Here's yet another fresh MRAP video from Iraq. It shows more footage of troops getting practice in Navistar's MaxxPro, and some footage of the BAE cat 2 MRAP going through its paces.
Friday, November 30, 2007
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Marine Corps has decided it needs far fewer Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles than it originally thought it would, Corps officials said.
Known as MRAPs, the vehicles have V-shaped hulls meant to deflect blasts from underneath and have proven to withstand roadside bomb blasts much better than up-armored Humvees.
The Corps initially asked for 3,700 MRAPs, but it now says it only needs 2,300 of the vehicles, Marine spokesman Maj. Jay Delarosa said in an e-mail Friday.
(Stars and Stripes)
This is a big hit for MRAP manufacturers. News is coming out already about Force Protection's shares dropping, and the news isn't really any better for companies like Ceradyne and Navistar that put considerable dollars into designing and preparing for the production of MRAPs.
It looks like the MRAP craze was a blip in history--an expensive blip that will end up providing quite a bit of useful information for the building of future military vehicles, but produced vehicles that may turn obsolete in just a few short years.
Those who argued that MRAPs were ill-suited to the counterinsurgency tactics of the surge will find something to bolster their view, but the willingness of the United States to produce MRAPs probably helped discourage the insurgency even if their widespread use ultimately wasn't needed to ensure victory.
As for David DeCamp's report on MRAPs that I critiqued months ago, it looks like the insurgents have run into a shortage of machine shops or something.
Instead of demonstrating America's war fighting prowess, the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle - MRAP in military parlance - illustrates how even a wealthy industrial power can struggle to wage war against a nimble and unconventional enemy.
America relies on a slow defense bureaucracy, politicians to approve spending and commercial industry to build the better MRAP. Insurgents get their hands on an explosive, go to a machine shop for changes, and trigger it with a common cell phone.
Or maybe they can't afford cell phone service?
As noted, MRAPs will probably have a very limited use in the military as the situation in Iraq continues to cool. The heavier vehicles may get modified for special functions such as mine clearing. The lightest vehicles, the Caiman 4x4s, may have a ghost of a chance of future tactical deployment--they have a reputation for reasonably good off-road performance.
Reducing EFP usage would thus be more complicated than simply exerting tighter border controls. Factories would have to be located, and killing or capturing enemy combatants who possess the knowledge to make the devices would certainly contribute.Bottom line: There's no reason to despair that the insurgents can't be beaten, nor to fear that they will keep the upper hand in battlefield tactics.
The stage is set for the JLTV program to produce a mobile and protected replacement for the Humvee. Ceradyne's Bull will draw few orders if any; the whole MRAP II solicitation will likely turn into a mere modification of MRAP I, with no long term future for the program.
All is not lost for Force Protection. The Cheetah was intended from the start to replace the Humvee. It just remains to be seen who produces the best vehicle with the best support infrastructure.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
*"someone who knows" dropped by to say that the hinge-looking things are not hinges at all but simply the hardware that attaches the body to the chassis rails. Sounds good to me.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
New stadium? Wear out Tropicana first. Maybe I'd change my mind if I were the owner and I were looking at the books.
New name? Grrr.
At first, I was OK with it. Shorten it to Rays? No big deal. Some people were confused about the whole "Devil Ray" thing, not realizing that "devil ray" is what we call a manta ray down here--those of us who have been here long enough to remember when Florida was a Southern state more than geographically. Back when "faucet" and "spigot" had true regional significance.
But the team did not just shorten the name. Oh, no. They did far more than that. They equivocated. The gave "Rays" a whole new meaning. Now it has to do with arms of light, the rays of the sun and the like.
It's offensive. It's a touristy name, trading on the national image of Florida. It's the rough equivalent of calling our football team the Tampa Bay Beaches.
If anything could break me of the habit of watching Tampa Bay's Major League baseball team more than trading the existing team for a bunch of minor-league unknowns every year, this is it.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Though the Bucs lost quarterback Jeff Garcia to injury for most of the game, the Washington Redskins were unable to recover from a 19-3 deficit built on four lost fumbles in the first half.
The four fumbles each led to points for the Bucs: a touchdown and three field goals. The Bucs added a fourth field goal late in the first half after forcing a Washington punt from deep in Redskin territory.
Bruce Gradkowski spelled Jeff Garcia a few plays after the Bucs' first play from scrimmage. Garcia scrambled for a 1 yard gain and was tackled with a sideways hit to the ribs.
The Bucs failed to pick up a first down in the second half, but the defense salted the game away on the strength of a fourth-down hold inside their own 10 yard line, a Ronde Barber interception at about their own 30, and an end zone interception by Brian Kelly with under 25 seconds to play.
Barber's interception made him the all-time leader for the Buccaneers in that category, with 32.
Though the return team turned in a mediocre performance (including a muffed punt by normally reliable Ike Hilliard), kicker Matt Bryant nailed four field goals and punter Josh Bidwell boomed 7 punts for a heady 50.4 yard average. Special teams earned a big share of the victory.
The defense played well, but ceded the Redskins quite a bit of second half yardage. Much of that fell to the ineptitude of the Buc offense which made a custom of three-and-out in the second half. The hard tackling contributed to the four first half fumbles, and the defense came up with the key interceptions late in the game to preserve the win.
The pass rush maintained its intensity from last week against a better offensive line. Elderly rookie defensive end Greg White picked up another sack and forced two fumbles. Though the team gave up over 100 yards rushing to the 'Skins, the visitors were not able to run consistently. The Bucs forced third-and-long a number of times in the first half, and produced a key second-half stop on fourth-and-one. Rookie defensive end Gaines Adams made the tackle behind the line of scrimmage on that play.
I have suggested that Bruce Gradkowski may have been one of the steals of the 2006 NFL draft as a sixth-round selection.
I'm not going to back off on that statement, but if Gradkowski doesn't learn to throw an accurate long ball then he will struggle to work his way into the starting lineup, let alone serve as an effective backup.
The offense started the game well, with Earnest Graham breaking off a number of runs in excess of 5 yards. Aside from a short touchdown drive that depended on Graham's running, Gradkowski could not get the Bucs into the end zone even with excellent field position.
In the second half, the Redskins make adjustments and the Bucs failed to pick up a first down. Gradkowski threw one deep ball to Joey Galloway. Galloway was open by a couple of steps and the ball went where nobody could catch it.
On the next series Garcia returned to the game and tried another long pass to Galloway on third and long. Again, Galloway was open but the pass was nowhere near the target. At least Garcia had the excuse that his arm was hit as he was releasing the ball.
All in all it was a bad day for the Bucs offense except in one respect: no turnovers.
Great job. I have no complaints, though I probably won't get to review the game since my DVD recorder flubbed up its part of the bargain. I thought I saw some holding by Redskin offensive linemen, but as likely as not the same thing was happening on the other side of the ball.
The Bucs travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints in the Superdome. While I wasn't confident enough to predict a win over the Redskins, the Bucs should win in New Orleans.
That's not to say the outcome is guaranteed. The Saints are the best team in the division on paper and they have weathered the loss of Deuce McAllister pretty well. However, I expect the Bucs to move effectively against the Saints defense while the Bucs defense hold their offense in check.
That said, losing the turnover battle probably spells a Bucs loss. Nor would a fast start by the Saints' offense bode well. Regardless of the caveats I'm wrong if the Bucs lose.
Blumner's column advocates a wage increase for agricultural laborers, specifically those who pick tomatoes.
Would you pay an extra penny per pound of tomatoes if you knew it meant farmworkers who make an average $10,000 to $12,500 a year would nearly double their wages?
Anyone who said "no" to that question need not bother with the rest of the column. You can just return to whatever else you were doing, stiffing the waiter, kicking the dog, making that payday loan, whatever.
What starts out looking like populism turns out to have a basis in the free market. A worker's group went to big corporations such as McDonald's an basically threatened them with public embarrassment if they wouldn't underwrite the wage increase.But it probably isn't that simple.
First, the corporations involved probably don't intend to pay for everyone's tomatoes at an extra penny per pound--just their own. Some tomato pickers seem likely to benefit far more than others. And what happens then? Raise the wages across the board? That is an inflationary strategy, one that will impact the prices of everything made with tomatoes ... except tomatoes from places that don't pay the higher wage (such as Mexico).
Mexican tomatoes will compete more effectively in the market because of lower pricing--perhaps the market for U.S. tomatoes shrinks as a result. Maybe a few tomato farmers go out of business, maybe a few agricultural jobs are lost.
Or maybe Blumner addresses that concern and arranges for a protectionist strategy. Keep those foreign tomatoes out! Smaller demand for Mexican tomatoes, maybe a few Mexican farmers go out of business, maybe fewer jobs as tomato pickers in Mexico.
Meanwhile, there's no skin off Ronald McDonald's crimson nose. He passes the costs on to his customers--mostly lower-middle class people. A private regressive tax is levied to artificially elevate the market price for the labor involved in picking tomatoes.
And down the road? Blumner claims the pay increase will nearly double the pay of a tomato picker. For tomato farmers, that will make the tomato picking machine look more and more like an economical investment.
After the workers have been replaced by machines, perhaps Blumner will track them to their new jobs and figure out how to artificially inflate their wages again. Wanna bet the next time it won't be a free market solution?
Thursday, November 22, 2007
DUBLIN, Ireland- The only salmon farm in Northern Ireland has lost its entire population of more than 100,000 fish, worth some $2-million, to a spectacular jellyfish attack, its owners said Wednesday.Rotten day to be a salmon farmer. I wonder if insurance policies on salmon farms cover things like jellyfish attacks?
The Northern Salmon Co. Ltd. said billions of jellyfish - in a dense pack of about 10 square miles and 35 feet deep - overwhelmed the fish last week in two net pens about a mile off the coast of the Glens of Antrim, north of Belfast.
I'm pretty sure there's a global warming tie-in waiting to be made ...
Chapter 9 of the book was authored by Lewis Sorley and focused on the conduct of the war. Sorley criticizes LBJ's choice of generals and Gen. Westmoreland's "Search and Destroy" tactics. He favorably reviews Gen. Abrams "Clear and Hold" tactics, and assesses that the effort to train South Vietnam to defend itself was a success.
Thus there came a point at which the war was won. The fighting wasn’t over, but the war was won. The reason it was won was that the South Vietnamese had achieved the capability, with continuation of promised American support, to sustain themselves indefinitely as a free and independent nation. President Nixon promised President Nguyen Van Thieu – repeatedly, both in writing and through high-level intermediaries – three key things.Get the book free from WOWIO.
The first was that if, after completion of the Paris Accords supposedly ended the fighting, the North Vietnamese violated terms of the agreement and continued their aggression, then the United States would reintroduce military power to punish those violations. Second was that if there were a resumption of fighting the United States would, as provided for in the Paris Accords, replace on a one-for-one basis South Vietnam’s losses of major combat systems (such things as tanks, artillery pieces, and aircraft). And third was that the United States would continue robust financial assistance for the foreseeable future.
In the event, thanks to actions of the Congress, the United States defaulted on all three commitments. The result was predictable. As CIA Chief of Station Tom Polgar cabled from Saigon: “Ultimate outcome hardly in doubt, because South Vietnam cannot survive without US military aid as long as North Vietnam’s war-making capacity is unimpaired and supported by Soviet Union and China.”
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Smith referred to the name offhand--I did not know at first which vehicle carried that name. After a brief hunt, I found confirmation that it refers to the General Dynamics RG-31.
It's back to the future in the defense industry, as the biggest names in armored warfare gear up to vie for a $70 billion prize.
Revisiting a subject I first began writing about more than a year ago, an article from Reuters last week reminded me that there's more going on in military wheeled transport than just the MRAP (mine resistant, ambush protected) program. Protecting soldiers from IEDs in Iraq may be front and center in our legislators' minds. But down the road at the Pentagon, people are thinking even farther ahead, seeking a solution to the problem that started the IED-wave in the first place -- thin-skinned Humvees.
I can't find much to complain about in his analysis. The title might be a little precious.
An estimated 1,000 people a day are returning across Iraq's borders having previously moving abroad to escape the violence, Iraqi authorities say.
Most of the returnees are coming from Syria - and very few from Jordan, where better-off refugees tended to go.
One would think that the violence is decreasing for such a thing to happen. Perhaps some Congressional Democrats should look into that.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former White Press Secretary Scott McClellan says in an upcoming book that he was misled by President George W. Bush and other high officials into misinforming the press about a CIA leak case that fueled debate about the Iraq war.I look forward to seeing additional context around Scott McClellan's statements so that I can see if McClellan is saying the same thing the story seems to have him saying.
McClellan says he publicly exonerated former top White House aides Karl Rove and Lewis "Scooter" Libby because Bush had called on him to help restore his credibility after the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
"There was one problem. It was not true. I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice president, the president's chief of staff, and the president himself," McClellan said in an excerpt released on Tuesday.
Update:Editor & Publisher claims that they were first to publish the excerpt from McClellan's book. As publishers, I might expect greater care with the punctuation (what's that quotation mark doing in the the middle of the third graph?).
E&P was first mainstream news outlet to report on Monday night that the McClellan excerpt reads: "The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.So it's unlikely that there is any context other than this until the book is published or McClellan chooses to explain himself.
"There was one problem. It was not true.
"I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration "were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice President, the President's chief of staff, and the president himself."
(Editor & Publisher)
Monday, November 19, 2007
Baghdad, Nov 19, (VOI)- The Director of the National Command Centre General Abdul Karim Khalaf said on Monday that Iraqi security forces arrested guards from a foreign security firm after shooting a woman in central Baghdad.
"Guards from a foreign security firm opened fire against a woman near al-Sabaa Qusour crossroads in Karada this afternoon," Khalaf told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
"Police forces arrested the owner of the vehicle who opened the fire against the woman as well as Sirilanki workers, who were accompanying him," the general added.
"The woman was wounded in her leg and was rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment," he noted.
The general refused to announce the name of the firm or the number of the captives, asserting that investigation still underway.
This development, regardless of the company involved, punctuates the ramped-up need for Iraq's security forces to do the job of policing their country.The risk of arrest in a country where insurgents do their best to look like normal civilians must place an incredible amount of pressure on security employees. Security operations will either cost more (supply and demand) or the U.S. armed forces will need to do more security work. On the plus side, Iraqi politicians look like they're looking out for civilians. On the downside they're increasing the risk that security won't get done at an acceptable level.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
The U.S. Army, which plans to keep its Stryker armored vehicles for at least four decades, is laying out a plan to give the 19- to 23-ton vehicles better electrical power, computers, suspension and protection, Army program managers said.“In 2050, we will have 15 heavy brigades, 15 FCS [Future Combat Systems] brigades and seven Stryker brigades. We are now undergoing requirements analysis for Stryker modernization” with the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, said Col. Christopher Lockhart, the capability manager for Stryker Brigade Combat Teams at U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).
How big was this win?
Well nothing is sewn up yet, but the Bucs put themselves firmly in the driver's seat on the way to the NFC South crown. That said, the Bucs made a number of statements that may add up to some success in the playoffs before all is said and done this season.
The Bucs continued to run the ball with authority. The offensive line has unquestionably improved its run blocking over last year, and Earnest Graham seems like the best fit at the moment. While not as fast as (an uninjured) Cadillac Williams or Michael Pittman, Graham has a knack for finding the hole and falling forward after first contact. The guy rarely loses yardage.
Teams that run the ball effectively often translate that success into playoff wins. The last team to hold the Bucs' rushing game in check was the Tennessee Titans (in the NFL's top five for rushing defense), and that was five games ago. The effective running game makes things that much easier for quarterback Jeff Garcia, who tossed two touchdown passes among his 10 completions on the day.
The Falcons were missing a few bodies on the offensive line. Hopefully that does not entirely account for the good day turned in the Bucs' defensive line. Though missing DE Greg Spires because of an ankle injury, the Bucs held Warrick Dunn to 30 yards on 15 carries and put consistent pressure on Falcons passers--particularly on deeper drops. The defensive line was responsible for all of the turnovers registered by the team against the Falcons (two fumble recoveries, two interceptions).
Rookie defensive ends Greg White and Gaines Adams both had terrific days rushing the passer. White had two sacks and two forced fumbles. Adams had one sack and one hit on Byron Leftwich that led to an interception by Chris Hovan. The play might was well have been a forced fumble for Adams, which is typically registered as a sack. It wouldn't surprise me if the NFL changes the ruling on the play, since Leftwich's arm may not have started forward when it was hit.
I've sung the praises of the back seven all season. If this type of play by the defensive line keeps up, then the Bucs have a legitimate top five defense. The numbers say the defense is top five right now, but the game against the Colts said otherwise.
One more thing: Brian Kelly makes a difference at cornerback. Phillip Buchanon has served as a solid sub for Kelly while the latter has attempted to recover from a groin strain, but the defense is simply better when Kelly starts.
It was a below average day for the Buccaneer special teams. The kickoff return unit allowed the Falcons pretty good field position, and the Bucs managed one 20 yard kickoff return of their own while getting almost no return yardage off of seven Falcon punts.
The brightest moments were on punt coverage, with Josh Bidwell booming a 61-yarder with only a short return (big for field position at the time), and a punt downed at the five on a nice play by gunner Maurice Stovall.
See update below
Obviously the Bucs won handily, but the officiating was worthy of complaint anyway.
The Falcons had a reception and fumble by Warrick Dunn reversed on replay. Dunn caught the ball, took two steps and was separated from the ball by a hit from Derrick Brooks. While the play was close, I don't see how clear evidence would have allowed an overturn of the play.
Earlier, Michael Pittman caught a pass and took two steps before losing the ball. The play was ruled a fumble on the field (as was the Dunn play) and stood after the review. I imagine the officials would argue that the better angle for the Dunn replay allowed for the reversal. Let's just say I'm skeptical.
The play that took the cake: Right after retaining the ball on the Dunn fumble reversal, the Falcons completed another short pass and the receiver fumbled. Brian Kelly recovered, and as he was being tackled lateraled the ball to Cato June. After running forward a few steps, June fell and fumbled the ball. On the field it was ruled a recovery for the Falcons--and not only that, it was a first down because of the change of possession. Coach Gruden rightly challenged the play--according to the officials on the field the challenge was that Kelly has down by contact. And Kelly might have been down by contact but again the replay was inconclusive. What was conclusive, on the other hand, was the fact that Cato June was illegally tripped and appeared to have lost the ball after contact with the ground. No way the Falcons should have retained the ball on that play. The play stood as called on the field. I was incredulous.
The Redskins visit Tampa after falling to the Cowboys in a fairly tight game. The 'Skins match up pretty well with the Bucs, and Jason Campbell completed a ton of passes against the Cowboys. The home team will need another good day from the front four to prevail. Turnover differential should decide the game since the teams are closely matched.
A later review by the NFL established that the wrong call was made after the review.
The midweek review of the play occurred during the NFL Network show, "NFL Total Access." During a popular segment in which NFL Vice President of Officiating Mike Pereira breaks down some of the more controversial plays of the previous weekend, the White-Kelly-June play was discussed in some detail.
Pereira's assessment, in short: Gruden was right to expect the entire play to be reviewed, the officials failed to do so, and a more extensive review would have overturned June's fumble.
Blumner's latest editorial column finds her in a panic over the claims of former AT&T employee Mark Klein.
In his weekly radio address, Bush said he had ordered the NSA "to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al-Qaida and related terrorist organizations." And he promised that "before we intercept these communications, the government must have information that establishes a clear link to these terrorist networks."
The president was essentially saying that only Americans in overseas communication with known terror suspects would have their privacy invaded.
But as with so much of what Bush says, this does not pass the pants-on-fire test.
Former telecommunications technician Mark Klein worked for more than 22 years for AT&T before retiring. He knows the specifics of Bush's program and witnessed "the NSA's vacuum cleaner surveillance infrastructure." He calls it "a vast, government-sponsored warrantless spying program," and has detailed internal documents to back up his claims.
Blumner apparently makes no effort to distinguish between data-mining and wiretapping, and for that reason her "pants-on-fire" jab at President Bush probably has no legs. The NSA probably uses data mining to figure out when suspects have changed cell phones, as they routinely do to avoid government eavesdropping. Blumner would make it easier for terrorists to do that, if she could, because she doesn't want the government to overhear the time of her manicure appointment (or whatever she does with her time).In short, the government in part probably uses the data mining to establish the clear links. After that they go after the conversations. The Ninth Circuit (one of the most liberal in the nation) gave it their OK.
Apparently not even a court ruling makes it legal in Blumner's eyes.
McKeown took pains to say that the 9th Circuit had carefully scrutinized the government's assertions.I'd sure like to know the context of Klein's statements. Just to see if they jibe with the way he was quoted by Wired.
She said the judges had taken "very seriously our obligation to review the documents with a very careful, indeed a skeptical eye, and not to accept at face value the government's claim or justification of privilege."
Based on my understanding of the connections and equipment at issue, it appears the NSA is capable of conducting what amounts to vacuum-cleaner surveillance of all the data crossing the internet -- whether that be peoples' e-mail, web surfing or any other data.And if they're capable of doing it then they are actually doing it.
Right, Ms. Blumner?
Saturday, November 17, 2007
A series of e-books featuring the earlier years of the cartoon have been made available for distribution via the WOWIO e-book service. The deal pretty much can't be beat. The books are free, and there's much more to choose from apart from "Day By Day" books.
The WOWIO folks are keen about obtaining free promotion, as they encourage links like the one above.
Here's a third party review of the service for those who (like me) are suspicious of free stuff.
An accompanying video plays up the bolt-on armor that allows rapid production of the MaxxPro.
Also of note was the visual of the Navistar/BAE Systems JLTV prototype (see update below), which I took the liberty of capturing.
Dino246 commented that the capture I identified as the Navistar/BAE Systems JLTV prototype is actually the FTTS collaboration between Navistar and Plasan Sasa. I'll complain that the video was misleading in that the JLTV partnership was described while showing the FTTS vehicle; bottom line, Dino246 is correct as I was able to verify with a visit to the Navistar homepage.
Here's a .pdf file from Navistar describing the FTTS.
For that matter, don't miss the slick video production (the video occurs as a java popup, so I can't link it directly--look for it at the upper right of the Navistar page) Navistar put together featuring its entire line of military vehicles. Stick it out to the end and you'll see the FTTS vehicle pictured above performing some jaw-dropping maneuvers with its four-wheel steering.
They did a nice job putting together some graphics, including the Humvee/Cougar 4X4/Cougar 6X6 comparison chart.
The best part might be a sidebar that sums up what soldiers like about the vehicles juxtaposed with what they don't like about them.
One slight problem with the story: The comments of the soldiers seem to be associated with their training on Navistar's MaxxPro vehicle, while the graphic comparison emphasizes the Cat. I and Cat. II Cougars built by Force Protection. The criticisms do not necessarily apply to both vehicles.
I offered a critique of Lee's critique, to which he responded here. Lee offered to refer me to an essay that would answer my observation that he had not offered any explanation for the atheistic moral system he recommends.
Days later, Lee has yet to point me to the essay (though I'm over 90 percent sure he has visited the site in the interim). Rather than continue to wait on him, I searched out the essay to which he probably referred.
The Ineffable Carrot and the Infinite Stick
An atheist's view of morality
On Rand: " ... to find a workable universal moral code, we must look elsewhere."
On Aristotle: "Aristotelian ethics, though they are not inherently flawed, lack foundation; they are "floating free" without sufficient justification."
On Rousseau: "... we must delve deeper to find the true foundation of ethical behavior."
On Kant: "A system so manifestly in error cannot serve as the basis for a universal moral system ..."
On Spencer: "... no moral system can escape the fact that observation of facts alone can never produce an ethical 'ought'."
On Bentham: "A satisfactory ethical code should be able to derive that idea from first principles rather than tacking it on in an ad hoc fashion."
On Rawls: "... its main flaw is not a theoretical but a practical one: his proposal is and forever will be a thought experiment only."
Lee has his work cut out for him. His essay asserts the existence of "one true absolute, objective, universal moral code" (emphasis in the original), and promises that he will establish its foundation. He then reviews game theory with the Prisoner's Dilemma before indulging in the fault-finding I summarized above. The latter portions of part IV introduce "Moral Popperianism" and "Universal Utilitarianism," which appear intended to deliver on the promise of the essay.
Under "Grasping for the Good," Lee commits an error at least as fatal as any of those he found in the arguments of others. He asserts that pragmatism serves as an important criterion for a coherent moral system, then bungles the concept. After properly noting that the system should not lead to contradiction (the real key to coherence and thus the pragmatic ideal he should have in mind), Lee somehow gets the notion confused with the resulting outcome of the system.
Likewise, this principle removes from consideration systems such as communism, which pays all people the same amount and then expects them all to labor their hardest to benefit society. It is unrealistic to expect such a system to work as long as human nature remains unchanged. Finally, the pragmatic principle leads us to reject any moral code that proposes, for example, the legalization of murder or theft. Any society that tried this would soon collapse into chaos.Lee has done nothing less than allow a moral precept to insinuate itself into his system as a premise. Societies ought not fall into chaos, therefore Lee tries to design his system to avoid falling short of that ideal. If Lee never gets around to providing the foundation for that particular ought, then he will assuredly fail to live up to the claim he made at the beginning of his essay.
With "Moral Popperianism": An Ethical Stepping Stone," Lee makes his attempt to cross the is/ought divide. Lee sticks to his slow-starting ways in locating the inauspicious introduction to his big step near the middle of the section: "(W)hile it is true that moral directives cannot be derived from the bare facts of the external world, they are still based on those facts, and therein lies the key."
"(T)he principle which I call moral Popperianism is this: any ethical directive based on a false factual statement is wrong." (emphasis in the original)I could not make head nor tail of this without the subsequent example. We had already established, I thought, the problem of the is/ought dichotomy. Now we have the isn't/ought dichotomy to worry about as well. I'm honestly not sure why we trouble ourselves with the latter. I suspect it has something to do with anti-theism.
With our sure foundation of a question-begging premise combined with the isn't/ought dichotomy, we move on to "Universal Utilitarianism."
"Universal Utilitarianism" ends up as another excuse to make a moral precept foundational to the moral system.
What is the ultimate aim of morality? What state does it seek to bring about?
The answer to this should, I hope, be obvious: the goal of morality is to ensure happiness. All people want to be happy, and everything else which they desire is ultimately just a means to that end. The means by which people seek happiness are so varied that any other attempt at generalization would be futile, but the desire for happiness is the one true universal which unites all these disparate paths.
Some ethical systems attempt to camouflage the point where they switch from "is" language to "ought" language. I will not do this, but rather state it plainly: in general, people ought to be happy. I hold this proposition to be axiomatic and foundational, and I further hold that any ethical system that has as its highest aim something other than producing happiness is completely missing the point. In short, this developing ethical system will be a form of utilitarianism.
I don't understand how somebody can criticize Bentham, Kant and the others and then promptly beg the whole question as Lee does above. Is the critic permitted to ask on what basis this ought is made axiomatic when we were promised so much more ("This essay will present answers to these questions and others")? Lee's answer smacks of Mr. Garrison's rationale for not doing drugs ("Drugs are bad, mkay?").
Lee's "foundation" for his ethical system is an ethical precept. He has built a floating system, as did Aristotle, but he apparently gives himself a pass on the same criticism.
I believe I have come up with a new variant of utilitarian moral theory that avoids the flaws of both act and rule utilitarianism, which I call universal utilitarianism. It can be summed up in a single sentence, and without further ado, here it is:
Always minimize both actual and potential suffering; always maximize both actual and potential happiness.I offer this foundational principle as the base of a new objective ethical system.
In the following paragraphs, I will "unpack" universal utilitarianism and hopefully show how it surmounts the problems that have stymied so many other ethical codes.Great! I can't wait!
It is first and foremost a form of utilitarianism, and like other forms of utilitarianism, as well as Aristotelian virtue ethics, it identifies happiness as the highest good, worth acquiring for its own sake and by the very nature of what it is.And that's it. As far as I can tell, Lee simply acknowledges the similarity to Aristotle's system without lifting a finger to explain how his system avoids the problem he admitted with Aristotle's system. It's almost like putting his own name on the ideas of others makes them immune to what might have been legitimate criticisms.
How about Lee's own perversion of the principle of pragmatism? Is it true that humans ought to be happy? We can't base our morality on something that is not known to be true, can we?
The essay contained a great deal more material than what I've addressed here, though of comparable quality to the parts I've critiqued. Lee's essay contains (what should be) obvious flaws and can't be taken seriously.
Friday, November 16, 2007
OK, not a death ray exactly. Boeing has tested the device in the role of detonating IEDs. Pics other than the one below show the energy weapon disrupting a UAV. Laser antiaircraft defense sounds like a potentially devastating strategy.
Nifty story. Click on the link over the photos and give it a read.
November midpoint: casualty trend continues to dip, trial of Shiite former officials approved by Maliki
Nov-07 251 Oct-07 679 Sep-07 848 Aug-07 1,674 Jul-07 1,690 Jun-07 1,345 May-07 1,980 Apr-07 1,821 Mar-07 2,977 Feb-07 3,014 Jan-07 1,802
Captain's Quarters pointed to a new report by Michael Yon out of Baghdad indicating that the Muslims want their Christian neighbors to return to the old neighborhoods. Christians were some of the first to flee sectarian violence since al Qaeda tended to direct persecutions against them.
The willingness of the government to allow the prosecution to two former officials involved in sectarian violence through Iraq's health ministry makes for additional good news. The two Shiites used their position of authority to assist in violence against Sunnis. The move sends a message to Sunnis that Iraq will observe the rule of law--a critical step in the move toward a truly representative government.
Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidates continued to paint Iraq as a lost cause to loud applause. Go figure.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Sen. Clinton did not address the accusation that she fails to address issues. Her insinuation that 35 years in public life serves to make her stance on issues clear (and consistent?) didn't cut it.
A number of the candidates, including Barack Obama, suggested that the surge strategy is failing. Obama acknowledged some improvement in the security situation, but asserted that the political situation has not changed (is he paying attention?) and on that basis called for withdrawal of U.S. troops. This group of candidates is ready to wrest defeat from the jaws of victory.
John Edwards joined others in calling NAFTA a failure, talking about the loss of jobs that occurred as a result. Isn't he aware that agreements like NAFTA increase the buying power of Americans across the board? I get no hint of that type of realization from him. Sen. Dodd gave the closest approximation of sanity on trade issues.
Sen. Clinton, addressing her "boy's club" remarks and the suggestion that she was playing the gender card, took a page from hubby's book, saying "I'm not exploiting anything at all."
Depends on what "exploiting" is, I suppose. Her Oct. 31 cackle came out when Wolf Blitzer engaged in word play on the boy's club phrase.
I must have heard this wrong, but it sounded like Edwards jumped at the chance to follow Hillary on the gender issue (Paul Shanklin, anyone?). And again, maybe I heard it wrong, but it sounded like Edwards addressed a male soldier (home from a third Iraq deployment) with "many women like you." I was blinking my eyes in disbelief during this segment, having difficulty believing I'd heard rightly. Edwards finished with a strong statement in favor of withdrawal, which I marked down in my notes as "standing up for spinelessness."
Bill Richardson addressed a question from the audience regarding disparity in pay between private security companies and U.S. soldiers. Richardson showed his fiscal restraint by calling for increased pay for U.S. soldiers across the board as well as calling for a boost in the size of our armed forces. The cameras showed the face of the person who asked the question after he finished with that part of the response. A look of doubt crossed her face on that one.
Barack Obama said he would save Social Security by keeping Bush from raiding the Soc. Sec. trust fund to get money for the war. Come on, Sen. Obama. You know that the Congress controls the purse strings, and you know that the Congress doesn't bother keeping track of which expense uses funds borrowed from Social Security. Obama's other great idea was to remove the cap on Soc. Sec. payroll taxes. Clinton criticized him for advocating a tax hike after that one, then she did her imitation of Internet spelling police by correcting a misstatement by Obama (he twice called the payroll tax increase a tax cut).
Clinton could have pulled that off without sounding petty, in my opinion, but she didn't do it.
Almost forgot: Obama had a third great idea. He thinks that preventative medicine saves on Medicare expenses. President Bush was blowing the same horn when he stumped for his Medicare prescription drug plan. I strongly doubt that it works that way. The longer people stay alive, the more medical expenses they incur. Die of a heart attack at 60 and you might save the government the expense of two hip replacements when you hit your 70s. I'm certainly not recommending euthanasia for sexagenarians; I'm just pointing out that it doesn't work that way in terms of economics. Both Obama and Bush are almost certainly wrong on this point.
My last notes concern Supreme Court nominations. Some of the nominees explicitly favored a Roe v. Wade litmus test (Richardson, if I remember correctly). Most said they'd insist on a recognition of the right to privacy, a some of those (including Clinton) went on to intimate that recognition of the right to privacy led to a recognition of the legitimacy of Roe. That's a load of hooey. One of President Bill Clinton's Supreme Court nominees (Ginsberg, if I remember correctly) questioned Roe's basis in the right to privacy, advocating an alternative basis in the right to self-defense.
The reasoning of Roe v. Wade is an embarrassment to those who take constitutional law seriously, even to many scholars who heartily support the outcome of the case. As John Hart Ely, former dean of Stanford Law School and a supporter of abortion rights, has written, Roe "is not constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try to be."
This is a terrible group of candidates, based on their answers to the questions. The best hope is that they know good policy but lie through their teeth about what they'd do just to capture the nomination.
Kucinich was a joke again, but that isn't news.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Or maybe two stray pieces of flint inside the backpack touched off the blaze when they were thrown together to cause a spark.
Authorities quickly determined there were no explosives in the bag, which contained no items that are banned on flights.
Phoenix police Lt. Rick Gehlbach said the backpack likely began to smoke after it got jammed between two larger pieces of luggage on a conveyor belt.
The impact probably caused toiletries containing alcohol to leak, and a combination of heat from the conveyor belt and its track rubbing against the backpack caused it to catch fire, Gehlbach said.
(East Valley Tribune)
I'm not saying I don't believe it, but that's a strange explanation.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Mike's secondary specialty in the SEAL force is as an advanced combat medic. Without getting into specifics on his experiences, Mike strongly disputes Nance's exaggerations of waterboarding. There is a word for people who have "pint after pint of water" filling their lungs: dead. "In fact," according to Mike, "they would be very, very dead. By definition, anyone who has drowned is in fact dead. A large percentage of true drownings do not involve ANY water entering the lungs because the epiglottis closes off the air passages as water enters the throat. People who die immediately from being immersed in water actually die of suffocation, not water entering their lungs. Not only that, many people who survive a near-drowning who do have even small amounts of water that slip by the epiglottis and enter their lungs can die later of fluid shifts and pneumonia. I can assure you that we do not use any technique that involves true suffocation or aspiration of water into the lungs. One cannot get questions to answers from people who suffocate or have water fill their lungs in any interrogation technique, which would render that technique more than a little self-defeating.Mike's report helps confirm my suspicion that a number of commentators have sold a bill of goods regarding their opinion of water boarding.
If I have interpreted the reports accurately, the Marines won't have many of these at all. Most of the vehicles ordered through Armor Holdings (now a subsidiary of BAE Systems) were the Cat I design pictured here.
- 1,154 BAE Armor Holdings Caimans, CAT I
- 16 ABAE rmor Holdings Caimans, larger CAT II size
PHOENIX: A smoking suitcase was spotted Tuesday in the cargo area at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, an airport spokeswoman said.Not even suitcases are allowed to smoke these days.
Passengers who were boarding a US airways flight were taken off the plane, and the gate area that they used to board was evacuated, said the airport's spokeswoman.
But seriously, it should be interesting to see the background detail on this story. Self-destructing socks, perhaps? A test run seems unlikely. Why put together test materials that might end up emitting smoke?
Monday, November 12, 2007
I'm not going to reproduce the entire thing, as the argument itself should be fairly compact.
You worried that atheists have no compelling answer to a person who says, "I'm going to do whatever I please." But religion does not solve that problem. If anything, the problem is far worse ...Adam's argument is presented as a response to an editorial by Michael Gerson, the "You" in the first line. This isn't likely to be the argument, but if it were then it is nothing more than a tu quoque fallacy, the technique of excusing one failing by taking note of the same or a similar failing on the part of the opponent. No need to linger on this, I trust.
Unfortunately the gist of Adam's argument apparently occurs in the following slippery (in the mercurial sense) paragraph.
You asked what reason an atheist can give to be moral, so allow me to offer an answer. You correctly pointed out that neither our instincts nor our self-interest can completely suffice, but there is another possibility you've overlooked. Call it what you will - empathy, compassion, conscience, lovingkindness - but the deepest and truest expression of that state is the one that wishes everyone else to share in it. A happiness that is predicated on the unhappiness of others - a mentality of "I win, you lose" - is a mean and petty form of happiness, one hardly worthy of the name at all. On the contrary, the highest, purest and most lasting form of happiness is the one which we can only bring about in ourselves by cultivating it in others. The recognition of this truth gives us a fulcrum upon which we can build a consistent, objective theory of human morality. Acts that contribute to the sum total of human happiness in this way are right, while those that have the opposite effect are wrong. A wealth of moral guidelines can be derived from this basic, rational principle.This answer fell well short of my extremely well tempered expectations.
On what basis does Adam distinguish between "instinct" and "empathy, compassion, conscience, lovingkindness - but the deepest and truest expression of that state is the one that wishes everyone else to share in it"? By all appearances, Adam quietly concedes the argument just before loudly declaring victory in contradiction to his earlier statement.
Fran posted an e-mail she had received providing instructions for progressives (or however people wish to label themselves--I know when I pick one for them it's a no-win scenario) who wish to apply political pressure to impeach .
I provided a brief and factual observation, keeping personal attacks to an absolute minimum:
Bryan said...It kind of looked like this:
Democrats in Congress would have tabled Kucinich's bill if not for Republican support.
November 12, 2007 7:32 PM
Here's what it looked like after somebody "all for serious debate & opposing views" took note:
This is too funny. I haven't updated that other blog for a bit, though.
Since I'm not being censored on my home turf, here's some commentary on the GOP maneuvering in Congress, courtesy of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (Kucinich is one of Cleveland's congressional representatives):
House Republicans began changing their votes. By the time Pelosi's leadership team figured out what was going on, the once-certain vote to kill Kucinich's resolution was doomed, 251-162. "We're going to give them their day in court," Texas Republican Pete Sessions chortled to the Associated Press.What will it take for Fran to figure out that impeachment isn't going anywhere, I wonder?
That's precisely what Pelosi and Hoyer wanted to avoid. They didn't want the House derailed by such a sideshow, and they didn't want their members - who have no love for Cheney - forced to choose between being responsible lawmakers and mollifying a loud subset of Democrats who think the vice president is Darth Vader.
(Cleveland Plain Dealer)
In the Neolithic settlement in a valley nestled between rivers, mountains and forests in what is now southern Serbia, men rushed around a smoking furnace melting metal for tools. An ox pulled a load of ore, passing by an art workshop and a group of young women in short skirts.
"According to the figurines we found, young women were beautifully dressed, like today's girls in short tops and mini skirts, and wore bracelets around their arms," said archaeologist Julka Kuzmanovic-Cvetkovic.
The story's just a little hard to believe without photos of the artwork that supports the claim.
How I miss the erudite if unenlightened Barnum's Baileywick, who would go on at length to justify his views and usually attempt to address criticisms.
For some left-tilted bloggers, serious debate apparently means that their views are off-limits for criticism.
"Fran" over at a blog called "Ramblings" had rambled on about how the United States should make things right by impeaching Bush and withdrawing from Iraq. Assured of a case for impeachment parallel to that of clueless presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, I attempted to satisfy my curiosity about how one would reason that things would be made right by a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.
I'm going to condense the exchange down quite a bit.
Bryan: What, iyo, is "what is right" and what would correct the situation?I believe I detect some reluctance on behalf of these two to deal with potential problems for their foreign policy prescriptions. I think that reluctance manifested itself in the bogus suggestion that I was engaging in personal attacks. It seems as though Fran considers an attack on her position as an attack on her person.
Fran: What is right, imo, would be to utilize the Justice System, and prosecute the Executive branch (ie Bush & Cheney), via the Impeachment process, for high crimes- specifically bringing this country to war under false pretenses.
Bryan: Okay, let's say that you impeach the whole rotten lot. Off to prison they go for as long as you like.
Do you want an immediate U.S. pullout from Iraq despite the fact that the current government wants us there? Is that government an illegal government despite its recognition by the UN?
Fran: Immediate U.S. troop pullout from Iraq - YES!
Let an international Peacekeeping group assist after our exit.
Bryan: Uh, Fran, the only other nations willing to go to Iraq were already part of the coalition and most of them are either leaving or preparing to leave. What makes you think they'll send enough troops to do one iota of good?
The only nation that is likely to have real interest in sending a peacekeeping force into Iraq is Iran (not that Iraq would accept it).
Bryan: I should ask why you think the U.S. should withdraw if you think that peacekeeping assistance is needed.
D. K. Raed: I thought about the above scenario during the '04 election. My conclusion was, with new leadership, we could approach the int'l community, through the UN, and literally apologize for the grevious errors commmited by the (what I thought would be) disgraced prior regime. I still think that is the way to start. The key is new leadership here that will stand up & say it was wrong, we shouldn't have rushed to war & then go about the hard work of repairing our country's int'l relationships.
Fran: The people of Iraq do not want the US troops there. In 5 years, time, things have not improved.
If Iraqis wan(t) assistance they can choose whomever they want. It is not up to the US to make such decisions.
Bryan: Fran, a majority of Iraqis in the almost-famous BBC poll from this summer wanted U.S. troops to stay at least for a time (it varied with the group how long and why).
Now you want to get out of Iraq and let Iraq manage itself. I thought you felt that peacekeeping was needed? Have you changed your mind?
What if Iraq manages itself like Sudan manages itself? Is that OK with you?
Bryan: Can you offer me so much as one historical example of a national apology making a significant difference in the carrying out of foreign policy?
D. K. Raed: B your carefully carfted "questions" are masterful efforts to engage in dialogue on your terms. No example given would satisfy your definition of "apology", "national", "significant", "difference" or "foreign".
Bryan: Is that your way of saying you can't think of any example?
Fran: Bryon: I'm all for serious debate & opposing views.
But I will say I won't allow personal attacks or the snarky tone/direction your posts are going.
Consider this final notice.
(condensed commentary from Ramblings)
Given my suspicions, I decided to post a followup that was as neutral as possible, without any hint of a personal attack. Not entirely to my surprise, Fran appears to have deleted it shortly after I posted. Through the magic of screen capture, however, I can show you what Fran did not want you to see!
click to enlarge.
Here's how that section of the page looks after Fran the censor is done with it:
Now you see it. Now you don't. Cute, Fran! I'd love to hear what part of it you found childish or insulting.
Now D. K. is talking in code back at "Ramblings" in reference to this post.
D. K., if you're not an irrational loony then you have the freedom at this site to make your case, particularly if you feel that I did not offer a representative account of your position with my condensed version of the conversation. I don't delete opposing views regardless of the level of snark or insult since I'm more interested in the content of the argument.
Fran has made herself a comic figure, certainly, with her management of her blog's commentary. As for the opinions you two express, I can let my readers judge the quality. They get to read both sides here (and/or I'll refer them offsite).
Nifty video showing the outfitting facility that puts standard armed forces equipment on board the MRAPs delivered by the various manufacturers.
I spotted the Cougar, the MaxxPro, the RG-33 and the Buffalo. Sharper eyes may pick out stuff I missed.
And perhaps that's no coincidence.
Media reports earlier this month made much of the story of Daniel Levin, a DOJ employee charged with updating administration policy on torture.
Daniel Levin, then acting assistant attorney general, went to a military base near Washington and underwent the procedure to inform his analysis of different interrogation techniques.
After the experience, Levin told White House officials that even though he knew he wouldn't die, he found the experience terrifying and thought that it clearly simulated drowning.
Levin, who refused to comment for this story, concluded waterboarding could be illegal torture unless performed in a highly limited way and with close supervision. And, sources told ABC News, he believed the Bush Administration had failed to offer clear guidelines for its use.
The thing that should stand out in this report (and it seems standard in related reporting, from what I can tell) is the lack of comment from either Levin or from any explicitly identified person. The report is based on anonymous sources (they may be known government officials providing information on condition of anonymity; "deep background" or that sort of thing).Take a look at the photo/graphic.
Note the portion that the media have helpfully highlighted: "Torture is abhorrent."
The thrust of the story, supposedly, is that Levin thought that water boarding was torture and wrote that in the memo. Is "torture is abhorrent" the best they could do? The same story links to a .pdf of Levin's memo. The .pdf is protected against cut and paste, and the search function doesn't work, either. From what I can tell, the memo does not specifically mention water boarding at all.
And note again the third paragraph I quoted from the story. Levin's opinion seems to be that water boarding would not (necessarily) qualify as torture if done on a limited basis and under close supervision ("could be illegal torture unless performed in a highly limited way and with close supervision").
And with that in mind, have a look at whack-job Keith Olbermann:
"'Water boarding is torture,' Daniel Levin was to write."
If that's what Levin wrote, then where did he write it?
Olbermann's take on the story isn't worth a day's flatulence from a flatworm if we don't get to the source of the claim.
I still haven't located the source for Olbermann's claim, but I did locate a version of the Levin 2004 memo that permits cuts, pastes, and searches.
In Simpson v. Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, 326 F.3d 230 (D.C. Cir. 2003), the D.C. Circuit again considered the types of acts that constitute torture under the TVPA definition. The plaintiff alleged, among other things, that Libyan authorities had held her incommunicado and threatened to kill her if she tried to leave. See id. at 232, 234. The court acknowledged that "these alleged acts certainly reflect a bent toward cruelty on the part of their perpetrators," but, reversing the district court, went on to hold that "they are not in themselves so unusually cruel or sufficiently extreme and outrageous as to constitute torture within the meaning of the [TVPA]." Id. at 234. Cases in which courts have found torture suggest the nature of the extreme conduct that falls within the statutory definition. See, e.g., Hilao v. Estate of Marcos, 103 F.3d 789, 790-91, 795 (9th Cir. 1996) (concluding that a course of conduct that included, among other things, severe beatings of plaintiff, repeated threats of death and electric shock, sleep deprivation, extended shackling to a cot (at times with a towel over his nose and mouth and water poured down his nostrils), seven months of confinement in a "suffocatingly hot" and cramped cell, and eight years of solitary or near-solitary confinement, constituted torture); Mehinovic v. Vuckovic, 198 F. Supp. 2d 1322, 1332-40, 1345-46 (N.D. Ga. 2002) (concluding that a course of conduct that included, among other things, severe beatings to the genitals, head, and other parts of the body with metal pipes, brass knuckles, batons, a baseball bat, and various other items; removal of teeth with pliers; kicking in the face and ribs; breaking of bones and ribs and dislocation of fingers; cutting a figure into the victim's forehead; hanging the victim and beating him; extreme limitations of food and water; and subjection to games of "Russian roulette," constituted torture); Daliberti v. Republic of Iraq, 146 F. Supp. 2d 19, 22-23 (D.D.C. 2001) (entering default judgment against Iraq where plaintiffs alleged, among other things, threats of "physical torture, such as cutting off . . . fingers, pulling out . . . fingernails," and electric shocks to the testicles); Cicippio v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 18 F. Supp. 2d 62, 64-66 (D.D.C. 1998) (concluding that a course of conduct that included frequent beatings, pistol whipping, threats of imminent death, electric shocks, and attempts to force confessions by playing Russian roulette and pulling the trigger at each denial, constituted torture).Emphasis added to text emphasizing use of water.