04 May 2016

Soul-Eating Dementor

Humor 49 Comments

Do you understand what this kind of thing does to me? (BTW normally I black out people’s identities but I can’t find the right program on my office computer.)

Kill List

49 Responses to “Soul-Eating Dementor”

  1. Bryan says:

    I think the program you are looking for is called MS Paint.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      I don’t think it’s on this computer, or if it is, Obi Wan keeps preventing me from realizing it.

  2. Josiah says:

    I think what happened is that he didn’t understand you were joking.

  3. Andrew_FL says:

    This is how people like Trump and Obama happen. People completely oblivious to the point.

  4. Daniel Kuehn says:

    This is the problem with skyrocketing fame, Bob. New followers don’t have the context necessary for letting a good ironic joke land. Although the fact that he couldn’t figure out the point of the link is a little sad.

    I am always amazed at the consternation over kill lists, at least in the context of everything else the state does. Fighting a war is basically having a really long kill list filled with people that have only a very tenuous connection to the behavior that you have a problem with, and yet people often treat wars and war fighters with honor and respect (not you, I know, but many people). At the very least the treat the whole enterprise of war as serious but quite normal.

    Now a “kill list” of the sort that we’re talking about here is in contrast a very, very narrow list of people that are very closely connected with the behavior that we have a problem with. Simply being an enemy combatant doesn’t get you there. Relative to war it is in principle a model of restraint and judiciousness.

    So why is war normalized and kill lists are treated as a barbarity?

    Look obviously I am not going to be happy with how all kill lists work out in practice and I for one am very willing to wager a Ted Cruz or Donald Trump kill list would be a much worse proposition than an Obama kill list. But between “waging a war in the Middle East” and “hunting down particular bad guys” I’d think the ethical balance between the would be obvious for non-pacifists.

    You pacifists get a lot wrong, IMO, but at least you’re coherent in your wrongness. My fellow non-pacifists leave a lot to be desired sometimes.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Look obviously I am not going to be happy with how all kill lists work out in practice…

      Obviously! I mean, you got to have some safeguards in place before you draw up a list of people the president wants dead.

      • Daniel Kuehn says:


        So here’s a question – if you had the choice between two worlds:

        1. A world with normal conventional warfare that cropped up with the frequency that wars have for the last century and with American participation rates the same as the last century, or

        2. A world where the U.S. didn’t fight in wars but every president had a kill list of national security threats that was vetted by the intelligence community and White House lawyers and prosecuted viciously.

        I know you have all sorts of doubts (I do too) and that these things don’t work out nicely in the real world. But given all the messy reality of the real world except the constraints I’ve specified above, which world would you choose?

        It seems to me #2 is a much more peaceful and just place. Even in a messy world with imperfect safeguards and disputes over whether something is a national security threat or a criminal case* #2 is far better and substituting even marginally from #1 to #2 is an improvement.

        What’s your choice?

        * – so my assumption for #2 is that these are ostensibly national security lists and not just I-don’t-like-that-guy lists but I am allowing for the possibility that there will be real world departures from that ostensible purpose – I still maintain #2 is much better.

        • skylien says:

          I would call that a false choice. As if secret kill lists make the world safer and avoid wars on average.

        • Daniel Kuehn says:

          It’s a hypothetical choice, I don’t think hypothetical choices can be false choices. I haven’t claimed any causal link between the kill lists and the wars.

          • skylien says:

            Why would you make that choice if you didn’t believe in its causal link yourself? That is the only way you can rationalize a secret kill list, isn’t it?

            I mean, else you could also ask: What do you prefer: The world ending tomorrow or Obama having a secret kill list.

            The answer to such a question is basically pointless, aside from finding out if someone is principled even in unrealistic situations.

            • Daniel Kuehn says:

              In the language of economics I’m really just trying to get a preference ordering. What trade-off that preference ordering faces in the real world is an entirely separate question.

              The answer to your posed question is pointless, I agree. Maybe mine would have more value if I had more bundles to choose from, but I was trying to get it across clearly. Since kill lists are typically considered so much worse I thought the really stark bundles I presented were fine.

        • Tel says:

          Making use of #2 on an international scale will probably eventually escalate and result in #1.

          Government is a protection racket, so if the citizens of a non-US country know their government is unable to protect them, and this fact is constantly being rubbed in with drone strikes, then you have a fundamentally unstable situation.

          Making use of #2 on a domestic scale is guaranteed to get abused for political purposes. If you look at the way the IRS was politicized, then when investigated all their emails vanished and half a dozen hard drives simultaneously crashed and got sent to the shredder… that’s what will happen with the kill list without any investigation.

          • Daniel Kuehn says:

            Domestic kill lists are wildly unconstitutional. I’m not sure what the point is of bringing them up.

            As for the international point you seem to be conceiving of something very different – some kind of broad and persistent hunting down anyone we want policy. I am saying that simply as an empirical matter people have a lot more qualms about kill lists than conventional wars. This is strange considering the former is a far more restrained version of the latter. If you think steeply curtailing conventional war in this way will make people feel less safe and lead to more conventional war than there otherwise would have been I think that’s nuts. But rather than saying that you seem to be imagining some vast and indiscriminate application of assassin squads or drones or something on a wider scale. We seem to be talking about different things.

            I am talking about real world implementation of this stuff not some imagined version: Bush and Obama kill lists vs. Bush and Obama non kill list operations. The former is what bothers people most ethically as an empirical matter despite the fact that the latter has been far more monstrous and injustice.

            That’s really strange IMO.

            • Tel says:

              There were probably a bunch of people who thought Anwar al-Awlaki’s US citizenship gave him the protection of due process. Well, they would have been thinking that right up until when Obama demonstrated that no such constitutional protection exists.

              There might have even been people who believed that the Constitution would not allow the IRS to be used as a partisan political tool but obviously that protection failed as well.

              … some kind of broad and persistent hunting down anyone we want policy…

              Well the US has been running a targeted killing program (mostly drone strikes) in the Middle East since 2008 at the latest and they are still going almost a decade later, they have killed hundreds and hundreds plus a bunch of bystanders and the occasional hospital. Do you want to make a little gentleman’s wager on when they are going to declare it’s time to stop?

              Not that it started with the Middle East, been going a lot longer than that, but the methods have changed and they don’t feel so shy about it like they used to.


              I am talking about real world implementation of this stuff not some imagined version

              Yeah, well I’ve given a bunch of examples that really happened and you somehow think those don’t really count or this time it’s different. By all means choose whatever method of kidding yourself makes you most comfortable.

              The thing about constitutional protection is that you never know when it will fall until it does fail. Afterwards everyone says, “Oh there you go, that wasn’t covered by the Constitution, but probably these other things will be safe.”

              • Daniel Kuehn says:

                The drone program and the kill list are completely different. Many of those kills are not on the kill list.

                Al Awlaki does deserve due process, I never said he didn’t. In fact his citizenship is irrelevant. The 5th and 14th amendment guarantee due process rights to persons not citizens. Bin Laden had due process rights too.

                Look I’m happy to defend (or concede) any point I’ve actually made but don’t throw things at me that I’m not saying.

              • Tel says:

                You started off by saying:

                Look obviously I am not going to be happy with how all kill lists work out in practice …

                And then you said:

                I am talking about real world implementation of this stuff not some imagined version …

                And now you are attempting to make me believe that you personally, as a private citizen:

                [A] know who is and who is not on Obama’s secret kill list.

                [B] know exactly who has been killed by US drone strikes and other means in the Middle East. Where you there?

                [C] have carefully compared these two groups mentioned above and evaluated the constitutional implications.

                Let me gently suggest you have not quite thought this out sufficiently.

                The 5th and 14th amendment guarantee due process rights to persons not citizens.

                No they don’t! If it was a guarantee then we wouldn’t be arguing about problem that no due process happened. That’s precisely what I’m pointing out here… there are no guarantees that can protect you (or anyone else) from the power of life and death being exercised in secret by a small group of people who have access to worldwide force projection. That’s both in theory, and as demonstrated in practice.

                No guarantees, none!

                You live, until one day, you die… and that’s it.

                That’s why people started thinking about this idea of due process and rule of law, because arbitrary killings can be a drag.

              • Daniel Kuehn says:

                Tel we don’t have the list but it’s widely reported as a top-20 type list and the drone strikes have killed several thousand. This is the whole basis for much opposition to the drone strikes – that it extends well beyond the kill list. Academic research on the strikes suggests that under 3% of drone fatalities are in al Qaeda leadership.

                I think you need to start looking in the mirror on your gentle suggestions.

        • Levi Russell says:

          As described, scenario 2 is preferred to 1 IMO. I don’t know if I’m a “pacifist” but I agree with Bob re: govt in general.

          However, Coase is my homeboy so I don’t spend much time on abstractions like this.


        • guest says:

          “1. A world with normal conventional warfare that cropped up with the frequency that wars have for the last century …”


          War and the Fed | Lew Rockwell
          [Duration 18:48]

          Very insightful.

          Also, Lew Rockwell is slightly easier to listen to than Jeff Herbener.

          If you make it through this whole video, then I will make you an honorary Austrian Economist.

          Or I will give you some graham crackers, which will probably have the opposite effect on you than was originally intended (Google it).

      • Daniel Kuehn says:

        My beef is genuinely with the non-pacifists who I think are crazy to be so non-chalant about war but concerned with kill lists, not the pacifists that think it’s all awful.

    • skylien says:

      Both are barbarity of course. However there is at least one significant difference. In an openly declared war, you actually know what to expect if you face the enemy. However you have no idea if you are on a secret kill list, because of the nature it being secret. Besides I don’t see how it can be legitimized for president in a country subcribing to the rule of law (impossible). In my book secret kill lists are something dictators have because they do not follow the rule of law which by definition is transparent.

      I watched Dredd (2012 remake) yesterday (Awesome movie, didn’t expect that). Dredd by far is no pacifist, but he didn’t have a secret kill list, and he always was very transparent about his further actions and gave people the possibility to overthink the remifications of their actions if they didn’t comply. He was pretty coherent as well.

      • Daniel Kuehn says:

        I think that’s a good point and I had almost added that we can publish the kill lists.

        I don’t know. I get your hesitation but I can’t conceive of a coherent concept of a rule of law that is not OK with carefully devising a narrow list of targets but OK with sending thousands of twenty somethings that didn’t do anything to lay waste to tens of thousands of poorer twenty-somethings that didn’t do anything (and a whole lot of civilians besides that).

        I’ll grant some people may think kill lists (secret or otherwise) violates the rule of law. But if you think that I feel like you have to also be a pacifist because there’s no way a war is *less* abhorrent than a kill list.

        • skylien says:

          In my view only a defensive war can be legitimized, which means you cannot attack something that doesn’t attack you. I guess the key difference really is secrecy.

          To defend oneself should not be abhorrent, defending cannot be a secret.

          • Daniel Kuehn says:

            OK but I’m saying even restricted to a defensive war a conventional defensive war seems so much worse to me than a defensive war waged through a carefully curated kill list.

            Once we establish that preference ordering there’s still a question of course of how substitutable the two are. I don’t know the answer to that in a rigorous way and neither does anybody else, but I’d think they’re at least somewhat substitutable.

            • skylien says:

              Let me clarify. In case there is someone openly declaring a war on you, and you are creating a public kill list of the leaders of the country or organization that is attacking you, then I think it obviously is smart to take the leaders out who want you dead if that stops the war, rather than fight a war in trenches. I am with so far. That is just defending against an attacker. And such a kill list is obviously just saying we are at war in a different form.

              However that is not what is happening with Obama’s list.

              • Daniel Kuehn says:

                Hmmm… I disagree with your sense of things. Assassinations are a huge no-no to people. I agree with you that it doesn’t make sense but it seems to take an extreme case like Hitler to get most people to agree it’s OK (or at least more OK than war but since most people are OK with war that’s a distinction without a difference).

                I also disagree with your suggestion that this is not the case with Obama’s kill list. They’re all people we are already engaging in the war on terror they’re just singled out because they’re the leadership or particularly dangerous.

              • skylien says:

                Regarding your first point I am not sure. I would need to ask some to find out.

                Regarding number 2 I disagree. If it was that way, then make the list public. Give those poeple on it a chance to respond! Make the evidence public how they got onto the list.

                Does that make it harder to assassinate them? Yes, obviously. Doing things right makes it harder. That is the price to pay for following the rule of law. The rule of law cannot be done justice with secret backroom deals by secret penals.

              • Daniel Kuehn says:

                Can you explain why that’s “doing things right”? It’s not that I can’t see value in it I just don’t see why it’s so clear that that’s right.

                We don’t publish rosters of the dumb kids with no real options in life that join ISIS and that get hit in air strikes. How does being so heinous you make a kill list afford you different treatment?

                Surely if it’s not a moral imperative in a war against rank and file it can’t be a moral imperative for the most significant targets.

                Again I’ll reiterate this is not criminal activity we’re prosecuting.

              • skylien says:

                Yes I can. Why do you think we have the rule of law at all? Do you think we need it to punish bad people?

                No, we don’t need the rule of law to punish them. Just send a government agent and take them to prison or something. Done. No rule of law needed.

                You don’t need it for bad people you need it for the protection of the good people (and not quite so bad people) from the government making mistakes or abusing its power! And that means you cannot make any exceptions at all. You cannot let the government decide which people fall under the rule of law and which do not. Else it is like having no rule of law at all, then it is just a fig leave.

                With secret kill lists the government could kill just anyone. And if there is a public outcry then they can just say: “Hey you are ok with us having a secret kill list, and that means we have people determining which people can be killed without being subject to the rule of law. I can assure you that we have the nicest and wisest people on our secret penal for this. They are really nice. And they have obviously secret evidence that the killed person was a terrorist. It says it clearly in our classified file that we cannot show you of course. We caused a huge blow to the terrorist organization, so you should be thanking us. Just trust us, we know what we are doing *wink*!”

                It is that simple. The rule of law is there to protect innocents from the government, so obviously you cannot give the government the power to make any exceptions at all.

              • Daniel Kuehn says:

                Well without secret kill lists they can just kill anyone in a war.

                The whole virtue of a secret kill list is precisely that you’re not “just killing anyone”.

                If the holders of the kill list are doing something illegal (say, targeting non-combatants for political reasons) we should obviously throw them in jail for that. But that’s an independent question from the kill list. After all, they’ve targeted non-combatants for political reasons WITHOUT a kill list.

              • skylien says:

                The problem is you cannot throw them in jail, they operate outside the rule of law. Everything is classified.

                And obviously I am not defending any other program or action of the government when they sidestep the rule of law with or without kill list, like keeping the US in an artificial state of war against terrorism.

                I agree in sofar that to focus only on the kill list is not enough and maybe even rather the side show currently.

      • Daniel Kuehn says:

        Judge Dredd prosecuted crime. We’re not generally talking about criminals even (though sometimes there are war criminals).

        • skylien says:

          Well, I don’t see a difference between criminals murdering innocents or anybody else doing that.

          • Daniel Kuehn says:

            Sovereignty, really. I think it’s an institutional difference not a moral difference. Which is why we need a world government so that what we currently use horrendous wars to do we can do with the justice system.

            • skylien says:

              Well I think there are some significant drawbacks with a world government, but that is an entirely different discussion.

            • Daniel Kuehn says:

              I agree there are drawbacks. I’m generally pro but of course it depends on exactly what we’re dealing with. Yes I think all of this – Judge Dredd, criminal offenses, and world government are not directly relevant.

  5. Jason Bonner says:

    The joke is the thought that a President Trump would have a SECRET kill list. No, he’d have an “Official President Trump Kill List”, updated every 24hrs via his twitter feed.

  6. Tel says:

    For what it’s worth the Australian citizens Neil Prakash and Shadi Jabar Khalil Mohammad were both recently assassinated in the Middle East, and the Australian government declared full support for the killing (both in terms of approval and in terms of providing intelligence to assist the targeted killing) although it was US forces who executed these people.

    There was no due process, and no public oversight.

    What most annoys me is that the Australian government refuses to have common law hearings that strip citizenship away from people who go and fight for such overseas causes. Of course it’s illegal here for a citizen to fight for a foreign power without Australian government approval (lending aid to terrorists, etc) but for the Australian government to inflict the death penalty on a citizen is also illegal… so you have to wonder.

    Apparently you can’t have a formal hearing to take away someone’s citizenship, but you can just secretly kill them while no one is looking. You have to wonder.

    Also, to be best of my knowledge we never even bothered to declare war, but I guess that’s just become a barbarous relic.

    • Daniel Kuehn says:

      Why are you so hung up on citizenship? Due process is something everyone deserves.

      In this case, of course, we are not talking about a criminal prosecution we are talking about a military operation so you can’t just go around saying due process hasn’t been followed just because it hasn’t played out as it would in a criminal case. Do you complain that due process isn’t followed in civil court because it doesn’t follow all the rules of criminal court?

      • Tel says:

        So you are arguing that everyone deserves due process, where “due proces” may be anything that seems convenient at the time, including a secret system of assassination where neither the objectives, nor the outcomes, nor anything in-between are ever open for public review.

        Don’t worry about citizenship, it’s meaningless, we are all equal in the eyes of the lawless. But don’t grumble because it could get worse. Always trust every government, because they are fabulous.

        Did I miss any important details?

        • Daniel Kuehn says:

          Look I’m not going to respond to you anymore if you’re just going to keep making shit up like this. Its obnoxious, incurious, and frankly boring.

          • Tel says:

            Here, you probably will be needing this mirror.

      • guest says:

        “In this case, of course, we are not talking about a criminal prosecution we are talking about a military operation so you can’t just go around saying due process hasn’t been followed just because it hasn’t played out as it would in a criminal case.”

        Due process isn’t designed to protect the guilty from justice, but to protect the innocent from a rogue government.

        So, you can’t just say it’s ok to kill citizens if it’s part of a war.

        • Daniel Kuehn says:

          I agree. We can’t just say that. Hell we can’t just say it’s ok to kill non-citizens if it’s part of a war.

          What is everybody’s obsession with citizenship on these fundamental questions of justice???

          • skylien says:

            “What is everybody’s obsession with citizenship on these fundamental questions of justice???”

            Totally agree on that one. I really get sick when people make an outrcy because an American might be targeted, but act as if it doesn’t matter or is that bad if it is about some foreigner..

  7. Dan W. says:


    Secret kill list sounds so harsh. The Bible avoids such prejudicial wording and gets straight to the point:

    “At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.”


    And now you know why there is a national zoo. Just in case the need arises…

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Dan W. are you trying to show how awful the Bible is? There are some passages where God orders mass slaughter, but in the one you just showed, it was a pagan king doing that.

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