Sunday, January 22, 2006

Posts at Eazy E's crib

Posting may be fairly light as I travel the frozen north for the next week-plus. But I've got one piece over at Ezra's on Iran.

Friday, January 20, 2006


Says Ezra:

There's this mass belief among the Daniel Pipes-segment of the right that, whatever al-Qaeda says, their actual goal is to stand atop the carcass of the West while exercising total hegemony over the East. Maybe. But then there are all these moments where al-Qaeda says they'd really just like us off their holy lands and to stop invading Arab countries. And then there's my favored explanation: that bin-Laden wants power but needs support, and thinks pitting us against fairly banal demands for cultural autonomy will make America the sort of enemy he can gain power by attacking.

This may end up revealing more about me than about Bin Laden, but I stand a lot closer to the Pipes view. (I can't believe that Osama is so dumb as to think that 9/11 would prevent America from doing more invasions of Arab countries. And I'm guessing that the kind of guy who organizes dramatic acts of violent terrorism is a guy who lusts for the final battle. BTW, drunk post warning.) The problem I have with Ezra's view is that I can't even understand the allure of that kind of power.

Why does my utilitarian ass want power? So that I can bring about pleasure for everybody and reduce their pain. I can't really understand power as an end. Fame, I can understand, since it's fun to be admired. But there seems to be only a trivial amount of fun in being able to get what you want, if you set aside the fun of actually getting and enjoying the cool things you want. And so it seems deeply implausible to me that Osama is doing all this just because it's his path to power. That he does what he does for some deeper goal -- to bring the immoral West to its knees, or to set up a glorious society based on Islamic law, or because it would've impressed the hot chick he wanted in high school (okay, probably not that) makes sense to me. Power for power's sake doesn't.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

NZ finds Black Cocks hard to swallow

Whoever wrote this article was having way too much fun. (It's about New Zealand's badminton team.) The use-mention distinction is elided in favor of raunchiness. There should be quotation marks around "Black Cocks".

D is for Dumbass policy design

Can I link to Kate's latest excellent post on the Republicans' Medicare Part D screwup before Ezra can? Yeah!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Comments! at Tapped!

With no fanfare, the best policy blog on Earth just added comments, so I'm going to do my little happy dance here. Wooo! Comments!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

After Alito (the hearings, anyway)

Over at Ezra's, I've got a long retrospective on the Alito situation. Took a long time to write, but it expresses what I've been thinking as I watched this week's action. As you can guess, it's not especially happy. I think there are some nice bits in there as far as the writing goes.

In the excitingly titled "The Image of the Chessmaster", I consider the possibilities for Democrats presenting themselves as smart strategic thinkers who know how to properly defend America.

Sure, Iran's queen could take our rook. But then we take their queen. Which is why they won't. We're MAD Tough.

Friday, January 13, 2006

McGraw for something!

Those who have followed my strategic views know that I regard down-home populist flavor -- in the immortal words of Kung Fu Monkey, knowing how to say ain't -- as the key determinant of presidential electability. It's a very big deal in red-state local races too. So I'm pretty excited to see that country superstar Tim McGraw is considering a political career, and being encouraged by Bill Clinton. McGraw lists his number one issue as health care -- we'll make a country fan out of Ezra yet!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Letter to Specter

For what it's worth, I'm handwriting this and putting it in the mail today:

Dear Senator Specter,

Please do whatever you can to stop Samuel Alito from being confirmed to the Supreme Court.

Given his past decisions and his answers this far during the hearings, it's clear that Mr. Alito won't respect individual rights. His dissent in Doe v. Groody, where he allowed police to strip-search a ten-year-old girl and her mother despite the fact that they were not referred to in the search warrant, casts doubt on his competence as a judge. In the hearings, we've already heard that he does not consider Roe v. Wade to be settled law. This positions him even further to the right than John Roberts.

I ask you to do whatever you can -- voting against him in committee, supporting a filibuster against him, or voting to defeat him on the floor of the Senate -- to keep him off the Supreme Court.

Thank you for your consideration,
--Neil Sinhababu

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Medical innovation in Canada

Via Protagoras, it seems that Canadian medical researchers are discovering inexpensive and novel treatments for medical problems. Remember, though, that they are trained professionals. Don't try this at home.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Left Behind

As you'd expect, I've never read the books, but I thought this post by a liberal evangelical Christian on the Left Behind series was really neat.

As a sidenote, in David Velleman's ethics seminar a year ago, Huck Finn's choice was discussed in detail as we talked about Nomy Arpaly's Unprincipled Virtue, and I was in the "Huck! ohhhhyeah!" faction rather than in the "Noooo! Huck is a counterexample to my theory and must be eliminated!" faction. The part of Huck that wins out isn't the part that moral decision-making usually comes from, but it can still be responsible for morally right and rational decisions.

My travels

I've been having a great time down here in DC, staying with Tony and my other Harvard friends. I got to have dinner with Ezra twice at a nice Thai restaurant, and we consumed both fiery food and fire together. (Actually, I'm the only one who ate fire, but if he ever wants to learn, I'll be happy to teach. The left's advantage on health care policy is mighty, but other skills will be needed to bring us victory.) Matters of great moment were discussed between us, at which those outside the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy can only guess.

I'll be in Philly until the 18th, when I'll be going to Ann Arbor to hang out with the philosophy crew at the U of Michigan. Then it'll be to Cambridge MA on the 26th to go to Harvard's science fiction convention, and then back to Austin before February.

Orlando Bloom, objects, and states of affairs

This passage contains the funniest stuff in the first chapter of my dissertation. That isn't saying much, but I thought I'd post it anyway. It's about how we should regard desires as being for states of affairs and not for ordinary physical objects.

We say of Jenny that she wants chocolate, wants a diamond necklace, wants a goldfish, and wants Orlando Bloom. These are concrete objects and not states of affairs. Why should we translate our talk of desiring these objects to talk of desiring particular states of affairs? These cases may even seem more basic than the cases in which we desire states of affairs – after all, desires for food, sex, and simple possessions, often thought of as particularly basic cases, often are described as desires for objects. But there are good reasons to translate this object-talk into states-of-affairs talk. If we stay with object-talk, we will fail to understand exactly what Jenny will try to obtain and be pleased by. Jenny will try to eat chocolate, wear a diamond necklace, keep a goldfish in her aquarium, and make love to Orlando Bloom. She will not try to wear chocolate, eat a diamond necklace, make love to a goldfish, or keep Orlando Bloom in her aquarium. Object-talk is merely a convenient shorthand for states-of-affairs talk. It leaves out the essential differences between the ways we wish to interact with the objects, while states-of-affairs talk specifies this clearly. (Part of why it seems so natural to us may have to do with the way desire directs attention. If Orlando Bloom enters Jenny’s environment, her desire will cause her to focus her attention on him and not other objects in the area, since he is the thing that is most powerfully associated with her desires. However, when she plans future courses of action, her mind will be directed more towards possible states of affairs where she makes love to Orlando Bloom than possibilities where she keeps him in her aquarium.)

So, not an especially funny chapter, but I do what I can. I'm hoping that Orlando Bloom is a reasonable choice for the lusted-after-man role -- feedback, ladies?

On a more philosophical note, I don't know anybody who has actually defended the objects view in print, though it's a response I occasionally get from people. So I thought it was worth responding to.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Vince Young!

My first foray into online sports betting is going fairly well, so far -- I lose $9 if Texas loses the Rose Bowl, but I gain $20 if they win. Texas currently leads 16-10 at the half, partly because Vince Young is playing amazingly well and the Longhorn defense is containing Reggie Bush.

Still, Intrade has an over 50% chance of USC winning... I'm thinking of raising the stakes... but spreads widen just as the 2nd half begins and my order doesn't fill...

...and Texas wins! $20.70 credited to my Intrade account. Too bad the extra bets didn't go through. The reasoning behind my wager, by the way, is explained by Yglesias here.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Hackett minus the uniform

As I thought over the "Fighting Dems" discussion that Dadahead and I participated in, something occurred to me. Who do you get if you take Paul Hackett and subtract his military service? You get a fiery critic of the Iraq War with liberal views on social issues other than gun control, moderate fiscal views, and a whole lot of love from the netroots.

In other words, you get Howard Dean. And there's no way Howard Dean polls 48% in OH-2. See how different people look in uniform?