Thursday, July 30, 2009

You might be a liberal if ...

I was taking the Liberal Test over at Maverick Philosoher and started to feel real bad because I was scoring really low. I think I got the death penalty question right, or at least didn't find the rationale for the right answer all that convincing. (To be fair, of the one sentence arguments for instituting the death penalty, the Maverick's isn't bad.) Question #20 and the Maverick's answer gave me pause:

20. Racial profiling for terrorists is wrong -- a white American grandmother should as likely be searched as a Saudi young male.

No. Profiling, racial and otherwise, is a legitimate law enforcement technique.

Maybe he should read the story of Daniel Boyd.

Blonde with a Butt-Cut and the ringleader of a group plotting violent jihad.

I hadn't seen these comments from Krauthammer:

Assuaging feelings is a good thing, but hunting for terrorists this way is simply nuts. The fact is that jihadist terrorism has been carried out from Bali to Casablanca to Madrid to London to New York to Washington by young Muslim men of North African, Middle Eastern and South Asian origin. This is not a stereotype. It is a simple statistical fact. Yes, you have your shoe-bomber, a mixed-race Muslim convert, who would not fit the profile. But the overwhelming odds are that the guy bent on blowing up your train traces his origins to the Islamic belt stretching from Mauritania to Indonesia.

Yet we recoil from concentrating bag checks on men who might fit this description. Well, if that is impossible for us to do, then let's work backward. Eliminate classes of people who are obviously not suspects.

We could start with a little age pruning — no one under, say, 13, and no one over, say, 60. Then we could exempt whole ethnic populations, a list that could immediately start with Hispanics, Scandinavians and East Asians. Then we could have a huge saving, a 50 percent elimination of waste, by giving a pass to women, except perhaps the most fidgety, sweaty, suspicious-looking, overcoat-wearing, knapsack-bearing young woman, to be identified by the presiding officer.



Brian Leiter said...

Mr. Vallicella seems to be as dumb politically as he is philosophically. What a strange display.

Aaron Boyden said...

Though I don't like the phrasing of most of them, I think I agree with roughly 12 of the 23. Is just over half good enough to maintain my liberal credentials, or do I need some refresher brainwashing?

Clayton said...


Agreed. The politics and the "rationale" for them are just mind boggling. F-.


More brainwashing never hurt anyone.

Mike Almeida said...

The reasoning is strange. He seems to think that, since the chances of finding a terrorist are higher when we choose at random among a population that looks a certain way than when we choose at random among a population that doesn't, it follows that each person who shares the relevant features is more likely to be a terrorist than each person who doesn't. But the inference is so painfully bad.

Notice that the very same argument would justify checking everyone who boards from New York, since your chances of finding a major problem/terrorist boarding from NY (or pick your favorite major city) are higher than your chances elsewhere.

Now we turn the alleged reductio on it's head: "why are you checking her, she's a 90 year old lady?" "She boarded from NY, didn't she? Are you so naive or liberal not to know that people boarding from NY have a higher chance of being a terrorist?"

Yikes, that's not so smart.

Clayton said...

Hey Mike,

I'd also add that making public declaration of a racial profiling scheme is going to give an incentive for terrorist organizations to recruit little old ladies. Having seen _Aresnic and Old Lace_, I just don't think that's a demographic we can trust!

Mike Almeida said...

Thinking about the issue just a little, it cannot be that anyone fails to realize that--setting aside every other property that they instantiate--the chances are higher that a Saudi male is a terrorist than that a British female is. It's no great service to point out this blindingly obvious fact. The issue rather concerns letting racial properties trump every other relevant property. The concern arises when the fact that someone is Saudi is used to explain why other relevant properties such as not acting nervously, wearing a Princeton necktie, carrying the National Review, are just what we'd expect from a clever terrorist.
Anyway, the political discussion never gets very subtle there.

Pavel Davydov said...

Hi Clayton,

The saddest part is that Maverick Philosopher is treating another conservative's probable caricature (intentional or unintentional) of the liberal views as their legitimate statement and proceeds to express his outrage accordingly.

For what it's worth, I'm comfortable describing myself as a moderate liberal. But I agree with only 5-7 of the 23 propositions as stated, and some I've no idea how to interpret charitably. The formulation is just absurd, even for a caricature.

Benj said...

Wow, what a gross moron. I feel dirty

arsene said...


Jason said...

You are looking for a pot of gold and so far 20 pots of gold have been found, all of them under rocks. And you also know that many knotholes in trees have been searched, too, and so far, not a single pot of gold has been found in the knothole of a tree.

You can now search 50 times, looking under rocks or looking in knotholes. How are you going to divide your search between the two to maximise your chances of a successful find?


Ok. If you considered that, consider this. There are two groups of people, young white guys, young black guys. An equal %age of each group smokes weed while driving around in their car.

You are a patrol officer and can stop cars upon suspicion of marijuana possession. You give young white guys a pass, and focus on young black guys. At the end of the year you've busted 50 black guys for possession of marijuana and sent them to jail. You have stopped no young white guys and therefore you have not busted any and there are none of these guys in jail.

To me, the latter is what fits the common conception of racial profiling, it is the focusing of enforcement (or some other aspect of the criminal justice system) asymmetrically along racial lines.

To make the above fit the 'catch a terrorist' scenario, it would require that there are white or Asian terrorists who are passing through airports in suicide vests unmolested and are then freely committing their crimes.

For the record, I detest Krauthammer, and I understand that his odiousness may be informing the visceral reaction to his words, but I am just focusing on how to maximise the chances of a successful hit from a stop-and-search policy, given the data on the make-up of previous perpetrators of terrorist attacks.

Anonymous said...

In all major terrorist attacks too many questions have been left unanswered, on 911 two planes hit two buildings yet three buildings collapsed, in London on 7/7 every CCTV camera on the buses and trains involved was mysteriously malfunctioning, in Mumbai in December last year ten youths with no military training managed to hijack an entire city and kill every high ranking police officer connected with a recent investigation into Hindu extremism.

In the three cases I've cited above no public investigation was forth coming - I'm not sure where you're going with your blog but idealism only takes you so far, at some point you're going to have to let the facts intrude -

Anonymous said...

Jason, are you implying that law enforcement is letting white mass-murderers off the hook while only arresting other races?

You give an example of crime that is possible to ignore. We know when there's been a terrorist attack. I don't see how your point applies.