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Rape as political sport

Pandagon complains about conservative complaints about Robert Polanski:

I happened to pop on over to Hot Air, and saw that the conservative bloggers are all of a sudden deeply concerned about rape. Was there a moral epiphany, I thought, and can we count on them to stand firmly against rape in the future?

She tries to paint inconsistency here where there doesn't really seem to be any.

Polanski drugged and viciously raped a 13-year old girl. The Duke lacrosse team stupidly hired a stripper. I don't think these actions speak all that well of Polanski or the lacrosse team, but I can understand (even as a feminist, non-conservative) why one is worth prosecuting and the other is not.

Pandagon tries to point to the hypocrisy of conservatives here, and I don't quite see it. Yes, conservatives do make a big deal out of Chappaquiddick, but then again, Republicans seem to be generally willing to roast their own politicians too. Getting caught cheating on one's wife is not exactly a woman-friendly action, but it only costs you your job if you have an (R) by your name. [Update: OK, this may not be true. See comments.] [I do think Chappaquiddick has added relevance for the elephants since Ted was a donkey. I don't mean to say otherwise.]

While conservatives may be accused of bias, unfortunately it is liberals who must be charged and convicted of outright hypocrisy on this matter. It is liberals who are signing this disgusting petition to free an admitted, unrepentant child rapist and concocting supporting arguments on the internet. Unfortunately, Polanski's identity as their respected artist and/or friend has led them to abandon their respect for the personhood of women.

I am happy to see that feminist bloggers generally see the light. This includes Pandagon herself, Latoya, and Jill. Even among feminists though, not everyone is on board:

"My personal thoughts are let the guy go," said Peg Yorkin, founder of the Feminist Majority Foundation. "It's bad a person was raped. But that was so many years ago. The guy has been through so much in his life. It's crazy to arrest him now. Let it go. The government could spend its money on other things."

I think though, that feminists largely understand the issue and support bringing Polanski to justice.
Q: What about all the others?

A: I think what is going on is that class and racial identity has trumped feminist concerns. When the Duke case came up, the races and classes of the accused and the accuser took center stage and ended up actually harming the case for women claiming rape to be taken seriously when it turned out that everyone got way ahead of themselves. No one much cared that much about making the public take rape seriously. They instead wanted people to listen to a compelling story about race.

When the Polanski case came up, the class of the accused was what matters most. Yes, he was rich, but he was the right kind of rich, making movies about incestuous capitalists and the like (Chinatown). Once more, the actual interests of advancing women's rights took a back seat.

Many people on this issue and others have sold feminism down the river. It is sad because rape is actually a serious offense. It shouldn't really be politicized by anyone for any purpose. These fair-weather feminists have done much damage.

Are civilians legitimate targets or aren't they?

Jonathan Wilde summarizes comments made by Bill Whittle that sum up the defense of Harry Truman's decision to drop the bomb:

  • The US made some effort to warn the Japanese citizens about what was coming.
  • Hiroshima and Nagasaki were, in some ways, military targets.
  • Conventional bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki would have cost as many lives, if not more, than the atomic bombing.
  • Dropping the bombs killed fewer people than not dropping them would have killed on both the American and Japanese side.
  • The Japanese citizenry were probably not ready to surrender anytime soon before the bombs were dropped.

I have my own take on this issue that I don't want to share. However, I ask that you read these points and just try to evaluate the quality of the arguments made.

Ask, for example,

  • Does it really matter whether a warning is made? Would a Japanese citizen have taken this seriously or even have the power to heed this warning?
  • How can a city be "in some ways" a military target? Is Seattle a military target because Boeing still has facilities there?
  • Let's say dropping the bomb actually saved lives. Do we want to set the precedent where this is an estimation that is made unilaterally by the country with the bomb? Can't this argument be used to justify pretty much any action in any war by countries other than the US?
  • Assuming the Japanese were not willing to surrender anytime soon, did they present a clear, proximate threat to the United States?

Ok, maybe Whittle's defenses aren't the best available. This is a relatively intelligent blog though, right? We should have something better show up in the comments. Let's see.

1. Armchair judges, sipping their beverages, declaring "murder!" this and "murder!" that.
Econ: I understand that this is a fair criticism if the judge is missing some of the relevant details due to being on the armchair. What exactly is the detail that's missing in this case though? (Keep in mind that the decision itself was an armchair decision. It was made by a grown adult in Washington who had the time to think about his decision.)

2. It is a terrible mistake- and unjust, to boot- to judge the actions of people in the past by the standards of the present.
Econ: How different were the standards in 1945? Was intentionally targeting civilians a permissible action?

I ask you: why are the arguments in defense of dropping the bomb so bad? Why are we all taught that it was something that we had to do and that there was no other choice when it seems that there clearly were? (I think I first got this indoctrination in 6th grade.)

More than that, why do we say with no uncertainty today that purposefully targeting civilians in unconditionally wrong when in fact there seems to be a glaring condition under which almost all Americans think it was the right thing to do? It seems like we either need to say targeting civilians is cool in some rare cases or that we goofed.

A testable claim by the past administration

Bush administration officials have not said definitively how many terrorist incidents have been prevented due to the tools they have availed themselves of. However, they have stated that it has been more than a handful since September 2001.

If they were telling the truth, it would seem that we should experience attacks over the next four years now that many of these tools are being dismantled by President Obama.

Of course, if there is some attack, this would cast some doubt on claims by others that the measures don't do any good.

Proudly pragmatic

What did David Masten mean by this?

I do not believe it is any secret that I am philosophically against government...

When we make a decision pragmatically, we consider the potential costs and benefits of different options and choose the best course of action based on that consideration.

A decision based on philosophical grounds can only differs from pragmatic decisions when we expect the decision to leave us worse off.

The fact that philosophical bents in any direction are empty is easily shown by asking people to justify them.

**** has all sorts of problems with it. So, we must appeal to it only as a last resort--if ever.

Something else you may hear is this.

**** is the best thing ever. We should harness its power wherever we can.

Almost everyone's philosophical leanings boil down to combinations of these forms. In other words, people argue for their philosophies on pragmatic grounds. (If you don't believe me, please provide a nontrivial, non-pragmatic justification for libertarianism over socialism or vice versa in the comments.)

Pragmatism is the ultimate adjudicator among philosophies. If libertarianism is a good philosophy, it is only good inasmuch as it serves as a closer approximation of pragmatism than other non-pragmatic philosophies.