Saturday, March 31, 2007

Taking a break from this for awhile.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

At long last, there is proof-positive that this blogger is psycho-physio-ethically damaged, according to a report in the journal Nature as cited in Thursday’s New York Times:

“Damage to an area of the brain behind the forehead, inches behind the eyes, transforms the way people make moral judgments in life-or-death situations…” Okay, look, there’s no brain damage up here; maybe a serotonin imbalance, but that’s about it. But take a gander at the question that’s quoted.

It’s a hypothetical that leaves no room for uncertainty. Here it is, in the original italics with some useful comments in brackets: You have abandoned a sinking cruise ship and are in a crowded lifeboat that is dangerously low in water. [Okay, very frantic circumstances where people ain’t gonna think normally anyway, right?] If nothing is done — assuming quite a bit — it will sink before the rescue boats arrive and everyone will die.

However, there is an injured person who will not survive in any case [my emphasis]. If you throw that person overboard, the boat will stay afloat and the remaining passengers will be saved. So it becomes do or die. And according to the Nature article slightly over 20 percent of “normal” patients say yes, they would throw the poor guy over; and just over 80 percent of “brain injured” folks say yes.

Um, according to the very hypothetical presented, isn’t this a no-brainer (no pun intended)? Now, certainly you wouldn’t ask me to be the man to do it. Maybe that’s what a fair amount of the 80 percent of normal people who said no might have thought: Well, yeah, in principle, but not me. So either there’s some brain damage that’s gone under the radar on my behalf, or this was a totally loaded situation. Forget it.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Ran into Paul Bremer at the grocery today. Didn’t think it was him (at first), though the recognition was almost instant. Things didn’t go past perfunctory greetings, and it shouldn’t have been otherwise. Didn’t feel it appropriate to ask if the de-Ba’athification policies over which he presided as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority back in ’03 were too drastic or extreme, so didn’t go there. Seemed like a nice fellow.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Too dark?

Friday, March 09, 2007

The old captain died not a minute too soon (from the executive summary of an internal FBI audit released today, below):

“… we identified many instances in which the FBI obtained telephone toll billing records and subscriber information from 3 telephone companies pursuant to more than 700 ‘exigent letters’ signed by personnel in the Counterterrorism Division without first issuing national security letters [NSL]. We concluded that the FBI’s acquisition of this information circumvented the requirements of the ECPA [Electronic Communications Privacy Act] NSL statute and violated the Attorney General’s Guidelines for FBI National Security Investigations and Foreign Intelligence Collection … and internal FBI policy” (p. 41).

Until later.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Goodbye, Captain America (1941 - 2007).

Friday, March 02, 2007

Lest you thought you’d gotten me pinned down with the last post, here’s a sampling from another political philosophy that seems quite attractive to me as well (via Project Gutenberg):

“Society is indeed a contract… but the state ought not to be considered nothing better than a partnership agreement in a trade of pepper and coffee, calico or tobacco, or some other such low concern… It is a partnership in all science; a partnership in all art; a partnership in every virtue … between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born. Each contract of each particular state is but a clause in the great primeval contract of eternal society … connecting the visible and invisible world… The municipal corporations of that universal kingdom are not morally at liberty at their pleasure…”

— Edmund Burke (emphasis added)
Referred to this topic in an earlier post, but this possibly could indicate why democratic socialism, at least by its immediate connotations, may not become a viable alternative in the U.S. for a long time, from Jason Schulman and Joseph Schwartz:

Hopes for a rapid democratic transition to socialism were shattered by the horrors of Stalinism and the failure of social democratic governments to discern a socialist road out of the Great Depression. After World War II, ‘democratic socialism’ increasingly became identified with the ‘Keynesian’ welfare state… with the crisis of the welfare state due to the end of post-WWII growth in the 1970s, the mainstream left … faced a crisis of vision and program.”

One could say that they’ve yet to get it back.