You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2010.

Your hating-muslims update for Friday 18 Shaban 1431.
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To be honest, my iPad has disappointed me in some ways. I was expecting a revolutionary device that would fundamentally change my life, upending my sense of how I get from here to there, of what’s what, and even of who I am. But now, now I think I’ve found the product I’ve been waiting for:

Yes, friends, it’s Perky Jerky. And lest you think it’s just caffeinated beef jerky — that would be pedestrian — please understand that it’s actually “the first performance-enhancing meat snack”. Take that, Steve Jobs.

Interesting article on “Imam Muda,” reality TV from Malaysia in which young men compete for a job as an imam and a free trip to Saudi Arabia. Watch on youtube, learn to recite al-Fatihah. Fun for the whole family.

A public lament about how I wish you were marrying me! Leading to a jab from a colleague and then a bitchy email. Little did you know: your wedding day is all about your weird ex.

The release, by Wikileaks, of tens of thousands of government documents concerning the U.S.-Afghan War gives us a massive and overwhelming quantity of data about the conflict. Most of the documents are ground level reports of encounters, attacks, IEDs, snipings, and so on. These are the daily happenings of a long war, the grunt’s eye view, written up for higher authority in language overwhelmed by acronym.

From 2004:


From 2008:

At 1006Z, TF Helmand reported a Mine Find:
FF were conducting a domination patrol when they discovered 3x AP mines in an irrigation ditch.
EOD will exploit as a routine task, No injuries or damages reported.
NFI att.

At 1601Z, TF Helmand reported:

The final report will be submitted through the CIED chain.
NFTR. Event closed at 1554Z.

From 2008:

At 1609Z, 2/7 USMC COY reported an IED Strike:
FF were conducting a mounted security patrol when the struck an IED. FF have assessed the BDA: 3x KIA (USA, OEF), 1x WIA (USA, OEF, CAT A). NFI att.

Others have highlighted some of the specific intelligence, and are wading through the reports to look at each individually. I thought I would use a chart to show the progression of the war:

The blue lines chart the number of “Enemy Actions” that coalition soldiers reported. The red line charts the number of IED encounters that coalition forces had.

The intensity of fighting seems to have picked up in 2006-2007, plateaued a bit in 2008, and then jumped again in 2009. I should qualify that by saying that action and IED reports may also track with the number of troops in Afghanistan (more troops may mean more encounters). Nonetheless, “Enemy Action” reports tripled from 2005 to 2006, doubled from 2006 to 2007, and then doubled again from 2008 to 2009. IED encounters followed a roughly similar pattern. Such a massive increase is hard for me to identify as anything other than the most obvious thing: that Afghanistan reignited in 2005-06, and that the U.S. was not, as of the end of 2009, winning the war.

I agree and disagree with Scott; were Inception properly a movie interested in answering “is it a dream within a dream?”,  or even a film that tried to get us to guess, I would agree that it fails.  But I thought the movie succeeded, though it was good, but not great.   There will be spoilers after the jump, though nothing I think that would rob one’s enjoyment of the film.   Nor will there be a defense of Nolan himself after the jump; it would not surprise me that the man’s intentions could be defended, but the only other work of his I’ve seen is the Batman reboot, which was notable mostly for Heath Ledger’s performance, the disappearing pencil trick, and Batman flipping the truck.

What can I say?  I enjoyed it, and as a curmudgeon-in-training, I have a low tolerance for entertainment that purports to be about something big and philosophical but is really about the authors putting in random crap/polar bears and hoping that the fans will work it into their mythology and think that it’s deep, so I trust my instinct when I think there is something clever in a film.

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Edge of the American West, along with H-War will be hosting the next Military History Carnival, on August 17, 2010. Carnivals are an ancient and hoary Internet tradition, bringing together the best submitted work on a particular topic from around the web:

“A blog carnival is like a roving journal, a rotating showcase of interesting writing from around the blogosphere within a particular discipline. Individual bloggers volunteer to host a carnival on their personal blog, acting as chief editor for that edition. It falls to them to collect noteworthy items, and to sort through suggestions from the community, many of which are direct submissions from authors. On the appointed date (carnivals generally keep to a regular schedule) the carnival gets published and the community is treated to a richly annotated feast of new writing in the field.” [Future of the Book]

My belief is to construe military history as widely as possible: drums and trumpets, surely; the face of battle, most definitely; but also memorialization, gender, and anything else that seems related to war in all its forms.

Send potential entries here with the subject header “Military History Carnival Submission.” The deadline is August 15th.

Daniel Schorr, who died yesterday, is being remembered for his remarkable, decades-long career as a print, radio, and television journalist.  I’m familiar with one small slice of this story: I did an intensive study of his coverage of the intelligence beat for CBS News from 1974 to 1976 – coverage that ultimately cost him his job.  I came away from my research and from my interview with Schorr profoundly impressed by his commitment to disclosure and democracy.  Schorr was true believer in the public’s right to know, and the historical record is richer for it.

It was not easy to get Schorr to talk with me about the most painful incident in his career.  Read the rest of this entry »

It’s only Monday morning, but I hope this is the stupidest thing I read all week. Jeffrey Lord: Sherrod’s story about a lynched relative is false– the man was merely beaten to death after being arrested. No, seriously, that’s what it says.

I’ve been enjoying the NYT series The Stone, but not primarily for the quality of its articles, which both have been good introductory nibbles  and have in general satisfied my selfish requirement: if my mother reads this, will she be assured that it is still unlikely that my discipline requires hallucinogenic drugs?

Rather, I have enjoyed the comments to the articles, for amidst the gloaming where philosophy and philosophers are condemned as of little interest, reasons glimmer like fireflies.  But the writer didn’t think of… What about this?… You’ve overlooked…. Maybe this shows that instead we should…

It makes me smile.  Thou art the man, thou art the man.

Not sure what Fred Phelps was doing picketing Comic-Con, but it ended well enough from the standpoint of aggregate utility. Favorite sign: “F&*%#@# magnets, how do they work?” (If you feel like wasting some time, the wiki page on Phelps remains fascinating. Or try Phelps’ own God Hates Sweden [sic].)

Via Leiter, an interesting Academe Online article about BB&T’s gifts-with-strings-attached:

At the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, for example, three years passed before faculty members learned that a million-dollar gift agreement establishing a new course contained language requiring both that Rand’s lengthy paean to laissez-faire capitalism, Atlas Shrugged, be assigned reading and that professors who teach that course “have a positive interest in and be well versed in Objectivism.”

I went to an Ayn Rand Society meeting at an APA once, mostly out of morbid curiosity, and I remember wondering if some of the big-name contributors (people whose philosophical work is pretty well-known) were paid to be on the panel. (The paper that prompted this had the rough form “Here’s my view of concepts. Of course, Rand also had a view of concepts, but I’m not completely sure I understand it, so let’s move on to my stuff.”) Very weird, not as weird as the society for field-being, but definitely out there.

Also, a post from Leiter on the recently-discussed Mark Taylor. He’s agin’em!

Overposting binge hidden below. Updated with a really creepy video.
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I had the same reaction that many did to the report of the Israeli rape-by-deception case, which is that even if the guy lied, he’s not guilty of rape.  Over at feministphilosophers, there has been some pushback on that, and I’ll formulate the pushback argument like this.  As enlightened folk, we believe that lack of consent characterizes rape.   Consent is a notorious pain in the patootie (forgive the technical term), because someone can fail to consent even when appearances suggest that they didn’t object.   A 12-year-old is too young to consent; someone who fails to resist out of fear of physical harm hasn’t consented; someone who is incapacitated by a date-rape drug hasn’t consented.

Another way that apparent consent can be invalid is if the person has been deceived.  If a prankster serves you a delicious brownie telling you that it’s made of chocolate, and neglects to tell you about the secret ingredient, it’s fair to say that you didn’t consent to getting high.

In this case, the woman argues that she was deceived, and if she was, her consent would be meaningless.  Lack of consent means rape.

So, I’m still not convinced.  I think that the difference lies in whether we read the deception as warranting the assertion, “Yes, I consented, but I wouldn’t have if I’d known the truth” or “No, I really didn’t consent, because I was deceived in such a way that I couldn’t consent.”   I think that there are two categories, and that this case falls in the former category, and that to hold that this is an instance of rape, it has to be in the latter category.

My resistance is largely because describing her as giving consent only because she was deceived about his personal qualities pre-supposes that sex as fundamentally transactional.  The woman exchanges sex as payment for the man’s good qualities, and if he’s lying about his good qualities, then he’s, um, overcharging and she, er, deserves a refund.  (This is going nowhere good.)

The consent there is the consent typical of something like a contract.  That is not an unprecedented way of understanding sex, even in this day and age (save it for marriage! no one wants a cookie with a bite taken out!), but it strikes me that to endorse this idea of rape-by-deception one also has to endorse the concept of sex as a transaction, rather than something that two people might choose to do for fun.

Otherwise, she’s just freely consented to have sex with someone she met at a club who (may have) turned out to be a liar.    This wouldn’t preclude being attracted to someone for having certain qualities, or being rightfully angry if it turned out they misrepresented themselves, but I don’t think you can get to retroactively invalidating consent without building in more assumptions about sex.

That’s a first pass, at least.

Update: see below for an important emendation.

Our Bellesiles discussion got into the tedious issue of verifying students’ tragic stories. In the last few years my policy has been to accept all stories at face value, and to tell students that this is my policy.

Rationale one: ever have someone tearfully unfold a beloved relative’s death notice in front of you? Boy did I feel like an asshole.

Rationale two: this enables me to tell students that the cost of a lie-based extension is…being the kind of person who pimps grandma’s corpse for a week’s delay in handing in a paper. Whether this is a genuine harm to their well-being is an interesting philosophical question.

Rationale three: they always use the rope to hang themselves anyway. The late work is never any good, and I like giving out Ds more than I like failing people. (Fs are usually for colossal screw-ups or just disappearing; a D is like, I tried, but I was still terrible.)

Rationale four: be honest, you’ve lied to editors. It’s not that I’ve been playing starcraft II for 36 straight hours, it’s that I’m thoughtfully correcting all the typos. So really it’s a more accurate simulation of professional life.

Update I: [deleted on account of me being a prick. Apologies to all concerned.]
Update II: more seriously, and on reflection, the excuses offered to editors et al. very well might be (literally) true, though I suspect they often violate implicatures.
Update III: on a more practical note, a general policy of flexibility with deadlines lowers the incentive to lie.
Update IV: come to think of it, there’s a slightly interesting question about when implicature violation counts as a lie.

The Guardian reports “Arab man guilty of rape after consensual sex with Jew“:

Sabbar Kashur, 30, was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Monday after the court ruled that he was guilty of rape by deception. According to the complaint filed by the woman with the Jerusalem district court, the two met in downtown Jerusalem in September 2008 where Kashur, an Arab from East Jerusalem, introduced himself as a Jewish bachelor seeking a serious relationship. The two then had consensual sex in a nearby building before Kashur left.

When she later found out that he was not Jewish but an Arab, she filed a criminal complaint for rape and indecent assault.

I would convert if I could be assured of having game as smoove as Ari’s.

The Chronicle has appended this note to Michael Bellesiles’ article:
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There’s a not-very-interesting discussion of tenure at the NYT. Mark Taylor (religion, Columbia) makes this odd point against it:

To those who say that the abolition of tenure will make faculty reluctant to be demanding with students or express controversial views, I respond that in almost 40 years of teaching, I have not known a single person who has been more willing to speak out after tenure than before. In fact, nothing represses the free expression of ideas more than the long and usually fruitless quest for tenure.

That’s difficult for me to believe. (I note in passing the oddity of claiming that the job insecurity of the tenure track represses free expression but the job insecurity of a post-tenure employment system will not.) Here’s a short musing.
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I had more or less made my peace with the outcry over the Cordoba Initiative‘s community space + masjid near Ground Zero until the weekend’s Palin silliness.

As if you didn’t know, Palin tweeted as follows:

Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn’t it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate…Peaceful New Yorkers, pls refute the Ground Zero mosque plan if you believe catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers site is too raw, too real….Peace-seeking Muslims pls understand. Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls reject it in interest of healing

There’s something obscene about Palin reminding “peaceful” New Yorkers that the pain of 9/11 is “too raw.” But what really set me off is the idea that “peaceful Muslims” should oppose the masjid because of its associations with 9/11. Here’s the tension: we’re always hearing calls for “moderate muslims” to repudiate extremism, denounce terrorism, etc., but the guy heading the Cordoba Institute is pretty much the paradigm case of the moderate muslim who rejects al Qaeda, Sharia-for-all, global caliphate, all that. The Cordoba Initiative is all about being the moderate Muslim voice. One problem, therefore, is that he’s being opposed by the people ostensibly calling for…more of what he wants to do.

The second problem: the CI masjid will be “unnecessary provocation” only if people see the pain of 9/11 as caused by muslims rather than, say, extremist muslims in al Qaeda. (If I were more enthused about this post I’d make up a story about “how dare you build a synagogue near where that Jewish guy did that terrible thing” etc. etc.) Complaining about the symbolism or psychological effects just helps to cement the idea that the relevant reference class is muslim rather than something else. The point of amplifying the “moderate voice” is to show what is true, viz., the muslim community is a diverse one with a very small minority who likes to blow stuff up. The collective responsibility view implicit in Palin’s opposition is diametrically opposed to that. And you wonder why Step ibn-Fetchit doesn’t come running when you call. (NB slight edit for increased zing.)

Today’s David Brooks column is terrible as history or political semantics, but it nearly makes a minimally sensible point.
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