Sunday, October 31, 2004


Matt Yglesias wonders what's to be done once the long midnight is over. Reihan Salam has a piece on the consequences of a Bush defeat for the Republican party---I can't tell how accurate it is, but it's certainly entertaining. (He's also got a parallel piece on the consequences of a Kerry loss for the Democrats.)

I have a more elementary question: Is the Bush campaign in a position to acknowledge defeat if Kerry gets 270 or more electoral votes? What could a Bush concession speech possibly look like?


Of course, even though I think my prediction has the best chance of obtaining of any single scenario (or else it wouldn't be my prediction), it's still an underdog relative to all the possible ways the electoral college could break down. Among these are a variety of ways that we could end up in a 269-269 tie.

Here are the ones that seem most plausible to me (all pick-ups refer to disparity with the 2000 vote):
  • Kerry picks up New Hampshire and Nevada
  • Kerry picks up New Hampshire and Florida; Bush picks up New Mexico, Iowa, and Wisconsin (or Minnesota)
  • Kerry picks up New Hampshire and Ohio; Bush picks up New Mexico and Wisconsin (or Minnesota)
  • Kerry picks up New Hampshire, Ohio, and Florida; Bush picks up Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin
  • Kerry picks up Ohio; Bush picks up Iowa and Hawaii
If any of these scenarios play out, we're stuck in the most momentous game of rock, paper, scissors ever (or maybe the Democrats won't even put up a fight).


That's my final electoral college prediction. From the 2000 blue/red breakdown, Bush picks up New Mexico and Iowa. Kerry picks up New Hampshire, Ohio, and Florida, and thus the presidency.

I'm assuming (what else can I do) that the bin Laden tape doesn't have any net impact on the election.

If my scenario pans out, except that Kerry loses Florida (which is the final prediction a lot of people are making), then the numbers would be Kerry 272, Bush 266. In that situation, every single state decides the election. Just imagine if Kerry takes Ohio and New Hampshire, Bush takes Iowa and New Mexico, and we have to wait until early early morning for the last result...when Bush, somehow, takes Hawaii and wins. I'm going to try not to think about that.

UPDATE: Slate's final pre-election tally matches my prediction. Goddamnit I'm good.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Hat Tip/Refining The Theory Pt. II

I just got alerted to the fact that about a week ago, David Neiwert linked to my unpacking of Michelle Malkin's protestations of innocence on the charge of justifying the potential internment of Muslims. That certainly helps explain the spike in my traffic last week.

I'll take this opportunity to clarify my argument a bit further and respond to some of the comments I've gotten both on the comments threads and via e-mail.

First of all, the people who raise hyper-numerate objections to the proportionality arguments in the B propositions are pushing on an open door. The absolute quantifications of risk posed by the Japanese in the 1940s and Muslims today aren't terribly interesting or important; the fact that the risk quantifications are the same relative to each other across possible worlds is what's doing the theoretical work in getting me to the lemma of the B propositions.

There also seems to be a suggestion (if I may take the liberty of formalizing some of the objections) that in order to reach my conclusion, one has to attribute necessity to certain propositions that are obviously contingent. Anything that is a matter of fact (i.e., "the cat is on the mat," not "2+2=4") is, if true, contingently true. In other words, there are possible worlds in which the negation obtains of any true matter-of-fact proposition in the actual world.

However, as Saul Kripke fairly decisively proved in Naming and Necessity, there are propositions that are necessarily true yet only knowable a posteriori: "Hesperus is Phosphorus (the morning star is the evening star)," "water is H20," etc. The following subjunctive conditional, which fairly thoroughly encapsulates my argument, is just such a necessary a posteriori truth: If the internment of the Japanese was morally justified, then the potential internment of Muslims would also be morally justified. I.e., there is no possible world in which the antecedent of that conditional is true and the conclusion is false.

Formal logic alone doesn't rule out the possibility of that conditional proving false in some possible world; but formal logic fails to rule out a lot of things, like circular reasoning or, say, the proposition that "not all bachelors are unmarried." Formal logic alone, and likewise, the weaker attribute of conceivability, are not sufficient conditions for possibility. Rather, it's the semantic content of "not all bachelors are unmarried" that makes it necessarily false, and of "Hesperus is Phosphorus" and my subjunctive conditional that makes them true.

So the challenge I offer anyone who disagrees with me is to describe the possible world in which my conditional is false. I think you'll find that it can't be done. And please note that the necessary truth of the conditional itself has no logical or material relationship to the truth values of either of its constituent propositions.

Next, let me address the critics who think I got hung up on this whole issue of "moral justification." There was one comment to the effect that I perpretated a misleading elision in moving from A3 to A4. Those premises, to refresh your memory, were:
A3: The nation's wartime leaders, with access to credible intelligence concerning the nature of R1, concluded that R1 was sufficiently high to necessitate extraordinary security measures being taken against Japanese aliens and citizens of Japanese descent as well.
A4: The particular measure taken, the internment of the Japanese population of the west coast of the United States, was morally justified on national security grounds.
The suggestion (I think) is that I'm doing something underhanded in referencing a pragmatic justification in A3 and a moral justification in A4. To be blunt, that's not true. The only theoretical work A3 does is to establish that the people who crafted the internment policy did so with a rationale, and not on a whim. A4, the explicit conclusion of Malkin's book, is what moves us towards the conclusion. It doesn't matter whether the justification used by the policymakers was moral or pragmatic in nature, only that the policy itself was morally justified.

Apropos, the other countertheoretical charge against me is coming from people who argue, in effect, that pragmatic justification is moral justification. Funny. Pragmatics is its own discipline in philosophy, although it bleeds into a lot of other fields, and in all cases but one, even first-year undergrads are expected not to confuse pragmatics with semantics, or pragmatic rationality with epistemic rationality, etc. The big exception is ethics, which is of course the area of philosophy in which everybody has an opinion, no matter how ill-conceived or unscrutinized. So allow me to explain by way of analogy to epistemology, the examination (broadly speaking) of the justification of belief and knowledge. Epistemology, like ethics, is a study of normativity. Pragmatic values are non-normative, and they cross-cut normative principles according to no deducible laws.

Suppose I were to offer $1 billion dollars to anyone who believes that the moon is made of green cheese. To collect the prize, it's not sufficient to tell me that you believe the moon is made of green cheese; you have to actually believe it. Can you do it? I'm guessing that you can't. You have about as strong a pragmatic rationality as it's possible to have, and still you're unable to attain the belief-state you need to be in to receive the money. And the reason is that you not only have no epistemic rationality for believing the moon is made of green cheese, but in fact all your epistemic intuitions (I hope) are aligned against believing that.

Likewise, the claim that interning an entire population disposed towards subversion and terrorism would be an efficacious solution to a problem (assuming it's true rather than offensively false and racist) creates a pragmatic justification for doing so. The pragmatic justification, however, bears absolutely no material relationship with the moral status of the action. So what is the moral status of internment? Malkin can tell me. As I demonstrate explicitly in the original post on the subject, the potential internment of Muslims is bound necessarily to having the same moral justificatory status as the internment of the Japanese. The retreat into pragmatics, if not a consequence of theoretical sloppiness, is a dishonest evasion.

The cleverest objection to my argument by a wide margin is A. Rickey's suggestion in the comments thread:
How's this for a moral premise:

It's wrong to intern someone on the basis of their religious beliefs. It [sic] very definitely a moral premise that would differentiate between the two sets of data.
I'm not sure it's necessary, but I'll go ahead and explain why this is is an illegitimate, ad hoc premise. First of all, I really want to hear the non-circular moral theory on which the internment of an ethnic subgroup is justifiable but the internment of a religious subgroup isn't. Secondly, as long as we're fabricating premises, how about:

P1) The internment of the Japanese was morally justified.
P2) The internment of Muslims would not be justified.
C) Therefore the internment of Muslims would not be justified.

Valid argument! (Yes, it is, I swear, trust me.) Here's another:

P1) The internment of Muslims would not be justified or I had spaghetti for dinner last night.
P2) I didn't have spaghetti for dinner last night.
C) Therefore the internment of Muslims would not be justified.

Valid argument! This kind of stuff can be added at will to any formal argument:

P1) If the legs of right triangle T measure 3 and 4 in length, then the hypotenuse of T is 5.
P2) The internment of Muslims would not be justified or I had spaghetti for dinner last night.
P3) I didn't have spaghetti for dinner last night.
P4) The legs of T are 3 and 4.
C) Therefore the hypotenuse of T is 5 and the internment of Muslims would not be justified.

Valid argument! A valid argument is merely one in which the conclusion is true if all the premises are true. In short, there are infinitely many logically valid escape hatches available to Malkin, all of which rest on ludicrous ad hoc or circular arguments. I think it's just a bedrock principle of good reasoning that we reject such arguments as unsound. As I said above, formal logic alone doesn't restrict the range of cases under consideration nearly enough.

Finally, I want to address the most philosophically acute question I received: aren't I relying on implicit meta-ethical/metaphysical premises about the nature of normativity? Yes, I am. I'm restricting my analysis to the possible worlds that have normative features. I happen to think that the actual world is one of those possible worlds. Why? Because I'm pretty sure murder and rape are normatively wrong, and I'm a lot surer of that than I am of any skeptical argument against the existence of normative values. When I say that my transcendental deduction of Malkin's views, if you'll pardon the term, is neutral to the normative system in play, I mean just that, but I don't mean that it's neutral to whether or not any normative system obtains. That normativity exists is my only brute pre-supposition, and if you want to undermine my argument by attacking that pre-supposition, go right ahead. The entailments of such a rejection, I think, will be difficult to stomach.


The Farsi test I didn't study for last night got postponed till Monday. Khoda ra shokr. Mamnounam.

This weekend...Foxwoods.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Heads Up

Sorry for the short 6:30, Luther Lowe, the greatest living American, will be on NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw.

More Luther links TK.

UPDATE: He got bounced for a report on the Bill O'Reilly sexual harrassment case. Sorry.

President McCain?

My off-again/on-again poker buddy Matt Glassman has a fascinating article at TCS (I know, yuck), about scenarios under which the election is thrown to the House of Representatives and neither Bush nor Kerry ends up as the next president.

To summarize, if neither candidate gets 270 electoral votes, then the House gets to decide from among the top 3 electoral vote-getters. In order to avoid the inevitable Bush victory in the house, the Democrats would be well advised to throw one of their electors to a moderate Republican like John McCain in order to split the Republican caucus. Of course, the Republicans could counter that strategy by dispersing their electors among a variety of left-wing Democrats; which would necessitate the Democrats throwing even more electors to a McCain. The final result would be a complicated game theory problem and it might involve Bush and Kerry receiving few or zero electoral votes.

I'm almost rooting for this to happen because it would be so fucking cool.

My dream scenario, in fact, would be a Kerry electoral college victory and a Bush popular vote victory. That way, Bush gets retired and we can get bipartisan support for junking the electoral college. Not that I'd put it past some Republican demagogues (ahem, Sean Hannity*) to try and mount a putsch if there were such an outcome on Nov. 2. I just have faith that in case of such events, the proper constitutional processes will obtain.

*A week before the 2000 election, Hannity called for mob action in case Al Gore won the electoral college and Bush won the popular vote. Since the reverse took place, Hannity was confident that the will of the people had been expressed.

Reasons To Vote For Kerry Qua Kerry

I'm not going to do a formal (or even informal) endorsement piece, because it's been clear since this blog started that I support the Democratic candidate. However, I've been asked more than a few times if I'm in any sense pro-Kerry as opposed to just anti-Bush.

So here's my attempt at the objective case for Kerry:

1) He's from the northeast.

2) He's a liberal.

3) If he wins, Howard Fineman will never again be able to say that northeastern liberals can't be elected president.

4) If he wins without carrying a Confederate state, the punditariat will be forced to re-evaluate its conceptions of "the heartland" and "real America" &c.

5) He's got a Jewish grandfather. That's a plus for me. I'm sorry, it just is.

6) He'd be competent. He's been at least competent in every venture in his professional career.

7) Most important and intrinsic to Kerry himself is the point made by Jim Holt in Slate's endorsement article:
Kerry opposes the death penalty. In doing so, he passes a test of rationality and moral decency that every other Republican and Democratic presidential candidate has failed for at least the last three elections.
Hear hear!

Watching Fox News So You Don't Have To

Wolcott is the man:
Later this afternoon, senior political correspondent Carl Cameron complained to Howdy Doody dummy Shepard Smith that so far he'd been stiffed in getting an interview with Kerry, indeed that Kerry seemed to be avoiding Fox News altogether. This is the same Carl Cameron who concocted a jolly fake campaign report with girly-man quotes from Kerry such as "Women should like me! I do manicures" and "Didn't my nails and cuticles look great?" which somehow found its way onto the Fox News website. Now, having revealed his contempt for the candidate (a contempt drizzled with homophobia), Cameron finds himself on the outside staring at the door as far as the Kerry campaign is concerned. He's lucky they even allow him on the plane.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Alternate Universe

For a useful, informative, and al-QaQaa particularized summary of why George W. Bush doesn't merit re-election, read this Josh Marshall post and then keep scrolling up.

UPDATE: The NYT talks to the al QaQaa looters. And Fox News is still pretending that it happened before the invasion. To parrot Josh a bit, how on earth did they convince Morton Kondracke to be party to this stuff? Did they kidnap somebody close to him?

World Series

I still can't believe what I just saw.

And why does Tim McCarver have a job? Seriously, anybody?

Seventh Inning Stretch

Whoever decided to let Scott Stapp sing at the World Series should be stoned to death.

[But with Stapp, you can really hear the soul, the anguish, the pain coming through in his breathy enunciations and nasally sharp tonalities.--ed.]
[His vocal cords should be ripped out by German shepherds--F.]

Politics And Game Theory

Jordan Ellenberg reduces the election to a game of rock, paper, scissors. Read this article, it's a romp.

Meanwhile, here's the topic for your game theory and international relations essay: Al Qaeda has a major game theoretic advantage over us because they've proven absolutely willing to die and indifferent to casualties. It's a token of the "throwing the steering wheel out the window" paradigm.

Mull that over a bit, and get back to me when the paper is written.

Blood For Oil? Blood For Oil.

If you came upon this site through the Lefty Directory, it might surprise you to learn that I agree with just about every word of this William F. Buckley column. Our way of life, in the broadest possible sense, would end if our supply of oil were cut off. If some hostile entity attempted to do just that, how could we fail defend the oil?

Yes, of course we should be trying to invent alternate energy sources (and that's true even if it's become boilerplate). That doesn't mean we can do without our current energy source.

This is why I'm only imperfectly a leftist, and why I spurn the red-green mess of the Seattle movement as I would spurn a rabid orangutan.

Glenn Reynolds Credulity Award

It's fitting, I suppose, to hand out this prize to a guest blogger at Tell me Michael Totten doesn't deserve it:
David Batlle [sp?] emails a story by Richard Rushfield at Slate. He goes under cover, so to speak, disguised as a Kerry voter in conservative Southern California cities and a Bush supporter in liberal Los Angeles neighborhoods. Guess where he encounters the most intolerance?
Does this need elaborate comment? Republican enclaves in California do not represent the heart of Red America. I dare Totten to do a tour of the Rocky Mountain states and old South in Kerry-Edwards gear. Really, I dare him.

And none of this is to discount the predictable nastiness Rushfield experienced while posing as a Bush supporter in Blue country.

Hitchens For Bush? Hitchens For Kerry?

In the pages of the Nation once again, Christopher Hitchens endorses Bush (slightly). I was all set to write a fisking of his piece in the manner of this post, but he upset my plans before I could get around to doing it.

At Slate, Christopher Hitchens endorses Kerry (objectively but not subjectively).

How could he have changed his mind in the span of a week? Was it the fiasco at the al QaQaa explosives depot that set him over the edge? If so, how could that have done the trick, and not, say, Abu Ghraib?

In any case, I want to say a few words about what's wrong with Hitchens' endorsement piece for Bush. Basically, Hitchens is committing a category error, and not in a neutral, purely accidental way, but in a very specific, disingenuous, self-serving way. His case for supporting the Republican candidate is that he can tenably uphold the anti-Kissingerian ideology of a small faction within the neoconservative fold (i.e. the Wolfowitz faction). He thinks, conversely, that the national Democratic ticket is impaled by and condemnable because of the support it receives from fringe elements on the left. See the problem? Of course you do. It's simply dishonest to cherrypick one small fraction of one candidate's supporters to identify with and then denounce his opponent on the basis of guilty involuntary association.

In his Slate endorsement, it looks like Hitchens has become conscious of the glaring fallacy in his Nation piece. In short, he concedes (without admitting error, natch), that it's good in general that Senator Kerry has repudiated the anti-war immediate withdrawal faction of the left, and that it would be good for the Democrats to take responsibility for the broader war against Islamism.

I want to say some more about why Hitchens is wrong to place such faith in Wolfowitz, and why Wolfowitzian neoconservatism is not a repudiation of Kissinger, but a backhanded embrace of him. I'll save it for another post.

Both Sides Do It

Charles Pierce nails it, as usual:
We don't use dogs any more, or clubs, or firehoses. We have Katherine Harris and Ken Blackwell and (ultimately) Antonin Scalia. We don't even ask people any more to recite the Alabama state constitution backwards in pig-Latin. What we do is develop shoddy "scrub lists," move the precincts around, mail out ballots that mysteriously forget to include the Democratic ticket, set up phony registration centers that ash-can the Democratic applications, buy off some ministers, produce phony "warnings" about being arrested at the polls if you have overdue parking tickets, and rotate these sharpers out of South Dakota and into Illinois when the heat rises around them. And, later, it's judged purely as tactics -- did it work or didn't it? -- with no historical or ethical context because, as we all know, Both Sides Do It.

Look, I don't believe that either Mary Poppins or Daffy Duck should be allowed to vote in Ohio. First of all, Ms. Poppins is an illegal alien and Mr. Duck is, well, a cartoon duck. But that kind of thing has its roots in the way that the old urban machines did business, and they had the effect of extending the franchise to millions of new immigrants, who formed the habits of democracy within their communities, albeit in many cases imperfectly. (That it also occasionally extended the franchise to persons either largely fictional or entirely deceased was, admittedly, a problem.)

But voter-suppression rises from a more fetid historical backwater. Morally, down through the years, it has been responsible for more blood and more chaos than was ever produced by the Daley-Curley-Tammany vote-early-and-often ethos. It is the legacy of a political class restricted to the propertied white male. And anyone who engages in it is no better than Bull Connor with a briefcase, Donald Segretti with a platinum card. They are unAmerican in the fullest, rankest sense of the word.

Ideology + Incompetence

Do you wonder all the time, as I do, how the administration could have been so stupid as to allow the Abu Ghraib atrocities or to have had the torture memo drafted? Matt Yglesias shows that these sorts of cock-ups go hand in hand with a Hobbesian foreign policy that spurns international law and common standards of human rights.

Oh, and by the way, the explosives that were stolen from al QaQaa were sufficient to produce between 2584 and 8613 Oklahoma City bombings (in case you were curious).

Now He Tells Us

It's not that Bush is a bigot, it's that he just really really really really wants the bigot vote. There are only two ways this could have happened: Either Bush slipped his tethers, or else Karl Rove re-crunched the numbers and found out that swing voters aren't as keen on keeping down the queers as he had originally thought.

Can I Have This Job?

I'm pretty sure I could fill space in the New York Times at least as well, and maybe better, than this does.

Amazing Fucking Creskin

Jim Boulet, a lesser Cornerite, could have told you Andrew Sullivan was going to support John Kerry months ago:
Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review Online, "The Corner," March 19, 2004:"I do wish Sullivan would save time and come out for Kerry now. In just a matter of time he will come up with the rationalizations ..."...Had Bush only backed gay marriage, one suspects, Andrew might well have sung a different tune....
Cheers to you for telling someone how he's supposed to think. There is, I suppose, a kernel of truth to this, in that once he decided not to support Bush, Andrew's supporting Kerry became that much more probable an outcome. But to suggest that his endorsement of Kerry isn't the result of genuine introspection and soul-searching, but instead a totally predictable consequence of his single-minded obsession with something as silly as his own civil rights as a gay man [who needs 'em anyway?--ed.] is an infantilizing smear. The fact of the matter is that Andrew Sullivan gave a lot more thought as to whom to support in this election than this smug apparatchik could ever hope to.

Wait, though. It gets better, by which I mean worse. Boulet cherrypicks one graf from Sullivan's endorsement piece to prove that his support for Kerry is entirely premised on the gay marriage issue:
Had Bush only backed gay marriage, one suspects, Andrew might well have sung a different tune:
[Bush] ran for election as a social moderate. But every single question in domestic social policy has been resolved to favor the hard-core religious right. His proposal to amend the constitution to deny an entire minority equal rights under the law is one of the most extreme, unnecessary, and divisive measures ever proposed in this country.
So presumably, Andrew's criticisms of Bush's Iraq policy, of which he was a staunch defender until the evidence of administrative conduct unbecoming a president became so transparent and ubiquitous that only a hack like Boulet could ignore it, are just a cosmetic overhaul of his only real complaint, which is that Bush opposes gay marriage. And Boulet improves on the unimprovable:
Curious. Bush acts to defend the nation's marriage laws from a few judges run amuck and Bush is the problem? Bush still believes in all that "government by the people" stuff we learned in school, while Andrew Sullivan is a "by any means necessary" revolutionary on homosexual matters and Bush is the extremist?
Allow me to translate: Why couldn't Andrew stop being such a faggot and stand with George W. Bush and the troops?

Now allow me to translate cross-temporally: Curious. George Wallace acts to defend his state's education laws from a few judges run amuck and Wallace is the problem? Wallace believes in all that "government by the people" stuff we learned in school, while [insert decent-on-race Republican] is a "by any means necessary" revolutionary on racial matters and Wallace is the extremist?

[The situations aren't analogous. You're forgetting that gays aren't people.--ed.]

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

I Heart Wonkette (Part 1003)

I don't get it, what's so funny about someone pantomiming banana-swallowing at a fundraiser, it's just...oh shit. I get it. Just read this.

Rancid Anti-Semitism Watch

"Having to choose between George W. Bush and John Kerry is like navigating between Scylla and Charybdis. On one side lurks the hoary beast of a decent man brought down by the neocons and their agenda of world domination [emphasis mine]."---Taki Theodoracopulos, in his endorsement piece for Michael Peroutka, the Constitution Party candidate.

I would readily affirm, contra Jamie, that it's possible to be un-Jewish and un-conservative and criticize neoconservative ideology (and neoconservative ideologues) in a way that isn't anti-Semitic. But with this fine specimen, as indeed is the case in almost every Patrick Buchanan-affiliated usage of the term, the uncoded translation is "Kikes! Kikes! Kikes!"

Francoism Watch

Robb Finberg, candidate for Congress in Hawaii, supports executing people "guilty of homosexuals acts." Less Francoist, I guess, and more Islamo-fascist [what's the difference, really?--ed.].

Monday, October 25, 2004


Ben Shapiro, chairman of the nationwide Hillel House junior anti-sex league (it's a splinter group), on the Dennis Miller show (I wasn't watching on purpose, I swear):
"The youth are leaning towards Bush...The chances of bringing back the draft are about the same as the chances of John Kerry marrying for love."
Scuse me? Here's how it went down: Miller asked his guests to guess who was ahead among younger voters. So they guessed. Shapiro made a few asinine generalizations and deduced from them that Bush would win the youth vote unless Kerry could scare a sufficient number into believing that Bush would re-implement conscription. Since no one at CNBC bothered to inform Miller what the state of the race among younger voters actually is, I'll gladly do it myself: Kerry leads by 13 among college students (surprise!).

As for Shapiro's bitchy little swipe, there are two approaches I would have taken had it been me sitting next to Shapiro and not Tom Harkin's daughter. The first (and probably best, considering the audience), would be to straightfacedly ask Shapiro what he knows about Kerry's marriage, and how, and from whom, and continue the line of interrogation politely but firmly until Shapiro either admits that he's talking out of his ass or else soils himself with rage. The second approach---which I'd prefer in abstracto---would be to point out that Shapiro is a virgin, laugh at him until cut off by the host, and then gratuitously refer to him as "virgin" or "virgin boy" or "the guys who's never seen a real live vagina before" again and again for the duration of the segment. Bonus points for speculating openly about how often a 20 year old virgin must masturbate.

When Xenophobias Collide

An informative guide to choosing between France and Saudi Arabia.

Roses Really Smell Like Al QaQaa

Condoleeza Rice found out that the al QaQaa explosives were missing about a month ago. Or so CNN tells me. They're also selling bridges in Brooklyn on a partner site.

For the 1,000,000,000,000th time, the question is: incompetent or deceitful? In this case, the answer is both.

In bizarro-related news, the Washington Times countercharges that John Kerry never met with all the ambassadors of all the Security Council Nations...he forgot about Mexico, Colombia, and Bulgaria. I'm inclined to think that Atrios's assessment is correct: Kerry had only been thinking of the Permanent Security Council members.

In what looks to me like his best post ever, Ezra Klein presents tomorrow's campaign journalism today:
Bush, Kerry Face Allegations in Final Days Of Election

by Faceless Drone

WASHINGTON, DC -- With only 9 days to go before the election, both John Kerry and George W. Bush found their campaigns faced with accusations of wrongdoing. Monday's "Washington Times" broke the story that John Kerry may not have spoken with every member of the UN Security Council prior to the Iraq War. This would be in contrast to an address Kerry gave, in which he claimed to have spoken with every member of the Council.

For his part, George Bush's campaign is responding to a Nelson Report story that found 350 tons of high power explosives, housed at the Al Qa Qaa bunker and weapons complex, were left underguarded and subsequently stolen in the post-invasion looting. As this weaponry was kept under IAEA seal, standard procedures would have dictated that the Bush administration notify the IAEA of the theft. The Nelson Report has found that the Bush administration has known of the arm's disappearance for over a year, but withheld the information from both the IAEA and the public for political reasons. Numerous experts have speculated that the insurgency possesses the stole explosives and has been using them to carry out attacks on coalition members.

With polls showing a tight race and neither camp able to make headway, both campaigns are closing ranks. Bush spokesman Gary Bauer called the Nelson Report's article "a politically motivated attack aimed at distracting voters from Senator Kerry's record of weakness". Tad Devine, speaking for the Kerry camp, called the Washington Times' allegations "meaningless". With a handful of days till the election, both campaigns have expressed confidence in their position and a desire to focus on GOTV efforts.
ROTFLMFAO, as they say. Actually, I'm working on another YDN column on exactly this subject. Developing...

Coalition Of The Willing

My first YDN op-ed in about a year is here.

UPDATE: Dan Munz puts the point of my column in a nutshell:
It's probably true that France would never have cooperated in Iraq, but the Bush administration could have isolated France.
Some quick, related thoughts I didn't have space to include in the YDN piece: To the extent that the Bush administration did build a pre-war coalition, it has failed miserably at maintaining the alliances during the post-war period, when (as opposed to the invasion itself) having allies was really crucial. Poland, of "he forgot Poland!" fame, is gone. While the Germans would be amenable to cooperation iff. [if and only if--ed.] they see evidence that the American president is a rational actor.

The British, our only significant military ally in Iraq, are not going to cut and run---at least as long as Tony Blair remains PM. But the Blair government has been put in an impossible position: having to support on moral grounds a president whom the British people almost universally revile. Moreover, every time Blair admits error and accepts responsibility for the missteps in Iraq, his American counterpart, still losing a thumb-wrestling match with reality, claims that nothing is awry and that any statement to the contrary is a scaremongering Democratic lie. In short, the Bush administration makes it difficult, perhaps impossible, for even the most-amiably disposed nations to be allies of the United States. That Bush interprets this phenomenon as evidence of his own strength and resolve in the war on terror is sufficient reason to unelect him on pure national security grounds.

Keep in mind that Donald Rumsfeld, who, pace Mr. Bush, is actually one of the worst Secretaries of Defense in American history, is reponsible for A) Abu Ghraib; B) the old Europe/new Europe dichotomy belied by, well, everything; C) dissing Tony Blair and speculating about how we don't need Britain. My purpose, incidentally, is not to equate these things morally, but only to point out what a slobbering mess Rumsfeld must surely be for the careerist grown-ass men at Foggy Bottom.

By the way, if anyone could summarize the chronology connecting the crotch-stuffed aircraft carrier landing to the looting of the al QaQaa explosives depot, I'd be appreciative.

No More Excuses

The final pillar in the administration's case for war---the need to keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists---just collapsed. It turns out that at the very beginning of the occupation, the US let a 350 ton stockpile of conventional arms at a weapons site called al Qa Qaa [Arabic for, "the kaka"--ed.] go unguarded. It had previusly been monitored by the IAEA. And then, after the invasion...the materials there just went missing. (You knew that the weapons the jihadists are using to kill our soldiers came from somewhere, didn't you?) Faced with an early setback, but not wishing to put a damper on the national mood---remember, this is Mission Accomplished time---the administration concealed the disappearance of the al Qa Qaa [I'm going to keep using that name--ed.] weapons from the IAEA, from the broader non-proliferation community, and natch, from the American people.

In other words, we went to war precisely so that the sort of thing we allowed to happen wouldn't happen. Even in the New York Times account, which as Josh Marshall notes, is already fairly unacceptably deferential to administration spin, neverthless includes a healthy dose of memory holing:
"Administration officials say they cannot explain why the explosives were not safeguarded, beyond the fact that the occupation force was overwhelmed by the amount of munitions they found throughout the country."
Gee golly shucks, I wonder what happened to those weapons. Is this another consequence of catastrophic success (and if so, can we aim to have fewer catastrophic successes in the future)?

Andrew Sullivan took the proper descriptive term right out of my mouth: criminal negligence.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Weekend Quick-Link

Matt Welch notices a NRO Corner post from the normally better-than-that Rick Brookhiser, that rivals Jonah Goldberg-ism for its sheer unfunny uncutesy mendacious idiocy:
KERRY A RED SOCK? [Rick Brookhiser]
In any sensible reckoning, the October classic and the November election have nothing to do with each other. But I wouldn't be surprised if Frank Rich, or Maureen Dowd, or both, spin Boston's pennent as a Kerry victory.
Posted at 10:40 AM
Matt comments:
Pre-emptive straw-man attack against the Liberal Media? Check. Denouncing a poli-rhetorical trick in one sentence while employing it the next? You betcha. And misspelling "pennant"? Priceless.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Bogus Draft Rumors?

So here are some final thoughts for the weekend.

And they concern all the draft rumors floating around those internets that were self-evidently the concoctions of Democratic stooges.

That Commie rag the Washington Times is reporting that the army is preparing to lift the ban on women in combat situations:
The Army is negotiating with civilian leaders about eliminating a women-in-combat ban so it can place mixed-sex support companies within warfighting units, starting with a division going to Iraq in January.

Despite the legal prohibition, Army plans already have included such collocation of women-men units in blueprints for a lighter force of 10 active divisions, according to Defense Department sources.

An Army spokesman yesterday, in response to questions from The Washington Times, said the Army is now in discussions with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's staff to see whether the 10-year-old ban in this one area should be lifted. The ban prohibits the Army from putting women in units that "collocate" with ground combatants.
Women on the frontlines in Iraq?!!! That isn't, surely, evidence of a personnel crisis, is it? (We know how Republicans feel about putting those fair creatures with their "monthly infections" in harm's way, so I suggest taking your initial impression of how desperate the leadership must be and multiply it by about ten.)

George W. Bush says there will not be a draft if he is elected. George W. Bush said a lot of things wouldn't happen if he were elected four years ago. He was "elected" and look where we find ourselves now. If anyone has a plausible theory about where new manpower can be located (that doesn't involve conscription) please let me know.

UNRELATED SELF-BLOGOSPHERIC NEWS: I just checked my blog stats (I do so infrequently so as not to get completely obsessive-compulsive); during the past week, the Finnegans Wake has averaged hundreds of hits per day! Undoubtedly, a lot of that's due to Eric Muller's link and Matt Welch's link before that. The 'winger infection is already metastasizing to other threads, and I absolutely welcome it. Next week, I'll try to address some of the comments about my take on Michelle Malkin and some other issues as well. For now, I'm going to enjoy the weekend knowing that this blog is headed in the right direction.


Dan Drezner and Josh Chafetz are both voting for Kerry. Can the full community of socially liberal centrist hawks be far behind?

It's one thing to bite the bullet and identify yourself as a Democrat(-supporter); it's quite another thing for the incumbent Republican administration to spurn the entire "reality-based community," of which you have always been an unapologetic member.

UPDATE: We got Jesse Ventura (hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)!

Duly Noted

Eric Alterman's description of a joint tribute to John Kenneth Galbraith and Arthure Schlesinger:
It was really a marvelous and moving night. After vanden Heuval thanked approximately a zillion people, we heard terrific speeches from Gailbraith, Roosevelt and Schlesinger children (and grandchildren), Ted Sorensen, Alan Brinkley, George McGovern, Bill Moyers, Arthur himself and believe it or not, Henry Kissinger. The room was remarkably silent for the latter talk and applauded quite generously, particularly given the fact that a healthy number of people in the room would answer “of course” to the “war criminal” question. (Next time you hear right-wingers complain of the incivility of liberals, remind them of this evening.)
Count me among the "of course" crowd.

Quote Of The Year

"If Nader makes the Oregon ballot—a long shot given the slimy tactics used against him by Democrats and some Greens—I will happily vote for him. I take Foucault seriously."---Jeffrey St. Clair, co-editor, with Alexander Cockburn, of

"I take Foucault seriously"?!!! "I take Foucault seriously"?!!! Go fuck yourself, asshole.

The Achilles Of Modern Philosophy

Jerry Fodor has an immensely interesting review of a new biography of Saul Kripke in the London Review of Books (via Crooked Timber). Kripke is the reason that everyone I know who does analytic philosophy actually does analytic philosophy. He's the indirect reason I do philosophy (the direct reason was a great introductory course freshman year).

The Naming and Necessity arguments are every bit as seductive as anything in Plato, and have the advantage of being right. (Or so say I.)

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Heads Up

I should have an op-ed in the YDN tomorrow. If not tomorrow, then probably Monday. Developing...

UPDATE: Okay, Monday I guess. Meanwhile, check out Jamie Kirchick's column on the Mary Cheney non-controversy. Money quote:
And so what if John Kerry "used" Mary Cheney for political purposes? What about the policies of this administration, which have in every sense of the word "used" millions of gay people as a wedge issue to shore up the evangelical base of the Republican Party? Talk about a "cheap and tawdry political trick."

When Bob Schieffer asked the candidates about their wives, he was implicitly referring to the fact that both men are heterosexual. The question was pointless and a waste of time, but no one considered it offensive. Yet somehow, John Kerry's statement that Mary Cheney's being a lesbian is not abnormal (contra the belief of many Republicans) has made the vice president "a very angry father" and his wife Lynne "a pretty indignant mom." Perhaps if the Kerry campaign were as on-message as the folks writing the Cheneys' talking points, the senator from Massachusetts would be faring better in the polls [emphasis mine].
The Cheneys are "very angry" and "indignant," respectively, because Kerry affirmed the dignity of their gay daughter. Where was their public outrage when Jim Demint called their daughter unfit to teach school in South Carolina, or when Alan Keyes (directly) called Mary Cheney a "selfish hedonist," or when John Cornyn compared Mary Cheney's love for her partner to turtle-fucking, or when Congressman Thune's supporters sent out stickers reading "Vote for Daschle & Vote for SODOMY," or when the RNC sent out flyers warning Arkansas voters that the Democrats wanted to take away their Bibles and hold gay marriages in their backyards, or when...or when...fuck it. There are too many examples. The Republican party openly embraces hatred of gay people. It's part of their 2004 platform. Dick Cheney sells out Mary Cheney every day he runs for vice president with George Bush.

If Dick Cheney has any cause to be upset, it's at himself, for being a terrible father. If this conclusion seems harsh, I suggest you reconsider the facts of the case. The closest analogue in American politics is Strom Thurmond, father of a biracial daughter and lifelong segregationist.

Things You Learn Reading The Corner (Part 367)

"[Dan] Patrick asked Curt [Schilling] whether or not he thought ARod's mitt slap was bush-league and Schilling said, 'No, it was Kerry-league.' He seems to be no fan of ARod or Kerry." This is packaged as "one more reason to love the guy."

Or, in my case, one more reason to hope that Roger Clemens beats the Sox in Game 7.

Moral Calculus

In late 2002 and early 2003, I remember having arguments (and reading similarly motivated Nation-y articles) with leftists who thought that war in Afghanistan was rendered unjust in part because of the fact that more Afghan civilians died than the 3000 Americans who died on 9/11/01. This sort of facile arithmetic was, first of all, self-defeating, because it would have countenanced a massive rate of collateral damage in Afghanistan had the 9/11 terrorists succeeded in killing as many people as they had presumably wanted to. Secondly, it's perfectly worthless as a tool for moral adjudication, since it doesn't assess the explicitly murderous intent of the terrorists nor the moral good achieved by the overthrow of Sharia theocracy. Well, those were my thoughts at the time [don't blame me for the title--ed.].

At Pandagon, Jesse Taylor notices a particularly appalling specimen of the same pathology, as it has manifested itself on the right in accordance with the move to a new theater of war and the various reversals of fortune in Iraq. Let me second these comments whole-heartedly:
...And we lost fewer people in September 11th, the "day that changed everything", than we lost from [insert whatever the hell you want that kills people here]. During the battle of Gettysburg, more Americans were killed by other Americans than have been killed by terrorism in the past 50 years. This argument is disgustingly facile, all the more so because it allows us to simply set an upper threshold for any action or behavior and declare anything under it a safe zone.

This isn't just moral obliviousness - it's moral cowardice. So long as death and destruction doesn't pass some grossly high threshold, we're exempt from examining the sacrifices involved. In fact, they barely count as sacrifices - unless they serve a motivational purpose towards further sacrifice.
Follow this explicit logic of these trolls (Jesse doesn't take it as far as he could), and no life-ending disaster or crime is ever significant because it's always smaller in scope than another [the Holocaust being the asymptote--ed.].

Refining The Theory

So: the responses to my deduction of Ms. Malkin's views are coming in fast and furious [note: as much as we like getting e-mail, we really live for comments--ed.]. One question that recurred among my correspondents was something like (quoting verbatim from an e-mail):
Do you intend to prove that Ms. Malkin actually does support internment or, less ambitiously, that she should support it, given her other beliefs and the inferences you draw from them?
I chose to cite this particular phrasing of the question because the framing is interesting.

On the one hand, I certainly would not claim to have privileged access to Michelle Malkin's internal mental states, and I'm perfectly accepting of the fact that beliefs can be held inconsistently, irrationally, or ad hoc---or all three, as I think must be the case for Malkin if she supports the Japanese internment for the reasons she gives, and also genuinely believes (I'm agnostic about this) that American Muslims should not be interned.

On the other hand, the e-mailer is asking me to make a normative judgement about what Michelle Malkin should believe. I hope this answer won't be considered evasive: I hope Michelle Malkin is sincere when she claims not to support an internment of Muslims. Better, I think (and this is only an intuitive claim), to hold ad hoc beliefs than to compound the vileness of one's beliefs for the sake of consistency [what was that Emerson line again?--ed.].

So my argument concerning Malkin's beliefs is entirely conditional. I claim, in effect, that if Malkin is saying what she seems to be saying, what her book overtly claims to be arguing, and what proposition she has invested so much of her reputation in defending (i.e., the A4 premise in my schema), then the entailments of those beliefs are not opaque, but are in fact discernable and analyzable. So my argument has nothing to do with a clairvoyant access to Malkin's internal, Cartesian theater [any bets on what's playing there? I say film of puppies being strangled--ed.]. I take as my givens only the premises that Malkin affirms, premises laid out in communicable agent-neutral common language, over which Malkin has no special epistemic privilege. And I work from there.

The purpose of my post was to show just what the A4 premise necessarily entails, if modal space is restricted to perfect resemblance to the actual world with respect to all non-normative features of the world. Here's the same argument, condensed a lot and without some of the technical thorniness of the original post:

Describe for me the possible world in which:

A) All non-normative features of Japanese settlement in America in the 1930s and 1940s, and all non-normative features of Muslim settlement in America in the 1990s and 2000s, perfectly resembles the facts of the matter in the actual world

B) The Japanese internment was morally justified.

C) The potential Muslim internment would not be morally justified.

Good luck! The entailment is a necessary, inescapable one. That it is not of a purely logical nature, that it involves propositions that are formed synthetically and known a posteriori, are the properties that have allowed Malkin (thus-far) to get away with a whitewash of the necessary consequences of her argument. Just because something is a logically intelligible possibility does not mean that it is a real possibility, that it is the fact of the matter in any possible world (this originally Kantian distinction is the inspiration for the title of my post, btw).

Welcome To Bizarro-World

The Yankees just put the finishing touches on a choke so monumental that only the Boston Red Sox could have accomplished it. In other news, all knowledge of empirical science has just been invalidated because the Principle of Counterinduction---the principle of the disuniformity of nature---has just been confirmed.

I'm grasping to put a positive spin on this. Let's see; what does Tom Maguire think of this now? If the Sox are the Democrats and the Yankees are the Republicans, then surely this result bodes well, no? No! By the counterinductive light, George W. Bush is going to win the election.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Liveblogging The Game

8:26: In Fox's pre-game montage, the final newspaper headline they flash is: "Red Sox Force Game 7 Against Yankees." Immediately next to it, and somewhat surprisingly not cut out of the picture, was an article under the heading: "Top US Official Abducted In Iraq." Bit of a downer, no?

That's all.

La Deluge

If it hadn't already happened already [it had for me months ago--ed.], the publication of Ron Suskind's article in the weekend NYT magazine ripped to shreds the curtain separating the Bush administration's public presentation of itself and the internal mechanisms on which it actually operates. Suskind offers a mind boggling array of absolutely staggering quotations, from Bush administration officials, advisors, and other miscellaneous insidery types. It would be tough to determine which are the most damning. Here are my picks:
"Just in the past few months," [Bruce] Bartlett said, "I think a light has gone off for people who've spent time up close to Bush: that this instinct he's always talking about is this sort of weird, Messianic idea of what he thinks God has told him to do." Bartlett, a 53-year-old columnist and self-described libertarian Republican who has lately been a champion for traditional Republicans concerned about Bush's governance, went on to say: "This is why George W. Bush is so clear-eyed about Al Qaeda and the Islamic fundamentalist enemy. He believes you have to kill them all. They can't be persuaded, that they're extremists, driven by a dark vision. He understands them, because he's just like them. . . . [emphasis mine]"
As [Christie] Whitman told me on the day in May 2003 that she announced her resignation as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency: "In meetings, I'd ask if there were any facts to support our case. And for that, I was accused of disloyalty!" [Suskind notes that Whitman now disavows those remarks. Er, yeah.
[A]t the Bush administration's first National Security Council meeting, Bush asked if anyone had ever met Ariel Sharon. Some were uncertain if it was a joke. It wasn't: Bush launched into a riff about briefly meeting Sharon two years before, how he wouldn't "go by past reputations when it comes to Sharon. . . . I'm going to take him at face value," and how the United States should pull out of the Arab-Israeli conflict because "I don't see much we can do over there at this point." Colin Powell, for one, seemed startled. This would reverse 30 years of policy -- since the Nixon administration -- of American engagement. Such a move would unleash Sharon, Powell countered, and tear the delicate fabric of the Mideast in ways that might be irreparable. Bush brushed aside Powell's concerns impatiently. "Sometimes a show of force by one side can really clarify things."
The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
That last line reads like the harangues of O'Brien in 1984; it ought to be enough to creep out anybody with a pulse (or at least any member of the "reality-based community"). I'll have a lot more to say about this a bit later, but for now, here's a parallel line picked up on by Andrew Sullivan:
And I warned him about this war. I had deep misgivings about this war, deep misgivings. And I was trying to say, "Mr. President, you had better prepare the American people for casualties." [Pat] Robertson said the president then told him, "Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties."
The messianic delusions are just too numerous and far-reaching to ignore. Can I place a bet on Tradesports that the president believes he's channeling a supersession of the New Testament?


Eric Muller was kind enough to link to my takedown of Michelle Malkin. Hope the server can withstand the spike in traffic.


Maybe someone can explain what's going on here. This morning I got an e-mail from a pseudonymous address at a domain called "bushcanwin" or something like that. It led me to this site:
Calling All Conservative Bloggers!

You exposed RatherGate by proving the CBS documents were fake -- nice work! But now the liberals have found a bunch more documents so our work is not done. Let's get to work proving that these are fake, too!

Dick Cheney's DUI
George W. Bush's DUI
George W. Bush's Second DUI
Bush and Cheney have excellent judgement and would never get behind the wheel while drunk.

Memo to Ken Lay
Second Memo to Ken Lay
Ken Lay has been indicted on felony fraud charges -- there is NO WAY he was this close with President Bush.

Bush Daughters' Possession of Alcohol
It must be fake: This is clearly a liberal media snow job on these poor girls.

Osama Warning Document Part 1
Osama Warning Document Part 2
This so called "official document" suggests that Bush was asleep at wheel before 9-11. Get real.

Are there any other fake documents we are missing? Please send them to us so we can post them on this site for conservative bloggers to debunk.
This site is obviously a joke (it becomes even more apparent if you follow the links). It looks like a phony website put up by liberals to have a joke at conservative bloggers' expense? If so, have I been misidentified as a conservative blogger* so that I might embarrass myself, or have I been correctly identified as a left(ish) blogger and let in one the joke?

*I mean, it would be tough for me to make it much clearer that I'm against Bush's re-election, yet somehow Adsense keeps posting pro-Bush and Bush-neutral ads on the site.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

What Is Libertarianism?

If you pay any attention to the internal debates within the libertarian movement [and really, who among us does not enjoy nanotech?--ed.], you might have noticed a pronounced split over the right libertarian position on gay marriage. E-mail correspondent JWB provides a pretty complete summary of the "libertarian" argument against gay marriage:
1. It seems self-evident that the existing legal institution of marriage is repugnant to libertarian principles, and should be, according to those principles, immediately abolished, with couples (and perhaps larger groups) thereafter free to formalize their relationships with contracts customized to their own tastes.

2. A more pragmatic libertarian (e.g., the sort who is willing to talk in the alternative about what the public schools should do rather than say it doesn't matter because they shouldn't exist) will, however, be faced with the question of whether absent abolition of the current legal regime for male-female couples who elect to be subject to it by getting married that regime should be extended to same-sex couples who would like to be subject to it.

3. It is not clear to me why libertarian principles should favor that extension. A libertarian aggravated that taxpayers have subsidized new playing facilities for the local NFL and NBA teams will not necessarily agree that it's only fair that the NHL franchise should get the same deal. A libertarian who accepts that federal subsidies to peanut farmers are unlikely to be abolished does not for that reason generally favor the extension of federal subsidies to the producers of mohair and belgian endive. A libertarian who opposes those aspects of the current tax law that are generally thought to favor homeowners over renters would not necessarily favor giving the free-spirited minority who wish to purchase RV's or houseboats for use as their principal residences the same tax preferences as homeowners.

4. If there seems to be an intuitive difference between those situations and the appeal of SSM, I suspect it should lead one to the conclusion that the subject matter of marriage and family (along with the distinct but related subject matter of human sexual desire) cannot be easily accommodated within the libertarian worldview. This is not (necessarily) in and of itself an argument against libertarianism, simply an argument for understanding its limitations, with a consequent need to recognize that certain issues will need to be resolved by principles drawn from another source.
Rather than I address his premises directly, I want to go meta-theoretical and try to figure out how one goes about determining the "libertarian" position on anything.

So: What is libertarianism? The available definitions are multi-form. The most concrete and specific definition I would give without fear of committing myself to any propositions I reject is that libertarianism is the political philosophy that seeks to maximize individual liberty (hey, maybe we got a non-circular definition of utility!) wherever possible and to the full extent possible. One might add further provisos making exceptions for temporary suspensions of liberty in gravely urgent circumstances. As for calculating how individual liberty is maximized, I leave that as a question for empirical political and social science, the only fields, however flawed, that have a prayer of providing an answer.

The conditions JWB has set up for defining libertarianism---which are no doubt very popular and perhaps majority opinion among self-professed libertarians (leaving aside the anarcho-capialist sub-set)---might more accurately be described as favoring an extension of Smithian/Ricardoian (is that the right adjective for Ricardo?), or perhaps Friedmanian economic principles across the full range of political and social issues. Just how such an extension is made is certainly contentious---though that never stops individual (self-avowed) libertarians from claiming that their own unique political theory is an indubitably valid deduction based on the (primarily) economic premises that serve as first principles.

If libertarianism is going to be defined as a principle of minimizing A)in all cases without exception, or B) to the extent that's practicable (I think that captures the essence of JWB's fork) the involvement of government in the lives of citizens (running asymptotically to the point where the state ceases to exist), then I think we can rather easily identify counterexamples that force a re-examination of the principle both its strong (A) and weak (B) forms.

Consider the state in which the government collects exactly zero tax revenue, and functions to do nothing other than provide a collective defense and define national boundaries, with the funding for the military coming from revenues garnered from business conducted in precisely the same manner as a corporation, namely providing for-profit goods and services to individual consumers at market-determined prices rather than conducting involuntary collective transactions at arbitrarily determined prices (setting aside the issue of second-order justification of market values, i.e., in virtue of what the market price is the right price). If we want to get really detailed, we can say that the government builds its military from volunteers drawn from across the state, who are quite happy to join the army because the government's various agitprops for recruitment (also funded by business profits) is consistently successful at maintaining necessary troop levels.

This, I think is the minimal state. (If there's something more minimal I'd like to hear it). I hope we can all imagine the infinitude of ways that such a state could as easily be a libertarian hell as a libertarian heaven. Since there is a absolute vacuum of centralized authority in all areas except the distribution of military force, any private entity, however benign or malevolent, can seize whatever spheres of domestic life it is within its power to seize. The composition of the government itself, whose members wouldn't really be responsible for anything other than approving defense budgets and nationalistic ad campaigns, could take any form whatsoever, from one man rule to Athenian democracy. Those libertarians who would contend that the "invisible hand of the market" or something like that will preserve a persistent equilibrium in which maximal liberty is available are not contending much more than "just because I say so." If the state's only concern is national security, then any private entity has perfect freedom to infringe on the liberties of others so long as he/it/they does/do not overreach into the highly limited sphere of purely state affairs. That such a state could (and likely would, given how fundamentally crappy human nature is) devolve into an amalgamation of corporate-controlled regions in which individuals have zero political power and only as much personal liberty as is necessary to support target levels of productivity. Those who say that what we're actually talking about are separate states that are all ruled despotically are ignoring crucial socio-cultural data: common national identity and self-identification, common culture, common language, common demographic distributions, cross-regional unified military service, popular acceptance of the state's legitimacy withinits recognized boundaries, etc.

Furthermore, if we were to ignore all that for the sake of argument andjust assume that the above description is not of a single state but of several, then the strong-form state-minimalism is still making a fatal concession, namely that the potential for private-sector despotism and oppression is built into its definition. The point of all this, is less concrete and more meta- than I have perhaps suggested. There quite simply is no a priori logical relationship between the state-minimization principle and the liberty-maximization principle, so any connection between them is going to be (excluding the wierd analytic philosophers' problem cases of contingent a priori and necessary a posteriori propositions) contingent and synthetic. In fact, what we have seen is that any formal resemblance between the states governed on liberty-maximization principles and the states governed on strong-form state-minimalization principles are going to be purely incidental and indicative of nothing either in counterfactual or future instantiations. And you'll find as well that the same is true---any correlation is accidental---between weak-form state-minimization theory and liberty-maximization theory, though the contingency and unrepresentativeness of such correlation is easier to mask because the weak form of the theory is willing to make compromises.

How does this relate back to gay marriage? Well, since I've already gone on too long, I'll leave it at this: I think it's contentious whether or not legal ratification of gay marriage is justified on state-minimization grounds. But that doesn't matter because the state-minimization criterion is fatally flawed and hence unreliable as a rubric of individual liberty expansion. Conversely, the legalization of gay marriage, I think, is quite self-evidently justified on maximization of personal liberty grounds.

If I have mischaracterized libertarianism I'll be pleased to hear why. But I'd contend, echoing Wittgenstein, that labels like "libertarian" are empty vessels, and the only definition of libertarianism that is even remotely intelligble to me is one that proceeds from some form of liberty-maximization principles—it’s the only definition that fits with the cluster of identifying descriptions I associate with the word “liberty.” If one's agenda is only and always shrinking the size of the state, then one would be foolish not to pursue policies that achieve that end, but don't insist that there is some indivisible equivalence between that aim and one that has nothing, except perhaps accidentally, to do with it,
namely the expansion of liberty.

Although I don't like applying convenient political labels to myself, and I have problems with both the term "left" and "libertarian," the easiest way I have to describe my politics is "left libertarian," and I hope some of the foregoing explains why that's a tenable logical possibility.

The Transcendental Deduction Of Malkin

I spoke recently to a friend at another school, not a raving-righty by any stretch of the imagination, who thinks it's a cheap shot to say that Michelle Malkin's internment book argues for rounding up and interning all our Muslim citizens and resident aliens. Malkin states explicitly, after all, that that's not what she's for.

So as a service to my friend and to anyone else who's interested, I'm going to proceed to settle the matter right now. This just so happens to be the sort of thing deducible from a small number of given premises that don't even require reading her book (no, really, it's true). I'm going to prove that Malkin does indeed offer justification for the internment of all Muslim-Americans, and then I'll take into consideration what's really going on with her avowed stance against such internment. All the premises are either provided by Malkin, are non-controversial matters of fact, or are inferential statements that very few people would find contentious and that Malkin, certainly, could only reject on pain of contradiction.

I'll present the argument formally; it has two lemmas (minor conclusions), A6 and B10, and one major conclusion, C:
A1: In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Japanese-Americans and Japanese aliens residing in the United States constituted a certain level of risk, R1, to US national security.
A2: In wartime, extraordinary measures are morally justified in order to protect the nation's security.
A3: The nation's wartime leaders, with access to credible intelligence concerning the nature of R1, concluded that R1 was sufficiently high to necessitate extraordinary security measures being taken against Japanese aliens and citizens of Japanese descent as well.
A4: The particular measure taken, the internment of the Japanese population of the west coast of the United States, was morally justified on national security grounds.
A5: If any resident sub-population P, in time of war, constitutes a threat level greater than or equal to R1, then the government would be morally justified in taking the same measure R1 against P.
A6: Therefore, in wartime the government would be morally justified in interning any resident sub-population that constituted a threat to national security greater than or equal to the threat posed by the Japanese and Japanese-American sub-population during World War II.

B1: The United States is at war in 2004.
B2: One of the primary (or at least best-known) tactics of the United States' enemies is to infiltrate Western nations and create furtive terrorist cells within them.
B3: The membership of such cells is overwhelmingly (very close to if not exactly 100%) Muslim.
B4: "Sleeper" cells have been uncovered all over Europe, and the men who hijacked the planes on Sept. 11, 2001, were operating out of such a cell.
B5: There is a discrete, non-zero probability, likely greater than .5, that sleeper cells are operating out of the United States right now.
B6: The aims of such cells are far more directly violent and injurious to Americans than the espionage that could potentially have been conducted by Japanese citizens and residents during WWII.
B7: The proportion of Japanese citizens and residents who could credibly have been suspected of endangering national security during WWII was very small relative to the entire sub-population.
B8: The proportion of Muslim citizens and residents who could credibly be suspected of endangering national security in this war is, similarly, very small relative to the entire sub-population.
B9: The conjunction of B6, B7, and B8 entails that the threat to national security posed by Muslim citizens and residents in 2004 is certainly no less than and in all likelihood greater than the threat posed by Japanese citizens and residents in 1942.
B10: Therefore the risk level, R2, constituted by the resident Muslim sub-population in 2004, is greater than or equal to R1.

C: Therefore the government would be morally justified in interning the sub-population of Muslim-American citizens and Muslim resident aliens.
Very few of these premises should seem contentious. In fact, there are only two, A3 and A4, that I think are false, and one more A2, that I think is true as long as it is not interpreted overly broadly (and that means some significant constraints). Of these, A4 is the major argument of Malkin's book, and A3 is an ancillary argument she offers in support of A4 (I think Eric Muller and Greg Robinson have sufficiently discredited Malkin's "scholarship" already).

If Malkin wants to deny the conclusion, C, then she has to find another proposition to reject. None of the B propositions (except maybe B1) are very good candidates; they are just a realistic, historically contextualized assessment of the potential threat posed by covert enemy agents inside the United States. If Malkin were to argue that we're not at war now (~B1), then there could be no inference made on the basis of A2, and thus she would not be committed to C. But I doubt, somehow, that Malkin would say that we're not at war now.

Malkin's statements that she is not calling for a round-up of Muslims therefore look like a flat rejection of A5, the conditional premise that says that what's morally justified in the case of one particular threat would be morally justified in the case of an equally severe or greater threat. And that, dear friends, is a move she's not entitled to make. She might offer non-moral reasons for not resorting to the same measures in a later case that were used in an earlier one, but she most certainly is in no position to argue against the moral justification of such measures in the later case. (Note that the foregoing argument is completely neutral about what moral system is in play. It will be valid for any coherent set of moral principles.)

So Malkin is committing herself to having no moral objection to the internment of Muslim citizens and residents. Hasn't she already given up the game? And if the government were to start rounding up Muslims, how, exactly, would she argue against doing so?

UPDATE: In the comments section, I responded to "cpl" asking, in effect, what's so bad about a non-moral case for opposing the internment of Muslims. My condensed answer is that it does Malkin and us no good to argue that it wouldn't be wrong per se, but merely non-efficacious, to intern our Muslim neighbors. Put it this way: I don't want the sanctity of my civil rights or those of any of my friends to be contingent on Michelle Malkin's calculations of what is and what isn't strategically efficacious.

All the foregoing, of course, redounds to the enormous discredit of Malkin apologists like Glenn Reynolds (this is what really soured me on the guy, if anyone's curious), who should know better than to sign onto a project whose ultimate end is the undermining of the moral foundation of civil rights.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Drugs Are Kewl

I've been awake since around 9:00 am Sunday morning. And I just got over the hump---(started and) finished reading Crime and Punishment and wrote a 15 page essay on same over the last 30 hours or so.

What's my secret? Psychotropic drugs. Specifically, aderol, the prescription ADD drug that packs all (okay, most of) the fun of cocaine into a smoother, longer high and doesn't run the risk of tertiary involvement in a Latin American crime syndicate. [John Ashcroft is going to win the war on terror by cutting off the supply route that runs from the coke-stuffed condom up the asshole of a Colombian mule to the right, and sometimes left nostril of a rich white teenager in Greenwich, CT. Or if that proves difficult, he can always arrest some homeless crackheads in the south Bronx (intent to distribute, y'know)--ed.]

So how'd the paper go, you ask? Amazing, natch. But I'm beginning to reach the conclusion that it's impossible for me to interpret literature except through the prism of my training in philosophy. A lot of that, undoubtedly, is do to the influence of one or two individual professors. (And how many academics ever succeed in moving entirely away from the positions of their undergraduate mentors?) I feel decidedly odd in literature classes these days. I'm accustomed to---and try to bring to section---a kind of systematic rigor that is always just a bit out of place among literature TAs. These are the folks, after all, who would respond to bedrock principles of linguistic practice among almost all my colleagues in philosophy---e.g., that the affirmation of any proposition p necessarily entails the denial of ~p---by accusing us of asserting a false binary (and probably oppressing the oppressed somewhere as well).

In this case, I read Crime and Punishment as, at root, a novelistic examination of meta-ethics in the context of indubitable but as-yet unexplained traditional Orthodox theological metaphysics. In other words, we just take it for granted that God and the good are inextricable. Why? And how can we justify justification? In a way, the murder and the detective story are only incidental. What's really interesting is the meta-ethical inquiry going on in the subterranean allegorical strata that the primary narrative of Raskolnikov and Sonya is built on.

I should also acknowledge the possibility that I might be blinded by a very selective sample. Namely, I almost never read anything for pleasure that one would not reasonably expect a philosopher to have a philosophical interest in. That means, as far as literature goes, that Dostoevsky and T.S. Eliot are in, Jane Austen and (sadly, but probably) George Eliot are out. I just can't take a few hundred pages of English domestic relations if no one is having an existential crisis or pondering suicide even though his life is perfectly happy or standing on trial for a crime of which he is innocent but is certain to be found guilty, or...whatever else a poisoned (and hence, interesting) imagination could devise.

Stepford (First) Wives

On a Yale political e-mail list today, a Republican subscriber named JP posted this measured praise of Howard Dean:
Dean should be accorded quite a bit of respect for his answer to the whole wife question, essentially that her job was far more important than helping his campaign. Why cannot other politicians emulate this?
The answer, I think, is that the media demand that political wives participate in a Platonic form of which Laura Bush is the closest earthly exemplar. It's an example of how culturally liberal media (I won't deny that particular bias) unquestioningly presume family structures in the "heartland" (they call it "flyover" off-camera) are ordered in particular ways, from which any deviation earns the scorn of pundits even less culturally traditionalist than the politicians in question.

Personally, I would have more respect for a male politician who marries a thoughtful, intelligent, independent woman than one who marries a doughy-eyed semi-professional agree-er. I'm probably in the minority on that (I don't claim to have a privileged understanding the culture of red America), though I suspect that the pre-fabricated media narratives about who is and who isn't an acceptable political wife create a positive feedback loop. I quite agree with the gentleman that Judy Dean is to be commended. In fact, given the relevant choices this year, Dr. Mrs. Dean is probably the person I'd regret voting for the least.

I suspect that a lot of the animus against Mrs. Clinton derives from her struggle to represent herself as a traditional housewife in 1992. Her utter contempt for housewives was so thinly veiled that (a majority of) people who cite things like the cattle futures deal as a reason for disliking her (c'mon, she's obviously guilty but financial malfeasance is thoroughly bipartisan) probably have that subconsciously in mind.

I'm most certainly in a minority in actually liking THK. (Hey, I like European women and I like heiresses, and the way she orders Kerry around reminds of my mother and the mothers of all my Jewish friends in New Jersey). Sure she says crazy things from time to time (okay, frequently) [less frequently than Donald Rumsfeld--ed.], but she's had an unquestionably interesting life (actually a bit like my mom's except for the inheriting $500 million portion of it), and she's just about the only first lady candidate since, I dunno, Ladybird Johnson, that I could see myself having a conversation with. (I know a lot of people in both parties love Nancy Reagan. I rather admire her advocacy of stem-cell research, and it's nice to have some Reagans on my side occasionally, but the "Just Say No" stuff left indelible mental scars, as I imagine was the case for quite a lot of young kids in the 80s; though it was ironically, educational in the end, in that it was my first encounter with the phenomenon of moralistic hypocrisy. To this day nothing sets off my bullshit alarm faster than an anti-drug message.)

So Much Sushi

Up to my eyeballs in work (in epistemology, in Farsi, in Dostoevsky analysis), and focused on the baseball playoffs, [and being fundamentally anti-social---hence the blog--ed.], I didn't go out at all this weekend. The highlight, aside from mainlining Schadenfreude off the squirming faces of Red Sox fans, and taking in the second-hand Schadenfreude of every non-NewsCorp network cluster-bombing the O'Reilly sexual harrassment case, was the sushi-eating contest I had with one of my roommates. Let be take a step back and describe this guy: he's a savant poker player and math whiz, and leads exactly the kind of lifestyle you'd expect of someone matching that description. In other words, general 4pm-4am waking hours and a diet out of Super-Size Me. I'm not quite sure what possessed me to challenge him to a contest at the sushi restaurant we went to in Hamden.

But it was I who came up with the terms of the bet: if he won, I would help him (in the most liberal sense of that term) with a German culture paper; if I won, he would foot the entire undoubtedly healthy bill. The challenge was to order various kinds of sushi rolls one after the other, split them evenly, and continue eating until someone either gave up or couldn't keep the contents of his stomach in his stomach. To sum up, after we'd bulldozed through about ten rolls, the kitchen closed for its break between lunch and dinner. We declared a draw and split the bill. The truth is, I was beginning to hit a wall. I might have been able to get through a couple more rolls, but not much beyond that. Though I can't be sure, he seemed maybe halfway full. Of course, if I'm ever asked about the contest, I can confidently say that I tied so-and-so at sushi-eating, and if pressed, I will maintain unequivocally that I had room for dozens more rolls.

After getting forced out of the sushi restaurant, he suggested that we settle the bet over Chicken McNuggets. But I had only proposed and agreed to sushi-eating; like (the sitcom character of) Jerry Seinfeld, I chose not to run. And so it shall always be. I'm retiring undefeated, and I choose not to run.

The Death Of The Kierkegaardian Aesthete: Thought For The Day

It was there that the big building with the watchtower stood. By the big locked gates of the building, leaning with his shoulder against them, stood a little man wrapped in a gray soldier's greatcoat and wearing a brass Achilles helmet. With drowsy eyes, coldly, he glanced sidelong at the approaching Svidrigalov. His face bore that expression of eternal, grumbling sorrow that is so sourly imprinted upon all faces of the Jewish tribe without exception. The two of them, Svidrigalov and Achilles, studied each other silently for a while. Achilles finlly thought it out of order for a an who was not drunk to be standing there in front of him, three steps away, staring at him point-blank and saying nothing.

"Zo vat do you vant here?" he said, still without moving or changing his position.

"Nothing, brother. Good morning!" Svidrigalov replied.

"It's de wrong place."

"I'm off to foreign lands, brother."

"To foreign lands?"

"To America."


Svidrigalov took out the revolver and cocked it. Achilles raised his eyebrows.

"Zo vat's dis, a choke? It's de wrong place!"

"But why is it the wrong place?"

"Because it's de wrong place!"

"Well never mind, brother. It's a good place. If they start asking you, just tell them he went to America."

He put the revolver to his right temple.

"Oi, dat's not allowed, it's de wrong place!" Achilles roused himself, his pupils widening more and more.

Svidrigalov pulled the trigger.
---From Chapter 6 of Part 6 of Crime and Punishment. I want to write an extended post at some point about the subject of Tolstoyevsky. Specifically, I want to argue that although Tolstoy was the greater novelist qua novelist, Dostoevsky far more acutely registered the deep truths of the human condition. Till I get around to it, I'd appreciate it if someone could enlighten me as to exactly why Nabokov detested Dostoevsky so. Sheer egoism played a part---but there's got to be more to it. After all, he overcompensated in his praise for Tolstoy, and acknowledged his huge debt to Joyce.

Speaking of whom, as minimally perceptive readers of this blog will have noticed, I'm clearly a Joyce guy. (That's why there's no apostrophe in "Finnegans"---though I insist it's named after both the book and the song.) Nevertheless, I'm beginning to be convinced, partly through life-experience and partly through my work in philosophy---in which I find radical skepticism, sucky as it is, the only ultimately tenable position in any field---that Dostoevsky (and Kierkegaard too, I think, despite the executive summaries of his works) appreciated something that Joyce might not have: namely that in the end, human life really can't be redeemed.

Sunday, October 17, 2004


Can we agree that anyone who supports the Federal Marriage Amendment and feins shock at John Kerry "gay-baiting" Mary Cheney is a cynical poseur? Can we further agree that ostensible supporters of gay rights who are nevertheless backing the BC-FMA-04 ticket and who think that calling an openly lesbian lesbian a lesbian is tantamount to "dissing" her are meta-cynical hacks?

MORE: Responding to Andrew Sullivan taking him to task for claiming that Kerry had "dissed" Mary Cheney, Glenn Reynolds writes:
It's not even an insult to call a straight person gay. But it is disrespectful to drag people into debates on sexuality on national TV. And it's disrespectful to do so as an effort to -- as Mickey Kaus suggested -- swing the votes of homophobes. I'm surprised that Andrew is so untroubled by this.

I think this illustrates that those who are expecting some special degree of sensitivity toward gay issues -- or privacy in general -- from a President Kerry are likely to be disappointed. Apparently, it's all just stuff to be manipulated for advantage.
Hmm. Special degree of sensitivity towards gay issues and privacy in general? I guess there's just no meaningful difference between a candidate who supported his state's gays-only anti-sodomy law, and one who thinks anti-sodomy laws are a bad idea. Nor is there a difference between a candidate who thinks that a special exception to the Equal Protection clauses of the Constitution should be built into the Constitution itself in order to make gays permanent second-class citizens, and a candidate who (you guessed it) thinks that's a bad idea. Nor between a candidate who thinks that the nation's founding document should prohibit any of the "legal incidents" of marriage from being conferred to gay couples, and a candidate who thinks that gay couples should be able to attain all the legal incidents of marriage. If Andrew Sullivan is right that Mr. Bush is really a "closet tolerant" (how tolerant can a fundamentalist Protestant really be?), then his decision to premise an entire campaign on gay-baiting---have we already forgotten Karl Rove's pronouncement about "God, guns, and gays---is even more poisonous than it would be coming from a genuine bigot.

Now if Kerry's intent was to "out" Mary Cheney (a difficult thing to do considering that she was head of gay and lesbian outreach for Coors Brewing, and that her parents have talked about her sexuality in public speeches) so that culturally conservative but economically populist voters in the midwest would turn on the Bush campaign, then I would agree that his move was classless. But I don't think that was the whole story. Timothy Noah's explanation of the Mary Cheney reference is at least as plausible as Mickey Kaus's:
I won't dispute that Kerry was using Mary Cheney to score a political point. But the political point was an entirely legitimate one, aimed, I believe, not at fundamentalists but at swing voters with libertarian leanings. Listen, Kerry was saying. This guy knows gay people, just like you and I do. So he must know that homosexuality isn't a "lifestyle choice." He must know that, and yet he pretends not to know it to score points with the religious right. How cynical can you get? And then he lends his support to a cockamamie Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage that even his right-wing-nut of a vice president can't stomach because his own daughter is gay. But even Cheney won't really speak out against this administration's exploitation of the gay-marriage issue to score cheap political points. Some father he is.
I suspect that some combination of the two motives was at work (I don't believe for a second that it was an off-the-cuff remark). Noah's theory raises the really salient point that Glenn Reynolds would have been talking about all summer if he were genuinely interested in the rights of gay people and not just a self-righteous shill. But I'll leave that point in Noah's words, since he puts it better than I could:
I think that's what made Lynne Cheney spitting mad--she resents the implication that the Bush-Cheney campaign sold out her own gay daughter. But you know what? It did. And you know what else? The evidence that Kerry would treat gays with greater tolerance than Bush is a pretty good reason to vote for Kerry.
The real outrage isn't Kerry's reference to Mary Cheney. It's that no one will ask Dick Cheney how he feels supporting a party whose members and candidates regard his daughter a degenerate, or why he would run on a platform of denying his daughter the right to marry the woman that she loves. In short, to paraphrase John Kerry, Kerry made a mistake in talking about how Dick Cheney sold out his own daughter; Cheney made worse than a mistake in mortgaging his daughter's civil rights for short-term gain of the Republican party. Which is worse?

Friday, October 15, 2004


The usually dour Noam Scheiber thinks that the third debate at least put Kerry in a strong position to win:
Meanwhile, if the story of the first two debates was that Kerry won by looking more in command even though he missed multiple opportunities to put Bush away, the opposite was the case last night. Kerry's repeated insistence that Bush chose to give a tax cut to the top one percent rather than fund homeland security or education or raise the minimum wage made Bush's priorities sound indefensible, which in fact they are. (After Kerry asserted that Bush had denied 9 million women several thousand dollars per year in higher wages while giving a $136,000-tax cut to millionaires, Bush could only feebly respond that Mitch McConnell once proposed a minimum wage bill he supported. Oh really? Well, you're the president, and your party controls both houses of Congress. Why isn't it the law?) When the candidates were asked about the recently lapsed assault weapons ban, Bush again absolved himself of responsibility, claiming he would have signed a bill but the Congress couldn't pass it. Kerry, on the other hand, invoked his experience as a prosecutor and hammered home the point that pretty much every law enforcement agency in the country backed the measure--and that the only people who opposed it were terrorists. (Kerry also took the opportunity to remind the audience he's a lifelong hunter.) Kerry, unlikely as it may seem, even managed to get off the best line of the night. When responding to one of Bush's charges--that Kerry couldn't pay for all his proposals--he opined that "Being lectured by the president on fiscal responsibility is a little bit like Tony Soprano talking to me about law and order in this country." It killed...

Throughout the debate, Kerry was the textbook definition of presidential--authoritative and forceful, but always magnanimous. This was never more true than when Kerry responded to a question pressing him about whether it was really fair to attack the president for poor job growth, since, in such a large economy, the president can only control so much. Kerry, poised as I've ever seen him, responded with a mixture of humility ("I don't blame them entirely for it. I blame the president for the things the president could do that has an impact on it"); candor ("Outsourcing is going to happen. I've acknowledged that in union halls across the country"); and ordinary good sense ("I will ... make certain that with respect to the tax system that you as a worker in America are not subsidizing the loss of your job. ... Today, if you're an American business, you actually get a benefit for going overseas"). Beautiful.
[Meta-note: Isn't the wonderful thing about blogging, really, that there's an automatic insta-cure to writer's block, i.e., cut-and-paste+link?--ed.]

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