Archive for March, 2009

Fighting fair: is it an issue?

Patterico Pontificates about David Horowitz Is Right — And Also, Terribly Wrong and hits a powerful insight about personal intellectual integrity.

Now that our guy is out of power, we have to decide: did we hate those tactics because they were wrong? Or only because they were used in service of the other guy?

David Horowitz and others worry that the right will exhibit the same behaviors that Krauthammer labeled as ‘Bush Derangement Syndrome’ (BSD). This worry illustrates a difference between schools of thought. Such concerns did not seem to be of an issue for those who opposed the previous administration. They do seem to be a concern for those who oppose the current administration. The difference is a sensitivity to the problems of ‘ad hominem’ debate and how it poisons viewpoints.

The key here was illustrated by the Limbaugh expressed desire for failure. Limbaugh was after a failure of policy and ideology but it was misrepresented as a desire for personal failure. Those prone to BSD seem to be after the person while the current opposition is trying to stay focused on the policy and ideology. The misperceptions about Limbaugh’s statements worry Patterico. It seems he wants to ‘fight fair’ in the old school manner where cheating and distortion was not considered appropriate.

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Lawfare – just what is the law, anyway?

The Weekend Pundit things They Should Understand The Law Before Enforcing It. The topic is Glenn Beck’s interview of Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal regarding the AG’s investigations of corporate bonus payments.

Apparently these gentlemen have a difficult time understanding what is the law from what they’d like the law to be.

Some think Beck was rather hard on the AG. Reality sometimes is rather hard as well. In this case it is about the proper use of power by elected officials and whether they are bound by what is actually defined, the law as written, or by what they think is expedient and fits their ideas about the way things should be.

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Dissonance in despair

My Generation’s Moral Recession by Charlie Nathan is a contradiction. First is the message of despair about the moral delinquencies in the generation just taking the helm of society.

It’s a shame we never learned the solid moral values necessary to accomplish these goals and maintain a healthy civil society.

Then there is the dissonance you can find between such a well written essay and the essayist. The Moral Recession has its exceptions as does the dismay about the quality of the up and coming individuals in our society.

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Catalog of specious argument types

Scott notes a description by Brehm

He is simply intellectually dishonest. He is the master of the False Choice (pass the stimulus or do nothing & let the economy “tank”; socialize health care or “stand pat” — he said that last night), the Straw Man (the approach of putting moral “dogma” above “science”), the Scapegoat (those at the “commanding heights of our economy” (preface to his Budget) and the sly Non Sequitur (the breathtaking argument that to revive our economy and control spending, the government must take over health care and energy and expand federal spending on education). He deploys them in every argument he makes.

One of the first things you need to do in evaluating an argument is to look at its structure. The common logical fallacies are well described but that does not limit their use by some. If you go to the effort of detecting them, you will at least be aware of the quality of the arguments you hear that are trying to influence your views.

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Lawfare: who’s the enemy?

There are those who are still protesting President Nixon. Bush also gathers small and vehement active protest as well as serving as a foil for the current administration. Even candidates like Alaska governor Sarah Palin are still under attack (see Lefty Foes Attempt to Bankrupt Palin Family). The tactics are the modern ones of legal harassment. That is the tactic discussed as a major contributor to medical costs and business destruction.

In her term, ten ethics complaints and 150 FOIA requests have been filed. (One of the complaints, about improperly firing her state public-safety commissioner, predates her national prominence.)

While holding elected officials accountable is laudable, most of the matters are beyond trivial.

It is hard to tell just whether it is just plain bitterness or a strategic threat elimination process at work here. Either way, it exceeds the bounds of constructive civil behavior and harms us all. Seeking justice is one thing. Tearing apart enemies under the context of justice is another.

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The emotion of the moment was anticipated

The WSJ is wondering if it is A Smoot-Hawley Moment? Congress on AIG and banks: ‘Oppressive, unjust and tyrannical.’ The question is about whether an emotional knee jerk response that has its own problems is also slipping a disaster like the Smoot-Hawley tariff act in 1930 in under its cover.

Congress’s willingness to wreak such vengeance against a specific class of Americans is still as offensive as a matter of principle as Justice Washington and the Federalist Papers noted. The Founders feared the punitive whim of the legislative mob as much as they did the tyranny of a King.

The question for the moment is whether the inefficiencies in the governance process will be sufficient to dampen the emotions and allow reason and knowledge to surface and temper irrational action.

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Revisionist history and other confusions

What was then and where we are now and why it is so provide a lot of territory for artificial support for fantasies. The Middle East Forum takes a look at one example in Conflating History with Theology Judeo-Christian Violence vs. Islamic Violence by Raymond Ibrahim. The fantasy here is about Islamic terrorism and the ‘everybody does it’ argument. Since Christians conducted the Crusades, then an Islamic ideology behind the terrorist attacks is just more of the same, aren’t they?

While such questions are popular, they reveal a great deal of confusion between history and theology, between the temporal actions of men and what are understood to be the immutable words of God. The fundamental error being that Judeo-Christian history—which is violent—is being conflated with Islamic theology—which commands violence. Of course all religions have had their fair share of violence and intolerance towards the “other.” Whether this violence is ordained by God or whether warlike man merely wished it thus is the all-important question.

The point being made is that of making a distinction between what people believe and what they actually do. Crime and sin are failures of the human. Much of religion is about clarification of these failures so they can be set apart from desirable behavior and to provide a path of redemption so that those who suffer these failures have reason to change their lives and minimize such failures in the future.

There is an historical context to behavior. Group or social behavior such as war also has context. Much of the Biblical violence cited to rationalize current violence applies to a specific historical context. Trying to pretend that that context is the same as the current one is not appropriate.

This is where Islamic violence is unique. Though similar to the violence of the Old Testament—commanded by God and manifested in history—certain aspects of Islamic violence have become standardized in Islamic law (i.e., Sharia) and apply at all times. Thus while the violence found in the Koran is in fact historical, its ultimate significance is theological, or, more specifically, doctrinal.

Revising history by selecting just those parts to support your point of view is only good for that purpose. It is not helpful in achieving goals that require bringing others to your views.

And it is from here that one can best appreciate the Crusades. However one interprets these wars—as offensive or defensive, just or unjust— it is evident that they were not based on the “Sunna” of Jesus, who exhorted his followers to “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matt 5:44).

In fact, far from suggesting anything intrinsic to Christianity, the Crusades ironically help better explain Islam. For what the Crusades demonstrated once and for all is that, irrespective of religious teachings—indeed, in the case of these so-called “Christian” Crusades, despite them— man is in fact predisposed to violence and intolerance. But this begs the question: If this is how Christians behaved—who are commanded to love, bless, and do good to their enemies who hate, curse, and persecute them—how much more can be expected of Muslims who, while sharing the same violent tendencies, are further validated by the Deity’s command to attack, kill, and plunder non-believers?

We can learn from history and that learning can lead to a more healthy society. If we do not learn, especially if we twist and distort reality to fit specific fantasies, then the result is a sick society.

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The Bush War

It was just a few days ago that the ethical restrictions on stem cell research were lifted with much proclaiming about burning the ‘Bush war on science’ straw man. Just a couple of days later, a bill was quietly signed that put those restrictions back in place.

and so the war against the previous administration goes. Many emphasized empty words but little change in action.

Scott takes on another one at Powerline about Erasing an important distinction. This relates to the dropping of the ‘enemy combatant’ term as a means to delineate the President’s authority to detain a certain class of individuals outside of the civil system. As is being pointed out, it is just the term that is being dropped, not the authority to detain.

Scott’s daughter Eliana is quoted:

One of the ironies of the War on Terror is that many in the Bush administration have been tarred as war criminals, Mr. Feith chief among them. In reality, they took no shortcuts around the Geneva Conventions, although those shortcuts were readily available to them. Not only that, but, as the Protocol I debates demonstrate, the distinctions they drew between terrorists and lawful combatants are made to protect innocent civilians and preserve the integrity of international humanitarian law against those who would hijack it for political purposes. A glance back at the history of the debate on this issue demonstrates that it is they who have remained steady advocates of a principled position, and their critics whose views have zigzagged with the times.

It appears that the “integrity of international humanitarian law” has now been set aside in favor of “political purposes.” It seems that there is a fear, or a political purpose, against applying proper labels that help create distinctions necessary for defining proper action.

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Peer review and other checks and balances failed

Orac discusses what he claims is The most massive scientific fraud ever?. He notes that science relies on a fair measure of trust. One should keep in mind that science in only one aspect of human relations and effective relationships always require a ‘fair measure of trust.’ Our business world and our culture also require being able to trust others.

What most angers me about this case is the massive betrayal of trust. The public expects that its scientists, at the very least, will be honest about their results. Too much depends on it, especially in medical science, where it is people’s health that is at stake.

What that means for those of us who defend science- and evidence-based medicine is that every crank alt-med site and blog on the Internet is going to be harping on this incident as The Proof That Conventional Medicine Is Hopelessly Corrupt and their favorite woo is being kept down

Whether it is Madoff or Reuben, a fraud perpetrated on others is made easier when the situation is complex and the methods used for verifications of truthfulness fail. There are two major outcomes of such breaches of trust. One is to pile even more process on the verification process. The other is that the fraud is used to rationalize and excuse other frauds that do not have the severity with a false comparison rationality.

Adding even more processes is costly and its side effects can inhibit or even destroy growth and development. The ability to sell ‘minor’ frauds is also costly in many ways. A breach of trust runs to the core of civilization and cannot be taken lightly. The problem is what to do about it. That problem is another issue in itself and is suffering its own dissonance.

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ACLU: What’s your paradigm?

Andy McCarthy takes at look at how The ACLU Discovers the Merits of Military Chain of Command for examples about the implicit paradigm used in the war on the GWOT and the U.S. and Western Civilization in general. The issue at hand is that “the military judge presiding over the war-crimes commission case against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and five other terrorists accepted and made public their “Islamic Response” to the government’s allegations — a diatribe in which they proudly admit that they carried out the 9/11 atrocities.”

First up is the nature of the independence of military judges. This point of view has its contradictions.

Since they were first announced in 2001, the military commissions have been condemned as illegitmate by the ACLU because the judges are not independent like civilian court judges — they are military officers, and thus they answer to the Defense Department’s convening authority, the Secretary of Defense and, ultimately, the President. Now, the ACLU is complaining that the military judge is defying the commander-in-chief, and wondering whether Secretary Gates is asleep at the switch in allowing such insubordination.

the ACLU whines that the judge is not kowtowing to the commander-in-chief and has made public the damaging admissions of their “clients.” And all this hypocrisy for what? To benefit terrorists at war with the United States and proud of having murdered thousands of Americans — Islamic radicals who want to continue terrorizing the country, who’ve already indicated they want a “martyr’s” execution, and who don’t care what the ACLU thinks about the legal case.

In other words, the agenda isn’t really the military efforts towards justice for its detainees. It isn’t about a President abusing powers and running roughshod over civil rights. It is about something much more insidious, something which cannot be honestly explored with intellectual integrity by its adherents.

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The Stem Cell Debate

The Volokh Conspiracy has some very good points at issue countering the post Obama Removes Stem Cell Barriers.

Brian G says “I am sickened to hear the paralyzed people on the news talking as if they will be walking again in a few years thanks to Obama. I am pretty sure they will not, and their hope will all of a sudden start to wane come about a week and a half into November 2012.”

Jim Hu says he is a molecular biologist and he has “never liked this being cast as part of the so-called “Republican War on Science”. As kunkmieser points out, this is about deciding person vs. non-person. Science has nothing to say about this, IMO.”

David Walser doesn’t …

understand is why Bush’s policy keeps being misrepresented in the press and elsewhere. Bush did two things with regard to embryonic stem cell research: 1) Prohibit the use of federal funds for research that would involve destroying additional embryos. 2) He dramatically increased federal support for embryonic stem cell research (which was easy to do, since there was virtually no federal funding for this research before Bush took office).

Reports of Bush’s policies consistently misstate the first thing and omit any reference to the second. Bush did NOT prohibit embryonic stem cell research. He simply choose not to fund one form of that research while funding another form. Saying that he prohibited the research is like saying abortions are illegal in the US because the federal government does not pay for them.

Thomas A thinks it is “A good move only for those unconcerned about the morality of destroying human embryos for research. As I’m sure you’re aware, the Bush order did not prohibit embryonic stem cell research, merely federal funding of it except for existing lines. The Bush policy was an elegant compromise, and in retrospect, looks almost prescient.”

josil thinks “The “war on science” is just another slogan used to avoid dealing with the issues in a unemotional way. If we really wanted to rationalize science funding we might find other criteria to direct those funds other than appeals to the gut. What if anti-cancer research funding was based on the proportion of people who suffer (and die) from the disease? I bet the funding distribution would be different than it is today.”

The point is that the recent change in US policy in regards to stem cell research was based on a false premise and seems to have run past, and over, issues worthy of more significant introspection. That is not science but rather base politicing.

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Beware of false knowledge

Maggies Farm quotes George Bernard Shaw in describing the Top Ten Reasons For ObamaCare Are Based On False Information.

The major overhaul of American health care pursued by President Obama and his supporters is based on many false premises and is excessive and likely to do more harm than good.

Whether it is comparing to other countries or making judgments about what can be afforded, there are many premises that need careful consideration for their veracity.

But this issue isn’t the only one where there are problematic premises. Betsy’s Page talks about Ideology trumping science and the hubris about changes in government all of sudden having a bit more integrity in regards to science.

This is all of the same ilk that has folks looking in strange directions to try to find a fitting paradigm. The Anchoress cites the American Leningrad – UPDATED in this vein. The reason for this effort is seeing how a distorted view of reality is being used for political ends. That reminds many of the type of propaganda that was used to support regimes the opposed western cultures in the cold war. It chills.

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Spawn of the 60’s and “what war?”

Andrew McCarthy thinks The War Is Over. The courts have taken over the battlefield and pretended it does not exist.

For more than two centuries, we proceeded under the assumption that a self-determining people makes its most significant decisions through the political process, with policymakers answerable to voters and therefore removable if they fail either to protect our security or to respect our freedom. Courts were insulated from the political process, but only because it was understood that they respected their limited role (safeguarding the individual rights of Americans) and refrained from entering the political sphere — especially the formulation of national-security policy, which involves the most important decisions a political community makes, decisions for which the courts have no institutional competence.

One of the first important cases in this process was Boumediene which placed the judicial branch over the legislative or executive in regards to foreign affairs. The al Odah case, which prompted McCarthy here, sets new standards in the rights of enemy combatants that requires the government to disclose intelligence resources it may have that is somewhat related to the case at hand. Issues of materiality of evidence no longer consider whether the country is at war or not nor the status of the defendant.

The situation is the spawn of the 60’s, the ultimate distrust of government and the implicit trust in its opponents.

While the judges fret over the biases of our informants, Americans ought to be aghast at the biases of our judges. Throughout the opinion, there is a sense that the good faith of those fighting the war and defending it in court is always in question — the judges take umbrage at any suggestion that they should simply “accept the government’s own designation.” But they do not extend that same skepticism to the defense lawyers, human-rights activists, and anti-American agitators, such as the Center for Constitutional Rights, who have volunteered their services to those captured making war on our country. These thoughtful folks, we must implicitly trust, are just trying to do their job. Whatever helps them helps the court — and what could possibly be more important than that?

This is the essence of oligarchy. Trust is conveyed to persons by their position only and not by the manner by which they achieved that position. Being elected and held accountable by those elections provides no deference over being a part of the right group. That is a fundamental problem.

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On that ‘miserable failure’ mantra, now reversed

It was a concern discussed in the Federalist Papers 63 that some think is pertinent now.

“There are particular moments in public affairs when the people, stimulated by some irregular passion, or some illicit advantage, or misled by the artful misrepresentations of interested men, may call for measures which they themselves will afterwards be the most ready to lament and condemn. In these critical moments, how salutary will be the interference of some temperate and respectable body of citizens, in order to check the misguided career, and to suspend the blow meditated by the people against themselves, until reason, justice, and truth can regain their authority over the public mind?”

The current administration’s repeated assertions that there is opportunity in crisis is one of the prompts for this concern. Byron York connects this with Why The Founding Fathers Would Want Obama’s Plans to Fail. Others are more concerned by the knee jerk Bush Reversal Syndrome. This is where many of the poorly founded allegations of the left about administration or policy or procedure are set aside with little thought and with rhetoric that is dismissive and insulting.

This is related to the Limbaugh brouhaha about wishing the President would fail. The distortions on that assertion are being revealed and it is also being highlighted that there is a hypocrisy in that those who are utterly dismayed about such a thought were in favor of just such a position a few years ago except that it was failure in war and not failure in economics that was the desire.

People voted for what some call “hopenchange” and it appears they will get it. Most were rather complacent about what they might get because of an underlying assumption that “it couldn’t happen here” because the U.S. population and representatives would not allow it. The “it” is in the category of what has happened in Venezuela, for example. York is one who is beginning to wonder if maybe “it” could happen here. He still hopes that the governance structure will prevent that occurrence but he, and many others, seem to be getting rather worried.

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A test for the ‘drive by media’

The Daily Inter Lake Principles and targets: When left meets right notes that the grade was not indicative of good perception skills.

Rush Limbaugh has been criticized for saying he hopes the president fails in his efforts to reshape the economy, most recently in this newspaper by columnist Ellen Goodman, who called Limbaugh “a talk radio host who’d rather be (far) right than have his country rescued.”

This kind of twisted commentary is what makes one pessimistic about the future of the country.

Of course, Limbaugh is ‘just an entertainer’ – but that only means his goal is to create audience and, in his field as in politics, that is helped by controversy. If you accept the view that political ideology is a win or lose type of game, then getting into the opposition’s mind is a part of it. Limbaugh did that in response to attacks on him. He took advantage of a weakness and played their game to his benefit,

it almost seems like Alinsky’s “rules for radicals’ are what govern our nation today even more than the U.S. Constitution. When thinking about the undefined “change” Obama promised us before he was elected, consider this. Alinsky wrote: “Change comes from power, and power comes from organization…. The first step in community organization is community disorganization. The disruption of the present organization is the first step toward community organization. Present arrangements must be disorganized if they are to be displaced by new patterns…. All change means disorganization of the old and organization of the new.”

Besides playing ‘their game’ to win, there is also the factor that one should not abandon one’s principles in the fight. That is where Limbaugh gains his strengths. He has put the misperception and distortion of the major media on record over time and labeled it (“drive by media”). By issuing a provocative assertion, he set the stage for a demonstration of his claims.

Limbaugh never said he didn’t want Obama to succeed in ‘rescuing” the United States; instead he said that he didn’t want Obama to succeed in destroying the country by turning it into a European-style socialist state.

But it doesn’t matter what Limbaugh really said, does it? Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals’ included this unpleasant advice: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

The idea isn’t what some think Limbaugh said, it is what he meant. That, for anyone honest enough to listen, is well understood as much of the power he uses to gain his audience is in a consistency in philosophy. His ‘Obama fail’ episode not only illustrates and underscores his observations about the ‘Drive by Media’ and the Left in general, but generates a controversy that feeds his ratings. That is winning the American way.

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Negotiating analogy

Readstate makes an analogy of interest in Obama’s Rush Quickens. One of the campaign issues was about discussions with foreign leaders without precondition. The issue was whether the US should stoop to discussion with the likes of petty tinpot dictators or terrorist mullahs. Now there is a domestic analogy.

Before I go on, I find this theme quite amusing. Why? Well, because it’s the same theme that conservatives have employed to explain why a U.S. president shouldn’t engage in “diplomacy” with terrorists and thugs like Ahmadinejad and Osamma bin Laden! It was a claim the left called stupid. Now, all of a sudden, the same argument is the chief argument to use. Only one word describes this situation; hypocrisy.

This gets particularly interesting in the gifting exchange with Great Britain’s Brown brouhaha. It is a matter of choosing friends and enemies and making it clear which is which.

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The war on energy

I does seem rather funny. Headlines today include Yucca no longer an option and Energy saving by daylight saving time still debated. There seems to be a war on energy.

It seems rather absurd to be drawing a tight leash on the production of energy by the most economical and safest means, by imposing severe taxes on the most common sources of energy, by setting exploration for energy off limits, and then promoting ‘drop in the bucket’ schemes like daylight savings time or super ecologically unfriendly weak sources such as wind or solar.

Like any war, this war on energy will have its costs. As we saw when the price of gasoline went to $4 per gallon last year, the cost will hit low and it will be inflationary. Expensive and restricted energy hits low because it makes a direct impact on critical living costs in the lowest classes in society. Higher energy costs are not going to help spur industry, either. The inflationary pressures create dissonance with depressionary phenomena that confuse economic planning. That won’t help anyone gain comfort.

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A straw man named Goldstein – to burn as a distraction

Bruce McQuain discusses Stephanie Gutmann’s point about Saul Alinsky, Barack Obama and George Orwell and brings together several disturbing observations about politics that have surfaced recently. He cites quotes from George Orwell (“The program of Two Minutes Hate”) and Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals“ (pick the target, use ridicule). Two other quotes that are being noted are from Heinlein (see Charming, Just Charming) and Lennon. And then there is the ‘enemies list’ discussion.

The tenor is different from the allegations regarding the previous administration. Then, the basis for allegations was often constructed (even false) or abstract. The current situation is more directly based on directly observable behavior.

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Problem 1 in the climate warming advocacy contingent

An example of the means by which people can discredit themselves is at an Island of Doubt In search of George Will’s climate-denial sources.

The labeling is oh-so-typical. Instead of using an appropriate term such as “skeptic” the term is “denial” with derogatory connotations. In addition, there is the problem of jumping to conclusions and making judgments substitute for opinion.

As far as I’m concerned the story of how Will manages to misrepresent the science of climate change in column after column at a newspaper as respectable as the Washington Post won’t be over until we have a good look at that list. So I have written to Will.

All one needs to do to find out where George Will got his skeptical ideas is to look at the most read climate blogs. The blogroll at Watts Up With That? is a good start.

But no, the assumption is one of certitude – and that is not a means to credibility in scientific measure.

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