Archive for January 4th, 2007


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Today was yet another stinker of a day in this most tedious of Irish winters. But the sun fell on these crocuses for a brief moment, which was enough time for me to take 5 shots of them, 4 of which I discarded immediately because they were shite. I kept this one, though, as it’s nice to know that not everything is lying dormant these days.


It’s cigars and soda time here as I take a brief interlude from the mind-numbing chores assigned to me by the person who told me to enjoy a ‘hard-earned break’ over Christmas.

Ignoring the actual amount of stuff (it doesn’t get much more specific than that round here) I actually did before Christmas, I didn’t earn my break at all, since no-one who is not some form of slave has to earn the right not to work.

And leaving aside the eminent possibility that ‘hard-earned break’ was simply the turn of phrase of an exhausted imagination, it seems that either my manager thinks I deserved to work as punishment for something I did or did not do, or that I am some sort of slave. Even so, it might be nothing personal. He might think that the same thing applies to him, too.

Back to the cigars and soda. I have just read a rather diverting article by a couple of boffins in Foreign Policy on Why Hawks Win. This is rather of the moment, since George Bush is planning on sending another pile of troops into Iraq, in so doing discarding the recommendations of the Baker report and going along with the ‘hawks’:

Social and cognitive psychologists have identified a number of predictable errors (psychologists call them biases) in the ways that humans judge situations and evaluate risks….

These psychological impulses—only a few of which we discuss here—incline national leaders to exaggerate the evil intentions of adversaries, to misjudge how adversaries perceive them, to be overly sanguine when hostilities start, and overly reluctant to make necessary concessions in negotiations. In short, these biases have the effect of making wars more likely to begin and more difficult to end.

Assuming blithely that things are going to remain the way they are for the forseeable future, and given the fact that these biases are more or less an established fact (If it appears in Foreign Policy, it must be darned true) why not weight the system in such a way that a failed policy pursued as the result of a hawkish advice would result in personal cost to the hawkish advisor (or, for that matter, the hawkish national leader)? Why not incentivise the decision-making process to address the bias?

For instance, one would be allowed to advise the aerial bombing of children to achieve a certain goal, but if the bombing did not achieve the desired goal, then the advisor’s own children should also be subjected to aerial bombing. But that may be unjust. What did the advisor’s children do to deserve such a fate? Daddy may be a useless warmongering shitehawk, but that’s no reason to kill his privileged kids.

No, we must ponder less gruesome measures. Here’s one. The advisor could be required to waive his salary and receive instead the average wage of the population getting bombed. Every bomb dropped would mean another month’s salary waived. This would be a means of inhibiting the biases to which the article refers. The full wages could then be restored once the policy was confirmed a success.

There is a problem with the latter measure, since it would provide an incentive for unscrupulous policy advisors in poor countries to bomb rich cities like Seattle as a means of boosting their monthly wage packet. We must adopt a weary realism here and abandon the principle of universality. This measure, like the content of Foreign Policy, could only apply to countries like the United States.

Perhaps the cigars are starting to take their toll.

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January 2007
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