Archive for May, 2005

Another one trying to get under the radar

Thomas Lipscomb (The Dog That Didn’t Bark, Editor & Publisher 05ma26) takes note of another Eason Jordan episode: “The Press and Linda Foley: Why has there been so little mention in the mainstream media of the Newspaper Guild president’s recent charge that journalists are “being targeted for real” in Iraq by the U.S. military?” His take is that the silence is like the dog that didn’t bark in the Holme’s mystery about Silver Blaze. The dog didn’t bark because the thief was a friend. The fact that another slander of the US military goes without significant note implies malfeasance on the part of the media. This malfeasance is, in part, responsible for the average circulation decline among 684 US daily papers averaging 1.9% in the past year. “In some places it is catastrophic. This is the biggest drop in the last five years. ”

If the most basic tenets of Journalism 101 are now no longer important enough for the media itself to honor and defend against their own members who violate them, where is the professionalism and the authority that is our main claim to writing the indispensable “first draft of history” – much less its value for sale? And if we lose sight of that irretrievably, who needs us? There are bloggers out there today with more credibility than Dan Rather, Mary Mapes, Eason Jordan, and Linda Foley combined, and their audiences are growing.

If Foley is allowed to walk unchallenged from what Mencken might have called “a clear, simple, and” unproven statement, it will only accelerate the speed at which her members lose what is left of their credibility–and then their jobs. (Look at The New York Times newsroom downsizing this week.) If the press isn’t going to take its own standards seriously, it is hard to think of why anyone should take the press seriously enough to pay for it. In the meantime, Rupert Murdoch’s and Roger Ailes’s success offers a constant unpleasant reminder: the media market prefers dogs that bark.

Related to this is a story complaining about “character assasination” being done by people who are asking for Senator Kerry to release his military record. It is not only the media that prefers to be blind about what does not fit their desired reality, it is also people who cannot separate a request for a candidate to substantiate claims made from character assasination. The Kerry Form 180, requesting the candidate to substantiate claims he made in the campaign, contrasts to some Senators seeking secret government documents in order to try to find something horrific about Mr. Bolton or the other ‘Borking’ that is being done to nominees.

Other examples? Consider Amnesty International calling Gitmo a gulag, the Koran desecration fiasco, – and these are only in the last week. How can anyone trust those ‘reporting’ these stories when they are based on anonymous sources or given without any regard for an appropriate referent?

Self policing is necessary for obtaining respect. That policing must be done with standards that exhibit intellectual integrity.

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Basic accounting on trade deficits from Professor Williams

Walter Williams on trade deficits first describes the basics behinds Pacioli’s double entry accounting to illustrate that a ‘trade deficit’ is looking at only one account – “the nation’s goods and services account, sometimes called current account.” That deficit “is matched by a surplus of equal magnitude in our capital account.”

That foreigners are willing to exchange massive amounts of goods in exchange for slips of paper in the forms of currency, stocks and bonds should be a source of pride. It means America, with its wealth, rule of law and the sanctity of contracts, inspires foreigners to hold large amounts of their wealth in U.S. obligations.

In other words, foreigners trade ownership in the US for the goods and services they sell to the US. By being part owners they undertake a significant risk in the US economy. This, of course, shows confidence in that economy and it also means that they must be careful stewards of what they own so that it maintains its value. This is the essence of capitalism where people and countries have a vested interest in the health and welfare of others because they own a part of it. Rational people don’t seek to destroy their own property.

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Oh my, The US economy. Is it really that bad?

John F. Opie takes apart a Drucker column

Well, actually I will, but without the quoting. The errors that Drucker makes are multifold: he fails to understand how countries can act to protect their economies against mercantilistic policies, such as the French have towards Africa, without abandoning free trade. Much of his critique centers on this misunderstanding and places the onus on both parties, where in reality it is mostly the EU with its desperate attempts to retain colonial dominance in the Third World that has led it to adopt frankly mercantilistic policies.

And his “warnings” are, frankly, rather jongoistic and simplistic. The US may be facing increased competition, but also has an outstanding track record of reinventing the US economy and creating new industries out of scratch. Information technology is just one small aspect of these developments, and indeed his implied solution – that the US had better get serious about protecting its markets – is the exact opposite of what needs to be done. The US has the most flexible of all the world’s economies, able to react to changes relatively quickly and without major make-or-break government intervention into markets, and to reduce this flexibility by protecting those markets and removing the need to remain flexible would be a major disservice to the US economy, if not the world economy.

What needs to be done is to increase pressure on the EU to drop its subsidies and protectionism: but the idea that their economies need to be flexible and capable of handling massive changes in operating environments is a severe anethema to the technocrats running the EU. That’s got to be the challenge.

Perhaps Drucker should stick with management rather than economics?

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false equivalence stacked on innuendo

Rachel Neuwirth, in Nagging questions about the war in Iraq (American Thinker 05ma25), illustrates the falsity of equivalence stacked on top of the nagging inuendo.

Nagging questions about the Iraq war remain unanswered. Both advocates and opponents have failed to address a range of issues even when they seemingly could be used to bolster their respective positions. Until and unless we obtain answers to some of the questions presented here it will be difficult to fully trust the judgment of either side in this debate.

The innuendo is that of “nagging questions.” These have resulted in numerous commissions and reports and remain nagging only because these reports don’t support, confirm, or even allow room for the suspicions of those who have ‘nagging’ problems with what is actually known.

The matter of putting unfounded allegation and suspicion on a par with policy established by due process is also something to question. If there is no standard to distinguish between these, then what is being used to guide action and belief?

The conclusion “We cannot arrive at the best decisions as long as so many important questions remain unanswered and even unasked.” sounds so nice that one can tend to overlook the implicit a-priori assumptions behind it. These are assumptions of incompetence and corruption in government. These are assumptions that accountability structures are inadequate, weak, and easily circumvented. These are assumptions that foreign policy cannot be delegated to elected and appointed representatives. These are the assumptions that every part of a deal with foreign powers and every bit of information used in forming policy must be made available to all. These are assumptions of hubris that disagreement is an indication of inferiority.

The nagging question should be why people cast such aspersions rather than finding answers – and accepting the answers even if they don’t like them.

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despots or populists? SciFi explorations.

David Brin contrasts “Star Wars” despots vs. “Star Trek” populists (Why is George Lucas peddling an elitist, anti-democratic agenda under the guise of escapist fun? 99Jn15). Empire is an ancient concept. Federation on a broad scale is much more modern. Empires depend upon the annointed with extraordinary controls and powers. Federations depend upon individuals who build coalitions and hold governing bodies accountable.

The differences at first seem superficial. One saga has an air force motif (tiny fighters) while the other appears naval. In “Star Trek,” the big ship is heroic and the cooperative effort required to maintain it is depicted as honorable. Indeed, “Star Trek” sees technology as useful and essentially friendly — if at times also dangerous. Education is a great emancipator of the humble (e.g. Starfleet Academy). Futuristic institutions are basically good-natured (the Federation), though of course one must fight outbreaks of incompetence and corruption. Professionalism is respected, lesser characters make a difference and henchmen often become brave whistle-blowers — as they do in America today.

In “Star Trek,” when authorities are defied, it is in order to overcome their mistakes or expose particular villains, not to portray all institutions as inherently hopeless. Good cops sometimes come when you call for help. Ironically, this image fosters useful criticism of authority, because it suggests that any of us can gain access to our flawed institutions, if we are determined enough — and perhaps even fix them with fierce tools of citizenship.

By contrast, the oppressed “rebels” in “Star Wars” have no recourse in law or markets or science or democracy. They can only choose sides in a civil war between two wings of the same genetically superior royal family. They may not meddle or criticize. As Homeric spear-carriers, it’s not their job.

In teaching us how to distinguish good from evil, Lucas prescribes judging by looks: Villains wear Nazi helmets. They hiss and leer, or have red-glowing eyes, like in a Ralph Bakshi cartoon. On the other hand, “Star Trek” tales often warn against judging a book by its cover — a message you’ll also find in the films of Steven Spielberg, whose spunky everyman characters delight in reversing expectations and asking irksome questions.

Above all, “Star Trek” generally depicts heroes who are only about 10 times as brilliant, noble and heroic as a normal person, prevailing through cooperation and wit, rather than because of some inherited godlike transcendent greatness. Characters who do achieve godlike powers are subjected to ruthless scrutiny. In other words, “Trek” is a prototypically American dream, entranced by notions of human improvement and a progress that lifts all. Gene Roddenberry’s vision loves heroes, but it breaks away from the elitist tradition of princes and wizards who rule by divine or mystical right.

By contrast, these are the only heroes in the “Star Wars” universe.

“Star Wars” belongs to our dark past. A long, tyrannical epoch of fear, illogic, despotism and demagoguery that our ancestors struggled desperately to overcome, and that we are at last starting to emerge from, aided by the scientific and egalitarian spirit that Lucas openly despises. A spirit we must encourage in our children, if they are to have any chance at all.

Both “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” are fables – stories – that reveal more about their authors than about reality. In this case we see two ways of looking at ourselves. In one it is looking to the past and fondly remembering those kinds of social structures that are going the way of dinosaurs. In the other we see a vision of what might be when people are released from constraints by knowledge and technology and have the independence and quality to form ever better social structures.

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Postponing confrontation can create more problems than it solves

Tony Blankley calls it A Senate Regency (Washington Times 05ma25).

What shall we call these 14 senators? Trustees, Regents, Governing Board Members, Blessed Ones, Lord Protectors, Proconsuls, Oligarchs, Cabalists, Conspirators, Usurpers? For the moment it doesn’t matter. History will give them their final designation. Certainly they see themselves as saviors of the Senate traditions. (God save us from self-appointed saviors. It always ends in tears.)

Others have thoughts about what the cabal of Senators did and the implications of their actions, too. Captain Ed thinks confrontation is avoided, for now, and back room politics comes to precedence over open debate.

The centrists did no more than punt, and they stopped one of the more important debates that the Senate faced in years just to gain themselves the satisfaction of returning to secret handshake deals in back rooms rather than publicly representing their constituents.[Captain Ed]

And one common theme is whether or not to trust the Democrats to honor their committments. Recent behavior does not provide encouragement for this belief.

It is and will remain infuriating that The Seven entered into a pact with the Democrats to thwart the will of the majority of the United States, but keep in mind that what is infuriating is not the compromise, but the fact that the Democrats will neither reciprocate nor appreciate what The Seven have done. We can rely upon our Democrats to still use over-heated rhetoric when speaking of Republicans in general and the President in particular; we can further rely upon them to obstruct every iota of the Republican agenda. The compromisers don’t seem to understand that they are not dealing with a rational Party with clearly thought-out positions, but desperate fanatics who see power slipping forever from their hands.[Blogs for Bush]

If the Democrats fall back into the usual behaviors, it could have unpleasant outcomes.

Further, agreeing to this “compromise” weakens the Republicans’ hand in the longer run. If the Democrats fail to honor the spirit of this agreement–and they surely will–the GOP will have a much harder time falling back on the “up or down vote” argument. They’ve demonstrated rather clearly that they were not fighting for a principle but rather seeking to achieve a specific political outcome. It’s going to be rather difficult to go back.[Outside the Beltway]

Dr. Sowell describes the issue that plagues the Republicans but also demonstrates the bigotted nature of their opposition.

Although the Republicans have more votes in the Senate, and also have Vice-President Cheney to cast the deciding vote in case of a tie, the Democrats stuck together. None of them went around wringing their hands in the media about how hard it would be for them to support their party if it came to a vote.

Unity often beats disunity, even when the side that is unified is smaller.

There are those who take heart that this breaks, at least for the moment, the Democrat’s solid voting block in the Senate that has bollixed many things for the last several years. This brings each Democrat Party senator to express loyalty to the voters rather than subjugation to the political party, for a while. Republicans haven’t had such party discipline, which is one reason why their ability to express power as a block is limited (as in this example).

A proper concern goes back to the debate about political parties. With two major parties, you can have am either/or in voting. With more than two parties, negotiations and voting blocks start to have significant power and decisions are made with pluralities formed out of bargaining or convenience. The new cabal of 14 senators represents a significant third party in US Senate politics that has initiated itself by asserting its power over the will of the majority and the primary established political blocks.

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tyranny of the minority

Fourteen senators led by J McCain from Arizona have asserted control of the US Senate nominations process. Those on the left seem to be crowing victory and those on the right are agast. Senate majority leader Frist has issued a statement saying he was not a part of the deal, is still a firm adherent of the principle that nominees should receive an up or down vote, and hopes that the McCain block will behave as it has promised to do.

It is impossible to say whether this is a “terrible” deal, a “bad” deal, or a very, very marginally “ok” deal, but it surely is not a good deal. Not one dime more for the NRSC from me unless and until the Supreme Court nominee gets confirmed, and no other filibusters develop. I won’t spend money on a caucus supporting organization when the caucus can’t deliver a majority. Mark Kennedy and other Senate candidates with spines, but not for the NRSC. [Hugh Hewitt]

It was back in the late sixties that the candidate nominations process and campaign finance started becoming an issue due to condemnation of wheelin’ and dealin’ out of public view. This particular deal is the epitomy of just such machinations and it is being celebrated most by the same folks who were most adamant in opposing such ‘smoke filled room’ party boss bypassing of public voicing of preferences.

It is those on the right who are most disappointed. They have worked hard to bring about Republican majorities to impliment conservative principles. They won elections. Yet it does not appear that they won enough. A simple majority does not appear to be a sufficient solution for victory. This does not bode well.

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CatchUp Mid May

Reid stepped in it again. First calling the President a “loser” and now doing a McCarthy by citing secret results of a confidential FBI report he should have not been able to see in order to slander a nominee. There is a complaint by the Department of Justice regarding an abuse of its confidentiality agreements with the Senate and now it appears that there may be an ethics investigation.

CBS is doing another cover-up to try to avoid culpability in misquoting Ken Starr. It appears that CBS was going over the line to try to warp Judge Starr into appearing to support the Democrat’s party line on judicial fillibusters.

The Newsweek contribution to the ‘media hates Bush’ examples is generating some controversy. It lead to a White House press conference that put a media bias case example on record (again) as attempts were made to rationalize Newsweek’s poor journalistic practice and blame the administration. Then there are some who observe the manipulation of hypersensitive Muslims. Sticky wicket in Koran story by Mark Steyn has a good take on that angle.

This disaster required a combination of factors. We can’t do much about Muslim fanatics; we probably can’t do much about our self-worshipping vanity media whose reflexive counter-tribalism has robbed it of all sense of perspective or proportion. But we ought to apply pressure on the link between the two worlds — the self-serving elites who enjoy the privileges of the West even as they exploit their coreligionists’ ignorance of it.

Then there is the Pepsi executive who gave a speech to Columbia MBA graduates. The analogy was five continents to five fingers of the hand and guess which finger was used for the US? The ‘Ugly American’ apologists are still at it despite money, despite sacrifice, despite the reality.

A Washington Post editorial was complaining about conservative tactics as used in the Newsweek story. It seems they have this “fake but accurate” syndrome. The story may have depended upon some error that conservatives pounced upon in order to discredit the story and the teller and the media in general, but everyone ‘knows’ that the essence was accurate, don’t they? The problem (for the WaPo) is that the US military has bent over backwards to accomodate religious practice of its prisoners and desecration of the Koran is not an accurate depiction of US policy or practice.

There are several of these stories that many in the MSM seem to know are true but are having trouble trying to find actual evidence to support. The Bush National Guard service and the falsity of the Swift Vet’s allegations are two examples. Bias in the media is sourced from knowledge of things that aren’t true. This leads to gross errors in journalistic practice, rationalizations of behavior that lead to errors, minimizing of implications and effects, and attacks on any who dare to point out the problems.

And now the fillibuster abuses come to the fore as character assination against honorable judges continues apace. Russert took on Dean in a Meet the Press interview that provided additional insight for those trying to see where the intellectual integrity is on the left side of the aisle. The pot simmers.

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Procedures to protect minorities

Matt (The Democrats’ Partisan Democracy, Blogs for Bush, 05ma12) notes an interesting comparison between the electoral college and the fillibuster rule.

The Founding Fathers understood the need for the Electoral College as they designed it. They also understood that a simple majority of Senators was a sufficient check and balance for the Senate on the power of the President to nominate judges.

The people who are today trying to rationalize the fillibuster as a means to keep the majority from running over the minority were, just a few years ago, condemning the electoral college. And this is only one example of an opinion that has done a 180 in the last ten years.

Th U.S. Constitution specifies a select number of issues that require a supermajority before any law can take effect. The idea is that the majority has power – it can indeed become a tyranny. You can irritate or obstruct the majority only so much else it will assert its power. The minority must realize it is working with a dangerous beast and exercise significant responsible care to make sure that, in protecting the minority interests, it doesn’t enrage the beast.

Another consideration is that there are different sources of power and influence besides population. Land, and the resources it represents, is one. Any other source of power and influence usually derives from these two: population and land. For example, economic vitality depends upon how a population expresses its governance and uses its land based resources.

The definition of select supermajority issues is only one of several means the US governance model uses to ‘tame the beast’ and minimize the risk of majority tyranny. Others include the fact that it is a republic and not a democracy and the explicit role of a federation of states as reflected in the Senate.

These methods to keep the majority beast in a kindly and considerate mood must be used responsibly and with due care. The results of elections must be accepted as only changeable by a process of winning over the public as distributed in the states. The misuse of the leash and harness will only enrage the beast and cause all to suffer.

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Hate: another misused word.

David Limbaugh takes off on one of those too common rhetorical excesses. This time it is the word hate. You can find similar use of the word “extreme.”

I hate it when liberals accuse those who disagree with them as purveying hatred. I truly hate such distortions and manipulations of language. For me to oppose gay marriage, for example, does not mean I hate gays. For me to oppose abortion doesn’t mean I hate women who favor it. As a Christian, I certainly don’t hate non-believers. We are called to evangelize non-believers out of duty and love, not hatred. But liberals have discovered that they can get a lot of political and cultural mileage by falsely accusing conservatives and Christians of hatred — so they do it. And it’s truly vicious when you think about it. And it’s also profoundly ironic, because when you really observe what’s going on, you’ll see a lot more hate emanating from the Left. It’s not even close.

There are two common fallacies being attempted in the use of words like “hate” and “extreme.” One is the idea that a lie asserted boldly and frequently takes on the status of fact. The other is the ad hominem argument.

The key for anyone who wants to evaluate these allegations is to find out exactly what behavior is extreme or what expresses hate. What you will often find in investigating the allegations of the left these days is that ‘extreme’ means ‘a position by a person I consider an enemy’ and ‘hate’ means ‘any expression that impugns my views.’

What is often the case is that someone who starts talking about hate or extremism in generic terms is often past argument. They have selected their reality and set it in concrete. To establish a factual counter argument often gets down into making a logical trail from the dictionary definition of words (the evolution fracas is a good example of this, too). Statistical understandings have to be built from scratch. Any flaw or lack of precision will be subject to the most rigorous scrutiny. But even then, you are up against a perceptional filter that has withstood rationality and built up its defenses. That sort of barrier is not one to be simply surmounted.

So where is the extremism? Where is the hate? Does the word “bigot” mean anything?

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Overly sensitive about Lucas?

Some folks have started finding things in the new Star Wars Episode 3 due for release 19 May that indicate a BushBashing tilt. The villain saying ‘you are either with us or against us’ countered by the hero Jedi proclaiming that this kind of binary logic is an evil trait is given as one example.

Others point out that the themes in Star Wars were laid out by Lucas long ago and model classic rise and fall of empire stories from the Romans and Napolean.

There are other things to consider.

One is the basic fallasy in the argument about binary logic and nuance. How can you have a “dark side” and then label any such binary arguments as characteristic of that dark side? This is rather confused. Those who argue for nuance cannot put it as universal else there is no nuance about whether or not it really exists. Having only nuance is as binary as having no nuance. It is one of those logical conundrums that can only be accepted as a meaningless plattitude of thinkers not considering the consequences of their rant against absolutes. There are indeed issues that have stark dividing lines. The issue isn’t whether you are against us or for us but rather whether the cause is worth being for or against and whether you really know that cause.

The Star Wars saga also falls prey to a common scifi theme of advancing technology being correlated with regression in society. All that technology and yet the social structures go towards Roman models? This is the laser sword versus blaster conundrum. If you can deflect a ray from a gun, why can’t you do the same for the swipe from a sword? Occam’s razor takes a beating trying to rationalize that one.

For government, technology provides better communications and transparency. It is much more difficult to hide things with very many independant eyes and ears ‘out there’ who have instantaneous communications they can use to share what they see and hear. Corruption and malfeasance in government become more visible. Arguments become more personal. Individuals become more aware of the options available to them and better empowered to implement those choices. These are not the conditions that empower and sustain centralized top down governments such as empires and dictatorships.

If you get your giggles from deep introspection about the theologic or philosophic underlying meaning or you just enjoy looking at the abuse of science and technology in movies, go right ahead. You have company and others of similar interest to discuss what you find.

But let’s not get oversensitive. The Star Wars saga makes for an entertaining set of stories where we can turn ourselves loose from reality for a while and imagine something ‘far far away in another time.’

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What are you selling

Peter Schramm describes the experience he had visiting Air Force and Marine recruiters with a young man. The Air Force recruiter sold his service as another 8-5 job with special benefits. The Marine sold his as the tip of the spear. “All the branches offer the same tangible benefits. But we offer the intagibles. Pride, honor, patriotism.”

The modern day conventional and self proclaimed idealists tend to scorn the greedy, capitalistic, self centered war mongerers. They are the ones who burn the flag and proclaim that their patriotism is expressed by venom and invective towards the country that defends them and its defenders.

Here is what Dean (Vietnam Memories and Parallels
05ma16) says about one of the latest episodes of such people’s expression:

There was a time when I thought the press had a bias problem, but one that could easily be corrected if they were just open minded and a little more thoughtful. But nowadays? When it comes to coverage of the war? I simply no longer think that. I feel betrayed by them. I think they’re mostly a bunch of cynical, selfish, shallow, unpatriotic jerks–jerks who have no understanding of military matters, a shallow grasp of history, and no sense of proportion at all. So they will happily repeat lie after lie all in the name of a phony “objectivity” that they clearly do not possess.

Michael Isikoff isn’t a fluke. He’s the single lesion on a single cell that reveals the pathology that’s destroying the entire organism.

Schramm’s story indicates that there are some who realize that patriotism is something much more positive. It can be a binding force. It can be idealistic yet grounded in positive moral values.

The point for sales is one for anyone, whether in the commercial sector or the nonprofit sector or in government. What sells is what makes people feel like they contribute, they belong, they are worthy, and they make a difference for the better.

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Nuance in understanding US reasons

Robert Mandel takes off on a rant that is well worth reading. (Why We fought, Mandelinople 05ma15). He discusses the idea that the rationale for going to war often gets simplified and made more concrete after the fact based on some particular easily grasped phenomena. This goes to the heart of the “Bush Lied” mantra centering on a weapons threat, the Holocaust death camps, various other genocides, or even jihad.

The other lesson they must learn is that we do not fight wars to stop genocide. Though I would certainly agree that stopping them is a just and noble cause, we are not the 21st century Knights Templars. We fought WW2 for one reason, and one reason only:

for the defense of our civilization and for the building of a better civilization in the future.

We didn’t go to war in Europe because Hitler was gassing thousands of Jews daily. That the revisionsts today justify the war for that reason is deplorable, for it is many of the same who are apologizing for Stalin and Yalta. We went to war for the same reason we went a generation earlier:

The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty.

Why this simplification might be worth consideration boils back to the issue of pride in one’s country and a proper understanding of its unique values and efforts. The role of secularism, hedonism, academic bias, Viet Nam, and others could be shoehorned into this topic as well.

Our students have been led to believe that they are entitled to whatever they want. If they’re unable, it’s unfair, it’s bias, it’s time for a lawsuit. A college degree is a guarantee of a high paying, low effort job, even if the degree is in recreational studies. (It’s not a joke) A cell phone and an iPod are endowments from the Creator, which the student has an unalienable right to in a classroom. No longer do students have to work a little harder. Just call for an IEP and get a specially tailored instructional program.

As in Vietnam, the US had high goals often cited as attempting to prevent the domino effect of communistic takeover. But greed, expressed as fear of the draft, and idealism separated from reality or intellectual integrity turned a victory based on ideals into a pragmatic and selfish defeat that was almost suicidal.

A contrast with ‘the other side’ illustrates that even this issue cannot be made binary. The US actions towards Japanese citizens at the start of WW II, the Japanese historical revisionism and difficulty in dealing with events such as the rape of Nanking, the German difficulties in reconciling their behavior in WW II with a healthy self view – behavior and motivation must be made to fit with a lesson learned and an identity based in reality and not fantasy.

Understanding the more abstract, such as how “make love not war” can be an oxymoron, is where progress can be made. Maybe war is a means to ‘make’ love.

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The nature of the argument.

Shrinkwrapped attempts to find a measuring stick for extremism in the blogosphere. Perhaps the search for such a metric could start with observation of debate in more official quarters or venues of broader distribution.

At what point does Old Media bother to tell the country that Senator Schumer has the credibility of a carnival barker on this issue, but lacks the manners of that profession?

Hugh Hewitt uses Senator Schumer’s arguments to show just how bad arguments have become. Schumer, whether intentionally presenting falsehoods or doing so by ignorance, presents the senate as a populace body rather than a state’s representative body, misrepresents ‘checks and balances’ as an internal Senate thing rather than a branches of government thing, and presents a false pretense of civility while conducting an ad-hominem assault.

Here is how the Radio Blogger described it (The last act of a desparate Chuckie Schumer? 05ma11)

As for the venom spewed by Chuckie on the floor of the Senate yesterday, it was just that. Venom. And there wasn’t an ounce of logic, reason, or truth behind it. Just raw venom. Here’s a sample.

The fact is that the people have voted. Both by the populace at large and in the expression of each of the states of the union. The question is the extent to which this majority of both populace and entities of the union must go to express their desires in a way to be accepted by the minority. It is this extent that provides one measure for extremism in the minority.

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Is Microsoft saying something political

BSOD – the Blue Screen of Death – is what you get when Microsoft Windows crashes and you have to reboot loosing anything you had not committed fully to disk.

Mary Jo Foley reports (Move Over, Blue Screen of Death?, 05ma10):

Some Longhorn testers are seeing red. But never fear, Microsoft execs say: There will be no Red Screen of Death in the next version of Windows, due in 2006.

As if the dreaded “Blue Screen of Death” that plagues users of existing Windows variants weren’t enough, some beta testers are reporting that they’ve encountered a new “Red Screen of Death” in early versions of Longhorn.

Now, what with the latest political stance on gay rights by Microsoft, the Microsoft hometown Seattle election problems, and the media’s recent blue states vs red states fixation, a conspiracist might have something to chew on here. Is there something behind this change of blue to red as a signal for disaster?

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Proof of research and organization identity

Dr. Steven Taylor, in Going Dutch Takes on New Meaning (05ma12), uses the example of major Dutch universities making research available on the web to ponder the future of research papers.

One does begin to wonder how journals will evolve going forward, given that students and professors alike are more and more inclined to use electronic versions of articles and such. Indeed, I am not certain that a lot of my students fully comprehend what a journal is. Like with the movement of thinking about songs not albums, we tend to think about individual articles, and less the actual journals.

The article touches on the manner of distribution but the conclusion hits the matter of identity and composition. It is not often that primary research is published in a journal that can theme its content in each issue. In albums, this thematic approach to make a collection of songs into a major composition is a way to add strength through identity so the sum of the parts is greater than each individually added together. This can happen in journals as well but is most often seen in publications a bit distanced from reporting primary research.

What may happen is that academic departments in universities may publish the research of their members, possibly within some structure coordinated with the university library. This approach would make the reports available for public use and the collection of works would establish and demonstrate the reputation of the university and its departments. Peer review in this case would be through stakeholders – those in the department, college, and university who have a vested interest in the quality of presentation of their institution.

There is a difference from just throwing something out there and making it a part of a coherent whole that identifies the responsible and culpable parties.

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The taint of pessimists

Tainted’ Victory (Armed Liberal 05Ma9)

“The notion that it is ‘tainted’ – that we have acted throughout our history less than perfectly, sometimes awfully and therefore our history is tainted – underscores much of the thinking that I criticize in looking at ‘Bad Philosophy.’ It suffers from two defects in particular: it fails to ask tainted as compared to what? and it searches for and emphasizes commonality between the bad and the good by abstracting to a high level.”

In this case, winning WWII was ‘tainted.’ What ‘Winds of Change’ notes, though, is the pessimism based on a lack of referrent and moral equivalancing.

I’m not blind to the errors made and acts that can’t today be justified in World War II. But I understand them differently. I see men and women who were fallible, afraid, exhausted, enraged, and who did the best they could and whose best was thankfully damn good. I look at their mistakes as opportunities, not to criticize them from the safety of my position of retrospection, but to try and learn how we can – as we fumble through our own fallible, contingent history – learn.

The problem with referents and standards is common and often implicit or hidden. If you don’t like something, you set the standards by which to measure it so that it measures poorly. Playing games with the actual setpoint by which to measure an argument is often accompanied by using different setpoints for the other side of the debate. For instance, the US is often held to a much higher standard in prisoner treatment or military behavior than its opponents.

Whenever you hear an argument, look for the implicit standard of reference by which success is measured. Is is appropriate for the time and circumstance of the example? Is it a reasonable standard? Is it applied in the same way to all sides of the comparison? Is the standard on the table for inspection and discussion?

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Jihad and the Crusades

Andrew G. Bostom, Jihad begot the Crusades (1) (American Thinker 05ma04) objects to the thesis that the Crusades were unprovoked aggression against Muslims. In going over the history, he also highlights differences between the Qur’an and the Bible in regards to warfare and its conduct.

Unlike the espousal of jihad in the Qur’an, the constituent texts of Christianity, the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, do not contain a form fruste institutionalization of the Crusades. The Bible sanctions the Israelites conquest of Canaan, a limited domain, it does not sanction a permanent war to submit all the nations of humanity to a uniform code of religious law. Similarly, the tactics of warfare are described in the Bible, unlike the Qur’an, in very circumscribed and specific contexts. Moreover, while the Bible clearly condemns certain inhumane practices of paganism, it never invoked an eternal war against all of the world’s pagan peoples.

This is a response to Ridley Scott’s new movie Kingdom of Heaven. Whether or not Scott mispresented history to any degree, the argument about the ‘moral equivalance’ needs to be made with care. Current specific behaviors appropriately qualified as representative of a defined group should be valid point. Comparison of source documents for ideology, such as the Bible or the Qur’an, should provide another.

The difficulty with these arguments is that bias in perception must be carefully considered. For example, see No Star Wars for Oil by Craig Winneker (TCS 05ma11). When you go looking for something, you can often find it. Intellectual integrity shows when what you find is placed in an appropriate context and weight to truly reflect reality. All too often such integrity is missing.

You can see these same ideas in the arguments about judicial fillibusters. An equivalance is made between past practice and current practice by glossing over the difference between committee and fillibuster or between overall nominee approval rates and appellate court nominee rates. There is a temptation to establish a moral equivalance – everyone does it. An honest look at behaviors and source documents may provide a good case that there are important differences.

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Hugh Hewitt (05ma04)

Yesterday I had some fun with Washington Post columnist’s Terry Neal’s pilfering of Democratic talking points for his silly column on the disfigured filibuster.  Ace of Spades picked up the theme.  Then Patterico, Pejmanesque, and Bainbridge demolished filibuster apologist and Rutgers professor David Greenberg, who had risen to defend the Dems’ unprecedented obstructionism in the pages of the Los Angeles Times.  And ConfirmThem’s Andrew Hyman fisked an AP story that advanced the Dem talking points in the guise of a “story.”

Those are just three examples of the blogosphere acting as a sort of National Hissile Defense system.  The left, whether on op-ed pages, regular columns, or “news” reports throws up Democratic talking points dressed up as objective analysis, and the netted fact-checkers of the center-right blogosphere undress them all.  This cycle of propaganda published/propaganda exposed has a huge though slow-moving effect on public opinion –the discrediting of the left because of the left’s refusal to deal in hard facts.  the big bet of Ralph Neas et al is that if they repeat “60 filibusters” often enough, that the public will buy it, or that if enough nuts step up with anti-Bolton screeds, one of them will stick.

This is the glass house. It is becoming more difficult for any organization to control what is seen and what is exposed. What you said in the past is readily available for contrast to what you say now. What you say can be easily compared to what someone else says. Your allegations, assumptions, and assertions can be contrasted to what has actually occurred.

Transparency is a means of accountability. In the realm of political debate it allows the public to effectively assess the arguments and form more informed and reasoned opinions less likely to be tilted by misperception and deceit.

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Reid vs Frist: a contrast in compromise offers

Senator Reid wants to compromise by being able to cast a minority veto only on selected nominees and not all of them. Senator Frist wants to allow all nominees out of committee for a floor vote but allowing up to 100 hours debate on each one.

In one case, the offer is a purchase agreement about the price of the sale. In the other, the case is a matter of politics where each side has plenty of time to present their case and the majority will prevail after due consideration.

Democrats’ Dangerous Game of Indifference by Christopher G. Adamo (Newsmax 05ma09) describes the implications of the win/lose tactics such as those being played by Senator Reid in his ‘compromise offer.’

The Democrats have been losing elections, but that apparently only makes them more strident, more partisan, more extreme. They have changed the game from accepting the will of majority and pursuing honest means to convert parts of that majority to their views to obfuscation and obstruction. They lambast the majority as “extreme” and go to great lengths to find any example from the fringes to support their views. Meanwhile, anyone who cares can spend a few hours on CSPAN and find examples of extremism on the part of the Democrats from the floor of the House or Senate with little difficulty.

The contrast in the compromise offers is as clear as Reid calling the President a “loser.” Do you want a country where important issues are resolved by barter or do you want a country that allows all sides to air their views, attempt to sway the argument with honest debate, and then accepts a vote?

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