a whole lot more boots on the ground. Which, of course, raises the problem of finding feet to put in those boots, leading me to one horrible, inevitable conclusion: we need to bring back the draft. Ugh... is it any wonder that we haven't been able to fix things? What sane politician would call for a resurrection of the draft, especially in an election year? And yet, there doesn't really seem to be any other way around the issue; we need more troops that our volunteer system is capable of delivering. Gah...
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