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May 28, 2006

Recommended reading


Teresa and the Knife, originally uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.

Christie of FDL on Cheney's constitutional crisis.

Crooks and Liars has a hilarious video of Chris Matthews trying to get Howard Dean to dignify Matthews' obsession with the Clenis. (Or the Cli-t--, as the case may be.)

Philosophy blogger Nate of De crapulas edormiendo on evil and belief in one's own rectitude, and Jeff Goldstein.

ThinkProgress reports that a climate skeptic violated Godwin's Law by comparing Gore to Hitler, because it wasn't inflammatory enough when the last climate skeptic compared Gore to Goebbels.

Twisty on Poland banning tampon commercials during the Pope's visit.

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Comments

Oh Jesus Christ--yeah, Gore is Hitler. I foresee solemn memorials to CEOs who had to sell their third houses when their profit-sharing was slightly reduced after emissions standards were raised. It's a lesson for all of us.

This bleeds into the "Fascism isn't just a buzzword" thread topic, but again: when we accuse someone of being Hitler, we're deploring their creation of an abusive, murdering police state. I don't think Bush could quite pull it off, though it's not for any lack of a cavalier attitude toward human life on his part. But is anyone seriously suggesting that Al Gore's concerns about climate change will translate into such abuse?

Oops--yes, I guess someone is. Knock it off.

I really enjoyed Nate's first post, despite the gassy philosiprose. I think, though, that with my hat as a non-philosopher analyst of state institutional actors, I can at least a posit a a fairly simple model for supporting what he's saying...

I'll start with this: for every action that one would reasonably expect to affect others, there is some corresponding information-gathering duty. The scope of this duty is variable. Most notably, it expands in response to increases in the degree of the potential effects on others. It may be responsive to other factors as well, such as time and resource limitations, but certainly, all other things being equal, one has a greatest information-gathering duty for an act that a reasonable person would guess may have great negative effects on many others.

Thus, the decision to send millions of people to their deaths clearly produces a very, very significant information-gathering duty. Hitler, however, performed extremely little information-gathering. "Are my ethnic impressions empirically supported?" is not a difficult question to ask, and discovering that his were not would not have required significant good faith information gathering at all. Basically, he assumed as significant an information-gathering duty as large as any imaginable, but he performed information-gathering that would be insufficient in a search to hire a temporary housekeeper.

Hitler, then, was a monster because he was perhaps the most grossly negligent information gatherer in history. And there is no reason to consider gross negligence less condemnable than malice. It is similarly (if not more easily) avoidable, and it causes similar (if not more) damage.

aeroman, the other factor I would weigh in there would be the man's personal judgment. Everyone who does brutal acts, unless completely psychotic and divorced from reality, rationalizes their behavior and judges it justified. From Hitler, to the mafiosi of New York, to everyone ever accused of war crimes, every single one of them, with a camera in their face, hurries to protest their justification for what they've done. They'll break any and every legal or moral rule in the world, but they can't stand to look bad. They're the most evil people in the world, yet they all seem to feel that if you just saw their point of view...

We judge Hitler to be one of the most inhuman monsters that ever lived. That is my judgment also. Yet there are still people who judge him to have been a good man. But I'm afraid it will always be a subjective judgment.

Tampon adds banned during pope’s visit? Let me raise my scotch and holy water to der krautenpope! Now let’s ban ads for hemorrhoid, halitosis, nail fungus, baldness, pruritis, acne, gas, cough, and diarrhea cures, the ads for toilet paper and deodorant, and the ads for creepy beauty products like press-on nails and spray-on tans.

If anyone calls, I’ll be watching TV and fiddling with my rosary.

It is pretty funny.

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