Archive for June, 2005


Hat tip Trolling in Shallow Water entry G. Tracy Mehan III comments on the “death of environmentalism” at National Review Online. This, in turn, references Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus.

The idea is that more and more people are thinking that environmentalists are extremists. This may be due to all of the stories about doom and gloom that do not fit what is readily visible to anyone who looks at the world around them. It may also be the result of being ‘against’ perceived enemies rather than ‘for’ a cause or set of principles. And then there is the growth and change problem in environmentalist groups.

One of Van Putten’s more interesting insights pertains to environmentalism’s abandonment of the volunteerism that was typical of both its early days and the original conservation movement as embodied in the Boone and Crockett Clubs promoted by Theodore Roosevelt for fishermen and hunters. Today, national environmental groups, tethered to Washington and New York, have become professionalized and increasingly focused on legislative and regulatory esoterica that do not resonate with many Americans skeptical of big government and command-and-control strategies.[Tracy]

The change from volunteers to professionals moves motivation as well as skill sets. The driving force changes character. The goals and objectives become different. The reason for existence becomes confused.

This suggests that we are witnessing one of most common modes of government failure, capture of the process. This is likely to occur whenever activists stir up enough concern about a perceived problem to establish a new government institution to “solve” the problem. The skills required to be an activist are quite different from the skills required to survive in a government bureaucracy. It is usually not long before the folks running the new government institution are bureaucrats who respond to a very different incentive structure from the original activists. The results can be quite perverse, as when a regulatory body becomes too cozy with the industry it is supposed to regulate, or (at the other extreme) a government body virtually shuts down an industry whose interests it was set up to promote. [Trolling]

It is one thing to be committed to an ideal or philosophy. But when that moves away from the grass roots and into the hands of professional lobbyists and bureaucrats, or, the other way, into the hands terrorists and criminals, the ideal or philosophy becomes corrupted. The vision is lost. Achievement is diverted.

The sad fact is that many of the environmentalists have gone to either extreme and those who have stayed true to their mission, the Boy Scouts for instance, often get impugned, belittled, or even attacked.

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What’s with Kansas?

The Washington Times warns about activist judges:

Kansas jurists, with the help of the education “experts,” have shoved aside lawmakers and voters because they think they know better how to spend the public dollars. We’re sorry to see it come to that in Kansas.

It seems some consultant hired to study school funding decided that the state should spend a specified amount in its educational efforts. A judge used this amount to tell the state legislatures that their vote and that of the public was irrelevant and they needed to come up with more money.

This is the same state that is holding a ‘trial’ to renew the Scopes trial of long ago. The state board of education thinks their ‘trial’ can be sufficient to provide credibility in overturning the peer review process in biological sciences.

Hey, Ohio nearly passed legislation defining the value of pi (the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle) a while back. Why can’t any state body define a scientific or mathematic concept by fiat? This ought to be much easier and less messy than the way scientists and mathematician do it.

Take it to da judge! (we certainly aren’t worthy to make our own decisions)

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Is “rhetorical knot” another name for a lack of intellectual integrity?

Dean noted Detroit News political blogger Libby Spencer as an example of “rhetorical knots” that are so typical of the left.

Someone should tell Libby that when you call someone a “liar” when he may have simply come to conclusions you disagree with, that isn’t just cheap partisan politics. It is itself a form of dishonesty. It is also not “liberal,” because you have effectively shut down all debate: once you’ve called the other side a liar even if you can’t prove it, you’ve signaled something loud and clear, “I don’t care what the evidence is, I know the truth!”

In short, meaningful discussion simply stops.

It’s fine to criticize your own, or even to have reservations about the Iraq conflict. But if you are not willing to put our people’s actions into perspective, to compare them appropriately to the actions of our enemies, or to set partisanship aside and just be honest about why we went and what we need to while we’re there, you’re saying a lot more about yourself than about anyone else.

Now consider the Senate minority leader’s apologizing for calling the President a “loser” but not for calling him a “liar.”

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What is the referent in US bashing?

Michael O’Hanlon – Amnesty astray (Washington Times 05jn06) – is a “a former Amnesty International activist and volunteer, and a frequent critic of this administration” who thinks the group has gone a bit too far. He pinpoints one of the more significant problem with the over the top rhetoric finding fault with the US.

When Americans come to Muslims’ aid, as in the Bosnia and Kosovo and Iraq wars, their motives are impugned or their efforts forgotten. When we make mistakes, as we admittedly often do, the errors are magnified and portrayed as deliberate policy. This vicious cycle of misinformation, which engenders more hatred and radicalism, helps explain why the global jihadist movement remains so strong today. We do not need more of this dynamic. We need less.

This is the same pattern of behavior as the Democrats opposing judicial nominees by calling them “extreme” in one way or another. These kinds of allegations fall to the floor when any attempt is made to find an honest reference or measuring stick for them. Rationalizing the hyperbole then becomes a matter of trying to equate a peccadillo with a felony.

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Is it cowardice that creates such puzzling nonsense?

Stern Interview: Another Katja Gloger Masterpiece (Ray D. onDavids Medienkritik)

This single interview illustrates an interesting point: The entire picture of the United States government delivered by the German media is remarkably inconsistent. One day the US is the supreme unilateral giant capable of toppling anyone anytime. The next day the US economy is in serious trouble and the military is demoralized, degraded and so short on recruits that it supposedly can’t engage in another campaign even if it needed to.

The confusion about America in Germany is due in large part to the fact that the German media is totally failing to provide Germans with balanced coverage of the United States. Conservatives, as we see in Ms. Gloger’s work, are regularly written-off and smeared as “radicals, religious nuts, gun nuts, reactionaries, right-wing extremists, etc. Conversely, the loudest, most prominent Bush opponents are frequently interviewed, often in a very uncritical way. These Bush critics are almost always presented as mainstream, middle-of-the-road, knowledgeable and moderate experts.

Perhaps one way to understand such behavior is from ShrinkWrapped

One aspect of the situation which has been rarely commented upon has to do with the fundamental cowardice of much of the left. It has been recognized for quite some time that the left (and the Islamofascists) behave as if they are exceptionally insecure. The inability to tolerate differences of opinion is not the behavior of people who are secure in their beliefs and arguments. When people are shouted down, hit with pies in the face to discourage their speaking, or threatened with death-fatwas for insults, real and imagined, they are behaving like bullies. The secret, the discovery of which all bullies dread the most, is that bullies tend to be cowards.

The left wing MSM, NGO’s, Academics, and politicians have multiple motives for their behavior. They are frightened of losing power, frightened of losing influence and money, angry at their ideas losing currency; all these things may be true. However, they are also motivated by a deeply felt and vigorously denied cowardice and this is fundamentally immoral.

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Amnesty International reveals true color

The collective leadership of Amnesty International –in pursuit of a public relations coup– has demonstrated an inexcusable historical blindness. The false frame of moral equivalency compounds their mistake. [Austin Bay Fisking Amnesty, Persevering After Moral Compromise 05jn01]

see also

David B. Rivkin Jr. & Lee A. Casey. Amnesty Unbelievable: The human-rights organization plays anti-American politics. 05Ma27

The group is making hay in website visits and contributions – for now. But as revealed to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, citing the US as running the new gulag was an unfounded accusation. It is this method of publicity seeking that does not contribute to the credibility built up over past decades. It is much easier to destroy one’s credibility than it is to establish it. It is also very hard for people to accept that groups such as Amnesty International can fall to such depths as illustrated in this example.

But this is not an isolated example. It is part of a pattern. And that pattern is being exposed, dissected, discussed, and explained. It may be that distinguished looking people expressing serious sounding plattitudes are trying to rationalize their behavior and excuse revealed misteps but the fact that this emporer has no clothes is being made more clear as time passes.

The AI gulag is one example. Senator Kerry’s SF180 story is becoming another. People seeking answers to serious questions are being frustrated by gamesmanship of the sort made famous by the argument about what the meaning of “is” is. Rather than open records to answer questions, it appears thatKerry opened records to another government agency covered by privacy law that then released selected records to a favorable media outlet. This is like AI complaining about not having access to Gitmo when the ICRC and a whole pile of New York lawyers are providing the most intimate examination of US treatment of detainees. But, if you don’t like the results, then find some other standard to use to measure the research.

But it is much easier to accuse the other side of not accepting reality than it is to measure your own acceptance against objective criteria.

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Where is the common sense?

Secrets from anonymous sources, leaked information, a brouhaha about revealing the identity of a CIA operative – do responsible publishers act responsibly? Bill Roggio – )High New York Times: Prisoner Transports Revealed Winds of Change 05Ma31) wonders about sensitive information being published.

What exactly is the purpose of the New York Times in reporting on sensitive issues such as these? Do they even care about the consequences of making such information pubic? It appears the editors of the New York Times feel that breaking a titillating story about sensitive CIA operations is much more important than national security and the lives of those fighting in the war. All to our detriment.

You have to wonder why some stories get the press they do. Is it just titillation? Or is their an agenda behind the revelation? Deep throat is a big story right now. Is there a hope to repeat that fiasco? Or is it just blindness to the impact of such exposure?

It is not only what gets made into a hot story but also the response to revelations that indicates some of what is going on. Exposing a CIA operative who was rather well known gets significant outrage. Exposing CIA prisoner transport methods sees very little. ‘Outing’ the operative had little impact on lives, policy, or procedure. Exposing the transport methods puts charter airlines and other people and facilities at significant risk and requires significant expense to change procedure and contractors.

For any rational person, these contrasts should create dissonance. What is going on here? Is it just ignorance or is there something else at work?

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Understanding what sets a good military apart

Jon Henke, in The Grim Truth about (Civilized) Warfare (Q and O, 05ma31), discusses what makes the military special. The function of the military is often described as being ‘to kill people and break things’ but a good military must do so in a controlled and disciplined fashion. If it has no control, then it is not a military and becomes a mob of gangsters.

whatever they get, it’s better than they deserve … This is precisely the type of thing that eats into a units discipline, and changes them from soldiers into a very, very lethal armed mob. It eats into the core of what being a soldier, rather than a simple killer is all about.

If you’ve never been in the military, the purpose of a lot of this stuff is probably hard to understand. The flat little hat has to be worn tilted over to the side, with the brim two fingers above the eyebrow. You have to wear a tie with the long-sleeved shirt, but it’s optional with the short sleeved shirt? The ribbons have to be centered above the left breast pocket, touching but not overlapping the top of the pocket flap. You will routinely say, ‘Sir,’ three times in a sentence to a man who’s 5 years younger than you. You will participate in ceremonies with saluting and flags, and marching, and all kinds of tedious stuff.

Why? I mean, what’s the point? How does all that stuff help you kill bad guys?

It doesn’t. It isn’t designed to. It’s designed to instill into you some important ideas like discipline, attention to detail, and a sense of belonging to an honorable profession that allow you to stop killing bad guys. It’s designed to inculcate obedience to a very specific code of conduct that prevents you from becoming nothing more than an armed mob that plunders your enemies’ cities, takes their women in the streets, and leaves piles of skulls behind them as a grim warning.

It is this type of discipline that people, such as those in Amnesty International, do not seem to understand. They impugn and ridicule the pomp and ceremony but do not seem to understand the underlying human intangibles that are behind it all. This can be seen in their interpretations of the Geneva Conventions. They make no distinction between those who maintain their identity and those who don’t. They make no distinction between those who use civilians as shields or targets and those who do not. The treat war as a criminal matter and dismiss the ideas of ‘rules’ in warfare.

In many respects, the same considerations apply to the civilian police except that the stakes are not so high. Without the underlying discipline, corruption would be the norm and the police would become part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

This is what faces Iraq today: to build to discipline in all government structures so that they will function effectively in protecting the lives, freedoms, and security of its citizens. When the discipline is there, the citizens can turn to making life worth living and put their efforts into growth and prosperity. They have a model and mentor working with them in this effort thanks to the US military.

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Biting the hand that feeds – for how long?

Victor Davis Hanson Our Spoiled and Unhappy Global Elites. From hypocrisy to tedium. (National Review Online 05ma27)

There are easily identifiable constants in these sad examples. Rhetoric is always at odds with lifestyle: A novelist who tours and writes in English is the epitome of the Western liberal tradition that allows freedom of expression, promotes book sales through open markets, and enjoys unfettered peer review. Ms. Roy will always operate deeply embedded in the system she ridicules, and Western grandees will always pay her well for making them feel badly for a few hours. Islamists, Communists, and theocrats — in a Saudi Arabia, Iran, Cuba, or China — would not only not pay her, but might well issue a fatwa, jail time, or a death sentence for what they didn’t like to read or hear.

these ungracious operators all seem to gravitate to, profit from, and then spite the paradigm that created rich global business, media, publishing, and entertainment conglomerates — and themselves.

Or consider the Universities: Rising tuition, rising dependence upon federal research monies, confused mission between a ‘search for the truth’ and the establishment of an ideology.

There is a sickness. Let us hope it does not spread too far.

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