Eye on the Watcher’s Council

As you may know the members of the Watcher’s Council each nominate one of his or her own posts and one non-Council post for consideration by the whole Council. The complete list of this week’s Council nominations is here.

The Glittering Eye, “Fearmongering? Or oversight?”

In my submission for this week I consider the recent House Intelligence Committee report on the strategic threat posed by Iran.

AbbaGav, “Say Anything”

Gavriel complains about the willingness of the media to provide a platform for outrageous statements, in this case about recent coverage of Iran’s response to the United Nations Security Council’s demand to cease uranium enrichment. I agree with his conclusion but I think I’d come at it a little differently.

I believe that the news media have confused balance with conflict, with dialectic. Balance means that differing positions are afforded consideration based on their merit, not that any position, however absurd, is given equal merit. However, arriving at an understanding of the merit of a position requires consideration, understanding, and courage and I don’t think that reporters these days have the time, training, or personal qualities needed. It’s a heckuva lot easier to just put any old opposing views on the page as though they were equally reasonable.

Soccer Dad, “Targeted Killings, Moral Considerations”

Soccer Dad considers Israel’s targeted killings of Hamas and other terrorist Palestinian leaders in the context of the Geneva Conventions.

I don’t know what Israeli doctrine is but I know that U. S. military doctrine is that the actual military value of an action must be weighed against the likelihood of damage to civilians and civilian infrastructure. It’s not an Aristotelian, either/or kind of thing. Judgment must be exercised.
I have my doubts about the invocation of the Geneva Conventions under the circumstances described by Soccer Dad. I would be inclined to characterize any territory in which the government does not have a monopoly on the use of force (nor does much to enforce such a monopoly) not as a state but as ungoverned territory. The applicability of the Geneva Conventions or any sort of international law to ungoverned territories is unclear.

ShrinkWrapped, “’Root Causes’ and Other Nonsense”

ShrinkWrapped takes a story on a policy of abandoning enforcement of laws against (presumably) petty theft as a point of departure for a very interesting post on the the abuse of psychoanalytic terms of art.

Here’s a link to what I believe is the original story which says that the approach is, at this point, a proposal and that retailers are understandably upset by it. Although the plan apprears to be somewhat more complex than the account that ShrinkWrapped heard would suggest I thought the story was really inadequate. There are no references and no mention of whether the plan includes mandatory drug treatment and whether there are resources available for that.

There is also no mention of any requirement for reimbursing the retailers. Isn’t taking responsibility for one’s actions a part of any effective drug treatment program? I ask for information.

This story, like the abuses that AbbGav noted, is another example of lack of proportion. To whom does the government have more responsibility: the perpetrators of crime or the victims of crime?

There’s another problem with the approach and, again, I ask for information. It’s my understanding that the success rate in drug treatment programs is quite low, 20% or less. Would it be cost-effective to eliminate incarceration for shoplifting and treat 100% of shoplifters for drug addiction to achieve a 20% (or less) reduction in shoplifting?

Rhymes With Right, “Valid Pedagogical Purpose, Poor Pedagogical Methodology”

Greg presents a very thoughtful analysis of the same story on a middle school teacher’s use of flag burning as an illustration in a Constitution class that EdWonk commented on last week.

Socratic Rhythm Method, “Pluto Struck Down As Unconstitutional”

Matt conjoins the how science is done, how law is done, and original intent in a discussion of the case of the demoted planet.

I haven’t commented on this story at all (I think) but I do want to make one point: this story is emphatically not an illustration of how science is done as some have observed. Unless you believe, that is, that science is done by the issues being hashed out in the newspapers and on television with varying degrees of accuracy and scientists getting their faces on TV. Then, of course, it is.

Joshuapundit, “Meanwhile, in Darfur”

I’m very glad that Freedom Fighter has re-focused our attention on the situation in Sudan. Unfortunately, it’s hard for a lot of us to walk and chew gum at the same time.

I agree with a lot of what Freedom Fighter has to say: that it’s a terrible situation, that the UN is unlikely to do anything constructive, that the African Union is unlikely to do anything constructive. I think that we are unlikely to do much of anything constructive about it. However, I’m not quite as ready to choose sides as FF is—I think that both sides in the conflict in Sudan are pretty awful nor do I think that arming one side is likely to result in less bloodshed.

What the repeated sad stories in Africa tell us more than anything else is that many places in the Third World are mean, ugly places and changing that, at least in the short term, is probably beyond our powers. Would a commitment to international do-gooding as suggested by Thomas Barnett in his Leviathan and SysAdmin forces by an improvement? I don’t know.

Right Wing Nut House, “Save the Electoral College!”

Rick Moran considers the continuing rationale for preserving the electoral college. Is there pending legislation on this? I’m not aware of it. As best as I can tell the electoral college is like the weather: everybody talks about it nobody does anything about it.

While I generally consider myself a democrat and a populist, I also am inclined to think that the original structure of the Republic, complete with state governments appointing senators and the electoral college was better than the faux direct democracy we’ve been slouching towards for the last hundred years or so. I think that the arrogant, self-important millionaires we’ve got as senators now are much worse than the career political hacks statesmen we had before amending the Constitution.

No, if you want direct democracy go for the real thing. We have the technology.

The Education Wonks, “Flag Flapped in Colorado”

EdWonk has another flag story for us this week: apparently, a middle school teacher in Colorado has been reassigned for displaying foreign flags in his classroom (in contravention of state law). I suspect there’s a subtext here. I wonder if the state law might have something to do with Colorado’s (and, in particular, Denver’s) large population of newly arrived Mexican immigrants and the displaying of the Mexican flag.

Gates of Vienna, “Empire and Apocalypse”

I’ve been saying it for a long time: Europeans should have more respect for the U. S.’s greater experience in dealing with mass immigration—after all, we’ve had a higher proportion of immigrants and a higher rate of immigration throughout our history than they’ve experienced at even the peaks of immigration. Geography, economics, and demography all conspire to guarantee that Europe will experience a substantial immigration from MENA for the foreseeable future. Will the ethnic states of Europe survive the change? Will “Western civilization” (whatever that may be)? Stay tuned!

Done With Mirrors, “Read It and Weep”

You can’t observe phenomena without instrumentality and that instrumentality itself changes what you’re observing. That’s particularly true at the sub-atomic level but it’s also true in politics where the instrumentality is a human being with likes, dislikes, political beliefs, and an agenda.

Callimachus considers the coverage of Senator John McCain by the press.

The Sundries Shack, “Cutting the Biased Some Slack”

Jimmie Bise doesn’t think much of David Ignatius’s use of the editor of Al-Jazeera as a barometer for public opinion in the Middle East. I believe the phenomenon he complaining about is what’s known as “sample bias”.
Well, I’ve made up my mind. Which posts would get your votes?

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