Archive for November, 2009

Fact Checking shows what is considered important

John at Powerline says Fact-Check This.

The Associated Press got an advance copy of Sarah Palin’s book, Going Rogue, and assigned eleven reporters, apparently, to try to find errors in it. … It appears to be a tribute to the factual accuracy of Palin’s book that eleven hostile AP reporters can’t come up with anything better than this.

There is a comparison and contrast that is made as well. Getting a pre-release copy of a book and putting a staff effort in finding flaws to fact-check is a clue that there is a lot being invested to find fault. That is a contrast to the lack of effort to taking note of factual flaws that are much more blatant as well as more significant. The patterns in who is subject to how much effort makes it clear that the goal is fault finding and not fact checking and that the point is not accuracy or truth but rather a political agenda.

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Unemployment implications

The Coyote Blog wonders Was I Wrong, Or Did Something Change?. Last year he was predicting unemployment to top out at 9% or so. That was overly optimistic in terms of the current state of affairs. What happened and why was the prediction off?

Businesses are reluctant to invest when the returns on their investment are wildly unpredictable, particularly when future income changes are more driven by changing acts of Congress rather than fluctuations in the market.

He then lists a number of governmental actions that would inhibit or hinder business planning. There is a great uncertainty about how costs for labor and energy, especially, will be influenced by such issues as health care and climate taxes.

The climate of concern is not AGW but rather a hostility towards business and the wealth it can create. That is a worry about survival.

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The sad state of ignorance driving denial

How To Generate Scientific Controversy takes the essence of behaviors that can be easily observed in many controversies. Global warming, anti-vaccinationists, creationism, and many other controversies show these behaviors.

Behavior is often a guide to what is really going on.

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What’s the law for, anyway?

Eric Peters uses speed laws to illustrate a confusion in the focus of the law and its enforcement. On Speed describes one of the early ‘green’ laws that made many people criminals, was promulgated via propaganda, and maintained partly because of the revenue it generated for local governments.

If the laws were reasonable, very few people would ever be ensnared by them — as with laws against stealing, rape, murder and so on. When a law — any law — effectively criminalizes broad swaths of the population, especially people who are otherwise “law abiding” and reasonable, it is pretty strong evidence that the law in question is screwy.

What really makes for a contrast is the gay-marriage, legal prostitution, and marijuana efforts. Where should law come into matters of behavior? Leaving out such things as assault and theft, there are still many behaviors involving morality and social desires that are at stake.

One of the factors to consider is in the honesty of the argument. Speed limits do provide an example here. The Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices provides guidelines that are often in conflict with what is actually done. Even the basic philosophy – that most drivers practice safe driving most of the time – is often ignored in favor of constructed safety excuses that often just hide revenue generation methods.

One should wonder when the law is backed by dishonesty and not forthright in its intent or purpose or rationale.

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Words: traitor, jihadist, and other unpleasantries

The Fort Hood Massacre has brought the problem of words and the effort to avoid ugly words as labels. “Political Correctness” is being put on the table as a fundamental and harmful dishonesty. Austin Bay describes Hasan’s Treason at Strategy Page and minces no words.

As a retired officer familiar with the military investigation process, I am certain the post-attack investigations now underway will ultimately provide a detailed picture of a 21st century turncoat, one of great use to intelligence and counter-intelligence agencies. Since Hasan survived, we may hear from him about his journey from medical officer to jihadi.

The avoidance to calling something what it is if it has been sold as a part of a special class or victim group is a denial of reality. Actual reality has a tendency to bite back and that is the message many see from Fort Hood.

UPDATE: another good, related article worth reading: The ‘Good American’ Who Was Taught to Hate by Brad O’Leary

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Rose colored glasses

Bruni de la Motte provides the example in describing how East Germans lost much in 1989. It’s enough to make you wonder why the GDR didn’t defend itself more vigorously and keep the wall in place.

Since the demise of the GDR, many have come to recognise and regret that the genuine “social achievements” they enjoyed were dismantled: social and gender equality, full employment and lack of existential fears, as well as subsidised rents, public transport, culture and sports facilities. Unfortunately, the collapse of the GDR and “state socialism” came shortly before the collapse of the “free market” system in the west.

The plain is one of an academic who notes that many public service and academic sector jobs in the GDR collapsed with its government. The quote shows a little of the longing for perfection that often shows as hubris. It is interesting that the ‘system’ that survived is the one that is called collapsed and the one that failed is seen not for what it did but rather for what is promised. That is the essence of rose colored glasses in seeing a tainted view of reality.

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Gun free zone and an angry or confused Muslim

You’d think a military fort would be an armed camp but the reality is otherwise. Weapons on military installations are carefully controlled in part because of the lethality of some of the weapons stored or used in training. That the ‘family’ area of the fort was a gun free zone was but one of the ingredients in the recipe for massacre.

The other main ingredient was a delusional mind. Dr. Hanson takes note of a pattern here, one that some in the media were very careful to avoid or even deny. In Fort Hood—A now familiar horror he notes:

I think on the one hand we will see the familiar therapeutic exegesis, in which we hear of traumatic stress syndrome, justified and principled opposition to the Iraq and Afghan wars, generic mental illness, anger at being deployed overseas, or maltreatment from fellow soldiers due to his Muslim faith and various other efforts to “contextualize” the violence. … On the other hand, one could instead see Hasan in a long line of killers and would-be murderers of the last decade that in some loose way express an Islamic anger at either American culture or the United States government or both, as a way of elevating their own sense of failure into some sort of legitimate cosmic jihad.

There is a comparison and contrast here that is being studiously ignored and buried in moral relativism. That lead to misguided efforts at dealing with existing circumstances.

UPDATE: see also D.L. Adams Resolving the Cognitive Dissonance of Islam.

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Everybody knows

Neocon notes Vietnam: they lost the war, but won the battle about the meme and the paradigm and the reality.

Vietnam just may have been the first war in which those who opposed the conflict “won” in the forum of public opinion by convincing their fellow citizens and government to abandon the war itself, and then got to write most of its chronicles. … the Left and even most Democrats consider it axiomatic that those who opposed the war have been “proved” right. I’ve spent many hours and many words discussing the proof that exists for the opposite side: that our abandonment of Vietnam in the mid-70s was an unnecessary tragedy and a shame … word doesn’t seem to have penetrated a huge swath of liberals and the Left that there still might even be another side—much less that it might have some validity, and that it offers arguments that require responses.

In the comments, Assistant Village Idiot suggests that this is a form of social signaling that has little to do with reality. In that respect it is a malignant branch of recently maligned social signaling such as patriotic displays. It is perhaps no coincidence that these are a part and parcel of the same community, one that seems obsessed with self esteem and moral relativism and ideologic perfection triumphant.

Vietnam will not go away. The shame of the baby boomer generation will continue to fester.

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A war of attrition: EPA vs atrazine and the global food supply

Alex Avery comments on another front in an ongoing war on civilization. This one is weighing weeds vs. crops. After more than fifty years of experience and 6,000 studies, the EPA has take up the attack on the food supply because of hysteria generated in the media.

Many of these articles have lionized the work of a Berkeley professor, Tyrone Hayes, who says his studies show even tiny amounts of atrazine causes mutations and gender disorders in frogs. Atrazine is occasionally found in trace amounts in drinking water – though always under the regulatory limit of 3-parts per billion. The implication, of course, is that if atrazine can mutate frogs, what is it doing to you?

The problem, however, is that no other scientist has been able to repeat Mr. Hayes’ findings.

This is a war of attrition. It is costly. Occasionally battles are lost and many die unnecessarily. A report this morning on the H1N1 vaccine indicated that part of the reason for delays was the anti-vaccine movement. There are several factors involved. One is the fact that many things in our environment are matters of risk and benefit. Herbicides, vaccines, and many other things have risks to individuals and that risk has to be weighed against the benefits provided by their use. Some cannot accept the idea that there is a risk at any level and must rationalize their fears. That results in correlations being confused with causation and in fear mongering by individuals such as Hays, and in pressure for study after study after study to seek out some evidence, any evidence, that the fears are warranted – no matter how long or expensive the search may be.

As with the 50+ year experience with atrazine, many of the substances under attack have a significant basis that can be used, even by the layman, to judge safety. Whether it is vaccines or artificial sweeteners or food additives or fertilizers or insecticides or herbicides there is a lot of experience that can be used to judge just what we get compared to just what risk is being taken. That should be a starting point for this war of attrition that seeks to wear down any opposition to irrational fears.

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Oh, those evil corporations.

When an argument takes off on corporations and conspiracies, then you have good reason for skepticism about the issue at hand. Jennifer L. Jacquet provides an example in a book review: Frogs in Boiling but Confusing Water: A Review of Climate Cover-Up.

As Jim Hoggan explains in his new book Climate Cover-Up, the media and the public it serves are awash in a corporate conspiracy to undermine the science of climate change, the corporate buyout of politicians, and corporate greenwashing.

Of course. All is revealed! Cover-ups and conspiracies are all about preventing revelation but this author has the real scoop that no one else could get. That deserves a bit of consideration for its implications.

Jaquet does note that the book promotes skepticism, especially of skeptics, (think hubris, here) and then takes a look at a factual error regarding Freeman Dyson. Gross errors also tend to promote skepticism and finding one in the book could take away from its message. In discussing the implications of the error, Jaquet reinforces the perception of her own agenda and bias. That perception is quite a bit better based than those that lead to conclusions about corporate conspiracies.

There is more that is odd from a ‘science behavior’ point of view. Look for where an honest debate of issues is replace with absolute assertions about controversy, for instance. Also look for labels such as “deniers” or “quaint” that are used to diminish those who may not agree with the agenda. Heroism and hubris also ooze.

Skepticism is a habit of inquiry, not an excuse for an assertion of authority.

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Language, another front in the culture wars

The assault on English as the language of the United States is another front in the culture wars that emphasize moral relativism and western civilization hegemony. Bernie Reeves describes the action in Why English Is Not the “Official Language” of the United States

In an irony that surpasses comprehension, The Modern Language Association, an organization of English teachers, is the leader of the politically correct movement to bring down English. There has been a constant flow of rhetoric from MLA meetings criticizing English as racist, imperialistic, chauvinistic, and homophobic. The result is that the guardians of our language are actually its worst enemy. … students have been denied the pride of ownership of their tongue and the knowledge and joy it can offer to create a fulfilling life.

The tactics and values are consistent. Moral relativism excuses many things. Power is bad (unless it is mine). The powerful are bad (unless they are my friends). Pride, loyalty, success, patriotism, and other uplifting emotions are to be disdained and condemned as tools for oppression. Intellectual integrity stops at the edge of a reality that cannot be accepted.

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