5/31/11

Connected Shorts



I used to not like short stories too much, basically because when I enter a book, I want to enter one world and stay there for a while.  But then I discovered a very likable genre--connected short stories.  Three examples above, all really fabulous.

I just finished A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan, which is just as terrific and exhilarating as the reviews say.  It pains me to read the complaints at Amazon from people who hate the "powerpoint" chapter. The powerpoint chapter is terrific.  The whole thing is terrific.  I should clarify: each chapter works as a short story, but the whole thing is actually a novel.  The structure of the thing is much fun to contemplate.  It's a sort of puzzle, solved in a very satisfying way at the end. 

The goon squad of Egan's title is time, and time is the subject of the novel, in various ways.  It beats people up pretty badly, but does other things too, good and bad.  Which reminds me of a post about the passage of time I wrote when my kids were at the end of elementary school.  I need that message again, because now they're at the end of junior high.  Written on a bench in their elementary school's office: "The secret to life is enjoying the passage of time." 

5/30/11

Why Students Become More Acccommodationist

What do college students think about science vs. religion?   Sociologist Christopher Scheitle looked at survey data of 10,810 US students (here), and found that 69% see no conflict in their freshman year.  Interestingly enough, the remainder tend to move toward a no-conflict perspective over time.  Here's the critical data --

Click to enlarge
The table reads down, so it says that of all freshman who think religion and science conflict and side with religion,  27.4% still have that view by their junior year while an amazing 70.8% think there is no conflict--science and religion are either independent or collaborative.  Freshman who start off thinking science and religion conflict, and side with science, change their minds too, but less often.  53.2% still have that view by the time they are juniors, and 45.9% think there is no conflict.

What happens in college to shift students from the conflict view to a no-conflict view?  Why is there change in both groups, pro-religion and pro-science, but less change in the latter?  Interesting question.  The author doesn't try to explain, but thinks the data suggests college does not have a secularizing effect--
This finding might be especially surprising since many people, especially religious families, assume that higher education has a secularizing influence on students (Smith and Snell 2009:248), which might be expected to increase perceptions of a conflict.
Odd--because my first inclination is to think just the opposite.  No, the "conflict-I side with religion" students don't move all the way to the other extreme--"conflict-I side with science."  But why are they moving at all?  I should think the most likely explanation is that college has (precisely!) a secularizing effect.  The religious students are changing their minds about either the content of religion or the nature of religious truth.  Where at first they thought religion make straightforward claims like "God created the world in 6 days" (clearly in conflict with science), by their junior year they might think that's a metaphor, or that God is goodness, or that they have faith without dogma...or some such. As a result, religion no longer seems so clearly in conflict with science.  

The shift in attitudes among those who start with "conflict-I side with science" might be explained similarly.  Their stereotype of religion, as freshman, gradually changes as they encounter religions students with less literal, more nebulous beliefs.  Why, then, do they shift to the "no conflict" view in smaller numbers?  Because for some, religion means the old time religion.  They don't have the same motivation to allow their understanding of religion to evolve--since it's something they happily reject.

Yes, it's all speculative--and just based on my discussions with students about religion over the years, but I think this makes more sense than Scheitle's reading--that no "secularizing" is revealed by the data.  An even more implausible story is told by Matt Rossano, in this HuffPo editorial.  He thinks the greater amount of change among the "conflict-I side with religion" students shows they are less dogmatic on the whole issue of science-religion conflict.  But no--if the religious students are more in flux about religion, it stands to reason that they're going to be more in flux about science-religion conflict.

Scheitle's survey data must reveal whether I'm right or wrong--we would just need to compare the 27% of students who stick with "conflict - I side with religion" to the 70% who shift.  Do they differ in their religious beliefs? My bet is they do--but of course it's just a bet.  More speculation: possibly another factor is all the stress on interdisciplinariness and "ways of knowing" on college campus.  There's also all the diversity training.  The "no conflict" view has lots of interpersonal advantages.  In any case, the data is surprising and interesting.

5/28/11

Everyone's talking about ...

Psychopaths. Jon Ronson was talking about them on The Daily Show last week, and thanks to how amusing he was (I bet), all 12 copies of his new book The Psychopath Test were sold out at my local Barnes and Noble.  Ronson says 1 in 100 of us are psychopaths.  Your neighbor might be a psychopath ... or your wife.  Here's what I don't get--"psychopath" seems like a word like "imbecile" or "degenerate" or "lunatic".  It's psychological and scientific, but also expressive--we use it to express rejection and disdain.  Yet Ronson talks as if it could be a straightforward fact that some number of people are psychopaths.  So I am puzzled.  If there are any mental health professionals reading, I'd like to know: is "psychopath" really a current diagnostic label?  Could it really be applied to such a vast number of people--1 in 100??!


The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Jon Ronson
www.thedailyshow.com
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5/26/11

The Perp Walk and the Perf Walk


There was a lot of wailing last week about photos of Dominique Strauss-Kahn's perp walk (top).  How unfair for newspapers to publish pictures that make him look guilty!  Now I wonder--if that's a problem, what about showing him looking like a perfectly nice man on the way to a business meeting (bottom)?  There he is, looking confident as he's transferred to a $50,000 a month rental, where he will await trial on rape charges.  Surely his accuser has a right to be presumed honest, but the perf walk gives us the impression she made it all up.  I say: fair is fair. No complaining about one picture unless you also object to the other.

5/25/11

Minority Report

I've been having a bit of a crisis lately about hating a book I'm supposed to love--Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel. I don't always mind being in the minority. In fact, it can be quite satisfying.  I'm one of the few (it seems) who know and love the Icelandic author Halldor Laxness.  No problem--we Laxness-lovers are obviously the cognoscenti. Conversely, I could accept that I'm the only one who hates a book that everyone loves.  The problem in the present case is that there are both many Wolf Hall-haters and many Wolf Hall-lovers, and (dreadfully enough) all the smart people seem to be on the loving side.  A collection of reviews of the book is here, and look at these grades!


When I saw this I rushed to read the reviews without grades, hoping for an ally or two, but my hopes were soon dashed.  There don't seem to be any bad reviews in here!

On the other hand, there are 60 1-star reviews  at Amazon, and 53 2-star reviews.  If you classify the 52 3-star reviews as negative, more people dislike this book than love it (there are 150 5-star reviews).   And yet, all the reviewers adore this book.  Could it be that I've fallen in with the wrong crowd?!

To make things even worse, the things I hate about this book are either outright denied or positively acclaimed by the smart reviewers.  For example, I see this book is austere to an extreme.   Personally, when I go to the 16th century, I want to know what things look like, smell like, sound like.  If a person goes from point A to point B, I actually want to know how they got there. By boat?  Were there horses?  Did it rain?  We get almost none of that in this novel--it's all thinking and talking.  But (nooooo, tell me that it isn't so!) some reviewers praise the book for its descriptive detail!

Then there's the issue of "he", and the way it's not clear whom it refers to half the time.  Gradually, after much frustration and confusion, you figure out that ambiguous and confusing instances usually refer to Thomas Cromwell.  Me 'n' the other dummies at Amazon think this is just stupid and annoying, but the smart people actually think it's deliberate and brilliant!  How so?  The way all "he"s point to Cromwell puts him at the center of the book in some profound sense.  Or: we are seeing things "through a glass darkly."  Oh, ok. Now I get it!

But what about the modern language and sensibility that suffuses the book?  To me 'n' the Amazon dummies, this is just annoyingly anachronistic.  It's the 16th century, for God's sake! Take this passage (and remember, all ambiguous "he"s refer to Thomas Cromwell)--
At some point he must have slept. When daylight came, the moon felt so empty it was empty even of him.
The moon felt empty at daylight.  It felt empty to Cromwell?  In what sense did the moon feel empty?  Does it sometimes feel full?  And what was it doing still up at daylight anyway?  And why does this 16th century man have thoughts that seem to come out of a poem in the New Yorker?

Here's another puzzling paragraph, with (of course!) all the "he"s referring to Cromwell (he's thinking about Lord Chancellor Thomas More writing articles against Cardinal Wolsey).
When he hears this he thinks, imagine living inside the Lord Chancellor's head. Imagine writing down such a charge and taking it to the printer, and circulating it through the court and through the realm, putting it out there to where people will believe anything:putting it out there, to the shepherds on the hills, to Tyndale's plowboy, to the beggar on the roads and the patient beast in its byre or stall; out there to the bitter winter winds, and to the weak early sun, and the snowdrops in the London gardens.
If you want to imagine Thomas Cromwell having the stream of consciousness of a modern poet, there's no law against it, but why would you want to?

I seriously hate not finishing a book, but life is short. Next on my list is another hugely lauded book. Uh oh.

5/22/11

Procreation and Parenthood on Film - Abortion

Thanks to some great feedback from commenters, I have a bunch of movies about procreation and parenthood to preview, for possible use in an ethics class I'm teaching in the fall.  Movies are often used in philosophy classes to enliven topics like skepticism, free will, time travel, and personal identity, but I think they're going to be really helpful in this class.  Reason:  college students have not had a lot of first-hand experience with procreation and parenthood, or if they have, they're not likely to want to talk openly about their experiences.  So making the issues palpable through film is going to help ... I hope.


The first two movies I've previewed are Juno and Vera Drake, both movies that deal with abortion.  Juno is a wonderfully quirky and entertaining movie about a funny, independent-minded 16-year-old girl who gets pregnant, heads for an abortion clinic, and then turns around and decides to have the baby and give it up for adoption.  The movie comes across as being about one person's decision. It's not prescriptive and judgmental.  Yet it does deliver an interesting message:  while it would be permissible for Juno to have the abortion, it's admirable that she doesn't.  She is a good Samaritan.

This movie would pair very nicely with Judith Jarvis Thomson's famous article "A Defense of Abortion," or with Rosalind Hursthouse's "Virtue Theory and Abortion"  (thanks to Aeolus for the latter suggestion).  I think it would easily generate an interesting discussion about whether it really is admirable to continue a pregnancy.  What's admirable about it?  If a fetus, early on, is really just "nothing," what's so admirable about letting it gestate to the point that it is "something"?  In combination with one or both of those articles, the debate about this movie could have some philosophical heft.

Less philosophical but also interesting, there are issues to discuss about the way the movie represents the choice not to abort.  Juno makes this choice under no pressure from her parents or boyfriend, and with no religious influences.  She is a free-spirit -- entirely her own person.  In fact, she is exactly the kind of girl who (in my experience) will actually take control of her life and end an unwanted pregnancy. So does the film lie to us?  Maybe. This qualm  doesn't detract at all from classroom potential, as the issue of the movie's truthfulness would be grist for discussion.

Vera Drake is a very, very fine Mike Leigh movie about a woman who "helps girls" in 1950s England, with tragic consequences.  After a house of cards is set up in the first half of the movie, it's riveting and heartbreaking to see them all come down in the second half.  What's particularly brilliant is the way we see that there is no one to blame except ... well, I won't spoil it for you.  The portrayal of the woman's family and all the other people involved is fascinating and touching.

Classroom potential? The message of the movie is that if abortion were illegal, women would have them anyway, and they would be unsafe.  American students take for granted the availability of abortion, so it would be helpful for them to get a glimpse of life when it's illegal.  But that would only provide them with valuable factual background. I don't think the movie really stimulates thinking about the ethics of abortion, as fine as it is.  American students will also, I suspect, find the movie slow, and the lower class British accents incomprehensible.  They will find Juno relevant to their own lives, but (I worry) would find Vera Drake distant and irrelevant.  Still: it's a great movie, well worth seeing.

5/20/11

The End of the World - What to Tell the Kids

There's something attractive about the Haddad parents' approach to parenting, described in the New York Times today.  The parents think Judgment Day is coming tomorrow, and the devout will be rapturized, but they haven't forced that belief on their kids, ages 14 and up.  They even let their son talk to a reporter during a trip to Manhattan for last minute evangelizing.
“People look at my family and think I’m like that,” said Joseph, their 14-year-old, as his parents walked through the street fair on Ninth Avenue, giving out Bibles. “I keep my friends as far away from them as possible.”
“I don’t really have any motivation to try to figure out what I want to do anymore,” he said, “because my main support line, my parents, don’t care.”
But then, the parents have caused the kids a lot of anxiety about the future.  The mom quit her job to free up time to spread the word.  Not good, says the son.
“I don’t really have any motivation to try to figure out what I want to do anymore,” he said, “because my main support line, my parents, don’t care.”
Fortunately, the kids see the humor in the situation too.  They've used the big day as an excuse not to clean their rooms and do they're homework.  But then they're old enough to think for themselves.

Younger kids are a lot more impressionable.  If Mom and Dad say the rapture's on Saturday, they're very likely to believe the rapture's on Saturday.  Which is ... what?  Altogether bad?

How much personal ideology should parents pass on to their kids?  It's tempting to make judgments based on one's own beliefs, instead of on principles that can be generalized.  I find it disturbing that people take their kids hunting, but not disturbing that parents restrict their children to vegetarian diets.  The imposition is the same, it's only the beliefs in question that differ.  So ... what principle should we follow, when deciding whether or not to inculcate some outlook or behavior in children?

Joel Feinberg postulated a "right to an open future" in a well known, much quoted article.  The idea is that kids should be raised in such a way that their ability to make their own choices, as adults, is preserved.  That argues against sealing them in insular communities, without access to outside ideas and ways of life.  The right to an open future is (you might argue) not honored by Hasidic and Amish parents, for example.

Ordinary religious education isn't so restrictive.  The typical American kid has religious education on Sundays and mixes with people who have other beliefs the rest of the week.  Whatever beliefs are inculcated can readily be shed later on.  Even the rapturists are presumably not denying their young kids an open future by telling them tomorrow is judgment day.  They'll be able to shed the belief later on, as long as they get to interact with the world at large.

Of course, there are other rights, besides the right to an open future.  There's the right not to be scared half to death, for no real reason, and I imagine a lot of little kids are pretty nervous about tomorrow.  There's also a right to prepare for next week and next year, and the rapturous parents aren't doing well in that area.  But the sheer fact that they're teaching their kids about the rapture doesn't seem to violate their basic right to an open future.

So -- what's going to happen when the rapturists find out tomorrow's just another day? How will the face their kids?  How will they recover from abandoning their jobs?  Will they somehow insist the prediction came true, in some esoteric sense?  This should be interesting!

Update 7:25 am, Dallas: Live-blogging the non-end of the world.  Still here.
Update 11:31 am, Dallas:  Things still look very normal.  

5/18/11

Three Scandals

#1  I don't often have the feeling of being "proud to be an American"--in fact, I feel compelled to put that phrase in quotation marks, just to create some ironic distance.  Yet (blush) I am proud to be an American, when I think about the fact that the head of the IMF was charged with rape and other crimes on the word of a hotel housekeeper--a single mother, a widow, an Islamic immigrant, a woman of color, no less.  With liberty and justice for all - HURRAY!  It was consensual, his lawyer says.  Ohhhh, I see.  (Nauseating footnote--he had lunch with his daughter afterwards!)

#2  The Synthese business.  I have trouble getting on board with the claim that the Editors-in-Chief owe the philosophy world an abject apology, because of their disclaimer (long story--some of it told here).  While the disclaimer was an awkward fix, it does seem to me that there was a problem.  The special issue on intelligent design did involve a level of personal invective that is seldom seen in philosophy journals. 

#3  Dear Arnie, I'm very disappointed in you.  I'm glad you're just an ass, and not a rapist (see above), but still. 

5/16/11

Procreation and Parenthood on Film

Sending out an SOS ...

Next year I'm teaching a course about the ethics of procreation and parenthood and want to generate vividness by pairing topics with movies. So far I've thought of--

Never Let Me Go (ethics of creating clones and using them as organ banks)
The Island (same as Never Let Me Go, but not as subtle)
Children of Men (large populations, "the repugnant conclusion," the right to have children)
The Road (would it be bad if humans became extinct, must the last couple reproduce?)
28 Days Later (must the last couple reproduce? if your zombie kid attacks you, may you defend yourself?)
Gattaca (genetic screening, disabilities)
Peggy Sue Got Married (would it have been bad if I hadn't been born?)
The Station Agent (disabilities)


I can't think of good movies about...

Enhancement--smarter, prettier, longer-living people (there must be plenty out there)
Surrogate motherhood (please, no made-for-TV movies)
Rights of children (overbearing parents--a movie that connects with the "tiger mother" phenomenon)
Duties of children to parents
Lying to children

Help!

**


Update (5/17)--Your suggestions (keep 'em coming) plus my further thoughts:

Idiocracy (enhancement?) 
Juno (virtues of parenthood, abortion?) 
Throw Momma From the Train (duties to parents) 
Miracle on 34th Street (lying to kids)
Ordinary People (parenthood, duties of parents?)
Bladerunner (status of genetically altered people)
Baby Boom (parenthood and career, role of women)
Mildred Pierce (maybe...duties of children to parents)
Mask (having children with disabilities)

5/12/11

Military Sock Puppets


We haven't talked about sock puppetry here for a long time--i.e. the practice of fabricating identities and using more than one at the same time, to create the illusion of debate or agreement (as the case may be). That's a no-no, in all situations I could have imagined before today. But now I read that the US is deploying sock puppets on social networking sites around the world. All it takes is a few good sock puppets? Servicemen and women will get to have up to 10 identities "based all over the world," but not operating on English-speaking sites or addressing US audiences.

So I wonder--why 10? What if a person got to have 20? Would that be like using excessive force? Would it be too psychologically taxing? Is a lean and mean sock puppet force more disciplined, more effective? Just what is the ideal number of sock puppets in the army? Will there be the equivalent of a Seal 6 team, an elite group of puppets that does especially dangerous work? Like, maybe, taking out especially lethal foreign puppets?

Actually, I have a great idea. Let's get rid of conventional warfare. Let's do it all with sock puppets!

5/11/11

The Magic of Reality


The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True.  Epistemology for kids, or just basic science? I don't know, but it looks wonderful.  Open the .pdf -- it's worth it.

5/9/11

Mother's Day with Your Philosopher

My son--age 14--is most impressed with The Philosiologist, as you can tell from the card he gave me yesterday.  Here's an excerpt--

5/8/11

Liberal Guilt Be Gone!

Thank you Jonathan Haidt, thank you Maureen Dowd.

***

Elsewhere in today's New York Times today--a very nice of example of how Occam's Razor isn't always sharp, in Lisa Sanders' medical mystery column.
When making a diagnosis, doctors frequently cite the principle of Occam’s razor: the simplest answer is most likely to be the right answer, and a single diagnosis is more likely than a collection of diagnoses. This principle, however, doesn’t necessarily hold with older patients. High blood pressure is seen in 80 percent of those over age 70. Nearly half over 60 are overweight. A quarter are depressed. One in six Americans over age 40 will have cataracts in one or both eyes. Given these numbers, having a 76-year-old patient with all of these distinct diseases — as was the case with this patient — is common, and a doctor might not feel the need to look for a single, unifying disease process.
She goes on to say about the patient in question--
As one of her daughters wrote in an e-mail to friends: “We were told that her psychological state, her neurological problem, her circulation issues and her excessive bleeding were an unrelated bunch of unfortunate circumstances conspiring to make this woman ill. It happens when you are old, we were told more than once.” This thinking was familiar to many readers. Jonquil of Utopia wrote: “ ‘It happens when you are old’ is such a dangerous diagnosis, yet it’s given every day. . . . G.P.’s need to be better trained in geriatrics.”
Occam's razor isn't an all purpose good principle, but only good in certain cases.
Readers know that this column often reads like a detective story in which a single criminal (one disease) is responsible for a variety of crimes (symptoms). As a result, the reader has an advantage over a doctor, who has to figure out which patient, out of all those she has seen that day, has many individual problems without a unifying cause, and which will need Occam’s razor. While that distinction may not be sufficient, it is the necessary start of diagnosis.
***

Happy Mother's Day!

5/7/11

A Few Good Links

Until I am released from grading purgatory, all I've got is a few good links.

***

Here's a very nice (and funny) "defense of motherhood" from Bonnie Rochman at time.com, who links to my recent TPM article on motherhood.

Speaking of that article, in the same issue of TPM  there's an essay by David Benatar about how life's not good, and we should stop procreating.  His "share its" are phenomenal.  People seem to be intensely attracted to bad news!

I'm talking about both my essay and Benatar's at an event next week, so I'm back to pondering Benatar's anti-natalism, a recurrent habit of mine. 

***

I'm making my way through Jackson Lears' mega-bashing of Sam Harris in The Nation.  Although Lears seems to want to show that he knows everything about everything, I don't think he knows everything about positivism.  The positivists (like A J Ayers in Language, Truth, and Logic) were rejecters of objective morality, not explainers of objective morality like Harris.

***

Scott Aikin and Robert Talisse write about Mary Warnock's book Dishonest to God at 3 Quarks Daily. (Their review of the book will be in the next issue of TPM.)  Apparently she says something positive about the utility of belief, and they complain.
... a defense of religion which rests solely upon considerations regarding the social value of religious belief is ultimately no defense at all.  If religious belief is to be defended, it must be understood in terms that religious believers can recognize.  According to religious believers, their beliefs are not merely useful social instruments or efficient means for instilling good moral habits
But there are different senses of "defending" a belief--so why "no defense at all"? You can defend the truth of a belief. but you can also defend the holding of the belief--that might have utility, even if the belief is false.   Example -- Most people believe in free will, which raises two separate questions:  Is there really free will?  And is the holding of the belief functionally advantageous?  You could easily think No to the first question and Yes to the second.  There might be no coherent defense of there being free will, but a defense of the holding of the belief nevertheless. (For what that defense might look like, see here.

I don't think recognizing that sort of defense implies throwing truth out the window, or no longer seeing it as the cardinal virtue of beliefs.  It just mean recognizing that truth is not all that matters.  A functional defense may or may not be "in terms that religious believers can recognize," but I don't see why every defense should fit that description.  To defend a belief is not always to address believers directly--to say something to them that strengthens their convictions.

***

On my reading list:  this book about getting old.  Good title: You're Looking Very Well:  The Surprising Nature of Getting Old (Lewis Wolpert).

***

Back to grading.

5/4/11

Liberal Guilt


Barack Obama succeeded in eliminating Osama bin Laden from the world stage.  You'd think that liberals would be wildly celebrating.  I'm amazed -- really, really amazed -- that some have managed to find something to feel bad about.  The first thing they felt bad about was being happy.  I don't know how many articles I've seen -- and conversations I've had -- about whether happiness is appropriate.  But what a strange question.  There's so much to be happy about, all above board.  A just mission ended successfully.  (Dayenu!)  And Barack Obama led the way, vanquishing stereotypes about him, his ethnicity, and his political party.  And we shouldn't be happy?

Ah, but we're celebrating a death -- naughty, naughty.  But are we, exactly?  What happened on Sunday can be described in many ways.  The very same event was the elimination of OBL, and a big bloodbath and the success of a 10 year mission, and a dazzling demonstration of military intelligence and prowess and a ton of molecules moving around like so and etc.  We are happy about things under a description.  You can be happy about the elimination of OBL without being happy about the bloodbath, even though they're the same event.  That's the nature of happiness -- it attaches to features of events, not to the events themselves.   I'm happy about what I ought to be happy about -- the elimination of bin Laden, the success of a 10 year mission, the display of intelligence and prowess. 

Next thing we're supposed to wring our hands about:  he was killed, not captured.  The White House says there was an attempt to capture, but he resisted.  But he had no gun.  So.... so what?  Imagine being one of the men who went into that compound.  You've got bin Laden cornered, and he's not going quietly.  You don't know who might still be in hiding or what bin Laden might do next.  You invaded Pakistan under cover of darkness and you've got to get back out. Do you really have to increase the risk by going to great lengths to avoid bin Laden's death?  No, surely not.  That's more than we can fairly expect. 

And then there's the argument that eliminating bin Laden was no great accomplishment, because he was a figurehead anyway, or because other bad actors will take his place in the terrorism business.  Even if that were so, do people saying this really put so little store in the simple justice of punishing people for past crimes?  Do they want to see mass murderers go free? Would it have been OK for Hitler to retire to a mansion in the country, after the Holocaust?

But wait, but wait. If it's OK to celebrate, maybe we could feel bad because some people are celebrating in the wrong way -- you know, waving flags and shouting "USA! USA!"  So ... good job, but we mustn't be proud of our country over it.  Or we may be proud of our country, but we mustn't run out into the street and wave flags?  We can be glad, but we mustn't be triumphal.  Or something!

I confess -- I'm baffled.  And happy.

5/2/11

Dancing in the Streets


May we celebrate?  Yes we may.  I am not celebrating anyone's suffering--that would be sadistic. I am celebrating the success of an entirely just mission.  Osama bin Laden is dead, not brought to justice--true--but apparently he was asked to surrender, and he declined.  Should I really weep over that?  No.  He had confessed to mass murder on 9/11, in fact bragged about it, and gone on to more appalling crimes.  A trial would have been only fair, but at the same time, a huge waste of money and time.  The outcome was inevitable.  I am thrilled that the mastermind of 9/11 is no longer luxuriating with friends and family--10 years of that was 10 years too many.  I am also thrilled that there actually are smart people in the US military--people who can get things done. Like Barack Obama, and the anonymous members of the Navy Seal team who pulled this off with so little loss of innocent life.  Obama got Osama....as they keep saying on Facebook. HURRAY!