Civil Liberties

The Washington Post's Phony "Balance"

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If ever you wanted to remind yourself of the deceptively simple logic that leads to open assaults on protections guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, let me direct you to today's Washington Post editorial on the probably unconstitutional security checkpoints being imposed on residents of violence-scarred neighborhoods in our nation's capitol. "Why," the faux-anguished subhed reads, "are there more protests about a police crackdown in Northeast than about the murders that caused it?" Some excerpts:

Critics of the District's decision to use police checkpoints have reason to question the practice's constitutionality and wonder about its long-term effectiveness. What's wrong is to play down the violence plaguing these troubled neighborhoods. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier are correct to see the crime problem in Northeast as a true public emergency that warrants new thinking and bold action. […]

Any political judgment must balance the intrusiveness of the checkpoints against the seriousness of the problem they are designed to address. […]

[T]here was more of an outcry over police efforts to stop the killings than over the killings themselves. And therein lies the real outrage.

The real outrage … how played out, how elastic-to-the-point-of-meaninglessness, is that rhetorical formula, anyhow? "The real outrage is that Washington has no representation in Congress! The real outrage is that Marion Barry is still on the D.C. City Council! The real outrage is that Washington Post editorial writers care more about the political pieties of ACLU lawyers than the totally legitimate constitutional concerns said lawyers are raising about a crude policing tactic!"

Anyhow, the Post's authoritarian illogic is almost a classic of the form, down to the pulled-straight-from-the-arse "balance" between a measure's constitutionality and the "seriousness of the problem" that it's trying to address (a formula that, if applied to something as "serious" as war, would surely eviscerate the country's basic legal framework). Unfortunately for Fred Hiatt's posse, but fortunately for the rest of us, we "must" balance no such thing at all: Either a policy is constitutional, or it ain't, no matter how publicly you may weep for the victims of crime. That's one very good reason why we still have some semblance of constitutional protections left at all. No thanks to the last two presidents, and no thanks to the Washington Post.

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  1. Remember, kids:

    Rights are for when everyone is safe!

  2. To be fair, Official Washington has been so busy this past week canonizing Tim Russert that they might be too distracted at present to think clearly.

  3. What does the author of the editorial care? The checkpoints aren’t in his neighborhood. Violating the civil rights of poor people is fine if it’s for their own good, Matt. Can’t you see that?

  4. Her words reminded us what all of the Washington area felt during the three weeks in 2002 when two snipers stalked the region. We don’t recall anyone complaining about the inconvenience or constitutionality of police stops then.

    Because clearly there’s no difference between a manhunt for specific criminals and a general police lockdown in the name of crime prevention.

  5. I’ll bet the writer would be singing quite a different tune if a street gang, concerned about the rise in violent crime committed by rival gangs set up similar checkpoints in those neighborhoods.

  6. Anyhow, the Post’s authoritarian illogic is almost a classic of the form, down to the pulled-straight-from-the-arse “balance” between a measure’s constitutionality and the “seriousness of the problem” that it’s trying to address

    You can’t have a “living” Constitution without “balance”.

  7. Unfortunately for Fred Hiatt’s posse, but fortunately for the rest of us, we “must” balance no such thing at all: Either a policy is constitutional, or it ain’t, no matter how publicly you may weep for the victims of crime.

    The problem, Matt, is that the notion of a “compelling state interest” that justifies violating a right is so deeply embedded in our law now that the guys at the Post are justified in thinking that any right is up for grabs when considered in “balance” to any particular problem.

    If you’ll forgive me, that is the real outrage: the pile of judicial precedents that enable this kind of thinking.

    You and I may think that something either is, or ain’t, Constitutional, but the judiciary has fucked us on that point. Fucked us good.

    “Extremists” like me may realize that the compromise or “balanced” position between having a right and not having a right is…not having a right, but unfortunately no one else gives a shit. You may be able to stop a particular policy – like checkpoints – by whipping up enough public opposition to it or finding the right judge to listen to poetry about the absolute nature of Constitutional protections, but any success you have will be the luck of the draw and not because our rights are either/or propositions.

  8. I’ll bet the writer would be singing quite a different tune if a street gang, concerned about the rise in violent crime committed by rival gangs set up similar checkpoints in those neighborhoods.

    But a street gang *did* set up a checkpoint. The police…

    Oh, I see what you did there! Clever man.

    😉

  9. You know, this whole “the cops are a gang” thing is annoying me. It’s hyperbole, and you guys go too far.

    The cops are an organized crime syndicate, not a gang.

  10. You and I may think that something either is, or ain’t, Constitutional, but the judiciary has fucked us on that point. Fucked us good.

    You say that, but I don’t think the problem is with the *doctrine* of state interest, but rather in how it is (mis)applied. Holmes was *Absolutely right* when he said that freedom of speech does not cover acts of speech intended to get people killed through force of fraud or panic (i.e. *Falsely* shouting fire in the crowded theatre). Even most libertarians believe that the government should regulate action such that force or fraud initiated by one person against another is proscribed and punished.

    The problem has become that the weight of precedent has watered down to a retarded level what is a “compelling” interest. That, combined with an utterly ridiculous interpretation of the Commerce clause has brought us to this point.

  11. The cops are an organized crime syndicate, not a gang.

    You say potato, I say starchy tuber, the idiot republican in the corner adds a few unnecessary letters…

  12. “Extremists” like me may realize that the compromise or “balanced” position between having a right and not having a right is…not having a right, but unfortunately no one else gives a shit.

    As long as the cable still works and there’s food and beer in the fridge, most people in this country could give a rat’s ass if they have no rights.

  13. But what does the idiot Democrat in the other corner do? Poxes for all!

  14. You say potato, I say starchy tuber, the idiot republican in the corner adds a few unnecessary letters…

    Freedom Fries?

  15. Episiarch,

    Out of curiosity, what qualities differentiate a group that is a organized crime syndicate from that which is a gang?

  16. Any political judgment must balance the intrusiveness of the checkpoints against the seriousness of the problem they are designed to address. […]

    Ahhh – results-based public policy! It’s moral because of the predicted desirable result, as long as we value the desireable result more than we don’t like the predicted (and frequently underestimated) undesirable effects.

  17. That’s why I speak out against check points and against crime. Ignoring laws puts inner city residents at risk. Check points violate the rights of DC residents. Prosecuting criminals and keeping them in jail protects law abiding DC residents without violating their rights.

  18. Of course, the authoritarian mindset has to frame this as an either/or proposition. If you’re opposed to the checkpoints, you’re all for criminals roaming the streets killing people at will; there’s no middle ground.

    Just keep telling yourself: if you’re not doing anything wrong, you don’t have anything to worry about.

  19. Out of curiosity, what qualities differentiate a group that is a organized crime syndicate from that which is a gang?

    Number of tats?

  20. Out of curiosity, what qualities differentiate a group that is a organized crime syndicate from that which is a gang?

    When in prison, organized crime syndicate members slice the garlic with a razor so thin that it liquefies in the pan. Gang members do not.

  21. Elemenope,

    Holmes was *Absolutely right* when he said that freedom of speech does not cover acts of speech intended to get people killed through force of fraud or panic (i.e. *Falsely* shouting fire in the crowded theatre). Even most libertarians believe that the government should regulate action such that force or fraud initiated by one person against another is proscribed and punished.

    The reason Holmes was right (and I shudder saying that) isnt due to a “compelling interest” but that a right ends when it violates another right. In this case, free speech ends because it violates others’ right to life, not due to any compelling state interest to protect its citizens.

    As an aside, I slammed on Holmes the other day for his Baseball decision. Having finally read that decision since then, it turns out the quote (that he may have said/written some where else) that was the reason I thought the decision was horrible isnt actually in the decision. So I owe an apology to the rightly damned ghost of OWH. It turns out that decision is awesome and its logic needs to be applied more more often. Im calling Stare Decisis on that decision. He said that baseball wasnt under the antitrust laws because it did not involve interstate commerce. He said the organization across and travel between states was merely incidental to the act of playing a baseball game and not enough to bring the ICC into play. The game itself is purely an intrastate affair.

  22. Remember that the constitution does not grant the judiciary the right to “balance” an individual liberty against a “public” interest or against a “compelling” state interest.

    The framers were men who wrote what they meant and meant what they wrote. Thus, all of you control freaks have to deal with the fact that they deliberately employed absolutes. The Bill of Rights is not the Bill of Admonitions.

    Balancing tests inevitably result in the loss of a particular liberty. Justice Black wrote,

    “If I had ever doubted the ‘balancing test’ comes close to being a doctrine of governmental absolutism-that to “balance’ an interest in individual liberty means almost inevitably to destroy that liberty-those doubts would have been dissipated by this case. For this so-called ‘balancing test’ – which, as applied to the First Amendment, means that the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, religion and petition can be repressed whenever there is a sufficient government interest in doing so-here proves pitifully and pathetically inadequate to cope with an invasion of individual liberty to plainly unjustified that even the majority apparently feels compelled expressly to disclaim ‘any view upon the wisdom of the State’s action.'”

    In Re Anastaplo 366 U.S. 82, 110-111 (1961).

  23. I’ll bet the writer would be singing quite a different tune if a street gang, concerned about the rise in violent crime committed by rival gangs set up similar checkpoints in those neighborhoods.

    Isn’t that what’s happening?

    /snarky cheap shot at LEOs

  24. How about calling them a mob – as in ‘the Winter Hill Mob’?

    I think the word mob encompasses gang-like and syndicate-like behavior.

  25. Wow, I would fucking hate these checkpoints. D.C. cops are total asswipes.

  26. robc,
    Wouldn’t OWH’s logic in that case invalidate most federal regulations?

  27. “Out of curiosity, what qualities differentiate a group that is a organized crime syndicate from that which is a gang?”

    Having Politicians and Accountants on the payroll.

  28. “The real outrage is that Washington D.C. isn’t represented in Congress”
    We have enough dumb shit authoritarians in office that we don’t need these assholes represented. Remember: they were elected by the majority of D.C. residents ergo they would probably vote for a similar candidate for Congress.

  29. economist,

    Wouldn’t OWH’s logic in that case invalidate most federal regulations?

    Why, Yes, yes it would.

  30. @ Elemenope: “Even most libertarians believe that the government should regulate action such that force or fraud initiated by one person against another is proscribed and punished.”

    Numbers, please, showing that “most” libertarians believe that government, as opposed to private agencies, should regulate this.

  31. anarcho guy,

    I dont think he needs to provide numbers for that. Minarchists clearly outnumber anarchists.

  32. anarcho-capitalist-type libertarian,
    I don’t really give a damn who regulates acts of force and fraud, but I have a suspicion that your private agencies plan, if applied to all law enforcement, would lead to chaos. Feel free to excoriate for my apostasy.

  33. Minarchists clearly outnumber anarchists.

    (seethes)

  34. Out of curiosity, what qualities differentiate a group that is a organized crime syndicate from that which is a gang?

    Snappier outfits?

    Not sure where that leaves the cops, though.

  35. Good to see that my Goodfellas reference just blew past everyone. (tap tap) Is this thing on?

  36. Crime syndicates are lawful evil; gangs are chaotic evil.

  37. Epi,

    You seething at the fact that it is true, or that I said it? Or did I typo something really bad?

  38. Episiarch,

    I noted it. Prison with Paulie is the way to go.

  39. Epi,

    I watched Goodfellas again recently. I got it.

  40. The real outrage is that Marion Barry is still on the D.C. City Council!

    Ok, that one’s true, but it doesn’t detract from the rest of the article.

  41. Well, robc, if so, then that’s that.

    economist, doesn’t an apostate have first to belong to the orthodoxy from which he defects? Feel free to have your own aboriginal orthodoxy! Anyway, I suspect that historically it’s the anarchists who radicalized the minarchist goals, making us the defectors.

    Episiarch, take comfort. “The majority is always wrong.” Bonus points for naming the source without looking it up.

  42. You seething at the fact that it is true, or that I said it? Or did I typo something really bad?

    I was joking; in essence, mocking the fact that anarcho-libertarians (of which I am one) are pissed that most people don’t want our vision of freedom.

  43. The majority is always wrong

    Gaius Baltar?

  44. Bonus points for naming the source without looking it up.

    Im pretty sure Ive said that multiple times, without ever quoting anyone. How many bonus points do I get?

  45. Episiarch, uh, no. Say why don’t you let them call a vote on it? That’s always worked before.

  46. robc, you just don’t get it. Numbers don’t count! 😉

  47. Thank you. This has been fun. Gotta go immanentize the eschaton. Later, pataters.

  48. So what do you think is going on the writers at all the newspapers get together and agree to work together to use “phony balance” arguments to push forward their agenda of global destruction of individual rights? I swear Welch is coming off as a conspiracy nut here.

  49. Episiarch, uh, no. Say why don’t you let them call a vote on it? That’s always worked before.

    Dude, get a sense of humor. The Baltar comment was a joke, for Christ’s sake. The answer is Ibsen.

  50. Snappier outfits?

    Not sure where that leaves the cops, though.

    Here in RI, the staties have uniforms that are countrywide recognized as *awesome*. They are still, generally, complete douchebags.

    Later, pataters.

    And here we learn how an *Anarchist* spells “potato”.

    Gaius Baltar?

    Truly excellent.

  51. Lay off the paranoid delusions, the police are just trying to stop the murders…and the newspapers in this country are the most honest and forthcoming media the world has ever seen.

  52. So what do you think is going on the writers at all the newspapers get together and agree to work together to use “phony balance” arguments to push forward their agenda of global destruction of individual rights? I swear Welch is coming off as a conspiracy nut here.

    It’s no conspiracy. Those who have not been properly inculcated with a *love of freedom* and *hate of authority* in their formative years naturally gravitate towards the thumbsucking bosom of the state.

    Why would poorly-educated reporters be the exception?

  53. I am so upset that I actually have to defend the Post. I am going to ignore the jabs against Marion Barry, the ACLU and others and get to the heart of what seems to be a real flaw. Before you start reaming the Post for their take on what they report as unconstitutional, maybe you should take a look at the “reason” and focus. There is enough information to offer well thought out rant against the Post. Instead, you took seconds out of my life I will never get back on something that could have been written between two Metro stops.

    Do better.

  54. …and the newspapers in this country are the most honest and forthcoming media the world has ever seen.

    HA! Hahhahahhaha! [Choke]. Eh. Ehhehehe. HaHAHAHA!

    [Collapses in hypertensive crisis]

    The fucking British *state-run* media is more honest and forthcoming than the MSM jokers in this country.

  55. Lay off the paranoid delusions, the police are just trying to stop the murders…

    Yeah. offing people they don’t like is *their* fucking job. In a capitalist society, the competition is the enemy, after all…

  56. There is no “public” interest. It is a phony construct of a statist mind.

  57. …maybe you should take a look at the “reason” and focus.

    Drink?

  58. “As long as the cable still works and there’s food and beer in the fridge, most people in this country could give a rat’s ass if they have no rights.”

    T said this, and I have to agree. We have a nanny state because IMO the gen pop is completely willing to let “the man” take care of them. Much easier that way.

    As far as the checkpoints go, years ago we lived in Portland Or. Lovely city. When the locals demanded something be done about the drugs or the gangs or the hookers, there would be this huge crackdown, roundup, or if you like, War On Bad Shit. Within a few days, the activities that folks didn’t like would pop up in a different neighborhood. They never stopped it, they just herded it around.

  59. Economist 10:00 am-

    What do we have now?

    Chaos is the inevitable result where there is a monopolization of self defense by the state.

  60. From the US military wikileaked handbook for supporting corrupt regimes, death squads and quashing rvolutions:

    “The PSYOP aspect of the PRC program tries to make the imposition of control more palatable to the people by relating the necessity of controls to their safety and well-being.”

  61. Stops and feeds the troll…

    Lay off the paranoid delusions, the police are just trying to stop the murders

    Ya know, then maybe they ought to try actually arresting the murderers, instead of just hassling Teh Brown Peoples? and moving the crime elsewhere in the city.

  62. There is no “public” interest. It is a phony construct of a statist mind.

    If you prefer, the aggregate interests of the cloud of individuals outside oneself who are in uncomfortable physical proximity due to the fact that humans are social fucking creatures.

  63. What do we have now?

    Chaos is the inevitable result where there is a monopolization of self defense by the state.

    Chaos is a misnomer in this instance.

  64. Chaos is the inevitable result where there is a monopolization of self defense by the state.

    Wha…?! There are many words that could aptly describe the negative consequences of state monopoly of force. Words like “oppression” or “inefficiency”, or for those prone to neologism, “nannifying”, or for the excessively shrill “fascism”.

    But “Chaos” is a new one on me.

  65. Hehe. Art-P.O.G., you are appropriating my wavelength w/out due compensation. Get out of my head!

    Or am I in your head? Hmmm….

  66. Whenever the spectre of “chaos” is interposed in a discussion, you know its proponent has lost the debate as its nothing more than a reflexive recitation of a mindless mantra spoon fed to the sheeple by their stalinist authority idols.

  67. It bears pointing out the illegal security checkpoints are only necessary because of the violence created by the illegal War on Drugs.

    What a shock, you deny an industry access to the accepted conflict-resolution mechanisms such as courts and they resort to violence.

  68. This shit’s happening in other places besides DC:

    The Chicago implementation may seem similar to the DC implementation, but I think they are miles apart. According to the Tribute article, there was no directive in Chicago to forcefully prevent “unauthorized” access.

    Not that I support the Chicago plan either. But I think it’s only comparable at the surface level to the DC lockdown.

  69. Whenever the spectre of “chaos” is interposed in a discussion, you know its proponent has lost the debate as it’s nothing more than a reflexive recitation of a mindless mantra spoon fed to the sheeple by their stalinist authority idols.

    Has anyone ever told you that your typing/argumentation style is strongly reminiscent of the pamphlets of Marxist revolutionaries? Read the bolded part, especially.

    If not, consider it said.

  70. Elemenope-

    Blackstone wrote, “the public good is in nothing more essentially interested than in the protection of every individual’s private rights.” 1 Blackstone Commentaries 139, 140.

  71. Whenever the spectre of “chaos” is interposed in a discussion, you know its proponent has lost the debate as its nothing more than a reflexive recitation of a mindless mantra spoon fed to the sheeple by their stalinist authority idols.

    In this comment, where does the humor end and the irony begin?

    BTW, its the SPECTRE of KAOS.

  72. This is near-Godwin, but this line

    Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier are correct to see the crime problem in Northeast as a true public emergency that warrants new thinking and bold action.

    is almost word for word in every piece of dystopian fiction that has been written.

  73. Critics of the District’s decision to use police checkpoints have reason to question the practice’s constitutionality and wonder about its long-term effectiveness….

    Any political judgment must balance the intrusiveness of the checkpoints against the seriousness of the problem they are designed to address.

    For the most part, journalists care about no rights but the rights of free speech and free press and the “right” to vote — the former because it is their pet right and the latter because it lets them use their pet right to influence public policy. Everything else is negotiable and even worth sacrificing to push public policy the way they want.

    Jerks.

  74. Elemenope-

    The style of Marxist revolutionaries? What’s your Engel?

  75. Since Blackstone isn’t a deity of any sort (that we know of), I am not bound to agree with everything he wrote. In this case, for example, he rests his arguments on the notion that humans are essentially severable entities…a point of view I’d charitably describe as “really fucking stupid”.

    On a slightly more abstract level, Blackstone is simply saying what I was saying earlier, though with the intent of obscuring the consequences of the observation that I was attempting to bring to the fore. Of *course* the public good is simply an aggregate representation of individual goods. But the simplistic interpretation of this truth ignores the simple fact that a society in the aggregate is phenomenologically distinct than the sum of its parts.

  76. Elemenope-

    Does my post at 9:29 am also resemble the style of marxist revolutionaries?

  77. “The majority is always wrong.”

    Not exactly the same but…

    “I think that when in doubt about the truth of an issue, it’s safer and in better taste to select the least numerous of the adversaries….”

    …was said by Kira in Ayn Rand’s We the Living.

  78. Elemenope-

    Do you agree that judges should, as a general proposition, balance the exercise of one’s individual liberty as against the “public” interest?

  79. LMNOP, I strongly suspect that “liberty mike” is another of Cesar’s (or someone else’s) creations. He is too cartoonishly anarcho-capitalist and totally reminds me of Neil in style, form, and persistence.

  80. Does my post at 9:29 am also resemble the style of marxist revolutionaries?

    No. Compared your your “later work”, it is remarkably restrained. 😉

    Do you agree that judges should, as a general proposition, balance the exercise of one’s individual liberty as against the “public” interest?

    This question: Itsatrap!

    But more seriously, the obvious answer is “yes”. A judge, much like a legislator, *should* take into account the indirect consequences of any action as they reverberate through the social ecology when determining whether a conflict of rights has occurred or will occur. Libertarians tend to fetishize the notion that one right ends where another begins while simultaneously basking in the naive notion that every action has easily delimitable consequences for other actors.

  81. The style of Marxist revolutionaries? What’s your Engel?

    😀 Clever.

    is almost word for word in every piece of dystopian fiction that has been written.

    Too true.

  82. Elemenope-

    No, it is not a “fact” that “society in the aggregate is phenomologically distinct [from] the sum of its parts.”

    How can the aggregate be distinct from the sum of its parts? 2 is the same as 1 plus 1, is it not?

  83. Wow, the Washington Post I grew up with would never go for this shit. They would have even gone over the top and call it racist.

    This is the weirdest shift since Nat Hentoff’s rightward tack.

  84. Episiarch —

    No doubt you are right. What is delightful about ‘teh Internets’ is the ability to have fun interacting with fictional personalities indistinguishable, epistemologically, from “real” ones.

    For that matter, does our experience on the Internet not reveal that all affectations of personality are social masks that are fairly interchangeable at will? The only reason we can’t do it as easily in meat-space is because our actions are fairly easily tied to our person.

  85. Perhaps they can setup checkpoints for the rats next?

  86. Elemenope-

    Have you read In Re Anastaplo? Tell me what you think of the “balancing” performed by the majority.

    I’m sure that you would assert that Justice Black is/was not a deity, but what about his views on “balancing”?

  87. How can the aggregate be distinct from the sum of its parts? 2 is the same as 1 plus 1, is it not?

    I’d say it’s more like a product. Or something more complex. Think thermodynamics.

  88. For that matter, does our experience on the Internet not reveal that all affectations of personality are social masks that are fairly interchangeable at will? The only reason we can’t do it as easily in meat-space is because our actions are fairly easily tied to our person.

    I think what it reveals, Poindexter, is that with talk like that you rarely get laid. To quote Master Shake, good luck with the casual sex. Seriously, because you’re gonna need it.

  89. They would have even gone over the top and call it racist.

    Don’t worry…soon they be accusing the ACLU of being racist, because only a racist would fail to protect black people using any available option.

  90. How can the aggregate be distinct from the sum of its parts?

    I once wrote a paper on this very topic. No, I’m not posting it here (it’s two hundred pages long). But, the examples of phenomenological emergence and submergence from syntactical proximity are fucking legion.

    Every water molecule contains two hydrogen atoms. Tell me, oh liberty mike, what phenomenological characteristics does diatomic hydrogen gas and water have in common? The short short answer is “very fucking few”. Their proximity and relation of arrangement with an oxygen atom causes emergent properties that neither hydrogen nor oxygen alone possess.

    If you want to continue to have fun, think about hygroscopic crystals; what happens to the physical properties of the water (such as fluidity) that they absorb? They are submerged into the solidity of the crystal lattice simply through their proximity to it, in syntactic relation.

  91. Episiarch-

    I am not Cesar. Joe, Neil or anybody else’s creation. Of course, my assertion alone cannot prove the point; however, how is citing Blackstone, Black, Adams. James Otis, natural rights philosophy, etc. “cartoonishly anarcho-Capitalist?”

  92. I think what it reveals, Poindexter, is that with talk like that you rarely get laid. To quote Master Shake, good luck with the casual sex. Seriously, because you’re gonna need it.

    Are you kidding? Cruising philosophy depts. for the chicks is *so* fucking easy. “Hyperreality” is an orgasm-inducing word to them.

    see also: ‘epistemological’, ‘epoche’, ‘hypostasis’.

  93. I once wrote a paper on this very topic. No, I’m not posting it here (it’s two hundred pages long). But, the examples of phenomenological emergence and submergence from syntactical proximity are fucking legion.

    See my point about the casual sex?

    how is citing Blackstone, Black, Adams. James Otis, natural rights philosophy, etc. “cartoonishly anarcho-Capitalist?

    It’s not the citing, it’s the paranoia. Tighten this one up, Cesar.

  94. “Hyperreality” is an orgasm-inducing word to them

    Try inducing their orgasms with your dick, it’s a lot more fun. You should give it a shot.

  95. Elemenope-

    Is there some “law” of physics that holds that phenomological emergence and submergence applies to society being distinct from the sum of its individuals?

  96. Verbal orgasms are “foreplay”, dude. I know, a foreign concept to most males, but it make the chicks more pleasant to deal with. I swear.

  97. what phenomenological characteristics does diatomic hydrogen gas and water have in common?

    This is why I went to an engineering school. In my fluids classes I never got a single question about phenomenological characterists of water or gases. And it was good.

  98. it make the chicks more pleasant to deal with. I swear

    I was under the impression that you just used rohypnol.

  99. Is there some “law” of physics that holds that phenomological emergence and submergence applies to society being distinct from the sum of its individuals?

    Of course not, liberty mike. A usually underappreciated consequence of the mechanism of emergence/submergence is that science can never ultimately be reduced and unified as simply “branches of physics”.

    It wouldn’t, therefore, be a “law of physics”. It still seems unbelievably obvious, after thinking about it for longer than, say, five minutes.

  100. The real outrage is that Marion Barry is still on the D.C. City Council!

    I know, but it was his own decision not to run for mayor again.

  101. elemenope,

    A judge, much like a legislator, *should* take into account the indirect consequences of any action as they reverberate through the social ecology when determining whether a conflict of rights has occurred or will occur.

    Bzzzt. Wrong.

    Either a conflict occurs or it doesnt. What consequences there are down the road are none of the judges business. If it causes chaos, so be it.

    Hail Eris!

  102. This is why I went to an engineering school. In my fluids classes I never got a single question about phenomenological characterists of water or gases. And it was good.

    That’s why I left Chemical Enginnering school. It was fucking boring.

    I was under the impression that you just used rohypnol.

    Dude! Unkind.

  103. Episiarch-

    Paronoia? Do you think that I am daunted by the propsect of no more nanny state? Do you think I’m trembling at the thought of a world without parasites?

  104. Elemenope,
    Are the chicks in philosophy departments attractive. I didn’t go into the liberal arts departments much in college.

  105. But when you talk about phenomological characteristics are you referring more to an epistemological or ontological consideration? Or both simultaneously, because the experience is not divergent?

    Try inducing their orgasms with your dick, it’s a lot more fun

    Dude, the chicks are just faking…:( Anyway, I wanna write a paper on the ethics of cunnilingus.

  106. That’s why I left Chemical Enginnering school. It was fucking boring.

    Nuke E was where all the action was.

  107. Either a conflict occurs or it doesnt. What consequences there are down the road are none of the judges business. If it causes chaos, so be it.

    Uh-huh. So, if the consequences of a certain action are obscured because they are, for example, delayed significantly (such as slow poisoning by exposure to a carcinogen, for example), or difficult to perceive immediately (such as polluting a river thus *eventually* reducing the fish population or making them inevitable)…it’s simply “tough shit” for the person seeking a redress of the inevitable grievance?

    That seems, I dunno, really stupid to me.

  108. economist,

    Are the chicks in philosophy departments attractive. I didn’t go into the liberal arts departments much in college.

    My school didnt have a liberal arts department. Well, it did, but you couldnt major in anything in it. Which is why we were also 25% female, which sucked. Attractive chicks? We just wanted them to exist.

  109. The Chicago implementation may seem similar to the DC implementation, but I think they are miles apart.

    Yeah, for a start the police in the Chicago areticle are trespassing on private property.

    The implementations are a bit different (one could argue which is worse) but the justification are exactly the same.

  110. Do you think I’m trembling at the thought of a world without parasites?

    Where do you draw the distinction, as far as your fellow citizens, between symbiote and parasite?

    OT, but my bros/friends and I were discussing how far a politician who was an expert philosophy and used that jargon instead of legalese and crass populism would get with a given electorate.

  111. Dude, the chicks are just faking…:(

    Maybe you’re gay?

    Dude! Unkind.

    The truth hurts?

  112. “phenomenological emergence and submergence”
    They didn’t go into this much for mechE. Dammit.

  113. Elemenope,

    A slow poison or whatever, is the grievance, not a result. Im talking about things like drastically changing the ICC rulings and declaring 90% of all government regulations to be unconstitutional. If that leads to chaos in the financial markets, so be it.

    I saw a Scalia speech where he was opposed to radical overturning of things like that, even if he thought they were bad decisions, because of the chaos it would cause in society. I disagree with him.

  114. Art P.O.G 12:06 pm,
    Some places out west he might get almost 15% of the vote.

  115. But when you talk about phenomological characteristics are you referring more to an epistemological or ontological consideration? Or both simultaneously, because the experience is not divergent?

    Both simultaneously. The point of my paper (the really short short version) was that the universe is an information-ontological construct (i.e. the fundamental “stuff” is signal packets), and that phenomena as they are experienced are primarily consequences of of the effects that are produced by information being incident across a spatio-temporal continuum. So, there is both an epistemolgical consequence to there being emergent phenomena, but also an ontological consequence.

    A short snippet:

    “Any child who has played with a microscope at length realizes quickly that, for example, surfaces which appear and act smooth in the macro-world are anything but smooth in the micro-world. Most science teachers, betraying their level prejudice, will tell the incredulous child that the micro-view is ‘really’ how the surface is. The child’s incredulity, however, is justified, for the object is smooth in the macro context. The ridiculousness of the teacher’s statement can be exposed by simply changing magnification; with a sufficiently powerful microscope, the child would be able to see that the surface which was smooth to the touch and rough under modest magnification is in stronger magnification a fairly chaotic amalgam of molecules that does not easily admit to either adjectival description, being mostly empty space; the teacher’s assertion that the earlier rough surface is ‘how the object really is’ is defeated by the new frame. All three frames, and many others beside, are all legitimately ‘how the object really is’; all that changes is which frame of the object the child participates in.”

  116. Elemenope-11:34 am

    No. Your post is essentially endorsing the proposition that the judge has the right to deprive one of his liberty becuase the exercise of that liberty may, might, could be “harmful” to others in the future.

    Thus, if I assert that I have the right to disseminate photographs of women without headscarves, a judge “should” balance my right against the public interest and take into account the harm that this could have upon the muslim community.

  117. OT, but my bros/friends and I were discussing how far a politician who was an expert philosophy and used that jargon instead of legalese and crass populism would get with a given electorate.

    Not very far. LP type numbers.

  118. robc,
    What field did you major in?

  119. I saw a Scalia speech where he was opposed to radical overturning of things like that, even if he thought they were bad decisions, because of the chaos it would cause in society. I disagree with him.

    So do I. Admitting that consequences can be dislocated in space and time from their originating actor does not automatically mean that judges can willy-nilly decide on arbitrary standards for applying prinicples, nor can the legislature in writing those priniciples.

    What is required, among other things, is a fairly rigorous evidentiary standard so that even if the relationships are *non-obvious*, they are still supportable by sufficient observation.

  120. Why are there more protests about a police crackdown in Northeast than about the murders that caused it?

    Lemme try: Because crimes committed by criminals working outside the boundaries of the law differ from crimes committed by badge-wearing goons with the full authority and backing of government? Because criminals committing freelance murders are not paid for by taxpayer dollars and acting with the government’s blessing?

  121. The point of my paper (the really short short version) was that the universe is an information-ontological construct (i.e. the fundamental “stuff” is signal packets), and that phenomena as they are experienced are primarily consequences of of the effects that are produced by information being incident across a spatio-temporal continuum.

    And I thought that my paper, written years ago, “A Comparison of the Treatment of Pericles by Thucydides, Herodotus, and Plutarch” was exciting.

  122. Maybe you’re gay?

    Naw, me and my buddy were talking about this. Guys like us got to get at least halfway drunk to get the courage to talk to girls, but then when the opportunity for some nookie presents itself the alcohol prevents top performance*.

    *and the fact that I hardly ever get laid probably doesn’t help.

  123. That there are emergent outcomes in situations involving large numbers of people is a proven fact, and is sometimes referred to as a network externality. The question is really whether the government can/should interfere to encourage/discourage the externality. Being a doctrinaire libertarian, I generally say no, because it would require an infringement of individual liberty.

  124. Guys like us got to get at least halfway drunk to get the courage to talk to girls, but then when the opportunity for some nookie presents itself the alcohol prevents top performance

    Try cocaine instead.

  125. OT, but my bros/friends and I were discussing how far a politician who was an expert philosophy and used that jargon instead of legalese and crass populism would get with a given electorate.

    With the jargon? Not far at all. For politicians (and really, for everyone else) a critical skill is the ability to translate their own occupation’s argot into something understandable by those who are not in that occupation.

    Note that, here, I ain’t tryin’ to do that.

  126. economist,

    see my 12:03 post.

  127. But, the examples of phenomenological emergence and submergence from syntactical proximity are fucking legion.

    Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Back up.

    [Makes Beep-beep-beep truck backing up noise.]

    There may be examples of phenomenological emergence and submergence from syntactical proximity, but that’s not relevant to the question at hand.

    Something called “society” may “phenomenologically emerge” from a group of disparate individuals, but the question is whether that which emerges can experience benefit or harm anthropomorphically.

    A group of birds may “”phenomenologically emerge” into a flock, but you can’t help or hurt the flock. You can only help or hurt individual birds. If you fire buckshot at the flock, you don’t hit “a flock”. You hit individual birds. If you throw food at the flock, you aren’t feeding “a flock”. You’re feeding individual birds. It is therefore absurd to talk about “the good” of the flock in any respect separate from “the good” of the individual birds.

    When you talk about social goods you are falsely anthropomorphizing the emergent noun “society”. Society doesn’t experience goods because it doesn’t have the equipment or the capacity to experience goods. Only you and I and the other individuals in society do.

  128. Try cocaine instead.

    I don’t wanna fail a urinalysis. Plus I’m extremely squeamish about the coca. I’ve been working on my confidence and really seem to be getting better.

  129. And I thought that my paper, written years ago, “A Comparison of the Treatment of Pericles by Thucydides, Herodotus, and Plutarch” was exciting.

    I guess excitement is in the, [erm], eye of the [erm], gonads.

  130. translate their own occupation’s argot into something understandable by those who are not in that occupation.

    Good point, but I’m trying to figure out why what politician’s say sounds so awful to me so much of the time (it must be generalized or stereotyped speech. I always have the strange feeling that politicians are talking to “somebody else”).

  131. Elemenope,
    You’ve got me beat there. My paper was on tribology.

  132. Fluffy —

    And I guess this is the fundamental disagreement. From the quote from my paper (on the poor incredulous student and his asinine science teacher) the point is that these different levels of observation have *actual* and not merely apparent consequential reality.

    You say that society, or “a flock of birds” for your example, is merely a descriptive coherence with no *real* internality, and I disagree. That argument could go on for a very long time. 😉

  133. and by “coherence” I mean “convenience” in that last post.

    Damn you, Spooner!

  134. Good point, but I’m trying to figure out why what politician’s say sounds so awful to me so much of the time (it must be generalized or stereotyped speech. I always have the strange feeling that politicians are talking to “somebody else”).

    Probably because most of the time they are saying very little, and their speech patterns are designed to obscure that very fact. For people with decent bullshit detectors, a politician’s speech is the mental equivalent of nails scratching on a chalkboard.

    It’s like having your filters get overloaded and clogged by the sheer quantity that has to be filtered out to get anything resembling a coherent “point”.

  135. I guess excitement is in the, [erm], eye of the [erm], gonads.

    Yes, you’re right. I should have included Aristophanes as well.

    (if you get this joke I will be impressed)

  136. You say that society, or “a flock of birds” for your example, is merely a descriptive coherence with no *real* internality, and I disagree. That argument could go on for a very long time.

    I think I understand. The counter-argument would be that the death of the single bird has an effect on the other birds’ “conception” of the flock and on the actual flying pattern, therefore “the flock” as a construct is useful for phenomological dialectic.

  137. robc 12:03,
    So you went into nuke E? Pretty damn cool. If I hadn’t slacked off so much in college, I might have a cooler job. (Started off in EE, switched to MechE because it was more general/less difficult. I’m actually in lower management right now, though my engineering training allows me not to be utterly dumbfounded (unlike some I might mention) when talking to the actual engineers. Currently working on MBA so I can move up.

  138. Episiarch,
    Did Aristophanes like to make gonad jokes?

  139. Aw, crap, gotta go!

  140. Of *course* the public good is simply an aggregate representation of individual goods. But the simplistic interpretation of this truth ignores the simple fact that a society in the aggregate is phenomenologically distinct than the sum of its parts.

    I want to speak to this as well.

    A lot depends on what you mean by “an aggregate representation of individual goods”.

    If Jesus flew down from heaven on a pterodactyl and handed out loaves and fishes to everyone, and each and every person in America got one loaf and one fish, then you could say to Jesus, “Wow, Jesus, thanks for serving the public good!” and your praise would correspond to an “aggregate representation of individual goods”. And it would do so in a way that doesn’t contradict the Blackwell quote at all.

    If, OTOH, Jesus came down and before handing anything out said, “Hey everybody, I want to hand out a loaf and a fish to everyone, but I’m only willing to do that if you let me crush Fluffy’s balls in a vise first. Is that a deal?” you could not say that Jesus was serving the public good as an an “aggregate representation of individual goods”. Jesus would be serving the good of some members of the public, and crushing my balls. But since people use the expressions “the public good” or “the good of society” all the time to mean situations where some people get goods and some people get their balls crushed, that means that it must have some meaning above and beyond mere aggregation.

  141. economist,

    I dont actually work as a NukE. That would just be silly. 🙂

  142. Fluffy,

    Sorry, but Im voting Yes on Proposition Bread&Fish.

  143. Art-P.O.G.,


    Naw, me and my buddy were talking about this. Guys like us got to get at least halfway drunk to get the courage to talk to girls, but then when the opportunity for some nookie presents itself the alcohol prevents top performance*.

    *and the fact that I hardly ever get laid probably doesn’t help.

    Four step program for Soldiers like you:

    1. Go to flight school (and graduate)

    2. Wear a wedding ring.

    3. Find the cougar bars and hang out there in your flight suit wearing a wedding ring.

    4. Poontang!

    If you really want to tempt the stockade, replace step 1 with purchasing or borrowing a flight suit and full Aviator adornments.

  144. Jesus would be serving the good of some members of the public, and crushing my balls.

    This is phenomenal. My god I’d love to hear you debate Gore Vidal.

  145. And I guess this is the fundamental disagreement. From the quote from my paper (on the poor incredulous student and his asinine science teacher) the point is that these different levels of observation have *actual* and not merely apparent consequential reality.

    You say that society, or “a flock of birds” for your example, is merely a descriptive coherence with no *real* internality, and I disagree. That argument could go on for a very long time.

    I think I understand. The counter-argument would be that the death of the single bird has an effect on the other birds’ “conception” of the flock and on the actual flying pattern, therefore “the flock” as a construct is useful for phenomological dialectic.

    I don’t think the levels of perception issue has any bearing on the case, actually.

    Issues of “value” only arise for entities that experience benefit or harm in the way that we experience benefit or harm at our level of perception.

    Even if you argued that, say, at the next level of perception down [instead of up], my individual cells or atoms were in some way experiencing benefit or harm, I would tell you frankly that I didn’t give a shit. They aren’t experiencing it in a way that has anything to do with our existence as human beings, they can’t communicate to us about it in any way, and if the individual hydrogen atoms in the water in my body wants to negotiate for “goods” with me as I experience myself at this level of existence, they can go fuck themselves because I’m not negotiating.

    Similarly, you may postulate that at the next level of perception up, the level of flocks of birds or “societies” or “publics”, there is some sort of actual entity that comes into existence as an emergent property. I would counter that, if so, we know absolutely nothing about what that entity does and does not experience, and we cannot communicate with that entity in any way, so it’s patently absurd for us to talk about what might be good and what might be bad for it. We also are under no real obligation to care.

  146. I vote no on Proposition Bread&Fish. Jesus must also offer me $100.

  147. Fluffy,
    So, do you think you could say, “Damn, you’re breakin’ my balls here.”?

  148. Damn you people are weird. Always talking about the breaking of balls.

  149. So, do you think you could say, “Damn, you’re breakin’ my balls here.”?

    I think I would say, “Aw, Jesus H. Christ! You’re breaking my balls here!”

  150. Guy,

    I appreciate the advice, but am troubled by the lack of a question mark step. 😉 And while my GT score sez I can go (almost) anywhere I want in the Army (woo hoo!), my heart sez do this deployment and get the hell out :(. Ah, well…

    Fluffy,
    Very, very good. I’m impressed.

  151. Unfortunately, I think Proposition Bread&Fish would pass by a landslide.

    Lots of you SOB’s would vote for it even if you hated bread and fish, just for the entertainment value.

  152. (pulls lever for ball-crushing)

  153. Lots of you SOB’s would vote for it even if you hated bread and fish, just for the entertainment value.

    Only if Jesus taped your response and uploaded it to Youtube. 😉

  154. Aw, I go for a burrito and miss “post our academic papers day.” Shit, I guess excerpts from “The Horrorshow: Violence as an Artistic Medium in A Clockwork Orange” will have to wait for another day.

    I got my BA in bullshit, in case you were wondering.

  155. Shit, I guess excerpts from “The Horrorshow: Violence as an Artistic Medium in A Clockwork Orange” will have to wait for another day.

    Yes, because it doesn’t fit with the theme. Your paper sounds like it might be interesting.

  156. Yes, you’re right. I should have included Aristophanes as well.

    (if you get this joke I will be impressed)

    The Symposium is a very underrated Platonic dialogue, so far as these things go. 🙂

    I think I understand. The counter-argument would be that the death of the single bird has an effect on the other birds’ “conception” of the flock and on the actual flying pattern, therefore “the flock” as a construct is useful for phenomological dialectic.

    Almost, but a little more radical. The most interesting consequence of treating everything as information is that one can describe any complex object as a “standing wave” with a discrete amplitude and perodicity. The coherence of the object vis a vis incidental phenomena is a function of its period. The coherence of any complex object is thus, in a certain sense, tenuous (capable of being disrupted).

    So, one can say, in the example of a flock of birds, that any incidental phenomena capable of disrupting an individual member of the complex object (say, one bullet and one bird) can induce a change in the amplitude of the wave.

    If the amplitude of the incidental phenomena is big enough (enough bullets, for example) it will overwhelm the internal coherence of the object, causing it to decohere. (i.e. the point at which the flock simply becomes a disorganized mess of birds.)

    One might say that an object can best be defined as the minimal domain of a standing wave whose individual contributing components are more informationally relevant to one another than to any other from outside the boundaries of the object.

  157. Just out of curiosity, what does the H in “Jesus H. Christ” stand for?

  158. Ah, I see. I will admit that I wrote most of papers while really high in college, but always got good grades. That paper was for the best literature class I had: “20th Century Dystopias.”

    By the way “Nuke E”? Wasn’t that the street drug in Robocop 2?

  159. Hammertime.

  160. And there’s the classic explanation: “Our Father, Who Art in Heaven, Harold Be Thy Name.”

  161. Since we’re on the subject of our school days, I call myself “economist” because I actually paid attention during ECON101 and even read ahead in the book. I actually seriously considered majoring in economics (my school offered a bachelor of science in the subject). I did engineering instead because I thought physics was cooler (and I already had prerequisites I had taken as AP courses in high school). As mentioned before, I would have gone into electrical engineering, but it seemed like too much work and I was a stupid drunk college kid.

  162. Even if you argued that, say, at the next level of perception down [instead of up], my individual cells or atoms were in some way experiencing benefit or harm, I would tell you frankly that I didn’t give a shit. They aren’t experiencing it in a way that has anything to do with our existence as human beings, they can’t communicate to us about it in any way, and if the individual hydrogen atoms in the water in my body wants to negotiate for “goods” with me as I experience myself at this level of existence, they can go fuck themselves because I’m not negotiating.

    My point is precisely that we do *not* simply experience or participate in one level of existence. There are times that individual entities either much larger or much smaller or with much greater or shorter periods of oscillation become relevant to us as human beings. (i.e for a somewhat silly example, Schroedinger’s poor cat is participating efficaciously with a frame that includes a single radioactive atom, and to that cat, what happens to that atom is very fucking relevant!)

    So, sometimes the society (a very large entity with a very long period of oscillation) participates in our frame whether we want it to or not.

  163. NukeE,
    nuclear engineering

  164. “The Horrorshow: Violence as an Artistic Medium in A Clockwork Orange” will have to wait for another day.

    Aww! That one sounds like fun.

  165. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier are correct to see the crime problem in Northeast as a true public emergency that warrants new thinking and bold action.

    I wonder if they’ve had new thoughts about boldly legalizing handguns.

  166. The last time I saw this much conflation of physics and political philosophy was on an objectivist blog.

  167. Chris Potter,
    No, but Fenty might boldly start regulating anyghing that could possibly be used as a weapon. Pure speculation, but look at the knife bans in London.

  168. If, OTOH, Jesus came down and before handing anything out said, “Hey everybody, I want to hand out a loaf and a fish to everyone, but I’m only willing to do that if you let me crush Fluffy’s balls in a vise first. Is that a deal?” you could not say that Jesus was serving the public good as an an “aggregate representation of individual goods”. Jesus would be serving the good of some members of the public, and crushing my balls. But since people use the expressions “the public good” or “the good of society” all the time to mean situations where some people get goods and some people get their balls crushed, that means that it must have some meaning above and beyond mere aggregation.

    Sure you could, since as is clear from the resulting comments, most of those individuals don’t care about your balls. You’d be a blip in the data, albeit a screaming one.

  169. The last time I saw this much conflation of physics and political philosophy was on an objectivist blog.

    Ah! Unclean! Uncleeeeeeeeeean!

  170. Chris Potter,
    No, but Fenty might boldly start regulating anyghing that could possibly be used as a weapon. Pure speculation, but look at the knife bans in London.

    Well, in the spirit of the dystopian vibe, perhaps they should just point the Hammer of Dawn at the neighborhoods.

  171. Art-P.O.G.,

    Your satellite coverage window has passed. Have fun with that Berserker.

  172. Elemenope,
    It’s not so bad. In fact, if many objectivists weren’t insane, we’d agree 90% of the time. It’s just that they think the 10% is reason for excommunication.

  173. Have fun with that Berserker.

    Fuck. I don’t think I’m gonna be able to sweet-talk her.

  174. regarding my last post, I had an interesting experience on an objectivist blog. Post:

    “I would say there is a somewhat equal right to unappropriated natural resources. I think that if someone wants to appropriate more than his share, there should be a payment to someone else for access to his ‘share’. Whatever he makes of it after that fact is his own property.”
    This attitude did not go over well with them.

  175. Art-P.O.G.,

    That first one killed me at least 40 times. Coma patients have a faster reaction time than me.

  176. I pretty much suck at video games. I played through that game co-op with my roommate so I didn’t have too hard a time.

  177. There is a Saberhagen video game?!?!?

  178. “The majority is always wrong.”

    Plato’s Laches:

    Soc. And for this reason, as I imagine,-because a good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers?

    Mel. To be sure.

    Soc. Must we not then first of all ask, whether there is any one of us who has knowledge of that about which we are deliberating? If there is, let us take his advice, though he be one only, and not mind the rest; if there is not, let us seek further counsel. Is this a slight matter about which you and Lysimachus are deliberating? Are you not risking the greatest of your possessions? For children are your riches; and upon their turning out well or ill depends the whole order of their father’s house.

    Mel. That is true.

  179. There should be, but we’re talking about Gears of War. You can only kill this one enemy by luring it outside and calling down a satellite strike.

  180. “I would say there is a somewhat equal right to unappropriated natural resources. I think that if someone wants to appropriate more than his share, there should be a payment to someone else for access to his ‘share’. Whatever he makes of it after that fact is his own property.”

    Sounds fairly reasonable.

    This attitude did not go over well with them.

    Color me shocked. If I might guess, their counterargument ran along the idea that the labor that one spends “procuring” and “developing” the resource counterbalances the perceived debt one might incur from taking the resource that was theretofore lying fallow. Not altogether unreasonable either, but I somehow imagine them being somewhat impolite about it.

  181. Art-P.O.G.,

    Then I strongly suggest the borrowing option for step 1 after you get ALL THE WAY out.

    I still have my stuff from when I was a 1LT. if you can wear 46 extra long (IIRC my size from then).

  182. Elemenope,
    To be fair to the objectivists, when I floated the counter-argument to some “geo-libertarians” they responded just about the same.

  183. To be fair to the objectivists, when I floated the counter-argument to some “geo-libertarians” they responded just about the same.

    Also unsurprising. I suppose one would be hard pressed to find a group that accepts an argument attacking their fundamental propositions with equanimity and grace.

    Zen Buddhists, maybe.

  184. Then I strongly suggest the borrowing option for step 1 after you get ALL THE WAY out.

    Shoot, part of me wants to pursue a commission, but something tells me that Reserve Officer status is something Admiral Ackbar would warn me about.

  185. Nope, the Zen Bhuddists also got pissed off.

  186. Episiarch,

    There should be. I’d like the Berserker game to allow you to play either side.

    I’d also like a Dracula Tape game where you can be Dracula and bite people’s necks and stuff.

  187. Nope, the Zen Bhuddists also got pissed off.

    What about the Nihilists?

  188. Shoot, part of me wants to pursue a commission, but something tells me that Reserve Officer status is something Admiral Ackbar would warn me about.

    Has not been bad for me and the AC/RC line is pretty blurry up here in the Beltway anyway.

  189. Art P.O.G.,
    The nihilists get pissed off whatever you say.

  190. Guy,

    The Beltway? Sorry, I’m not that brave. :p

  191. I had no idea there were neighborhoods in the Capitol. I knew there were some in the capital city, but not that there were some in the Capitol building itself. Wow. 🙂

  192. Art-P.O.G.,

    NO FLIGHT SUIT FOR YOU!

  193. I had no idea there were neighborhoods in the Capitol. I knew there were some in the capital city, but not that there were some in the Capitol building itself. Wow. 🙂

    Sounds like a new book for Erich von D?niken. Perhaps Tom Hanks can star in the movie?

  194. Sure you could, since as is clear from the resulting comments, most of those individuals don’t care about your balls. You’d be a blip in the data, albeit a screaming one.

    No, you couldn’t.

    Trying to disguise a “social good” as an aggregation of individual goods only works if everyone in the aggregation is experiencing a tiny bit of the aggregated good.

    If some people are experiencing tiny bits of the aggregated good, and some people are experiencing harm, you don’t have an aggregation of goods. You have a mixture of benefits and harms.

    It’s not a question of whether they care or not. It’s a question of whether it’s possible argumentatively to dismiss the Randian/Thatcherite observation that there is no such thing as society by saying, “Oh, don’t be silly – of course when we talk about the public good we mean goods that all of us experience a little bit of!”

    If the amplitude of the incidental phenomena is big enough (enough bullets, for example) it will overwhelm the internal coherence of the object, causing it to decohere. (i.e. the point at which the flock simply becomes a disorganized mess of birds.)

    Right, but this still does not benefit or harm anything or anyone other than individual birds. The flock may “decohere”, but it doesn’t experience pain; it doesn’t get depressed; it doesn’t have to exert any effort to cohere again [since the individual birds do all of that]. Its decoherence isn’t relevant because it has no capacity to experience or reflect on it one way or the other.

  195. Elemenope, Fluffy, economist, et al. Can I get college credit for this thread?

  196. Trying to disguise a “social good” as an aggregation of individual goods only works if everyone in the aggregation is experiencing a tiny bit of the aggregated good.

    Not that I agree, but in the above example aren’t you getting a fish and a loaf too? 😉

    The wider point I suppose has to do with to what extent goods and harms *are* aggregate. Two examples, that follow from the earlier discussion:

    To lead into our flock of birds paradigm, the presence of the flock does matter to each bird that participates in it; any ornithologist can tell you that there are aerodynamic benefits to each bird that flies in formation such that migrating birds expend much less energy than they would if they were flying solo (each bird creates a slipstream for the birds behind them in formation, improving aerodynamic lift; and of course the birds periodically switch off being in front. Little commies!).

    All social animals are pretty much the same in this way. A pack of dogs can take down large prey, and all benefit, in the same environment that one dog would starve for want of prey. So, the same number of dogs that when organized in a pack may survive identical conditions that would kill each of they acted merely as individuals.

    Elemenope, Fluffy, economist, et al. Can I get college credit for this thread?

    Welcome to Hit & Run University. Tuition is free, but watch out for the wandering packs of trolls!

  197. For the first time in a long time, a topic has been covered so well in an H&R thread that I don’t see any worthwhile contribution that I can make to the topic. So instead, I will simply congratulate the participants — also for not letting the thread degenerate into off-topic schoolyard chatter after even more than 150 postings. Even the diversions have been entertaining and sometimes even enlightening. Are there more threads like these at home?

  198. My paper was on tribology.

    I think mine was on history-as-storytelling. It was a long time ago, though, and there were mushrooms.

  199. The problem, Matt, is that the notion of a “compelling state interest” that justifies violating a right is so deeply embedded in our law now that the guys at the Post are justified in thinking that any right is up for grabs when considered in “balance” to any particular problem.

    If you’ll forgive me, that is the real outrage: the pile of judicial precedents that enable this kind of thinking.

    Judicial precedents are set in stone.

  200. In his 80’s sequels to the foundation books (which I know have been panned here) Asimov covered some of this.

    Daneel Olivaw took the 1st law of robotics (don’t harm a human nor allow a human being come to harm) and postulated a ‘zeroth law’ – don’t harm humanity nor allow humanity to come to harm. (as an aside, it wasn’t until years later that I realized “Zeroth” wasn’t the name of some other robot philospher.)

    To Asimov’s credit, despite being the most collectivist a person could get in the 20th century and still be anti-communist, he recognized that this begged the question. Defining ‘humanity’ and especially ‘harms to humanity’ is well nigh impossible.

    Nonetheless, as social creatures, we will invariably have to have some system of deciding ‘what is good for the tribe’ – because, at the extreme (but not on the margin), survival may be potentially at stake.

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