Archive for September, 2010

War as symbol

War, even the war of despots, used to be a total commitment. Since WWII the unity of commitment has faded. War has become more of an internal political and ideological football and less of a means for defense of self or allies. One side is indeed all in and that side is the aggressor. That side can be an invading force as in Korea or Vietnam or it can be a terrorist campaign as in 9/11. It is the defense and the response to these attacks that is fractured. The Legacy of the Tet Offensive is about this phenomena. The NRO item is an interview with James S. Robbins, author of This Time We Win: Revisiting the Tet Offensive.

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: You call the Tet Offensive a “powerful symbol divorced from its reality” and describe it as a having become “more than a battle; it is a legacy, a legend, a continually replicating story line.” How does history get this out of control?

ROBBINS: The four most important frequently wrong things to correct are: Tet was not a surprise attack; it was not intended only to be a symbolic strike; it did not turn the American public against the war effort; and it did not drive Johnson to the negotiating table, because he had been futilely calling for peace talks since the war began.

That war was fought with many constraints. These constraints were to satisfy internal political factions. For those factions, war was a symbol whose importance was much higher than any consideration for national sovereignty or violent pursuit of ideology or even massacre.

Hue was the only city in South Vietnam over which the Communists gained substantial control. During their three weeks in power in Hue, they massacred thousands of “enemies of the people,” often in the most gruesome ways imaginable. Mass graves turned up for years afterward. It was one of the greatest such wartime atrocities in history. But the American press coverage was minimal, and Communist apologists in this country tried either to minimize the scope of the massacre or deny it ever happened.

War is a symbol. The misrepresentation of actual conflict is only one facet. The painting of the military in despicable terms is another. The cost of war, often misrepresented and exaggerated, is another.

A war in defense against aggression is not much of a luxury. The use of war as a symbol for ideological fantasies is.

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Just the facts? Whither Toyota? Climate?

Scott calls it A Minnesota miscarriage of justice. The driver who rear ended another and killed those in it is not being held accountable for his actions. Instead, Toyota is being blamed. The media and some others are crowing about freeing the innocent. Whatever.

The facts don’t fit the mantra.

Studies into the efforts to blame Toyota for sudden acceleration and cars that won’t stop make it rather clear that the claims lack substance. That does not go down well for some.

The NHTSA plays to the media by regularly “reporting” the number of deaths allegedly linked to Toyota sudden-acceleration, now up to 93, without pointing out that many claims are plainly absurd.

Research shows driver error contributes to over 99 percent of all car accidents–but naturally lots of people prefer to believe otherwise. In fact, many of the Toyota “alleged death” entries actually admit that investigators concluded driver error was at fault–but the person making the entry feels that unintended acceleration was obviously the real cause.

In wondering where the facts went, Watts notes that The season of disinvitation continues. In this case it is the inconvenient facts regarding climate research.

Don’t want to hear it! — That’s one way to keep irritating ideas away. Such a method has its problems, though.

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Get a grip: advice for the leader

Michael McKinney asks Do you argue with reality?

“The number one cause of our unhappiness are the lies we believe in life.” Too often, we operate apart from reality. Given a choice between reality and our version of it, we are inclined to choose the latter. It is a central tendency of human beings. The result is drama not peace.

“Instead of getting the results we want,” says Cy Wakeman, “we end up with reasons, stories, and excuses for why things didn’t work out—leading to more drama, disengagement, judgment, and ineffective leadership.”

“You are arguing with reality whenever you judge your situation in terms of right and wrong instead of fearlessly confronting what is.” … Too often our criticism is about setting us apart from others and not about helping them. It says a lot more about us than it does those it is directed towards. … Operating out of a judging mindset of “I know” or “I am right” effectively shuts down the potential to learn or accomplish anything.

What should one do? The advice is common: do a reality check, be clear about motives, set the example.

There is a presumption behind all this and it is that one wants to get in touch with reality. That is often not the case.

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The Tea Party: following the advice of Jesus?

Mark Roberts has been discussing the problems of conflict. His latest post is about What To Do If Someone Sins Against You: When the One You Confront Doesn’t Listen. It provides for an interesting comparison to what we see in the Tea Party phenomena.

First, it should be noted that the Tea Part arose from the feeling that the ‘political class’ has sinned against the citizens. The first step in resolving such a problem as described by Roberts is to “go to the person and tell him or her the fault in the hope of reconciliation.” Remember the town hall meetings?

Now, step two.

Jesus is realistic. He knows that sometimes confrontation does not lead quickly to reconciliation. Sometimes the one who sinned against you will not listen to the facts, no matter how kindly and clearly you present them.

The problem was not resolved with a face to face, in-person, meeting and discussion of issues so it is time to “take one or two others along with you.” Think of the primaries. Those who did not ‘get the message’ in the town hall meetings are now facing a vote in the primaries. As Scott notes at Power Line, Notes on creative destruction, some Republicans still do not get the message much less the Democrats.

So what’s next?

“If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17, NRSV)

We will see if it comes to this and what this means or we will suffer the consequence. – always do.

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Selective amnesia? Is it Israel or is it human rights?

There are some issues that provide insight into dark areas of the soul. Scott describes one in his posting The trouble with Israel. It appears professor Fred Gottheil took a look at a ‘human rights’ petition condemning Israel and asked:

“Would these same 900 sign onto a statement expressing concern about human rights violations in the Muslim Middle East, such as honor killing, wife beating, female genital mutilation, and violence against gays and lesbians?”

A petition to that effect could not gain support. The conclusion is that the opposition to Israel had little to do with ‘human rights’ – at least insofar as it involved the phenomena listed.

Their loathing (dare we call it hate?) of the UN-created Jewish state is so deep that it “trump[s] their professional interests,” leading them into a “ideologically discriminatory trap of their own making,”

When what is bothering you is projected onto something else, finding peace becomes much more difficult. Israel provides a case in point.

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The logic goes something like this

The Virtues of Ruthlessness: What the Out-There X Prize Winners Can Teach Automakers says the logic goes something like this:

Carbon-based energy is finite. Cars burn too much of that limited resource. So the cars of the future should, maybe must, devour less and less energy. Ultimately, fingers crossed, vehicles will be powered by what our benighted present-day brains might as well just call magic. Barring that, they will sip whatever fuel we continue to wage war over.

What’s wrong with this picture? It does sound logical. It is a reasonably accurate picture of what many people believe to the point of demanding we change how we live. They couldn’t be missing anything, could they?

It is somewhat like the puzzlement some have when the jails fill and crime drops.

If an energy source is “finite” does that mean that is just ceases to become available or does something else happen? History indicates that something else happens. The source doesn’t just stop but rather it dries up and its prices rises. Other sources then become more competitive and begin to take over as the major source.

When someone says cars “burn too much” they are making a value judgment, not a factual statement. Being unable to discriminate between a value judgment and a fact is how we end up with the value judgments of some forced on everyone.

Then there’s the “wage war over” ethos. That is a reduction that is crass and more in line with a political epithet than it is with reality.

standards change slowly, revolutions start somewhere, and what was ugly or strident or ridiculous a generation ago is status quo today.

This shows as a rationalization, not an observation. It ignores what drives change. Consider the information technology field as an example where standards have changed drastically and dramatically. Even in automobiles, the attempts to force change to meet ideological dreams can be compared to those where technologies have enabled practical needs of the market.

Sometimes keeping one’s feet on the ground can be difficult.

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Is reason your guide?

Mark Roberts cautions (What To Do If Someone Sins Against You: Jesus Sets Up the Case)

If you’re a person who tends to overreact and accuse others of wrongdoing, you may want to be sure you’re not misusing Matthew 18 by confronting those who haven’t done anything wrong to you. On the contrary, if you’re someone who tends to avoid conflict at all costs – someone like, me, for instance – watch out for your own denial and rationalization.

The same phenomena is seen in health and medicine where an individual can suffer both physically and emotionally. Kathy Kastner notes that Health decisions are not entirely based on evidence based data noting a psychologist and author who rationalizes by asserting that “Science tells us nothing about the individual.” Kastner calls this rationalization “a bunch of hooey” and explains why.

Steven Novella provides another example in the attacks on aspartame and other artificial sweeteners.

If you believe everything you read on the internet, then is seems that a chemical found in thousands of products is causing an epidemic of severe neurological and systemic diseases, like multiple sclerosis and lupus. The FDA, the companies that make the product, and the “medical industrial complex” all know about the dangers of this chemical but are hiding the truth from the public in order to protect corporate profits and avoid the pesky paper work that would accompany the truth being revealed.

As I have noted before – you have to interpret a literature, not a single study. The results of one lab or one study can be erroneous. When decades have produced hundreds of studies on a question, the cherry pickers will always have a lot to choose from. That is why systematic reviews are necessary, and it is also necessary to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each type of research.

A conspiracy to hide the risks of aspartame, however, remains a popular internet urban legend that will likely not disappear anytime soon.

“Watch out for your own denial and rationalization” is good advice. When you assign ideas and actions you don’t like to hidden conspiracies, when you are very selective about what studies you will accept, when you don’t look at your own influence on what you see and believe, intellectual integrity is in question.

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Trying to control the argument

Watts Up With That has two posts that illustrate methods being used to attempt to maintain control of the global warming debate. Ninety Eight Point Six (Thirty Seven) describes how a misleading analogy can be used to steer discussion. Pielke Senior: Misinformation on the Website “Skeptical Science – Getting Skeptical About Global Warming Skepticism” takes note of the ad hominem, win/lose approach that also attempts to take over a position by being ‘skeptical if skeptics.’

In terms of the fever analogy:

If you’ve got a fever, you’re sick. You need to do something. (I still can’t remember–is it feed a cold and starve a fever or vice-versa?) This is exactly what Al Gore said when he addressed Congress in 2008.

But Earth is not human. Anthropomorphizing it really means we can’t talk about it accurately and honestly. It doesn’t breathe, go to the bathroom or watch TV.

To say it has a fever means that you know what the right temperature is. Do we know that about this planet?

Of course, if you start to ask questions about ‘what is the right temperature?’ you get labeled as a denier or something worse. That is the means to keep the skeptical view behind the curtain and the idea of a fever front and foremost. A fever feeds the FUD Mongering and that spreading of fear, uncertainty, and doubt is the tools used to manipulate.

That is described by Pielke.

The post starts by mislabeling me as a “climate change sceptic” and a “denialist”. Not only is this completely incorrect (as can be easily confirmed by reading our article … but it sets the tone of their post as an ad hominem attack, rather than a discussion of the issue.

What the Skeptical Science fails to recognize is that with respect to the diagnosis of global warming using Joules of heat accumulation in the oceans, snapshots of heat content at different times are all that is needed. There is no time lag in heating or cooling. The Joules are either there or they are not. The assessment of a long-term linear trend is not needed.

What would be useful is for the weblog Skeptical Science authors to discuss the value of using (and issues with using) the accumulation of Joules in the climate system as the primary metric to monitor global warming.

What Pielke provides is a comparison and contrast in how to approach the argument and make it a proper debate. He does not call his ‘opponent’ derogatory names but rather refutes what was said with appropriate citation. He addresses the argument offered and not the person offering it. He attempts to clarify and educate rather than win. In doing so, he not only describes the problems with the skeptical view of the skeptics but also illustrates how a civilized and honest person approaches productive debate.

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Science, regulation, and a matter of denial

The journal Nature is getting a lot of notice for their latest political diatribe. Lumos notes that Nature equates science with regulation and describes why he thinks so and what it means.

Science has nothing whatsoever to do with regulation. Science cannot tell us what priorities we should hold dear. Science cannot tell us what is “universally” bad and what is “universally” good. The good and the evil always boil down to the personal interests of people and their groups and, more generally, to moral values that extrapolate the experience and that transcend these interests. However, the moral values cannot be scientifically determined because they always depend on subjective considerations. And if there are disagreements about moral values, the confrontation between the different opinions is always a matter of politics, not science.

But that doesn’t mean science cannot be used as a weapon. Consider how many times you will see stories about what some “scientist says” or “scientific research” or other headlines or explanations where science is used as a qualifier, often even a redundant qualifier. It is part of an effort to invoke a mantle of authority, which is a logical fallacy.

Politics and people’s purely politically motivated efforts to impose regulation of many types may be realized and is being realized in many other disciplines besides climate science.

This is why the whitewash efforts are so transparent and the ad hominem so prominent. As noted in Nature uses the D-word, the climate change defense appears to have chosen denier as its favorite epithet. That is to impugn anyone who questions man caused climate change with the religious bigots who deny evolution. It may be a form of projection. Dr. Sanity has provided the professional view of the role of denial in recent political discussion. Perhaps the authors of the Nature opinion should read that blog while looking in the mirror?

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Hidden costs of energy to salve ideologies

The ‘go green’ ideology is a good case study of successful propaganda .. but that is for another time. Right now, its effect is becoming evident. Nevada power company has a rate increase on the table in part to pay for the mandated percentage of its power that must come from ‘green’ sources. On the other side of the planet comes the question Will a new real estate tax save us from solar insanity?

The subsidized photovoltaic industry has exploded in the mostly cloudy Czech Republic. Within a year, the amount of electricity produced by solar panels has increased by a whole order of magnitude. As a result, the leading power utility, ČEZ, estimates that it may have to raise the price of electricity by a whopping 20 or 30 percent starting from January 2011.

Since the agreements have been made and the monies committed, the question at this time is how to ameliorate the damages. One idea is taxes.

Whatever happened to the market?

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Self hate may encounter free speech

The question:

references to particular ethnic or religious groups as “viruses” or “cancers” in need of extirpation are socially unacceptable, triggering immediate thoughts of genocide and mass murder.

Why, then, should it be acceptable to refer to all humanity in this fashion? Does widening the circle of eliminationist rhetoric somehow make it better?

Professor Reynolds wonders Who is responsible for Warmabomber’s violent agenda? and if it is related to the the currently stylish description “eliminationist rhetoric.”

There seems to be a lot of folks out there who think mankind is a cancer, a virus, or a disease that infests the planet. That opinion oozes out in discussion, in speech, and, sometimes, in action. Some actions are fairly benign while others are not.

The environmental movement needs to bring its hate-filled rhetoric under control, before it’s too late. There are too many potential James Lees out there, and some of them may be more competent than Lee was. Don’t encourage them through over the top rhetoric.

I would say “it’s for the children,” but I’m afraid they’d hear “the children” as “the filthy human babies.

Environmentalism is not the only issue. There are many where the boundaries between what is acceptable and what is not are being subject to moral equivalence. Every freedom comes with a responsibility. When that responsibility is abused then freedoms are lost. If responsibilities are not reinforced, then tragic consequences may result. The problem facing society is how to discriminate between hate mongering and its ilk and responsible political dialog. Whether it is climate warming or same sex marriages or race or religion, the evidence seems to indicate an intolerable tolerance and that creates stresses likely to cause fractures.

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Social Security and the illegal alien problem

Many complain that jobs are being taken from U.S. citizens by cheap foreign illegal labor. It is a political hot potato and a new report adds fuel to the fire. Bruce Krasting says it’s Social Security Trust Fund’s Labor Day Bombshell.

SS has been collecting money from illegal aliens for years. They will keep the money they have collected and they will not pay out any benefits (except fraud) in the future. So this money is “free”. I have often wondered how big the numbers on this are. Now we know. The numbers are enormous. Without the Free Money coming in from illegal aliens SS would look much different than we “think” it does.

The illegal alien workforce may be contributing as much as 13.5% of the Social Security taxes. Most reporting about the status of Social Security have assumed that all who contribute will receive benefits. When there is such a large amount that will not, as of now, have to be paid to its contributors, it means that those reports have significantly overstated the liabilities versus the benefits.

In some respects this is nice because it is ‘free’ money for the government program. Krasting points out that this sort of thing is also political hay that appears to be used to support questionable positions.

The Administration will use the Goss revelation to prove to the American people that illegal workers have made a major contribution to the US economy via the taxes they paid to SS. This will be done to blunt the growing tide of ire among those who actually live here.

But what’s wrong with ‘free’ money? There is, of course, the dishonesty involved in taxing some folks with a false promise, even if they made false representation about who they were. Much more important though, is in how Social Security security is viewed and considered.

I will say that this is a sea change event for how we look at SS. All prior analysis and all future expectations must now be revisited. I assure you that the results after excluding the illegal taxes will be will prove to be a major blow to the solvency of the Fund.

Things just aren’t as simple as they seem, sometimes. This source of Social Security funds is also not the only questionable source. There is also the interest rates on the Treasury bonds behind the funds that is worth some consideration. When you get to mangling the books, all sorts of interesting things can happen.

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Is the Bible secular?

The display of the Ten Commandments has been a symbol for the anti-western culture advocates. The idea is that anything from the bible is sectarian and religious and therefore must be banned from the public square. David Hazony wonders: Can a Sacred Text Be Secular as Well? He uses his experience from a visit to Israel as an example.

most Israelis don’t see the Bible as an “obviously sectarian” text all. They see it, rather, as a national treasure, a basis of identity, a rich collection of ancient writings that is of interest not so much because of its authority as much as for its wisdom and testament to a unique cultural heritage. In other words, they see it as a secular text — much as Americans view the Federalist Papers or the Declaration of Independence.

The attacks on the Bible and its role in western societies is a logical fallacy. They posit that the Bible must be either religious or not. Since it is used in church, it must therefore be religious and banned from the public square. This position belies its true founding.

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Prosecutorial misconduct as political warfare?

Byron York says New evidence undermines feds’ case against Arizona. The U.S. is going after Arizona and that means investigation and target definition. The latest case is Joe Arpaio, Maricopa County Sheriff. Since “in September 2008, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, known as ICE, did its own investigation of Arpaio’s office — and gave it a clean bill of health,” the effort has been more towards the Libby thing: if we can’t get him on the facts, let’s get him on not helping us find ways to get him.

the Justice Department has not charged the sheriff’s office with violating anyone’s civil rights. Instead, Thursday’s lawsuit goes after Arpaio for allegedly failing to cooperate fully in the probe.

You’d think prosecutors would have something better to do … what this really says is that politics is gaining precedence over justice. The color of office is being misused.

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