Archive for April, 2009

A key to look for …

There are a number of keys that can be sought to help identify the nature of an argument. One of these that comes up often on the tortured torture debate is “in any decent society …” – that is an indicator of two primary logical flaws. The first of these flaws is that of pretending that real world complex decisions are binary and have definitive answers for all circumstances. The second is that of confusing idealism with realism.

In any decent society we wouldn’t have to deal with aberrant behavior like crime, terrorism, or insanity. We wouldn’t have to restrain or restrict individuals in that society. We also wouldn’t have to deal with unpleasant things like waste disposal or pollution or disease.

So anyone who starts an argument with “in any decent society” as a foundation is not making an honest argument about real world circumstances or conditions. That means that you are listening to a point of view that is an emotional rant and not a clarifying or educating argument from which you can learn things of substance.

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The freedom to be stupid and ignorant

Q&O describes a case of Selective (and Safe) Outrage that illustrates just how intellectually vapid some can be.

In a quiet but angry voice that did not project well, he indicated that he could no longer play in a country whose military wants to control the whole world.

This was at the same time one news headline was describing the Iraqi’s regaining control of Baghdad as the US troops left. It was from an artist who should have have direct and personal acquaintance with the Iron Curtain.

And, of course, the primary reason he’s free to travel and insult this country is because our military stood in opposition to the USSR along the Iron Curtain for decades and faced down his real oppressor.

The very sad thing about this is that there are so many so blind – they cannot name a country where the US has taken and held control; they are also completely blind to what has happened to those countries where the imperial powers of the 19th century returned control to native populations. When you cannot or will not see and recognize actual oppression and suppression you will not be able to prevent it – no matter your histrionics.

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More sanity on the gray line

Torturous decisions about torture gets into some of the issues that a sane and reasoning person would peruse and mull over in forming an opinion on torture.

Those who call the controversial process known as waterboarding “torture” are not necessarily wrong. But it is disingenuous to pretend that the matter is as clear as thumbs made permanently useless. The boundaries of torture are not so well-defined, unless one draws the line at any coercive technique meant to make a prisoner uncomfortable enough to want to give out information to make it stop, a definition so strict as to make the obtaining of such information virtually impossible.

Fernandez writes that those taking such a strict anti-torture stand are doing it from the safety of the hypothetical;

Here Fernandez supplies context for the decision.

In assessing complex moral decisions in the real world, we must look not only at our acts, but at the consequences of our failures to act.

There are sins of omission as well as sins of commission

The point is that real world honesty deals with concepts such as context, actual circumstances, and the dilemma of adverse circumstances no matter what decision is actually made. Criteria espoused as indicating an appropriate and effective basis for action include many of the action shown in the released memos – sounding ideas with others, ability to consider alternative opinions, recognition of the many variables involved, a weighing of the trade-offs of both action and inaction, and so on.

It is often the process taken that will tell you the quality of the action accomplished, whether or not you agree with it.

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The meaning of the word

Defining “torture” at Back Talk gets into the problem when the meaning of words is twisted in order to fit a desired viewpoint.

I think it was Wittgenstein who once said that language can bewitch the intelligence, and it is certainly that way with respect to the language of torture. Words do not have meanings in and of themselves. Instead, they have meaning to the extent that we agree on the word’s referent.

As an example, he uses the al Qaeda interrogation guidebook for a description of what could be a good referent for torture that could have wide agreement. It is on the other end, finding something that can be generally agreed upon as ‘not torture’ that seems to be a problem.

just as a flat rock does not magically become a table if we force others to suppress their opposition to using the word in that fashion, waterboarding does not magically become torture if we shame everyone into remaining silent about their objections to using the word “torture” for that method of interrogation.

The issue isn’t so much as one of defining whether a particular technique is or is not torture, it is that you can’t discuss it with some people. They have defined words to fit something other than reasoned discourse and an effort to find a basis in differences of opinion. In doing so, they show they are trying to fit an ideology into a reality.

In cases like this, and there are many, there is no right answer. Even so, as a legal matter, the line needs to be drawn. Drawing the legal line is the job of our elected representatives. That’s why I consider George Bush to be a serious participant in this debate and consider most Democrats to be nonserious hysterics. From the beginning, George Bush has been clear that he supports the use of harsh interrogation techniques like this, that he does not consider these techniques to be torture, that he understands how others could disagree, and that he wants congress to clearly draw the line so that CIA interrogators would know what techniques they could use without placing themselves in legal jeopardy. Until now, however, Democrats were much more interested in pointing the accusing finger at Bush and portraying him as supporting “torture.” They wanted to apply the word “torture” to waterboarding so they could then accuse Bush of being “no better than the terrorists.” That political game works (i.e., in a time of war, the Democrats succeeded in their effort to tarnish their own president in the eyes of the nation and the world), but it is not a serious approach to the problem. Obviously, drawing the line at waterboarding is infinitely better than drawing the line at “severing limbs.”

The latest step in this effort is to actually try to criminalize differences of opinion with steps like ‘truth commissions’ that sound more like a third world regime than of an educated and experienced democracy or republic. It worries some.

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Oh! Terrible! Horrible! and what’s that again?

Extraordinary redaction provides a rundown on the status of the tortured torture debate and how dishonest it is. Two of the issues highlighted are the ‘torture doesn’t produce results’ myth and the waterboarding is torture question.

The productivity issue is muddied by the fact that torture is often used to produce confessions – Iran’s recent use of a US reporter is a case in point. The US doesn’t seek confessions. Its interrogation efforts are a part of a larger intelligence gathering exercise. This is an effort of picking up many puzzle pieces from many sources and fitting them together to learn about where other pieces may be found and what is going on and who is doing what. The political gaming going on is that of releasing only the process and not its result.

The other issue is about waterboarding. The NYT reported that some prisoners had been subject to this technique hundreds of times. The point seemed to be how awful – but think about it: if you can do something to someone many times it is obvious that it is not harmful and it is rather strange that the subject would not learn this fact. The simplest model for this is that waterboarding is not an inherently harmful technique but that it does reach into primal reactions that fundamental to its effectiveness.

One other outcome of this discussion is seen in some commentary that defines torture as anything that evokes information from a person that they’d rather not let be known. This also has implications that need to be perused to determine whether it is a useful definition.

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What has been lost in the US bashing

Rich Lowry takes note in The Case for the ‘Torture Memos’ of the problem some seem to have in their reference for measurement.

Rightly considered, the memos should be a source of pride. They represent a nation of laws struggling to defend itself against a savage, lawless enemy while adhering to its legal commitments and norms. Most societies throughout human history wouldn’t have bothered.

Some seem to totally loose any perspective in their moral outrage about torture. Some spin the known facts for political ends. The shame is not in “my country does torture’ but rather in those that redefine torture in order to condemn their country so they can feel shame. It is enough to raise questions about what it is that motivates such constructions to support and rationalize such false shame.

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What did you do to earn that?

Dennis Proager notes that The More Given, the Less Earned and that the word “earn” with its implications is a rather English Language centric idea.

Since the 1960s-‘70s, a concerted effort has been made to weed the word, and therefore the cultural value, of “earning” from American life. Increasingly little is earned. Instead of earning, we are increasingly owed, or we have more rights, or we are simply given.

America became a great civilization thanks to a culture based on the value of having to earn almost everything an American got in life. As it abandons this value, it will become a mediocre civilization. And eventually it will not be America. It will be a large Sweden, and just as influential as the smaller one.

It seems that there is this predisposition towards circumstances not being the result of what we do and that we should place no expectations on anyone else about any consequences of their behavior. Each individual is owed acceptance, love, forgiveness, medical care, a house, … whatever … and need not suffer the burden of having to earn them.

The concept of having to do certain things to gain what one wants is a concept of self responsibility. It is a concept of ownership. It is a concept of social cooperation for the benefit of all as earned through individual contribution. It is one that sees consequences as a result of actions. It is a concept of proven effectiveness. It is also one that seems to be difficult to grasp for many.

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It’s the same idea, recycled

John at Powerline hits it in the post “Green Jobs”–The New Sub-Prime? citing the London Times.

Remember sub-prime mort-gages? Now universally excoriated as the spawn of the devil, the proximate cause of the credit crunch and all that followed, a few years back “sub-prime” was everyone’s darling.

Now business lobbyists and governments on both sides of the Atlantic have got a new big idea. They call it “green jobs”

The flavors may change but the concept remains the same: let ideology reign over reason. What is known and what can be observed is that –

The key to a successful, wealth-generating economy is productivity. Saving energy is what businesses have done already, because it lowers their production costs. The problem with any form of subsidy is that it makes the consumer (through hidden taxes) pay to keep inherently uneconomic businesses “profitable”. ..

You can catalog the specific issues from creationism to affordable housing to medicines to alternative energy to global warming and on and on. What should be of note is the common behaviors. These were quite evident in the April 15 Tea Parties, for instance: an excess of confidence, an impugning and ridiculing of those who do not agree, censorship, projection. These are similar to those behaviors that are indications of denial, of a significant internal desire for a world that doesn’t really fit with what is outside the self. Taking each issue and carefully isolating it and making it a small thing is just one of these defensive behaviors. It can be more profitable for those with intellectual integrity to actually look at the class of behaviors, what can be observed, as an initial indicator that perhaps some things are going on that just don’t pass muster.

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Constructing the message with mud

Mario Loyola at NRO considers the implications in Spain’s AG: Torture Complaint against Yoo, Feith, et al ‘Fradulent’ and how lawfare is being used for propaganda.

But the ultimate truth of these allegations doesn’t matter to those who make them, any more than the truth mattered for Joe McCarthy 60 years ago. Horton, Sands, Mayer, and the rest have succeeded in hurting their targets, even if the case is now deemed “fraudulent” by Spain’s chief prosecutor. It’s worth it for them, you see, because the number of people who will find out the truth is so much smaller than the number of people who heard and believed the lies. And in the process they get to become more famous. The Internet often helps the truth come to light. But sometimes, the truth gets submerged beneath a mountain of viral falsehoods.

the number of people who will find out the truth is so much smaller than the number of people who heard and believed the lies

As in the recent release of four memorandums about torture, the intent is not so much the truth as it is the message. Those slinging mud are betting on a listener who won’t listen carefully and won’t look at what is really being said. It is political propaganda using character assignation instead of reality. Torture sounds so evil it makes a good foil. The data show the allegations a farce whether it is by some folks in Spain or the local political opposition.

There will be damage in such deceit.

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What were they thinking: Chickens and Water

Susan Wilson at TechBlorge takes a look at Gray water recycling opposed by Southern Nevada Water Authority and Dennis Avery talks In Praise of Cages for Laying Hens at Canada Free Press for 2 examples that should make you wonder what were they thinking?

The Southern Nevada Water Authority has lost its mind. Residents aren’t allowed to recycle their gray water because it might lower their water bill. Say what? Logic has clearly left the room.

It seems that the water authority gets credit from the waste water flow back to the supply. That allows them to draw more than their legal allotment. Rather than just reduce demand, it seems bureaucracy is prefers increasing total flow.

Then there is the movement to ban individual cages for egg farm chickens. Through personal experience, Avery runs through the history that led to current industrial practice.

the egg producers of the modern world have invented wire cages for their hens. The birds are kept safe and comfortable, and they’re socially surrounded by other birds that can’t peck them to death. Higher feed efficiency with the cages is kinder to the planet, because millions of acres don’t have to be converted from wildlife habitat to grow extra feed and for chicken pastures.

Across the affluent world, bans on caged laying hens are being pushed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society of the U.S. HSUS is not your local Humane Society that accepts pets for adoption but a radical anti-pet group—that wants to eliminate all domestic livestock and poultry, along with all pets and circus animals

It appears that California is succumbing to this thinking and taking it a bit further. The idea is to even ban imports from any place that allows individual chicken cages.

That’s why I have recited our recent real-world experience, which sums up the history of chicken-raising over recent centuries. Now, like the U.S. Congress, which over the past 15 years demanded that banks make more housing loans to people who wouldn’t make their payments, California and perhaps some other states are planning to make egg-production nearly impossible.

Do the activists pushing the cage bans really have the best interests of the birds and our children at heart?

It’s enough to make you wonder what these people are thinking – or are they thinking at all?

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The rise of the Snark

It looks like it goes back to ancient Greece. Dr. Mayer takes a look at Snark: Why It Matters as described and discussed by film critic David Denby’s book Snark. “In “Snark,” Denby says such remarks pull the rug out from someone, and potentially annihilate a person’s reputation and effectiveness”

snark often depends on an “I’m better than you” perspective: The purveyor of snark, and his or her amused audience, temporarily overlook any of their own human faults, while identifying and magnifying others’ all-too-human foibles. At least for the moment, the snarker highlights what is unworthy about others, blaming them for their human deficits, and exploiting the entertainment of seeing others as less than ourselves. Perhaps some of today’s snarking may even be a reflection of the apparent rise of narcissism in our society.

Snark is an ad hominem attack that is “low, teasing, snide, condescending, knowing” and intended to destroy an individual. If that individual is vulnerable, the results can be devastating.

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Woe is lawfare

The WaPo takes note of the use of lawyers to defeat human rights and common sense.

So why do we keep rewarding Somali pirates? How is this march of folly possible?

Start by blaming the timorous lawyers who advise the governments attempting to cope with the pirates such as those who had been engaged in a standoff with U.S. hostage negotiators in recent days. These lawyers misinterpret the Law of the Sea Treaty and the Geneva Conventions and fail to apply the powerful international laws that exist against piracy. The right of self-defense — a principle of international law — justifies killing pirates as they try to board a ship.

This is related to the brouhaha about airline pilots being able to carry sidearms and the ongoing effort to disarm them.

Nonetheless, entire crews are unarmed on the ships that sail through the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Shipowners pretend that they cannot trust their crews with weapons, but the facts don’t add up

The onus is on the defender to prove innocence and the necessity of defense. Whether it is ships from pirates, airplanes from hijackers, homes from criminals, or states from terrorists, the lawfare warriors are insisting upon rights and concerns for the perpetrators that they do not allow for the victims.

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Easter and the battle of the intellect

The BrothersJudd blog digs out the archives and examines Easter.

In The Essential Tension, the tension between “Greek philosophy and Jerusalem’s spiritual aspiration” is described,

An enormous amount is at stake here. “Athens” stands for the view that truth is discovered through intellect. “Jerusalem” stands for the view that truth is delivered through the insights of recognized genius. “Athens” stands for cognition, philosophy, and science. “Jerusalem” stands for the spiritual aspiration to holiness, or purity of soul.

The Thin Gruel of Experience cites a story about Thomas and the problem of a tangible source for belief.

Thomas believed because he saw. But our Lord did not call him blessed. He had been allowed to “see,” to see the hands and the side, and to touch the blessed wounds, yet he was not blessed!

Perhaps Thomas had a narrow escape from a great danger. He wanted proofs, wanted to see and touch; but then, too, it might have been rebellion deep within him, the vainglory of an intelligence that would not surrender, a sluggishness and coldness of heart. He got what he asked for: a look and a touch. But it must have been a concession he deplored having received, when he thought on it afterwards. He could have believed and been saved, not because he got what he demanded; he could have believed because God’s mercy had touched his heart and given him the grace of interior vision, the gift of the opening of the heart, and of its surrender.

Men by Themselves Are Priced looks at the implications of how we see our faults.

Our unwillingness to see our sins as they really are, as God sees them, leads us to embrace another falsehood: that is, that we can make things right. Even though our culture is, in many respects, post-Christian, it still clings to the idea of redemption. However, just as with our ideas about sin and guilt, our ideas about redemption are pitiful and impoverished. … One need not believe directly in this truth to understand that it is the only basis for a decent state.

The, at Slate, Larry Hurtado takes a historical perspective about Why Was Jesus Crucified? that touches on the efforts to sanitize the process as a means of trying to come to grips with the horror.

In fact, Jesus’ crucifixion posed a whole clutch of potential problems for early Christians. It meant that at the origin and heart of their faith was a state execution and that their revered savior had been tried and found guilty by the representative of Roman imperial authority. This likely made a good many people wonder if the Christians weren’t some seriously subversive movement. It was, at least, not the sort of group that readily appealed to those who cared about their social standing.

Jesus’ crucifixion represented a collision between Jesus and Roman governmental authority, an obvious liability to early Christian efforts to promote their faith. Yet, remarkably, they somehow succeeded. Centuries of subsequent Christian tradition have made the image of the crucified Jesus so familiar that the offensiveness of the event that it portrays has been almost completely lost.

The intellect is in a battle. It demands, like Thomas, to see tangible evidence and to have an understandable hypothesis – one that we can model in terms of our everyday experience. There are times when this demand is not met and this is one of them.

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Easter and Pastor Mark Roberts

For Easter this year, Pastor Mark D. Roberts undertakes a review of The Stations of the Cross: Reflections for Lent and Holy Week. These stations are steps on the path Jesus took from the Mount of Olives to his tomb.

There are a lessons in the history of this story about the Stations of the Cross and each step along the way can provide insight into an understanding of Christianity and of one’s self. There are many questions for those whose faith is not blind and who want to better understand the basis for their belief. It is easy to leave out nuance and keep things at a simple level but there is also much to learn by thinking about the nature of a confession of sin and what it really means to accept the Christ as savior and what can be learned by the actions of Jesus as well as the words of Jesus. Those are the questions that Pastor Roberts explores.

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Caught in the act?

Making important distinctions is a skill that seems under attack. On the domestic front this attack seems to be on the defense of self as a justifiable. On the international front this attack is about the ideal of considering terrorists and pirates as just plain ol’ criminals. Mackubin Thomas Owens provides a bit of background on this at The Corner

Our problem with pirates is the same as the one with al Qaeda et al. We have extended legal rights to people who do not deserve them. We need to return to an important distinction in first made by the Romans and subsequently incorporated into international law by way of medieval and early modern European jurisprudence, e.g. Grotius and Vattel. The Romans distinguished between bellum, war against legitimus hostis, a legitimate enemy, and guerra, war against latrunculi — pirates, robbers, brigands, and outlaws — “the common enemies of mankind.”

The former, bellum, became the standard for interstate conflict, and it is here that the Geneva Conventions and other legal protections were meant to apply. They do not apply to the latter, guerra — indeed, punishment for latrunculi traditionally has been summary execution. Until recently, no international code has extended legal protection to pirates

The key in this distinction is that of being caught in the act. When someone breaks into your house, you respond to their act. When a non state actor is captured on the battlefield, soldiers respond to their actions. When pirates attack a ship at sea, the response should be to their action.

The idea of ‘caught in the act’ is that it is a means of making the distinction between ‘us’ and ‘them’ that can supercede the usual evidentiary process in a contingency or provide a significant basis for evidence of guilt if conditions permit. The logical fallacy being used to attack this concept is that of marginalization. The consequences of such efforts need careful consideration.

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Labeling the result of wishful thinking

Lawrence Cunningham struggles with finding a proper label for the current economic situation at Concurring Opinions.

how unconscious exclusion of painful realities from the conscious mind caused the crisis and continues to infect policy responses to it.

All candidates for culprits ultimately involve false stories that people—citizens, business people, regulators and politicians alike—told themselves. Exemplars: the American dream of home ownership can be made available to all; housing prices tend inexorably upward; massive current borrowing can be repaid from future assumed prosperity; financial risk can be diversified, hedged, securitized away by carving up underlying financial instruments; regulators can let market participants self-monitor and self-correct; and politicians can safely respond to citizen appetites by sustaining all these false beliefs.

In other words, the downturn in the economy is a result of wishful thinking, thinking that diverged from reality and intellectual integrity.

It is something to think about.

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Basic logic problems: The roads are safer, but why?

There is nothing like traffic safety to bring out the best examples of logic problems in media stories. Recession Bright Spot: Less Highway Deaths at CBS News provides a good example.

First is the citation of economic recession as a cause of lower traffic fatalities. This is a classic correlation versus causation mixup. There is also a definition problem as it is not obvious whether it is the total fatalities or a rate of fatalities that stimulated the report. It turns out it was both

Preliminary figures released by the government Monday show that 37,313 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes last year. That’s 9.1 percent lower than the year before, when 41,059 died, and the fewest since 1961, when there were 36,285 deaths.

A different measure, also offering good news, was the fatality rate, the number of deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. It was 1.28 in 2008, the lowest on record. A year earlier it was 1.36.

That is followed by a reiteration of the report’s propaganda:

“The silver lining in a bad economy is that people drive less, and so the number of deaths go down,” said Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

If the Insurance Institute can’t even figure out that a reduced rate is not the same as driving less it is no wonder the insurance industry is a mess. It would be reasonable to assume that more cars are on the road now than in 1961, the reference year in this report and that means that there must have been a significant drop in the rate in order for the total to be lower now than then. The record low rate only gets brief mention. It is key that the rate of fatalities has dropped over the years because that means fewer traffic fatalities even with more people on the road. Why is this so?

There are clues in the report.

In addition to fewer miles logged by drivers worried about expenses, experts also cited record-high seat-belt use, tighter enforcement of drunken driving laws and the work of advocacy groups that encourage safer driving habits. … Seat belt use in 2008 climbed to 83 percent, a record.

Why can’t the media help in understanding reality rather than promulgating propaganda?

There are several memes at play here. One is the voyeuristic obsession with the dead as also seen in the media hungering to portray military coffins. Another is economic misery whether it really exists or not. There is also the bias towards government saving you from those awful things (death and recession) as seen in the mention of seat belt laws and safety groups and states improving enforcement laws. That bias is away from such things as personal responsibility and technology improvements.

Like the mantra about speed limits, this sort of reporting carefully avoids the actual data that is collected about traffic crashes and fatalities and ignores the role of the driver. The advances in vehicle safety technology that are perhaps the most visible changes in both roads and vehicles gets very little notice. It really is amazing that such progress is made even with the propaganda headwind.

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Traffic citation robots and deceit

Traffic citations and enforcement enhancement are usually rationalized as safety measures. It makes no difference that crash statistics often do not support such rationalizations. This lie is particularly pernicious when it comes to automated systems such as intersection cameras.

First is the real reason for such robots, The profits can be very attractive as the cost to develop a citation is much lower than it is with cops. An editorial in the Washington Times describes the problem.

The truth about traffic cameras is that the real motivation behind the programs is revenue, not safety. For this reason, the systems are often rigged to guarantee a large yield of tickets.

Such rigging often includes shortening the caution light time and making other subtle changes that increase the odds of detecting driver behavior that is in technical violation of a traffic regulation. The automated robots also have features due to their very nature that can enhance citation risk.

As reported on, about 80 percent of citations are issued to vehicles photographed making split-second, technical violations that are in most cases invisible to the unaided eye. The trigger on red-light cameras in Fremont, Calif., was so quick that the shutter clicked faster than the signal itself could change from yellow to red.

These traffic citation robots are only the latest technology being used to move traffic safety away from its goals towards an artificial violation of rules that are created to clearly define a line that really doesn’t exist. Radar guns for speed citations are another example. These tend to promote setting speed limits that have no regard for traffic conditions or even well known standards that are enforced in ‘campaigns’ publicized as safety measures that are really just a tax on motorists.

There is a truism that the closer you watch, the more you will see. If you are looking for flaws, you will find them. We see that in the scrutiny of politicians for corruption or undue influence. We see that in sports and in the arts in scoring competitions. We see that in employment in finding reasons to fire someone. It is also in the legal system as a means to find cause for lawsuits. In schools, you see it in the ‘zero tolerance’ policy putting kids in jail for popping an aspirin or having something that might be considered to look like a gun.

There is no way that every contingency and circumstance and condition of the real world can be encoded in a written rule. If those rules that allow for judgment and flexibility and interpretation are discarded, then the written rule can become a weapon. As the courts have show recently, even a misuse or irresponsible application of judgment, especially when it comes to ignoring the values and purpose behind the rules, can have significant consequence. The struggle to find ways to put common sense in traffic robots is only part of the ongoing struggle in lawfare where morality and ethics often get left in the gutter.

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Setting the value – accounting rules

One of the major factors in the bank problems has been the ‘mark to market’ rule. That forced banks to value their mortgages based on what they could sell them for at a particular time. The issue is that this doesn’t consider the actual health of the mortgage nor does it consider the bank’s ability to hold its assets for either a completion of the mortgage terms or a better market for selling the mortgage as a financial instrument.

Mark-to-market distorted the market by forcing banks to take losses on mortgage assets even if the underlying loans were still performing, based on the last fire sale price of similar assets. [Iain Murray]

What happened with this rule is that a blurp in one corner was reflected in the whole realm. That made the institutions holding certain classes of financial instruments appear to have much less value than they might really have had.

The difference is somewhat like the difference between those who bought a house as an investment and those who bought a house to live in. If you bought the house as an investment, a drop in its market value is the issue of concern. If you bought the house to live in, the actual value at any point of time is of no interest as long as you can keep up with the mortgage payments.

With that rule relaxed, the stock market responds positively. People can value financial instruments for what they can do – as in providing a place to live in the case of mortgages – rather than in what someone might be willing to pay for them.

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Tea parties planned for April 15 has a Google Maps mashup –

View Larger Map

Check it out. Maybe you can make a few new friend.

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