Archive for November, 2009

Climate: the real issue in debate

The Guardian has two stories that identify what is really the basis of the argument about climate. The problems with the science pale in comparison as that was just of a tool being used to justify a much more important end. What end? See the story Western lifestyle unsustainable, says climate expert Rajendra Pachauri, for instance:

Hotel guests should have their electricity monitored; hefty aviation taxes should be introduced to deter people from flying; and iced water in restaurants should be curtailed, the world’s leading climate scientist has told the Observer.

Another clue is in Climate change: Looking south.

Unless there is huge collective effort at Copenhagen all these small experiences will snowball. Within a generation, there could be wholesale migrations of peoples whose lands have become unviable or who have been displaced by resource wars; and there will be widespread loss of life through flood, drought and epidemic. This wretched vision of the future is not revelatory. It has been acknowledged for years.

The theme is that the world is in crisis and that humans, especially Western Civilization (the ‘rich’ people), have caused this. Mankind is too stupid to be able to find any way out of this pending catastrophe and the only way to salvation is for a global government to take control and regulate even the most minute aspects of choice and behavior. Not only are the ‘rich’ to be handicapped with many burdens on their ability to produce that which has made them wealthy, they must also have those riches taken from them and given to others who are not able or willing to produce themselves. It is a dismal view of humanity. It doesn’t mesh well with history, such as that of agriculture or that of energy supply in the last century. When such visions have been implemented, they have failed in misery. Yet the desire continues despite reality.

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CRB: politics and implications

Ivan Kenneally on The Climate E-mails and the Politics of Science – why is the Climate Research Brouhaha (CRB) important>

There can be little doubt after even a casual perusal that the scientific case for global warming and the policy that springs from it are based upon a volatile combination of political ideology, unapologetic mendacity, and simmering contempt for even the best-intentioned disagreement. … In predictably technocratic fashion, the left has claimed its own peculiar position as the only scientifically legitimate one—everything else reduces to craven interest, manifest dishonesty, or antiquarian faith.

the greater scandal may be that the United States and the rest of the world are considering enacting energy-restrictive and economy-damaging climate policies based on ideological distortions of scientific fact.

One of the lessons for researchers is about their professional practice. An FOIA brochure mentioned the fact that email messages and other materials had to keep in mind the possibility of public exposure. That message didn’t sink in, either for the communications nor for the professional products such as the code used for modeling and data preparation. What was released is embarrassing, or should be, as shoddy work product. The implication is that the authors of that work just don’t care. The implications of that are worthy of note as they are the fundamental communications that drive perceptions. That is where Palin comes in as a contrast.

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CRB: another example of defense

At Stoat is another source for examples of the defense behavior common in responding to the climate FOIA material. Those CRU emails in full describes how one of the correspondents considers the issue. Here are samples.

a. “Other people who have said sensible things include Denial Depot, Newtongate, CM and of course RC (apologies if you’re not on the list; oh all right Eli too since he says he needs the traffic). Indeed pretty well everyone with any sense seems to have got the right answer by now.”

i.e. if you don’t agree, you aren’t “sensible” and don’t have correct answers.

b. “If, nowadays, IPCC were to try to include a completely unsourced 1kyr reconstruction they’d get ripped to shreds”

i.e. the IPCC are victims.

c. “since that old graph shows a warm MWP plenty of septics nowadays are very keen to throw away all the peer-reviewed stuff we have and go back to this sourceless pic.”

i.e. skeptics are of one kind and dismiss all peer reviewed reports.

d. “It would be funny if it wasn’t so stupid.”

i.e. if not one of us, you are stupid and funny.

e. “you thought this couldn’t get any stupider? It has. Reminds me of the good old days in BAS, where the acid test of any rumoured management decision was always “is this really stupid enough to be true?”. Usually it was :-(”

i.e. it is gaining traction, I don’t like it, and because it doesn’t suit me it is stupid.

Note the concentration on persons and their character rather than on the evidence and what it says. Compare how Stoat approaches the issue to some of the commentary noted below such as that at Powerline. It illustrates why the discussion about many issues is not converging towards common understanding.

In the comments that follow the post is a question about why there is resistance to FOIA requests and a note that such resistance implies impropriety. A response to that asserts very negative attributes to those who are making such requests. That brings to mind that the best thing you can do for a fool is to let him show everyone what a fool he is. By that rule, the FOIA material requested should have been made readily available for the requesters to use to demonstrate their stupidity for all to see. The problem is that the supposed fools have had a history of demonstrating that the fool isn’t really them.

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Wilding as a tactic

Wikipedia says wilding may have gained its meaning from the Central Park Jogger rape in 1989. Robin Berkley describes The Wilding of Sarah Palin in her journey of personal discovery about tactics of deceit.

I finally beheld what my eyes had refused to see: that leftists are Mr. and Ms. Misogyny. Both the males and the females don’t care a whit about women.

Women are continually sacrificed on the altar of political correctness. If under Radical Islam women are enshrouded and stoned and beheaded, so be it.

My other epiphanies:those pony tailed guys were not marching for abortion rights because they cherished women’s reproductive freedom. It was to keep women available for free and easy sex.

And the eagerness for women to make good money? If women work hard, leftist men don’t have to.

The American Left has a long history of defiling people to control and break them. The hard core 60‘s leftists were masters of guerilla warfare, like the Symbionese Liberation Army repeatedly raping Patty Hearst. Huey P. Newton sent a male Black Panther to the hospital, bloodied and damaged, from a punishment of sodomy.

Claudia Sandroff continues the observations in Sarah Palin and the low ebb of the cultural left, also at American Thinker. She tackles the ‘how does Sarah handle the assault’ problem.

Everything Palin accomplished was achieved without inherited money, position, or political connections. Being self-made is something the likes of Sally Quinn could never claim. That Palin is an irresistible media ratings magnet, beautiful, unapologetic and, unabashedly conservative and Christian, just adds to the liberal animus. The attacks of the vipers can get only worse as Palin adds personal wealth to her resume, especially since she will have earned it by selling more books than all of her detractors combined.

These are part of the story of the mythos of the baby-boomer ideologues of the left who wore their leftists dreams on their sleeves, often as symbols of rank in a violent army. Enlightenment came with exposure to reality. Palin provides a powerful contact to reality for many.

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Iraq: slowly the truth leaks out

Strategy Page says The Good Guys Are Now The Bad Guys in its report about how Iraq is settling down. One item to note is about the MSM and the propaganda effort.

Western archeologists are finding that many of the news stories coming out of Iraq about the theft or destruction of ancient artifacts were false. The national museum had preserved nearly all its treasures, and there was no widespread damage to archeological sites. Like much of the reports from Iraq over the last six years, the main intent was to get an exciting headline, not report what was actually going on. Some reporters, especially those embedded with U.S. troops, reported having their stories rewritten, or simply not published, because their editors felt what was actually happening over there contradicted the U.S. medias belief about what was actually going on. Some of this attitude persists.

“the main intent was to get an exciting headline, not report what was actually going on”

This should sound familiar. It is the same phenomena that is behind the CRB (previous post) and many other issues where confirmation bias has reached absurd levels approaching psychological denial behavior.

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Science and the social covenant

Charlie Martin has his take at Pajamas Media about Climategate: Violating the Social Contract of Science. It stimulated some very good comments,

“4. truepeers” on the nature of covenants and their necessity for an orderly society:

As you suggest, the belief in social contracts, or covenants, is for science and other aspects of a free society, an under-appreciated (too many scientists prefer to think of their work in the heroic terms of breaking down social orthodoxies, as in the popular understanding of Galileo) but necessary pre-condition. In thinking about what kind of shared understanding is necessary to freedom, we can appreciate that a free society can’t try to spell everything out in advance. In building a “social contract”, unlike say a business or legal contract, building shared faith or trust is really the problem and you can’t specify in advance all the foreseeable contingencies that might be involved in getting the job done. Rather, like the US Constitution, you are best to consider only basic terms or conditions for building shared faith in a common system of government, for allowing a free market to emerge, the minimal conditions for people to engage each other in discovering and constructing their shared reality and then discovering what they really believe and will contract as they engage in more specific agreements.

“26. Jim Ryan” regarding those who assert that trust is invalid in science and there is no covenant:

There’s an element of trust. In journal articles the experimental procedure is described if anyone wishes to repeat the experiment. Sometimes skeptics will repeat the experiment. Scientists know they have a chance of being exposed if they decide to be sloppy or dishonest. “I did this…. I observed this….” suffices on trust to a large extent. There isn’t time to repeat all published experiments if you want science to move at the pace you have it moving.

There are probably life-saving drugs used today which are based on a stack of journal articles some of which have data and experiments, say about one of the molecules used in the drug, that were not repeated by skeptics but simply trusted. I did experiments in a lab for a well-respected chemist. They took months and stood on the shoulders of others in the lab who had taken years. I’m sure some of these experiments were trusted by the chemist’s colleagues. There simply isn’t time to send a guy off in a competing lab for six months to repeat some experiment.

It doesn’t make for a pack of lies. It makes for a house of cards. Sometimes houses of cards stand up. Sometimes the house is tall enough for you to step of the top and onto the surface of the moon; at other times some idiot screwed up the units, nobody checked, and your Mars lander crashes. If there was an error or a lie in the stack of experiments, then down the road the house of cards starts to fall. Investigators trace the problem back to the fault. Global warming turned out to be bogus over the last ten years. Somebody decided to snoop for no-goodniks and found them at CRU.

Science requires trust unless its moving at a snail’s pace is satisfactory to you. Scientists will lie. They’ll get found out when the lies interact with the world down the road. The lies impede the pace of science. But verifying every experiment would impede it more.

There has been, since Sputnick, concern about education in math and science. Perhaps the best education to be obtained is the one that is to be gained from involvement in this discussion.

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The CRB (Climate Research Brouhaha) update

The ‘discussion’ itself is as important as the findings. There is a tone and approach to reason and integrity that can be seen that echoes what can be seen in many politically hot arguments such as the one about global warming. The Washington Times editorializes about Hiding the evidence of global cooling.

We don’t condone e-mail theft by hackers, though these e-mails were covered by Britain’s Freedom of Information Act and should have been released. The content of these e-mails raises extremely serious questions that could end the academic careers of many prominent professors. Academics who have purposely hidden data, destroyed information and doctored their results have committed scientific fraud.

Dr. Tim Ball and Judi McLeod note that Obama’s Science Czar John Holdren involved in unwinding “Climategate” scandal at Canada Free Press to show how collusion and conspiracy are two different things. That is not overt in the column but is important because the defense attempts to portray the findings as alleging conspiracy which is, rightly, perceived as needing a great deal of skepticism. Collusion in a like minded and shared values community is an entirely different animal and is more analogous to the tribal problem in Afghanistan. Again, it is the tactics that are worthy of note as a clue to the underlying integrity of position.

Obama Science Czar John Holdren is directly involved in CRU’s unfolding Climategate scandal. In fact, according to files released by a CEU hacker or whistleblower, Holden is involved in what Canada Free Press (CFP) columnist Canadian climatologist Dr. Tim Ball terms “a truculent and nasty manner that provides a brief demonstration of his lack of understanding, commitment on faith and willingness to ridicule and bully people”. … Holdren’s emails show how sincere scientists would be made into raw “entertainment”.

The reason why this release of FOIA material is ‘red meat’ is seen in the way the argument is conducted. The defense ridicules those who don’t agree with it, minimizes the importance of data that does not support its view, and attempts to discredit data that it don’t like with allegations about theft or ‘ill gotten gains’. The other camp, as illustrated in the two articles cited above, tends to use citation and reference as a part of a description of actual events and lets the data fall where they may. Without data, the rhetoric favors those who are willing to argue based on everything except the data while those who prefer a more sound approach are left scrambling for means to refute empty accusations about their character or capabilities. Now the reality can be placed on the table for inspection and that is what is being done.

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Lawfare, and whose side are you on, anyway?

It is the war within. Some cite the cost of fighting terrorists as a significant and unnecessary burden. A good part of that cost is involved in countering the enemies within our own society. Rowan Scarborough describes the problem in The Al-Qaeda Bar:

Some of the nation’s wealthiest and most powerful law firms have donated hundreds of millions of dollars in free legal services to terror suspects at the Guantanamo Bay prison.

The army of lawyers, number over 500 by some counts, tied up the commission system in series of law suits and appeals, making it impossible to put any of the war criminals on trial for years. They have used the courts to assault the commission system as unconstitutional, even though there is a history here and internationally of trying war criminals such as KSM in special tribunals.

In the process, some American lawyers have helped the image of radical Islamists.

Andrew Walden provides a different facet of this issue in The ACLU’s Terror Lobby.

The civilian trial of a leading terrorist is the culmination of a years-long campaign by the ACLU to handicap U.S. efforts in the war on terror. … the ACLU and CCR lawyers having long claimed that the failure to provide constitutional rights to terrorist captives is a crisis for the United States,

A large part of this effort involves state of mind and values. Those who support such pleasant sounding ideas like “individual liberties” and “day in court” for terrorists caught on the battlefield seem to loose perspective as well as forget the lessons of history. This is why the Washington Times editorializes about The United Socialist States of America by Cal Thomas.

Not all revolutions begin in the streets with tanks and guns. Some advance slowly, almost imperceptibly, until a nation is transformed and the public realizes too late that their freedoms are gone. … Such is the revolution now taking place in America. The ’60s crowd has emerged from the ideological grave … Great horrors don’t begin in gas chambers, killing fields or forced famines. They begin when there is a philosophical shift in a nation’s leadership about the value of human life.

Thomas was describing the health care issue, not the fight against terrorism. The fundamental issue is the same. The fact that it surfaces in terrorist lawfare, government health care, or climate research only shows how widespread the problem really is. All of these issues follow the bases Thomas describes. They are ideologically blind to reality, history, and precedent. They sound ‘oh so nice’ when removed from the context of reality to an ideological platform. The all remove the ugliness of personal control and responsibility. There is much to worry about.

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Climate brouhaha: Response

There is very little in the major media about the leaked climate research FOIA material and commentary has died down somewhat. The response and defense seems to be taking its turn. Here are three examples to consider.

At Real Climate, Gavin, The CRU hack: Context “The emails cover a 13 year period in which many things happened, and very few people are up to speed on some of the long-buried issues”

James Empty Blog, Arbitration: “It is hard to miss the irony in people eagerly poring through illegally-obtained private email, looking for ethical breaches by the writers!”

Science Blogs Island of Doubt, James Hrynyshyn, Hacked emails, tree-ring proxies and blogospheric confusion: “As has been pointed out numerous times, nothing in the stolen emails and other documents that found their way onto the Internet last week in any way challenges the science behind anthropogenic global warming.”

Real Climate provides citations and a reasonable approach that at least could help in constructive dialog. James Empty Blog totally sidesteps anything of substance other than raising the ill gotten gains straw man that has been discussed since Pentagon Papers days. The Island of Doubt assumes ignorance and suggests anyone troubled by the leaked material get an education as a basis for dismissing the implications other find.

These can be compared and contrasted to the postings that fit message timelines to other known events to create a more complete story about things that have actually happened, stories that don’t assume ignorance or incompetence on the part of the reader. Also, look for where ‘big picture’ meets detail nitpicking. Consider where these arguments fit in the issues of transparency, whistleblowing ethics, and the nature of scientific inquiry.

There is depth to the release. For example, there has already been one post from a programmer who took a quick review of the code released and noted the programmer’s commentary that is customarily included in computer programs to help in maintenance and problem fixing.

The fact that these blogs are getting significant comment contributions signifies a deep investment in the climate change issue and a significant concern about the implications of the information leaked.

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The media bias and consistency, or lack thereof

James Delingpole at the Telegraph takes a look at Climategate: how the MSM reported the greatest scandal in modern science with several examples.

in the case of “Climate Change”, the MSM has been caught with its trousers down. The reason it has been so ill-equipped to report on this scandal is because almost all of its Environmental Correspondents and Environmental Editors are parti pris members of the Climate-Fear Promotion lobby. Most of their contacts (and information sources) work for biased lobby groups like Greenpeace and the WWF, or conspicuously pro-AGW government departments and Quangos such as the Carbon Trust. How can they bring themselves to report on skullduggery at Hadley Centre when the scientists involved are the very ones whose work they have done most to champion and whose pro-AGW views they share?

As Upton Sinclair once said:

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.”

So don’t expect this scandal to be written up in the MSM any time soon. But why would you want to anyway? It’s all here, where the free spirits and independent thinkers are, on the Blogosphere.

Then there is the AP – AP claims ‘fair use’ over the scanning of Sarah Palin’s book. It turns out that, in order to get their squad of fact checkers on it they ripped the binding to scan the book to be able to copy and distribute it to their reporters. This is the same organization that has claimed there is no such thing as “fair use” when it comes to bloggers citing AP stories.

Quoting has always been, and always will be, an essential part of journalism. So long as credit is given, it clearly falls under the fair use clause, and the AP would be well served to remember this. If it can claim fair use, why can’t the rest of us? The problem is that the AP would lose if a blogger was ever taken to court over not paying for using a quote, but does anyone really want to be the test case for that?

The AP needs to remember what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. Copy all the books you want in the name of journalism, but stop threatening bloggers for using quotes if it is also in the name of journalism.

There is so much and the simmering pot is near to boiling. There is plenty to observe.

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Peer review means responsibility

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy is a discussion about the unauthorized climate information release in Climate Scientists, Unfiltered. The commentary reveals much if one is observing the manner of argument. Sometimes there is an insight that gets to the core of the issue. Take, for instance, Orson Buggeigh says:

Peer Review isn’t all that it should be. Just talk to responsible historians about Michael Bellesiles and the Organization of American Historians. Quite simply, the reviewers reading Bellesiles’ manuscript all conveniently happened to be people who favored gun control, so none of them bothered to check his sources or ask any questions about why his findings seemed to be opposite of everything written on the subject to date. The Journal of American History published Bellesiles article and awarded it a prize; Bellesiles went on to expand it into a book, which in turn won an award from Columbia University.

Then the fun began. A man with an MA in history began blogging and posting about the errors he found, which made it clear that Bellesiles was fabricating material or quoting out of context.

Shall we talk about the success of peer review in evaluating the work of Ward Churchill, the pretend Indian with the MA in graphic art from a third tier college hired as an American Indian expert on history by the University of Colorado?

There is a real problem when people with a political agenda can suppress data to protect themselves while manipulating data for political purposes. The scientific community is late getting to the party of politically corrupted study. Welcome to the sewer. That, RPT, is why I will reluctantly give the hackers in this case a pass. Too many allegedly respectable academics refuse to do the responsible thing, which is to demand open access to controversial data, make it public, and let the people who contest the theory try replicating the research to see if they replicate the results. When that happens, bad theories are promptly weeded out. When someone has a political agenda, be it Indian rights, selling more Chevrolets, or climate change, there should be a great deal of skepticism from the rest of us, and much more open evaluation of the claims made. That openness is what is missing from most politically charged work. I won’t call it scholarship. Marketing, perhaps, or propaganda. But not scholarship, because it is a mockery of that word.

There are several key points to note in this comment. One is about the responsibility of peers to assure integrity in the dissemination of research findings. Another is that there have been a number of high profile cases where the peers have failed when it comes to hot political topics. A third is about the tactics used in maintaining bias. A fourth is in the ‘damage’ caused by the perceptions such abuses leave. A fifth is describing the dissonance caused by whistleblowers and the legal problems in forced transparency.

Learning about reality is tough. There is much to see about that here.

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Bunker Mentality

John describes his take on the Global Warming Bombshell at Powerline noting his perception of the ‘tone’ of the hacked email messages.

What they reveal, more than anything, is a bunker mentality. These pro-global warming scientists see themselves as under siege, and they view AGW skeptics as bitter enemies. They are often mean-spirited

That is often how ‘us vs them’ paradigms form and strengthen. In addition to creating and then attacking the ‘enemies’ there is usually also the effort to build a better fortress.

This and many other emails convey the impression that these theorists are making the “science” up as they go along, with data being manipulated until it yields the results that have been predetermined by political conviction.

In this case, someone inside the bunker or someone who finagled access to inside the bunker took a ‘fly on the wall’ approach to revealing the discussions and dialog of those who felt under siege. There will be attempts to divert the attention and to minimize and to otherwise diminish the content released by that ‘fly on the wall’ and that also will help to tell the tale. So far the efforts have been as John notes, behavior that indicates a dissonance that creates discomfort in an informal cabal of ideologues who have over-invested in a particular dogma.

UPDATE: you can see this bunker mentality at James’ Empty Blog in the post CRU climate conspiracy – the proof!. Note the straw man used for satire to dismiss and diminish.

UPDATE: John continues his examination of behavior patterns in The Alarmists Do “Science”: A Case Study by following a previously known event in the email archive. Watts Up With That? (a blog that hit the top of the charts due to this controversy) notes that someone has facilitated examining the email messages in CRU Emails – search engine now online. There is sufficient material such as to make case studies such as John’s more potent in the aggregate. Then there are posts like Climate cuttings 33 that are damning in their scope and extent.

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Behavior observed in Palin’s book

Ace of Spades HQ provides an observation of note in “Going Rogue”: My Book Report, Which Was Written by Russ from Winterset.

criticisms of their actions are limited to what Governor Palin or her close advisers actually observed. No wild conspiracy theories about their motivations, or amateur psychoanalysis of their motivation. This is a book that Joe Friday and Frank Gannon would absolutely love.

Other than this deliberate omission, I couldn’t find a single outwardly venomous reference in this book. Its like a king-fu revenge movie starring Mr. Rogers: You know there’s some ass-whoopin’ going on there, but damned if you can see the bloody details.

SUMMARY: A personal memoir that covers Sarah Palin’s life, admits fault and tells some “inside baseball” tales from the campaign, and gives a hint of things to come. This isn’t a “5,000 Year Leap” or “Carnage and Culture”, but it is a good read that embraces conservative principles.

The key here is that Russ sees the book as a personal witness account and not a theorizing or delving into the motivations of others or speculations about things. That sets the book apart from much of the uncivil dialog which departs from personal witness to personal desire.

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Acquiring data: by hook or by crook

The Reference Frame describes how somebody got sufficiently frustrated by the reluctance of a prominent climate center to release data that had been used for reports of gloom and doom that they stole it. Hacked: Hadley CRU FOI2009 Files. What really takes the cake for some is the correspondence.

By the way, “FOI” in the file name stands for “Freedom Of Information”, a bill in the U.S. The e-mails are full of Phil Jones’ and other tricks how to circumvent the FOIA legislation: search for “FOIA”.

James Empty Blog has the typical AGW proponent’s response to this affair.

I was mildly amused to see that Wattatwat doesn’t even know the difference between the Hadley Centre and CRU – the answer is about 300 miles, according to Google.

There is likely to be a whole lot more of this sort of snark, this sort of minimalizing, this sort of response to the revelations in the stolen data. There is no excuse for stealing the data, especially the correspondence, but there is no real defense for keeping the data under wraps or for the willful misconduct revealed in the correspondence, either.

So there are multiple issues here. One is the security of computer systems. Another the theft of data on computer systems. Another the proper publication of raw data used in reports and studies. Another is the use of government funds for research. Then there is the public inspection and transparency issue. After all that, we get to observe the defensive behaviors of folks caught with their pants down and how they deal with themselves when confronted with their own questionable behavior.

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Teaching leeway

Jim Bass misses the point in The Unbearable Paradox of Glenn Beck. He notes that the author of The Bell Curve experiences some dissonance. It shows in his conclusion:

What Beck does is propaganda. Maybe propaganda has its place, but let’s not kid ourselves. Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann are brothers.

What he misses is that of a fundamental truth. It is one thing to err on a quote that still expresses a fundamental agreement of viewpoint with its purported author and another thing to engage in willful distortion of another’s views. That’s the difference between Beck and Olbermann.

The complaints about Beck all seem to be on the issue of leeway commonly accorded teachers. This is the need to simplify concepts or take some advantage in selecting data in order to communicate the point to be made.

But Beck uses tactics that include tiny snippets of film as proof of a person’s worldview, guilt by association, insinuation, and occasionally outright goofs like the fake quote. To put it another way, I as a viewer have no way to judge whether Beck is right. I have to trust that the snippets are not taken out of context, that the dubious association between A and B actually has evidence to support it, and that his numbers are accurate. It is impossible to have that trust.

The “unbearable paradox” being faced is not whether the teacher is 100% accurate or not but rather the teaching is “is spectacularly right.” Do the snippets, insinuations, and guilt by association reveal a truth or are they attempts to distort a truth? In Beck’s case they reveal a truth and in Olbermann’s case they distort a truth.

Teaching is propaganda, The question is not in the techniques being used but in the integrity of the doctrines being taught. The issue highlighted, the plaint for a “better policy debate,” suffers from a desire for perfection and a problem with an inability to discriminate between intellectual integrity and absurdity. This latter is a form of moral relativism. Beck takes liberties with the ‘Truth’ in order to teach a fundamental truth. Olbermann takes his liberties to attack, impugn, and ridicule those with whom he disagrees. Conflating these two approaches to teaching doctrine highlights a first problem in getting one’s perceptions in line with reality.

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Civilizing terror: Holder vs Senators

Byron York is wondering: Did Holder stiff Senate on Justice Dept. lawyers who defended jihadis? regarding the fact that the AG’s law firm was a primary player in the legal shananigans that have held up hearings and trials for the Gitmo detainees.

The neocon takes note of a Senator’s training and experience in how Lindsey Graham gives Eric Holder a lesson in the law.

Eric Posner wonders Why Has Holder Decided to Try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a Civilian Court? at the Volokh Conspiracy.

Then what is the answer? It is surely this: the Obama administration has decided to offer a two-tiered system of justice. We might call them the “high-quality” (civilian) tier and “low-quality” (military) tier. The high-quality approach offers greater accuracy; the low-quality approach offers less accuracy. The Obama administration will use the high-quality system against people when it has a strong case, and the low-quality system against people when it has a weak case.

John at Powerline describes a Leahy Lunacy, which is a case in trying to understand denial and rationalizing of a difficult reality.

if we capture Osama bin Laden the first things we’ll have to do are read him his rights and get him a free lawyer. When Lindsay Graham pointed this out to Eric Holder in yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Holder feebly responded that maybe we wouldn’t have to Mirandize bin Laden because the evidence against him is “overwhelming.”

This answer was essentially nonsensical, but Pat Leahy amplified it this morning, in a further effort at spin control

Then there is the President who is providing assurances that the defendant will be found guilty and properly punished – which sounds good but has implications for pre-judgment that go well beyond those raised about the distinctions between civil trials and military tribunals.

Questions are being raised. The responses do not indicate a high degree of integrity in having thought through the implications and the reasons for the actions that raised the questions. This is a phenomena to investigate.

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When reason and civility shuts down

Listverse names the Top 10 Things You Should Never Discuss Online unless you want an inane argument.

So, there it is. The ten topics you cannot discuss online (without serious drama following shortly thereafter). A word for the wise: it might pay to discuss the reasons behind this inability to discuss certain topics without a war, rather than discussing the merits of the items mentioned specifically. Let’s keep this more civil than the last list that mentioned one of the topics here.

Most of the topics have indeed been used in this blog to highlight “reasons behind this inability” as it is by understanding why reason and civility leave the room that we can hope to bring them back.

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Bob Weir describes why the left fears Sarah

The reason they’re panicking is because they’re afraid of her connection with regular folks who work for a living, pay their taxes, attend a religious worship service regularly and believe that our country has lost the moral fiber that once united us. … Palin is a threat because she symbolizes decency in a country that has been taken hostage by moral degenerates. If she isn’t stopped, this country might end up reclaiming some of the values that made us the envy of the world.

Some have called it a derangement syndrome but the behavior seems more like an irrational fear. AP sends out an entire squad to check facts; reports are that only 10% of mainstream reviews have anything good to say about Palin’s book; the snark, hubris, judgment, and arrogance ooze from the commentariat. Whatever it is, it is getting good notice and is worthy of consideration.

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lawfare update

Jonathan F. Keiler describes A Double Blow to the Laws of War at American Thinker taking note of the distinction societies have made between war and civil affairs, a distinction that is now suffering political play.

Nations over the millennia have sought, with varying degrees of success, to apply the rule of law to warfare. This, on balance, has been a good thing. Unfortunately, that finely wrought effort is steadily unraveling, in of all places, Manhattan.

Yet both developments are devastating to the laws of war. Goldstone’s logic may be laughable, but it is now embedded in “customary international humanitarian law.” Likewise, the decision to try Mohammed in federal court establishes a precedent that so muddles and confuses traditional distinctions between lawful and unlawful combatants as to sanction the latter and thus make the former irrelevant.

Alan Dowd, at Front Page Magazine says it is The Wrong Battlefield.

It’s one thing to try out a new policy, especially when an existing policy isn’t working. That makes good sense. It’s quite another to dust off an old policy, especially when that policy has already been proven a failure. … the enemy isn’t impressed or intimidated by the long arm of American justice. … Far from being fear-struck by indictments, government findings and judicial decisions, the masterminds of modern terror wear the notoriety as a badge of honor.

The courts are something we are familiar with as we deal with them every day. War is something else. The penchant for small groups filled with hate and spurred by religious rationalizations to act out their passions is yet another, Different problems require different tools even if we are not comfortable with new things.

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Meeting terrorists with robots and missing Hasan

Strategy Page has the perspective in Target America Is Under Attack.

Major Nidal Malik Hasan’s murder of 13 people at Fort Hood on November 5th was the 13th reported (in the news media) act of an Islamic terrorism in the United States this year. The other twelve incidents consisted of arrests, or failed attacks. In one incident, an mosque official opened fire on the FBI agents, and was shot dead.

The Hasan attack resulted in the first American’s killed by Islamic terrorists in the United States since September 11, 2001. But it’s not for want of trying.

as terrorists like to point out, they can fail many times, and it’s not news. But if the counter-terror effort fails once, it’s big news. Thus the contortions the U.S. government is trying to go through to label the Hamas attack as anything but terrorism.

It is not only in the US but also in Australia and Europe that police are finding and arresting Moslems for trying to organize terrorist attacks. Many of these terrorists would not have been noticed but for a change in attitude after 9/11/01 that prompted new intelligence gathering tools and new techniques for using them. One form of this is data mining which is like having robots look for terrorist activity.

This approach has raised some interesting legal questions. For example, are privacy rights violated if only a robot is looking at the information? Many people aren’t concerned with robots watching what they do, or have done. But American law, and the courts that interpret it, still give privacy rights primacy, even if no humans are involved in the surveillance. It wasn’t always that way.

Privacy in the modern world is a misunderstood concept. While the law keeps the government from using many forms of information, or information searching, for law enforcement or national security, there are far fewer restrictions on commercial use of similar data and tools. The difference is that, without the access of commercial users to credit card, real estate, and other commercial transactions, the cost of these transactions would go up because of increased fraud. Thus the public tolerates this degree of surveillance to reduce fraud, and what they pay for things. And then there’s data mining, an old technique that, as long ago as the 1970s, was used to identify and arrest terrorists in Germany. Yet the same techniques today are seen by the law as an assault on privacy rights. Meanwhile, data mining has been used by commercial firms for decades to sort out who to sell to.
What it comes down to is people not trusting their government, or at least trusting banks and credit card companies more than politicians.

Privacy rights is a new concept as well. ‘Back In The Old Days’ there was very little privacy in communities. Everyone new what everyone else was doing, even down to shopping habits and personal behavior. It was a security method used to detect anomalies. In modern times, though, the ‘community’ is becoming nationwide and there is a distrust of government at this level. That leads to fears and that leads to lawfare and that leads to hypocrisy and inanities or even insanities. Trying to find a proper balance is not easy.

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