Archive for April, 2005

verbal equivalence

Thomas Sowell (Disinformation on judges Townhall 05ap26) talks about the problems with saying what is meant and meaning what is said. When there is a conflict between an accurate description and the reality, then it is the description that must be changed. This modification of the description is called spin. It can be an attempt to rationalize one’s views – a means to handle cognitive dissonance – or it can be a means to persuade others to join in your delusions so you can have comfort in a crowd.

A disinformation campaign has already been launched to depict judges who believe in following the written law as being “activist” conservatives, just like liberal activists.

Those who play this game of verbal equivalence can seldom, if ever, come up with concrete examples where conservative judges made rulings that went directly counter to what the written law says or who made rulings for which there is no written law.

Criticizing someone’s official conduct is not a “personal attack.” Nor does criticism equate with violence. An independent judiciary does not mean judges independent of the law. Nor is the rule of judges the same as the rule of law. Too often it is the rule of lawlessness from the bench.

Did anyone try this guilt-by-association ploy to blame critics of the Reagan administration when President Reagan was shot during an assassination attempt? They did not.

The other big political and media spin is to say that we should not reduce judges’ power just because they make “decisions we don’t like.” The real objection is to decisions with no basis in the written law or even contrary to the written law.

Ploys and spin will of course only escalate if activist judges start getting replaced by judges who follow the law. That is the political price to be paid. If people are willing to do the right thing only when there is no cost whatever, that is the very definition of cowardice.

Ann Coulter (Drag Leftists into the Light, Frontpage Mag 05ap28) suggests that the only way to respond to those who play these word games is a form of psychotherapy: let them talk and explain their views. Put the words on the table where they can be seen side by side with reality. This is in the same vein as Dick Morris’s suggestion that the Republicans should let the fillibuster happen so everyone can see it on C-SPAN. These opinions about putting behavior and arguments into the light for inspection show a trust in the populace to make an honest judgment about their veracity. They also demonstrate that it is not so much the persons with the delusions that can be subject to argument and learning but rather the ‘unwashed masses’ who need to see what is happening so they can make good decisions at the polling booth.

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The clerks have no accountability for their views

James Lewis: Britain’s new Treason of the Clerks (American Thinker 05ap26)

A dirty little secret is that totalitarian ideologies always empower intellectuals. The best name for all the bloody-minded professors of the last hundred years comes from a Frenchman named Julien Benda. It is the title of his book, The Treason of the Clerks. The treasonous “clerks” are the intellectuals of Europe, who directly inspired all of its mass-murdering ideologies, ever since Lenin and Hitler

It was Europe’s clerks who conceived of National Socialism a century before the Nazis came to power. It was they who connived at Hitler’s Final Solution, and they who carried out Lenin’s bloody war on the peasants of Russia and the Ukraine. Stalin thought of himself as an intellectual. For decades, Fabian ideologues in England pushed Stalin’s propaganda, just as they went into great spasms of outrage to defend Saddam Hussein two years ago. American universities are now politically correct “islands of tyranny in a sea of freedom,” but Europe led the way. Our campus bullies are only a pale copy of theirs.

Winston Churchill called them “bloody-minded professors” at the time, and bloody-minded professors is what they still are today.

In old-fashioned thinking, the university was about a search for truth. It was about tolerance and free debate, and an honest effort to find evidence one way or the other. The PC academy has put all that bourgeois nonsense behind it. It already knows the Truth, and it will lie, cheat, and yes, support murder to make others obey the Party Line. That is the record of the 20th century. Today, we are just seeing more of the same.

It is an interesting deflation of those who express intellectual hubris by applying the term ‘treasonous clerks. ‘

A clerk is defined as a clergyman or ecclesiastic; a man who could read; a scholar or learned person; – intelligent and ideologically driven but not necessarily a leader or an entrepreneur or innovative. This is a person who is not so aware of the potential, the possibilities, the side effects of dreams and desires; a person whose ideas are disconnected from the real world.

But this does not explain why these treasonous clerks obsess on mild prisoner abuse yet ignore government sponsored rape rooms or obsess on war casualties yet ignore mass unmarked graves. It does not explain the violent behavior while demonstrating for peace. It does not explain the dellusional characterization of others as a form of debate and argument.

There are times to dream, but there is also a need to solve problems in the real world as it is now. The treasonous clerks appear to hindering such solutions and not helping to find and implement them. They need to be held to account for their behavior.

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honoring the minority, but only so far

Todd Zywicki, [ Volokh Conspiracy, April 25, 2005] talks about the privilege and responsibility balance that is currently at issue.

In fact, the majority needed to invoke cloture has fallen over time (summarized here). Looking at the history, it appears that the rationale for changing the filibuster rules over time has been to balance the rights of the majority to act versus the rights of the minority to state their case. Thus, where the filibuster has been abused by a minority to kill legislation, as opposed to merely slowing it and ensuring full deliberation, the Senate has moved over time to reduce minority abuse of the filibuster while preserving full deliberation. In light of this history, given the apparent absence of any further debate on some of the judicial nominees, it seems plain that the use of the filibuster against Justice Owen (most notably) is quite clearly an abuse of the power. As a result, if the minority fails to end its abuse voluntariy, the Senate majority would be well within its rights to adopt rules that eliminate abuse of the filibuster power, just as it always has in the past.

The key here is “abused by a minority to kill legislation, as opposed to merely slowing it and ensuring full deliberation”. The minority is not only abusing its prerogative in the matters of consideration, it is also harming debate by peppering its arguments with allegations and accusations with “extreme” and “tyranny of the majority.” It brings to question what kind of behavior would be reserved for real extremist nominees or a majority that did act tyrannical.

Civility, intellectual integrity, and an approach of education rather than confrontation are critical concepts in effective self governance.

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Science with an agenda

Radley Balko, in Big Fat Mistake (TCS 05ap21) describes the human side of science.

No matter how well-intentioned the researchers, government science and government science translated into policy is too prone to incentives, misplaced motivation, and the prodding and influence of special interest groups to be taken at face value, particularly on a matter so intimate and vital as nutrition. It’s possible that even these numbers are wrong, which is exactly why basing policy decisions on them is such a bad idea.

We’ve let “public health” — once a term used to describe legitimate public goods, such as protecting against communicable diseases and, more recently, bio or chemical terrorism — come to encompass such ridiculous and obviously personal matters as whether or not we wear our seat belts, choose to have a cigarette, or how many trips we make to the buffet table.

In any measure, there are always issues of precision and accuracy to consider. These issues become very important when statistics is being used to try to isolate the effect of many contributing factors. One result is that ‘observer bias’ can become a significant problem, especially when taking a conclusion or finding to a matter of policy. There, the impact on individuals and their freedoms becomes a matter of serious concern.

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You’d think the engineers could think analytically

Chappell Brown, managing editor for EE Times has an opinion in the April 11 edition that illustrates a number of the flaws that can arise when wishful thinking overcomes rationality.

The first flaw is comparing energy policy to social security as if the future of both were statistical probabilities of similar quality. Talk about comparing apples to oranges and pretending to make any sense! One is a natural resource and the other is a governmental social program.

Then there is the “record price” for gasoline. This is false in terms of inflation adjusted dollars. And to not use inflation adjusted numbers is dishonest.

Then there is myth of benign solar power. As if manufacturing acres of silicon devices did not have any chemicals or hazardous waste involved.

The “run out of oil” myth is another one. Natural resources don’t just all of a sudden disappear. They become more and more difficult to find and more and more difficult to extract to a usable form.

You’d think an engineering publication would be a good source for rational argument of ideas based on a good understanding of science and technology. In this case, you’d need to think again.

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Where should society intrude on personal freedoms?

Lee used an example of a person denying health care to discuss Freedom in America (Right thinking from the left coast 05ap17).

There seems to be a real problem with the idea of freedom in this country. We’ve had it so good here for so long none of us can truly appreciate what it is to be free. The left in America wants everyone to be free to express themselves more or less any way they like, unless that expression is somehow deemed ofensive to anyone else. Public displays of religious, for example, are to be looked down upon. And God forbid you want to choose where your retirement money is saved, or what school you want your children to go to. Conversely, the right believes in freedom too. Unless, of course, you’re a guy who wants to walk down the street holding your boyfriend’s hand, or have a terminal illness and wish to dictate the terms of your own death, or want to be able to buy German scheisse movies and watch them in the privacy of your own home.

What both parties and ideologies need to realize is that true freedom means taking the good with the bad. Freedom was determined by the Founding Fathers of this country to be a gift of Providence, and the embodiment of that freedom is the Constitution, which places limits on governmental power and specifically enumerates the fundamental rights of men. …

P.J. O’Rourke once wrote, “the U.S. Constitution is less than a quarter the length of the owner’s manual for a 1998 Toyota Camry, and yet it has managed to keep 300 million of the world’s most unruly, passionate people safe, prosperous and free.” Everyone has their agenda, and everyone tries to cram that agenda in through their narrow interpretation of what the Constitution permits. Nobody wants to admit that what they are trying to achieve is unconstitutional, so they go through herculean efforts to try and justify their actions in constitutional terms, even though it requires them to jump through flaming hoops to do so. The Constitution isn’t hard to read or understand. If you ever have a question about society and the rights of man, go thumb through the Constitution. It’s got all the answers in it.

Government does not exist to make sure that nothing bad ever happens in society. In free societies bad things happen all the time. The fact that you will be exposed to things you might not like is not one of the downfalls of freedom, it is its greatest vitrue.

When we demand our own freedom, we must also accept the freedoms of others. When we decide that it is time to intrude on the freedoms others, we have to accept that that means an intrusion on our freedoms. Are we sure we draw the line at the right place?

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The lie by innuendo

How can you tell a falsehood without telling a lie? Its simple, really, You paint a picture that is factually correct but tells a false story. You lie by innuendo. Then you can defend your own statements and self righteously assert that the problem is in the perception and not the telling.

Larry Obhof describes one such case in Save Phil (No Left Turns 05ap16)

As for the former concerns, although the cartoon generally avoids making rebuttable factual assertions, the clear implications are that the Founders instituted the filibuster and that it is central to the separation of powers. Both of these implications are false. First, the filibuster is not in the Constitution and was not used for decades following the founding of the country. In fact, the current rule is only a few decades old. Second, the filibuster has hardly “worked pretty well,” unless, like Senator Byrd, one considers talking for 14 hours in order to block civil rights legislation to be a public good. Contrary to current comparisons to “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” the filibuster has a less-than-honorable history and, as law professor Jonathan Turley recently noted in USA today, it “is unabashedly and undeniably anti-democratic.”

This particular technique is closely related to the ‘freedom of speech’ or ‘difference of opinion’ rationalizations for arguing with falsehoods. You can see the AARP attack on Social Security reform as another example.

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The tactics of obstruction

Patrick, Advice and Consent, take 2 , Liberating Iraq (05ap15) on political tactics and their implications:

My question sparked some interesting comments… ON one point: All is fair in love, war, and politics. But there is difference between filibusters for legislation, which merely slows down change; and filibusters for nominees, which hamstrings another branch of Government if it is excessive. we are indeed in unchartered waters when Democrats decide to filibuster not a single nominee, but a whole group of judicial nominees. Which they’ve done. For example, the minority party could simply stonewall creation of a new administration. You can look to the current Iraq situation for a lesson there: It becomes difficult to reach a consensus above a majority level.

Beyond the filibuster itself is the whole policy approach of the Democrats towards turning judicial nominations into partisan battles based on ideological litmus tests. It is a further degeneration of judicial nominations that began with the “Borking” of Judge Robert Bork.

The problem is the Democrats are so addicted to getting their policies advanced via the courts instead of legislatures, they are willing to filibuster good judicial candidates who will restore the Judicial branch to its traditional – and correct – schema (interpreting the law and not creating law). The Democrats are wrong both in their tactics here – the filibuster should never be used as a blanket litmus test for nominees, but only in extreme cases; and they are wrong on the substance. They are opposing good judges precisely because they ‘threaten’ to be the right tonic for everything that is wrong with the courts today.

Democrats are using the phrase “abuse of power” to rationalize and excuse their behavior. They claim they are protecting the country and its government from unimaginable evils. The problem is that they have been outvoted. Their argument flies in the face of the fact that processes and policies that establish our government are still in force. Despite the many allegations, innuendo, and other trashing, there is no solid evidence that corruption and abuse of power in the government is not being handled in the usual and normal ways. The exception is in the tactics the Democrats are using to oppose the majority.

What they are claiming to prevent is what they are actually doing. An abuse of power is in the obstruction of the will of the majority when it is expressed in an agreed upon method. This is what the Democrats are doing.

The matters or loyalty and duty obligate citizens of the US to express their views for the purpose of educating others in hopes to swing them to similar viewpoints. But when the vote is taken and the decision made, the obligation is to accept that decision and own it. Destructive tactics do not educate, do not build, do not foster growth. The minority party is on a dangerous path because they are not trying to bring people to their point of view on issues and matters of public import. Instead, they are obstructing the will of the majority, denigrating the leadership of the country, and engaging in tactics and behavior that dimish and obfuscate rather than educate and clarify.

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Debate Tactics: Character Assasination

William Kristol talks about The Character Assassination of John Bolton in the Daily Standard (05ap14).

THE ASSAULT ON JOHN BOLTON–a collaborative effort of Senate Democrats, the liberal media, and some quasi-Republicans resentful of his success–has now degenerated from an earnest (if misguided) critique of his views to a pathetic attempt at character assassination.

I worked with John Bolton in the first Bush administration. I know many people who have worked with him and for him in this administration. Carl Ford’s characterization of Bolton as a “kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy” is disingenuous. No, let’s call a spade a spade–it’s dishonest.

This is the same kind of tactic being used against many other nominees, especially judicial nominees. It is the politics of personal destruction. It is especially pernicious when it is created from whole cloth or from gross exageration and hyperbole. The question is whether the users of such tactics will be held to account.

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The judicial quandry or quagmire

Hugh Hewitt, in Lead the Way: Senate Republicans may not understand the true stakes in the coming judicial showdown. (Daily Standard 05ap14) identifies just what the country is up against in interviews with the leaders of the minority party’s judicial activism.

In recent days I interviewed Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, and Ralph Neas, executive director of People for the American Way. Together these two are the architects of the policy of unyielding obstruction by Democrats of George Bush’s judicial nominees. It is difficult to overstate their influence on the Democratic caucus: They are widely considered to be the hands steering Democratic policy on judges.

Both blew the usual rhetorical smoke about how well President Bush is doing with his judicial nominations–Bush has by far the lowest approval rate to the appeals court for modern times for a president three months into his second term. And both used the same talking points on all the blocked nominees, including the risible assertion that Democrats had no idea Bill Pryor was a Roman Catholic until Senator Hatch asked him. The transcripts provide a summary of the threadbare case against the blockaded judges, and far from a persuasive one.

This honest declaration of intention from the captains of the left’s blockade is as clear a signal to the Republican leadership that now is the time to break the filibuster via a ruling from the chair that the use of the filibuster on judicial nominees is out of order, and a majority vote to uphold the rule. Both Aron and Neas concede that all of the Bush nominees have majority support. Aron goes so far as to bluntly assert the right for 41 senators to block nominees, a position that will harden into practice if it is not repudiated now.

The is perhaps one of the most important domestic issues on the front burner today. The question is whether the judiciary should be subject to a veto of the minority. Such a veto is normally reserved for a very small and well defined set of issues. Should that small defined set be expanded to include other, non specified issues?

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free speech and methods of debate

Ann Coulter, in It’s Only Funny Until Someone Loses a Pie (05ap14) talks about the recent spate of pie throwing. Perhaps the most telling part of the story is not that the left argues with aggression and violence but rather that such behavior is not held to consequence.

Then on March 19, all charges were dismissed against the “Deliverance” boys – including a felony charge for $3,000 worth of damage to school property. Inexplicably, this outcome did not instantly lead to widespread rioting and looting in South Central Los Angeles.

Democrat Barbara LaWall is the Pima County attorney who allowed the liberal debate champions to walk. LaWall brags on her website about “holding criminals accountable.” She didn’t say anything about liberals, however. Be forewarned, conservatives: Do not expect the law to protect you in Pima County.

when conservative speakers are physically attacked on college campuses, university administrators ignore the attacks, Democrat prosecutors somehow manage to get the charges dismissed, and Democrat flacks like Chait and Krugman pretend they missed the news that day.

This lack of consequences may be why there are web sites selling T shirts suggesting a Republican leader commit suicide, an artist with a display suggesting assasination, or Democrat leaders rationalizing views with false and misleading presumption or questionable allegation.

It may be that there is consequence – the Demoncrats have been loosing at the ballot box for a while. But that is a slow consequence. Stupid or illegal behavior needs an appropriate immediate consequence. People need to be held to account for their behavior, even when it comes to an expression of their views.

There are ways to change things. In the U.S. this is supposed to be via reasoned debate and the will of the majority as expressed through their representatives. What we are seeing now is the use of unreasoned debate, the castigation of the expression of the populace at the ballot box, and an attempt to stymie the voice of the majority with allegation, innuendo, obfuscation, fraud, aggression, and political machination. It is the kind of thing that leads to confrontation and not resolution.

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The ultimate decision, interpreting the living will

Eric Cohen, editor of the New Atlantis and resident scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center writes about the issues involved in end of life care. What Living Wills Won’t Do From the April 18, 2005 issue: The limits of autonomy. (Weekly Standard 04/18/2005, Volume 010, Issue 29)

In the end, the retreat to moral libertarianism and liberal proceduralism is inadequate. We need, instead, a moral philosophy, a political philosophy, and a medical philosophy that clarify our roles as caregivers, citizens, and doctors attending to those who cannot speak for themselves.

As America ages and dementia becomes a common phenomenon, the dilemmas that the Schiavo case thrust onto the nightly news will only become more urgent and more profound. As a society, we will need to navigate between two dangers: The first is the euthanasia solution, and the prospect of treating the old and vulnerable as burdens to be ignored, abandoned, or put to sleep at our convenience. The second is that the costs of long-term care will suffocate every other civic and cultural good–like educating the young, promoting the arts and sciences, and preserving a strong defense.

The axes of the issue:

  • Moral – about whether or not to kill people.
  • Political – about the extent to which the law should stay out of personal affairs.
  • Medical – about the extent to which the purpose is to save lives and prevent suffering.
  • No matter how you want it to be, the question comes down to money. It is the cost of care and who pays that cost that is always the first consideration. Human dignity, suffering, convenience, and morality are always subject to what can be done at an affordable cost. This is why the dilemma is a severe political issue. You are always faced with the choice between doing something to save or prolong a life, which costs, and not doing that thing which means that you allow death. Only when you can afford it do considerations of whether the person wants it or whether it will be effective come into play.

    Even Cohen is incoherent when it comes to the Schiavo case. He confuses the simple act of feeding with the slicing open of an abdoment to be able to force nutrients directly into the stomach. This confusion illustrates one issue which the political (legal) process has clarified in the words prescribed for a living will. A person can declare that he does not with his or her body to be violated by surgury to implant a feeding tube and this is accepted in many states as a binding directive on care givers.

    Since cost is the fundamental issue, and we are faced with the growing importance of this issue by the Medicaid shortfalls in many states, the decision will very likely rest with who is paying for the care. In this scenario, a difficult political process, one that has already evolved for near three decades, will need to move much closer towards effective decisions. The state will have to accept that when it assumes the cost of care that it also assumes the decision making authority. It will be forced to codify and execute that authority. The decision will have to be made about what care will be provided in what circumstances.

    Euthanasia and suicide are easy ways out that have, for the most part, been dismissed. They are on one end of the continuum. Intensive care life support is on the other. It is accepted for those who are envisioned as having any possible hope of recovery. The nursing home provides the kinds of care needed for the vast middle of this continuum of maintenance care. Each of us individually and as a society need to determine the level of care we consider to be appropriate and at what point the decision should be made that enough is enough.

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    What’s Up? April 12, 2005

    The Pope is gone and the Cardinals are in conclave to select another. It seems they are taking the prudent approach of silence to the media but even that doesn’t stop the press speculation and innuendo about Church Politics. The Bash ‘n Trash crowd is out in force, too and getting some play in the media.

    Mr. Bolton is under attack by Senate Democrats and groups like Code Pink that seem the think the U.S. should subjugate itself to the U.N. There are a lot of other folks, though, who think a straight talkin’ U.S. oriented U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. is just the ticket for today’s conditions.

    The attempt to Gingrich DeLay continues apace with the NYT seeking out a Republican, any Republican, to go on record with the Democrats to impugn the behavior of the Republican House Majority Leader. What can be seen here is a vacuous attempt at partisan politics unfounded in either principle or reality. Revenge and machination are not the stuff of success. Some are starting to express worry that perhaps the Democrat’s efforts, even if they succeed with DeLay as they did with others, may hinder and not help long term Democrat goals, whatever they may be (no one seems to know).

    The food fight also seems to be getting serious on Campus. Those hotbeds of leftist ideology who are so vocal about free speech and diversity seem to have an excess of pies and similar food items to throw at people like Horowitz, Coulter, and others.

    The Campus bias and professorial behavior problems are becoming more clearly defined and are starting to show effect. Surveys illustrate just how biased most faculty is. There are indications that students and parents are seeking to avoid classroom political indroctrination. Even alumni seem to be taking more of an interest in terms of governance activism and gifting.

    Social Security is continuing to provide a good focus for illustrating first order hypocrisy in the AARP and Democratic partisan arguments. Much education is needed although the lessons that were accepted in the nineties are beginning to become accepted once more even though they come from a different direction.

    The ‘advice and consent’ arguments are also boiling. Again, there is a need for an honest opponent. Those advocating minority veto (a.k.a. fillibuster) for this function are not being very honest in citing history or the constitution.

    It appears that Iraqi news continues its progression towards the back pages as there is less and less ‘doom and gloom’ news and so much more that is very difficult to paint in a ‘horrible America’ light.

    And then there is the price of crude oil, the price of gasoline, the problems between inflation adjusted versus absolute prices, and the matter on NIMBY in regards to building new refineries. ANWAR fits in here somewhere, too.

    But its springtime! You can look at the flowers and budding green and all the joys of a world waking up for summer or you can sneeze and cough and rub your eyes and complain. You decide which is a better path! (its probably all a Karl Rove plot, anyway)

    And April 15 is all too close for comfort.

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    The fog of debate is illustrated

    Partisan pump priming By Gary Andres in a Washington Times Op/Ed Arpil 9 illustrates how support for important policital issues changes depending upon who is doing the argument. Issues such as the Medicare prescription-drug law and Social Security but not “other important issues where the partisan debate has not reached an apex, like energy policy or immigration reform” highlight differences in polling data that “demonstrates more attenuated differences between Republicans and Democrats.”

    These numbers suggest partisan rhetoric has a major impact on rank in file and that differing policy views among citizens are, in part, driven more by rhetorical heat than deep disagreements about problems and solutions. Voters are both drawn to and repelled by a good political fight — an enduring political paradox. The late Mr. Goldwater would be pleased with the “choices, not echoes” offered by today’s political parties, but he would expect more from the Democrats as a true loyal opposition. He believed there was a time to sheath rhetorical swords and encourage voters to find common ground. But political parties also have the responsibility to generate policy illumination, not just political sparks. The question is: Can the Democrats stop the permanent campaign long enough to execute that important pivot and produce some light as well?

    The role of a political leader should be to clarify issues. Sadly it is becoming obvious that this is not the case. Even more sadly it appears that members of one party are not very tightly bonded to values or facts because their views change depending upon the politcal weather.

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    Who’s side are they on, anyway?

    Arthur Chrenkoff notes two items April 9 that relate to ‘attitude’ of the public. Another blog noted that the major media may not realize the depth of their problem that many Americans see the media as anti- US. The latest stimulus or example was the story of a CBS cameraman arrested by the US forces in Iraq on suspicion of cooperating with the insurgents. On the press side, this incident contributed to a request for an independent commission.

    The spirit of Eason Jordan leaves on. Record number of journalist deaths might have something to do with record number of journalists covering the insurgency and terror campaign, but there obviously many in the media world, particularly outside of the US, who seem to think that the American Army is shooting journalists left, right and center for the fun of it, and they won’t be placated, not just until an independent commission in established, but unless such commissions confirms their suspicions.

    Another post illustrates how the anti-war protestors are no longer being seen as heroes but rather with contempt. All too often they are getting arrested or killed in actions against the enemy. Instead of thinking that, just maybe, they shouldn’t be hanging around with the enemies of the US they condemn the US for having the audacity to attack and remove its enemies.

    As Marc concludes, “If you decide to decline my offer, then at least you should sleep well tonight knowing that men wearing black facemasks and carrying AK-47s yelling ‘Allahu Akbar’ over here are proud of you and are forever indebted to you for advancing their cause of terror. While you ponder this, I’ll get back to the real ‘die-in’ over here. I don’t mind.”

    The link is that the collegiate age anti war protestors and the media are often seen as two birds of a feather. They are people who don’t seem to care who’s side they are on.

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    To Gingrich DeLay

    Wes Vernon describes the tactic in The Real Story Behind the Attacks on Tom DeLay (NewsMax 7ap05)

    This is the way the powers of the liberal establishment trashed Newt Gingrich. They would have done the same thing to DeLay long ago, except that DeLay has been more effective in selecting his fights and deciding when to speak out and when to work behind the scenes. Newt had to have an opinion on everything and share it with the world, day in and day out.

    Since then, they’ve tried the same demonizing tactic on Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and President Bush himself. Those efforts flopped.

    You can see another description of these tactics in Rich Lowry on Tom DeLay on National Review Online

    Its not enough to disagree, you have to vilify. The sad part is when they start to actually believe what they say and the vilification becomes more and more ugly while sanity and reason leave the deck.

    The old Marxist playbook says if you can’t defeat your effective adversary on substantive issues, assassinate him. In this case, the tactic is character assassination. After all, poisoned umbrellas are not available on every street corner.

    Gingrich was subject to something like 80 formal accusations. He paid IRS fines in regard to some of these allegations that were later found to have no foundation. At last count none of the accusations were found to have any substance. But the very fact of their being made was used to smear the former speaker.

    There are several dangers to these tactics. One is that they inhibit effective debate and discussion of issues. Another is the personal costs which also tend to inhibit anyone not willing to undergo such personal assaults from seeking office. A third is that they obfuscate viewpoints and confuse those trying to understand issues at hand. A fourth is that they tend to promote cynicism and distrust of all politicians and the process in general. And fifth is that they hide real malfeasance by confusing made up malfeasance and minor malfeasance with behaviors that really do warrant serious public attention.

    There is a contrast. It is sometimes used to rationalize the assault on Gingrich, Bush, DeLay, Cheney, and others. The contrast is the ‘assault’ on Clinton. One big problem is that a ‘you did it to us so we can do it to you’ ethos is a childish rationale that should be left on the elementary school playground. Another contrasting point is that the Clinton scandals were based on significant events and the investigation into those events lead to numerous criminal convictions and other penalties. Such moral equivalencing to rationalize comparison of unbalanced phenomena is a dishonest tactic in itself that should be inspected on another day.

    It is very expensive to our liberties to undergo the destruction of process as we are seeing in tactics such as this. It might be worth considering how much of it we can afford before it causes real damage.

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    Seeking honest debate

    John Cornyn asked for An honest debate, please in a Washington Times Op/Ed 4 April.

    the American people deserve an honest, responsible and fair discussion to ensure that we are indeed fulfilling our dual responsibilities to protect national security and civil liberties alike. Unfortunately, the debate about the Patriot Act has not always met that standard.

    John Cornyn is a Republican senator from Texas and a member of the Judiciary Committee. He is a former state supreme court justice and attorney general. He recently was involved in a scandal created by misquoting his comments regarding judicial activism and sources of attacks on the judiciary. The psuedo scandal makes an interesting contrast underscoring his litany of spurious attacks on the Patriot Act and in like of the withering of another media created scandal – the revealed CIA spy affair.

    Then, of course, there is the Social Security Debate, the Advice and Consent filibusters debate, and the attempt to Gingrich DeLay, that all provide good examples of where Cornyn’s plea is likely to be to thin air.

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    Constitutional implementation needs nuclear option?

    Regarding the filibuster of appellate judge nominees there is a convenient memory fade regarding previous Senate leadership rule changing by such as Senator Byrd:

    With respect to never dreaming of taking this kind of action, that’s because the Republicans, while in the minority, never dreamed of filibustering every appellate court nominee as a last ditch effort to hold some semblance of power. You didn’t dream of changing the rules because the Republicans never drove you to make that decision. [ radioblogger 3 Ap05]

    It is the escalation of conflict supported by intellectually dishonest rationale that should be the primary concern.

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    considering consequences

    Jay Tea articulated one of the significant consequences of the Schiavo controversy.

    It’s a truism in legal circles that tough cases lead to bad laws. And this is one of the toughest. Those who are calling for wholesale shakeups of some of the most fundamental components of our society today aren’t thinking things through enough. It’s one of the reasons why laws passed in regards to a single person or situation are such a bad idea.

    In the end, the Terri Schiavo case might end up causing far more violence to the institution of marriage than that feared by the religious right when they were horrified at the thought of thousands of gays racing up the aisle. [emph added]

    And I can’t imagine anyone would want that to be their legacy.

    We have had well meaning and rational folks who seem to have no problem opposing the verdict of a trial they never attended. We have medical facility staff and licensed doctors who are doing things of questionable ethical veracity. We have pundits and legislators who are claiming judicial activism in a case marked by clear adherance to law. Hopefully these folks will take a step back and re-consider their ‘heat of the moment’ views to gain a proper insight into both their basis and their consequences.

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    A view on intelligent design

    Not Intelligent, and Surely Not Science describes one concept of the opposition to Darwin’s ideas that needs careful consideration.

    In fact, invoking intelligent design as God’s place-filler can only result in the naturalization of the deity. God becomes just another part of the natural world, and thereby loses the transcendent mystery and divinity that define the boundary between religion and science.

    It seems this same idea may apply to the knee jerk ‘life at any cost’ hue and cry about Schiavo. Those who decry a ‘cult of death’ are showing the same sort of debate dishonesty as the ID/creation folks. There is a crassness to their views in trying to bring the mystery and divinity of life down to a matter of flesh and bone that belies their expressed position.

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