12/31/06

12/29/06

2006, the year in records (consumerist edition)

As near as I can remember, these are the cds I bought this year:
  • Art Blakey - Moanin'
  • The Decembrists - The Crane Wife
  • The Dresden Dolls - Yes, Virginia
  • The Dresden Dolls - The Dresden Dolls
  • Bob Dylan - Modern Times
  • Bob Dylan - Love and Theft
  • Duke Ellington - Money Jungle
  • k.d. lang - Reintarnation
  • Charles Mingus - Blues and Roots
  • Judas Priest - British Steel
  • Public Enemy (feat. Paris) - Rebirth of a Nation
  • DJ Q*Bert - Wave Twisters, Episode 7 Million: Sonic Wars Within the Protons
  • Horace Silver - Horace-Scope
  • DJ Shadow - Endtroducing
  • DJ Shadow - Funky Skunk
  • DJ Shadow - The Outsider
  • The Stanley Brothers - Amazing Grace
  • Johnny Valentino - Stingy Brim
  • Various - 18 Truck Driving Classics
  • Rhonda Vincent - All American Bluegrass Girl
  • Randy Weston - Zep Tepi
  • X-Ecutioners - Built from Scratch
How bout y'all?

Addendum: What the hell? Let's make it a meme. Wobblie, Eric, and Dru, consider yourselves tagged.

Double plus addendum: I totally forgot Roscoe Holcomb - the high lonesome sound, which is altogether awesome, and the day after posting this I got a whole passle of cds from may Amazon wishlist as gifts. So add some Ricky Skaggs, Woody Guthrie, and miscellaneous bluegrass to the list. More importantly, you should check out wobblie's response.

As long as I'm addending: There was a Charlie Parker box set back in January, but it was crap. Not because of the bird, but because of the production.

12/27/06

But Gerry, I said, that's an elective office...

Notable deaths in 2006:

12/26/06

MAKOTO NAGANO!!!!!!!!!!!

We now return to our regular scheduled, cliche ridden, end of the year, non-ninja warrior blogging.

2006 - The year in cultural literacy (an incomplete list)

Television: Deal or No Deal, Battlestar Galactica, Big Love

Political Books: Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq - Thomas E. Ricks, State of Denial - Bob Woodward

Video Games: Wii Sports

Music Videos: Gnarls Barkley, Crazy

Albums: Bob Dylan, Modern Times; Justin Timberlake, Future Sex/Love Sounds; Ornette Coleman, Sound Grammar

Movies: Little Miss Sunshine, Borat

Teh Internets: YouTube, Second Life

Sports: Zidane's head

Miscellaneous predictions

  • Deal or No Deal will turn out not to have legs.

  • Rather than continue to preside over a disastrous attempt to pacify Baghdad street by street, Robert Gates will resign as Secretary of Defence after less than six months.

  • The Wii will blow the PS3 completely out of the water. Sony, emerging from bankruptcy in 2008, will enter into talks with Sega, Atari, and Electronic Arts focused on updating and endorsing the 3DO platform.

  • Hillary Clinton will withdraw from the 2008 presidential race.

  • Mark McGwire will not receive enough votes to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

  • There will be a major terrorist strike somewhere in the world on the 11th day of some month. It will involve coordinated bombings of public transportation. If it's in the United States, nationwide standards will be adopted making it so inconvenient to use public transit that everyone will drive.

  • The klezmer scene will continue not to expand.

12/25/06

This X-mas in death

Item: James Brown, R.I.P. My suggestion for the tombstone: "Wife beating bastard, but funky"

Item: Six GIs dead in Iraq this weekend, making 81 so far this month.

Item: CNN was too depressing, so I turned to TNT to watch Angel. First commercial was for something called a final wishes planner, which is pretty clearly a gimmick to sell life insurance, or maybe funeral plans. Presumably to old, lonely people.

Happy Holidays!

12/24/06

Odd

Once upon a time there was a seven word string which, if you googled it, would return TheBellman as one of the top results. Then I used that string for the title of a post pointing out that TheBellman was one of the top results. Within a few hours, that string no longer returned TheBellman as a top result. Except now it does again. Huh.

12/22/06

Headline most likely to be turned into an emo song

Moths drink the tears of sleeping birds

Of course, if you actually read the article, it gets a lot more gruesome.
A species of moth drinks tears from the eyes of sleeping birds using a fearsome proboscis shaped like a harpoon, scientists have revealed. The new discovery – spied in Madagascar – is the first time moths have been seen feeding on the tears of birds.

But sleeping birds have two eyelids, both closed. So instead of the soft, straw-like mouthparts found on tear-drinking moths elsewhere, the Madagascan moth has a proboscis with hooks and barbs “shaped like an ancient harpoon”, Hilgartner says. This can be inserted under the bird’s eyelids, where the barbs anchor it, apparently without disturbing the bird.

12/21/06

Edward R. Murrow never had to deal with this

All week I have been trying to post something substantive, so that DR doesn't have to fill up all my empty space with baseball posts, but, I have to admit, I am having Serious-Policy-Posting block. I don't know if it's because I am pages deep into my latest work of fiction, or whether I am just behind on all issues of relevance.

Anyway, the blockage continues, so in lieu of substance, I give you... genitalia in flight!

CNET's Second Life bureau was assaulted the other day during an interview with virtual land magnate Anshe Chung. As the interview was set to begin, the CNET theater was set upon by a horde of animated flying penises.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the future.

I believe this is exactly what William Gibson was envisioning when he wrote Neuromancer. I can just picture his editor calling him up. "Yeah, the story is great...very innovative, cutting-edge stuff. Could use a few less airborne dicks."


Click on through for a youtube video of the incident.

Yes, this is one of those hall of fame posts

Some time ago I wrote a post proposing revised magic numbers for entrance into the Baseball Hall of Fame. One thing I didn't do in the original post was list the excluded players who would merit inclusion given my proposals, so I've posted that list after the jump.

Looking back, I think a couple of the numbers I proposed might be a little bit on the low side, and that there are others -- 4750 total bases for example -- that few players reach without also passing one of the more established benchmarks. One number, 4000 strikeouts, jumps out as being on the high side. Only four players have hit that plateau: Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, and Steve Carlton. If the number were lowered to 3000, only three players not currently in the hall would be added to the list: Bert Blyleven, Greg Maddux, and Curt Shilling.

Of the purely statistical benchmarks proposed, the one I'm most perplexed by are triples. There are lots of pre-modern players with more than 150 triples, along with a handful of players whose careers went into the 1930s, but the only unambiguously modern players to hit that mark are Stan Musial, Roberto Clemente, and Lou Gehrig. The change, I'm given to understand, has something to do with advances in glove and fence technology. Among players active in my lifetime, Willie Wilson is the career triples leader with 147. Among active players, the aging Steve Finley is way out in front with 124. I guess my thinking when writing the original post was that anybody who could hit 150 in the modern era must be a hall of famer.

The numbers that commenters gave me the hardest time about in response to the original post were gold gloves and all-star appearances. You can follow the link to the original post to read my dismissive response to those criticisms. Looking now at the list of excluded players that those benchmarks would include, though, inclines me to agree that they are too permissive.

(Key: * - active player, + - has exhausted HOF eligibility, @#!% - Pete Rose)

12/19/06

Being a cheerful post addressing certain aspects of our nation's priapismic foreign policy

As the national conversation about Iraq grows ever more reasonable, it becomes easier and easier to fall prey to a sort of perverse optimism. Yes, the thinking goes, things are awful, but at least the right questions are being asked. At least the ISG report's assessment of the situation is grounded in reality. At least the Democrats aren't engaging in a more hawkish than thou pissing match with the Republicans. At least the American people seem to understand that this war is an unmitigated disaster. At least, at least, at least.

But, you know, as a certain wise head reminded us today, the President of the United States still has a raging hard on for this war. Maybe, just maybe a new fact has slipped into his worldview. Maybe he now believes that Iraq is spinning out of control into an ever more violent civil war. The question is, what is he going to do with this information?

Well, if the rumors are true then we have a good idea of the first part of his plan. He wants more troops in Baghdad. The thinking seems to be that we won the first battle of Baghdad too quickly, so it's time to start another, bloodier, one.

Huzzah!

In second step of the new plan for victory news, Bush seems to be taking certain parts of Powell's we-don't-have-enough-troops-to-control-Baghdad critique seriously:
"I'm inclined to believe that we do need to increase our troops — the Army, the Marines," Bush told the Post. "And I talked about this to Secretary Gates and he is going to spend some time talking to the folks in the building, come back with a recommendation to me about how to proceed forward on this idea."
|The Washington Post|

The article includes the qualification that, "substantial military expansion will take years and would not be meaningful in the near term in Iraq." Which, you know, would be a comforting sentiment if there were some reason to hope that the next near term after this one was going to be one in which the United States wasn't bogged down in Iraq.

Just in time for X-mas

Got my check today for my vast online poker winnings. I cashed out, of course, because the GOP Congress was kind enough to prepare the way for electoral defeat by outlawing internet gaming. Way to go, Grand Olde Partypoopers!

12/18/06

This post is not about the Hall of Fame

Talk about an eye catching headline: Indian runner fails gender test, loses medal

Before following the link, I spent some time imagining the questions.
  1. True or False: Sex roles are innate, and do not vary between cultures or over time.
  2. True or False: Gender is a set of signs internalized, psychically imposed on the body and on one's psychic sense of identity.
  3. True or False: All binaries necessarily present false dichotomies.

Silly me! It was a medical test.

From the article:
The test reports sent to the Indian Olympic Association on Sunday said [Santhi] Soudarajan "does not possess the sexual characteristics of a woman," The Times of India reported.
...
An Indian athletics official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media said Sounderajan almost certainly never had sex-change surgery.

Instead, the official said Sounderajan appeared to have "abnormal chromosomes." The official also said the test revealed more Y chromosomes than allowed.

The most likely conclusion seems to be that Soudarajan[1] is an intersex person who identifies as female. Now, I understand that intersex persons face significantly more serious obstacles than being denied eligibility to participate in athletic competitions, but still, this sucks. Even if we exclude all of the effort Soudarajan put into training, her genetic endowment goes a lot deeper than the fact that she hapens to have an extra Y chromosone. Why is that particular abnormality grounds for exclusion from competition while Lance Armstrong's freakishly efficient (and apparently innate) respiration is hunky dory? Or how about Shaq's freakish size?

The answer, of course, is that those other genetic abnormalities don't blur the distinction between women's and men's sports. Fair enough. But the thing is, intersexuality isn't all that rare -- conservative estimates put the frequency of intersexual condition at about 1 per 2000 births. (By contrast, whatever confluence of genetic and environmental factors account for growing to a height of 7 feet are much, much, much, much, much, much rarer.) And if intersexuality isn't particularly rare, then the genetic distinction between men and women is already fairly blurry. In the face of that, insisting on a non-blurry distinction in sport seems wrong-headed.

----------
1 Of the article's three spellings of the athlete's name, s-o-u-d-a-r-a-j-a-n seems most plausible to me, so that's what I'm going with.

12/17/06

(and so do girls)

Alternate title for this post: We'll all be gay when...

(via, indirectly via)

I didn't see this in the decumbiture

There must be some bizarre astrological convergence today, some relationship expressed beyond whatever pedestrian harmonic controls vehicular safety. How else could it come to pass that a public figure is both appearing on a Sunday morning talk show and making sense about Iraq?

I'm talking about Colin Powell who, on Face the Nation this morning, first tore to shreds the Bush Administration's troop surge gambit and then offered a realistic assessment of what we can usefully do going forward. It was surreal.

At a fundamental level, Powell's criticism of the troop surge gambit is that it comes without any discernable rationale. In response to speculation that the troops will go to Baghdad and be part of an effort to stabilize the city Powell says, refreshingly, that 40,000 troops can't do that and that "The American army isn't large enough to secure Baghdad."

Plus, in a nod to all the wonks out there, he linked this critique to a three point test for evaluating any further use of military force in Iraq. Here's how it goes:
  1. Is there a clearly articulated mission?
  2. Can that mission be accomplished?
  3. Do we have enough troops to accomplish the mission?

I don't know about you, but I've always been a sucker for a Powell doctrine.

As for his plan going forward, it's basically the ISG recommendation without the permanent bases and rapid reaction force. That is, Powell thinks that we should work with the elected Iraqi leadership to help them train police and put in place the political pieces that are going to make possible the establishment of stability.

Will this work? I'm not overly optimistic, but then, neither is Powell. Which is, I'll say it again, refreshing. It's not a give up and get out plan and it's not a stay the course plan. It's a figure out what we can productively do, do it, and live with the consequences plan.

All of which brings me to this. Whatever happened to the Colin Powell presidential speculation? I know that the conventional wisdom is that he lost his chance with his WMD testimony at the UN, but I have trouble seeing why that's supposed to matter so much. The bad spin, I guess, is that it shows that he's either dishonest or won't stick to his principles. But, you know, it's hard to see how that sets him apart from the field. And, anyway, there's positive spin too. Namely, that Powell is a team player.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that I'm on the Powell 2008 bandwagon, but he looks pretty good to me on the key issue of getting the hell out of Iraq. Unlike establishment Democrats, Powell wouldn't feel the need to prove his hawkishness. And unlike establishment Republicans he's not a melange of batshit crazy and evil incarnate.

Update: Video of the appearance is up at Crooks and Liars.

12/15/06

Is that a Taurus in that Taurus?

According to a study by InsuranceHotline.com, a Web site that quotes drivers on insurance rates, astrological signs are a significant factor in predicting car accidents.

The study, which looked at 100,000 North American drivers' records from the past six years, puts Libras (born September 23-October 22) followed by Aquarians (January 20-February 18) as the worst offenders for tickets and accidents. Leos (July 23-August 22) and then Geminis (May 21-June 20) were found to be the best overall.


Gemini, for the win!

Romanov originally wanted to have some fun by examining astrological signs as a possible cause for the variance between insurance companies quoting high and low rates but didn't expect to find anything interesting.
...
Even age, another variable for determining insurance rates, is less of a consideration to Romanov. The cutoff line for being considered a higher risk driver is 24 years of age; 25-year-olds are considered not-high risk.

"I'd rather get into a car with a 24-year-old Leo than a 25-year-old Aries," Romanov said.
...
"I wasn't believing in it before," said Romanov, "but I would think twice before getting into a car with an Aries." (link)


Don't even get me started on Scorpios. So, what's your sign?

UPDATE: I thought I'd share the thoughts of zombie Hervé Villechaize:



I guess the Foley jokes will continue until someone eclipses him in the sex-with-minors category.

12/14/06

What you choose to call Hell, he calls home

So I flipped over to G4 hoping to catch an unscheduled episode of Ninja Warrior, but what they're showing is...well I don't really know what it is. They'll show about 30 seconds of scenes from various...well, I don't really know what they are. Let's call them left handed video games. Anyway, after a few scenes of digital cheesecake, they'll do about ten seconds of footage from some kind of chainsaw murder rampage video game. With spurting blood. And then back to the computer generated hotties.

Is the auteur elucidating the Dworkinite claim that hetero branded sexuality is inextricably linked to violence? Or does the auteur just enjoy the juxtoposition of heaving bosoms and showers of blood? Tough to say.

Are Shatner nominations still being accepted?

'cos if they are then I nominate Joe Rogan.

12/13/06

There they go again

Buoyed by a landmark victory in Michigan in November, backers of the anti-affirmative action Michigan Civil Rights Initiative -- also known as Proposal 2 -- are set to announce plans today for similar ballot proposals in other states in 2008.
...
Gratz confirmed the states where petition drives and ballot proposals are most likely. Those states are: Oregon, South Dakota, Nevada, Nebraska, Missouri, Arizona and Colorado. |source|

If you happen to live in one of those states, I don't have any advice to help you beat the MCRI, but I will say this: what's worse than losing is losing after making a strategic decision not to use the campaign to have a serious public discussion about race, gender, and privilege.

By day a tiny wheel at the cracker factory, but by night... Rollerman!



via egg.

Reading

I've always thought of myself as a slow reader, so was pleasantly surprised by my results on this test. 500 words a minute, baby. Boo-Ya! Almost as fast as Ezra Klein, from whom I lifted the link. Interestingly, I got through the non-fiction test considerably quicker than the fiction test, which wasn't what I expected. Probably it's the imagery.

For the record, I think there's something a little screwy about not skimming when reading nonfiction. By my lights, what you're supposed to do is skim really fast and then go back and puzzle over the important parts.

In other reading news, I finally broke down and got a subscription to Harper's. The first issue arrived yesterday and was a bit of a disappointment -- it's the same issue that I got the subscription card out of three weeks ago. Anyway, riddle me this: Is Harper's the best English language magazine or what?

12/12/06

Don't blow a vein over this one. Seriously

If I understand her correctly, Pam Spaulding wants us to call up Wal Mart and complain about a game they are planning on selling "Left Behind: Eternal Forces," a video game based on the Left Behind franchise. Why she's upset about it, I'm not exactly sure. You can play as Christians in the end times, crusading to kill or convert the heretics. But you can also play on the side of the anti-christ, so I figure that's a push. Also, this game will be on sale everywhere, given that it does not have an "M for Mature" rating.

This is not the kind of thing for which I go to Pandagon or other lefty blogs. In fact, this is the sort of thing for which I regularly ridicule right-wing blogs.

I mean, what's next for Pandagon? Lauding the V-chip? Toughening up those parental warnings based on ideology instead of gore and sex? Fan-fucking-tastic.

Those who really want to have a sense of the game should check this out. WARNING: Boring material past link.

A great gift idea

Syphillis plush toy:


From ThinkGeek.

(via)

Let it be known that I still want a 'Syphillis is for Lovers' Tee.

12/11/06

At least somebody knows what's what

Is a new turn of phrase properly called a neologism, or is that term exclusively reserved for new words? I just don't know.

Anyway, I've been wondering about the provenance of the phrase, "Can I help who's next?"

For all I know this unholy mishmash of "Can I help you?" and "Who's next?" has been around for years, but I first noticed it in Chicago last summer. Now it seems like I hear it every time I stand in line. I've learned that those who deploy the phrase are often uninterested in discussions of usage.

Luckily, there's Language Log. Apparently this is an example of the fused relative construction, which is all but extinct in English. Who knew?

12/10/06

More Hall of Fame blogging

The two glaring Baseball Hall of Fame voting related factual errors in Mr. 3000 are, of course, that the Hall of Fame voting results are announced at mid-season and that Bernie Mac's Stan Ross is admitted to the Hall of Fame a single year after his second retirement. I wonder, though, whether the premise of the film -- that having merely 2997 hits could stand in the way of Hall admittance -- isn't also in error.

A quick look at the list of career leaders for hits reveals that among those who are eligible for the Hall but excluded, Andre Dawson has the most hits at 2774. Vada Pinson, at 2757, has the highest hit total among those who are excluded and no longer on the ballot. Harold Baines, for what it's worth, just hit the ballot this year with 2866 career hits.

Speaking of exclusion from the Hall of Fame, Steve Garvey is down to two years of ballot eligibility. He was named on only a quarter of ballots last year, and has never been named on more than 43%, so it's looking like he won't make it into the Hall of Fame. It's a shame.

Admittedly, his numbers are short of what one expects from a Hall of Famer: 2588 hits; 272 home runs, 1308 RBI, 1143 runs, and 440 doubles. On the other hand, the fact that he made ten All-Star rosters (including eight in a row from 1974-81) shows that he was one of the dominant players of his generation. That ought to count for a lot.

The officer is off patroling all the nation

My reaction to this story pretty much tracks Balko's:
Here we had a man who presented an immediate threat to the people inside that building. The SWAT team acted quickly, decisively, and killed the guy with minimal risk to bystanders. It's exactly the kind of thing SWAT teams were intended to, and it's what they excel at.

I'm not anti-SWAT. But confrontational, volatile, dangerous tactics ought to be reserved for confrontational, volatile, dangerous people. Nonviolent offenders don't meet that standard. Rampaging, hostage-taking, murdering gunmen do. |Balko|

Maybe thinking about this case will clarify something about the points I've been arguing here, here, and in comments here.

Part of my discomfort with what I have called the police-defense rationale is that it authorizes force whenever police find themselves facing what appears to be a 'confrontational, volatile, dangerous' person, with no regard for how the situation came to be. To think in terms of the police-defense rationale is to trap oneself into thinking that there is a stark choice to be made between allowing police officers free reign to protect themselves and significantly curtailing their right to act in their own defense. But that just isn't how things are. To the contrary, in many cases where the police-defense rationale is deployed the need for defense arose because the police made a choice to escalate a confrontation.

It is perfectly obvious that there are situations like the one in Chicago, situations where the police are called in to bring a violent situation under control, and where nothing short of deadly force will accomplish that. Moreover, it's clear that we have an interest in having a police force which can bring such situations under control.

It is also obviously true, however, that police frequently escalate confrontations with citizens. I think this habit of escalation is problematic for a lot of reasons, but for right now just focus on the fact that police escalation sometimes results in police using deadly force when it wouldn't otherwise have been necessary. Isn't it just as clear that we have an interest in avoiding situations like that?

12/6/06

Why, sir, I do so admire your fair and balanced tone!

Ok, so I was going to write a post about this quote:
There is no way to know for sure whether this report is true, but I don't think it would be surprising if Democrats, anticipating their new Congressional majorities next month, are already talking to our country's enemies with a view toward crafting their own foreign policy. |John Hindraker|

And what I was going to do was ask, what fallacy is at work here? I think it might be an Appeal to Hatred, but I'm not sure. Could be that the problem is using question begging language.

Anyway, while nosing around the internets I discovered that someone had invented a neolatinism for the fallacy of playing the Hitler card. It's argumentum ad nazium.

I think that's just hilarious.

While we wait for the big news from Mars...

12/5/06

Good news from Mars?

I bring you reporting from the great nation of Canada, which is like America but with some French thrown in. I'm traveling for work, and the last time I travelled for work I was stuck in a hotel room as we began the war in Iraq with a little shock and awe.

So sitting here in a hotel room is bringing back some of that vibe, and I'm kind of depressed and I have a sense of foreboding about the news. On the other hand, tomorrow Nasa is announcing a significant find on Mars. Unless the found a malevolent alien race bent on human conquest, this might be good news.

Tang!

Little was known about the causes and chemistry of farting until the space race of the 1960s and 70s when Nasa became so concerned about the possibility of spacemen being asphyxiated by their own methane in their sealed space suits that they carried out detailed research into the problem. |link|

(via)

12/4/06

What's going on in Lebanon?

I really don't know. This is one of those situations where being a blog consumer may lead to some serious misunderstanding of what's happening. But what I'm reading is Juan Cole and Abu Kais, Michael Totten's current guest blogger.

Music monday


Everybody knows about Pandora, right? If not, you should really check it out. It's a "radio station" that finds music that is similar to music you already like. As they continue to add features that enhance your ability to direct the flow of any given "station," and, critically, they add lots more music to Pandora's database, it's becoming my go-to music player at work.

On a similar principle, I suppose, is The Filter. I haven't tried this yet because it's not available for Mac, but it promises to dynamically build playlists of similar music out of your own iTunes library. There's some buzz about this little app, but, oddly, no wikipedia entry... for some people, that means it might as well not even exist!

It's unclear to me how The Filter works. One thing I like about Pandora, by contrast, is that they are very up front about and proud of the underlying idea of the software, which is the Music Genome Project. Rather than somehow mathematically analyzing music for similarities (which will someday be possible), they use our existing, semantic descriptions of music to relate various songs.

Lastly, operating on no principle I can discern, is Musicovery, which definitely has the most interesting-looking interface. It occurs to me--as I see the same few bands come up again and again on Musicovery--that even if these applications are built on some sort of sound principle, the actual results could easily and invisibly manipulated to promote certain record labels. Payola is illegal, but payola-with-a-lowercase-p could be pretty rampant on the net.

UPDATE: I fixed the links. Also, from the comments, Lisa B points us to another interesting internet music thingamajig, Last.fm.

12/3/06

Nip it in the bud

We desperately need a substantive post around here. Not sure that I'm up to it, but here's a remainder from our recent police violence thread.

A very widely held view seems to be that police shootings, or at any rate, the shoot first tactics employed by police, are justified by the fact that the individuals targeted by police violence appeared to pose a threat, or fit the profile of a threat poser, or something like that. Call this the police-defense rationale.

When encountering the police-defense rationale it is tempting, for me at least, to get into a discussion focused on whether the apparent threat was as serious as supposed by police. Arguing this point, however, already concedes a contentious claim. Namely, that these sorts of police tactics are properly justified on the same sorts of grounds that you or I might use to justify acting in self-defense against what philosophers charmingly call an Unjust Aggressor.

One reason to doubt the claim that the police-defense rationale parallels the principle of self-defense is that there is a significant disanalogy between paradigm cases of self-defense and the sorts of situations that advocates of the police-defense rationale would judge permissible.

In a paradigm case of self-defense, you are set upon by an Unjust Aggressor and face the choice of either defending yourself with deadly force or suffering grievous harm. Among the morally relevant facts here are that it is the Unjust Aggressor who chose to bring about a situation such that one of you will die or suffer grievous harm, and the severity of the consequences you will certainly face if you refrain from using deadly force.

Now, compare this to a situation in which police have invaded a home in the middle of the night and employ deadly force when faced with an apparently armed occupant. Unlike the paradigm self-defense case, this situation is one such that deadly force is used by the party responsible for circumstances being as they are. Also unlike the paradigm case, this situation is one in which deadly force is used by a party which cannot be sure that the alternative is death or grievous harm.[1] Lastly, it is worth noting that the police created this situation in order to avoid the possibility of a consequence much less serious than death, namely the possibility that evidence might be destroyed if less aggressive tactics were to be employed.

The point is that the police-defense rationale allows the use of deadly force in a much wider range of cases than would the traditional principle of self-defense. As such, one need not accept the police-defense rationale merely because one accepts the principle of self-defense. Further, insofar as one accepts the limitations commonly placed on the principle of self-defense, there would appear to be good reason to think that the police-defense rationale goes too far.

Leaving all this aside, there seems to me to be another reason to distrust the police-defense rationale. Consider that police already have, prior to any threat to themselves or bystanders, the right to employ force in the line of duty. Given that police have this right, it seems ad hoc to maintain that there is a subset of cases in which the right of the police to use force rests on a separate rationale. Which is not to say that I'm personally in possession of anything like a general justification for police employment of force. I suspect, however, that any plausible account of legitimate police violence is going to insist that show a lot more restraint than they currently do.

----------
1 The claim here is just that given (a) the obscurity of the possible threat; (b) the fact that untrained persons tend to be bad shots; and, (c) the fact that the police are wearing body armor, the police can't claim anything like the certainty found in paradigm cases of self-defense.

Ooooo! Check out those gnarly graphics!

On the off chance that you don't care about video game industry marketing strategy circa 1981, let me just tell you that Phil Hartman shows up around the one minute mark of this six minute YouTube odyssey.

(via)

12/2/06

Ninja Warrior!


Just between you and me, I'm starting to watch a lot of G4.

12/1/06

Famous birthdays

I thought these descriptions were funny.
1870: George Cormack
cereal inventor (Wheaties)

1867: John Robert Gregg
Ireland inventor (shorthand)
|June 17|

Since I can't have a lightsaber (yet), I'm thinking about building one of these


CrunchGear

Bombs

Speaking of movies, both of the new releases that I've seen in the theater this year have been box office bombs. A Scanner Darkly made just $5.5 million, and The Science of Sleep is sitting at something like $5 million..

What's up with that? The Science of Sleep was both awesome and got good reviews. A Scanner Darkly was less awesome, but it looked really pretty and had a lot of geek cred. You'd think the illegal drug user audience alone would put each of those films past the $10 million mark. I mean, Phish had a career.

Speaking of boffo box office, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest was the only movie to top $300 million this year, and earned as much as the #2 and #3 films combined. What is up with that?

(I did look all of this up on Boxofficemojo, but I can't get their site to load this morning, so you'll just have to trust me)
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