Archive for January, 2005

Who you afraid of?

It is interesting how much trouble people have trying to come up with definitions sometimes. Here is one that defines a difference that doesn’t exist the way it is represented.

Today we have groups which are called “liberal” and “conservative”. Both are (at least in America) in fundamental agreement with Mr. Locke and his ilk– Human liberty must be protected. Where we disagree with each other is in our belief of where the threat to that liberty comes from. Modern American Conservatives believe that government is the threat to my liberty. Modern American Liberals believe that other individuals (or, more often, corporate entities) are the biggest threat to my liberty. [Andrew Cory; Classical Liberalism, Modern Liberalism, Modernity; Dean’s World. 11ja05 ]

The thing is that government is a corporation and one with more pwer than any other corporation or individual. This is related to the issue of transparency. An individual is not to be feared if you know who he or she is and can grab them by a sensitive part in the battle for ideas. A corporation tends to diffuse the identity of the people within it and so is more difficult to envision – a corporation is an abstract entity. A government, especially a large and representative one, is also an abstraction without a real physical human identity.

But note the manner of attack. There are differences there that are more clear cut. Fear what you can envision and grab or fear an abstraction? How is the fear of the abstraction expressed? How is the fear of the individual expressed?

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Type M

A previous post noted the difference between arguments that depend upon motive or content. Here is an example coupled with a rationalization.

I think the real problem is that many scientists would like … [a type M position]

If the evolution camp is really concerned with doing good science, they should respond to this opposition from the ID movement not by trying to persuade the ID people (or the public) that ID isn’t playing fair — but by trying to provide such rock-solid evidence for the theory of evolution that the ID people will no longer be able to point at the holes. [David; Intelligent design critique; A physicist’s perspective. 12ja05]

This is called a ‘straw man’ argument – setting up some criteria or condition of dubious quality in order to support a point of view. Also consider the implications of the reference to a “camp” as that is another important feature often associated with this type of argument. Another interesting tactic is making the defendant out to be the prosecution (i.e. that the biologists have to defend themselves rather than the ID proponents needing to prove the value of their idea)

The rationalization is that of pretending that there is an absolute in science. Ideas in science stand on their own and their value over other ideas depends upon their usefulness in a particular context – not in their ability to denigrate another idea. i.e. the progress in science tends more on a constructive ethic. One idea is favored over another not because of trashing the other but because it has more useful features that make it better. Criticism is just fine but even those ideas with flaws will be valued if they are useful (think Newton versus Einstein, for example).

Those ‘holes’ being used to denigrate evolution are very much a part what makes evolution valuable. They do this because they guide research towards learning other things. In other words, good ideas in science lead to forming good questions that lead to further learning. Not so good ideas don’t lead to further research and can’t be used as a basis for enhancing knowledge and just sit around for people to criticize.

For an example of holes in a theory leading to learning, look at the history of the periodic table.

There are reasons why the community of biologists value evolution much more highly than ID. Those who want or desire ID to be a part of biology need to understand and accept those reasons first and then to address them in promoting their views.

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potpouri

First an interesting take on what the call for more troops may actually mean.

I think that calling for “more troops” is a way to criticize while not sounding weak, and that it thus has an appeal that overcomes its uncertain factual foundation. [Glenn Reynolds Instapundit 11ja05 ]

Then the tactic of using a part of the truth to tell a lie.

Long before the internet was invented, John Ehrlichman, Richard Nixon’s advisor, coined the memorable phrase “modified limited hangout” to describe the strategy of telling some of the truth, in the hope that tossing a few bones to the baying dogs (as the powerful always perceive their critics) would suffice to divert attention from the bigger underlying crimes. But the press corps of the day, mostly hostile to Nixon, would have none of it, and slowly, slowly, Watergate unraveled in the press, and in Capitol hearing rooms and federal courtrooms.

Today, there is no chance to plead guilty to a lesser charge and escape further accountability. CBS News has not yet learned the nature of the era in which it operates. [Thomas Lifson. The American Thinker. CBS tries to cop a plea. 11Jan05]

Then about self delusion.

If you lie to yourself about where you are and what you’re doing while sailing a small boat from San Francisco to Los Angeles, you are in a world of trouble. If you lie to yourself while setting protection on a rock face a thousand feet above the ground, you’re going to die. [Armed Liberal. Risk, Reality, and Bullshit 11Ja05]

Then on honesty in debate and the consequences if otherwise.

Slated to lead Senate Democrats in the 109th Congress, Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada epitomizes Democratic Party descent from debate to deceit in criticizing conservative Supreme Court justices and distorting court rulings.

That vertical plunge in intellectual honesty thwarts constructive exchanges over the Constitution and Supreme Court appointments. Mr. Reid and colleagues should either do their judicial homework or remain silent. Nothing is as dangerous as ignorance or propaganda in action.

In sum, the Democrats’ characterization of the Supreme Court since President Richard Nixon as a bulwark of fringe or right-wing conservatism is counterfactual in the extreme.

Enlightened debate pivots on matters of degree and on balance among competing values and objectives. But that prized goal as regards the Supreme Court is frustrated by egregious and shameless Democrat skewing of the facts and the law. [Bruce Fein Debasing judicial debate – The Washington Times: Commentary – 11Ja05]

Then a bit about the foundational systems that provide societal order.

This leads back again to how we can view Hammurabi’s code. It is indeed an achievement in its own right. However, it also serves as the best extant summary of the collected wisdom of numerous centuries of Mesopotamian (chiefly Sumerian) experience with the practical issues involved in the rule of law. Hammurabi’s code presently provides the only method of illuminating the details of a number of very complex and surprisingly “modern” legal ideas which were well-known to the Sumerians; these concepts will be considered in Part VII. [Guest blogger: Mesopotamia Redeemed, Part 6 Arthur ]

and more on foundations

In the last fifty years practice has provided ample confirmation that the ideas of the Scottish enlightenment really are the best foundation for a prosperous and peaceful state of affairs. Now theory is catching up and the left doesn’t like it.

N.B. By the way, if you think this subject is anything close to as important as I do, here is a MUST book for you: The Noblest Triumph: Property and Prosperity through the Ages, Author: Tom Bethell. [ American by Choice at It’s not just the rule of law that matters, but the rule of what law]

And about why choosing school curricula may be difficult.

Every aspect of the public school curriculum, not just science education, is inherently political. Decisions over what and how to teach are made by elected and appointed government officials. Because there is only one official state organ of education, everyone wants it to conform to their own views.

That is impossible.

In a pluralistic society, there are countless different and incompatible worldviews. Our effort to serve that diverse audience through a monolithic school system has not only failed to forge common ground; it has bred animosity and discord. [Andrew J. Coulson Ending the Evolutionary War  [Mackinac Center for Public Policy] 6ja05]

an open letter to Dr. Krugman about methods of argument and their consequences.

Type C arguments are about the consequences of policies. Type M arguments are about the alleged motives of individuals who advocate policies.

I am not going to try to guess your motives for relying on type M arguments. However, I can tell you some of the consequences. One consequence is to lower the level of political discourse in general. You have a lot of influence with those who sympathize with your views. When they see you adopt type M arguments, they do the same. … Another consequence is to lower the prestige and impact of economists. We are trained to make type C arguments. [Arnold Kling (to Paul Krugman)TCS: Tech Central Station – An Open Letter to Paul Krugman 11ja05]

and a maxim about preparedness

What was it the Romans said? “If you seek peace, prepare for war.” It’s truer than they know. It’s because Australia’s prepared for war that it can do all the feelgood humanitarian stuff – such as landing 10 army engineers in Banda Aceh to attach a mobile filtration system to the decrepit mains pipes and thereby not merely restore the water supply but improve it. [[Mark Steyn. The
Australian: Mark Steyn: Coalition of the giving [January 10, 2005]

Accountability and making changes

If the UN keeps failing, the answer is not to ignore its faults, but to reform or replace it. There is growing interest in some American quarters in the idea of a new international association, open only to countries that elect their leaders democratically. At a minimum, Americans expect transparency, accountability, and some greater approach to even-handedness in the Middle East. But the real challenge to all of us, in all the democracies, is this: to be guided by realities, not fantasies – and especially not such uniquely unconvincing fantasies as the allegedly unique moral authority of the United Nations. [David Frum. Telegraph Opinion | This disaster exposes the myth of the UN’s moral authority 9ja05]

Now the question: what is the glue that holds this potpouri together?

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about allegations of bias

When considering arguments and reports such as that finally offered by CBS to explain the 60 Minutes II problem with election stories, Lindgren describes a very good indicator to consider.

The motivation to seek and expose the truth is a pretty powerful one by itself, and motivations are complex. As I have said many times before, first you determine if the facts that someone is asserting are true or not. Only if they are false do you begin to ask why they would be putting forward false information, whether pushing false information might be the result of political bias. [Jim Lindgren. Comparing Blogger Political Agendas With CBS’s Lack of an Agenda. Volokh Conspiracy. 10 Ja05]

Consider, for instance, the case of the SwiftVets or the current ruckus in the Washington Governor’s race where a hundred or so votes was considered a near tie up until the third recount when the small margin was turned the other way or the Boxer and Black Caucus ruckus about certifying the Ohio vote.

The perversion of assignation of a person’s motivations to always be crass or selfish is in itself an indicator that can be used to evaluate arguments. The report sidestepped making firm conclusions about two critical issues but made the evidence very clear in appendices. These are those concerning political bias in creating the environment for the gross errors made and the near certainty that the documents used as a basis were fabricated.

Anyone tempted to look at the evidence for the questions they raise and to try to find out what really happened is immediately lambasted as acting solely on the basis of political motivations. This is the excuse used in the attempt to rewrite history in the Clinton library.

Let the facts speak for themselves. Lindgren offers good advice.

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Effectiveness, not anger and envy

The tsunami disaster puts in plain view how people respond. There are those who want to place blame. There are those who want to use it as a tool to advance an agenda. There are others who see a need to be met.

There are also values that can be seen in what people choose to do and how they do it. These become important influences on the final result and the efficiency of achieving that result.

There is growing interest in some American quarters in the idea of a new international association, open only to countries that elect their leaders democratically. At a minimum, Americans expect transparency, accountability, and some greater approach to even-handedness in the Middle East. But the real challenge to all of us, in all the democracies, is this: to be guided by realities, not fantasies – and especially not such uniquely unconvincing fantasies as the allegedly unique moral authority of the United Nations. [David Frum; This disaster exposes the myth of the UN’s moral authority; Telegraph. 9ja05]

The sense of communities depends upon shared values and shared goals. What Frum is saying is that this sense of community suffers when the focus is on one of the members of the community rather than on the results that are supposedly desired.

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popular culture envy

There is a lot of angst about anti-Americanism in the world. It was a major policital issue in the last presidential campaign. The question is whether it can be bought and by what currency.

In the end, all the hostility directed at the American popular culture by critics worldwide is to a large extent a misplaced anger at your own people: how dare they, traitors, want the American stuff, when our home-grown is so much better. People from Cairo to Calcutta, from Lagos to Lima, are fascinated by the American product because of what it represents: the confidence, optimism and opportunities of the world’s most successful economy and the most desired society (we, in communist Poland, certainly did). The critics understand that fact implicitly, which is why those who dislike the American culture are also very likely to be hostile to American political and economic systems, American foreign policy and other aspects of American life. So, in many ways, culture wars are merely a continuation of political conflict through other means. [Chrenkoff. Global culture war. 9Ja05]

The indication here is that the problem is one of resistance to bottom up change. In the famous ‘how to boil a frog’ example this is a case of the water getting warm but all the frog is doing is complaining about things getting a bit warm.

This kind of change may be particularly irritating because it involves a change in basic identity. The ‘us versus them’ boundry is becoming less clear. Remember that scifi item about “resistance is futile?”

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Intelligent Design?

The opposition to teaching biology in high school in a manner that pleases the community of biologists continues. We will be celebrating the centenial of the argument (Scope’s Trial) soon.

Regarding the secularization of our society, Dean has a pretty good point. Forcing via the courts or ballot box that people drop their religious practices, views, or beliefs is obviously going to produce a backlash. However, at the same time this does not mean that we should ignore attempts to bring religious dogma into the science classroom. This is Dean’s strongest argument, and I mostly agree with him in general terms, but not when it concerns science.
….
The entire ID movement is very much like a propaganda campaign. Keep repeating claims over and over until people start to believe them. … insistence that we keep treating ID as being scientific, when it has produced nothing (and indeed one could argue that ID is actually anti-science), when it looks very much like a propaganda campaign, and wants to circumvent the scientific process altogether is beyond me. We don’t put non-science (and especially anti-science) into science classrooms. One would think that this is obvious, but I guess not. [Steve Dean Responds. Deinonychus antirrhopus. 8Ja05]

An example, as a complaint about propaganda going in just the opposite direction, is from David Limbaugh.

But for our culture’s indoctrination on these issues, Louis’s reaction would puzzle me. Is he upset with the statement that evolution is a theory or at its mandatory placement in the science textbooks? I’ve been reading quite a bit about the problems with Darwinism lately, as well as the increasing credibility of Intelligent Design theory. It amazes me how much disinformation has been taught in our public schools, universities, and our culture in general on evolution. [ David Limbaugh. Slamming Intelligent Design. 31Dc04]

What Limbaugh misses is that the debate about ID is not inside the biologist community but rather in the religious community. He has a problem seeing why a NY Times columnist is so anti ID and then condemns science teaching in our schools and universities. This is an expression of dissonance. ‘There is a conspiracy against me and I am so confused.’

Rather than spending so much effort in “reading quite a bit about the problems with Darwinism,” the effort should be put into examining some other leaves on the tree, some other trees in the forest, and gaining a perspective on the forest itself. As we see with much of the political debate, finding fault is an easy task. Finding constructive synthesis is much more difficult.

The fact is that the schools attempt to follow the desires of the universities and colleges and those attempt to follow the desires of researchers in their specialist fields and those researchers desire to get paid by producing research results that withstand scrutiny. There is a market system here with many independant actors and components. It should be carefully considered in the implications of arguments related to academia and subject matter.

That problem of “disinformation” is a non trivial allegation and as such demands non trivial support. There is a significant accountability in the worldwide education system that the allegation must show is fundamentally flawed. This sort of mismatch is a key indicator that the allegation is misplaced or misdirected.

Consider this marketing issue in regards to public school curricula. Do you want your school to teach biology in a way that will increase the chance that the student can gain acceptance to a prestigious university? Or do you want your school biology teaching to impare such opportunity and to satisfy some other criterion? For some, this choice presents a difficult dilemma – and that presents society with a problem of how much they should cater to that dissonance.

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Feet to the fire

It appears there can be found a theme in the National Review Online this morning. McCarthy’s column talks about the Gonzales confirmation hearing where the testimony of distinguished objectors was shown to be transparent and shallow. Hansen talks about how s pragmatic approach towards solving problems tends to create negative feelings in idealists (such as the Gonzales objectors). Goldberg discusses the need to temper pragmatism with moral values for guidance. In all of these columns, the issues of intellectual integrity driven by a value system is a secondary, perhaps unintended, underlying theme. They provide three good examples of the need to properly consider the basis for our views and opinions and the implications they may have.

But the critics should do us all a favor: If you’re going to talk the talk of righteous indignation, be ready to walk the walk. Be ready to tell Americans exactly what protections you want to give to the terrorists. Be ready to tell Americans that you would prohibit coercive interrogation even if it were the only way of saving a hundred thousand of them.

If you’re not ready to do that — because you full well understand that your position is not one even you can defend when the questions get hard — then don’t waste our time. Get out of the way of serious people like Judge Gonzales. People who don’t pretend to be perfect, who don’t claim to have all the answers, and who are not so smug that they think they can afford to take life-and-death options off the table — even as they pray they will never have to use them. [Andrew C. McCarthy. Fatuous The witnesses against Judge Gonzales torture logic. NRO 7 Ja 05]

The fact is that the utopian views of the Gonzales Objectors Ilk have consequences. When the rubber meets the road and a ‘correction’ is needed, the utopians being forced to face reality creates dissonance.

In fact, an American consensus is growing that envy and hatred of the United States, coupled with utopian and pacifistic rhetoric, disguise an even more depressing fact: Outside our shores there is a growing barbarism with no other sheriff in sight.[Victor Davis Hansen. The Disenchanted American, Are we growing world-weary? NRO 7 Ja 05]

And, while it is the 60’s that sticks in our minds as a beginning of these ‘peace and love’ type values at any cost, the phenomena has deeper roots.

A full generation before the 1960s, no less a liberal saint than Charles Beard was complaining about the New Deal liberals: “These people are talking the relativism which will ruin liberalism yet. Don’t they know that the means can make the ends? Don’t they realize that their method of arguing can justify anything? I wish we could find some way of getting rid of conservative morality without having these youngsters drop all morality.” And nearly 20 years before that the once-renowned progressive J. Allen Smith complained of Wilson-era progressives: “The real trouble with us reformers is that we made reform a crusade against standards. Well, we smashed them all and now neither we nor anybody else have anything left.”

But here’s the larger problem. The law can never be perfectly neutral; it can never be value-free. The only question is which values will triumph.

Now, I’m not talking about liability or torts or any of that stuff, because I don’t know much about it. I’m talking about the larger societal standards that come with the erosion of authority and how they creep into our law and our culture.
[Jonah Goldberg. Cutting the Fat, The decline of the norm. NRO 7 Ja 05]

If, fact, it appears that the discussion of this problem goes back 18 centuries or so. Consider the analysis of the Adam and Eve story in the Jewish World Review.

Our passions fuel us; they are engines that makes us go. Our drive to create, in particular, is one of the deepest and most fundamental of these passions. It, indeed, has many outlets: Sexuality; artistic endeavor; the yearning to be an inventor; ambition of almost any sort — you name it; they are all expressions of creativity at some level. The Talmud, centuries before Freud and Nietzsche, insisted that such forces our essential to our humanity. Without energy, without “meat”, you are dead.

But, the Talmud adds, the meat can still use some spice. Let’s think about this carefully. What, exactly, does spice do for meat?

It gives direction to it; it makes it taste one way rather than another. Without any spice; meat is bland; with the proper spices, it’s the dish of kings. [Rabbi David Fohrman; Serpents of desire: Good and evil in the Garden of Eden — Friedrich Nietzsche and the Disc Jockey; Jewish World Review 7 Ja 05]

A “method of arguing can justify anything” serves no purpose, conveys no message, leads to no betterment of anything. Spice is a preservative as well as a means to highlight flavors as well as a means to disguise flavors. It provides a guide to a method of arguing that creates productive insight rather than just intellectual diversion.

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new battlefronts of the 5th column

As the new session of Congress starts, one new battlefront has been started and another subject to new activity by the fifth column. The effect if not the intent of these effort is to destroy unity and confidence in the government of the United States.

What a waste of time and effort. Hand recounts and smearing Ohio’s Secretary of State and Chief Justice of their Supreme Court isn’t enough for the lunatics of the American Left. They want to hold Congress hostage for two hours in order to rant away at their abject failure to win an election in Ohio. Their excuse? Long lines and a lack of voting machines in predominantly Democratic counties — where the officials in charge of the election were Democrats! Just as in Florida, the Democrats blame the GOP for what they consider poorly-run elections, when Democrats themselves ran them. [Captain Ed at Boxer Signs Onto Ignominy Captain’s Quarters. 6 Ja 05]

The questions brought up in regards to the Ohio election have been hashed out but still serve as a dead horse to beat to try to promote a dishonest and deceitful effort to impugn the election. Meanwhile, serious questions about the vote in Seattle are being left alone. Serious issues about state versus federal control over the elections process are being ignored.

The new activity battlefront is, of course, the AG nomination hearing for Judge Gonzales. In this one, the effort is to paint the administration as a terrorist organization using torture via proxy. Again, the effort is to impugn the integrity of the US government.

Oh, and another thing: Senator Kerry is doing a Gore by engaging in trash talk in Iraq – to the troops no less.

There are appropriate ways to express opposition, methods established to redress grievances, and standards for conduct that serve to unify and strengthen. What we are seeing is an unprecedented abandonment of these time proven techniques by a major party. Such confrontational methods as the attack on the vote, the attack on the nominees, or the oversees sedition will all come to a point where the loosing will not just be in an election.

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OOTW – a necessary role for the military

Operations other than war (OOTW) is the name given a mission for the military. We see this capability to perform the mission right now in the Indian Ocean. OOTW preparedness is also a factor in Iraq. Is in an important factor in restructuring our military to handle something other than a European land war. That restructuring requires change that is causing its own problems – and providing opportunity for the fifth column to misrepresent.

Details get missed. Only Fox, that I saw, mentioned that the General commanding US forces in Baghdad gave a press conference yesterday.

We have two major stories happening at the same time. The broadcast press is doing us a disservice by not adapting to that situation. They are demonstrating, right before our eyes, their unwillingness to handle two major stories at once.

Well, the world doesn’t happen in neat segments. The world doesn’t cooperate with their formatting preferences. It just so happens that sometimes two big things that we desparately need to know about might happen simultaneously.

If the issue were as simple as the press makes out, what’s with that “no use” deal?

The truth of the matter is that the reserve force is poorly structured for today’s wars.

Rumsfeld knows it. If you listen carefully to his town halls with the troops, this has been coming up for two years, and for two years he’s admitted it, and said that they’re “working the issue.”

Solving the problem for the Army reserve isn’t just a function of fixing numbers, although that matters. It’s also a function of honestly examining which kinds of soldiers get used most often, and should be primarily a part of the active duty force, backstopped by colleagues in the reserves, and which specialties are used more rarely, and can be functions prmarily fulfilled by reservists.

That’s an important debate, one the American people need to hear.
[Ranting Profs. Who goes where. 6 Ja 05]

One of the reasons why the Navy has been able to provide direct and immediate assistance in the Indian Ocean is because OOTW is a mission for which it prepares and trains. One of the functions of the National Guard has always been to stand in to assist whenever there is a domestic disaster.

While some may paint the General’s remarks as saying the GWOT is tearing the National Guard to shreds, Ranting Profs points out that there is more to the story. It is the change process of meeting a new enemy and new challenges that might be called ‘growth pains’ that is the key issue. Resistance to this change is one reason for the inane attacks on Rumsfeld and for the misinterpretation of anything that might be construed as a a problem in the military.

The comment about “no use” highlights this because it notes that some of the people in the military are under-utilized. It is a key indicator that the structure, the business model, currently defining operations isn’t quite in line with what has to be done. Yet.

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Tarnishing the image

While we wait for CBS to issue its report about Rathergate to see if they come clean with what is well known, rationalizations of the incident are beginning to appear in the professional literature.

Corey Pein of the Columbia Journalism Review sent us an email yesterday, with a link to his article in that magazine on the fake 60 Minutes documents …

I could go on, but there is little point in doing so. CBS ostensibly “worked” on the National Guard story for years. They took fake documents from a notoriously unstable source who had no first-hand knowledge of President Bush’s National Guard career, and who could not account for where he got them. On their face, the documents looked nothing like authentic National Guard memos of the 1970s that were in CBS’s possession, but CBS asked no questions. CBS carried out no investigation to determine whether the memos were genuine, and made a point of not talking to people who were ostensibly quoted in the memos to determine whether the documents were accurate. They put the documents before the American public in the heat of an election campaign, and closely coordinated their story with a Democratic
National Committee advertising campaign which dovetailed perfectly with the fake documents, and which began the morning after their broadcast. When questioned about the documents’ apparent fraudulence, they stonewalled, and Dan Rather guaranteed the American people that the documents were authentic, because they came from an unimpeachable source.

The bloggers, on the other hand, began questioning the documents within hours after they appeared; raised many logical questions about their authenticity, the vast majority of which turned out to be valid; pointed out anachronisms within the documents that proved that their contents were false; and were ultimately proved correct in their suspicion that the documents were fakes. Nearly all of which occurred, not over a period of years, which CBS had to pursue its “story,” but over the space of twelve hours.

And the Columbia Journalism Review thinks it is the bloggers who are blameworthy in this story. Sad. Very sad. But I guess we know whose side the “journalists” are on.
[Hindrocket; Powerline; Journalism In Decline
5Ja05]

What we see is just how difficult it is for a human being to come to grips with an idea, a fact, that they really do not want to be.

Hugh Hewitt notes that Pein sent the note to Hindrocket and interprests this as a request for attention, integrity and objectivity be damned.

Roger Simon calls the Pein effort an “OJ defense.” – “Who’re you going to believe – me or your lying eyes?”

Instapundit.com quotes Jonathan Last: “So goes it at the Columbia Journalism Review. The university’s motto may still be “In lumine Tuo videbimus lumen,” but over at the j-school they have a new slogan: You can’t prove anything.”

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Getting to the right question on torture

Eugene Volokh, in Tentative thoughts on torture (17 June 2002), summarizes the issues involved in the use of torture. But these issues are not why Abu Grahib was such a big deal nor why the ICRC decided the treatment of Gitmo prisoners was “tantamount to torture” or why the Democrats are planning an assault on an AG nominee centering on his evaluation of the legal issues on torture at the beginning of the GWOT.

As always, the first problem is to ask the right question. In this case the question is “what is torture?” For some, poverty and disease could be torture. For others, any denial of any freedom could be considered torture. And there are some that will use any ambiguity they can find or create in order to fabricate an issue they can attempt to use for political gain.

Be aware, be skeptical.

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Must read speech by Phillips

There is notice that the media plays into the goals of the terrorists, that the propaganda this time is much more insidious and dangerous than Radio Moscow was in the sixties and seventies.

Reader Drennan Lindsay referred us to an absolutely superb article–a speech, actually, delivered at a conference on Jan. 1–by Melanie Phillips. Ms. Phillips is a British writer … [the title of the speech is] The Reporting of Iraq and Israel: An Abuse of Media Power [a Limmud conference talk given 27 December 2004] [ Hindrocket; Media Trifecta Dissected; Powerline 4 Ja 05]

So “why has the media succumbed to this epidemic of bigotry, blindness and bias?” Phillips lists two reasons. (1) fear based what the terrorists and jihadists have done to those who reported the ‘wrong stuff’ and (2) a cult of postmodernism (objectivity is bunk and truth is relative).

Phillips does not engage in the ad hominem, does not construct straw men, does not play with the definitions of words, – the speech is logical, rational, and clearly based. Read carefully and you will learn why we must make sure we learn what is really happening and do not swallow what is often presented to us by those who claim to be providing “news.”

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Having the cake and eating it, too

When one is in a difficult position there is often a desire to have it both ways. That is, to be able to remain in the position but not have it difficult anymore.

There’s one current idea that drives anti-war liberals into a ear-frenzied state — the notion that you can’t really call yourself a supporter of our armed forces in Iraq if you stand in opposition to their efforts there. [John Podhorertz. Giving GI’s in Iraq their glory. New York Post. 4 Ja 05]

What happens when trying to maintain the position but remove the difficulty is that rationalizations are made. These often really make the position more difficult but sound good if they can be sufficiently isolated from context and reality.

Thus, those leftists who, by ignoring or downplaying the illegitimacy and criminality of Saddam’s regime, are able pronounce the pro-Saddam insurgents “freedom fighters” defying a brutal foreign occupying force are in essentially the same moral position as those who supported the Ku Klux Klan. [deacon The Klannish left Powerline; 4 Ja 05]

One example is the sailor who refused to sail with the Bonne Homme Richard and created quite a stir on the docks. The irony of his, and his supporters, views is apparent. He took the symbolism of a warship as an evil and conveniently forgot that military preparedness is just what makes a country able to respond to catastrophy of any sort.

It certainly is inspiring to know that the publicity hound, Mr. Paredes, chose to “support life.” But I think the actual supporting is done by others, who do not have admiring lefties raising money on web sites devoted to them. [Hindrocket Irony, Anyone? Powerline 4 Ja 05]

His ship, the one he abandonded, is now one of the lead relief and rescue ships in the Indian Ocean. He could have contributed his share to the relief of suffering but his efforts to remove difficulty from his position met reality.

Another example is provided by the position taken to relieve the world of its suffering.

Let me tell you where this is going. Read those comments again and you’ll see references to “giving” and “giving up.” You see condemnations, not praise for capitalism. These people are obviously focused on the idea of taking the current worldwide economic pie re-slicing it so that everybody gets a peace. Nobody is talking about simply baking a bigger pie. [Neil Boortz. A turning point for all the world 4 Ja 05]

There are ways to deal with a difficult position. These have to do with concepts such as committment, integrity, honor, and respect.

I am not writing to quarrel with your judgment about the war in Iraq. Rather, I am writing to protest your attitude toward the war. And the point I want to make is this: sometimes, you have to choose between proving yourself to have been right, or helping make a project succeed despite your opposition to it.

It’s the same in politics. When a policy is adopted that you don’t like, sometimes – not always, but sometimes — you must choose between fighting it in hopes of proving you were right, or pitching in to make it work, despite your misgivings, for the good of the country.[Herbert E Meyer An open letter to opponents of the War in Iraq. American Thinker 4 Ja, 05]

So, before ‘assuming the position’ take a good hard look at whether you are trying to have your cake and eat it too. Sometimes your own ego and ignorance can get in the way of achieving success.

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What we are up against

One of the most hopeful indicators about the future of Iraq results from the rare glimpse of the literate and caring people who step forward and show that they can indeed see what has been and what should be. They also encounter the fifth column and see it for what it really is.

Her face turned red and she angrily responded, “Soon will come the day that the Americans will do worse.” She then went on to accuse me of not knowing what the true facts were in Iraq—and that she could see the situation better than me!

After those, and many other, experiences, we finally comprehended how little we had in common with these “peace activists” who constantly decried American crimes, and hated to listen to us talk about the terrible long nightmare that ended with the collapse of the regime. We came to understand how these “humanitarians” experienced a sort of pleasure when terrorists or former remnants of the regime created destruction in Iraq—just so they could feel that they were right, and the Americans wrong!

And so I have become disillusioned, at least with the Leftists I met in Iraq. So noble in their rhetoric, they looked to the stars, yet ignored what was happening around them, caring only about what was inside their minds. So glorious in their ideals, their thoughts were inflexible and their deeds unnecessary, even harmful. In the end, they proved to me how dogma and fanaticism had transform peace activists into—lifeless peace “statues.” [Naseer Flayih Hasan; How the Left Betrayed My Country – Iraq; FrontPageMagazine.com; 3Ja05]

what Hasan noted was perhaps the same thing the voter in the last US election noted.

And, it is worth keeping in mind that the war — which the Democrats opposed — was a moral issue that goes to the heart of our defense of liberty and the support of our soldiers. War is always a moral issue, and the Democrats got it wrong this time. So are the use of rhetoric and the character of a campaign matters of morality. When the Democrats trotted out labels against the White House and the president with analogies to Lenin or Nazism, and when John Kerry said that the Radio City Music Hall fundraiser that used gutter language spoke to the soul of America, or when Michael Moore was given a seat in a presidential box at the Democratic convention, people took note of those values as well — and voted on them.[William J. Bennett; The Democratic Dialectic, the Democratic Problem The future of a once-great party. National Review. 3Ja05 ]

We all witnessed these things and from both ends. Consider Rather’s problem with fabricated documents as compared to the SwiftVet’s campaign. In one case highly questionable documents were grabbed because of a false presumption. In the other, highly verified testimony and documentation was ignored and impugned because they voilated a false presumption. The moral values were not only those of the Bible Thumpers but also those of basic intellectual integrity. Hasan has seen this. Others will as well.

There is hope.

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the new tactics of war

At first all that was needed was to destroy the army. Then, starting with maybe the US war between the states, the need to squelch the industrial capability to wage war became a goal. Finally, perhaps starting with the Vietnam war, the strategy became one to remove the will to fight in the populace engaging in war, to remove the support behind the support for the military effort.

The only way our enemies can win is to attack and defeat the resolve of the American people to continue to support the war. It’s a battle like no other in history, with no clearly-defined combatants or fields of battle.

(I had a personal experience with this tactic recently, in the comments section of another blog. I went in prepared to calmly argue facts and positions; I was greeted with vile invective and insults. I briefly gave in and fought back in kind, but I finally gave up in disgust. That’s when it hit me; my opponent wasn’t attacking my facts or style, but me personally, in an effort to discourage me from continuing the argument. He wasn’t looking to win the argument on its merits, but to drive me off, and I was letting him.

It was what I’ve started calling the “chamberpot defense.” When his position was attacked, my opponent so thoroughly befouled the argument that it simply became too vile to be worth fighting over. He won the argument, but he has to live with the mess he created in the process. It’s related to the scorched-earth defense in war and the poison-pill defense in business.) [ Jay Tea; The changing road to victory; Whizbang; 2 Ja 05 ]

The fact is that the ideological foundation supporting any effort is always critical to that effort’s success. The US war efforts have always been successful because they have been driven by a fundamental ideology of the freedom of the individual to participate in determining governance. What is insidious today and for perhaps the last century is that this freedom is being impugned and questioned and tarred with misrepresentation, propaganda, and assignation.

The ‘chamberpot defense’ is a tactic of what the net messaging word calls trolling. The trolls seek to disrupt and destroy honest communication. You can see the same thing on network talking heads shows where they try to get a commentator on each side of the issue. Instead of reasoned clarification of issues what often results is a pissing match with people talking over each other, and at each other, and about each other.

So what to do?

1) Keep in mind that you are not talking to or with trolls. As noted in the previous post why? here’s why you are expressing your own views in your own manner for anyone to see if they so desire. Let anyone who wants form their own decisions based on what they see.

2) Stand for what you believe. This means being visible and illustrating your point not only in what you say but in how you say it.

3) Listen for learning but do not participate with those whose only goal is to reolve their own emotional problems or to stir the (chamber) pot. Let the trolls show themselves and they will end up making fools of themselves. They don’t need any help in doing this.

4) Be consistent and persistent. This is a war of attrition and requires firm resolve to see it through. If you stand visible and steady, you will find that you will accumulate reinforcements and additional strength according to the strength of your position. Make sure your foundation is a solid foundation for growth.

5) Take heart. The struggle has been going on for centuries. It grows ever stronger. Do not let occasional setbacks or attacks in force weaken your resolve. If you are for freedom of the individual then you have a lot of progress to witness and more to come.

We have an example of the tragedy that happens when we waiver in our resolve. It is good to see that lessons have been learned. The vociferousness of those trying to break the resolve yet again can be disheartening but should also be seen as an indication of just how much the debate has escalated. People are seeing the issues and making decisions.

Let the progress continue.

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why? here’s why.

You can bet that someone has said it better than you ever can, the problem is just finding what they said. Here’s one.

The cognitive dissonance required of them is almost staggering to contemplate. They espouse an ideology that insists: that they are the only ones who truly respect and admire other cultures and that they have a lock on promoting “diversity”—while they indirectly (and sometimes even directly) argue that 2 billion Muslims are just “not ready” for democracy and self-government; that they are the sole defenders of free and open speech—even as they promote a crippling political correctness and try to place restrictions on any speech that disagrees with their own too-fragile-to-debate-openly ideals; that they are the true sophisticates, the guardians of a delicate and noble civilization—even as they argue that the defense of that very civilization is unjust, and that the civilization itself is not worth defending, based as it is on greed and racism; that they are the only ones who truly care about the men and women in the American military – after thirty years of neglect and openly-expressed contempt for them, and while seeking to render their sacrifices in Iraq meaningless by abandoning the Iraqis to the shifty avarice of the UN, or to whatever other bleak fate the Left’s indifference would leave them subject to; that they are the champions of “new ideas” and “change”—even as they cling illogically to all sorts of antiquated, fully discredited, and even long-abandoned ideas on how to run a government, an economy, a nation.

These contradictions, all of them accepted as holy and inviolable writ by an elitist journalist class that functions for the most part now not as a reliable source of accurate information but as a dishonest and untrustworthy disseminator of reactionary statist propaganda, sometimes get to be too much for some of us erstwhile Lefties to bear, and we go skittering off from the main body of the Borg-like Lefty collective like drops of sweat off Gerry Cooney’s face at the moment his chin gets blasted by the full brunt of another George Foreman haymaker. It happened to me back around the time of Gulf War ‘91, and it happens every day to somebody else. But this migration—or maybe mitosis would be a better word for it—is an odd phenomenon; it can’t be forced, and it can’t really be predicted, and it was certainly a mistake to ever assume that any external event like a 9/11 could suddenly force it onto masses of misguided souls still mired in Lefty stasis.

But I didn’t start this blog to convince anybody; I didn’t start this blog to influence, or to persuade, or to popularize, or to convert, or any of those things. I started this blog to yell, plain and simple. I started this blog to finally be able to say it, and mean it, and to make sure that if anybody should accidentally run across it somehow and bother reading through all the boiling vitriol (or steaming tripe, if you prefer), they would know for sure that at least one person out there was mighty damned angry about what thirty years of Democrat misrule had done to my country. Like all acts of creativity, it was an act of sharing that was based on ultimate selfishness. And contrary to my mistaken assumption that 9/11 would finally force a significant number of Lefties to see, really see, there are still plenty of them to yell about, and at. [Mike. Raisonneur Cold Fury. 31 December 2004]

The 9/11 assault on NYC was a trigger. It was events such as in the following report that emphasize the outrage.

This morning, Representative Jim Clyburn of South Carolina delivered the Democrats’ weekly radio address. In delivering the address, Clyburn suggested the following “resolution” for 2005:

President Bush and this new Congress must resolve to adequately equip our fighting men and women. Our soldiers should never want for proper equipment and accurate intelligence. Their patriotism and sacrifice should never be doubted or compromised. And they and their families should always be treated with dignity, respect, and fairness.

It is hard to believe that anyone in the Democratic Party could attempt to put themselves on the high-ground on this issue. The selection of Clyburn to deliver this address to make this the first point is baffling. Why is this?

Clyburn voted AGAINST the $87 billion dollar supplemental package for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, which was, amongst other things, meant to provide them with the proper equipment.

Yet, the Democratic Party chose Clyburn to give their weekly address and “advise” the President and Congress to “to adequately equip our fighting men and women.” This is either a despicable case of hypocrisy, or a cruel practical joke by the Democratic Party.[Matt Margolis blogged for Bush in category Loser Watch at 1 Ja 05]

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learning from catastrophe – issues on the table

The tsunami catastrophe is one of those things that brings out the worst and the best.

The event occurred in an area rife with contrasts. Much of the population was living like they did hundreds of years ago but a tourist trade was flourishing and either corrupting cultures or stimulating economic growth and development depending upon which side of the fence you stand.

The response to the tragedy became a political football. Many world leaders were on vacation so it was a pick your target for those who wanted to whine about slow response. Meanwhile, those countries with defined and developed catastrophe response organizations, such as the American Red Cross and USAID, got down to business without waiting for the politcal machinery.

A week after the event we see faux mourning. Those who are able to continue with business as usual are being condemned. New Year’s parties are being cancelled or being turned into wakes. The ‘can you top us’ game is going full steam in regards to fund raising and relief efforts.

There is also the confusion, the moral confusion, between a natural disaster such as this and the 9/11 attack in the US. What is war, what is rescue? What drives the response? Who are your friends?

And, did you know that the disaster took care of some of the region’s terrorism problem?

One shouldn’t forget the argument about divine retribution or the will of God or why such a disaster was allowed to happen. When we see such misery it is always a promting for us to think about our beliefs and their foundations.

The problem is that we have a disaster where entire towns have been wiped off the map. Survivors have been dispersed from their cohorts. The terrain is difficult to access and people are stranded and isolated all over a very large area. There are massive amounts of debris and material, and even bodies to clean up.

It is going to take time and effort to re-establish communications and find those who need assistance and then to get them the assistance they will need. Let us put our efforts, contributions, and prayers on bringing health to the survivors and some degree of normalcy to the afflicted nations.

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