Archive for March, 2007

McCain offers a petition

Senator John McCain has recently been reported to have been in discussion to change parties in 2001 and is known for legislation such as McCain/Feingold that attacks fundamental rights. Now and then, though, he hits something solid. His recent petition on the bill for supplemental spending supporting the troops is an example of the latter. He is asking for signatures to the following

  • The supplemental appropriations bill that passed the Senate on March 27, calling for a date certain withdrawal from Iraq, is nothing more than a guaranteed date of surrender.
  • It is a refusal to acknowledge the dire consequences of failure, in terms of the stability in the Middle East and the resulting impact on the security of all Americans, whether home or abroad.
  • Democrats have chosen the politically expedient position of failure rather than putting aside the small politics of the day in the interest of our nation and the values upon which this nation rests.
  • We the undersigned remain steadfast in our support for the war against terrorism and mindful of the consequences of failure in Iraq, even if Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid refuse to acknowledge those consequences.
  • We support our troops and the new strategy and believe it should be given the opportunity to succeed. American national security interests are directly at stake. Success or failure in Iraq is the transcendent issue for our foreign policy and our national security. People say they want to defeat the terrorists, but if we withdraw from Iraq prematurely, it will be the terrorists’ greatest triumph.
  • If we leave Iraq based on an artificial timetable, al Qaeda will be free to plan, train for and conduct operations from Iraq just as they did in Afghanistan before 9/11.
  • These points clearly describe how the matters of national security are being suborned to petty politics. Senator McCain’s request is one to consider carefully and support as a means to voice the need for appropriate priorities in governance.

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    Selling the totalitarian mindset

    Dr. Santy on the Totalitarian Mindset

    If you can convince people that objective reality is an illusion; that A does not equal A; that black is white; and that good is bad; if you can make them accept that everything is subjective and relative; then you can breath new life into those tired totalitarian doctrines that by all objective measures and standards led only to a “utopia” of human suffering and death. Through the manipulation of language, everything can be distorted, without the messy need to resort to facts, logic, or reason.

    From a discussion forum about Airstream brand RV’s moderator:

    Incorrect ideas, false statements and wrong data are allowed based on my understanding of things. If one wants to say that A/S are made of wood, I may have an opinon of that statement, however the person making that statement has equal opportunity to make it.

    All are entitled to oprinons that is what this forum is based on. Please dissagree with him. Just don’t get mean and attack the person.

    What the forum moderator misses is that when facts get confused with opinions then there is no real way to determine what is mean and what is attacking the person. When the mission and purpose of the forum is subject to post modernist relativistic interpretation, all bets are off. The discussion degrades into dishonest diatribe – but that’s OK because whether or not an aluminum RV is made of wood or not is just a matter of opinion. Right?

    The example is to illustrate that there is a spectrum of implication in this totalitarian mindset. The manipulation of language is not only used by national politicians but also in more local social groups. It is the frog boiling story where the heat was raised gradually until, when the frog finally noticed, it was too late. That is why integrity is important to each of us in all aspects of our dealings with others.

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    Words

    Charles Krauthammer talks about Words and War at NRO.

    What is striking is how much of the debate in Washington about Iraq has to do with not the war but the words. Who owns them, who deploys them, who uses them as a bludgeon.

    The argument has devolved into the nuance of which words to use and not the fundamental concepts of the circumstances at hand. This is why the politicians are suffering such low esteem – they are worried about words first and issues second and have lost sight of which is the master and which is the servant.

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    5th Column update from Strategy Page

    22 March 2007 It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This – this is just one tactic among many:

    Islamic terrorists are encouraging their supporters, who can write in English, to get on American web sites and pretend to be friends or family members of American soldiers or marines. The “media jehadis” are instructed to tell stories in line with the anti-war tone of American and European media. … This strategy is already being executed by American media is very subtle ways. … by concentrating on the Sunnis, you get an anti-war human interest story, without revealing that you are examining the self-inflicted tribulations of the people who have caused all the problems in the first place. Information War doesn’t get any better than that.

    and an example of the result of this years long effort can be seen When Realities Collide:

    Young marines, who are often the best recruiters, are increasingly encountering civilian friends and acquaintances who have a completely unrealistic idea of what’s going on over in Iraq. The marines try to explain that the enemy is real, and evil, and that for the many Iraqis, who are victims of the Islamic terrorism, what the marines do is very much appreciated. But the U.S. media has created a mythical Iraq, where U.S. troops are unwelcome interlopers, and valiant Iraqi freedom fighters sacrifice themselves to expel the foreign invaders.

    What is particularly stunning about this particular example is that the strategy is one that has been defined by the enemy as a primary tool against the U.S. Even knowing that the terrorists groups depend upon media misinformation to destroy the will of the enemy, that media takes no notice of its participation as agents of the terrorists. When faced with this participation, the behavior becomes something particularly of interest to psychologists such as Dr. Santy but it does not bode well for our culture or our civilization.

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    Allegations of science pandering

    Texas Rainmaker called it the Silence of the Lame. The issue is the claims of James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. He thinks the Bush administration has improperly squashed climate scientists and their research. He is irked because he does not get the funding he thinks he should and for other reasons. The absurdity of his claim is pointed out in his responses at a Congressional hearing reported in the Washington Times.

    “We have over 1,400 opportunities that you’ve availed yourself to, and yet you call it, you know, being stifled,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican.

    Mr. Hansen responded: “For the sake of the taxpayers, they should be availed of my expertise. I shouldn’t be required to parrot some company line.”

    The fact is that an employee is burdened by his employment. There are proper ways to disagree with policies of one’s employer. Mr. Hansen illustrates an approach that puts narcissism first. Anyone who gets in his way or disagrees with him is subject to insult and allegation. The rules and previously accepted norms of civil behavior are to be cast aside as the end justifies the means.

    In a case like this, to evaluate Mr. Hansen’s allegations a first criterion is in the behavior of the accuser. In this case the behavior lacks integrity in many ways. That should create a great deal of skepticism about the credibility of the allegations and stimulate some questioning about the motivations behind them.

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    Western culture dissonance

    Jeane Kirkpatrick famously noted that “They always blame America first” describing the “San Francisco Democrats” in 1984. Michael Barone wonders about this phenomena in his The Blame-America-First Crowd column at TownHall.

    Then Mark Steyn takes a look at A conscience that moved the world in the Washington Times. That takes a look at Wilberforce and how the English Navy were the stimulus to end slavery as an accepted social norm.

    Barone blames the education establishment and notes:

    What they have been denied in their higher education is an accurate view of history and America’s place in it. Many adults actively seek what they have been missing: witness the robust sales of books on the Founding Fathers. Witness, also, the robust sales of British historian Andrew Roberts’s splendid “History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900.”

    Roberts points out almost all the advances of freedom in the 20th century have been made by the English-speaking peoples — Americans especially, but British, as well, and also (here his account will be unfamiliar to most American readers) Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders. And he recalls what held and holds them together by quoting a speech Winston Churchill gave in 1943 at Harvard: “Law, language, literature — these are considerable factors. Common conceptions of what is right and decent, a marked regard for fair play, especially to the weak and poor, a stern sentiment of impartial justice and above all a love of personal freedom … these are the common conceptions on both sides of the ocean among the English-speaking peoples.”

    Steyn shows an example of the actual history from 200 years ago:

    “Slavery was as accepted as birth and marriage and death, was so woven into the tapestry of human history that you could barely see its threads, much less pull them out. Everywhere on the globe, for 5,000 years, the idea of human civilization without slavery was unimaginable. … What Wilberforce vanquished was something even worse than slavery,” says Mr. Metaxas, “something that was much more fundamental and can hardly be seen from where we stand today: He vanquished the very mindset that made slavery acceptable and allowed it to survive and thrive for millennia. He destroyed an entire way of seeing the world, one that had held sway from the beginning of history, and he replaced it with another way of seeing the world.”

    It seems very difficult for some to accept, especially some who have benefited greatly from the advances of Western Culture that it is that culture that is the best cure for the many ills that obsess them. Barone asks why and Stein shows just how serious the question is.

    Update: American Digest has another take on the cause of the blame America first syndrome.

    “You must have shame. Shame is what we have when we look around us. We are ashamed of what was given us. You must join us; share in our shame at being Americans, at being the last best hope of earth.

    “Join us and join the rising despair of people who, believing in nothing, believe only in the self, the life of the senses, the mollifying of guilt, of ‘the expense of reason in a waste of shame.'”

    That gets into fundamental emotions of guilt from perceived superiority.

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    There is something profoundly wrong

    Senator Joseph Lieberman took note at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on March 12, 2007 about there being something profoundly wrong.

    There is something profoundly wrong when opposition to the war in Iraq seems to inspire greater passion than opposition to Islamist extremism.

    There is something profoundly wrong when there is so much distrust of our intelligence community that some Americans doubt the plain and ominous facts about the threat to us posed by Iran.

    And there is something profoundly wrong when, in the face of attacks by radical Islam, we think we can find safety and stability by pulling back, by talking to and accommodating our enemies, and abandoning our friends and allies.

    The esteemed historian of the Middle East, Bernard Lewis, was in Washington this past week. He said that, when he looks at the world today and the threats we face, it reminds him of the 1930s—and that he hears far more voices that sound like Chamberlain than like Churchill.

    Why is this so?

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    What is it you say?

    Dr. Sowell considers what some are saying and what they really mean.

    Talk about “supporting the troops” or “honoring the dead” is part of the general corruption of language for political purposes. It is like saying “I take full responsibility,” when all that this phrase really means is: “You have caught me red-handed and there is no way to deny it, so I will just use these words to try to dissipate your anger and escape punishment.”

    This may be, perhaps, why the movie 300 is off to record breaking box office receipts. When it comes to honoring the soldier and rhetoric that matches reality – even when stylized, people recognize intellectual integrity when they see it.

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    Justice technicalities

    The Libby verdict has created a lot of discussion. That verdict appears classed with the Martha Stewart verdict in being a matter of technical, but not substantial, justice. In the words of one who was recently lambasted for a joke that went over nearly everyone’s head:

    Lewis Libby has now been found guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice for lies that had absolutely no legal consequence.

    Ann Coulter’s column Shooting Elephants in a Barrel uses this as an example to the point that “This makes it official: It’s illegal to be Republican.” The comparisons and contrasts summarize many of the points that have even the Libby jurors wondering about. – one of them expressed regret to Chris Matthews regarding her judgment against Libby.

    The fact of the matter is that the Libby trial was the seeking of a ‘pound of flesh’ for the impeachment of the previous President. In that regard, much substance is sacrificed for the cause. After six years of effort, this conviction is all they have. It is a bitter pill and that disappointment does not go down well. For those of a more sane temperament, the revelations of what really happened – and didn’t happen – is making the irrationality of the Wilsons and those who are driven by other than reality more clear. The faux or misplaced outrage must be properly qualified and must be seen for what it is else we all suffer from trying to run real lives in a delusional universe.

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    What is science?

    Larry is asking What is Science? in the case of a creationist who was awarded a Ph.D. in geosciences from Rhode Island University. The issue is whether making the award should be influenced by personal integrity. Is passing test the primary concern or should a doctor of philosophy also be able to express the values and ethics of science at a personal level?

    Of course there’s no rule in science that says you must accept the current consensus. Quite the contrary. One of the requirements of good science is that you always question authority and try to keep an open mind. Skepticism goes hand-in-hand with curiosity. But, as the saying goes, your mind mustn’t be so open that your brains fall out.
    – – –
    So, how do we resolve differences of opinion in an academic environment? How do we distinguish between a revolutionary and Bozo? The answer is we fight it out in the meeting rooms and the journals. The weapons are facts and rational thinking. If someone wants to question a scientific consensus then all they have to do is marshal the facts and evidence and present it to the scientific community in a rational and logical manner.

    In this case, the perception is that the candidate was ‘manipulating’ the system in a dishonest way in order to obtain a credential of authority. There are two potential failures here. One is an ‘end justifies the means’ approach based on religious zealotry. The other is in the limited standards used to determine to award the degree.

    Weakness in standards is met by manipulation to achieve a dishonest result. The lesson is that any society must be careful about its presumptions of honesty and balance the potential harm in malformed decision with the potential harm from those who take advantage of its trust. The terrorist is on one end of this spectrum; the criminal a bit closer to neutral; this case a bit closer; and abuse of association membership even closer. Just how far out on this line must an action be before the society takes action? For the scientist, it is a matter of the precision and accuracy of measurement and one only has to look at the arguments regarding capital punishment to see how this is abused.

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    Engineers love challenges

    General Walsh is an engineer and he has the opportunity – and the challenge – that is an engineer’s dream come true. He has the chance to ‘engineer’ a large and sophisticated country from near base principles. That country is Iraq.

    Red State reported on a conference call to discuss this with the General.

    The General started off with the startling assertion that he wanted to be in Iraq because he considered its reconstruction an unprecedented opportunity. He said that reconstructing the entire infrastructure of a country this size was a huge challenge, but that as an engineer there is no place he would rather be. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, he considers the story he has to tell to be one of success, not of failure. While he freely admitted security challenges and problems with fraud, he also said that even given these problems progress continued, and that oversight mechanisms were in place.

    Nobody has ever done something like this before. What more could an engineer want to challenge his capabilities and show his stuff?

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