Archive for June, 2010

A bit of a distortionto gain a desired outcome

Powerline cites Shannen Coffin regarding defending the federal partial-birth abortion act in court. At issue is a report by a “select panel” of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a supposedly nonpartisan physicians’ organization. The report was found to be highly persuasive by SCOTUS in striking down Nebraska’s partial-birth abortion ban.

The problem is that the conclusions of the report weren’t quite as presented. If the allegations are true,

The federal courts were victimized by a gross deception and a perversion of both the scientific process and the judicial process

How familiar this is. It is one thing to be a bit biased but another entirely to fudge the data. In many issues, though, fudging the data seems to be the case. Partial birth abortion in this case, human caused climate change in another. The phenomena needs to be understood and exposed for better political decision making.

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Scotus: guns and association

The US Supreme Court provided two decisions by close margin that are stimulating a lot of discussion.

The decision that the Bill of Rights applies to states hits opposition in those folks who are fearful of guns. The arguments they use seem to pick and choose which items of the Bill of Rights belong to individuals and which can be subject to local supersedence. It seems reasonable to conclude that the Bill of Rights is either entirely about the rights of all U.S. citizens or it is not as it was presented and adopted as a single entity. SCOTUS used two different arguments to affirm that states do not have the powers to override the individual rights listed.

A second decision allowed a university to deny funding to a student group that wanted to disqualify as members those who did not agree with its religious values. There was some note that the organization could disqualify those who wanted to destroy it from within as a peon to the rights of association but, somehow, that was separated from being able to prevent those whose views and values were antithetical to the organization from becoming members. This was like saying it was OK to boil the frog by the slow water heating method but not by dropping the frog in boiling water.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of both of these decisions was the narrow margins. Are these issues really that nuances in the legal sense?

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Confusing aggression, violence, and human emotion

Aggression has been conflated with violence and that has resulted in some parents making sure their children have no toys that have any taint of violence or aggression such as guns or toy soldiers. Dr. Gold suggests parents Prevent bullying by accepting healthy aggression.

the latest research at the intersection of neuroscience, behavioral genetics and developmental psychology is demonstrating that a parents’ ability to reflect and contain a child’s feelings will help that child learn to manage these feelings, and may change the way his brain handles strong emotions. He may be less likely to behave aggressively in the future. If, on the other hand, a child gets the idea that his feelings are “bad” and “wrong”, these feelings don’t go away. They just become disconnected from the child’s sense of who he is

There are two concepts noted in the essay. The first is that children are not adults. They develop mentally, emotionally, and physically and a 2 year old cannot be held accountable in the same way as an adult. The second is that emotions are not behavior. Parenting means helping children learn the difference and finding appropriate ways to express their emotions. Children need to learn that it is behavior that is right or wrong and not their feelings.

The problem can be seen in the lack of civility in online social media. There, the aggression is often turned loose and the aggressor is not inhibited by civility goals. This may be that the aggressive individuals are having difficulty translating their civil values from a direct interpersonal venue to a virtual one. If that is the case, then there is learning to be had. Aggression is a valuable and useful emotion but its expression as blind violence turned on others is not. Being able to make the distinction between emotions and behavior is a place to start.

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About the fears of the decline of the United States

Most of the time, fears of U.S. decline come in as xenophobia. China has taken over manufacturing. Buy American. Close borders to Mexican trucks. The education system is defunct. These tend to deny many measures of reality. They may also be a distraction from areas where the United States is putting itself into decline in regards to some fairly important global competitions. The Financial Post describes one example in its story about an Avertible catastrophe.

Why does neither the U.S. government nor U.S. energy companies have on hand the cleanup technology available in Europe? Ironically, the superior European technology runs afoul of U.S. environmental rules.

Being “attuned to the possibility of looming catastrophe” and prepared for risks with proper planning and preparation has been subjugated to environmental ideologies, collective labor protectionism, and other issues that were given more importance.

A catastrophe that could have been averted is now playing out. With oil increasingly reaching the Gulf coast, the emergency construction of sand berns to minimize the damage is imperative. Again, the U.S. government priority is on U.S. jobs, with the Dutch asked to train American workers rather than to build the berns.

The priority in the United States appears to no longer be on growth and progress but rather on protection and security. There is a balance needed there and it may be shifting.

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The morality of the market

Stankley takes a look at Personal Morality vs Business Morality wondering “Why don’t businesses have social responsibilities?” He “quickly learned that markets don’t respond primarily to morality, or goodwill. In fact, often times it’s quite the opposite.” He asserts that profit is to corporations as breathing is to individuals. That means that ideas about morality are not driven by ideology but rather practicality. A business survives because it caters to the morality that is expressed in its market and not by trying to force a morality on that market.

“Understand, when McDonald’s competes for your dollar, it is competing against hookers, drugs, and booze. Any morality it emanates has been engineered to extract more profit.”

That is why much of the green movement trying to force their views about energy create much friction. Rich Trzupek describes this when he takes on Obama’s Green Energy Myth.

Those two sentences [about wind and solar] summarize the green nirvana that the president is trying to foist upon America. It’s a goal that’s entirely unachievable, because of a number of technical and economic realties that lie just below the surface of simplistic analysis.

There is the ideology with components about ‘addiction to oil’ and human environmental impact that sounds really really good but fails miserably when it meets the basic needs and desires of humans to live comfortably. As business reflects a morality that drives down to the fundamental lifeblood of its market components, governments and societies must also cope with, and adjust to, that morality as a matter of survival. That means that idealistic morality is a luxury that can only be afforded by those who have obtained significant profits and can use some of those profits to ameliorate the fundamental morality of survival.

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Whitewash? or rose colored glasses?

You must not believe the witness of your own lying eyes, it seems. AlterNet seems to think ACORN Totally Vindicated of All Wrongdoing — What Was That ‘Scandal’ All About?. The commentary is more of a study in self deception than it is of reality.

The GAO report was a review of grants by nine federal agencies and it found no problems with those grants. That builds a straw man to distract the attention away from the scandals that caused ACORN much embarrassment. That is followed by developing the appeal to authority by describing GAO as independent and nonpartisan and a watchdog. Then the expose’ was judged to be edited and misleading and deceptive and a part of a Republican partisan campaign, conservative activists, “lunatic right wing,” and the “Faux Noose” propaganda arm (some in the comments).

Of course, the frequent mention of the author’s book is probably just coincidental.

There are parallels in the manner by which the climate research questions are being swept under the rug. It is something to note. Who do you want to believe? Tentative or preliminary reports with a carefully crafted limited scope or your own lying eyes? From this commentary, it seems that some don’t think their own witness is worth much.

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About aid to the enemy

Former President Carter is unhappy that his efforts to provide ‘humanitarian’ aid to defined Foreign Terrorist Organizations has been found to be illegal by the SCOTUS. A. McCarthy describes the latest ruling and its implications.

For a dozen years, leftist organizations styling themselves as proponents of international humanitarian law have campaigned to undermine the laws prohibiting material support to terrorism. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court finally swept aside this challenge, forcefully upholding one of our nation’s most crucial counterterrorism tools.

The dissenting jurists appeared to be “unwilling to entertain the prospect that training and advising a designated [FTO] might benefit that organization in a way that facilitates its terrorist activities. In the dissent’s world, such training is all to the good.” This is an ideologically based hope that the bad guy will cease being bad if we can only communicate with him properly, that he is inherently a good man if we can only help him remove his burdens and misperceptions that make him evil.

This gets into the recidivism problem. Strategy page notes how terrorists are using the ‘system’ based on this idea that they are really good guys who only need a chance. “One of the most frustrating problems with the war on terror is the tendency of captured Islamic terrorists to escape, or be freed from prison.” And they use their new freedom to pick right up where they left off.

The ruling in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project expresses the reality that criminals, terrorists, and their ilk generally are not swayed by good intent. Any aid you give them only means that they can move their attention and money elsewhere, like in making another bomb.

There is a caveat. The ruling is not absolute but limited. As McCarthy describes it, the Court has not abdicated its responsibility to interpret the Constitution. Independent advocacy for a terrorist organization was not at issue nor was the matter of association. A narrow, purposeful form of assistance to defined foreign terrorist organizations was the topic as issue. That is perhaps responsible jurisprudence.

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Data distortion, 2nd ammendment style

In a description that has eerie parallels to the climate change debate, Robert VerBruggen takes on the More Handguns, Less Crime — or More? debate. He concludes:

The more-guns-less-crime theory is more than plausible, and it retains the support of many academics. In the end, however, it has become a distraction. In addition to being virtually impossible to prove in a meaningful way, it has placed the burden of proof where it does not belong.

Gun-rights supporters shouldn’t have to prove anything. They are on the side of freedom. Gun controllers, by contrast, want to restrict freedom, and thus must prove that their policies provide benefits that are worth that freedom. Whether the topic is RTC, handgun bans, buyback programs, assault-weapon restrictions, or registries, there is simply no evidence whatsoever indicating that to be the case. That’s one thing that Lott and the debate he inspired have proven — whatever the merits of the claim that gun control actually increases crime.

There are the stakes – individual freedoms – and then there is the nature of the debate – “In addition to being virtually impossible to prove in a meaningful way, it has placed the burden of proof where it does not belong.“. In other words, the data are cloudy and difficult to turn into meaningful information, the debate is shoved into distractions, and the reasons involve desires for control over other people. Gun control, health, waste, energy, … so many modern debates have the same pattern.

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Follow your star but be sure to pick the right one to follow

In short, it is your responsibility, men and women of the class of 2010, not just to be zealous in the pursuit of your ideals, but to be sure that your ideals are the right ones. That is perhaps the hardest part of being a good human being: Good intentions are not enough. Being a good person begins with being a wise person. Then, when you follow your conscience, will you be headed in the right direction.

Jennifer Rubin notes Justice Antonin Scalia’s commencement address last week to highlight “Scalia’s … simple and poignant plea for personal restraint and objective truth.”

The baby boomers picked up this thing about doing their own thing. Restraint and integrity were often shoved aside as too authoritarian or whatever. Scalia points out the problems with these misplaced priorities. Rubin takes note. Perhaps we all should.

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About greed and its alternative motivation

Professor Williams provides insight into basic economics in discussing Greed and the Greater Good. ‘Greed’ is one of those loaded terms tossed around as a means to impugn capitalism or the US as in CNBS’s show American Greed. As with many of these concepts, looking at the alternative or finding an honest reference can qualify the negativities.

How about the criticism that businesses are just in it for money and profits? That’s supposed to be an anti-business slam but upon simple examination, it reflects gross stupidity or misunderstanding. … Compare our level of satisfaction with the services of those “in it just for the money and profits” to those in it to serve the public as opposed to earning profits [like public education]. … You can bet the rent money that if Wal-Mart and other businesses had the power to take our money by force, they would be less interested and willing to please us….. In the market, when a firm fails to please its customers and fails to earn a profit, it goes bankrupt, making those resources available to another that might do better. That’s unless government steps in to bail it out. … The ruthlessness of the market discipline, which forces firms to please customers and thereby earn profits, goes a long way toward explaining hostility toward free market capitalism.

It would be something if government was run on the basis of an optional purchase. Scary thought. But that is the essence of the federalism originally envisioned in the formation of the United States.

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Mortgage fraud crackdown

The LA Times says the Feds charge 1,200 people in mortgage fraud crackdown. As Instapundit says, this is a start. A bit late, but at least a start.

Seeking to show victories against the kind of ground-level fraud that contributed to the housing crash, federal authorities said Thursday that they had filed criminal charges in recent months against 1,200 mortgage brokers and others accused of cheating banks and borrowers of $2.3 billion.

A few billion is only a start on the few trillion but it is a start. The effort gets to the roots of the matter where the marketing of mortgages went overboard and sold product to those who really couldn’t afford it.

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The message is in behavior, not words

The Washington Times columnists are taking note of what the response to the Gulf Oil Spill tells us about political ideologies. The expression is, to some at least, a concern and a warning.

Nugent: “This does not mean America should not look for other forms of energy to quench our thirst for power. However, we must not rush to embrace alternative forms of energy without first doing due diligence.

Decker: “The fate of the Deepwater Horizon rig was the consequence of actions taken in pursuit of BP’s corporate strategy to become known as the environmentally-friendly energy company. This agenda was drilled into public consciousness by a slick marketing campaign which rebranded BP to stand for “Beyond Petroleum.”

Murdock: “11 other countries and the United Nations also had offered skimmer boats and other assets and experts to prevent the oil from destroying dolphins, crabs, oysters and this disaster’s other defenseless victims. … Alas, they were turned away.

It does not appear that the ecological damage is the primary concern, nor has it been. It has just been the rationale for its appeal. When push comes to shove though, it is the unions, the corporation bashing, energy fantasies, and other such things that seem to take priority.

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The nature of the argument

William Kilpatrick describes the nature of the argument – the argument about so many issues in modern society – by taking a look at Jesus of Nazareth vs. Jesus of Neverland. It is a look at the main question about Islam that is often set aside due to its being a bit too ‘sensitive.’ That look provides an example.

It’s a good bet that most Americans believe the latter but are too polite or too prudent to say so. We keep our thoughts on the matter to ourselves, not just out of fear of offending Muslims, but also because the cult of cultural relativism requires us to give lip service to the proposition that all religions are equally valid.

If you do decide to look at the underlying assumptions, you run across the matter of how to approach your examination. Differences here seem to be where things fall apart.

So it makes sense to lay out the case that Muhammad’s claims are highly improbable. One way to do this is to apply to Islam the same tests of critical reason and historical evidence that we apply to the Christian revelation. Over the centuries, both Christian critics and Christian scholars have subjected the Gospel revelations to a rigorous examination. While this had the effect of shaking up some people’s faith, it also had the effect of strengthening the rational/factual case for Christianity. But when this method of inquiry is applied to the Islamic revelation things fall apart.

“It makes sense” to apply “critical reason and historical evidence” to some but does not seem to be a shared value in many debates about current issues. Whether the topic is climate or evolution or national honor, it becomes an argument and not a debate because there is no shared value about how to measure the basis used as a referent.

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Political focus

The headlines say the President plans to make sure that BP pays for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Note the focus. It is on punishing the corporation that suffered a major industrial catastrophe and not on trying to help BP fix and alleviate problems and prevent or minimize potential damage.

This seems to be a modern approach to any difficulty. Attack someone rather than the difficulty. The effectiveness of this approach is something to consider.

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That’s a game changer

Anthony Watts encountered it:

We can disagree about climate, we can hurl insults back and forth across the ether, and we can write essays. All that is fair game. The moment somebody abandons those forums to invade my personal property, especially after it has been made clear previously, that you are unwelcome, well, that’s a game changer.

This sort of invasion seems to be a rather common modern phenomenon. Whether it is a shipment of supplies going to terrorists in Israel or just some folks in an Airstream RV club, the ‘in your face up close and personal’ conflict method seems to be the choice by many. It is extremism run amok.

This does have implications towards the eminent domain court cases that have gone, or are going, through the courts. They also bespeak of a lack of respect for individual property rights and the ‘might makes right’ ethos for the promulgation of ideologies. One could also look at the use of the word ‘denier’ for those questioning anthropogenic climate change as another example of the overall phenomena. These are many expressions of irrational and dishonest means that must be confronted, exposed, and defeated.

The Tea Parties, which many current national legislators are avoiding, are a contrasting example of how to present a view and let disagreement and dissent be known. They provide a contrast that everyone should carefully consider in their own approaches towards civil and social change.

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D-Day, what it was all about

McQ cites Reagan: D-Day, June 6, 1944 – The Boys Of Point Du Hoc. Read the speech.

We’re here to mark that day in history when the Allied armies joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty. … Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. …

Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet, you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief. It was loyalty and love.

When the war was over, there were lives to be rebuilt and governments to be returned to the people. There were nations to be reborn. Above all, there was a new peace to be assured. These were huge and daunting tasks. But the Allies summoned strength from the faith, belief, loyalty, and love of those who fell here. They rebuilt a new Europe together.

Remember. The violence alone seems to preoccupy many but that misses so much. The speech selected by McQ does not forget and it is a good lesson.

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What do the cops have to hide?

Ed asks Do police have a legitimate expectation of privacy in public performance of duty?

It seems that there are a lot of police who do not want their official, in public, actions recorded. Various laws involving privacy, wiretapping, and obstruction of justice have been used as a pretext for arresting the person with the camera.

Police do not have an expectation of privacy in their public encounters with the citizenry. In fact, they should have instead an expectation of public accountability for the performance of that work. When a free people give police the authority to enforce our laws and to have the leeway to commit acts of violence in doing so, that is a trust that requires oversight and accountability.

A ‘secret police’ is a frightful concept as the history of a police that is not accountable for its actions to the citizens they serve is a police that tends to decide its own law. SWAT teams, the chiefs of police advocacy for gun control, and this persecution of those who record police action in the public sphere are all examples of small steps towards a police state. It is a mounting concern.

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A reference point on the oil spill

It is in the news. It is likely to continue to be for quite some time. Anything that looks like it might have been caused by the disaster will be blamed on it. There are efforts to criminalize anyone associated with it. Very few seem to have any interest in perspective. The Resilient Earth provides a few Crude Facts About Offshore Drilling for those who want to aim before firing the big gun.

While environmentalists clamor for a shut down of all offshore drilling in the Gulf, realists know that this will make the threat to ocean life even greater. What has not being told to the public is that nature itself leaks more oil into the ocean each year than mankind, and has been doing so for millions of years. What is even less known is that offshore drilling can actually reduce the amount of crude released into the seas.

The threat is real. Ecosystems, tourism, and fishing will all feel the impact. There will be long term policy consequences. These will have to be handled but they are only distractions towards the effort of finding solutions to the needs for energy, how it is obtained, how to reduce risks with due consideration for both costs and benefits, and how to manage efforts.

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Connecting the two ends of the transaction: fraud in the economy

At the Big Picture: James K. Galbraith: Why the ‘Experts’ Failed to See How Financial Fraud Collapsed the Economy, the text of a written statement to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee delivered this May.

Ask yourselves: is it possible for mortgage originators, ratings agencies, underwriters, insurers and supervising agencies NOT to have known that the system of housing finance had become infested with fraud? Every statistical indicator of fraudulent practice – growth and profitability – suggests otherwise. Every examination of the record so far suggests otherwise. The very language in use: “liars’ loans,” “ninja loans,” “neutron loans,” and “toxic waste,” tells you that people knew. I have also heard the expression, “IBG,YBG;” the meaning of that bit of code was: “I’ll be gone, you’ll be gone.”

The financiers must be made to feel, in their bones, the power of the law. And the public, which lives by the law, must see very clearly and unambiguously that this is the case.

There is a pool of money whose owners are desperately seeking some return in an investment. There is a political push to make money available for certain needs. There are managers willing to connect the two. Some of those managers, perhaps even as a consequence of a chain of managers, cloud over aspects of one end of the transaction to the other as they take their cut on the money flow. Some may even intentionally cloud the transaction so those with the money to invest can’t really see the nature of their investment. When the realities of the money use end hit reality, the cloud clears and the owners of the investments find out where their money went. The only profit is the IBG, YBG crowd. Galbraith describes the presumptions and conditions that allowed this to happen. That must be learned to find the proper way to minimize future pains.

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Gender roles, religion, culture, and where’s the balance?

Is submission feminism? That would mean much of the fringe feminist movement was rather masculine which is the caveat that generalizations need care before you slam them up against the stops. William Kilpatrick notes the success of Islam in prisons and suggests that this is due to the unabashed masculine character of the religion as seen in its aggression and how “We’ve grown accustomed to video images of ten-year-old boys in Palestinian training camps, dressed like mujahideen and wielding AK-47’s.” But he thinks The Warrior Code vs. The Da Vinci Code runs much deeper as a problem in society.

A feminized Christianity may work to attract a certain type of man, but he’s probably not the man you want around when the local Imam starts practicing taqiyya on your congregation. … Of course, feminization is not just a problem for Christians, but also for the culture as a whole. If Islam is all about submission, Western culture, of late, seems to be all about submissiveness. … Nevertheless, because it’s a large part of American culture, the health of Christianity ought to be of concern to all. Our culture derives much of its strength from its Christian faith, but a Christianity without a strong masculine presence won’t be able to keep young men from defecting to the religion of guns n’ poses. There are a lot of young men in our world who are uncertain whether to follow the sign of the crescent moon or the sign of the cross, but it’s a good bet not many of them will be interested in following the “yield” sign which some contemporary Christians have taken as their emblem.

There are other paradigms that could be used for this than gender but they are rather more nuanced and less familiar. Identity of self as separate from, but still a part of, the whole is a basic component of human nature. We cannot exist alone yet we also want to be ourselves. This yearning is seen in the survivalist movement which also shows many of the stereotypical aggressive masculine values but is also tempered by similar feminine nurturing values needed for sustenance and health. You have to go out, find, and kill the food as well as store, prepare and manage it.

The issue is, of course, balance. What Kilpatrick is saying is that Western culture and its Christianity basis is tending off balance on the submissive end while Islam and the Muslim culture is tending off balance on the aggresive end. When the heavy weights are at the ends of the beam away from the supports, the center tends to break. That is a concern.

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