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June 19, 2005

Actually, no
Posted by Patrick at 11:23 AM * 78 comments

Charles Bird at Obsidian Wings asks:

Can we agree that, no matter how the words are weaseled, putting American in the same sentence with Nazis, gulags and the Khmer Rouge has no place in civil political discourse?

No, we can’t, because Nazism, the Gulag, and the Cambodian genocide all emerged from human decisions, many of which probably seemed reasonable at the time. They weren’t beamed down to the planet by aliens.

“Civil political discourse” is about what we’re doing, where we’re going, and who we are. When our own FBI agents are reporting that American soldiers are chaining prisoners in fetal positions for 24 hours or more, leaving them to roll in their own shit and piss, it’s not unreasonable to wonder what we’re doing, where we’re going, and who we’ve become.

When Deputy Associate Attorney General J. Michael Wiggins asserts that “It’s our position that, legally, they can be held in perpetuity,” it’s not unreasonable to wonder what we’re doing, where we’re going, and who we’ve become.

And while we’re wondering, it’s extremely not unreasonable to note how this kind of thing has come about in the past.

Observes Bruce Baugh in the comments to Bird’s post:

There was a time when the Nazis and Soviets had each slain just a few—they didn’t leap from the end of World War I straight to Auschwitz or the gulags. There was a time when they were doing just what our troops and non-military people are doing right now, on precisely the same moral trajectory. Because in each case, they were led by people who decided that their cause was so important, all means could be allowed.

Yes, it’s a slippery slope argument. Guess what. Sometimes, you’re on a slope, and you’re sliding.

Last word (for now) from the increasingly excellent Brad Plumer:

The outrage over Durbin’s remarks—and Amnesty’s “gulag” report before that—is, to be perfectly frank, one of the most asinine and depressing episodes I’ve yet had the misfortune to witness in my brief time following politics. Cut the crap. Durbin very obviously wasn’t calling American soldiers Nazis; no one more sentient than a deepwater sponge was genuinely confused about this point. It’s also clear that Durbin’s words, whatever you think about it, isn’t a “propaganda victory” to the terrorists. I know it’s in vogue for “serious” thinkers to believe that “the terrorists” are slumped around headquarters, devoid of propaganda material, and waiting, just waiting for the Senate Minority Whip to give them something that will reinvigorate the movement. It’s a grand little theory with just one minor flaw—it’s not true. […]

When actions carried out by our military interrogators can be confused with even the most “minor” of atrocities carried out by some of the worst regimes in history, then no, that doesn’t make our soldiers Nazis or a Soviet thugs, but it does mean it’s time to worry. When our op-ed pages are filled with academics and other pseudo-intellectuals taking pains to point out exactly how we differ from Nazi Germany—how our torture is quantitatively different from their torture; how our enemies are worse than their enemies; how at least we haven’t killed 13 million people yet—then yes, it’s time to worry. The issue isn’t whether or not we’re the same as Nazis, because we’re clearly not; it’s whether we’re different enough.

Comments on Actually, no:
#1 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 12:52 PM:

At this point, I'm so cynical, I don't care anymore what the right's response to Durbin is. Right wing pundits can get away with any damn thing they want. So can right wing politicians.

Sam Johnson can joke about dropping a nuclear bomb on Syria WHILE IN CHURCH, and this all passes away like it never happened, but Dick Durbin makes one comment, and it's hanging time.

There is nothing any Republican can say, no moral horror they could call for that would cause them any sense of shame *ever*

The Republican party has no business condemning Durbin. And Democrats have no good reason to take any criticism from Republicans on their rhetorical tactics. Not for another thousand years.

Don't fall for the criticism. Tell the Republicans to go to hell, and keep the focus where is belongs. On torture, on the fact that our troops have been made into torturers, on the fact that our government now proclaims it has the right to 'disappear' anyone anywhere, never give them a trial, and execute them if desired.

Don't give up on the focus.

#2 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 01:06 PM:

The problem is that a large enough chunk of the US popluation seems to want an authoritarian government that can kidnap, torture and execute people, and the silent majority continues to remain silent.

It's the silence that scares me. I don't know if it's media bias and there's an un-covered rising swell of anger and disgust, or if the public truly is indifferent.

#3 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 01:10 PM:

I'm seeing a clear pattern here: Bush's non-service record, doing stupid things to Korans, now this -- whenever something unpleasant to the administration starts to look like it might develop into a story, attack some tangential aspect of the way people are talking about it, and make that the story, instead. It seems to be working pretty well, and as long as the press thinks reporting what the administration is saying about the story is the same thing as reporting on the story, I'm not sure what there is to be done about it. Anyone got any ideas?

#4 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 01:15 PM:

because somehow when we do bad things, it's different from when bad people do bad things, which is why we should give the government more freedom to do bad things, because even if they do bad things when they're not allowed to they'll be much more forbearing when they are allowed to, which is why they're asking for permission to do bad things, because they don't want to.

Sales of headache remedies to theologians and philosophers must be going through the roof these days.

#5 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 01:21 PM:

Jews, in particular, are careful never to call anyone Nazis except Nazis. What does the Jewish Press and Jewish leadership say about Gitmo, Abu Graib, and calling folks Nazis? A random sample:

ADL to Senator Durbin: Inappropriate Comparison to Nazi Tactics Unacceptable

New York, NY, June 16, 2005 ... "The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today called on Senator Richard J. Durbin (D-IL) to repudiate his remarks and apologize to the American people for distorting an important issue, with an inappropriate comparison to Nazi tactics."

"In a speech on the Senate floor on June 14th on the situation at Guantanamo Bay he likened American treatment of prisoners to what 'must have been done by Nazis... that had no concern for human beings....'"

London mayor not sorry for Nazi jibe
Tuesday, February 15, 2005 Posted: 7:55 AM EST (1255 GMT)

LONDON, England -- Defiant London Mayor Ken Livingstone has again refused to apologize for a tirade in which he accused a Jewish reporter of behaving like a Nazi concentration camp guard.

With International Olympic Committee inspectors arriving in London Tuesday to assess the city's bid for the 2012 Games, there are fears the row could damage Britain's chances.

Jewish community leaders and Holocaust survivors have demanded an apology from the Labour Party mayor.

However, at his weekly press conference at City Hall Tuesday, Livingstone again refused to say sorry.

"You may think my remarks to that reporter -- and many over the years -- are offensive," he said. "That is purely a matter of judgment. If you think they are racist I think you are wrong.

Welcome to the war on image
By Diana West
Jewish World Review June 17, 2005 / 10 Sivan, 5765
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com
Finally, our guards at Guantanamo Bay are getting the hang of showing "reverence and respect" toward that "fragile piece of delicate art" (military-speak for the Quran), and, wouldn't you know it, our politicians and pundits, from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel to Tom Friedman and Bill Kristol, are angling to put a lock on Gitmo.

Why? It's an "international embarrassment," says Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who should know. His colleague, Sen. Richard Durbin, (D-Ill.), is himself so internationally embarrassed that he compared the terrorist detainee facility to Nazi deaths camps, Communist gulags and Khmer Rouge killing fields.

The Silver-Lined Gitmo Commode
By Demosophist
May 19, 2005

"Well, I'm frankly puzzled by this whole Koran-flushing thing. I understand how a people steeped in a vengeful literature for a thousand years might get upset when a few red infidels use laser-guided bombs to blow up their neighborhoods while we're liberating them from tyranny. And I grasp the idea of the shame of a proud people when inferior mongrel troops are sent into a place like Fallujah or Ramadi to uncover baby Auschwitz slaughterhouses with shaky plaintive notes from the victims scrawled on the walls in their own blood, or when we bomb Baghdad in 'Shock and Awe' while they stand on their rooftops so as not to miss anything, or when a group of our miscreants discomfit captives guilty of far worse, with the cultural indignities of plebe hazing. I understand that, and it sorta makes sense. But why do they wait until they think we might have flushed a [holy] book down the crapper before instigating an Ummah-wide lethal street uprising? Why now, and not then?"

"I asked some people I know, including some Muslims, about this, because I'm stumped. I related the story of how Sir Ernest Shackleton tore up the pages of the Bible when the Endurance was stranded at the South Pole, to impress upon his men the necessity of leaving some things behind for the march across Antarctica. A Jewish friend observed that a Jew, at least an Orthodox Jew, would probably not have done what Shackleton did with the Torah. But she also said that they probably wouldn't have rioted had someone flushed it, either...."

#6 ::: punkrockhockeymom ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 01:25 PM:

This reminds me of a rant I wrote for the comments section of a previous post regarding "civil discourse," and then never posted because I was feeling shy. I think I'm going to find it and put it up now.

You can't have civil discourse and discussion about the administration's policies regarding torture, or prisoners of war, or the environment, or, well, anything. The administration lies about what the policies are, then it lies about what it said the policies were, and our side is the only side expected to play by the rules and be civil. That isn't discourse. I'm tired of being civil. I'm not civil to people who lie to me as a matter of course.

Well, I guess the rant is just an angrier, long and drawn out version of what I just said. So I won't stress about finding it.

#7 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 01:28 PM:

You can add to your "random sample" the fact that Brad Plumer's last line--"The issue isn’t whether or not we’re the same as Nazis, because we’re clearly not; it’s whether we’re different enough"--is a quotation from Israeli historian Avi Schlaim.

#8 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 01:34 PM:

1. Oh, I don't think I found it here--so I'll post it here instead. I think the inimitable Fafnir has best take on this, when he explained that we're not as bad as Galactus.

2. Watching this whole thing is like watching a disaster on tape in slo-mo: we can see it coming, we know what would be needed to prevent it, and, so far, nothing we do makes a difference.

3. There's an aspect of faith to the "conservative" pundits belief in the current radical-right leadership; no matter what the leadership does, it is for the greater good. If that lot were to lose its faith, it would make a real difference. Every failure, every death is one more step towards that loss, but why should innocents suffer to be their lesson?

4. If the independent mass media were to turn against the radical right, now, much might yet be saved.

#9 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 01:44 PM:

At a minimum we can write two letters, maybe three. One to Dick Durban, supporing him. One to our local paper, supporting him. And one to our own senators, asking why they haven't supported him.

#10 ::: Matt A. ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 01:47 PM:

The Nazis weren't all that bad to their Allied prisoners (especially compared to the Japanese treatment of them) probably because of some asinine Aryan-blood-purity thing with the English and Americans. That Senator should have been specific, speaking about how the Nazis treated the Jews.

The real way Bush et al. are like the Nazis is in their ability to dehumanize (in their minds) those who are most different from them. The way they're like the Allies is being like the Allies of WWI-- sowing the wind by impoverishing and victimizing Iraqis the way the Allies did Germany at the end of the first World War.

#11 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 01:48 PM:

Patrick:

Good point. I missed that. Thank you.

"Are we different enough?" This implies a metric of how distant two political positions, call them A and B, are from each other. Call that distance d(A,B). I've got to be able to imagine drawing a picture on graph paper, and making the dges of appropriate length.

To add a little rational structure to the discussion, I'd think that we can all agree on these axioms for the Political Metric Space:

(1) d(A,A) = 0 [the distance from any position to itself is zero, no difference]

(2) If d(A,B) = 0 then A=B [If there's no difference in positions, it's the same position, maybe just labelled differently]

(3) d(A,B) = d(B,A) [the distance between any two positions does not depend on which one you start with)

(4) d(A,B) + d(B,C) >= d(A,C) [the tricky one, called the "triangle inequality."] Example: the difference between the US position and the former USSR position, plus the difference between the the former USSR position and the Nazi position, is at least as great as the difference between the US position and the Nazi position. Bill Clinton obliquely referred to this in his theory of "triangulating." It governs strange bedfellows and enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend."

I have to think of it this way once Durbin invokes Nazi deaths camps, Communist gulags and Khmer Rouge killing fields. Now I have to measure, by my own standards, what the distance is between Gitmo and Nazi deaths camps; Gitmo and Communist gulags; Gitmo and Khmer Rouge killing fields; Nazi deaths camps and Communist gulags; Nazi deaths camps and Khmer Rouge killing fields; and Communist gulags and Khmer Rouge killing fields.

Why? Because I want to be self-consistent, or else I'll be prey to trolls who want to point out the mote in my eyes while neglecting the phaser beam in theirs.

I'm not trying to do Math for its own sake, or to be weird, Patrick. I'm trying to give rules for the debate, if it is to be rational. For example, I think we're slightly farther from Killing Fields than from Nazi death camps, if only because 1/3 of cambodians were liquidated, and the Khmer Rouge went after teachers, writers, and anyone wearing glasses because they could read books. I'm an eyeglass-wearing writer and teacher. I might see things differently if, for instance, I were gay.

To put it another way: I agree that we're on the slippery slope. Question is, how slippery, how much slope, and are we goping straight downhill?

#12 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 01:50 PM:

Edges. Going.

Note that Matt A. is making a similar (albeit partial) structuring of the debate.

#13 ::: Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 01:56 PM:

Patrick, the problem is not whether it is morally reprehensible or not. The problem is that comparing what we're doing to regimes/groups branded evil sidetracks a discussion that should not be side tracked.

To stay on focus, is it better to say: "this reminds me of the Nazis" or "this goes against everhthing we stand for"? Is it better to say "we don't want to do what the Soviets did" or "it is a time-honored US tradition to object to torture"?

Similarities are (obviously) there. So are differences. Unless we want to stand on the deck of the Liberty and go down arguing the finer points of history, we had better use the better part of valor.

And JVP, your comment about what "Jews" do is uninformed by current discourse in Israel, where "like the Nazis" is a common slur. Recently, Joseph Lapid (minister of Justice at the time) cast that at the ultra-orthodox, and said something along the lines of being able to understand why that kind of Jews were targeted for abuse. Not to be outdone, one of the leading Jewish politicians of North African descent was quoted as saying that the people deciding about the disengagement (which involves a population transfer of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip back into Israel) were "like the Nazis" and could/should be resisted appropriately.

Yes, in Israel, the Nazi comparison is alive and well, and tends to be used by all sides of the (Jewish) political spectrum.

#14 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 02:03 PM:

Johnathan, myself, I think of the problem more as genetic fingerprinting. Which is a mixed blessing; fortunately, the seedlings of tyranny are usually uprooted before they grow. But this one's getting pretty big.

(Uprooting Bushes? The weed of tyranny? Oh the 'umanity!)

#15 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 02:05 PM:

Shunra:

I am uninformed in that way. I thank you for politely and convincingly correcting me.

Is there any pattern to Israeli measurements of the distance between Gitmo and Nazi deaths camps; Gitmo and Communist gulags; Gitmo and Khmer Rouge killing fields; Nazi deaths camps and Communist gulags; Nazi deaths camps and Khmer Rouge killing fields; and Communist gulags and Khmer Rouge killing fields?

#16 ::: Anton P. Nym (aka Steve) ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 02:14 PM:

Larry: The problem is that a large enough chunk of the US popluation seems to want an authoritarian government that can kidnap, torture and execute people, and the silent majority continues to remain silent.

The exact same thing could have been said of Germany in the early '30s. Indeed it has. Many times. By Germans, no less, and not just the left either.

I think that a hijacking of the political right by an extremist faction that advocates the routine use of extra-legal measures in the name of national security just begs for the comparison of neo-Conservatism with National Socialism.

#17 ::: Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 02:18 PM:

JVP, I've seen no such pattern in Israeli discourse.

In general, Israelis will tend to pull out the Nazi card whenever they mean "really bad and diabolically clever about it". "Medium bad and a little stupid" seems to draw the Arab card (with an emphasis on Syrians). In 30 years in Israel (and the nearly five years since I've been back in the US and only monitoring Israeli communiation via the Internet) I've heard no vilification of the gulags or of the Khmer Rouge.

What I've heard all too frequently in the past decade has been justification of genocides or mass murders. In particular, "The US did the same thing to the Indians [sic] and the blacks [sic, again], Israel is morally justified to repeat, with any means justifying the end". Between that sort of statement and my own lawyer using the phrase "we need a final solution" to describe his hopes for a change in the demographic balance between Jews and Palestinians in Israel+territories, I have a permanent chill down my spine.

In this context I should probably quote the statement that chilled me above all others. Situation - a Saturday lunch at a Tel-Aviv cafe, with my then-mate and his father (a prominent lawyer) and father's girlfriend. The girlfriend, as normative a woman as you can find, was objecting to the waves of immigration from the former Soviet Union. "Most of them don't even have Jewish blood!" she said.
The chilling bit is that not one person understood my outrage at that phrasing for about half a year.

#18 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 02:29 PM:

JVP's musings on a diagram of the moral distance between the USA's current government and various regimes commonly regarded as "evil", while fascinating, make me uneasy.

This is because the starting point, the "A" in JVP's diagram is a United States that has chosen to commit torture, whatever its rationale.

There is no place for a zero-option on JVP's chart, a point representing a United States that has chosen NOT to commit torture. (There may be a mathematical symbol for points preceding "A" in math notation, but I don't know what it would be.)

I submit that the moral distance between a USA that has chosen to NOT commit torture and a USA that has chosen TO commit torture is... infinite.

(That may be too extreme a view. So I'll compromise: half-infinite.)

#19 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 02:32 PM:

Is "we shouldn't be criticized because we're the good guys, no matter what we do" part of the dry drunk thing?

Slight variant: "We shouldn't be criticized because we mean well".

Other variant: "We shouldn't be criticized because anyone who criticizes us thereby proves they're really bad."

#20 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 02:39 PM:
The United States will settle for "nothing less than victory" in Iraq, President Bush said Saturday in his weekly radio address.

Speaking amid a swirl of lagging support for the war and declining approval ratings for his leadership, Bush defended U.S. operations in Iraq and showed no intention of pulling out of the region.

"We went to war because we were attacked, and we are at war today because there are still people out there who want to harm our country and hurt our citizens," he said.

Mr. Bush failed to note that we were not attacked by the Iraqis.

Had Mr. Bush not ducked out of his military service he might have learned that it's vital to define your victory conditions before you start an action.

#21 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 02:40 PM:

Jasper: Sam Johnson can joke about dropping a nuclear bomb on Syria WHILE IN CHURCH, and this all passes away like it never happened, but Dick Durbin makes one comment, and it's hanging time.

Of course. Because, for better or for worse, you're not allowed to say mean things about us -- defined, of course, as "people who agree with the right-wing position" -- whereas you're allowed to say whatever the hell you want about other countries.

Jonathan: (4) d(A,B) + d(B,C) >= d(A,C) [the tricky one, called the "triangle inequality."] Example: the difference between the US position and the former USSR position, plus the difference between the the former USSR position and the Nazi position, is at least as great as the difference between the US position and the Nazi position. Bill Clinton obliquely referred to this in his theory of "triangulating." It governs strange bedfellows and enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend."

Don't buy it at all. "Enemy of my enemy is my friend" simply isn't true; oftentimes the enemy of my enemy is still my enemy, or even both my friend and my enemy. I'll bet you could, if you were so inclined, come up with some sort of meaningful topology on the space but I'll also bet that it isn't Hausdorff and probably not even T1. In fact, I'd argue that at some quasi-mathematico-philosophical level, the difficulties in political calculations arise precisely because of (or precisely induce, depending on which way around you're looking at things) the failure of the separation axioms.

#22 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 02:48 PM:

julia: "because somehow when we do bad things, it's different from when bad people do bad things, which is why we should give the government more freedom to do bad things, because even if they do bad things when they're not allowed to they'll be much more forbearing when they are allowed to, which is why they're asking for permission to do bad things, because they don't want to."

But the ONLY DIFFERENCE between the good people and the bad people is what they do. There is no essential nature that makes some people good and some people bad.

Shunra:

Patrick, the problem is not whether it is morally reprehensible or not. The problem is that comparing what we're doing to regimes/groups branded evil sidetracks a discussion that should not be side tracked.

To stay on focus, is it better to say: "this reminds me of the Nazis" or "this goes against everhthing we stand for"? Is it better to say "we don't want to do what the Soviets did" or "it is a time-honored US tradition to object to torture"?

If Durban hadn't brought up the Nazis, Bush's apologists would have found something else to quote out of context in his report and beat him about the head and shoulders with it.

#23 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 02:57 PM:

Randolph Fritz:

My Mathematical Biology of the day is on father's Day, in Open Thread 42. But interesting comment.

Shunra:

A very cogent answer! Thank you.

Bruce Arthurs:

"There is no place for a zero-option on JVP's chart, a point representing a United States that has chosen NOT to commit torture."

That was, I thought, implicit in my treatment. But thanks for making is evident. The precise question is "how far is our current position from where we OUGHT to be?" Related: "Just how far have we slid down the slippery slope from our position in year X?"

Anarch:

"'Enemy of my enemy is my friend' simply isn't true." I agree, but there's always the problem of having to explain that someone ill-read in military strategy and realpolitik.

In general, your more technical comment is deeply brilliant, albeit over the heads of most readers. In fact, so insightful that I'll shut up for several hours while I ponder it. I think you actually said something publishable, as a profound analysis of my rather trivial definition. Really. But where to submit it? Too political for most Math journals, too mathematical for most political commentary journals. But really outstanding! Oh, I know. Get comments from Vernor Vinge and Rudy Rucker, and sell it to Analog!

#24 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 03:11 PM:

Had Mr. Bush not ducked out of his military service he might have learned that it's vital to define your victory conditions before you start an action.

I think he, and his handlers, did. The victory conditions are "Total and utter control of the United States of America." And, so far, they're doing a pretty damn good job.

Iraq is doing very well for them. It keeps the Army busy, lets them shove billions into thier wholly owned subsidiaries, and lets them brand anyone who opposes them with as godless traitors, which means, of course, violence against them is for the good.

The reason Bush can say that he'll settle for nothing less than Victory is that anything but means he left something of value in the United States.

#25 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 03:23 PM:

Mitch Wagner: But the ONLY DIFFERENCE between the good people and the bad people is what they do. There is no essential nature that makes some people good and some people bad.

Amen to that. I've been trying to hammer that sort of thing home most of my life, having grown up as an American ex-pat and thus immune to most of our jingoistic blandishments: we're the good guys only when we do good things, and we're the bad guys when we do bad things. I keep hoping against hope that it'll stick but I doubt it ever will.

JVP: Um, cool? Keep me posted :)

#26 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 03:23 PM:

I must note that it is Senator Richard J. (Dick) Durbin.

I had more to say, but I can't say it anymore. After watching Cheney defend Gitmo, then the Administration announcing that Halliburton was just award a no bid contract to expand the prison there, I just broke down. It's not even at the level of bad alternate history anymore. I cannot even stand to read the news anymore.

I wanted to fight, years ago. Everyone else just said "No, we can do this through the law."

Yeah. Nice law.


#27 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 03:43 PM:

As usual when it comes to human behavior, there's a theological term for it. For the Bush administration and its supports, the word is antinomian - the belief that an internal state relieves them from the moral law. They are the good people, and therefore what they do is good, or that if it isn't it literally doesn't mean anything, rather than being the good people insofar as they do good things.

#28 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 03:45 PM:

Erik, violent revolution would provide the excuse for the radical right to declare martial law. Non-violent resistance probably could work, even now. Do we turn, then, to civil disobedience?

#29 ::: Craig ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 04:12 PM:

Why are we torturing human beings at Gitmo?

#30 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 04:32 PM:

This story, Iraqis Found in Torture House Tell of Brutality of Insurgents (reg required, expires, etc...) is probably going to get a lot of airplay in an attempt to distract and create a false moral superiority for the US.

After all, the insurgents are doing it, but they're the bad guys. We're the good guys, so regardless of how much evidence there is as to bad acts at Guantanmo, it's not as bad as what the Iraqis do to each other, so what we're doing must be good, or at least excusable.

(Sorry for the bad construction, it's hard to form a proper sentence while you're waiting for the news to give you a stroke.)

#31 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 04:47 PM:

I'm getting really tired of this anti-Galactus binge you lefties are on. FACT: Galactus isn't even from our universe, he was in fact the last surviving entity of a prior universe, so not only is he not killing creatures in any way related to him, he is not even killing creatures from his universe!
FACT: Galactus gets the munchies really bad, think of the pressure of having all sorts of weird energy fields free-floating around your head and not access to Doritos, maybe you might consider snacking on some planets?
FACT: Galactus is a republican, IOKIYAR!

#32 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 04:52 PM:

Randolph --

The radical right isn't doing the prep work for anything other than killing anyone and everyone who disagrees with them.

Why would you think non-violence resistance would work? You need near-unity to pull that off; general strikes take something like 90% of the population to go along with them. The use of grapeshot takes maybe 10%. A good 30% of the American population has a bedrock axiom that collective action is a sin.

Changing that would take really bad economic conditions for a long time, but such economic conditions will be used to apply repressive control measures in defense of established wealth.

#33 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 04:58 PM:

In general, your more technical comment is deeply brilliant, albeit over the heads of most readers. In fact, so insightful that I'll shut up for several hours while I ponder it.

See Duncan Black for extensive or perhaps exhaustive (pick your own meaning) treatment (one of his books is well worth a read for its introduction to Dodgson (of Alice in Wonderland) as a voting theorist).

Starting with a left right dichotomy - a line, we associate a point(s) with a political position - then see e.g. Jerry Pournelle (obs sf) we go to a plane and observe that the points on the plane may be distant and might also be quite close projected on the line. Then expand to a surface with hills and valleys then notice that further distinctions might be drawn so more dimensions are useful.

In fact, I'd argue that at some quasi-mathematico-philosophical level, the difficulties in political calculations arise precisely because of (or precisely induce, depending on which way around you're looking at things) the failure of the separation axioms.

The separation axioms fail when the number of dimensions is inapt for the discussion - as when everything is projected on a line. This is frequently remarked on as wrapping the line so that left overlaps right - see e,g, Mussolini (from the beginning of linear analysis left right Mountain is perhaps already 2 dimensions and so it goes).

More generally in terms of political discourse - cf Arrow's independent of irrelevant alternatives condition which might be taken as a proxy for depth of feeling - folks will disagree on what belongs in the relevant space. I might suggest that I see a big difference between Mein Kampf and Contract with American along an axis I find meaningful; another might suggest they are quite close along their choice of axis(es).

#34 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 05:23 PM:

The separation axioms fail when the number of dimensions is inapt for the discussion - as when everything is projected on a line.

I don't see why that's the case; higher-dimensional spaces can still have a metric on them (e.g. the standard Pythagorean metric on R^n). In fact, any subspace of R^n (or even R^w) is metrizable and hence Hausdorff &c -- so I guess a corollary to my claim there is that there's no possible embedding of the type of which JVP spoke into any type of real manifold. Line, circle, Klein bottle, Hilbert cube, it doesn't matter: politics, to me, simply doesn't work like that.

[I think you're talking about a different kind of classification/metrization than JVP so I don't think what you're saying is necessarily wrong, just inapplicable to the prior discussion.]

#35 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 05:39 PM:

JVP is here to save us from our irrational ways:

"To add a little rational structure to the discussion..."

Hmm. "Why, yes, that's exactly the most apalling thing you could have said."

#36 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 05:50 PM:

Patrick, I hope you mean that's the most appalling thing *JvP* could have said. Ghu knows, Coulter, Limbaugh, Bush, etc. have said considerably more appalling things.

#37 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 06:17 PM:

Thank-you, Bruce, for helping me feel less like a lone monomaniac on the antinomianism of the administration. The Good Guys are allowed to do what they will, and anything is allowed to be done to Those Who Cross the Line (see the popularity of prison rape jokes).

It's far from original with Pres. Scudder & Co., but in their case I think the general cultural tendency has been fused with a belief in a literal Elect consisting of all "true" Americans.

There are also sexual politics in it, especially as practised by Dick Cheney: 'We are willing to do the things we must do because the fate of the Nation is at stake at all times, and any reference to restraint is just plain femmy."

#38 ::: Trapped in amber ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 06:48 PM:

There was a very good documentary series shown in the U.K. recently called 'The Power of Nightmares', which explored some of these issues, particularly the Neoconservatives. The BBC did show it, though apparently they were a little worried about doing so at first. Although it's going to be shown at the Cannes film festival as a film, I doubt it will get released widely in the U.S.

linked text

There isn't an official transcript, but there are the unofficial ones:

linked text

#39 ::: Trapped in amber ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 06:49 PM:

Obviously I can't do links, so I'll just post the adresses :o)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/tv_and_radio/4472727.stm

http://web.telia.com/~u70316236/tpon/

#40 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 07:03 PM:

Anarch:

Okay, I've thought about your points, the way I usually do. That is, I drafted a 3,650 word article which quotes the salient points from this thread, my attempt to metrize politics, your objections, and the background concepts in topology. Now I ask of you this favor: letting me know if you'd like me to email you the Word file, or just the straight ASCII (I wrote it in almost pure ASCII) so that I may see if I correctly understood you.

If I have, or can be corrected, then I can ask Rucker and Vinge, and perhaps get a paper out of this which may or may not include you as paid coauthor, depending on the extent of the amount of work that you need to do to clarify your position, and the percentage of your words used. I'd rather not annoy this blog with my questions to you posed in terms of Etale space or Zariski topology, right?

But thanks to all, starting with Patrick, for forcing me to shut up for a while and think, which is (alas) not so easy to do.

#41 ::: Claud Reich ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 07:25 PM:

Interesting discussion & discussion. One observation, however -- pragmatically, when "Nazi" is used, it seems to me that it is either an acknowledgement that conversation, as opposed to dueling monologues, is over, or, occasionally, it triggers this state (since "Nazi" remains the standard for rhetoric about state-sponsored evil). I'd tend to agree that we've passed that point, in the here&now, but you could understand "no place in civil political discourse" in that sense.

#42 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 07:39 PM:

You may be entirely right. How would you like the separation axioms fail for purposes of discussion when people choose a preferred reference?

Take the Pournelle chart as familiar to everybody here and available on the Baen site. Take the surface as given and rotate the axes an arbitrary amount by repeated stochastic process. Distribute a different axis to each member of the class. Invite them to talk political distances.

politics, to me, simply doesn't work like that.

I'd like to think that's sort of my point. That is I think we do agree that could, if you were so inclined, come up with some sort of meaningful topology on the space

I suggest/agreee that such a model would of necessity model only a politics so constrained as to be incomplete.

Perhaps the political actors do not perceive the real distance along an axis where the enemy of my enemy is my enemy and do perceive a false closeness along the axis the enemy of my enemy is my friend. We of course have perfect perception but no power to act.

To put it another way I am saying that the model which follows commonly accepted (but not the only possible) laws fails when we each (in our ordinary discourse where symbols are poorly defined and relationships are murky) start taking some distances as more meaningful to us than other distances - close along one of the Pournelle axes if you will but distant along the other. That is how political coalitions are formed and politics is played - the computer doesn't freeze the game: Victory Conditions Karl Rove.

Like defining science fiction, at the corner cases we always disagree (I once hoped for an accepted definition of science fiction because Zelazny had promised to immediately write an SF story that violated said definition) so too we will inevitably disagree that any one person's political model matches another person's reality.

FREX in economics we assume smooth well behaved everywhere diffentiable functions - see all the current oil supply oil demand graphs - the model is clearly unrealistic in the sense that the world doesn't work like that. Second approximation the world is not continuous. There are whole books and even publishing industries Samuelson/Anti-Samuelson because neither model is quite right.

Similarly I would say that we must constrain our definition of politics or of political terms to make any mapping work over time. Time is inherent in any slippery slope arguemnt I think.

For instance I would argue that:
(3) d(A,B) = d(B,A) [the distance between any two positions does not depend on which one you start with) does not apply to people moving between positions (analogy inertia). Does that invalidate a given mapping? Only sometimes.

Finally I wanted not so much to argue as to say there is nothing new under the sun - the whole slippery slope topology modeling was pretty well covered 25-30 years ago when Catastrophe Theory (Thom) was commonly viewed as the next big thing. obs sf IIRC Samuel R. Delany did a clever graphic novel in which the McGuffin was jewels in the various shapes - proper understanding of which would lead to world domination.(In a 4-dimensional world there are 7 types of elementary catastrophes)
In sum: JVP (as I understand him) is right but not completely original. Further the research dead ended before so it needs a lot of work to make fresh progress. In particular from my perspective values/positions are either arbitrary or different from what I might assign.
You're right, the model is defective (but so are all models, we learn much from the defects)
My point we look at different models even when we think they are the same unless we write it ALL down.

Finally I would agree that ever since Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. wrote in effect that 3 generations of idiots is enough in order to resolve a fraudulent case that the United States has been and is closer to eugenics than to killing eggheads.

#43 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 07:57 PM:

Clark E Myers:

Several good points. I assumed enough folks here knew the Pournelle Political Plane. But Catastrophe Theory is in Real Euclidean Space, and I think that interesting things can happen in more general topologies.

Your Inertia Analogy is interesting. It is intuitive, at first blush, that a person's political position tends to remain at rest unless acted upon by a political force. But, then, does that person's political position tends to remain in motion in the direction of that force? Some viscosity here, I think. Also, it is easier to flip someone's position 180 degrees than give a slight midcourse correction. Leftists becoming neocons. Rightist bullies becoming leftist bullies, and vice versa.

I agree that differentiability is a nonstarter in politics or oil (oddly coincident in Middle East and Vietnam), and hence differential equations don't apply well to politics, hence the F = mA inertia thing falls apart. What is it that diplomats do when they "split the difference" between two positions? Isn't that support for my metric space approach? What did Hitler or Stalin do when they compromised someone slightly along one axis, gave up nothing real, then compromised them again further in the same direction? "Peace in our generation" doesn't work, then, right? Doesn't that relate to the other thread here recently, as to whether Progressives should stoop to astroturf in meeting the Right? I'm reduced to questions, less certain than I was when I started. Or, perhaps, more open minded.

#44 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 08:03 PM:

Indeed, thinking over my earlier quote, I'm increasingly drawn to the idea that JVP is Making Light's Anya.

#45 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 08:07 PM:

Does that make John M. Ford Mr. Giles?

#46 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 08:07 PM:

Math, Jonathan. Quota, Jonathan. He who hath ears to hear, let him do so, PDQ.

#48 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 08:08 PM:

Actually, for Mike Ford, I had in mind Skip.

#49 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 08:11 PM:

Hey, it's a [*]! Been a while since I've seen one of those.

Matt, do you not watch Buffy, or are you asking about something else?

#50 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 08:38 PM:

Mitch, I'm not a big fan of the whole manichaean heresy myself. I sometimes think when I read the papers that I'm out of step with the conventional wisdom on that one.

#51 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 08:50 PM:

Michael Turyn: Glad to help, and I mean that seriously. Isolation sucks. I've long been of the view that there are very few new sins, while there are new arts and virtues from time to time, and finding precedents for what our current masters are up to is important to me.

#52 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 08:58 PM:

Bruce, that's a truly elegant formulation.

#53 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 09:23 PM:

You can write all the letters of support you want; it doesn't matter. Because out here in the heartland, they're still drinking the few-bad-apples KoolAid. (I originally typoed that as KookAid...) No really. They don't believe we do that stuff as a matter of course. And the president and the Pentagon and everyone wouldn't be doing this stuff if they didn Have To in order to protect us. I'm deadly serious. This is the prevailing sentiment in Red Land.

MKK

#55 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 09:39 PM:

JVP and Clark: I'm getting an ever-so-delicate vibe from our gracious host that we should take this to email. And JVP, by all means send me the paper; Word is preferred, ASCII's OK, and TeX is best :)

#56 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 10:37 PM:

JvP: Jews, in particular, are careful never to call anyone Nazis except Nazis.

We clearly went to different Hebrew schools.

#57 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 10:43 PM:

I have to believe that there's a breaking point for the KoolAid effect, if the truth is echoed more often and more loudly by an increasing number of media outlets. Multiply Sy Hersh by 1,000 in the front sections of daily newspapers and it may affect the TV reporters. Blogs make their small contribution to the effort.

Besides newspaper forums, letters need to go to Congressmen and other elected/appointed officials. Common KoolAid drinkers aren't the primary target. (I still believe that cartoons/songs/stories/poems have the potential to affect some of these people, along with larger and larger headlines and shifts in what the TV shows them.)

Truth eventually trumps lies and propaganda; but blogs and Internet notwithstanding, the process is a lot slower than we want it to be.

#59 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2005, 02:08 AM:

julia: "Mitch, I'm not a big fan of the whole manichaean heresy myself. I sometimes think when I read the papers that I'm out of step with the conventional wisdom on that one."

Did I describe the Manichean Heresy?

#60 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2005, 03:17 AM:

I'm slow. I'm still back at the beginning when folks were talking about DIck Durbin and the response to his remarks.

Maybe folks could actually read what he said.

It's really very good, very thoughtful, and also -- not surprisingly -- moderate.

But google? google doesn't reference Durbin's words at all. Google almost entirely references right-wing denunciations of what the senator didn't actually say.

That, I think, is something we have to work on.

#61 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2005, 04:42 AM:

Lucy, thanks for the link and reminder. What Durbin actually said is much better than the soundbites.

He left out my favorite pragmatic argument, though--would you rather have the other side surrender or fight to the death?

#62 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2005, 10:38 AM:

War, Horror, and On What Can't Be Said, and Why:

Eddge: GÖDEL AND THE NATURE OF MATHEMATICAL TRUTH [6.8.05]
A Talk with Rebecca Goldstein

"... Between the two world wars, Vienna was a place of intellectual ferment. There was disappointment and disillusionment with the old ways of doing things. The horrors of World War I were still a current memory and there was an attempt to throw off the old ways, to rethink things, in many areas. So we see psychoanalysis starting there, and the modernist architecture of Adolf Loos, and Arnold Schoenberg with his atonal music. There was a lot of intercultural, interdisciplinary dialogue. The logical positivists were very much part of this. They tried to rethink the foundations of knowledge, to rethink the foundations of language. They claimed that if we purify language we'll be able to purify knowledge."

"As the logical positivist would have it, so much of the horror that had resulted in the Great War had come from confused thinking. People claimed to know things they couldn't possibly know. The political concerns gave a fervor to the movement. If we were more modest in our claims to knowledge, perhaps we'd avoid some of the tragedy that our species is prone to. A lot of them—Neurath and Carnap certainly—had left-leaning politics as well. They toned this down when they got to America. But in Vienna, when Gödel was there, there was a fervor in trying to rethink language and the limits of what we can say."

"Wittgenstein had an enormous influence on the Vienna Circle of logical positivists. He had written the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus in the trenches of World War I. In that book, published in 1922, he tried to delineate the outer reaches of language and show that language has a border around it. There are rules that allow us to say what's sayable, and there's a great deal that lies on the other side. Most of the important things, he notes, can't be said."

"But there he disagreed with the positivists. The positivists fought about the other side of the divide; outside of the sayable there was nothing at all. Beyond that which we can say there's nothing. But Wittgenstein in fact believed that the most important thing, what he referred to as 'the mystical,' is merely unsayable, not that it doesn't exist at all. If we try to say it we will utter nonsense. But it's important nonsense."

#63 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2005, 11:53 AM:

Dr. Geoffrey A. Landis wrote:

"OK, I'll object to the title: topology is the study of space *without* a metric."

Dr. George Hockney wrote:
"I agree with Geoff. For topology, one needs balls, open sets, and closure. Politics lacks at least two out of three."

#64 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2005, 04:00 PM:

Well, no, I thought I did. It seems to me that it explains an awful lot about how our political and religious discourse works these days.

#65 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2005, 06:16 PM:

I haven't overrun my math quota yet, so I will ask JvP et al. what happens to their n-dimensional political space when it collapses to a basically binary choice in the voting booth?

That seems to be the main reason the whole left-right thing persists; not because it's a useful description of the political space, but because at the end of the day there's mostly two choices on the ballot.

#66 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2005, 07:14 PM:

I do watch Buffy. And that was the first "Anya" I thought of. But I couldn't figure out how the comparison to that Anya worked, so I assumed it must've been some other Anya I hadn't heard of. I guess I'm still missing something.

#67 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2005, 10:04 PM:

She speaks totally from her own reference frame, and is clueless about what matters to others. Praise, no blame.

#68 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2005, 02:42 PM:

Doug:

"I haven't overrun my math quota yet, so I will ask JvP et al. what happens to their n-dimensional political space when it collapses to a basically binary choice in the voting booth?"

Dr. Geoffrey A. Landis also wrote:

"When we talk about having a "position" on a political question, we inherently are referring to a geometrical metaphor. An interesting question is, how many axes are needed to plot political opinions? One is clearly the American social conversation (with plus and minus x axes labelled 'right' and 'left'), is clearly inadequate, but (unexpectedly) characterizes American politics remarkably well. (I was interested in such things long ago. I vaguely recall that something like 85% of the variance in political opinion can be captured by a single axis, but long ago have forgotten the reference.)"

Next, let me post what my son emailed me on this:

"I agree that we cannot perfectly map political opinion onto a metric space. As an approximation though I think a mapping could work wonders, especially given how difficult it is to come by the merest approximation of fact in politics. For now using the word 'topology' in the title seems feasible because we can't even decide yet on whether a metric can exist for this theoretical 'political space'. I also feel that there has to be directionality and a set of political stances in a negative position on the spectrum, be it as the converse of some other stance, or merely because we must define the political space in this way so that we contain the span of a basis set of political beliefs. An interesting point someone made is that we may want to reserve the ability to make some stances infinitely far apart, as with disconnected subgraphs with weighted distances rather than a metric space, although we lose a lot of tools of analysis by using the more generic mapping to a weighted graph."

Today's New York Times Science Section has an amazing article "Some Politics May Be Etched in the Genes," by Benedict Carey, citing the report in the current issue of The American Political Science Review, the profession's premiere journal, which uses genetics to help answer several open questions in Political Science.

Now, I knew this research was being done. See, for instance, Darwinian Politics: The Evolutionary Origin of Freedom (Rutgers Series on Human Evolution) by Paul H. Rubin, Rutgers University Press (2002). But this new work by Dr. John Hibbing [U. Nebraska], Dr. John Alford [Ruce U.], and Dr. Carolyn L. Funk [Virginia Commonwealth] combined data from two ongoing studies including over 8,000 sets of identical twins.

By asking participants whether they are for, against, or uncertain about each of several topics, and calculating the rate at which identical twins agree, and subtracting the rate at which fraternal twins agree, researchers get a rough estimate of how much the differences in opinion are explained by genetic inheritance.

Here's a list of topics, with genetic contribution to variance in opinion:

School prayer: 41%
Property tax: 41%
Moral Majority: 40%
Capitalism: 39%
The draft: 38%
Pacificism: 38%
Unions: 37%
Socialism: 36%
Foreign aid: 35%
X-rated movies: 35%
Immigration: 33%
Death penalty: 32%
Censorship: 30%
Gay rights: 28%
Segregation: 27%
Divorce: 26%
Abortion: 25%

The researchers claim that gut-level response is strongly influenced by genetics, while environment pays a larger role in part affiliation. Combing these helps explain defection from the party in which one was raised, why some campaigns (USA presidential 2004) get so ugly, and carefully excludes artefacts from, for instance, people tending to marry others whose political positions are "close." Closeness of positions is where I started on this topic.

Consider, Doug, the recent result in Science Magazine that 1-second exposure to photographs of unrecognized candidates produced gut-level feelings on "competence" and "trustworthiness" and "likeability" which overwhelm the slower "rational" analysis of positions.

So what happens when you are in the polling booth and it comes down to two candidates? I'm intentionally avoiding Arrow's Paradox and other things that happen when there are 3 candidates, and you can prefer A to B, B to C, and C to A.

What happens combines rational, irrational, genetics, upbringing, party loyalty, and exposure to ads, especially on TV and in print.

There is a vast literature on Mathematical Biology. Waddington's analysis of "Fitness Landscape" tells us something about the topology of genetics. There is a vast literature on Mathematical Psychology. There is a vast literature on the effects of advertising (including neurological). Aristotle's comparison of the 300+ constitutions of Greek City States was the most influential mapping of political topology for over a millennium.

What happens in the polling booth is fascinating, complicated, and central to Democracy itself. I am not deliberately annoying the Math-challenged with deconstructing "Topology of Politics." It is an old Hacker saying: "Topology IS Politics." They mean network topology (who is in the center of the social network, as with Kevin Bacon or Paul Erdos or Isaac Asimov) and who is shoved to the fringe. But the distributed topology of the intenet does NOT mean that it is 'democratic" -- that's part of our discussion on the efficacy of blogging.

Mainstream advisors and press clearly do NOT grok the topology of the curret American Democratic constituency. They also miss the point that Dean changes that topology.

But I'm going on too long here. Your question is acute. I never said that political position space is n-dimensional. I'm not sure that it is. There are other, much weirder spaces, as Anarch has suggested. There are spaces where the triangle inequalit is NOT valid (non-Archimedean spaces, such as p-adic numbers). The issue of projecting down to a binary choice is central to Rule of Law, and opposed to (say) a Culture of Honor. The Middle East is mostly Culture of Honor. America claims to be a Culture of Law. Gitmo and so forth -- that deeply undercuts our claim to be a Culture of Law. That's part of my topology matters, and part of why Bush has changed American topology, so vastly as to be (in my humble opinion) a traitor.

#69 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2005, 03:11 PM:

But I'm going on too long here.

Noted without comment.

#70 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2005, 04:04 PM:

I think Durbin was spot-on, and mentioned the Nazis, the Soviets, and the Khmer Rouge specifically because people have actually heard of these folk, and they're more relevant to current day than the Inquisition or the Ottoman Turks.

The trouble with mentioning the Nazis is that there are some who can look at the historic facts on the ground and others who want to use the name as a generic boogyman of unsurpassed evil such that comparing someone to Hitler is to say that they're Satan.

Still, it was a good comparison, especially since Durbin use the "You would have thought it was the -X-" construction.

Reading the description blind, I would have thought it was Jeff Dahlmer or some other serial killer.

#71 ::: Jill Smith spots either comment spam or bad manners ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2005, 06:13 AM:

If it is not comment spam to show up solely to post a link to your own blog (twice - here and on "Durbin"), then please delete this comment.

#72 ::: coturnix ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2005, 04:42 PM:

Blogger and other newer platforms do not support trackbacks - probably because the institution of trackback has outlived its usefulness. Almost all of the 10 million bloggers worldwide have started within last 6 months and do not care for or ever use trackback.

Sitemeter, Technorati, etc. let the authors know who links to them. E-mail speeds up the process. Posting a link inside a comment to a post that was linked is NOT deemed either spam or bad manners any more, except by very few old-time purist fogies.

Deleting the link prevented the readers of this blog from reading a post that directly references (and approves of) this post, as well as the Durbin post. We are bloggers, we are ahead of the times - do not allow yourself yo get stuck in 2001 blogging practices.

#73 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2005, 04:57 PM:

I am the person who deleted your spam.

I stand by my decision.

#74 ::: coturnix ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2005, 05:17 PM:

I stand by my notion that it was not spam. It was trackback and labeled as such. It's your blog and your decision. I still think that your decision is wrong. I think your readers would have profited from following that link.

#75 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2005, 06:10 PM:

For those who are trying to play along at home:

Two identical posts, two minutes apart, consisting only of the single word Trackback formatted as a link to some othr site, posted by someone who had never previously posted here. It failed the walks like a duck/talks like a duck test.

==============

Coturnix, if you want to join the discussion, please feel free. Post your on-topic comments. Include a link to your site for your further thoughts. Just please don't imitate the folks who want Googlejuice for their Texas Hold'em and Pr0n sites: No one with any sense clicks on a link like that to start with.

#76 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2005, 07:13 PM:

Coturnix, if your comment was relevant to this discussion, why not just post it to this discussion area? It is as easy to cut-and-paste as it is to create a hyperlink.

#77 ::: coturnix ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2005, 09:05 PM:

It is too long to post as a comment and that would also duplicate content. I am assuming that people with experience of trackback spam are over-cautious, but hovering over the link would have shown that it was a regular blogspot post with a title relevant to this discussion, not Texas Hold'em. There is a thin line between caution and paranoia, best tested empirically. Clicking on that link would have provided all the neccessary information.

And I still like this blog (despite rude welcome) though it is new to me. I found you via Slacktivist, and intend to keep an eye on you in the future.

#78 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2005, 07:24 PM:
I urge my fellow health professionals to join me and many others in reaffirming our ethical commitment to prevent torture; to clearly state that systematic torture, sanctioned by the government and aided and abetted by our own profession, is not acceptable. As health professionals, we should support the growing calls for an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate torture in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere, and demand restoration of ethical standards that protect physicians, nurses, medics and psychologists from becoming facilitators of abuse.

-- Burton J. Lee III, President G.H.W. Bush's Presidential physician

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