Assuming the Original Position

Say what you want about John Rawls, but he doesn’t deserve to be invoked by Alan Dershowitz in defense of Donald Trump–on the floor of the U.S. Senate, no less. And yet here we are.

Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought.

Curious what Trump or Dershowitz think of that one, or if they have any idea what it means.


Dershowitz on Rawls at 3:23:30:

https://www.wgbh.org/news/politics/2020/01/27/watch-live-trumps-impeachment-trial-resumes

War with Iran (16): The Headaches of War

In episode 13 of this series–and “episode” is the only word for a war that resembles a reality TV show–I pointed out that the Trump Administration misstated the number of casualties suffered by American troops in the recent Iranian attack on Iraqi military bases where those troops are stationed. Trump had originally said there were no casualties, but at that point, it was reported that 11 soldiers had been evacuated for injuries suffered in the attacks. But it gets better. Now the number evacuated is starting to rise. From 11, it’s become “about a dozen.” One report puts the number in the “teens.” So what’s the explanation for the discrepancy–that the Pentagon is hiding the truth from us, or that it can’t count? Continue reading

War with Iran (7): It’s Not Over Yet

The conventional wisdom has it that “for now,” the war with Iran is over. According to this supposed wisdom, Iran followed up our assassination of Suleimani with a lot of rhetorical bluster but an oddly anti-climactic and hapless missile strike on US bases in Iraq. The strike caused no casualties, and did no “serious” damage. Meanwhile, Trump, in his magnanimity, seems not to want to “escalate.” And so, war has been averted, and we can all emit a collective sigh of relief over everything’s having ended so well. I don’t claim to be an expert on military affairs, but to state my verdict on the conventional wisdom in a word: bullshit. The war isn’t over. It’s just begun. Continue reading

War with Iran (4): The Target Package

Donald Trump has famously and idiotically tried to assuage fears of a war with Iran with the assertion that he had Qasem Suleimani killed not to start a war but to prevent one. Putting aside the ad hoc quality of his reliance on the distinction between the intended and the foreseen, this happens to be a classic case of its total irrelevance: it doesn’t much matter in this context whether Trump intended to start a war, or merely foresaw that he might start one, or just recklessly took his action without thinking too hard about what he was doing. Yes, there’s a distinction to be drawn between a war brought about by intention and a war brought about through extreme recklessness. But it’s a distinction without a difference in a case where the action leading to war initiates force and violates any plausible conception of prudential rationality to boot. It doesn’t help that the rationalization for it comes from a pathological liar. Continue reading

“Trump Approved the Turkish Invasion of Syria”

Truth, they say, is the first casualty of war. Here’s one:

On Oct. 6, the day President Trump spoke to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and gave tacit approval for a Turkish military invasion, the American military had around 1,000 troops in Syria.

Isn’t there a clear difference between acquiescence in an action and approval of it? I’ve acquiesced in the Trump presidency; it doesn’t follow, and isn’t true, that I “approve” of it, whether explicitly or tacitly. What is the evidence for the claim that Trump approved of, or “gave approval for,” the Turkish invasion of Syria? Continue reading

Chicken Kiev: Misframing the Trump-Ukraine Controversy

It’s remarkable how the Trump-Ukraine story has reflexively been described as a case of Trump’s “courting Ukrainian interference in American politics” rather than as Trump’s interfering in Ukrainian politics, or even more precisely, as Trump’s abortive attempt to make an intervention into the Ukrainian criminal justice system. The latter strikes me as a more straightforward description of what actually happened.

DES MOINES — Allegations that President Trump courted foreign interference from Ukraine to hurt his leading Democratic rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr., dominated presidential politics on Saturday, as Mr. Biden demanded a House investigation of Mr. Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s leader and as Mr. Trump lashed out, denying wrongdoing without releasing a transcript of the call.

I heard one pundit try to justify the “courting interference” description by claiming that in asking the Ukrainians to investigate Hunter Biden, Trump was legitimizing Ukraine’s sending covert operatives to the United States to circumvent the American criminal justice system–presumably to abduct Biden for trial (or worse) in the way that the Israeli Mossad abducted Adolph Eichmann in 1960. I guess that’s one interpretation–a highly speculative one that involves a gigantic leap beyond any evidence we have, but an interpretation nonetheless. Continue reading

Character-Based Voting and the Ambiguities of “Policy” (Part 4 of 5)

Apologies for the delay in posting the fourth part of my five-part series on character-based voting. Here are parts one, two, and three, which are probably necessary as background to part four.  Earlier in the series, I make reference to what I call a “Murad-type meeting,” referring to Donald Trump’s behavior at a recent meeting with Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad.

The first part introduced the topic of character’s ambiguous relation to “policy.” The second part focuses on character’s instrumental relation to policy. The third part considers the possibility that expressions of character might be constitutive of “governance.” This part considers the possibility that expressions of character might have normative significance out of relation to policy or governance, at least on conventional construals of those terms. Continue reading

Poetic Justice with Donald Trump

Didn’t Donald Trump do members of “the Squad” a favor of sorts by telling them to go back to their countries of origin?

After all, one of the members of the Squad, Rashida Tlaib, is Palestinian. If Trump thinks she should go back to her country of origin, it stands to reason that she must have one. So does Donald Trump think that Palestine is a country? That’s news to me, and would probably be news to Jared Kushner, David Friedman, Jason Greenblatt, and the entire cohort of Zionist frauds that populate the Trump administration.

Beyond that, if Tlaib has a country to go back to, one that is in some sense hers, it seems to follow that she has a right of return to it. So, does that mean that the United States Government now takes the Palestinians to have a right of return to Palestine? I guess it does, but has anyone informed the Israelis? Continue reading