An Ethical Puzzler

First, the situation:

President Obama is seeking to block the release of photographs that depict American military personnel abusing captives in Iraq and Afghanistan, his spokesman said Wednesday, fearing the images could spark a hostile backlash against United States troops.

“The president reflected on this case and believes they have the potential to pose harm to our troops,” Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said Wednesday afternoon.

The president’s decision marks a sharp reversal from a decision made last month by the Pentagon, which agreed in a case with the American Civil Liberties Union to release photographs showing incidents at Abu Ghraib and a half-dozen other prisons. At the time, the president signed off on the decision, saying he agreed with releasing the photos.

Now, the question:

Is the president allowed to change his mind on something like this? Is he allowed to look at the information, hear the urgings of people familiar with the situation, and reverse himself, even if it’s at odds with his previous position — and the change in position has moral and ethical repercussions?

My personal take on the question  is that in a general sense a president can and should when he believes  it is necessary… but that I seriously doubt this is one of those times. There are already more than enough pictures of American forces abusing prisoners out there to serve the task of recruitment for terrorists groups and to rile up anti-American sentiment; meanwhile, holding up the release of these photos simply makes it look like there’s something more to hide. This is one of those “just rip off the Band-Aid” moments — it’s best if you do it fast, take the pain and move on.

So in this case I think Obama’s doing the wrong thing. This is based on what I know, which is, of course, different from what he knows, and perhaps in his position, knowing what he knows I’d do what he’s doing here. But from this end, it looks like a bad call.

Floor is open.


Make Justine Larbalestier Dance the Lindy Hop

Author Justine Larbalestier (who is a dear pal of mine) is writing up a novel set in the 1930s, and as a result some of her characters do a dance called the “Lindy Hop.” Not knowing that facetious comments on one’s site will often cause one to gain an unwanted obligation, Justine jokingly asked her readers if she should learn the dance — to which fellow author John Greene promised $1,000 to the charity of her choice if she did. Well, now there’s $1,425 $2,100 in the pot, and Justine’s feeling the pressure to learn the dance.

But she’s resisting — and foolishly! Because now she’s challenging The Whole Internet™ to pony up cash to make her learn to dance the Lindy Hop, the money of course being donated to a good cause, in this case the New York Public Library. Her deal is this: If the Internets pledge $5,000 to the NYPL by next Monday, she will learn the Lindy Hop (to be verified by third parties). If they do not, she will not, although she will make a donation to the NYPL.

So the NYPL wins in any event, but, come on. We all want to see Justine do this:

Also, of course, we here at Whatever have a history of making people dance for charity. Clearly we need to do it again.

So: If you want to make Justine Larbalestier Dance the Lindy Hop (and you do!), here’s what you do:

1. Go over to this thread on Justine’s site.

2. Put in a comment announcing how much you will pledge to the cause (NOTE: DO NOT DONATE YET. You’re just pledging). You can pledge any amount, but remember that you’re going to be held to your pledge, so make it a real pledge. Seriously.

3. Do it by Monday 5pm Eastern, at which point I suspect Justine will tally up the numbers and find out whether she’s learning to dance, or keeping her two left feet.

$5,000 might seem a lofty goal, but remember there’s already $1,425 $2,100 in the pot, so we’re talking a paltry $3,575 $2,900, which is totally doable.

What happens when everything’s tallied up? Well, if the number is over $5k, then you’ll need to make your donation based on what you pledged. Fortunately the New York Public Library has a donation page online, which will make it easy for you to fulfill your end of things (you can alternately become a formal Friend of the Library, starting at $40).

So there you have. Feel free to share this around, and let’s get Justine winging her way through the Lindy Hop. It’s for a good cause — and it’ll be funny as hell. Everyone wins.


The God Engines Pre-Order Is Up

You’ll recall I recently finished my first fantasy work: A novella called The God Engines. It’ll be coming about in book form from Subterranean Press this December, both in a limited signed leather-bound edition of 400 ($45) and a non-signed trade edition ($20). Both versions will feature cover and interior artwork by Tomislav Tikulin.  If you’re interested in either (or both!) here’s where to go to get your order in now.

So, what’s The God Engines like? Here’s SubPress publisher Bill Schafer’s comment about it:

[T]he story itself is gripping, bloody, nuanced, bloody, and pretty damned bloody, if I’m to be honest.

To which I’ll add: Yes, that.

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