09 April 2010

Modulus of Density

These sausages are exceptionally heavy this morning. No light, fluffy, quennelles-in-a-casing here; these are all (and, in the third item, almost literally) made with ground plutonium. They're not quite dense enough to have their own event horizons, but they're close.

  • Justice Stevens is retiring. Thus, we have another summer of personal attacks on intelligent candidates to look forward to, and Republican use of "liberal" in the same way that they used "nigger" sixty years ago. At the moment, I'd say that Judge Diane P. Wood has a slight inside track, since (like Justice Stevens was) she's from the Seventh Circuit, and geographic diversity has a long history of playing an unpublicized role in selection of candidates for the Court. That's not what I'd prefer; I'd prefer someone who understands science from the inside, because that's the experience deficit most obvious on the Court. But then, I don't have any inside information or get to name the nominee... and Judge Wood isn't exactly chopped liver. In the slightly longer term, my concern is that the departure of Justice Stevens will leave Justice Thomas — at least for the first half of next Term — "in charge" of civil procedure decisions... and his batting average on getting those questions "right", or seeing that procedural questions control over the substance, is not very good. IMNSHO, of course.
  • The American Society of Media Photographers has filed its own lawsuit against the Google Library Project/Google Book Search system (PDF). Strangely, the complaint looks an awful lot like the "better" complaint I described way back with the Authors['] Guild filed its version, including the multiple incidents of infringement, the request for injunction, and the revised class definitions.
  • Barack Obama has begun to pay back (or, perhaps, forward) on that Nobel Peace Prize with the first significant nuclear disarmament treaty in far too long and substantial narrowing on potential uses for nukes. And as proof that the "traditional" media is too "liberal," the WaPo has provided the ignoramus Charles Krauthammer a continuing forum to spew his ignorant bullshit. Today, he bloviates:

    However, if the lawyers tell the president that the attacking state is NPT-noncompliant, we are free to blow the bastards to nuclear kingdom come. This is quite insane. It's like saying that if a terrorist deliberately uses his car to mow down a hundred people waiting at a bus stop, the decision as to whether he gets (a) hanged or (b) 100 hours of community service hinges entirely on whether his car had passed emissions inspections.

    Apart from being morally bizarre, the Obama policy is strategically loopy. Does anyone believe that North Korea or Iran will be more persuaded to abjure nuclear weapons because they could then carry out a biological or chemical attack on the United States without fear of nuclear retaliation? The naivete is stunning. Similarly the Obama pledge to forswear development of any new nuclear warheads, indeed, to permit no replacement of aging nuclear components without the authorization of the president himself. This under the theory that our moral example will move other countries to eschew nukes. On the contrary. The last quarter-century — the time of greatest superpower nuclear arms reduction — is precisely when Iran and North Korea went hellbent into the development of nuclear weapons (and India and Pakistan became declared nuclear powers).

    (fake paragraphing removed for clarity) Really, Mr Chickenhawk? Leave aside that deterrence doesn't work against nongovernmental entities, or against governments that celebrate martyrdom as proof of the rightness of their causes (I can only think of half a dozen of those that are striving to achieve nuclear capability). Leave aside that argument from analogy is only as good as the analogy itself... and that, unlike a nuclear weapon, a car has truly significant (and indeed primary) purposes that do not involve "mow[ing] down a hundred people." Leave aside that Iran and North Korea "went hellbent into the development of nuclear weapons" immediately upon gaining the technical and industrial capability to do so, regardless of what was happening in disarmament... and that the Iranian and North Korean efforts predate the first START talks by several years.

    No, instead you have to ask yourself a different question about deterrence: Does deterrence work when not just capabilities, but self-perceived risks, are asymmetric? There's a helluva lot of game-theory research (that, fortunately, has never been fully tested in the real world — fortunately, because the only way it could be tested is with real nuclear brinksmanship with real risk of the use of real weapons without any laboratory controls) that indicates otherwise. Every military officer who has attended a command-and-staff level school since the early 1970s (and that means virtually every line major and lieutenant commander) is at least marginally familiar with that research, Mr Chickenhawk; you're obviously not. But instead of actually asking questions about reality, you've substituted unquestioning and unquestioned ideology. That should sound a great deal more like the policy-development method of the Gang of Four, Kim Jong Il, et al. than of a freedom-loving American; and that's because it is.

    Obama's peace prize was, I contend, awarded for the promise of dialog and engagement as much as for anything else. Now he has followed through in a truly significant fashion. But that offends your sense of propriety, Mr Chickenhawk, because you believe that "peace" means "the other guys surrender to 'murikan hegemony over every aspect of their lives" — or, at least, if you have any internal consistency to your own ideology that's what you believe. And if you don't so believe, that makes your continuous accusations of hypocrisy against anyone who dares to disagree with you an instance of at best the pot calling the kettle black... and at worst something far less morally defensible. Sometimes it is appropriate for the pot to call the kettle black: Sometimes it is appropriate to assimilate part of the Other, and to admit that we each contain part of the Other. It's not appropriate, though, to deny that's what one is doing.

  • For those of you who worship the memory of your slave-owning, traitorous CSA ancestors, perhaps you should consider a little bit of what they actually said they were in favor of before you continue that worship. That's sort of like "fundamentalist" religious bigots should consider reading the entirety of their holy books before they begin picking and choosing the parts with which to pillory Unbelievers. And, for that matter, that "fiscal conservatives" should look at the context of the Jeffersonian/Paineful/Thoreauvian Imperative and ask whether "because the government is doing it" constitutes "governing," parallel to "because the military is doing it" doesn't make it "militaristic." In short, context matters, even in ideology... or, perhaps, especially in ideology.
  • From the mixed-ingredients-make-for-better-internet-sausage-links part of the recipe file, consider whether an author/artist's own character matters to his/her works, whether mathematicians ever forget that, and whether it's more important to be around books to build literacy than anything else... and whether that last note may indicate an unanticipated downside of the rush toward e-readers.