Psychological Egoism Refuted, Again

A New Jersey roofer jumped into a vat of nitric acid solution to save a co-worker who had fallen 40 feet into the tank, fire officials said.

Rob Nuckols, 51, was working on the ground floor Monday morning at Swepco Tube LLC when his colleague Martin Davis plunged through a roof and into the vat of diluted acid and became fully submerged, officials said.

He jumped into the vat and was waist-high while he and three others pulled Davis out, Clifton Fire Chief Vince Colavitti told The Record of Woodland Park. The vat contained a 40 to 70 percent nitric acid solution used for cleaning metal tubing.

via Worker jumps into vat of acid to save colleague  |

Thank You For Your Service

Americans, here’s Michele Bachmann’s message to you on Independence Day.

The task of “showing your thanks for our military men and women who protect” our freedoms brought to mind “Home,” a funny, heartbreaking, damning George Saunders story I read yesterday in The New Yorker‘s June fiction issue.  Excerpt:

“I’ve been away a long time,” I said.

“Welcome back,” the first kid said.

“Where were you?” the second one said.

“At the war,” I said, in the most insulting voice I could muster. “Maybe you’ve heard of it?”

“I have,” the first one said respectfully. “Thank you for your service.”

“Which one?” the second one said. “Aren’t there two?”

“Didn’t they just call one off?” the first one said.

“My cousin’s there,” the second said. “At one of them. At least I think he is. I know he was supposed to go. We were never that close.”

“Anyway, thanks,” the first one said, and put out his hand, and I shook it.

“I wasn’t for it,” the second one said. “But I know it wasn’t your deal.”

“Well,” I said. “It kind of was.”

“You weren’t for it or aren’t for it?” the first said to the second.

“Both,” the second one said. “Although is it still going?”

“Which one?” the first one said.

“Is the one you were at still going?” the second one asked me.

“Yes,” I said.

“Better or worse, do you think?” the first one said. “Like, in your view, are we winning? Oh, what am I doing? I don’t actually care, that’s what’s so funny about it!”

“Anyway,” the second one said, and held out his hand, and I shook it.

Read it all the way to the end.

This morning, on the local news, I learned about this:

Capt. Matthew Nielson, 27, of Jefferson died June 29, in Badrah, Iraq. He was killed by indirect fire attack while on duty in Iraq, Iowa National Guard officials said in a news release issued Sunday.

Nielson was UNI grad, like me. Like me, he worked in a grocery store as a high-school student. He died in the course of an unjust war that has nothing do with protecting our freedom. Had I been born a decade later, he could have been me. It makes me sick to think about. Would his life have been wasted like this if Americans did not so strenuously insist on lying to one another about what it is our military men and women really do? Who does it help to continue to so effusively thank Matthew Nielson’s luckier comrades for their service and our freedom? Our gratitude is a rain of grenades over the senior high. Bright-eyed American boys and girls stare smiling down the smoking barrel of our thanks, dying to please.

For a 9/10 America

Watching and reading the various 9/11 remembrances this year, I get the sense that a lot of Americans are ready to move on but are hesitant for fear of seeming either callous or negligently complacent about the country’s security. But it’s past time to move on.

The enormity of the 9/11 mass murders will always stay with those of us old enough to remember. Terrorist acts are perhaps by definition political, in some broad sense of ‘political’. So the terrible events of 9/11 have always been politicized. But 9/11 has been politicized in another way. The United States’ government reacted to to 9/11 and that reaction has been, to my mind, an enormous disaster. Yet those responsible for this disaster have been successful in hiding behind the shock of the crumbling towers, as if support for their dangerous and deadly policies is inexorably implied by feeling deeply the full weight of 9/11’s tragedy. Those most insistent that we “never forget” 9/11 are those who need our continuing collective complicity in the erosion of our civil liberties, in the weakening of the rule of law, in the unjustified invasion of unrelated foreign countries and the murder of their people, in the policy of state-sanctioned torture. The difficulty many Americans have in separating remembrance of an act of terror from an endorsement of the war on terror may turn out be George W. Bush’s great legacy.

The United States was a better place on September 10th, 2001. We should not forget what happened the next day. Nor should we forget the wrongs the United States has subsequently done. That September 10th is long gone. But there will always be another one. Whether we will live in a 9/10 or a 9/11 world is a choice we have, and it is a choice we continue to make.

America Lost

I’m with Glenn Greenwald:

(1) The fact that we are not really bothered any more by taking helpless detainees in our custody and (a) threatening to blow their brains out, torture them with drills, rape their mothers, and murder their children; (b) choking them until they pass out; (c) pouring water down their throats to drown them; (d) hanging them by their arms until their shoulders are dislocated; (e) blowing smoke in their face until they vomit; (f) putting them in diapers, dousing them with cold water, and leaving them on a concrete floor to induce hypothermia; and (g) beating them with the butt of a rifle — all things that we have always condemend as “torture” and which our laws explicitly criminalize as felonies (“torture means. . . the threat of imminent death; or the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering . . .”) — reveals better than all the words in the world could how degraded, barbaric and depraved a society becomes when it lifts the taboo on torturing captives.

This is your government in action, Americans. This is some of what it does with your tax dollars. “It’s bullshit. It’s disgraceful. You wonder which side they’re on.” That’s what Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said not of the men and women in the secret police responsible for these crimes, but of the Attorney General’s move to investigate them. Amazing. That so many Americans are so ready to rally around the most vile, most obviously illegitimate arm of the American state is evidence for the proposition that patriotism is a tool for rendering a people ready to torture and kill at the state’s behest, or to tolerate it. I am disgusted that people who pretend to care about liberty are not disgusted.

Rep. King said that we (who exactly? The American people, the CIA?) must “do whatever we have to do,” must pursue a “scorched earth policy” on behalf of the secret police and their unchecked discretion to torture those in its custody. Do we have to wait for the scorched earth before calling this thing for the terrorists?

Support Gay Marriage, Support Religious Freedom

Jason Kuznicki points us to this excellent video…

As Jason says:

Couldn’t have said it better. If you take taxpayers’ money, you should have to treat all taxpayers equally. If you’re privately funded, you should be free to do as you like. Want to discriminate? Fine. Just don’t take tax money to do it.

And… if you support discrimination laws that touch purely private interactions and that benefit yourself, then you can hardly complain when others want those same benefits for their groups, too.

Libertarian Ideal Theory as Silent Complicity

Steven W. Thrasher in the NY Times a couple days ago:

In 1958, when my mother, who was white, and father, who was black, wanted to get married in Nebraska, it was illegal for them to wed. So they decided to go next door to Iowa, a state that was progressive enough to allow interracial marriage. My mom’s brother tried to have the Nebraska state police bar her from leaving the state so she couldn’t marry my dad, which was only the latest legal indignity she had endured. She had been arrested on my parents’ first date, accused of prostitution. (The conventional thought of the time being: Why else would a white woman be seen with a black man?)

On their wedding day, somehow, my parents made it out of Nebraska without getting arrested again, and were wed in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on March 1, 1958. This was five years before Nebraska would strike down its laws against interracial marriage, and almost a decade before the Supreme Court would outlaw miscegenation laws throughout the country in Loving v. Virginia.

When the good state of Iowa conferred the dignity of civic recognition on my parents’ relationship — a relationship some members of their own families thought was deviant and immoral, that the civil authorities of Nebraska had tried to destroy, and that even some of my mom’s college-educated friends believed would produce children striped like zebras — our family began. And by the time my father died, their interracial marriage was seen just as a marriage, and an admirable 45-year one at that.

I suppose some of you will say that the “libertarian” position in 1958 was that the state has no place in marriage, and so the libertarian, as such, would have had nothing to say about the refusal of many states to recognize marriages between mixed-race couples. But in the world as it was, this stance would have amounted to an active refusal to resist the law’s codification of racial discrimination and segregation. It would have made one a silent partner in injustice. Those making similar arguments today will have to excuse me if I find this stance disgraceful. Many libertarians think there ought to be no government regulation of the economy, for example, but do not hesitate to take the practice for granted when they loudly opine about the extent and structure of regulation. Few say, “There should be no regulation, and so I, as a libertarian, have no opinion about how it should be carried out.” Yet I hear again and again that, since the state should not be in the business of marriage, one should not, as a libertarian, have an opinion about how this business is to be carried out. Increasingly, I find this an obnoxious and shameful form of moral recusal. One cannot use an ideological image of perfect justice to excuse or ignore an obvious injustice within the actual imperfect system. That these injustices could not arise within one’s vision of the best society does not mean that they have not in fact arisen. That a debate would not occur in an ideal world does not mean that it is not occuring or that nothing morally hangs on its conclusion. To decide to sit out the debate, with an eye on utopia, is not a way to keep one’s hands clean.


John Holbo knows what’s up:

What do the [National Review] editors, and Gallagher, really think? The ick argument, I’ll wager. They want to stop same-sex marriage as a way of sending a message of ‘ick’ to gays, and about gays. But they also don’t want to be labeled homophobes. That is, although saying ‘gay marriage shouldn’t be allowed because I believe gay sex is icky’ is actually a less terrible argument than anything they’ve got – hey, it’s not flagrantly internally incoherent, it’s basically honest (I’ll wager), and who doesn’t believe that on some level people steer, morally, by emotional attraction-repulsion drive? – it’s considered embarrassing. (Homophobia: the yuck that dare not speak its name.) And, even if it weren’t embarrassing, it’s obviously not strong enough in the current environment. So what do you do? You end up thoughtlessly backing into something that’s frankly orders of magnitude worse than just saying gay sex is icky. Namely, gays are un-persons, so far as the state is concerned.

What makes these arguments so weird is the mildness of the underlying opposition to homosexuals and homosexuality – the implicit inclination to be basically tolerant. ‘C’mon, gays, you know you’re ok, and we know you’re ok, and you even know that we know you’re ok, but we don’t like it, so can’t there be some way that we can insist on us being a little better than you? It can be a small thing. Symbolic, but slightly inconvenient for you, so people know it’s also serious?’