Archive for October, 2005

Polite society, opinion, commentary, and this weblog

From comments heard lately, it appears that there are folks who do not think this weblog belongs in a polite society. Some want it to be censored completely. Others say they disagree with some unspecified things it says. These people do not engage in the conversation directly. They also do not appear to discern the nature or intent of this weblog.

Nearly all of the entries in this log would be considered commentary and not opinion. They say “Hey! look at this.” or “check this out.” The advocacy is for intellectual integrity and responsibility in viewpoint and its expression.

What is particularly interesting is that the weblog is seen as having a political slant. The implication is that there is a perception of a political divide in regards to the pursuit of intellectual integrity and honesty in debate.

There have been several issues that show that both sides can get wound up in an escape from reality. But the perception of this weblog reveals that these are considered exceptions and not the norm. Both sides are not the same in this area, whatever those sides may be.

How can we expect, as a people, to make good decisions when one side of the debate is not as worried about the reality of its views as the other?

It is one thing to be unable to have reasonable and rational discourse. It is another when differences lead to destructive behavior. When a ‘win at any cost’ ethic loses sight of the greater good and when bigotry and intolerance lead to escalating segregation, then we all suffer. This can happen on a national scale and it can happen in local groups. It is a civic responsibility of each and every one of us to be responsible for our own behaviors and to make sure we are open to learning from others.

Do you set yourself apart from some group because your common interest is outweighed by other differences?

Are you thinking critically and skeptically about your own perceptions?

Do you avoid the ad hominem, the straw man, and other poorly regarded debate tactics?

Is your goal to learn or is it to win?

Do you make judgments about people and their character or are you observing actual behaviors?

Are you fully aware of your presumptions and assumptions and careful to continually test them against reality?

Do you aggregate people into groups and assign behaviors or do you stick to specific individuals and what they say or do? How do you deal with generalizations of behaviors that do define a group?

There is this concept called cognitive dissonance that says people who are in the process of learning can experience discomfort which sometimes shows in unproductive behavior. Let us hope that much of this rumor and innuendo being expressed is cognitive dissonance. We can then encourage advancing the learning process, engaging in the discussion (see email link at upper right of page), and bring society together instead of tearing it apart.

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Repeat, dammit. We want a Vietnam abandonment again!

B. Preston notes that history is trying to repeat itself in an ugly way.

South Vietnam collapsed two years after the US pulled out its last troops, not because the South Vietnamese didn’t want freedom but because the Democrat-controlled Congress cut off aid and thereby starved the South’s ability to fight on without our help. Things obviously hadn’t been going well in Vietnam for years before, but the 1974 funding squeeze finally tipped the war irrevocably in the Communist North’s favor.

Sen. Pay Leahy wants to do the same thing to Iraq next year.

He also notes, in regards to the Plame/Wilson investigation

Libby indicted, resigns. Fwiw, Sen. Hillary Clinton (when she was First Lady) was found by Independent Council Robert Ray to have committed the same crime more than once in two separate scandals, yet never faced charges. Libby faces trial and the possibility of 30 years in jail. Former Clinton NSA Sandy Berger stole and destroyed classified documents, yet never spent a day in jail. It’s hard to take today’s events as reflecting the motions of blind justice.

There seems to be a pattern here. It is a pattern of ignoring consequences in order to demolish an opposition.

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Tactics that win mean we all loose

DJ Drummon thinks the bastards won. It isn’t the outcome of the argument that is at issue but rather the tactics of argument. Tactics of tantrum have been yet reinforced.

But there were many who took great enjoyment in deliberately casting the White House Counsel as an unintelligent woman. There were many who actually claimed to know that Miers, despite signing a clear anti-Roe statement on multiple occasions, was somehow plotting to promote Abortion as a legal right. There were many who regularly took up character assassination as their mietre against Miers, insulting her personally and misrepresenting her credentials in order to attack her. She was insulted for her appearance, for casual communications, for old speeches made before she knew the President and worked for him, for graduating from a non-Ivy League school, for not impressing various unelected big-name figureheads. Such tactics are unconscionable, and exactly the sort which were used against Clarence Thomas, when he stood as a nominee. Miers was held to an impossible standard, for no better reason than petulance and a demand that the President not make his own choices, but choose only from a list created for him by special-interest groups. Such people are bastards, and since their method has come to success, those methods will certainly be used again.

The Miers ‘debate’ was much like the Schiavo fracas where some of the most prominent on the right showed that they were human too. That they could be as mean and bad spirited and intellectually dishonest in their arguments as those on the left.

Even in Drummond’s analysis, those who are its target often avoid addressing the issues raised. Instead, they slough it off and minimize it through misrepresentation, ad hominem, misdirection, denial, and straw men. i.e. more of the same despicable tactics. Why use these tactics? Because, since Bork, they have proven to be effective. Like a child with a tantrum getting what he wants, we as a society are catering to the tantrum and loosing something very valuable.

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Mourning, celebrating, or using?

There seems to be a lot of interesting views on making a marker in war on terror battle casualties. Some seem to use this to support and rationalize their views about the government and the military. They tend to put any perspective on the number or what would have been without the sacrifice.

Then there is Indepundit reporting on 1st Lt Bruce Bishop explaing why he serves.

Because as I look around at the state of this nation and see all of the weak little pampered candy-asses that are whining about this or protesting that, I’d be afraid to leave the fate of this nation entirely up to them.

Then there is Ultraquiet no more talking about submarine losses in WW II.

Two recent articles in Florida newspapers discussed a “tolling the bell” ceremony honoring local submariners lost on Oct. 24, 1944. The first, from the St. Augustine Record (registration required; another copy not requiring registration is here) described that day as “the single worst day in U.S. submarine history”; the other, from the Palatka Daily News, describes that day, when three submarines and 168 submariners were lost, as “…that ignominous [sic] day.”

I disagree. While the losses of the USS Shark II, USS Tang, and USS Darter were a cause for mourning, their sacrifices were in no way “ignominious”.

Americans nowadays are repelled by any loss during military conflict, and forget that in WWII we were facing an implacable, well-armed enemy who wanted to win as badly as we did… … The “worst day in submarine history”? No — this day, as much as any other, was what showed the world the best side of American submariners. While we honor the sacrifice of the crews, we should continue to thank them for “showing us the way”.

There have been some who have bemoaned the war by citing a peace of the last fifty years in the mid-east. It seems that their recollection of history is rather flawed. The current casualties are in actual significant efforts to resist the horror and brutality and repression that has been the hallmark of the mid-east in recent history.

Those who use the current casualty count to bemoan the tragedy also seem to be rather misdirected. They fail to note that the causalty rate is down with major city murder rates or even the normal training and accident rate in the military.

The military should be celebrated for such low casualties in battle. The sacrifice of those who died in battle should be honored. The celebration should be in what they achieved, in the new ground being established by the citizens of Iraq ratifying a consitution and building a new model of self governance in the mid-east.

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Fear was the major danger in 1986

It turns out that scaring people to death may be more than a figure of speech. That’s the overriding message of a recently released U.N. report on the health effects of the 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the then-Soviet Ukraine.

The result of an exhaustive investigation by eight U.N. agencies, the report concludes that a “paralyzing fatalism” among the residents of the effected areas and problems such as suicide, alcoholism and clinical depression — resulting in part from people’s perceived sense of hopelessness — “pose a far greater threat to local communities than does radiation exposure.”

according to the report, there have been fewer than 60 fatalities so far, about 50 of them on-site staff and emergency workers exposed to massive radiation poisoning at the time of the blast and its immediate aftermath. It is believed that nine children have also died of thyroid cancer as a result of the accident, though these deaths may have been preventable.
[Joshua Gilder, Washington Times 05oc25]

There is, of course, the prediction that there might be many more deaths but substantiation for this anticipation is meager. Meanwhile, there are people who forgoe medical tests because of fear of radiation and others who obstruct by any means possible nuclear power plants or waste disposal.

What is known, no matter how well known, does not seem to penetrate the fog of fear that some insist upon. The question is how much it will cost in environmental impact, national security, and irrational decision making to support this fog of fear.

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ID straw

Gary Bourque writes in:

Scientists generally consider a million-to-one odds as mathematically impossible. So I’d say one to the number-of-atoms-in-the-universe is right up there, wouldn’t you?

Does that mean it’s literally impossible? No. But neither is it literally impossible to win the lottery every week for 10,000 years (assuming your life and the money could last that long). It’s just not likely, in the extreme. The odds that life formed or evolved on Earth are worse than that. The fact that these things have had billions of years to happen don’t improve those odds at all.

I’m not sure how making the above claims compromises my “intellectual integrity.” But if you like to debate the issue you are invited to come to my blog and do so.

There are two issues here that need work. One is the ad hominem perception about intellectual integrity and the other is the straw man parading as an attempt to secularize religion.

Since integrity is indeed a personal characteristic, it is all to easy to toss it around as a personal attack. This makes it all the more important to be very clear about the behavior that leads to conclusions about intellectual integrity in order that offense can be minimized and constructive critique can be made more likely. When a series of misrepresentations is presented or contradictory logic is used then it is that series or logic that should be labeled as lacking intellectual integrity, not the person who expressed them. This is something that the person who exposed the series or used the logic can use to convey more accurate perceptions and more rigorous logic if he or she desires.

Intelligent Design asserts that the sophisticated characteristics of living things on earth and their evolution are no accident, but instead the design of an intelligent force. But while most Intelligent Design adherents are Protestant Christians, they stop short of identifying the “designer” as a religious figure like God. Instead, they carefully treat the concept in a secular manner. [‘Intelligent Design Belittles God,’ Says Priest by Monisha Bansal, CNSNews.com Correspondent
October 24, 2005]

The introduction of astronomical odds or other secular measures to ‘prove’ the existance of something greater does belittle religion. As one science fiction writer once said, all sufficiently advanced technology is magic. When we teach our children about the Bible we stick to the concrete, to fables and stories. Religion is, at most, magic. It is only later, as our children develop and mature, that we can begin to hope they can comprehend the true meaning of the Holy Trinity.

It belittles religion to takes its meaning away from it. ID demotes the supreme being. It means thaty G-d not only created man in his imiage but suffered Himself to the same limitations that we, as men, have. G-d cannot be more than we can image.

But that attempt to secularize religion is a straw man because the issue is really about what should be taught as science in the public schools. Should we teach concepts as science in public high schools that do not fit within the scope of science as determined by the ‘market’ that public school students are being prepared to meet? It is not what is true nor is it even what is right. That is another can of worms with a much broader set of concepts in public education.

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MacArthur in Korea

Peter Brookes notes the anti US activity in Mauling MacArthur: Time to bring the Old Soldier home?. There is the usual allegation of war criminal and killing the innocents and so forth being spewed by people who want to use violence to promote their idea of peace and self determination. But you have to wonder.

Instead of unprecedented peace and prosperity, 48 million South Koreans might instead be enslaved today in Kim Jong Il’s police state. Famine is a daily reality in North Korea; over 200,000 live in political prison camps. It would be worthwhile for the protestors to remember that.

There is such a stark contrast between North and South Korea. It is the US and military commanders such as MacArthur who (twice) relieved South Korea from opressors and a fate such as that suffered by their neighbors to the north. Do they really want to emulate the situation in North Korea? That is what they advocate in their attacks on the US and its symbols. One has to wonder about whether these people are connected to reality.

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Adrift in a sea of phoniness

David Gelernter has noticed in his LA Times column (ht Powerline) that there is something rather phony in much of the public discourse these days.

INSINCERITY IS the new theme of American politics.

note the ever more popular idea that politicians must apologize on cue like trained seals whenever a noisy enough group orders them to. Yet every 5-year-old knows that a coerced apology has got to be insincere. Otherwise it wouldn’t need to be coerced.

Our willingness to traffic in such nonsense shows a dangerous tendency to disregard reasoning, logical context, the meaning of words. How else to understand the latest Bill Bennett story?

Then there’s the Universities. Or that Catholic school that cancelled the prom because parents were going out of their way to may prom night a bacchanalia for their children.

But at least there is growing awareness of “our willingness to traffic in such nonsense” and that is a first step.

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Trust me – you delegated, why not carry through?

The idea that the President should be trusted in his nomination choices has be derided and ridiculed by those who detest the Miers nomination. The use of destructive tactics should be a sufficient indicator that a great deal of skepticism is needed in evaluating their views.

DJ Drummond describes the scene:

The assumption that Bush chose Harriet Miers simply because he knows her work and character, is an insult not only to Miers and Bush, but shows that some on the Right have bought into the ‘Chimpy McHitler’ caricature the Left has sold all these years; it’s simply foolhardy to ignore Bush’s record of picks. It’s simply laughable, to claim that President Bush made the choice without considering what was required for the job, without thinking in the long term, or that he refused to listen to anyone else. It wasn’t true in 2001, and it is still not true.

disrespecting him on the basis of a decision which value and consequence you have nothing but assumption, shows how thin the layer of consensus our party has built thus far, and so verifies the President’s own caution.

Even those who lose the election are obligation through what is known as the duty of loyalty to accept the outcome. Recently we have seen election losers eschew this duty. A Gore is the latest example when he trashed his country in a European speech.

As anyone who supervises others and delegates tasks to others knows, one of the best ways to destroy productivity and to assure unsatisfactory results is the act of micromanagement based on a lack of trust or the appearance of a lack of trust. There are more effective ways to make sure that those delegated to act do so in the ‘proper’ way. Beating until morale improves is not one of them.

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The seriousness of the charge

Playing the legal lottery has become noticed as a problen. There has been some tort reform. There are attempts to reign in asbestos legislation. There have been laws made regarding medical malpractice. But the appeal of big money means that any and every avenue will be attempted. Gregory Conko and Henry I. Miller think that Slippery Teflon Charges Won’t Stick. Maybe rationality and intelligence will start to emerge. Maybe not. Recent history isn’t encouraging.

Lamentably, whether litigation is involved or not, activists commonly misrepresent environmental or public health risks. Undeterred by the facts, many self-styled public health advocacy organizations like the Environmental Working Group, Greenpeace, Center for Science in the Public Interest, and the Union of Concerned Scientists know that to have an impact, their charges need not be true but merely plausible. The media — whose motto is “if it bleeds, it leads” — does the rest: ”

Distortion and manipulation of science by self-styled consumer groups in pursuit of political agendas and by voracious plaintiffs’ attorneys looking for the next big score erodes our society’s capacity to innovate and prosper. It jeopardizes safe and beneficial products and harms manufacturers and their employees. In the absence of persuasive evidence vetted by experts, consumers should reject the attacks on Teflon, as well as on other essential products like vaccines, pesticides, medical drugs, and many others. The charges just won’t stick.

The fact that ‘science’ gets set up as its own thing separate from humanity is one reason to doubt. Science is a set of values and a set of practices that will enhance and support those values. The values depend upon an intellectual integrity in perceptions and measurement of the world and its phenomena. These values have been shown to lead to consistency of outcome and that has, in turn, lead to constructive ideas, that, in turn, have helped individuals and society become more vital.

The fact that science is separated and segregated from human endevour implies that a proper assessment of accuracy and precision in measure and a proper context for perception are not considered as a given in processes such as the legal system. This is why there is a legal lottery. Legal outcomes are a gamble and you cannot tell in advance which way they will go. It doesn’t take a high rate of wins to encourage gambling.

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The Crimes. Oh, the crimes

The War Over the Robber Barons by Edward J. Renehan Jr. is a favorable review of Charles B. Morris’s The Tycoons: How Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould, and J.P. Morgan Invented the American Supereconomy (Times Books/Henry Holt). The review seems to be more about Josephson’s The Robber Barons: The Great American Capitalists, 1861 – 1901 (1934) that it uses as a foil.

Josephson’s treatise became an influential bestseller. Thus also did men such as Jay Gould, Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, and John D. Rockefeller — the industrialists, investors and entrepreneurs who defined their era — become robber barons.

In The Robber Barons, Josephson presented a quintessentially Marxian analysis of enterprise. Quoting Honore de Balzac’s catchy but baseless aphorism that “behind every great fortune lies a great crime,” Josephson painted Gilded Age capitalism simplistically as a zero-sum game where a dollar acquired by one person was necessarily one stolen from another.

Josephson completely missed one elemental truth: The leading entrepreneurs of the Gilded Age were to the modern American economy what the founding fathers were to the Bill of Rights. These men built the infrastructure upon which the whole of their country’s 20th century prosperity was based.

For the most part, our literature maligns the titans who pioneered American oil and coal production, built the steel mills that produced the backbones of cities, financed many thousand miles of railway, and shrunk the world with telegraphic magic.

The ‘zero-sum game’ is most often heard these days in tax debates and the assertion that the ‘rich get richer’. The fact is that wealth is not a zero sum game but rather one of creation that shows itself in matters of productivity and in intellectual property products such as innovation and invention. This means people can have more wealth and more health, without needing more money.

And more money is always possible because the ceiling keeps rising while the floor cannot go any lower. This is why the rich get richer. There are more and more ways to raise the ceiling on the wealth one can accumulate. They can always go higher. But the poor – they can’t go lower as there is no way to dig deeper than people have already been before. And modern societies install cushions in terms of welfare and bankruptcy and many other concepts that make it even more difficult to hit historical bottoms.

At the time he wrote Robber Barons Josephson was a self-proclaimed Marxist. It fits. Socialism, communism, and their ilk are all expressions of greed and envy. Those who have more must have obtained it by criminal action. It therefore needs to be taken away and given to those honest hard working poor broke souls who deserve it so much more. The fact that these ideologies don’t work still hasn’t sunk in after more than a century of repeated experiment.

The delusion of wants over the reality of experience must be what leads to rationalizations about the criminality and evil nature of the other guy. Whether it was Josephson in the Great Depression or those who absolutely know about the evil nature of the current president (e.g. Rather and his memos, Sheehan and her ilk) the inability to deal with what actually exists is troubling.

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Corporation bashing; research division

The corporate entity seems to be a favorite target for all kinds of evils. The assault on WalMart for its community impact and anti-union stance is one example. Campaign finance such as the DeLay accusations provide another. Iain Murray describes another tack in Nationalizing Science

It seems as if you can’t turn anywhere without hearing that industry is destroying science these days. … All these allegations have a similar purpose: to delegitimize industry’s involvement in the scientific process.

For other links, such as the protestations of the anti-Miers folks that they aren’t elitists, consider this position in a contrast.

The distinction between basic science and applied science (and its development) is, at heart, an elitist and artificial one.

‘Pure’ science means academics with the kind of record the anti-Miers are looking for in judicial nominees.

Approaching science policy from the viewpoint of the narrow base of basic research is foolish. We need to accept that industry is driving science and the American economy, and we should welcome and celebrate that fact as a triumph for the American entrepreneurial spirit.

and this not only applies to science but to other fields. Academia is not the only source of what makes the US the powerhouse it its. The anti-corporate bias is tainted with a theoretical theology of academic pure and misses the organizations, such as corporations, that show their mettle by putting knowledge to practical use.

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So much happening

Chuck Muth is saying that all the arguments against the Miers nomination aren’t what the words say but rather a dissapointment turned disgust that all the effort to elect a king seem to have failed to yield the desired results. Meanwhile Dr. Sowell notes that all this effort to win at the ballot box really hasn’t done that well in terms of places like the Senate. i.e. the elite right wing is displaying hubris in thinking that slim majorities can make for massive power.

Those elites who are pushing for an elite constitutional scholar as a nominee are also protesting being called elite. In doing so, the demonstrate a leftist tactic of attacking the attacker for daring to call them elite. ‘Who, moi? elite? How dare you think such a thing!’ And, of course, they are calling for the Rodney King solution (why can’t we all get along) and blaming those who refute their ad hominem arguments as not being polite in debate. At least it shows that they are just as human and emotional as the elites on the left at times.

As for hurricane disasters it is looking like the impact on jobs was also not as bad as predicted. The New Oreleans cops are under investigation for such things as whether many of them actually existed and why 200 some odd Cadilacs were commandeered from a New Orleans car dealer. The city and state leaders are also undergoing some scrutiny as well. The issues of federalism and pork are also getting some good debate, too.

Pakistan chipped in with a 7.something earthquake to show us what a real disaster can look like. Maybe 30,000 dead and many flattened cities.

The Plame Affair looking into the Plame and Wilson revelations is also progressing. The NY Times reporter who spent three months in jail finally got the prosecutor to agree to limit the field of questions so she is out. The speculation runs rampant about who will get indicted. Will we see top administration officials frog marched out of the White House in chains? Or maybe a heard of reporters? Or maybe even Plame and Wilson? No one seems to know, yet.

A former FBI director has a ‘tell all’ book out that has the MSM calling on old Clinton Era buddies to refute its assertions and allegations.

Able Danger is revealing the extent of the inter agency rivalry in the US spy community. The investigations here seem to be on simmer but may boil over at any time. There is also some potential for some threads connecting Able Danger to Sandy Berger and other interesting phenomena.

A bill promoting energy production barely passed the house by only two votes. The Democrats are promoting energy independance but only via means that have been shown to fail over the last forty years.

The U.N is trying to force control and management of the internet out of US hands. The rhetoric sounds so nice – global network should be in global hands – but there are some who have concerns about the UN’s proven history of scandal and corruption.

DeLay is attempting to have his indictments thrown out due to prosecutorial misconduct. Earl Ray hasn’t done much to illustrate a high standard of such conduct which might make the effort a bit easier. ‘Try, try, again’ is not the way the US generally practices law enforcement.

Columbus Day – a holiday for the anti-western culture folks to haul out the bromides about abuse and all the evils of those nasty white men.

Meanwhile, Wm Buckley’s 80th birthday is stimulating some retrospection about the growth of the conservative cause.

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questionable assumptions

David Limbaugh argues that the Miers brouhaha isn’t elitism. He describes an assumption to support his argument. The quality of this assumption is what one needs to consider when trying to determine the quality of the argument.

Picking a justice isn’t about rewarding individuals or satisfying gender, race or diversity concerns. It’s about protecting our sacred liberties. Since the best way to do that is to find the brightest constitutional scholars with the requisite character and sound judgment, then that is precisely what the president should do. That’s not elitism; it’s essential constitutional stewardship.

The assumption is that a Supreme Court judge needs to be a constitutional scholar with requisite character and sound judgment. Three qualifications. One question is whether or not they are all three necessary in toto or not. Another question is whether they truly reflect what a Supreme Court judge needs to be.

The issue of scholar seems to be one of the most contentious. This is usually taken to mean an academic with a record of publications in the field. It can also mean a person who has emphasized the arcania of constitutional history, formation, and interpretation over the practical application of the law to specific incidences.

What questions the assumption that Limbaugh uses to support his argument is that the US Constitution is simply written and does not need an excess of nuance to understand it. Also, there is much to be said for the experience of applying law to specific cases – work in the trenches – as a means to best understand the implications of its impact and its application.

And this highlights the crux of the real debate. Do we want ivory tower scholars at the top of the judicial appellate chain or do we want people who have direct experience with those who suffer its verdicts?

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ex post facto pre judging

One of the more interesting intellectual conundrums is the pre-judging of the future even after it has occurred.

Brown of FEMA is a good example of this. Because of what has turned out to be a false media hysteria, he was selected as a scapegoat. This then meant he had to be established as incompetent. This then lead to building a case that he was an example of a crony appointment.

But all of this was after the fact. Brown had demonstrated competence in Florida Hurricane relief. Even the supposed failures in the Katrina response, which have been established as axiomatic in broadening circles, have been subject to significant question. But the judgment is that he is an incompetent failure.

In the desire to make this judgment have basis, evidence of competence or success is set aside and resume issues are paraded along with relationships to the President in order to rationalize the judgment.

The same phenomena appears to be the case with Miers. Because the nominee is not in line with what was expected, she is pre-judged to be incompetent and a failure to the Bush Promise. The hunt is then on to find and highlight anything that will support the pre-judgment.

Other examples can be found in many of the mantras of the Left. Bush Lied so let’s find some. Stop the war so we can have more terrorism and support extreme Islamic repression. Raise taxes to kill the economy and increase government revenue.

This business of anticipating doom and gloom even if it contrasts with past patterns of growth and development is a matter of pre-judging after the fact is established. It is ex post facto pre judging.

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Uniter not diveder

One of Bush’s promises was that he would be a ‘uniter not a divider’ in his role in Washington politics. This, as everything he has said or promised, has been used as a target to attack by his opponents. These attacks demonstrate that there is only so far one can go in trying to work with others rather than to strictly appease them. But the President does not appear to have given up on this effort to unite rather than divide despite rather severe punishment in carrying the effort forward.

This effort to forming a united team has been an irritant for some of those often considered the President’s base. It has been a source of derision in this base that figures it helped win the election and deserves the spoils. The Miers nomination illustrates this. The response to Gillespie’s comments about their objections also illustrates just how sensitive this ‘base’ has become to observations of its own behavior.

The angry and scathing rhetoric from columnists such as Will and Coulter are as symptomatic of a lack of intellectual integrity in them as similar behavior is in the lunatic left.

The fact is that scathing ad hominem attacks based on fantasized futures and nightmares of what might be are not good ways to unite. The argument with President is not with the desired outcomes but rather with the means to get there. The latest nomination fracas illustrates that there are those on the right that indeed have the view of the vultures and others trying to find a carcas upon which to feed. They have lost sight of the horizon, of the goals to be achieved, of the need to unite the people together to create progress for the country. That unity is a responsibility of each of us individually to take part in constructing an understanding of our common ideals and setting paths to get there. It is not in picking fights and looking for victories against each other and squashing or destroying those with whom we disagree. Unity will occur by educating those with whom we disagree to the point that any disagreements become secondary and minor compared to what is shared.

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Miers and conflict

Thomas Lifson’s rationalization of the Miers pick [Don’t misunderestimate Miers, The American Thinker 05oc04] received notice for its points about group dynamics and other reasons supporting the nomination to the Supreme Court. There was another point made that also deserves consideration.

In part, I think these conservatives have unwittingly adopted the Democrats’ playbook, seeing bombast and ‘gotcha’ verbal games as the essence of political combat. Victory for them is seeing the enemy bloodied and humiliated. They mistake the momentary thrill of triumph in combate, however evanescent, for lasting victory where it counts: a Supreme Court comprised of Justices who will assemble majorities for decisions reflecting the original intent of the Founders.

From columnists like G Will to some of the more popular conservative bloggers there has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth regarding the nomination. There are two common threads. One is that the President let them down and didn’t meet their expectations. The other is that they wanted to see an academic with a proven judicial record and are suspicious down to outright cynical about any other measure of the judicial qualifications.

It may be that these columnists and bloggers are the soldiers on the front line. The live and breathe the battle in close combat, in guts and glory. But there is a real need to be able to look above tactics of the skirmish and find the perspective of strategy in the goals of the conflict.

Those who have tossed in the towel and claim this as the last straw of the President’s misdeeds pull out their favorite list: size of government, Iraq, NCLB a la Kennedy, McCain-Feingold, immigration, and so on to support their view. They complain that all their efforts to win both the legislature and the executive were wasted and they are still having to achieve broad goals in small steps that often seem to be going in the wrong direction from their point of view.

Those who cite scholarly writings and a proven judicial history are seeking the comfort of a known quantity. This seems to be without regard to the idea that predicting the future is a risky business and that knowledge they desire can and has been used to damage the goods on the way through a nominations process.

The fact is that the Demoncrats’ or Leftists’ approach to politics, that of personal destruction, does not advance anything. Those who do not like the Miers nomination are not doing their cause any good by tearing, shredding, and maligning Miers or the President. The speak first and think later pattern of behavior can create harm. When you are offended or puzzled or surprised it is time to stop and think about your own feelings and avoid the knee jerk response.

Where most of the problem seems to be is that very many mouths are not thinking in broader terms about their goals, their perceptions, or their rationale. Thinking is hard but that shouldn’t stop those who put intellectual integrity in high esteem.

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The false paradigm: a lack of perspective

‘The flailing response to Katrina’ – say what?

After his administration’s incompetence and indifference had lethal consequences in Katrina’s wake, President Bush has been scrambling to regain his footing. [ Jackson, Eased out of the big easy . Chicago Sun-Times 05oc04]

There is an awful lot of this throwing around of words like ‘incompetence’ and ‘indifference’ and ‘failure’ and so on. But when push comes to shove, those throwing such words cannot support them with anything more than anecdote, rumor, and hyperbole.

The problem is that such statements are thrown out with confidence and repeatedly such that they can become ingrained with an aura of truth. Yet they are vague allegations only supported out of context or with anomoly. They presume a negative paradigm and view everything through a distorted lens.

In regard to the Big Easy, it is being found that the paradigm of federal malfeasance traces back to the earliest reporting. Local and state corruption was ignored. Many reports were based on unsubstantiated rumors. Angry people demanding immediate gratification were paraded as responsible and reasoned. Politicians trying to minimize malfeasance and maximize influence were given much exposure to criticize and complain. People describing facts or being reserved about their descriptions of the problems they encountered were grouped into the generic collection of mud throwers no matter the substance or quality of their evidence.

This has become so bad that many feel the need to qualify the examination of warts and small errors and anomolies else an angry partisan will take what one says as proof positive of their views, even if absurdly out of context.

Meanwhile, it can be seen that the response to the disaster was timely, effective, and perhaps overdone. The problems of local, state, and federal coordination and management delayed some efforts but did not have undue actual consequence and they did provide good meat for learning for future improvement.

In only a month, the region is getting back in its feet. The ‘doom and gloom’ contingent is shifting from lack of immediate gratification to disasters of excess spending and poor accountability in government funds. Perhaps it will be found yet again that the expectations of failure, malfeasance, and incompetence will have been grossly exagerated. The expressions of those expectations will once again be swept under the rug. It makes one wonder how big the lump in the carpet will need to get before people start to look and find all of the detritus of false paradigms and lack of perspective.

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Responsibility arguments misused

The Belgravia Dispatch refers to an Intel Dump entry that, in turn refers to Joseph Galloway. The idea is that malfeasance on the bottom is the responsibility of the top. Therefore President Bush is directly responsible for Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo abuse.

The rationale is that the causes of “17 separate investigations of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and other prisoner abuse scandals” are poor training and leadership. The is an assumption that the 17 separate investigations seem to have concluded is invalid.

In other words, the outcomes of the investigations are dismissed. The common thread seems to be that the dismissal is required because it doesn’t get to the preconceived judged guilty party. From that point, a reason must be constructed to refute the investigations and a bulwark must be built around that construction to maintain its ‘dignity.’

The constructed rationale is suspect from many directions. Most fundamentally, it is that of inability for independant individual action.

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scientific fact? evidence?

Consider Moebius in this one from Cheat Seeking Missles quoting Gary Bourque at Both Worlds:

Bookman has one valid point–lying to promote truth is counterproductive. But focusing on irrelevancies in order to avoid a more important point is a form of lying.

So which is worse, advocating the teaching of a scientific fact which happens to benefit a particular faith, or suppressing that fact because of, well, whatever motives evolutionists have, which nobody ever bothers to question?

Anytime the word “science” is used as an adjective the skeptic’s alarm should sound. Here, the issue is about this “scientific fact” and evidence should raise questions. What facts? What evidence?

Bothworlds posits

In fact, the likelihood that our universe–with its astonishingly fine-tuned capability of producing life–is accidental is not only remote, it’s mathematically impossible. So the next step is not only logical, it’s necessary: If the universe can’t be accidental, then it must be purposeful. That’s not faith, that’s reason.

And this illustrates the basic flaw. Here again, there is the suspicious adjective (“mathematically”). Believing a probability is impossible because it is very small is a belief, not a rational conclusion. If this is an example of a ‘scientific fact’ it is also an illustration of poor critical thinking and flawed logic.

It is also interesting that describing of a lie is considered name calling in a fit of labeling the person describing the lie as Elmer Fud.

Bourque is caught on a Moebius strip and trying to stay on only one side. Perhaps a higher standard of intellectual integrity would help ease the mind and clarify the idea that both God and our intellect can exist simultaneously and that we do not need blinders to accomodate them on the same side of the Moebius strip.

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