At Reason, Jacob Sullum diverts from his usual drug beat and
asks the musical query:
Poses the Greater Threat to Peace: An Impetuous President or
‘Experienced Advisers’ Who Are Disastrously Wrong? He notes
that the foreign policy noises made during the Trump, Obama, and
Dubya campaigns were
radically different from their actual behavior in office.
Three men with little or no foreign policy experience entered an office where they were surrounded by experts, and they quickly shed their initial skepticism of military intervention. If you think that skepticism was naive, that was a welcome development. But the consequences suggest otherwise.
"Top American military officials put the option of killing [Soleimani]—which they viewed as the most extreme response to recent Iranian-led violence in Iraq—on the menu they presented to President Trump," The New York Times reports. "They didn't think he would take it. In the wars waged since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Pentagon officials have often offered improbable options to presidents to make other possibilities appear more palatable."
The Times says those military officials were "flabbergasted" by Trump's choice and "immediately alarmed about the prospect of Iranian retaliatory strikes on American troops in the region." If so, the president's "experienced advisers," the ones Chris Murphy thinks should be restraining him, played a dangerous game that backfired on them.
Also backfired upon Soleimani, but whatever.
Q: What's the difference between this random blogger and "experienced advisers"?
A: This random blogger both (a) knows what he doesn't know; (b) would nevertheless know better than to think Trump wouldn't pick the "improbable option".
The rebuttals keep coming to Tyler Cowen's "State Capacity
Libertarianism". Up today is Max Gulker at AIER:
Private Governance, Not State Capacity.
In justifying State Capacity Libertarianism, Cowen has committed what I’ve equally awkwardly called “the nation-state fallacy.” Under this belief, taken for granted by even many libertarians, society-level issues are either for the government to address, or not to be addressed at all. Think about how many debates revolve around whether government, not society, should tackle a problem. Only when written on a page is its peculiarity revealed.
Max has an interesting story of his own intellectual odyssey from wishy-washy statism to libertarianism, and sets forth his advocacy of "private governance". Key supplemental quote:
I don’t think climate change, education, and infrastructure aren’t important. They’re so important, in fact, that we can’t leave them up to a lumbering organization plagued by political incentives and lacking the information to implement anything all that helpful.
… but, again, a world in which a majority believed that would be a world that probably wouldn't be mired in arguments about what kind of control the people need to be put under.
So this Wired article on Marc Benioff, the Salesforce billionaire who
is dead" was an interesting skeptical look at his record:
The Gospel of Wealth According to Marc Benioff.
Unfortunately, it presents controversial, dubious, and false claims
as fact, for example, on the 2017 tax cut legislation:
Those new cuts, atop years of tax avoidance, cuts to estate taxes, and rising payroll taxes, meant that, for the first time ever recorded, the 400 richest Americans are now paying a lower overall tax rate than almost anyone else, according to a study by two UC Berkeley economists.
Another howler, put in contrast to Benioff's net worth increase of $2.47 million/day:
Meanwhile, recent Federal Reserve data revealed that tens of millions of Americans would be unable to cover a $400 emergency expense.
That said, the article's author does manage to ferret out some of Benioff's bullshit, although you have to wade to the end to get to it:
Does Salesforce lobby for tax breaks? You bet.
Is Salesforce one of those eeevil corporations with high profits and yet pays zero taxes? Apparently so.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
How a Flawed Experiment "Proved" That Free Will Doesn't Exist.
Many people believe that evidence for a lack of free will was found when, in the 1980s, scientist Benjamin Libet conducted experiments that seemed to show that the brain “registers” the decision to make movements before a person consciously decides to move. In Libet’s experiments, participants were asked to perform a simple task such as pressing a button or flexing their wrist. Sitting in front of a timer, they were asked to note the moment at which they were consciously aware of the decision to move, while EEG electrodes attached to their head monitored their brain activity.
Libet showed consistently that there was unconscious brain activity associated with the action—a change in EEG signals that Libet called “readiness potential”—for an average of half a second before the participants were aware of the decision to move. This experiment appears to offer evidence of Wegner’s view that decisions are first made by the brain, and there is a delay before we become conscious of them—at which point we attribute our own conscious intention to the act.
Taylor says: not so fast. He's pushing a book giving his own views, Amazon link at right.
I might check it out. If I use my free will to decide that it's worth the time.
Scientific American posts an opinion piece from psychologist
Steve Taylor on the famed Libet experiment:
And darned if the Google LFOD News Alert didn't ring for an article
in the Henley Standard. Which, according to their page has
been "Delivering the news from Henley on Thames and South
Oxfordshire for over 100 years". Yes, that's in Old Blighty herself.
And apparently they have comedians there too, including a guy named
Geoff Norcott, who's appearing in Maidenhead in March. And:
Comedian’s got a spring in his step ahead of tour extension.
Geoff’s libertarianism calls to mind the official New Hampshire state motto of “Live Free or Die”. But which country in the world, if any, comes closest to his preferred political outlook?
“It’s uncool to say it, but I love the States. I also like the fact their politics skew right to the point that I’d probably be a Democrat out there. I could hold all the same views but still be friends with Katy Perry.”
Katy Perry? Well, apparently she's available. Maybe she and Geoff could get together, move to Dover or something.