Archive for January, 2009

Maintaining the narrative

Technology is one of those topics that still hasn’t bled out. For many it is an untouchable mystery and a compendium of magic spells. That means it is also hubris bait. This can be seen in ‘news reporting’ that attempt to maintain a political narrative. Charlie Martin describes examples in Technical Hooey from the White House

the stories demonstrate a lot more knowledge of politics and attention to the “nasty, stupid Bush administration” theme than they show technical knowledge.

The larger narrative is that the previous administration was dumb, ignorant, incompetent, etc, etc, The new administration is trying to use that narrative as a foil to show that it is smart, educated, competent, etc, etc, – and cool!

The problem is that no one gets to the White House with the attributes often assigned to the previous administration by its opponents. That narrative can only succeed if it is based on an ignorance of real world phenomena maintained by gullibility.

One of the real world phenomena to deal with is that of the paranoia about the Executive Branch that has resulted in legislation that burdens necessary security and the need for confidential consideration of issues and positions. That means that communications systems are restricted in many ways. Those who work in the world of large corporations know about some of these kinds of restrictions such as those that attempt to inhibit recreational use of the I’net and those that attempt to protect trade secrets. Government has rather more important security issues to deal with.

What it does tell us, though, is that readers who want to be well informed can’t afford to let down their guards. Clearly, the legacy media and even technical experts are perfectly capable, and more than willing, to be led astray, as long as it fits the “dumb Bush administration” narrative.

There are things you can look for to raise your skeptic’s threshold. The use of derogatory globals is a key clue on any topic (e.g. “technological dark ages”). Implied superiority based on personal preference is another (e.g. the Mac vs PC debate). Obfuscation via technobabble, referring to unfamiliar technologies and using technical wording, is also a means to hide reality.

The sad part is that there is no need for this. A record can be made based on achievements that is a much more solid record than one built on a false referent.

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Sometimes we just don’t know how good we have it

Peter has a warning about When women are property, not human beings that is a reminder that we need to be careful about our presumptions.

I constantly struggle to explain to my lady friends in America that the freedom to be themselves, that they take for granted here, simply doesn’t exist in many other parts of the world. They find it hard to believe me, even when I show them newspaper articles of forced marriages in the Islamic world, women being sold to prospective husbands for a ‘bride price’ in many tribal cultures in Africa, and – here in America as much as anywhere else – the horrible phenomenon of men murdering their wives and children rather than accept a divorce, on the grounds that ‘if I can’t have them, no-one else will’.

Friends, for those of you with daughters who are still growing up, please don’t keep them in ignorance of these realities. Many young American girls are naive to the point of insanity! They really think they can go anywhere, do anything, and no-one can or will stop them or hurt them. You might want to point out the example of Natalee Holloway . . . and she’s not alone. Girls are killed like that each and every year in popular student holiday spots. It continues to happen, because the girls are never warned by their parents, and they never learn.

The plea is one of the generic class of trying to advise teenagers how to stay alive and healthy but it also illustrates just how difficult it is, even for adults, to see that the world is not like the home.

There is often an assignment of guilt that does not have a fully realistic world view. The status of women is just one issue. Slavery is another. Terrorism also falls prey to this limited vision. It is difficult to even debate these issues when some of the participants in the debate just cannot understand how the world at large is a different place than their own living room.

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Forgetting history

The Anchoress- Obama: Yeah, Iraq war caused the hate…

he merely agrees with the dishonest framing by his interviewer … seems to assert that “as recently as 20 or 30 years ago” relations between the US and the Arab world were good, and to conveniently forget the hostage-taking of 1975 or the bombings of the ’80’s – including the killing of US Marines. … the attacks that averaged one every 18 months or so from 1992 through 2000 …

Americans have forgotten a great deal. They have forgotten that in addition to hitting the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, there were people actively trying to fly a plane either into the Capitol Building or the White House, until they were taken down. They forget that on that particular day, September 11, 2001, Laura Bush, Ted Kennedy and numerous other education-focused lawmakers were gathering in the Capital for hearings on Early Childhood Education and that had the terrorists succeeded, an impressive portion of our leadership would have perished in a truly bi-partisan manner.

They have forgotten the eerie silence of the post-9/11 skies, or what it was like to wonder “when we’ll be hit again.” They have forgotten because they were kept thoroughly safe, so safe that they were able to boo the man who’d protected them (as he turned the office over to another) without any sort of fear, whatsoever – without fear that they would be silenced by a strong arm, or that they’d be blown to bits by a strong bomb.

I wonder what it will take – while we let go of our memories in the after-glow and light slumber of love – to shake us awake.

It is not perhaps so much as forgetting history but rather the creating of history that should be of most concern. A lie by omission is more easily corrected than a lie of commission. What has happened here is the straw man argument. History has been rebuilt to rationalize dissonance and discomfort. That, in turn, has been used to define changes that can create a more comfortable situation. The problem is that changes made for the sake of change often lack direction and may well go in a direction that just makes things worse.

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Self flagellation

Occasionally you’ll see media reports about these religious parades with people whipping themselves. These Flagellants do this as a form of penance. These days, it is not only religious nuts who practice this sort of thing but entire political movements. Bruce Thornton has a good description of this modern form of the practice in “Unwarranted Self-Abasement” (

that reflex of guilt and shame about our society and history, that eager rush to apologize for our presumed sins, that willingness to blame ourselves for the world’s ills and take seriously the self-interested slanders of states whose record of dysfunction and crime outstrips ours by miles. … seems eager to don once again the hair shirt of American sin.

Only a toxic self-loathing could put the views of such people ahead of our own security and belief in the justice of our cause.

This idea that criticizing your own culture and values is a sign of intellectual sophistication has many roots. The Enlightenment abandonment of faith and the rise of rationalism as the only road to truth unleashed a corrosive criticism that destroys everything but builds nothing.

When you look to the world around you, what you see first and in most detail is yourself. That puts your own imperfections as highly visible and annoying. If you see no further, if you do not see the big picture, if you do not learn to give credence to your own morals and values, then you become susceptible to the depressing effects of self loathing and self contempt. In a national sense, you can do this with hubris. That is, you can maintain your own ego but still feel guilty about your nation and community by blaming its faults on others, by separating yourself from your community to protect your own self while, at the same time, loathing the greater, social, self.

How much worse is our condition today, when this “self-abasement” has now hardened into banal clichés repeated in popular culture, school curricula, and the received wisdom of badly educated pundits … On the contrary, to the jihadists fired with faith in the righteousness of their own cause and beliefs, this eagerness to shoulder the blame for their dysfunctions, this desire to exchange flabby words for vigorous deeds will simply convince them that for all our wealth and power, we don’t really believe in our professed values and so are ripe for destruction.

We weaken ourselves with doubt and uncertainty and an inability to accept imperfection that is tempered by continual efforts towards improvement and growth. That weakening is what worries.

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Gitmo, a paradigm problem

More Tales from Gitmo provides a good example of the paradigm problem in the efforts against international terrorism.

First is the pre-judgment —

One of my major problems over time with the Bush administration’s handling of detainees is that every story about the process is rife with disorganization and incompetence … it simply says to me that the Bush administration’s policies in regards to terrorists suspects in its custody was an utter disaster.

Then there is the ‘not sharing my goals’ problem —

one of the things that puzzled me for some time was the utter failure of the Bush administration to find one, just one, clear-cut case that could be used as an exemplar of why the camp was needed.

The paradigm of the view is established —

If the US government cannot make a credible public case against the man considered the mastermind of 9/11, then who in the world could they make a case against?

Dissonance starts to be evident —

we hold people for years, we tell the world that we know, for certain, that they are the worst of the worst, and yet we don’t even have complete case files on them?

There is a quote that provides a glimpse into the paradigm differences —

the Bush administration’s focus on detention and interrogation made preparation of viable prosecutions a far lower priority.

Consider these examples to contrast the paradigms.

First is that the interest was not in creating a criminal prosecution case against the inmates. They were captured abroad by military personnel or in concert with other nation’s anti-terrorism efforts, often in flagrante delicto.

Second was that the primary purpose was security, not prosecution. Security means removing threats and learning more about potential threats so that they could then be removed. In this international terrorism effort, the threat is not from an individual nor even a gang but rather a supra-national organization not bound by the traditions and customs of national relationships but with the level of support and power often otherwise only found in national entities.

A third dimension to this paradigm problem is one of jurisdiction. That goes from international diplomacy down to the community level and also between the military, state, and civil organizations within and between nations. It is not a simple issue of one agency having jurisdiction with a simple matter of handing over prisoners to the proper authorities and negotiating who gets the first trial.

To cast judgment in these issues is an example of the hubris that so seems to plague political discourse. It is one thing to disagree about the purpose and intent of capturing foreign terrorists. It is another to use one’s opinion as a basis and referent for casting judgment. The entirety of Taylor’s discomfort comes in the inability to envision or accept a paradigm other than the criminal justice system when it comes to people behind bars or fences. That inability is a limitation that needs careful consideration in conducting a campaign to prevent terrorist attack.

It should be noted that the example cited here does not invade the disingenuous rationalization some use to argue against the security efforts in the international terrorism campaign. This is the canard that greater security requires an equivalent reduction in personal freedoms.

These are issues, both the criminal versus military balance and the security versus rights balance, that are not simple, not clearly defined, have no ‘one size fits all answers’, do have a many gray areas, and need much more consideration and care in discussion than they have usually received in the public discourse.

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Where have the Christians gone?

The Pastor Mark Roberts takes a look at the prayers at the Inauguration and wonders about what is missing.

I do realize that Robinson told the New York Times in advance that he wasn’t going “to pray a Christian prayer.” In fact, he said he was “horrified” at “how specifically and aggressively Christian” previous inaugural prayers had been. Robinson followed through quite nicely on his promise to pray in a non-Christian manner. But, in the end, what’s left is milquetoast religiosity. He leads us to ask God to give us tears, anger, discomfort, patience, humility, freedom, and compassion, all of which are quite fine. But there’s nothing about doing justice, loving mercy, or walking humbly with our God. Under Robinson’s leadership, we don’t ask God to help us love, forgive, feed the hungry, or heal the sick. Something is woefully lacking here . . . genuine Christianity.

This state of being horrified at aggression shows up in many issues. A common thread seems to be in matters of self defense where being aggressive in protecting one’s self is a source of judgment. Whether the self defense is that of an individual in his home or with Israel in protecting its citizens from terror or with the U.S. in its efforts to assist Iraqi citizens gain freedom from oppression, there is a violent plea to lie down and not pursue aggressive self defense.

It appears that we do indeed have a “milquetoast religiosity” in many of our venues. The focus is on “tears, anger, discomfort, patience, humility, freedom, and compassion.” “But there’s nothing about doing justice, loving mercy, or walking humbly with our God.” It seems many no longer know what justice really is, what mercy means, or that “walking humbly with our God” is not always a comfortable journey.

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What is the measure?

A report on the Antartica temperatures has warmed up the AGW media winds. Skenderberg brings up an important point about these climatological studies in Climate “Researchers” Discover That Antarctica Is Cold. The key issue is one that should bother anyone with firm conclusions about global climatology.

This is something I’ve continually tried to point out, since there’s something that gets lost in the shuffling of attempts to study “temperature” over large ranges of space (and time). “Temperature” can only exist as a definable quantity at a particular location in space at a particular point in time. That’s just basic physics – and once you go beyond that, you are entering a realm of murk that is much less enlightening and much less exact.

It’s always important to carefully evaluate what you actually can “know” and what you are not really able to “know.” The mere ability to compute numbers does not mean that those numbers have solid meaning.

The problem with any conclusion about global warming, much less anthropogenic based, is that of measuring what you are calling warming or cooling on a global scale. You could do this by trying to measure atmospheric energy content but the inherent difficulties in that measure are why temperature is often used instead. With temperature, though, you need to know its distribution throughout a medium and other properties of the medium such as its mass and volume in order to obtain a proper measure of its ‘coolness’ or ‘warmness’ at any point in time.

The discussion is clouded by the modeling and measures talking about fractions of a degree change in temperature over decades being used to explain massive ice melting or other traumatic events. There is a disconnect between the theories and the realities that is creating cynicism in some circles.

Basic science is always about the measure. What is the measure? How precise is it? How accurate is it? Does it really measure what we are interesting in learning about? Skanderberg highlights and describes the importance of these concerns.

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Why it’s different this time

The charts cited in Nice chart: 1980 vs 2009 are enough to tell you that there is something different. Activity is not all that bad but asset valuation stinks. Craig Brown provides seven more reasons answering the question about Why Is This Recession Different?.

Consumers won’t come to the rescue as they are paying down debt and reducing spending. There is no sweet spot as everything seems to be losing value. The pattern of spending more than you make by leveraging loans coupled with a stagnant increase in actual income will require adjustments that hit not only consumers but also the financial institutions and much of the ingrained capitalization thinking.

Change is afoot and it is not likely the kind of change the politicians had in mind in the last election campaign speeches.

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The American Thinker on Bush

The American Thinker has several articles about the outgoing President that provide a look at issues and attitudes worth considering.

Miguel A. Guanipa says Take My President, Please in wondering how the comedians will fare.

Regrettably, because that which is reasonably tolerated as edgy and daring by most sensible people, tends to be perceived by many acutely unbalanced individuals in their audience as fact; and so many pernicious smears and vicious lies persist, absent any efforts at accountability on the part of those from whom they have spawned, thanks to their careless and juvenile attempts at humor.

But a day of reckoning is afoot. And it is this most unlikely group of people which will not be celebrating

under the auspices of what promises to be the most liberal administration in history, liberal comedians will have to exercise their gifts within far more prohibitive and strictly defined parameters, in order to put out a fraction of what they were able to get away with when a conservative president was in charge.

Yomin Postelnik discusses The Bush Legacy and reminds us of events that we may not remember.

Writing about the legacy of any president must, almost by definition, be an exercise in contrasts.

In the false and childish worldview of the media, the coverage of any individual must boil down to either glorious adulation or backbiting vilification.

The media likes to portray the making of crucial decisions as either a shining moment of brilliance or as a random act of naivety, if not the impulses of evil. In reality, all major presidential decisions are made after intense consultation with a wide range of experts.

Common wisdom that is shaped by today’s shallow media is as worthless as it is false. Its broad acceptance is a tremendous disservice to the nation.

Then there’s Paul Kengor with Bush at the Stone Table: The Sacrificial Presidency of George W. Bush making an analogy between Bush and Aslan in a C.S. Lewis classic.

There will likely be a lot of such material fading away in the next few weeks but never really disappearing. Some will just offer platitudes or well established talking points which can often be distinguished by an emphasis on words such as “failure” or “mistakes” or an obsession with death counts. Others will be a bit more balanced and look at the real world with real complexity discussing practicality and balancing of issues in implementing decisions with actions.

UPDATE: another one by J.R. Dunn, Bush and the Bush-Haters

There’s nothing new about any of this. It’s present in Orwell’s 1984 in the “Five-Minute Hate” against the imaginary Emmanuel Goldstein, himself based on Leon Trotsky. The sole novel factor is its adaptation as a conscious tactic in democratic politics. That is unprecedented, and a serious cause for concern.

This will be an interesting study in emotion versus intellect.

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Nice chart: 1980 vs 2009

Carpe Diem says Could Be A Lot Worse. WAS A Lot Worse in 1980s.

Bottom Line: When it comes to the current state of the economy, it could be a lot worse. It WAS a lot worse in the early 1980s, by the five key economic variables above: prime rate, inflation, jobless rate, 30-year mortgage rate and real gas prices.

The bar graph shows the picture. See the blog post.

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After the last play

In a football game it is traditional for the teams to shake hands and head home after the game to get ready for the next one. Gloating, bitterness, and other unsportsmanlike conduct is frowned upon. In politics it seems such civility is in rather short supply.

There seems to be a bitterness and a hatred as many, especially in the media, are more interested in a vile farewell to the old than in a celebratory welcome of the new administration. Bygones can’t just be gone, they must be trampled and insulted and subject to invective and gloating.

If you want to see just how off balance this “good riddance” ethos is, see The Anchoress who says Thank you, President Bush – UPDATED. The essay contains many links to comment and report that shows just how bad the situation is as far as balance, perspective, and civil or sportsmanlike behavior.

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On the recession

Rick Newman talks to John Steele Gordon who made a few points about the recession in light of history.

Failure is important in capitalism. It’s what keeps our noses to the grindstone. If you can’t fail, why work hard?

It also leads to innovation. Show me a socialist world that’s produced any innovation. Fear of failure puts the fear of God into you. This country, for the most part, is very understanding of failure.

Banks are a special case. They’ve always been and always will be the circulatory system of the economy. If they had gone poof, it would simply have been horrific for everybody.

In the 1930s, the guys running Japan and Germany thought we were pretty soft. Obviously they were wrong. We’ve been the richest country in the world since colonial days. One third of the Hessians who fought for the British in the Revolutionary War looked around after the war and decided to stay here. They must have liked what they saw. We’ve always been accused of being soft. I don’t think it’s any different today.

my grandmother told me that during the Depression she told the maid that if anybody knocked on the back door, to give them some food but tell them there was no work. Think about that—people knocking on doors looking for work and food. That’s unimaginable today.

Credit used to be a privilege. Only after World War II and the GI Bill did the majority of people start buying homes on credit, with mortgages.

We often take the world we live in for granted. Every now and then it is a good idea to consider just how special it is.

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Dissonance about the legacy

Jon Ward takes a look at the fact that the “Debate over Bush legacy [is] not so simple”. The contrast is between US policy expression in the Mid-east and Africa.

This was the man, after all, caricatured by many critics at antiwar rallies as a baby-eating, blood-soaked monster. And yet here he was performing true good works, and effective at that, with no apparent motive of self-interest.

“They were simply utterly different policies,” Mr. Ruxin said. “In sub-Saharan Africa, we had a policy that was deeply empowering and humanitarian.

“I cannot deny and can only compartmentalize the difference between our foreign policy in Iraq and Afghanistan and in Africa.”

“People need to look at the wider record rather than just use a caricature based on one decision.”

This is a classic means of handling cognitive dissonance by compartmentalizing reality so the parts you can handle are separated from those that just don’t fit. Eventually, if health is to be retained, the walls between the compartments will dissolve and the contribution of the various parts will be seen in their proper role in the overall reality.

Another such expression of dissonance is the recent repeated headline that some administration official has admitted that torture has occurred. The contrast here is between the stridency of its reporting and the back story. The use of these allegations to rationalize opinions has resulted in numerous investigations and commissions. All have failed to yield anything of significance. Despite this reality, anything that can remotely seem to be supporting the allegation is given strong emphasis. Hopefully, reality will eventually come into play on this one, too.

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Whispers evolves

The blog Whispers is focused on straight thinking about current issues, discussion, debate, and reporting. “We all have an obligation to each other and to ourselves to ‘get it right’ to help each other understand what really is and what things actually mean – not what we think might be or wish might be.”

As a renewal of this focus, the techno-geek stuff has been moved to TechComm Labs and categories for justice and finance have been added here to better cover the range of ideas that influence how we live and think.

The idea here is not to opine so much as it is to highlight how others see the world around them and to make note of discrepancies between what is written and what may be observed or logically concluded; it is about seeing a bigger picture and realizing the implications of what you think.

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About excluding evidence

The courts have decided that a mistake on a warrant should not set a criminal free. John Hawkins opines that

The crime that was committed in the first place and the policeman’s violation of the suspect’s rights should be treated as completely separate issues.

From Miranda rights readings to the exclusion of any evidence that might be tainted by improper procedure, the police authorities and prosecution are severely constrained by anything they do wrong. The problem is that it is society that is punished by letting the guilty go free, not the persons that committed an offense against the criminal.

What Hawkins is lauding is the court recognizing that police or other government employees who violate a person’s rights should be punished for that effort directly and separately from the target of the rights violation.

It seems this effort to punish society for the wrongs of its representatives is a part of the societal guilt in Western Cultures that plagues many efforts to recognize achievements in personal health and freedom.

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White House brag sheet

The White House has published Highlights of Accomplishments and Results, The Administration of President George W. Bush 2001 – 2009. It is available as a 52 page PDF at

The booklet has a lot of pictures, quotations, and listings of factoids that illustrate its title. If you want to get an idea of what this President has done, it is a good summary. If you want material to vent a personal hatred, then this will probably provide plenty of opportunity for nitpicking to find things to complain about. It is too bad there is so much of the latter.

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The art of impediment

Michael Laprarie describes how political opposition became a means to inhibit and obstruct lawful policy expression. The stimulus is from recent statements of the President that are misrepresented as asserting that the president personally authorized illegal torture.

As far as I am concerned, the real impediment to an honest dialog about the deprogramming, softening, and and interrogation of captured terrorists has been from the Democrats, because their primary objective has not been to protect America, but to exact revenge upon the Bush Administration. This is most evident in the incredible hypocrisy of their professed horror at the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo, while they knew — AND APPROVED — of prisoner interrogation methods almost from the get-go:

This is a reminder of that story tale about The Boy Who Cried Wolf. The political opposition has so marked themselves by their ‘oppose at any cost to reason’ that it becomes difficult in the extreme to have any rational discussion of important issues. Let us hope that the stigma of ‘crying wolf’ can fade so that when a wolf does appear at the door the neighbors will not turn a deaf ear to the plea for help.

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The money pool: about public pensions

The attitude has changed about pensions. It used to be that a pension was precious and funds were “invested in safe government securities, such as bonds or U.S. Treasury bills. Professional managers oversaw the funds with little political interference.” Pension funds are no longer valued in that way.

baby boomers whose politics were forged in the 1960s and ’70s began using those pension funds to advance their social visions. Investments designed for the long-term welfare of retirees began to evolve into a political hammer. Some good occasionally came from the effort, as when companies were pushed to become more accountable in their practices. But advocacy groups often used their clout to direct money into pet social projects with dubious fiduciary prospects. Sometimes the money went to the very companies and financial instruments that, in the wake of the market meltdown, are now widely derided.[Jon Entine, The Next Catastrophe, reasononline]

It is only when you feel secure about your future that you can put it at risk. The parents did not take future fiscal security for granted but the children do.

The use of political criteria may be fine for affluent investors and activists who gamble their own money and assume the extra risk, but pension funds should be held to a higher standard.

It seems that ideologues who get a bit big for their britches may end up busting a seam. That will not be pretty.

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Home ownership: Good thing or not?

Mark Perry takes a look at The Downsides of Widespread Homeownership; Have Americans Overinvested in Housing? Probably.

Up until about 1995 the home ownership rate was below 65%. Since then it has taken a bounce to nearly 70%. This is in response to social pressure, backed by government policies, that owning a home was a ‘good thing’.

In the past, owning a home was the major capital investment for many. It was the means by which they could invest their income disguised as a housing expense. That provided a nest egg for retirement security that was acquired as a necessary use of money earned. Good thing to save money, isn’t it?

One problem is that the money in housing isn’t working. It represents a net reduction in overall economic efficiency. From 1890 to 1990, the return on residential real estate was just about zero after inflation. By putting pressure on housing, its value bubbled and that created significant returns that became common after 1990. This asset appreciation was not based on productivity gains or other solid value, only on market pressure.

Perry also notes that owning a house ties you down. That tends to inhibit mobility in seeking better employment prospects. That is also not good for economic growth. Owning the home also changes politics – think of the famous California proposition 13 that froze property taxes. Being attached to a home also tends to promote land use regulations and other artificial constraints on development and change.

The point is that there are things to consider. The money pool has been big enough so that that home ownership, and the quality and extravagance of the homes owned, could grow significantly. But a part of that money pool was misdirected causing financial distress. In addition to that were consequences of the growth in home ownership that changed attitudes and positions that, in turn, created outcomes whose impact may not yet be completely visible.

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On that ‘patriotism’ thing

Front Page Magazine has been analyzing the argument to try to illustrate its fundamental nature. In an exchange between Ethan Porter, Associate Editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, and the authors of Party of Defeat, they illustrate the difference if methods by comparison and contrast. How an argument is made is often a significant clue as to the quality of the argument. The topic here is related to the banter about patriotism that has occurred over the last several years.

Like every other critic of the war who has responded to this indictment, Ethan Porter responds not by refuting our argument or defending Democrats on the merits of their performance, but by inventing a different argument than the one we made and refuting that. Thus Porter charges us with confusing the Democratic leadership with fringe radicals in and outside the Party and arguing that “the Democratic Party and the left are all but interchangeable entities, and as such, they work in concert.” He says this conflation is characteristic of our book, whose “core presuppositions,” according to him, “are fundamentally and factually inaccurate.” To refute the argument he puts into our mouth, Porter explains that, “the hard left has sent a few members to Congress, just as the hard right has, but left wing Democrats are plainly not in control of their Party, no matter what Horowitz and Johnson believe.”

The problem is that those hard left radicals quoted in The Party of Defeat are not randomly selected wacko radicals but rather leaders of the political party in question. The techniques used to ameliorate a guilt and denigrate a debate opponent are visible separate from the points at issue in the debate. Some are flavored by perception and weighed by differing value systems but those contributions should only go so far. In a dialog as presented at Front Page, look for who is casting judgment and who is offing opinion, who has assertions departed from fact and who anchors assertions in citation and observable phenomena.

Reality is close at hand yet, it seems, out of reach for all too many.

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