Archive for September, 2009

Dissecting word games

Gary Larson takes apart a WaPo report on the Acorn exposure and illustrates how insidious propaganda can be.

Such are the ways of today’s news media. Cast aspersions. Use labels. Slay those who do not share your beliefs. Dishonor them. Label them racists. And Walter Mondale talks about the “coarseness” of debate? In spades.

The original report contained a made-up quotation and the ‘correction’ made later was only enough to claim a correction was made. The pattern is part and parcel of the former President Clinton’s recent resurrection of the “vast right wing conspiracy.”

Bottom line: Democracy itself suffers from use of news as political weapon.

A neighbor described a local newspaper story about a woman who had to wait months for cancer treatment – in the US! The idea that this was agenda journalism did not occur to her. There are many ways to use news as a political weapon and many are not conscious tactical efforts. Rather they can be rationalizations or psychological comforting efforts on the part of the ‘journalists’ who want to see things in a certain way. Deliberate misquoting, as Larson describes, is either getting into deliberate tactical propaganda or it is a deeply irrational escape that should cause one to wonder about the sanity of the reporter.

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The issue is not the one on the table, it is the one in front of your face

ACORN Scandal Has Deep Roots. The real scandal is the sickness in policy and philosophy.

the problems of ACORN represent a broader and even more scandalous idea: the conventional acceptance of the Left’s self-righteous claim to have a monopoly on all politics, policy, and lifestyles that are good.

The reaction that has greeted the furor has been the most disturbing facet of the whole sorry affair.

Don’t blame them, in other words. They can’t help themselves; they’re poor people.

And herein lies the deeper scandal — it’s not just the denial of what is right in front of your face, it’s denial of a bad mode of operating, of a sickness in policy and philosophy.

It gets painted as a contest with “conservatives” on attack. It gets excused as a necessary adjust of a victimized population. A report this morning implies all is OK because, in one town, the ACORN exposers were reported to police after their visit. There are the smear attacks (and threats) on the couple who did the undercover work to expose ACORN.

While corruption of misuse of government funds may be the issue on the table, it is the response to exposing that issue that is in your face. The sickness is in the policies that fostered the issue on the table and the philosophies that try to shove it off the table and back underneath and out of sight and to shut down the flashlight trying to expose its ugliness.

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The US has spent a lot of effort to make its weapons of war smarter and more accurate. Rules of Engagement often put soldiers at risk to avoid civilian casualties. The enemies the US has engaged since WW II do not seem to share this penchant. They often use children rather than computers to guide weapon delivery. Despite this, there are folks like those described at Black Five in True war crimes.

For the record, I do not question their intelligence, their basic values, and their patriotism — you can’t question what’s not there. …

They reward these people [terrorists who blow up children intentionally], and celebrate them. They lionize them.

A simple fact and difference lost on the moral and intellectual cripples of the world.

The post strongly recommends a video that shows an IED clearing exercise where a terrorist set off the explosive even when a child was standing on top of it.

This is where the real conflict exists. It is the essence of relativism and moral equivalence that lead away from effective decisions about what is truly awful and what is just ugly reality necessary to deal with it.

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The emperor’s new clothes?

But it is stunning to note that the foregoing list of outrageous and inflammatory rhetorical attacks came from the mouths of the most senior Democratic elected leaders in the country.

Toney Blankley takes note in a comment about End the coarsening of civic discourse about the ‘look in the mirror’ phenomena.

to feel these passions so profoundly, and then to be accused of so base a motive as racism for our sincerely held views, is almost too much to contain. No good can come from so flagrant an assault on the honor and decency of 60 percent of our people.

The illness is not localized. At KevinMD, a post started off with the meme that the 9/12 WDC rally was manufactured and that the town hall meetings in August were angry and violent affairs. This is a common partisan presumption that doesn’t even pass initial inspection. What has been remarkable is what Brietbart has been illustrating at with the slow exposure of the ACORN and NEA scandals. That is how the ‘crowd’ has refused to notice certain peculiar and rather obvious facets of the emperor’s new clothes.

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Agenda science

CBS News carries an AP story – CIA Torture Just Bad Science, Report Says that appears to be a part of the ‘Bush Torturer’ agenda.

“Solid scientific evidence on how repeated and extreme stress and pain affect memory and executive functions (such as planning or forming intentions) suggests these techniques are unlikely to do anything other than the opposite of that intended by coercive or enhanced interrogation,” according to the paper published Monday in the scientific journal, “Trends in Cognitive Science: Science and Society.”

And, of course, it is implied that the CIA interrogations invoked “extreme stress and pain”, i.e. torture, and everyone knows that torture doesn’t provide accurate or reliable confessions. So this ‘scientific report’ is all about maintaining that agenda and trying to pin horrific things on the previous administration. It suffers as a result.

There are several problems with this report. One is the very clear fact from the CIA data that the interrogations did indeed provide useful information that was proven by its use in foiling other terrorist plans and in finding other terrorists. That particular finding contradicts the AP report and raises the bar on any such ‘scientific findings’ that purport to claim otherwise. Good science does not try to pretend that actual, real world, experience and findings are not real.

A critical reader can find other flaws and problems with the AP agenda science. It has theory and speculation but no data. It does not have the attention to parameters such as exercised by the CIA. It has no referent for comparison. If you take this story as-is, you can logically conclude that any stress in your own life will cause brain damage. Does such damage cause you impairment?

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Governmental incentives and feral kids

Peter, The Bayou Renaissance Man, discusses Feral kids and the problems they pose. The post refers to “a series of articles on feral kids in Britain and the problems they pose in terms of crime, anti-social behavior, etc.” The focus is on the incentives from the welfare state that result in disassociated fathers, single parent children, and girls in their formative years using children as a source of income.

Feral kids are only one result. The young men who are being used to father a child and are then discarded also tend to go ‘feral.’ The role of father is transferred to the government which is more reliable and pays more and doesn’t burden the mother with excess close and personal relationships (babies and children are easier to ignore). The ties that bind civilization are cut asunder by well meaning governmental programs.

I know from bitter personal experience the consequences of such a culture. I used to meet them every day in my work as a prison chaplain. A very significant proportion of those kids, of any and all races, will end up as convicted criminals. They’re feral, anti-social, wrapped up in a ‘me first’ culture that justifies doing anything and everything to get what they want, blaming their problems on ‘Whitey’ or ‘the system’ or ‘racism’ but never accepting any personal responsibility. And, really, who can blame them? They imbibed those attitudes with their mothers’ milk!

Should this change? Can it be changed? Should it be changed? How can the original motivation of the governmental programs be addresses without this side effect?

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Human nature … and politics

If you struggle to understand the animosity in public venues these days you are not alone. You can take Speaker Pelosi’s tack or you can look to what is known about basic human nature. This choice if path towards understanding is key.

Limbaugh describes it as one side working their feelings while the other is working reason and logic. Dr. Sanity goes into depth with curiouser and curiouser.

You can then count on the true leftist believer to close his eyes not only to his own internal reality, but also to the external reality that proves the uselessness of his beliefs in the real world.
But in the end, reality is too logical an argument to have much sway with the man (or woman) of the left anyway. Like Alice, we find ourselves in an Obama Wonderland where nothing makes sense anymore. Curiouser and curiouser.

Find out why. Dr. Sanity explains.

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Honduras, say what?

Honduras provides a small incident that may be telling. John Thomson covers the essentials in Bravo to the brave and unbowed, A small nation’s lawful stand for self-determination.

The news from the State Department earlier this month was all but unbelievable. The United States announced it would not accept the results of a sovereign country’s elections, unless the offending government would accept a disputed agreement that had nothing to do with the elections.

Then there’s the trade war started with China with tire tariffs. US Foreign relations is not what it used to be.

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One big tea party: WDC 9/12

That was quite a gathering. Powerline notes that CNN, “making it up” as usual as a contrast to a personal report.

It was a very civil crowd, and a very large one. … There were many, many signs, and I’d say that 95% + were hand made. The slogans ran the gamut, but most were on the general theme of spending and government intervention is out of control, we can’t afford it, we’re scared by where Obama is trying to take the country, and the like. … Quite a few came as part of groups, but we encountered more who had come on their own … Several folks remarked — and a few signs hit this point — how incensed they were that their elected representatives had not bothered to read the legislation, and were shown to be flat wrong in their general statements about it when read passages of the actual bill in town hall meetings. These folks were watching, and it’s easy to see why so many Senators and Representatives chose to duck instead of engaging the issues with their constituents. … One other phenomenon: Joe Wilson was a hero today. Not I think, that the crowd generally approved of intemperate outbursts … It should not be necessary to say this, but given a particularly partisan segment I just watched on CNN, I will: There was not a trace of “race” in all of this. It was all about the substantive issues. … We did not return thinking naively that these “tea parties” will lead to a sea change in the balance of political power, but it is heartening to see that many Americans are watching and willing to say out loud that they do not like what they see

And you can see for yourself at Looking at the Left’s Conservative Woodstock Rocks the Capital.

Many of the attendees were quite meek and timid and were unsure of exactly what to expect, this being the first time in their lives they’d been involved in a protest movement. Their fears evaporated early in the day and I saw people reveling in the camaraderie , the joy and sheer civility that was exhibited at the entire event.

Reports of events like this in the past such as the “million man march” have made a lot of people associate anger and violence and bigotry and intolerance and a lack of civility with major protests. It appears that many Americans have found out that civil protest does not need such behavior and that they are not alone in seeking a civil manner to express their concern in public.

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How people learn the news is under examination

It is becoming fashionable to compare and contrast major news media reporting with reality. The AP violating its own agreements with photographers about dying soldiers was one case. The 9/12 Washington DC Tea Party turnout estimates and the extensive search for awful things to report provide another. The Wilson breach of protocol is another. It is a rich target environment.

The recent Van Jones story is one where Kyle Smith takes on the NYT in Van Jones — unfit for print at the NYP.

Newspaper of record? The Times isn’t so much a newspaper as a clique of high school girls sending IMs to like-minded friends about their feuds and faves and raves and rants. OMFG you guys! It’s no more objective than Beck is.>

There are several facets to observe in this case. One, as noted, is the claim of no excuses while citing many excuses. Another is the diversion from the subject at hand to the whistle blower – Glen Beck and Fox News in this case. Then there is the attempt to diminish the importance of the incident and the misrepresentation of the nature of it.

It is the stunning comparison and contrast that may have contributed to the crowd in Washington DC this weekend. One quote reported from a crowded subway station on the way in was “angry mob, coming through!” – This reflects a sense of humor about the malicious media reporting of Tea Party events. People are noting the dishonesty in news reporting and it is becoming a concern, enough of a concern to drive one of the largest peaceful protests in history.

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Rich Evanns thinks it is The Confidence Party. Of course, “confidence” can have many meanings from being held in secret to being a type of scam to being a necessary attitude for success. The latter can be seen in political dialog where some assertions and assumptions are given with a certitude that belies reality. Evanns thinks there may be cracks in that certitude.

Confidence. Confidence is the reason — they no longer believe that they can get away with it. There has been too much backlash recently, too much free flow of truthful information over the Internet to the point where Democrats cannot get away with the equivocations and prevarications they have come to rely on so much, without getting a harrowing at a town meeting, and/or a blizzard of criticism from other sources.

It is easy to be confident if there is no accountability and no expectation of being held accountable. It may be that it is easier for people to answer questions about allegations and assumptions and see just how much confidence is really warranted. The emperor can parade his new clothes but can no longer depend upon the populace seeing them for what they really are.

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Vocabulary lesson, Borked, Swiftboated, or Beck’d?

An addition to the political lexicon: Becked provides a concise definition of a few terms that are often misused in the introduction of a new one.

It may be that “borking” (“attack viciously a candidate or appointee, especially by misrepresentation in the media” -RIP TK) may be getting more difficult due to the ability to allow everyone to see the evidence. Swiftboating (“exposing of a poltroon who inflates his biography”) too often depends upon first hand testimony but the Beck technique (“destroy the political career of someone by repeatedly using the target’s own recorded words to vilify themselves”) can also work to destroy an allegation by showing that it is empty.

The Van Jones case, which was the prompt for elevating Beck to a verb, one can see that, for a significant part of the populace, the exposed “recorded words” were not matters for vilification but rather for praise as the expression of an ideologic brother. If being Beck’d seems to be working, that means that every ideologic brother is being vilified and that means a defense must be mounted. That means conflict.

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Who pays

One of the big distortions in the discussion of things such as medical care involves the matter of who really pays. Better care, pay less: Some communities find a way illustrates this confusion. The example provides is that of a warranty and the error is in the idea that whoever provides the warranty pays for warranty service. It is an error because any warranty is a simple insurance policy. Anyone who warrants a service or product must include the cost of that insurance in their fees. This sort of business can be a lucrative business which is why nearly every electronics retailer will offer to double a manufacturer’s warranty for a fee.

The basic thesis of this article is also one being bandied about in the current health care debate. The idea is that health care costs can be improved while improving service. This is a necessary thesis for one side of the debate because it is the only way to be able to assure everyone of continuing quality of care while still promising to reduce cost. Trying to rationalize this these is where distortions like the warranty being free come in.

The real issue, about which the article provides several examples, is that of how to achieve increased efficiency and productivity in medical care. That leads to matters of incentives. That, in turn, leads to matters of fostering innovation in both product and management. When the chain gets to management, the argument tends to get dishonest because history and experience start to speak against idealism and fantasy.

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Lost in space

While many note how the resignation of Van Jones being a surprise says more about selective media coverage of a major scandal, there are those who illustrate that the problem includes more than just media types. Myrna provides an example of just how lost in space many seem to be when she writes about The Cultural Moment of The Van Jones Resignation.

What used to be our national discourse (if we can even still call it that) is now driven by the profit-driven, morally bankrupt ravings of hysterical pundits (hysterical in the Freudian sense). Reasonable citizens stare on stuttering and slack-jawed as they continually find themselves forced to explain how entirely fact and reality free, hysteria-filled assertions are not true.

And note the supposed source of the discourse problem

what is clear, is that, with the collusion of the mainstream media and the Republican Party, our national discourse has descended into some kind of hate and bigotry filled national purgatory we can’t seem to escape.

What is missing, other than a selected side note, is Van Jones. A proper basis for effective discourse will start with a bit less cherry picking of ‘offenses’ from the other side and a bit more of an awareness of reality. Van Jones ‘resigned’ because he got caught, repeatedly, with venomous assertions about racism and anti-American assertions and alliance with some of the more absurd conspiracy groups.

“Being shocked” in this case means being brought up short with reality. Part of that is a problem with limited sources for information and not seeing the trail that lead up to the concluding act. Another part is that which drives one to label those with whom one disagrees as a “lynch mob” or “morally bankrupt” or “hysterical”. Freud was even mentioned. Myrna hits nearly all of the talking points from “death panels” to anti-capitalism in the rant and this also tends to indicate that thinking is not quite on top of the priority list.

It wasn’t Fox News (e.g. Glen Beck) or those nasty Republicans nor even the media (whose major members did not even report the building scandal) that should be blamed for the raw discourse. All one has to do is to view the videos and the other direct evidence that was uncovered that show Van Jones in action to see the “hate and bigotry filled national purgatory” and hysteria, and moral bankruptcy and escape from reality really are. Van Jones, like the Reverend Wright put these behaviors on a plate served to the public.

While the behavior of such as Jones is appropriate for concern, its source is in the delusions and rationalizations and blaming as illustrated in Myrna’s post. It is the ‘little guys’ that provide credibility to the big ones and it is up to the ‘little guys’ to do what was done in holding a big guy accountable as was done here.

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A Catholic’s four principles for governmental health care

Mark Wauk describes “an important article that Roman Catholic Bishop R. Walker Nickless of Sioux City, Iowa, published in his diocesan newspaper on the subject of health care and health care reform” at American Thinker: ObamaCare and Catholic social teaching. Four principles are highlighted.

Bishop Nickless’ reflections are an excellent starting point for any constructive discussion of these important issues.

1) “First and most important, the Church will not accept any legislation that mandates coverage, public or private, for abortion, euthanasia, or embryonic stem-cell research.”

2) “the Catholic Church does not teach that “health care” as such, without distinction, is a natural right.”

3) “the Catholic Church does not teach that government should directly provide health care.”

4) “preventative care is a moral obligation of the individual to God and to his or her family and loved ones, not a right to be demanded from society.”

This provides a good example of a profitable argument. Clear values are defined that can be used to evaluate and measure proposals. The values themselves can be debated to determine the source of differences of opinion.

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Smear campaign, compare and contrast

Billy Hollis has a good example at QandO. One allegation that seems quite popular in recent days on many issues is about myths or distortions or lies or smear campaigns. Van Jones made such an allegation about his need to resign referring to a “vicious smear campaign” using “lies and distortions.” Hollis takes note of a New York Times report about Mark Steyn regarding the President’s school speech plans for comparison and contrast.

In my mind, this qualifies as a true smear. Instead of quoting someone, a misquoting is used that modifies the meaning of the original to make someone look bad.

As far as I can tell, this never happened with Jones. People just put up his own words and videos.

But it doesn’t matter. The word “smear” has been debased by the left, just as “fascist”, “rationing“, and plenty of others. Their post-modernist, Red Queen, multiple truths, “I knew what I meant when I said it” worldview makes that a perfectly legitimate tactic as far as they are concerned. The word “smear” now means “saying something that makes a leftist look bad” regardless of whether that something is true.

For many, this White House resignation is news as major media coverage of the exposures leading up to it have been rather sparse. Ed Morrissey at Hot Air describes the background in The media strikes (out) again on Jones resignation, again with related examples of selective reporting in certain quarters. The pattern in behavior is being noted, both in terms of media reporting as well as in administration staffing.

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Completely missing the point

PrawfsBlawg provides an example of studiously and completely missing the point in Obama’s School Speech and the First Amendment. This is like the “health care myths” debunkers who also create an army of straw men and then express hubris in knocking them down. The hubris is necessary to overcome the intellectual integrity failures with aplomb.

Two things strike me about this “controversy” — if it is that, and not simply a case of a few nuts with good access to media outlets. One is the parallel to the Pledge of Allegiance controversy following the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Newdow.

On any given day, schools teach far more controversial values to their children — say, that one ought to love one’s country, or for that matter one’s neighbors. When should parents be able to pull their children out of school for those reasons?

The ‘hubris’ part can be seen in the “few nuts” comment. The straw man is the parallel.

Referring to the debate about mentioning Judeo-Christian religious concepts or those about teaching sex in schools is where the straw man creeps in. What is causing the Obama speech controversy is the narcissism that was in the original speech where students were asked to serve the President and not the country. It is this that is deeply offensive to many American parents. The fact is that schools do very little to build pride in country or dedication to its principles and values and this also bothers many parents. The attacks on the pledge of allegiance are where many see the “few nuts” and not those who think that pledging allegiance to their country under God is a good thing for their children.

See, for instance, Pledge of Allegiance Becomes Pledge to Obama or “I pledge to be of service to Barack Obama”. Many Americans have an inherent distaste, and indeed outright fear, of the phenomena of pledge to a ‘dear leader’ because they have seen this in many of the United States’ enemies. It is an offense to basic cultural values of independence and self reliance. The ‘Prawf’ and others may ridicule it and pretend something else but the real issue is what is motivating the reaction, not the straw man.

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Which logical fallacy is this?

The health care debate is providing many good examples of the subtle use of logical fallacies. KOH says the Health Care Debate Rages On, Rally In Reno.

Laura Dean Freidrich, director of education and advocacy at Protestants for the Common Good says many people can’t figure out whether the proposed legislation would be good for their families or not. That’s because she says it seems like most of the media coverage has been focused on the protests at the town hall meetings and ugly accusations.

The thing to note is that the issue here is the perceived character of the opposition in the debate, not the points they raise. It is much like Speaker Pelosi’s ugly comment about Nazi signs but that sort of ugly doesn’t seem to be what is at issue by Ms. Freidrich.

Meanwhile, those on the other side are citing chapter and verse of the proposed legislation. The debate is very lopsided as the proponents are talking ideals and the opponents are talking reality. That creates dissonance.

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Take no chances

Do Whatever It Takes, We’ll Punish You Later at Strategy Page is about how political revenge inhibits necessary national defense. When those who are on the front lines become more concerned about covering their backsides than they do their front, when their major danger is not the enemy in front but the ‘friends’ in the rear, the nation has a problem.

What worries more thoughtful politicians is that, if you can be prosecuted for things that opposition politicians believed, mostly as a matter of faith, why get involved at all? This is all part of an ideological battle that has been going on over espionage and intelligence work since World War II. Lots of myths were turned into facts, and ideology became more important than the truth.

The CIA lost its soul, it’s heart, and most of its guts, in the late 1970s. Lots of brains are left, with big budgets to buy all manner of neat technology. But the bosses live in fear of grandstanding politicians and headline hungry journalists. … It now serves mainly to draw fire, while other organizations get the job done.

This also happens in business. When employees are not confident in company support they will stick to the ‘tried and true’ and avoid anything that might have risk. What that means to business is stasis and decay. In matters of national defense, the stakes are vastly higher.

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Wishing for a return to what never was

Amy Tuteur, MD wonders “Is alternative health a form of fundamentalism?” at KevinMD. The example is from a common class of desires based on fantasies about returning to something that never really existed in the first place.

they long for an imagined past that literally never existed. … The desire to return to a “better” lifestyle of the past. The longing for a mythical past that never actual existed. An opposition to modernism (in daily life and in medicine)….

both cancer and heart disease are among the primary causes of death today represents a victory, not a defeat. Diseases of old age can become primary causes of death only when diseases of infancy and childhood are vanquished, and that is precisely what has happened.

Alternative health as a form of fundamentalism also makes sense in that it has an almost religious fervor. It is not about scientific evidence. Indeed, it usually ignores scientific evidence entirely. All the existing scientific evidence shows that all of the myriad claims of alternative health are flat out false. None of it works, absolutely none of it. That’s not surprising when you consider that it never worked in times past; advocates of alternative health merely pretend that it did, without any regard for historical reality.

The same phenomena can be seen in an entirely different venue. The Wally Byam Caravan Club, an Airstream brand RV owner’s club, is now over fifty years old. Some new Airstream owners hear tales of the Capetown to Cairo caravan or the world tour or other adventures and fantasize about what it must have been like. They then join the club and try to force it into their fantasy world. That creates dissonance that tears at the club’s structure and values.

People tend to forget things that are unpleasant. That can be good for comfort but not so good when it comes to making important decisions.

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