Archive for December, 2004

Reconciling the utter incompetence

There is the crowd that proclaims will firmess and certainty that the US has been utterly incompetent in its efforts in Iraq and has made many serious errors in judgment and action. Such opinions seem overly stated and without any decent referent. They also present a conundrum when considered in light of the people on the scene.

Book picks from generals, defense and intel experts. To understand insurgency in Iraq: read something old, something new. … Inside the Pentagon, Dec. 2, 2004 — When officers in Army Col. H.R. McMaster’s 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment deploy to Iraq early next year, their preparation for countering the insurgency will have included not only a list of arduous military readiness exercises, but also a litany of books on warfighting and Middle Eastern history.

The officer corps of the US military is highly educated and continually educated as indicated by this book list. When it is decided that the actions of the US in Iraq are mistakes and grossly in error, it a condemnation of the entire system of US postgraduate education. It seems that some folks maybe ought to be a bit less arrogant in their claims of mistake and incompetence.

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Scapegoat saga continues

The latest weapon for the assault on the administration is the autopen. This is a common instrument of mass destruction used by many. The brouhaha about its use is so out of proportion it creates puzzlement amongst those aware of its common usage. And then there are the “mistakes” of no referent.

When detractors describe Rumsfeld as arrogant, I think they are mostly referring to his “refusal to admit or learn from [his] mistakes.” This echoes the Kerry campaign’s attack on President Bush: he never admits his mistakes. But it isn’t clear what mistakes the press and the Democrats want Rumsfeld to admit to. What they consider mistakes in Iraq, he probably doesn’t; more important, he doesn’t share their view that the entire Iraq war was a mistake, which is the real point of the attack on Rumsfeld. ,,, UPDATE: In today’s New York Post, Amir Taheri has an excellent description of the main contenders in the Iraqi election, with an optimistic assessment of the election’s prospects. UPDATE: Thomas Lifson has an excellent post at the American Thinker: Get Rummy [Hindorcket. More on Rumsfeld. Powerline. 21 December 2004]

The issue is that of the fifth column, The tactic is the use of the autopen. The strategy is guilt by association. Will the citizens of the US rise to wage the war?

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Elements behind the GWOT

From A View from the Eye of the Storm, a talk delivered by Haim Harari at a meeting of the International Advisory Board of a large multi-national corporation, April, 2004.

  • The first element is the suicide murder.
  • The second ingredient is words, more precisely lies.
  • The third aspect is money.
  • The fourth element of the current world conflict is the total breaking of all laws.
  • The picture I described here is not pretty. What can we do about it? In the short run, only fight and win. In the long run ? only educate the next generation and open it to the world.

    The Global War on Terror has not yet been fully engaged. Much of Europe and even many in the US deny that it exists, so far. The question is how long it will take before they realize that their denial is contributing to lengthening the GWOT and increasing its costs.

    To send out the depraved to commit suicide murder is an abomination. It is to contest an enemy by proxy and to attack its innocents. Meanwhile such abomination is ignored or excused and those who do try to fight directly and who try to honor respect for even the enemy are condemned for anything that can be found to fault.

    The lies are not only with those whose tactic is indiscriminate, it is with those who deny that such a war exists and find fault with those who seek to terminate it.

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    peer review

    Glen Reynolds highlighted Michael Kinsley and Time Magazine both citing the quality of the peer review that web logs can now provide at a speed heretofore unknown.

    Kinsley: “What floored me was not just the volume and speed of the feedback but its seriousness and sophistication.”

    Time named Powerline the blog of the year: “One of the strangest and most radical is that the key information in “The 61st Minute” came from Power Line’s readers, not its ostensible writers.”

    There are the wackoes, anyone who reads the ‘letters to the editor’ section of the newspaper can see that. What the internet is offering, though, is a wider net that facilitates those who actually know something in sharing what they know in direct context of a particular story or idea. This is the essence of peer review. It leads to a quality of information that is available to the discriminating reader that they can get nowhere else.

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    news or speculation?

    When I hear a news anchor talking about what will be I wonder where reports about what actually happened went. It seems some others have noticed this trend of the MSM from news torwards prophecy as well.

    My topic for today is the prevalence of speculation in media. What does it mean? Why has it become so ubiquitous? Should we do something about it? If so, what? And why?Should we care at all? Isn’t speculation valuable? Isn’t it natural? And so on.

    I will join this speculative trend and speculate about why there is so much speculation. In keeping with the trend, I will try express my views without any factual support, simply providing you with a series of bald assertions. [Michael Crichton as quoted by Pierre Legrand in the Pink Flamingo, 19 December 2004]

    The posting describes several of Dr. Crichton’s speeches as “some of the most clearheaded and entertaining denunciations of leftist religions I have ever read.” They may warrant further pursuit.

    Ritual Abuse, Hot Air, and Missed Opportunities: Science Views Media American Association for the Advancement of Science Anaheim, California January 25, 1999

    American Media: Dinosaur on the Road to Extinction? National Press Club – April 7, 1993

    Why Speculate?  A talk by Michael Crichton International Leadership Forum La Jolla April 26, 2002

    Aliens Cause Global Warming  A lecture by Michael Crichton Caltech Michelin Lecture January 17, 2003

    Michael Crichton has also just released a new novel that includes a significant bibliography for those who do not like its anti human caused global warming thesis.

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    Operation Pity Pablo and the Protest Warrior

    Citizen Smash has undertaken to “Stand Up Against the Seditionists!”

    The stimulus was a planned event in support of Navy deserter Pablo Paredes to be held on the San Diego waterfront. The response was a counter gathering to demonstrate that there is another side to the story.

    At issue is the idea that people are deciding not to ignore the so called “peace protests” honoring deserters, sedition, treason, and other socially destructive behaviors. The war of visible representation has been joined. No longer is the ‘holier than though’ crowd being uncontested in its arrogance. Its words that sound so nice are being shown for the empty shell they really are.

    Peace would be so nice, but the fact is that you can never sit still. Freedom and liberty must be defended and the defense cannot be left to others. It is a war of attrition and a war of ideas. It will never end. There is something heartening to see that “patriotic, pro-military messages, emphasizing the US Navy’s core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment” are out of the closet and confronting those who support and condone desertion and isolation and the abandonment of freedom.

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    The manner of debate

    Arthur Rörsch, has embarked on a new project, exposing infractions of good scientific practice which he encountered when joining the global warming debate. They include a wide variety of scientific misconduct, including: intimidation and expulsion of sceptical scientists; deriding and ostracizing opponents; other sorts of ad hominem attacks; the invocation of consensus, while ignoring opposing views, even those which have been published in the peer-reviewed literature; dismissing the right and/or competence of scientists of neighbouring scientific disciplines to participate in the climate debate, especially if they hold opposing views and refusal to enter into scientific debate to sort out differences; accusing opposing scientists of representing commercial interests, such as those of the oil and coal industry; manipulation of data and spin-doctoring of ‘scientific’ reports; attribution of extreme weather events to man-made global warming; the use of models as evidence, etc. [Hans Labohm. TCS COP 10 Coverage: Buenos Aires: Kyoto’s Waterloo. Tech Central Station. 17 December 2004]

    sound familiar? see similar tactics in other debate?

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    A referent for religion in politics

    One of the visible indicators of bias is severe perceptional distortion. When it comes to discussion about what Bush says, every trick in the book is used from selective quotation, context misplacement, to outright misquote. Those who are hearing what they want to hear rather than what was actually said do all a disservice. The phenomena seems particularly evident when the discussion touches home, like, say, for instance, on the topic of religion.

    Is George Bush too religious? Here is a closer look at what a much-misquoted president actually says and how it compares with his predecessors. … All this amounts to a great deal of God-talk. But is it too much? Does it cross the line? That depends, of course, on where you think the line is. …. while Mr Bush goes on about the importance of faith, he never talks about policy—even issues with a moral component—in terms of doctrine or revelation. Evangelicals, for example, want to ban gay marriage because (they say) it is against God’s will. Mr Bush never says this. He opposes it on the grounds that marriage is an institution so fundamental to society that it should not be changed. That is also why he has been so cautious in arguing for his faith-based policies. [George Bush and God, A hot line to heaven. The Economist. 16 December 2004]

    Several ideas are described in the article. One is that the President is very clear to keep religion in a proper context with regard to policy. Another is that concepts such as liberty and freedom are not good in and of themselves but stem from something greater.

    When Kerry uses the black pulpit for campaign speeches yet it is his opponent who is condemned for bring religion into politics, it should make anyone wonder. The Economist article actually provides a referent by which to evaluate the religions references of the President so that a rationale perspective can be obtained.

    Should a President be condemned for restating the meaning of the Declaration of Independence?

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    Heroes in Iraq

    Heroes come in all sizes and make their service for all sorts of reasons. The stories of the heroes defines a people. Here are two.

    As the vehicles went around her, I soon saw her sitting there and in her arms she was clutching a little bear that we had handed her a few patrols back. [The heart of America. Blackfive. 16 December 2004]

    and what she was doing was protecting a convoy from a mine in the street. Another hero made a significant sacrifice for his buddies.

    Sgt. Rafael Peralta threw open the closed door, but behind it were three terrorists with AK-47s. Peralta was hit in the head and chest with multiple shots at close range. Peralta’s fellow Marines had to step over his body to continue the shootout with the terrorists. As the firefight raged on, a “yellow, foreign-made, oval-shaped grenade,” as Lance Corporal Travis Kaemmerer described it, rolled into the room where they were all standing and came to a stop near Peralta’s body. … But Sgt. Rafael Peralta wasn’t dead – yet. … As Sgt. Rafael Peralta lay near death on the floor of a Fallujah terrorist hideout, he spotted the yellow grenade that had rolled next to his near-lifeless body. Once detonated, it would take out the rest of Peralta’s squad. To save his fellow Marines, Peralta reached out, grabbed the grenade, and tucked it under his abdomen where it exploded. [Oliver North. Marine Laid Himself on Top of Grenade to Save Rest of Squad. Human Events 16 December 2004]

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    Euphemism and “The Rectification of Names”

    What’s that, you say? Did the appearance of words like “People’s Republic” in the name of a state ever ring bells in some part of your mind? Sometimes some folks find names for themselves that are little more than a false front.

    [Editor’s Note: The American Thinker believes in calling things by their proper names. Euphemism is a tool of misrepresentation and ultimately of control, stripping away accurate and evocative connotations, and substituting false associations. George Orwell wrote eloquently of the political importance of controlling language. To a great degree, with the press and education establishments largely in the hands of leftists, the American vernacular has become a weapon wielded by the left.

    “The Rectification of Names” is a term familiar to all historians of China, reflecting one of the essential precepts of Confucianism. Confucius, one of the greatest political thinkers in the history of the world, taught that if names are not correct, words will be misused, and when words are misused, nothing can be on a sound footing. Political reformers of corrupt dynasties often crusaded under the political banner of The Rectification of Names.] ed. American Thinker. 16 December 2004

    If the word liberal is coming to have a sour taste, how ’bout we call ourselves progressive? After all, it is the cover of the book and the paint on the outside that matters more than what is inside or underneath, right?

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    what is your referent?

    While the SecDef is the latest victim, the technique and method is not unique.

    His critics hold him to standard of omniscience and infallibility, denouncing him for failing to predict every tactical and strategic response imaginable. [John B. Dwyer. Donald Rumsfeld, patriot. American Thinker. 17 December 2004]

    One of the ways to make it seem as if the criticism is reasonable and accurate is to choose the right way of expressing it.

    The last thing you can expect to learn from most media accounts of the activities of green bigots is an account of other people’s objections to their power grabs. … Instead, there is a whole vocabulary of misleading words used to paper over and sugar coat the plain fact that green bigots feel entitled to impose their vision at the cost of other people’s rights. Thus it is called a “renaissance” to lose your right to choose what you want to do in Yosemite. … There is never a lack of excuses when people want to boss other people around. There are lots of vague and lofty words about a “fragile” or “sensitive” environment — but ask the green bigots for concrete criteria by which we can determine whether a particular environment is or is not “fragile” or “sensitive.” … Then ask for hard evidence. You are not likely to get any. [Thomas Sowell. Green Bigots Operate from Yosemite to Africa. Human Events. 16 December 2004]

    But then, there is a warning we should heed that tells us that when the stakes are high the need to clarify the referent is paramount.

    Imagine three people sitting right next to each other in a doctor’s waiting room. Are they sitting in the same room? Let’s say the first person walked in, and complained, “Oh, how small this room is!” The second person entered, and exclaimed, “Look how bright this room is.” The third person came in, and thought, “Ugh, what a messy room.” Now, they are sitting inches apart, but they are not in the same room. The first person is sitting in a small room, feeling really cramped. The second person is sitting in a light room, feeling cheerful. The third person is sitting in a messy room, feeling disgusted. … Essentially, what you see is what you get [Rabbi David Aaron. What you see is what you get. Jewish World Review. 17 December 2004]

    In all of these matters of expressed judgment there is a desired outcome that tends to flavor the perceptions. Many times that desire is more visible to the listener than it is to the talker.

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    Huzza! Boy Scouts get a show of support.

    Evey now and then you find a story that tells you that there are some folks in the country with a sound heart and sound mind.

    “We’re kind of a conservative troop,” said Scoutmaster Jim Carpenter, whose two-year-old unit meets at St. Joseph Catholic Church. “They’re a very devout group of young men, and God and country are extremely important to them.” … “And at one of our Monday night meetings, they decided that it would be real cool to sell popcorn in front of the ACLU. This was their idea. We’re a boy-run troop.” … “Things just went nuts. It didn’t slow down until about 3:30, 4 o’clock. We had cars pulling off and lots of people honking the horn, we had a couple of police officers stop by and buy popcorn. We had fire trucks going by and tooting their horns. It was incredible.” [Mark Bowes. Scouts’ sales tactic outside ACLU becomes pop smash After radio celebrity plugs Chesterfield troop’s booth, popcorn orders top $28,000. Times Dispatch. 17 December 2004]

    Every society has standards and must enforce them. What is visible here is that the people of the US do not see the Boy Scout’s oath requiring a religious faith to be anathema to governance. The expression is that the ACLU has gone a bit overboard in their assault on the Boy Scouts.

    Is this one small step back to tolerance and decency and respect for others?

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    Math and Science in the US

    One recent ranking was highly touted by the ‘U.S. has awful public schools’ crowd because it ranked U.S. well down from the top in student performance in math and science. What the crowd carefully avoided, though, was that certain racial groups of the US population scored quite well in the international competition while others didn’t. In other words, the use of an aggragate score did not well represent the diversity of the U.S. population. This was from the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, which gauges 15-year-olds’ abilities at applying math skills to real-world contexts released Dec. 6.

    U.S. fourth and eighth graders above average in math and science on the latest international comparison known as TIMSS. [Joanne Jacobs. We’re above average. 15 December 2004]

    Perhaps the primary measure people should use is what the education system is being asked to produce. This may not be as quick and well delineated as a test score aggregate but it should provide a better measure. This product of the education system is a productive worker. Most measures of productivity in the US do not reflect the doom and gloom often pasted on that which produces it.

    There are many parties in the education debate with significant stakes at risk. This tends to make the debate muddled. It is difficult to make appropriate and necessary distinctions. Watch out for the doom and gloom and keep your skepticism level high. See if you can find the slant on interpreted data, separate opinion from fact, and get to the core of what is actually real.

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    Diversion: ACLU, religion, politics, and science

    The ACLU is suing again. This time it is really confused. The issue is the evolution vs creationism debacle. The confusion is a suit about government and religion being used to establish appropriateness of context for subject matter in education. [see Martha Raffaele. ACLU Files Lawsuit Over ‘Intelligent Design’ Mandate. The Associated Press. 15 December 2004]

    There are at least three separate debates that get confused here. One is the ‘how can I find offense at something or somebody’ debate. Another is the ‘no state sponsored church’ debate often miscast as separation of church and state. A third debate is that of deciding who should set the curricula for public education.

    It is this third debate that is of concern in the evolution fracas but the ACLU is painting it as the second. Such confusion is likely only to muddy the waters. And the third one has many important components that need proper consideration.

    In deciding the curricula for public education, the issue of federalism comes to play. How local should a school be? How should it be held accountable and by whom?

    You can teach creationism in a biology class, of course. You can say a biology class must coover Shakespeare, too. The problem you face is that the student taught such things is going to have some re-learning to do in med-school or in ag-school, though. It would be irresponsible to teach things under the banner of biological science in a manner not reflective of the value of those things by the practitioners in that field.

    So, say your local school board says that Shakespeare is to be taught in the physics class. Who should hold them accountable? Parents of the students? The state? the federal government? the market?

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    The truth will out?

    While the state of Washington is suffering a ‘recount until we get the vote count we want’ syndrome and Ohio is suffering a continuing onslaught of allegation and innuendo promoting ballot ESP, those who lost are still trying to figure out some reason why that they can accept. The problem is that, so far, the most prominate of those in the loser’s camp are promoting reasons that don’t stand on very firm ground.

    “This is the best $40,000 investment made by any political group, but it was only because of the news coverage that it got where it did,” Cahill, a former underling to Sen. Teddy Kennedy, snapped Wednesday at Harvard University, where she appeared with Ken Mehlman, President Bush’s campaign manager. [Newsmax.com 16 December 2004]

    The fact is that the original Swiftvet press release was ignored. The SwiftVets only gained traction after a very low budget advertising campaign started people talking. And the talking was not good for Kerry because there was a great deal of credibility in the assertions made against him. So great a credibility (often derived from his own authorized sources) that Kerry had to ‘clarify’ and modify his official view of his military service.

    The contrast is in the ‘we can do it too’ campaign asserting Bush was AWOL is stunning. This one was picked up and picked at by the MSM for months despite a lack of any evidence and despite a chain of command and a group of peers who disputed the assertions. People talked here, too, but the talk was about the absurdity of the claims or their fraudulent nature – especially when Rather produced fabricated documents to attempt to shore up the allegations.

    The lesson seems to be that the truth will out. Delluding yourself with fictions will only continue your pain.

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    Agent of change

    The assault on the SecDef continues. William Kristol (The Defense Secretary We Have. Our soldiers deserve a better defense secretary. Washington Post. 15 December 2004) is piling on and the MSM is desparately seeking to find other high profile politicians, pundits, or military to be able to use the ‘weight of opinion’ argument to trash and bash.

    For the past 15 years, big thinkers and strategists have observed that the application of information technologies had made businesses more efficient and effective. Why couldn’t similar efficiencies and increases in battlefield effectiveness be wrung from military forces which, after all, were troglodytic expressions of the Industrial Age? Heavily armored ground forces, in particular, were too ponderous and therefore vulnerable in the emerging age of “netwar” with al Qaeda and spectacularly “enabled” leaders like Osama bin Laden. And, as Rumsfeld told the troops in Kuwait, armored vehicles still get blown up anyway. … Like all good captains of industry, they looked to substitute capital for labor. … Thus we have a Defense secretary more concerned about the Army and the force he’d like to have–the high-speed-low-drag transformed force of the future–than the force with which he actually has to fight today’s wars. [Tom Donnelly. Rumsfeld’s War: Imagination, transformation, and reality in Iraq. The Weekly Standard. 16 December 2004]

    Donelly makes some good points but fails when he moves from fact to opinion and reveals his agenda. “In agreeing to stay on as Defense secretary in the second Bush term, Rumsfeld has made it known that he wants to ‘complete the job of transformation’ he has started. It would be far better if he would dedicate himself to winning the war he helped to start.” – Perhaps the transformation is a dedication to winning the war on terror – or does Donelly not see the GWOT as the war at issue?

    Kristol’s argument follows the formula: “deserves better.” Without effective measures such opinions are vacant. He attempts to blame the SecDef of finger pointing as one of his rationales in making the assumption that all of the responsibility for troop levels and budget fall to that position alone.

    What I think “deserves better” is the argument about the issue. We do not need an opinion about what someone may have for motivation or intent. We do not need generic aspersion or denigration. We do not need opinion about critical factors of defense cloaked in ad hominem fault finding and sweeping generalizations. We do not need judgment of others.

    What we do need is discussion about just what size and composition of military the US should have, what kind of war it should be prepared to fight, the military’s role in nation building, how we should deal with the necessary adaptation of plans to reality, the balance between mobility and armor, the propaganda problems, the prisoner and captured problems, occupation management, and so many more.

    Limbaugh spent an hour on this today, too – described it as an agent of change situation and politics. ‘We finally got Ashcroft so now we can pick the next target.’ But Limbaugh points out that now we have gone beyond the water’s edge in a war situation. It is a significant situation which makes it even more important that the assault contain an integrity of purpose, intent, and content. “It is unseemly to me” Limbaugh says about this particular politicing because that integrity seems to be missing.

    Yet it is so much easier to pick a human target to represent what you don’t like – and pile on.

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    innapropriate attribution

    The ‘ad hominem’ is a known problem in terms of debate. It is the misdirection of the point of dicussion towards the participants rather than towards the issues. It is a form of ‘pick your villain’ and paint everything he does as bad and everything bad as his fault.

    I know that the AP is tying their observation to the remark by the President about his willingness to rebuild the bridges with Europe, but don’t you just love it how it’s Bush who always has to “win over Europeans”? [Arthur. Why they hate us. Chrenkoff, 15 December 2004]

    Another example of ‘pick your villain’ – using the same villain – comes from the environmentalist fringe.

    Buenos Aires, Argentina (CNSNews.com) – An environmental activist group has declared President George Bush “immoral” for his failure to support the Kyoto Protocol — a failure that “condemns millions of people around the world to suffer the devastating consequences of global warming,” said a spokesperson for Greenpeace International. Full Story

    It seems to be almost an illness. Look for fault and find a way to pin it on someone you don’t like to try to convince others that your dislike is a ‘good’ dislike.

    I think we would all be better served if we didn’t personalize things so much and worked towards specific issues and why there are differences about these issues. Say for instance about the meaning of the word “is” or the implications of the abuse of interns or the level of importance of the felony of perjury.

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    Is the law a living tree?

    The Canadian Supreme Court recently decided its constitution is a living tree to be interpreted in light of the times and not in light of what the constitution actually says.

    The court’s outlandish “living tree” standard of interpretation is twice-cursed. As a judicial doctrine, it is intellectually vacuous and irreconcilable with the rule of law. Constitutional principles aim to dispel doubts and to provide guideposts for the future. The “living tree” standard, in contrast, leaves the Canadian Parliament and subordinate tribunals clueless in assessing the constitutionality of legislation, other than guessing the political prejudices of the justices. Indeed, the “living tree” standard implicates neither judging nor specialized legal knowledge. It entails only a forceful articulation of a political faith. [Bruce Fein. Judicial audacity scales new height. Washington Times, 14 December 2004]

    The law serves its public only when it is a known entity. It must be determinate against an accepted standard. When matters of public policy move to a self annointed oligarchy and the public abrogates its repsonsibility for self governance, democracy whithers.

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    The one or the many?

    Since the Rathergate fracas, and perhaps even before, there has been a condemnation of the individuals on the internet pestering the big boys. The theme seems to be that the individuals cannot be trusted while the MSM can.

    The Main Stream Media is a ‘many’ with editers, producers, reporters, and others who make sure the story is correct. This is supposed to convey validity.

    But Dan Rather illustrated very clearly that the MSM can not be trusted implicitly and that an appropriate skepticism should be applied to any story one hears.

    The BBS has provided yet another example. A person who called himself Jude Finisterra (Finis Terra, end earth, get it? see also Chrenkoff, What’s in the name? ) and an official Dow Company spokesman called the BBC to say he had an important announcement. BBC bought it hook, line, and sinker. No checking, no verification, no skepticism. And just like Dan Rather, they showed a malfeasance of astounding proportion.

    So this is what passes for journalism at the BBC. They put an unknown person on the air to make an “important announcement” on behalf of Dow Chemical Company on the basis of that person’s telephone call, without spending five dollars on a phone call to verify his identity, or ten seconds on a Google search. We would suggest that it hardly takes an “elaborate deception” to fool the BBC.

    That assumes, of course, that a hoaxer wants to pin responsibility for thousands of deaths on an American chemical company. Why is it that major media outlets only seem to fall for hoaxes when they make certain categories of people look bad[Hindrocket. Fooled Again. Powerline. 4 December 2004]

    Whether it is from the many or from the one, it is up to the listener to determine what is to be trusted and by how much.

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    Color and design

    In the last decade, however, many churches throughout the Western world have “discovered” the power of the visual in worship. Owing partly to the pervasive influence of visual imagery in our culture, partly to the cross-pollination between different streams of Christian tradition, and partly to the power of digital projection, churches that would never have considered the use of visual art in worship have not only begun to use it, but even to major in it. [Mark Roberts. The Colors of the Christian Year 4 December 2004]

    Color and design communicate no matter what the endeavor. Mark Roberts provides examples of the use of color and design to communicate a religious message.

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