Archive for April, 2006

Who are we fighting, anyway?

The release of a movie about Flight 93 plus the black box recordings from the last moments of that flight heard in the Moussaoui case rend not so distant memories to the surface for many. William Murchison writes on the Deepened specter of darkness in the Washington Times wondering about who people are fighting and why. When you consider the dialog about firing the SecDef or all of the allegations about the President that have no substance or, now, the firing of a CIA agent who leaked classified information in order to impugn the USA, there is reason to wonder who the citizens of the US think the enemy really is.

The point is that half the time nowadays we seem to take our eye off the ball — or the target — in the war on terror, finding more time to discuss the who-leaked-what, cryptic document than the beastliness of a clique that has pledged to destroy the (corrupt, immoral, infidel, you name it) West, with maximum loss of life.

That public officials must be held to account seems obvious. That a great people seem more emotionally involved in incapacitating their own leaders than in identifying and punishing enemies is not a sign you would normally call cheerful. Except to the enemy, who must be atwitter over every indication of flagging American will in Iraq and elsewhere.

There is a sense of priorities that seems to be missing. The horrors of 9/11 seem to mean very little to some when compared to their political disapointments. As with the CIA operative and others who have not considered the law to be sufficient to govern their actions, or a few retired generals who haven’t thought through ethical and moral implications of their actions, or elected representatives whose rhetoric is used by terrorists to support their views – just what is the tragedy and who is the enemy anyway?

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The Euston Manifesto

Austin Bay’s column Anti-Americanism smackdown in the Washington Times describes a sign of hope for rational discourse from the left.

On May 7, 2005 — two months before the terror attack — a group of British scholars, intellectuals and political activists met in a central London pub to discuss the War on Terror. Later that year, they would meet again, in a pub not far from Euston Station, to draft what has become known as “The Euston Manifesto.” The name comes from the pub’s location, but the connection to the terror attack — and what to do about jihadist terrorism — is not coincidental.

The Euston Manifesto defines fifteen values related to current events and the ideologies of the progressivist movement often correlated with left wing politics. It is a response to the rhetoric often seen from the left such as in US Democratic Party leaders or the Daily Kos. The conclusion of this manifesto makes this clear:

It is vitally important for the future of progressive politics that people of liberal, egalitarian and internationalist outlook should now speak clearly. We must define ourselves against those for whom the entire progressivedemocratic agenda has been subordinated to a blanket and simplistic ‘antiimperialism’ and/or hostility to the current US administration. The values and goals which properly make up that agenda — the values of democracy, human rights, the continuing battle against unjustified privilege and power, solidarity with peoples fighting against tyranny and oppression — are what most enduringly define the shape of any Left worth belonging to.

The Euston Manifesto has received a lot of attention lately in right wing and conservative circles. Some may say this is because it disdains anti-Americanism, is pro-Isreal, or supports the liberation of Iraq. However, it also contains leanings towards socialist economics and some leftists hubris. What does attract attention from the more conservative is that it is rational, addresses ideas and ideals, and provides a solid foundation for productive discussion and debate. In other words, it appears to have an intellectual integrity that many other liberal or progressive offerings lack.

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An obsession with death counts means no death counts

There seems to be an obsession with death tolls in the media and some other quarters. It is an obsession with death counts that can find no value or reason to make any single death count as significant in any way other than as a simple statistic.

Dr. Sanity touched on this in discussing the fact that those who seek to remove as many Americans from the realm of the living as possible have themselves no value for life. That is why they recruit suicide bombers from among the ignorant or deficient. They are using the knowledge that they are attempting to destroy an enemy that is horrified at death but also places no value in a manner that considers any death as counting for anything.

Cindy Sheehan and her ilk believe that the fight against tyranny isn’t worth a single life. Most of the lunatic left have taken the position that America has nothing worth fighting for anyway.

When there is nothing that can make a death count it seems that one could also wonder about what it could be that might make a life count. Is there anything that can add value to one’s a life to make it more worthwhile or more precious? Patrick Henry had one such value expressed in a famous slogan. MLK also had such values. Seeking to make one’s own life and those of others implement such values would seem to be a worthwhile effort, a way to make one’s death count for more than just some statistic in a death count obsession.

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Tax Day, do you check the box?

On the tax form there is a check box where you can indicate whether or not $3 should go to a campaign fund. Pardon My English provides Helpful Advice For The Taxpayer: Why You Should (or Should Not) Check That Box so you can get the full scoop on what that choice is all about and how it works. This has been available for some time so do check the comments to see what others think.

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Denial and the understanding of behavior

Dr. Sanity has been posting quite a bit about narcissism and denial from a psychological point of view. Strategies for Dealing with Denial- Part II : Logical Fallacies and Rhetorical Ploys Used in Denial provides an interesting taxonomy with examples.

But the Powerline folks have also highlighted other examples from the current press. My Two Cents Worth contains observations about the discussion of David Horowitz of David’s new book, The Professors. This appears to be about the Perfectionist fallacy. Then there is Tomorrow never knows that pulls out a Causal fallacy highlighted by Mark Steyn. Why Taliban Man at Yale? highlights letters that expose a smokescreen and an appeal to feelings. Unhinged and proud of it cites a Washington Post that illustrates a number of substantive fallacies.

Finkel also appears to credit the left’s excuse for its lunacy –”powerlessness.” But, again, there’s no evidence of this level of hysteria by conservatives during the long periods when they were out of power. … Indeed, if the Daily Kos “screw em” crowd ever achieves what it considers the appropriate level of power, these folks are more likely to begin trying to impose on the objects of their hatred the psychotic fantasies they blog about (“I just want to see these [expletive] swinging from their heels in the public square”) than to behave with civility.

Dr. Sanity’s taxonomy is something that can be objectively applied but denial is not an rational behavior. By its nature it rejects objective measures in order to support its dellusion. This is why productive discussion, whether argument or debate, is rather fruitless when denial and narcissistic behaviors become paramount. The only thing you can do is what Rush Limbaugh recommends (unless you are a shrink hired by the person to engage in therapy!) which is to let them expose their behaviors and then highlight and contrast the behaviors with more sane and rational behaviors. You are not going to change those who will not engage in intellectual integrity but you can help those who are a part of the group to see what it is and to learn and to better keep themselves on a sane and rational course of behavior in order to make good decisions.

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Civility contrasts

Vasko Kohlmayer defected from Communist Czechoslovakia at the age of 19. He lives in London and works in the publishing industry. He made note of the current political situation in the US in a column he titled Gallantry: What Liberals can Learn from George W. Bush

A relative few presidents in this country’s history have endured the kind of vicious and spurious attacks that have been leveled against George Bush. Completely abandoning any sense of decorum or statesmanship, some of the highest officials in the Democratic Party have repeatedly called him a liar, a loser, an election-thief, an airhead, and a fraud.

In the last week we have seen a three year old story resurface as new in a misrepresentation about leakage of confidential information. A prosecutor has been humiliated, for at least the second time, by having to change his argument to the court. The WaPo misrepresented a ‘leak’ by putting a minority opinion as if it were the only opinion. Common to all of these episodes? Damage the President. The response?

But no matter how malicious they have been, George Bush has always faced his critics with affability and goodwill. Even his most bitter enemies – hating him as they do – would be hard pressed to fault him for being uncivil or personally unpleasant. He displays none of the unkindness, harshness or anger one would normally expect from someone engaged in a political struggle against those who frenziedly seek his destruction.

One person in the ‘hate Bush’ camp was rather ignorant of basic history such as that behind the US position on Iraq. The advice for this person was to make sure to read more than just headlines and a paragraph or two. In newspapers like WaPo or the NYT you need to pay particular attention to the last quarter of a news story and then to the corrections and errata that is published a few days later.

Dr. Krauthamer named it Bush Derangement Syndrom or BSD. It does seem rather odd.

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What’s happening with the weather this spring?

The local news channel decided that maybe the weather this spring was a bit odd. Drought ended. Storm after storm bringing new snow to the mountains. Where’s Spring? – So they dig up their favorite climatologist at a nearby research institute and ask him what is going on.

‘Well, you see, we had this warming trend for near ten years and it seems something happened last year and this year has the coldest spring on record. These things are cyclical. When things like this happen, we suspect the ocean. … ‘

Indeed, the jet stream this year has been persistent in feeding Alaskan gulf cold moisture to the Western US. That, like the recent hurricane cycle, aren’t global warming but rather cyclic phenomena that are poorly understood.

Carl gets going on “Science, Lack of” at No Oil for Pacifists citing several references where even scientists seeking rationalization of unusual things fall prey to a lack of rigor in their thinking.

Speculation, yes. Sci-Fi, yes. Scare tactic in support of socialism, yes. The next Oliver Stone script, yes. Just don’t call global warming “science.”

We will probably see some “global warming” in a few months as the unusually cold Spring turns into Summer, the snow melts, and disaster awaits ?

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Hubris

The Opinion Journal provides a quote from a John F. Sugg interview with Jimmy Carter for Creative Loafing Atlanta:

Carter fittingly used a parable to illustrate how he’d like to see the political/religious debate unfold.

“I was teaching a Sunday school class two weeks ago,” he recalls. “A girl, she was about 16 years old from Panama City [Fla.], asked me about the differences between Democrats and Republicans.

“I asked her, ‘Are you for peace, or do you want more war?’ Then I asked her, ‘Do you favor government helping the rich, or should it seek to help the poorest members of society? Do you want to preserve the environment, or do you want to destroy it? Do you believe this nation should engage in torture, or should we condemn it? Do you think each child today should start life responsible for $28,000 in [federal government] debt, or do you think we should be fiscally responsible?’

“I told her that if she answered all of those questions, that she believed in peace, aiding the poor and weak, saving the environment, opposing torture . . . then I told her, ‘You should be a Democrat.’ “

From a very thin film on the surface this sounds very good. A little bit deeper inspection raises questions. Issues of serious disagreement have been phrased in a way to demean and dehumanize. Consider the assertions.

Peace or War – It is a sick person who wants war but it is also a sick person who will stand by and watch terrorism, genocide, and the suppression of freedoms. The real question is not loving peace or war but rather the price you are willing to pay for it and how you define it.

Rich envy – again, it would be sick person who would want to abuse the poor and unfortunate. Instead, a proper question should be on what is the best way to help. This is the ‘give them a fish or teach them to fish’ issue.

Environmental protection is also something we all desire. The question is about the proper role of man’s stewardship, how much the poor should suffer for environmental idealism, and the effective costs and risks analysis.

Fiscal responsibility is another of the same ilk. No one wants to leave a debt for their children. The question could be how to leave a best legacy but the real issue raised is that of intellectual integrity in obfuscation of cash debt versus growth and capital.

But what really takes the cake is the hubris of it all. What kind of sick mind would subscribe to the sort of viewpoint that this former president is espousing in a Sunday School? What does it say about the person who is convinced that nearly half of his fellow citizens favor war over peace, favor outright environmental destruction, and have no concern about fiscal responsibility? This is not a disagreement. This is racism. It is bigotry. It is ugly.

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Civility and free speech: another case

Dr. Sanity takes note of a complaint by ombudsman Howell of the Washington Post:

This is the community that whines most about “free speech” and accuses everyone who disagrees with them of limiting their rights–as they actively seek to shut you up. They will now use you as the example they have been searching for to demonstrate the “conservative” bias of the media–simply because you dared to suggest that they are not perfect.

If you haven’t noticed, Ms. Howell, this does not happen much when you point out the inconsistencies or hypocrisies of the Right. Of course, there are despicable people on both sides of the political spectrum who do not feel that they should have to resort to reason and logic to justify their “arguments”. Who simply direct all the vitriol and vomit within whenever you question their ideology. But I think you will find that, on the whole and compared with the Left, the Right is a paragon of virtue in this area.

This is touched on from another direction by Dr. Sowell in his column Are Facts Obsolete?

What is more frightening than any particular policy or ideology is the widespread habit of disregarding facts. Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey put it this way: “Demagoguery beats data.”

Even institutions that are set up to pass on facts — the media, schools, academia — too often treat facts as expendable and use their strategic positions to filter out facts which go against their own preconceptions.

In other words, Dr. Sanity, Ms. Howell, and Dr. Sowell are all talking about the same thing. There are people who know what is true for them, do not want to hear anything that will challenge their truth, and respond with a significant degree of hostility to any source that exposes anything that does not help them maintain their world view. In such conditions, new ideas cannot be tolerated and opinions and suggestions cannot be explored. There can be no fruitful debate or argument as there can be no learning to come from it.

And, as all three of these people have noted, the most severe cases of this lack of intellectual integrity are positively correlated with a common ideological leaning. It must change and a start on this change is by exposure and visibility. Only when there is transparency and people can see themselves as other see them will there be a hope for improvement and honesty.

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VD Hanson tries Making Sense of Nonsense in his January 20, 2006 NRO column.

It used to be that we went for minimum change. Stability was the goal. And this was the plan since for most of the twentieth century. This was seen as the safe plan even if some of the unfortunate were abused or the bedfellows were rather unpleasant. Order is comfort. It means we can predict what will happen and be safe.

Something happened in 2001 that changed things. It highlighted the fact that that order didn’t really make for comfort and safety. It made it clear that, if we wanted to be safe that comfort and appeasement and ‘we all want to get along’ were not the philosophies to follow. This new perspective stimulated a change. And change we did. And that change means that those who wanted the comfort of the familiar were uncomfortable and that means complaints and other dissonance.

Shiites claim that we are caving in to the terrorist supporters …

Sunnis counter that we are only empowering the surrogates of Iranian crazies …

Iranians show their thanks for our support for their spiritual brethren in Iraq by humiliating European diplomats with promises to wipe out Israel. …

Pakistani Street expects Americans to provide debt relief, send them aid, excuse their support for our enemies—and then goes wild should we ever cross the border to retaliate against al Qaeda terrorists in their midst …

At home, much about Iraq has been turned around in Alice-Through-the-Looking-Glass fashion. …

So how do we make sense of what seems so nonsensical? Rather easily—just keep in mind four general talking points about America’s recent role in the world and most things gradually become clearer.

Point One (for Americans): My own flawless three-week removal of Saddam Hussein was ruined by your error-prone postwar peace.

Point Two (for Middle Easterners): We are for democracy—unless you Americans help us obtain it.

Point Three (for Europeans): We are privately for and publicly against what you do.

Point Four (for everyone else): When angry at either the United States (or yourself,) just blame the Jews in America, and Israel abroad.

Sometimes in these crazy times, that is all you need to know.

Think about those four points. They all describe how reality is based on a false premise with an ideological underpinning that is too putrid to air out in effective discussion. VDH hits home on just how vacuous much of the current dialog really is. There is no meaning to expression if there is no intellectual integrity behind it.

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iNet meanies

An RV enthusiast noted Geek to Live: How to deal with Internet meanies. A respondent suggested some places that have developed a reputation for such poor behavior.

Want to have some real fun and get a taste of what freedom of speech means to some people and what rude, ugly, foul mouthed behavior is go to one of these or all of these websites Atrios, Daily Kos, or the Democratic Underground. Look for the comments section under each post and click. Any one of comments is fine. It doesn’t matter. Enter a comment something like this: “I support our country and its troops. George Bush was right in invading Iraq.” or anything patriotic or supportive of America that may in some minor way be related to the original topic. DO NOT enter your correct email address or correct name whatever you do. Then come back 8 hours later and read the comments about your post. You will revise your standards for ugly internet behavior I guarnantee you.

These sites are the top progressive or liberal or left wing or Democrat Party places that have attracted the likes of John Kerry on occasion. It may just be correlation but it is worthy of note that it is a significant correlation between uncivil and bigoted behavior and ideological leanings.

And yes, when these correlations surface in an argument somewhere, there is an immediate response for any right wing oriented website with similar language. The tactic ends up trying to rationalize equating the local high school newspaper with the NYT as far as audience and influence.

We see the same bent in the Feingold and Leahy efforts to censure the President on what is becoming more and more obvious to be a false basis. We see other Democrat partisans impugn the President with unfounded allegation and judgment. These are ad hominem attacks on the person and not on the behavior. That is often a first clue that intellectual integrity is not getting much consideration.

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