Economics and similar, for the sleep-deprived
A subtle change has been made to the comments links, so they no longer pop up. Does this in any way help with the problem about comments not appearing on permalinked posts, readers?
Update: seemingly not
Update: Oh yeah!
Monday, December 29, 2008
A brief note on proportionality
Much comment around and about the commentosphere about what is and isn't "disproportionate". The same gang of chuckleheads were pissing out squid ink around this fairly simple concept of international law two years ago, during the invasion of Lebanon. Typically the way it goes is that someone takes it into their head that the Geneva Conventions might require "proportionality" in the sense of an eye for an eye, constructs some case in which that would be ridiculous and then goes "how ridiculous these people are with their hilarious 'war crimes' accusations! Tch!".
Actually, the word "proportionate" doesn't appear in the conventions; they talk about collateral damage to civilians being "reasonable". And in context, it's clear that there's no requirement of tit for tat, just that unintended but inevitable risk to noncombatants has to be proportionate to the military aim which is being carried out. Thus, it is argued (both ways - I don't have a view on this myself) that the bombing of Hiroshima was not necessarily a war crime, because the war aim in doing so (the early ending of the war in the Pacific) was such a huge one. And this despite the fact that Japan as a belligerent had not inflicted anything like similar civilian casualties on the USA. Conversely, the bombing of Dresden is argued to have been a war crime (again, both ways, and again, I don't have my own opinion) not because the casualties were greater by orders of magnitude than those of the Blitz, but because there was no very great military prize at stake.
As an obvious corollorollorollorollrary to this (fixed! thanks Phil), any military action at all can be disproportionate if it has no point to it at all; no sensible or realistic objective other than shoring up political support for the people who ordered it. And as a further corollary, it is entirely possible (and indeed, not even unusual) for both sides in a conflict to be guilty of disproportionate use of violence.
this item posted by the management 12/29/2008 12:13:00 PM
Thursday, December 18, 2008
The most dangerous job on earth?
I hadn't realised what an insanely dangerous job it is being President of the USA. Four sitting presidents (just less than 10% of the total) have been murdered while in office, something I think we can fairly class as a job-related death. Since there have been Presidents of the USA since 1789, I calculate a death rate per 100,000 worker-years of 1826. This means that being President of the USA is fifteen times more dangerous than being a timber-cutter (the most dangerous normal occupation in the USA and nearly eighteen times more dangerous than being a fisherman in the UK. It is, however, safer than being a member of the Black Gangster Disciples during the period surveyed by Levitt & Venkatesh - even during the non-war periods, footsoldiers experienced a death rate of 4980/100K worker years, although L&V note that other gang research in Boston found a death rate for crack gangs there which was more or less in line with being President of the USA.
Presumably this fairly obvious piece of arithmetic has been done for about a thousand op-ed columns already, but I hadn't seen it before.
Update: Much more back-of-envelope calculation of crude actuarial tables, in comments. Is the true death rate for Popes 427 per 100,000 pope/years or as high as 2100? Is a fisherman a fisherman while he's not fishing, and how should we look at military death rates? Is it more dangerous to be a soldier in Iraq or a King of England?
Further update: OK, thanks to some sterling work from "Robotslave" we've got presidents, Prime ministers, US and Iraqi Army, French and English monarchs and Hezbollah. Anyone else wanting to contribute, dig in.
Extra update: On the other hand, I am getting sceptical about some of this data. Surely if four US Presidents had really been killed, we would expect to see at least twelve who had just been wounded. I can only think of one (Reagan). Which suggests that the truth about JFK is that he is still alive and his death was faked by Lancet investigators who hate America.
this item posted by the management 12/18/2008 05:27:00 AM
Monday, December 08, 2008
Those who don't read Will Rogers are condemned to repeat him
I note in passing that Will Rogers wrote in the 1930s that the USA "is going to be the first nation in history to go to the poorhouse in an automobile", and think it rather a shame that as far as I can tell, no currently active journalist remembered to dig up this quote when the CEOs of the auto industry flew to Washington DC to ask for a bailout, in their private jets.
this item posted by the management 12/08/2008 11:50:00 PM
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Yup, that's about the size of it
I seriously doubt that any of my regular readers were or are confused about the relationship between pension and healthcare costs and the financial problems of US automobile manufacturers, but I am a sucker for a good timeline, particularly when carried out through the medium of sarcasm.
this item posted by the management 12/03/2008 05:38:00 AM