Archive for February, 2010

Take me to your leader

One of the phenomena that has become rather visible in the climate argument is about leadership. What happens is a standard logical fallacy. It assigns a fringe viewpoint as mainstream and uses that to typify the adherents to the viewpoint. Rick Moran demonstrates this in describing Al Gore’s recent op-ed.

Every time I read an amateur climate skeptic referring to the recent blizzards or cold temps as “proof” that global warming is a fraud, I cringe.

Here, it is a rationalization of the climate skeptic community and not a castigation as would be used from someone on the other side of the argument. The point is, though, that both sides have adherents who use this particular sort of logic. To ‘blame’ such logic on one group or another does not serve any purpose.

In order to make a point with more weight, it is the position of the leaders in a point of view that should be used to establish norms, not the fringe. Whether the issue is a stance on climate or on terrorism or on torture or on health care or whatever, integrity is best served by using more accurate representations.

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The difference between police and military

SWAT – special weapons and tactics team ideas grew out of anti-terrorism efforts in the 70’s. It is about using overwhelming force in police work when there is a perceived threat.

a tactic more appropriate to soldiers on an actual battlefield. The mentality has no place on public streets, where it places “officer safety” above the duty to protect the innocent. This impression is reinforced when the officers and officials behind the raids are not held to account when things go tragically wrong.

Richard Diamond takes note of this growing paramilitarization in civil police forces at the Washington Times: Demilitarizing local police and provides examples of its consequences.

At one level, there is an effort to criminalize terrorism. On another, it is to make the police a military force. The issue is not simply one of ‘over there’ versus ‘my neighborhood.’ It is one of values. Does the agent of the state have more value than that of a citizen? Do we distinguish between citizens in their own environment and foreign nationals? Do the police, as agents of the state, deserve special privileges denied to citizens?

Would this case “Spur the needed adjustment in priorities away from the militarized attitudes and lack of accountability that fosters an “us versus them” divide between police and public. Such a change is needed for law enforcement to regain the trust and respect the profession once had in the community.” – or will it require yet another tragedy?

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The politicization of justice and war

Jennifer Rubin says Yoo gets the last word. The source is Yoo’s response in the WSJ to the efforts to taint any and all parties on the ‘wrong side’ of the torture debate. The persecution by investigation is a tactic being used in modern politics in a way that has diminished its proper value as a means of dealing with corruption and misbehavior. Harassment using any tool as a political weapon degrades and demeans politics and creates long term implications. Whether it is Governor Palin and endless groundless ethics complaints or Mr. Yoo in a DOJ investigation about an opinion or even the medical liability lawsuit or other consumer ‘get rich quick via the court system’ schemes, we all pay the price.

this is not simply about the persecution of two fine lawyers. It’s not even about the untold damage done to the Justice Department, which may find it difficult to find top-flight attorneys willing to stake their careers and savings by rolling the dice that some future administration won’t second-guess and investigate them. No, as Yoo points out, it’s about stopping the Justice Department from actively interfering with the serious business of the fighting a war against Islamic terrorists.

These are tactics that are used when the established and accepted tactics don’t achieve desired outcomes. Those other tactics involve the time and effort to make a case that will sway sufficient voters to make desired choices and sufficient time and persistence to overcome the protections against abuse built into the system. So far, the protections have held. For modern politics, though, that only means that those protections must be worn away and diminished. That is why you hear legislators talking about changing the rules of procedure, debate about executive powers, judicial oligarchy and USOC vacancies, transparency, and bi-partisanship labels.

Hang on to your shorts!

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Authorizing segregation by heredity

NRO has the story Aloha Segregation:

A bill expected to pass the House today with overwhelming Democratic support would accomplish something peculiar for a liberal republic in the 21st century: It would partly disenfranchise a portion of one state’s residents, create a parallel government for those meeting a legislated criterion of ethnic purity, and would portend the transfer of public assets, land, and political power from those who fail to satisfy the standard of ethnic purity to those who do. For these reasons and many more, the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act richly deserves opposition.

It appears that the idea stems, in part, from the tribal reservations that are allowed to exist in the United States. The distinction is that those tribal reservations are the result of negotiations with defined political entities whereas the Hawaiian proposal is strictly ethnic.

Even if there had been a kind of collective ethnic sovereignty exercised by native Hawaiians, that sovereignty has long been extinguished: Sovereignty is a political fact, not a racial fact. The United States cannot enter into a relationship with the Hawaiian sovereign because no such sovereign exists. And it would take an odd and overgenerous reading of the Interstate Commerce Clause to imagine that Congress has the power to create a sovereign foreign nation through a legislative act.

The accommodations of the United States to its conquered peoples is one of the interesting contrasts the to allegations of imperialism. The real question is that of cultural incorporation. This has often happened in conquered lands by the need of the conquered peoples to survive – think of the French influence in England for an example. In the modern culture of the United States, it appears that this lesson of history is being set aside and the focus is on rendering cultures asunder rather than building them together.

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They can’t help it: hurricane disasters

It is an AP report at PhysOrg. Study: Warming to bring stronger hurricanes. The picture is a house with the roof ripped off by Hurricane Charley. The warning is dire: global warming will cause more disastrous hurricanes and the science is settled. “Outside experts praised the work.”

They just can’t help it. Scientists who worry about the public image of science should take heed.

The qualifiers are in the story if you look for them. — “But they say there’s not enough evidence yet to tell whether that effect has already begun.” — “The evidence is not strong enough that we could make some kind of statement” along those lines, Knutson said.

Then there’s the attempt to minimize and rationalize criticisms.

Lately, the IPCC series of reports on warming has been criticized for errors. Emanuel said the international climate panel gave “an accurate summary of science that existed at that point.”

The defense runs deep. They just can’t help it. Global Warming. Doom. Gloom. Disaster, Consensus. All from a single report. Does a scientists need to worry about his profession?

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The response: a climate of peace prize

Jeremy Block provides a response to George Will and others who have noted the dissonance between claims predicting global catastrophe and the evidence at hand. It is if Block was looking in the mirror …

Those three words ‘he is wrong.’ are what first comes to mind as any self-respecting scientist reads his column. However, being based in logic and evidence, saying ‘he is wrong’ isn’t as alluring a narrative as a skilled rhetorician like Mr. Will can spin. It is, however, based in reality and supported by facts.

In order to come up with this flat out assertion, Block creates quite a long list of dismissing rather egregious phenomena. Whether is is a Peace Price to one who has done nothing (by Nobel Committee admission) to earn it to many reports claiming ‘peer review’ report that end up being from advocacy groups and outright wrong, to problems with data management, the simple three word conclusion Block seems to think is obvious seems to be rather hyperbolic itself.

The real problem is that there are many whose depth in examining ideas is as shallow as Brock’s and they will sympathize with his knee jerk reaction. There is a need to look in the mirror and examine one’s own ideas before attacking those of others.

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Oh, those poor dears …

Science News reports on a problem. Climate science: Credibility at risk, scientists say . “events have marred the reputations of climate scientists, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and perhaps science generally.”

The “Climate-gate emails” and concerns over Himalayan glacial-melt data in a 2007 IPCC report together served as “sort of a wake-up call,” McCarthy said. But a wake-up call that he and others initially all but ignored.

Why ignored? In part it may be that they don’t understand what it is that is actually causing a problem. The ‘community’ only saw some “bumbling behavior by well meaning, if overworked, scientists.” The brouhaha was blamed on people who were not grounded in science, especially climate science. The problem is seen as a PR problem. That perception in the climate research community may be changing but that change is taking its time and it will take its toll.

Procedures exist to minimize the likelihood that weak or unvetted data are used or that their strength is exaggerated. External reviewers are supposed to pore over the details and point to questionable statements or data. And in the case of the Himalayan glacier-melt statements, McCarthy said that the reviewers did highlight apparent problems. These challenges were simply ignored.

Not only was there the attempt to ignore problems, there were also behaviors closer to the problem.

Sharp argued that “openness, transparency and collective scrutiny of data are the best ways to ensure that errors or fraud are discovered and corrected.” … Without openness in the collection and handling of data, Sharp said, people will have no way of ensuring the accuracy or validity of data. But access requires more than just handing over collections of numbers, computer files or photos. Sharp said it may also require providing “metadata” – ancillary information, such as precise descriptions of the equipment used to collect data, the computer programs used to process information, or the filters used to enhance or extract information.

That, in turn, gets its rationalizations.

Indeed, Cicerone charged, some climate scientists “are now receiving requests that are bordering on harassment.” They’re being asked, he said, for all of the data that went into a publication, sometimes in addition to all data analyses, all equations used in interpretations, detailed descriptions of all statistical techniques, all computer programs used – even access to any physical samples. These are fishing expeditions. And the demands they make, he said, often “are simply not feasible or are too costly.”

Oh, the poor dears! They are being asked to come clean with what the basic values of science says should be on the surface. This is much like a science student being asked to turn in his lab notebook and expecting credibility with a ‘my dog ate it’ excuse. What does the teacher do when the student starts making accusations of “harassment” because the teacher expects the student to meet basic requirements? These guys are professors. They should be setting the example of the right way to do it, not the way students use to avoid responsibility for their actions.

So. What now? Well, let’s do another “climate-integrity summit where the research community rolls out an action plan.” Note the irony. The focus isn’t on transparency, fixing problems with data, resolving questions, and other standard science stuff, it is on creating a panel to study the PR problem. The time that such diversions could calm the public may have changed. It may just be that a tide is turning and the expectation for proper science is becoming impatient.

Overworked? For those billions in government grant money? Harassed? just because they are asked to show their work? — oh those poor dears, they suffer so much …

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The tragedy of the pied piper in the real world

Dr. Sanity has a warning:

Watch for new, improved environmental fantasies to be foisted on the public, evan as the old one’s are exposed as distortions and delusions. This is easy to do, since the real goal of these fantasies are not really about helping humans–or the planet; they are rationalizations to exert control and dominance.

It is The Green Death that prompted this warning. That essay takes a look at a 1962 eviro-movement screed that resulted in many deaths. Silent Spring didn’t intentionally seek to cause widespread human suffering, but those who bought its story and eliminate a human pollution turned loose a malaria epidemic that has, by some estimates, caused more than sixty million deaths and much suffering.

The use of DDT reduces the spread of mosquito-borne malaria by fifty to eighty percent, so its discontinuation quickly produced an explosion of crippling and fatal illness. The same environmental movement which has been falsifying data, suppressing dissent, and reading tea leaves to support the global-warming fraud has studiously ignored this blood-drenched “hockey stick” for decades.

The motivation behind Silent Spring, the suppression of nuclear power, the global-warming scam, and other outbreaks of environmentalist lunacy is the worship of centralized power and authority. The author, Rachel Carson, didn’t set out to kill sixty million people – she was a fanatical believer in the newly formed religion of radical environmentalism, whose body count comes from callousness, rather than blood thirst.

These sorts of ‘man is evil’ and will doom the planet prognosticating depends upon a gullibility.

Another way Silent Spring forecast the global-warming fraud was its insistence that readers ignore the simple evidence of reality around them.

Whether or not such prophets of doom are in it for power and glory, an ideological bent, or some other need of the self, the issue is that there are many who pick up the mantra and follow along without any skepticism, consideration of implications, or integrity in the matter. Therein is the problem to address. Some have thought education might be the answer but education is often turning into a following indoctrination. That must break or society will continue to cause much harm, death, impoverishment, and other human tragedy.

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Follow the money: Science

The moneyed interests are often used to impugn those who do not believe properly. Tom Bethell notes that money is indeed an issue but not necessarily as often accused. Indeed, it is the accusers rather than the accused who have questions to answer when it comes to financial matters (ht Orrin Judd). It is A Disgrace to Science.

It is also where other major fields of science stand today—at the mercy of a contrived consensus.

Government funding has been the major subversive force. If you read Science, as I do, you see that the issue the magazine cares about above all others, and editorializes about week after week, is funding. Government funding. The constant concern about money means that Science and other journals feel obliged to keep up a drumbeat of articles that sustain the mood of crisis surrounding a given issue. Climate change is the leading illustration today, but there are others.

COULD SOMEONE EXPLAIN WHY oil company money corrupts and government money does not? The government has now spent about $25 billion of our money in promoting climate scares. Oil companies have been reduced, pathetically, to telling us how “green” they are.

Since WW II, science has become a major governmental enterprise. That war marks the shift of funding for research from private to public sources. The reason for that shift was, to some extent, that research inquiries became large scale and needed capital and other resources that were not readily available in the private sector. The change in funding also changed the focus from research that would support innovation and invention towards research for altruistic or ideological ends.

Climate and weather research has been marked by the quest for ever larger (and more expensive) computers. Its original impetus for improving commerce efficiency and safety has changed to that of saving mankind from himself. Saving mankind is a thesis that can generate public money and that tends to distort the traditional goals of scientific activity.

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Regarding the ‘birther’ mythos

It seems that society is plagued by conspiracists. Whether it is about 9/11 or the climate or the citizenship of the president, there seem to be groups of folks with adamant strident belief in some things to a degree that defies reason and reality. Erick Erickson takes note of the precedent that children born of US citizens are also US citizens as a perspective on one conspiracy and takes note.

Even were the American public to fall under the belief that Barack Obama was born in a foreign country and 49 years ago his associates fabricated a narrative, a birth record, and placed birth announcements in both the Honolulu Advertiser and the Star Bulletin on August 4, 1961, to ensure that 49 years later he could become President of the United States, it is undisputed that Barack Obama’s mother is and has always been an American citizen. Therefore Barack Obama is and has always been an American citizen.

The leaps of logic and reason to arrive at such a conspiracy are unbefitting the credibility of anyone and not worthy of further discussion.

The post includes some of the messages Erickson received that illustrate just how far off beam some true believers can be. It is not encouraging if you are after reason and integrity of thought.

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Declinism: is it really all going to hell in a handbasket?

It seems the pessimist gets all the publicity.

For much of the past decade, “declinism” – the notion that America is heading toward a deadly denouement – has largely been a philosophy of the left. But more recently, particularly in the wake of Barack Obama’s election, conservatives have begun joining the chorus, albeit singing a somewhat different variation on the same tune.

Joel Kotkin thinks the pessimism might be misreading history and that the reality is America on the Rise. In part it’s demographics and in part it’s resources, attitudes, and governance.

As we enter the next few decades of the new millennium, I would bet on a more youthful, still resource-rich and democratic America to maintain its preeminence even in a world where economic power continues to shift from its historic home in Europe to Asia.

It is very easy to focus on the problems as they tend to bite you in sensitive anatomy. Things going right and running smoothly tend to disappear unless you go out and find them. Kotkin provides a reminder that those focused on the decline of the US might want to exercise a bit more diligence in how they measure the referent.

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Rationalizing climate

If you want to understand the nature of the debate about climate change, see the Indur M. Goklany post Sir David King: Half Right on the IPCC and Global Warming Policies, Despite Bad Logic.

Golanski notes that a dedicated advocate of human caused global warming acknowledges that ideas in science require skepticism as a means of testing them. The advocate also recognizes the risk of advocacy. But then, when it comes close to the heart, these words become empty and that becomes “Sir David’s revisionist Apologia for IPCC’s transgressions”

Who to blame for the current brouhaha? It can’t be anyone on my side so it must be that those I admire were forced into bad behavior by evil forces. It’s those evil big oil corporations providing all the money to do the dirty deed.

The problem is that the money is in government grants for research and that the errors come from advocacy such as needed to sway the population to support the government money. Money and advocacy are only two of the problems in the advocacy group that are turned on those who do not adhere to the belief in AGW. Misrepresentation of position is another.

These paragraphs point to one of the major disagreements between climate change skeptics and “conformists.” Most skeptics do not dispute that it has warmed, although most, in my opinion, are skeptical that we know the amount of warming with sufficient accuracy to make quantitative pronouncements about how much or how fast it has warmed during the past century. And they certainly would not conclude that because it is warming, human beings must necessarily be responsible.

There are logical fallacies and distortions of reality that need to be repaired before any action on climate can be taken.

If a scientist as distinguished as Sir David King, once HMG’s Chief Scientific Adviser, could make such fundamental errors in logic, it’s hardly surprising that a good share of humanity, even those who are well educated and, presumably, less-than-gullible, could make similar errors. Much of the public support for doing “something” about global warming comes, perhaps, from this segment of society.

The potential disasters from any human caused global warming pale in comparison to what can happen when reality becomes distorted by those who are making decisions.

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Myths and reality

For a good rundown on some of the reality in the wash of misinformation out there, see Energy Myths versus Reality by Tom Tanton of the Pacific Research Institute.

The opportunity is to change course and base their actions on facts, not emotion–and slow down and even reverse governmental largesse. The global warming scare has been cut down to size, after all, and the problems of politically dependent energies are more evident than ever.

Where does our energy really come from? Are renewables really a feasible alternative? Who actually does the polluting? Where does efficiency fit into the picture of human behavior? Find out. Good stuff.

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Whitewashing to engineer climate by increasing albedo

Some of the initial impacts of the climate research scandal are beginning to appear. The CRU was first in suggestions that all was OK because of a statute of limitations. Now Penn State has offered a preliminary report on their Professor Mann and the IPCC has responded to its use of alarmist advocacy groups as resources for its claims. These initial responses attempt to whitewash the problems uncovered. In climate terms, white increases albedo and that should tend to cool things down. The climate research community may well hope that this scandal will cool down and they have a good deal of inertia and many powerful friends in high places to help them.

Christopher Horner takes a look at the Penn State report in Climategate: Penn State Moves to Protect Its Own:

My takeaway is that the panel revealed most of what we need to know about the ability of this internal inquiry to credibly assess charges of misfeasance. They limited their evidentiary pursuit — outside of select blogs and media reports — to speaking with Mann, aided by a supportive NAS report (to the exclusion of the Wegman Committee report, inexplicable including for a factor cited, below) and one panel member interviewing ex parte two Mann supporters.

In the points raised, there is note of the labeling of the CRU emails as “purloined” which is an indicator mentioned in the blog earlier. There is also note about ignoring certain behavior, the use of selected resources, and very careful definition of scope and parsing of terms. In other words, it is similar to earlier examinations of Mann’s hockey stick in dancing around the truth by concentrating on minutia and avoiding fundamental flaws.

The same kind of whitewashing can be seen in the IPCC claiming it followed appropriate procedures despite the revelations about its exaggerated or even false claims regarding glacial ice or tropical deforestation. Where is the concern in these reports?

Sadly, the panel’s express focus, the only one among the relevant issues which troubles them for further inquiry, “questions in the public’s mind about Dr. Mann’s conduct of his research activity, given that this may be undermining confidence in his findings as a scientist, and given that it may be undermining public trust in science in general and climate science specifically.” (P. 9) This is likely to be viewed in hindsight as having revealed a driving desire of dispelling questions and rehabilitating Mann, “science” and/or the University, not into fairly exploring the substance.

In conclusion, these points all remind us of the frequent need for and widespread use of independent inquiry when seeking to truly discern the meaning and importance of credibly alleged misfeasance. Penn State is heading toward concluding that this is all a big misperception, a matter of appearances more than substance. Something similar can be said about their initial assessment. Appearances matter, and this doesn’t appear good.

In other words, it is all a misperception that is draining the trust needed to be able to continue as-is: What needs to be addressed is changing the message and getting past all these unpleasant revelations and questions. The problem here, as can be seen in Great Britain regarding the CRU, is that whitewash tends to be a thin cover without much longevity. If the revelations and questions have merit, they will continue to chip away at efforts to ignore or dismiss them. The inappropriate behaviors involved in climate research will continue to raise problems if they are indeed inappropriate and it is that which will set the path for the future.

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Whose reality do we really live in?

“nine falsifiable claims in three sentences” provides Randall Hoven some raw meat in the political definition of the world we live in. His conclusion? How to Blame Bush: Lie.

James is a political consultant, and Blame Bush is a political strategy. Who am I to second-guess Mr. Carville on a matter in which he is expert? … Here is my tabulation of his claims regarding the Bush presidency.

Private health care spending grew an average of 6.3% per year from 2001 through 2008. That is an eight-year increase of 63%, not a doubling. More importantly, private health spending grew faster before Bush. In the last three years under Clinton, 1997-2000, it grew 7.9%, 7.1%, and 6.7%, respectively. In the 1980s, it grew 11.3% per year. In the ’70s, 12.1%. (HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. See NHE tables, Table 1.) In short, growth in private health care spending did not “double” under Bush, and in fact, it was lower under him than previously.

Two of the partisan memes that show up include the cost of the Iraq war and the Medicare part D. What the partisans sweep under the rug is the fact that defense is a primary duty of the government and its costs, even during the Iraq war, have been only a small part of the overall budget and the drug benefits (and the HSA idea which was also implemented with it) were efforts at preventive medicine to reduce Medicare costs overall.

As Hoven points out, there are many claims that are made that are almost laughably dishonest. But that only scrapes the surface because there is also the dishonesty in selective perceptions that leaves out many of the issues involved in real world decisions that don’t fit within the desired opinions.

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The nuclear option

Mona Charen takes note of a bit of a conundrum in Stuck on Yucca. One he one hand is an SOU statement suggesting nuclear power is being sought and on the other is the killing of the budget for Yucca Mountain. On top of that, yet another blue ribbon panel is being formed to study the matter yet again. Those blue ribbon panels are not cheap.

There is nothing dishonorable about opposing nuclear energy — though the greenies who claim that global warming is their chief worry have some explaining to do if they reject nuclear power — but there is something dishonest about claiming to favor nuclear power while simultaneously short-circuiting the most viable solution to the problem of long-term waste storage.

They are wasting their time, squandering our money, and insulting our intelligence.

This is similar to the journal Nature’s complaining that the FOIA requests for climate data were a nuisance just like the ethics complaints against Palin. The ethics complaints had no substance, were created out of whole cloth, and were indeed nuisance efforts much like the continual obstructionism of the Yucca Mountain project. The FOIA complaints were attempts to obtain compliance with science journal open data policies regarding published papers. The dishonesty Charen notes spreads far, wide, and deep in that there are patterns in these issues and the tactics being used.

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The ‘larger truth’ meets reason and reality

Louise Gray reports that Faulty science risks obscuring ‘larger truth’ of climate change at the Telegraph.

The high-ranking official said the Government had spoken to the IPCC about improving its standards following the recent revelations.

“We have expressed our desire to that the IPCC robustly defends the science and it improves its procedures where it has been shown not to be up to the highest standards,” he warned.

“It is really important that a much, much larger truth is not lost.”

That idea of a larger truth is coupled with the definition of the heretics making the issue bipolar.

Ed Miliband, the climate secretary, yesterday made the first high-level recognition that the debate on the issue had been undermined, declaring “battle” against the “siren voices” who denied global warming was real.

You can’t just question the ‘larger truth’ or wonder about its limits and context. If you don’t succumb whole-hog you become a denier and a heretic to the true cause.

How is this attitude rationalized? One is to minimize the flaws – “When the IPCC is challenged for a faulty sentence” as if one faulty sentence was the only problem. There is the dismissal of concerns> – ““Of course there are important uncertainties” as if those uncertainties were not the core problem. Then there is the appeal to the holy gods – “on the basics of physics and the wealth of evidence” but only from the selected context of the true believers.

Mr Miliband said the controversies must not be allowed to damage efforts to cut carbon emissions.

“It would be wrong that when a mistake is made it’s somehow used to undermine the overwhelming picture that’s there,” he said.

The problem is that the “overwhelming picture” is being shown to have a faulty foundation and it might perhaps be just a facade for a questionable ideology seeking dishonest expression.

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