Quick Roundup 215

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

ARI Op-Ed on Battlefield Ethics

Elan Journo of the Ayn Rand Institute has written a timely editorial on the disgrace of sending American troops into the battlefield hamstrung by absurd rules of engagement:

Having to follow such self-effacing rules of engagement while confronting sniper fire and ambushes and bombs from every direction, day in and day out, must be utterly demoralizing and unbearable. No one should be surprised at the newly reported willingness of combat troops to defy military ethics, because such defiance is understandable as the natural reaction of warriors made to follow suicidal rules.

When being "ethical" on Washington's terms means martyring yourself and your comrades for the sake of murderous Iraqis, it is understandable that troops are disinclined to report "unethical" behavior. It is understandable that troops should feel anger and anxiety (as many do), because it is horrifically unjust for America to send its personnel into combat, deliberately prevent them from achieving victory -- and expect them to die for the sake of the enemy. It would be natural for an individual thrust into the line of fire as a sacrificial offering to rebel with indignation at such a fate.
I agree that the solution isn't to drum this nonsense harder into the skulls of our troops. It's to drum such self-sacrificial nonsense out of our foreign policy.

One further thought -- and this applies generally to all irrational law: As the law becomes more and more ridiculous, respect for the law goes down the toilet. To begin to see a lack of respect for the law within our military (which remains by law subordinate to our civilian government for a very good reason) is a very troubling development.

When Things Just ... Work

I found this Honda commercial on YouTube about the same time I found that beer commercial I blogged a few days ago.

It was new to me. Accuse me of not watching enough television if you wish.

Shopping for Cell Phones ...

... without [wrinkles nose] shopping.

I got tons of great suggestions via comments and email yesterday pursuant to an off-hand remark about wanting to get a new cell phone. Most notably, Sid pointed me to a site that cuts through the cognitive clutter of features and models through a twenty-question quiz. I'll probably go with that and a visit to the Consumer Reports web site to choose a model. (The quiz reminded me that I'd like to have speaker phone mode.)
There are 20 important features that matter when buying a cell phone, and 209 phones on the market!

This test will look at each phone and find the very 5 best for your needs, in less than 2 minutes!
At the end, you can filter the ranked list by carrier. And then, when you learn as I did that your current carrier doesn't support what you want, you can select a new plan here! Another good strategy is to look for good models that aren't available in your market on eBay.

My thanks again to everyone who offered their suggestions!

Analogy of the Day

I am something like 2/3 of the way through David Allen's Getting Things Done -- thanks to prodigious amounts of time spent waiting in doctors' offices last week. I cannot recommend it enough. Even if you decide that the full system isn't for you, there is so much clear thinking about what good productivity requires, and so many good suggestions, that if you don't get something useful from it, I'd be amazed.

Many thanks to Scott Powell for his recommendation of the book and to Diana Hsieh for drawing it to my attention in the first place.

A post by Rational Jenn, who is a little further long implementing the suggestions of the book than I am, reminded me to thank Scott and Diana here, but it also very nicely summarizes what this absent-minded scientist likes about the system:
It occurs to me that this method is a Muggle alternative to Dumbledore's Pensieve. It does help tremendously just to get one's thoughts out of one's head. Although Allen's method isn't as cool as as a Pensieve! I suppose that's what I get for being a Muggle--just paper and pen and computers. Oh well.
And that's just the "capture" portion of the system David Allen outlines. I'd say that you also get the muggle version of a time turner once you get the whole thing in place. And that's what I'm really after.

Back of the Envelope Calculation of the Day

This morning as I dumped some newspapers into the trash, I wondered about the extent of what I think of as the "invisible, voluntary genocide" perpetrated by environmentalism in the form of time wasted recycling things that are cheaper to make from raw materials.

Quickly, let's estimate that America has a population of about 300 million, with an average life expectancy of 70 years. One quarter of all people recycle, wasting perhaps one minute of their lives each day. That's 300,000,000 people x 0.25 x 1 minutes wasted each day due to recycling, or an astounding 75 million man-minutes of life lost every day. There are 365.25 x 24 x 60, or 525,960 minutes in a year. Thus, on a daily basis, recycling is costing America alone 142 man-years -- or just over two average life spans per day!

It is no exaggeration to say, as I have before, that recycling is deadly. I just didn't think to consider how deadly.

In retrospect, I just realized that those who push for recycling crunch numbers like this all the time in order to show how "wasteful" industrialized society is. It's about time we looked at the one thing they consistently ignore: human life.

-- CAV


: Corrected a hyperlink.


Dismuke said...

This morning as I dumped some newspapers into the trash"

You still read a paper newspaper? If so - then, gee whiz, that makes you more "old fashioned" than even me!

I can't even remember for sure the last time I bought a newspaper.

Gus Van Horn said...

I enjoy the paper mainly on weekends, but the Chronicle suddenly, without raising my rates, shifted me to all week.

I might read a section or two, but most of the weekday paper is completely wasted as I haven't the time for it.

And then, of course, the paper has other good uses.

Dismuke said...

"I enjoy the paper mainly on weekends, but the Chronicle suddenly, without raising my rates, shifted me to all week.

I can tell you with fairly strong confidence of being right exactly what that happened - and it wasn't because the carrier or the person who handles your subscription made a mistake. The newspaper is probably desperate to show that its circulation numbers are not sagging as bad as they are. Circulation numbers are crucial as that is what advertising rates are based on - and that, and not subscriptions which may cover the costs of distributing them paper if they are lucky, is where newspapers make their money. So a "mistake" that results in your getting the extra newspapers means that they can count those extra newspapers as part of their paid circulation numbers.

The Dallas Morning News had a circulation scandal of its own a few years back and was forced to reimburse advertisers to the tune of $30 million. If my memory is correct, it had something to do with the way unsold newsstand returns were counted and not with what you are describing. What you are experiencing is something that certain magazines have done for years. Technically, it is a form of fraud - but if they don't go overboard with it, it is kind of difficult for someone to prove that it is something other than a mere error.

Gus Van Horn said...

No. This wasn't even a mistake. they informed me via post that weekend-only delivery was no longer an option.