Archive for January, 2011

Truthfulness is appealing

The latest round in the Palin Derangement Expression has provided at least one example of where observable reality has surfaced on the left. Glen took note and started one of his famous ‘Insta-avalanches’ that drowned the target blog with error “503 Service Temporarily Unavailable.” Da Techguy’s Blog started it.

One way to look at this is that the readers of one of the most popular weblogs are hungry for a discussion of the issues that is founded in integrity rather than delusion. It is extremely rare to find an avowed leftist whose opinion is not tainted – such as the perception that Palin was “livid” on Hannity’s show or that the folks like Palin and Limbaugh are typically “vitriolic” and ‘full of hate.’ These sorts of descriptions do not meet the laugh test but are still used and accepted a priori by the most visible of Palin and Limbaugh’s idealogical opponents. You can’t have a meaningful discussion with someone who isn’t in touch with reality.

This Palin problem also highlights the meme about the dual class structure in US politics. Those in the beltway paradigm – most of the major pundits and the MSM – can only see Palin as a wanna’be Presidential candidate. That is all they know. But Palin isn’t acting like your usual political hack who is gaming for a nomination to that office. When they evaluate her behavior against the paradigm they know, the result is dismissive. When, or if, they discover another paradigm for Palin, the commentary might take a different slant.

Meanwhile, the issue of free speech in political dialog with its components of passion, civility, honesty, and integrity will remain on the table. People have died for this issue in the past and that says something about its importance. The topic is not as visceral as an assassination so it remains secondary. It’s primacy will only be seen in its tenure.

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Lawfare via FOIA

A court case is in progress about whether ‘freedom of information’ applies to private businesses as well as to governments. Joshua Trevino describes FCC v. AT&T: what’s at stake.

By way of background, the case stems from a 2004 incident in which AT&T discovered it was overcharging the federal government on work related to E-Rate. The company voluntarily reported itself to the FCC, which then opened an investigation.

That means the FCC went after a lot of internal business documentation. Once the FCC had this information, some of AT&T’s competitors went after it using the FOIA.

Therein lay the cause of the trouble. Once this information was in the FCC’s hands, a trade association called CompTel — comprised of AT&T’s competitors — filed a FOIA request for all the hitherto-proprietary AT&T info in the FCC’s possession. This abuse of the intent of FOIA, which was meant to promote open government rather than corporate intelligence gathering, was — to the surprise of many observers — validated by the FCC in late 2008, when it ruled that corporations are not protected by FOIA’s privacy exemptions. Just over one year later, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals overruled the FCC (PDF) in a defense of FOIA’s plain intent.

This is very similar to the wikileaks extortion about releasing internal bank documents, except wikileaks makes no pretense about legality in that effort. The basic idea is to make business espionage a public effort as a means to denigrate, impugn, or destroy a hated ideological enemy or business competitor.

Just how far it will go is a question. If the current trend keeps up, it may be that anyone can be allowed to obtain your banking records, other personal finance records, correspondence, and so forth and make them public record. That seems odd in contrast to the identity theft panic virus.

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Tell a lie often enough and people will believe you

There are a number of readily available examples of lies that take on the aura of truth over time. The defamation of the Swiftboat Veterans has progressed to where the term “swiftboating” is used to describe a malicious and falsely based smear – despite the fact that the Veterans were not found to be inaccurate. The Palin crosshairs map has also been paraded as proof of violent rhetoric that instigates murder, despite a similar map available from the Democratic Party promoting their targeting in the campaign. The gun control debate gets into this as well where some are absolutely convinced that it is guns that cause crime.

This phenomena is also behind much of the wikileaks support. That anti U.S. and anti-capitalism belief system also shows in such things as “Russian Journalist: ‘Violence Is the Price of Freedom.’ Statistics: ‘Uh, No.’”.

Dennis Prager provides a summary of this phenomena in Libeling the Right, The key to the Left’s success.

People are awakening to the crucial fact of left-wing success: The only way the Left can succeed in America is by libeling the Right. Only 20 percent of Americans label themselves liberal, let alone leftist. How, then, do leftists get elected? And why don’t more Americans call themselves conservative, when, in fact, so many share conservatives’ values?

The Left rarely convinces Americans to adopt its views. What it does is create a fear of the Right that influences many Americans to align themselves with the Left.

Prager describes several examples where he thinks Lincoln’s “can’t fool all the people all the time” idea may be surfacing in terms of political integrity. We can only hope he is right.

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The panic virus

It’s been one panic after another about mankind’s doom with a faux-scientific mantra for something over fifty years now. Several of these panics have hit the fan of empiricism lately. Ed Driscoll provides a rundown in ‘Left Wing Creationism’.

There is the autism fraud. The title of a new book on this is The Panic Virus that details the fraud. Salon has yanked a 5 year old article they put up based on Rolling Stone Magazine’s “research” and changed the link to a portal on autism. There are stories around about how some parents still think whooping cough and mumps would be less traumatic for children than a vaccine, though.

Climate change is another of the panics that has had recent discussion and inspection. The reality is sinking in such that some of the proponents of climate alarmism are resorting to eliminationist rhetoric to defend their beliefs – which then brings in the ‘civil discussion’ debate which is its own panic.

If you watch the news, you’ll note that the panic about the cost of oil, which is near levels that were a big panic a few years ago, has been muted. What it trying to surface instead is a food panic about increasing costs of basic foodstuffs and reduced supply and starvation (oh, my!).

Watch for it. The only vaccine for a doomsday panic virus is integrity in reasoning backed up by empirical methods.

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Why “blood libel” is worth concern

Shmuley Boteach describes why he thinks Sarah Palin Is Right About ‘Blood Libel’ because “Judaism rejects the idea of collective responsibility for murder.”

Despite the strong association of the term with collective Jewish guilt and concomitant slaughter, Sarah Palin has every right to use it. The expression may be used whenever an amorphous mass is collectively accused of being murderers or accessories to murder.

The abominable element of the blood libel is not that it was used to accuse Jews, but that it was used to accuse innocent Jews—their innocence, rather than their Jewishness, being the operative point. Had the Jews been guilty of any of these heinous acts, the charge would not have been a libel.

Murder is humanity’s most severe sin, and it is trivialized when an innocent party is accused of the crime—especially when that party is a collective too numerous to be defended individually. If Jews have learned anything in their long history, it is that a false indictment of murder against any group threatens every group.

To be sure, America should embrace civil political discourse for its own sake, and no political faction should engage in demonizing rhetoric. But promoting this high principle by simultaneously violating it and engaging in a blood libel against innocent parties is both irresponsible and immoral.

If the actual words used in the median and by Palin are the reference, there is little doubt that Palin’s use of the term “blood libel” was accurate and was indeed pertinent as an appropriate emphasis on behavior that needed inspection.

Another take on the same bout of dishonest, and perhaps “irresponsible and immoral” rhetoric is Robert Verbruggen’s advice on How to Write About Firearms, “A guide for liberal columnists who don’t want to sound stupid about guns.” That one also notes some indicative word patterns described in the previous post.

As noted earlier, civility starts with integrity and honesty, not with inhibiting passion. There is a compare and contrast in these examples between the posts and the subject of their content. Listening to their arguments carefully and how it is presented is one way to learn about civility.

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Deconstructing absurdity

P.J. O’Rourke provides an example of deconstructing words to illustrate the absurdity and bias that might not be otherwise explicit. He says The Times Loses It.

Nor can it be called news analysis, beginning as it does with an attempt to create a self-fulfilling prophecy: “The shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords .  .  . set off what is likely to be a wrenching debate over anger and violence in American politics.”

If self-fulfilling prophecies were wanted from reporters​—​and they are not​—​a better one would have been “Bloodshed Puts New Focus on Mental Health Policies.”

But antigovernment ramblings coming from outside the government are so sinister that they are sinister whether they are sinister or not. “And regardless of what led to the episode,” Hulse and Zernike say, “it quickly focused attention on the degree to which inflammatory language, threats and implicit instigations to violence have become a steady undercurrent in the nation’s political culture.”

To maintain that there’s a lack of evidence for such a sweeping statement would be inaccurate since Hulse and Zernike themselves are doing what they claim is being done. And given the tight deadlines of a Sunday edition they have focused their attention quickly indeed.

There is more taking the deconstruction down to qualifiers used in various patterns. You can see the response to this sort of analysis by looking through the literature. That response also tends to have certain characteristics that predominate.

In much of the dialog about vitriol and hate in political speech and its motivational impact on extreme human misbehavior, the same divide occurs. It is the problem of language analytics and obfuscation of definition. Terms such as civility, vitriol, and expressions of hate are seldom supported with effective examples to clarify definitions by those who use such terms in an accusatory manner. That, again, is a pattern: the use of terms with negative connotations to mean whatever the speaker wants them to mean, and only that. Highlighting such a lack of integrity is what an analysis such as O’Rpurke does.

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Nerves and miscues

The blood libel term did hit a nerve. The BrothersJuddBlog illustrates that and also the sort of denial being used to ease the pain. It should be noted that Palin used the term to describe the behavior of a class of journalists. As even some distinguished Jews in the legal profession have pointed out, the use of the term was apt in the modern context. Even the ADL grudgingly admits this.

But the blog first takes the stance that this description of behavior was an assumption of the role of a victim and then proceeds to misrepresent the term’s current context, and then falsely describe the Jewish community’s view.

This is denial in the classic sense. The reality is tough to deal with so a fantasy world is created. This is normal up to a point. It only becomes psychotic when the escape continues and becomes ingrained into the personality. What may be causing such angst on this topic is that it becoming ever more difficult to maintain the fantasy.

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Lawfare in its various forms: the DeLay case in context

Tony Lee reviews the trials of Tom Delay

The Texas justice system convicted him on charges of money laundering
and conspiracy to launder money — despite evidence to the contrary —
and sentenced him to three years in jail and 10 years probation on
Monday. DeLay, out on bond, is appealing the conviction and sentencing.

The prosecution is tainted by politics and this particular accusation is just one of a long long series of political opponents engaging in lawfare to diminish, impugn, and eliminate effective political operatives they oppose. You can see the same phenomena in, for example, the ethics complaints against Governor Palin. As with DeLay, those complaints were harassment and only found of any merit in the most arcane or selected contexts.

Anyone can do ethics complaints. A criminal prosecution is another matter. That requires a politically driven prosecutor, which is what DeLay encountered. It is also why the US Attorney General is being asked about voter intimidation cases. The Tucson sheriff’s pronunciations take import in this context as does the many who echoed or sympathized with his opinions in various ways. As Henninnger puts it “This isn’t just political calculation. It is foundational belief.” When belief belies integrity and honesty, trouble brews.

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Taking note of what is important.

Dr. Jane Orient reminds us of something very important to remember and keep in mind in regards to the Tucson Tragedy. It is about our friends and neighbors. It is a lesson in something that seems often forgotten.

There was no riot. There were, to be sure, 20 victims and six deaths,
but not dozens. No one bled to death while people cowered and waited
for a SWAT team from the sky. The agony did not go on for hours or days
but was ended quickly.

Aside from the names of the fallen, the
names that should be remembered are those of the people who acted as
Americans should to protect and help themselves and their neighbors in
the event of danger. Roger Salzgeber and 74-year-old retired Army National GuardCol. Bill Badger, who was slightly injured, tackled the shooter. Joe Zamudio helped pin him to the ground. A 61-year old woman, Patricia Maisch, grabbed the magazine the shooter had dropped while trying to reload, and then she knelt on his ankles. Daniel Hernandez Jr. rushed to the side of his new boss, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords,
applying pressure to her wound and keeping her from choking on her own
blood. Let us commend and thank all of them and resolve to act as they
did if we are ever in such a situation. Let us remember their names and
black out the shooter’s.

If we are to have peace in our communities, we need deep reflection and a
revival of the virtues that made America great. In this dangerous
world, we need people who will rise to the occasion to help their
neighbors, as many Tucsonans did. Our people also need the freedom to be
able to do this – not more restrictions by a ruling class that falsely
promises security while making us ever more vulnerable to inevitable
threats.

This is lesson those who exhibited a knee jerk reaction blaming the culture in the U.S. or some significant aspect of that culture (freedom of speech and self defense, political party, …) have not learned. yet. It is one those wikileaks folks and their defenders and others of the same America trashing ilk need to learn as well.

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The problem with statistics.

The headline is Global warming waning? Hardly. 2010 was tied as warmest year on record. Meanwhile, a lot of folks in Europe and the United States and China and elsewhere see that assertion, look out their window, and wonder if someone is crazy.

No, not crazy. The problem is in statistics. 2010 had a very warm spring due to the Pacific temperature patterns known as the ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation). When a warm spring is averaged with a cold winter, you can get nearly any result you want, especially when you carefully choose your dataset, carefully choose the manner by which adjustments are made to ‘fix’ problems such as the urban heat island effect, select the baseline to use as a referent, and confuse actual temperatures with changes in temperatures. Mark Twain had some rather pointed observations about statistics with such a tenuous base as those needed to ‘measure’ global temperature that seem to apply here.

When you look at what kind of changes the climatologists are talking about in this ‘warmest year’ contest, you will find it is a matter of only a few hundredths of a degree. But, there is a very strong need to support a pre-ordained conclusion and it is strong enough that a straw man appears:

“There has been some notion people have put forth that the climate stopped warming in about 2005. This years’ results show that notion lacks credibility,” said David Easterling, who heads the Climatic Data Center’s scientific services division

The truth of the matter is that you have to get out to the very fringe crowd to find anyone expressing that notion. There is significant agreement that there has been global climate warming of about a degree over a person’s lifetime. The straw man is set up in order to evade the crux of the debate which about the cause of that small rate of change and what a change that is as slow as that means as far as what governments should do. That is not as clear an issue as some would like. The CSM article ends with the reality:

So far, the average annual temperature in the US has been rising about 0.12 degrees F per decade since 1895, while precipitation has been rising by around 0.18 inches a decade.

Compare that to the rhetoric you see in the rest of the story and elsewhere. National Geographic, for example, had a show about Death Valley where they examined the biosphere in that area ranging from 10,000 above sea level to hundreds of feet below (in underwater caves). The narrator consistently moaned about how living things were suffering from climate change. A century’s worth of temperature change could be found by just changing elevation by a few hundred feet so why was it so catastrophic?

It is the hyperbole about what some think might happen and their complete obliviousness to reality that muddies the debate. Integrity has been the first victim. That is why the climate alarmists are getting shrill as they are loosing their credibility in the public.

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What is a “blood libel”

A libel is a false statement about someone that is written down. The term “blood libel” is most specifically a libel about Jews that asserts they use the blood of a child in a religious ceremony. Jonah Goldberg thinks it is being misused.

I should have said this a few days ago, when my friend Glenn Reynolds introduced the term to this debate. But I think that the use of this particular term in this context isn’t ideal. Historically, the term is almost invariably used to describe anti-Semitic myths about how Jews use blood — usually from children — in their rituals. I agree entirely with Glenn’s, and now Palin’s, larger point. But I’m not sure either of them intended to redefine the phrase, or that they should have.

The comments to his opinion in the National Review provide some qualifications about how the term is being used in modern rhetoric. See Answers.com or Wikipedia to learn about the historical use of the term. Anthony Julius also talks on Blood Libels as a class of libel, conspiracy, and economic false accusations.

All versions of anti-Semitism libel Jews. These libels may be grouped under three headings: the blood libel, the conspiracy libel, and the economic libel. The blood libel supposes that Jews entertain homicidal intentions towards non-Jews, and that Jewish law underwrites these intentions; the conspiracy libel supposes that Jews act as one, in pursuit of goals inimical to the interests of non-Jews; the economic libel supposes that Jews, who are self-interested, acquisitive and unproductive by nature, financially exploit non-Jews. The libels share the premise that Jews hate or despise non-Jews. Of the three libels, the blood libel is the master one. … The blood libel meant that local Jews would be blamed if a corpse was found washed up on a riverbank, abandoned in a wood, or hidden on a Jew’s property, or if a child disappeared and was reported missing. This defamatory assumption assisted the authorities by indicating to them the most likely class of suspects.

As an analogy, the term does seem to be appropriate if one substitutes Palin and Tea Party for Jews. It is a libel. It is directed towards an ideological enemy with a religious vigor. It is irrational. It does include the blaming of murder on that hated group. It is incendiary and that may be its point as a matter of underscoring the nature of the accusations as they were about rhetoric as a primary causative factor in a crime. The only crime that this rhetoric seems to have produced throughout history is on the part of those engaging in the rhetoric who came to believe what they were accusing.

UPDATE: From the MSM headlines it appears that Palin labeling the allegations about her spilling blood with the “blood libel” analogy hit a nerve with them. Those headlines are also accompanied by vehement denial, denigration of the analogy, and similar avoidance behavior. Truth does tend to penetrate and dissonance can be ugly if your perceptions do not match reality.

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It’s the integrity

Patterico asks Inflamed, Honest Rhetoric vs. Calm, Civil Smears: Which Is Preferable?.

issuing a brutally ugly and false accusation, while wearing a mask of smiles and civility, is not civil. It is ugly and partisan and disgusting — far more so than any inflamed rhetoric, as long as that rhetoric is honest — and free from actual threats of violence.

By this point we know these people have no conscience, so there is no point in trying to shame them. Instead, we have to stop them. By killing them? Uh, no. By pointing out their lies. Each and every time they tell them.

A clip of Bill O’Reilly is cited as an excellent example of this approach, ” right up to the last 10-15 seconds, when he ruins the whole thing with a pathetic attempt at balancing everything out (oh, and also, right-wingers should not be hateful.)” The ‘both sides do it’ and ‘there is no difference’ memes are moderating influences, perhaps based in guilt, that needs examination. One pundit took this approach and cited birthers and 9/11 truthers as examples. That fails the significance test.

The significance test can be seen to have failed when the fringe is equated to the mainstream. When the line from the President to the Sheriff supported by MSM media commentators are considered balanced by fringe elements such as those cited, the conclusion of there being no difference between sides becomes another example of the sort of dishonesty that Patterico suggests needs to be exposed and laid out for public inspection to see it for what it is.

And don’t get fooled by ‘fact checking’ efforts by self appointed rationalists. But that is a topic for another day.

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Commentary on the ruckus

Here are few comments on the rhetoric blame game and political gamesmanship using murder as a leverage.

John Steele Gordan warns: Memo to Liberals: Beware the Internet.

the old days are over. Not so long ago, if you wanted to prove that a member of the chattering classes had flatly contradicted himself in order to advance a political agenda, you had to go to the library, get a roll of microfilm, insert it into a machine, and then search for the earlier statement. If your memory was faulty as to where or when the earlier statement had appeared, this process could take hours, even days. Often it wasn’t worth the bother.

Today you need only click the icons for Google and/or YouTube, push a few keys, and bam! — you have proof positive of the chatterers’ shameless hypocrisy. A few more clicks and their intellectual perfidy is all over the Internet.

That makes comparison and contrast in the matter of personal consistency a means to evaluate the worth of someone’s words.

Peter Wehner describes The Cynicism and Intellectual Corruption of the Left.

words matter, because there is no evidence that we know of that “inflammatory language” that has “become a steady undercurrent in the nation’s political culture” drove Loughner to pull the trigger. … Yet this doesn’t appear to matter much at all to those on the left. They are determined to draw some deeper meaning — and some political advantage — from this tragedy. They want to libel conservatism.

It is all quite sick, really. Not a few liberals are attempting to use a human tragedy to advance an ideological agenda. They are using dead and broken bodies as political pawns. The blood was still flowing from the gunshot wounds of slain and wounded people in Tucson as liberals began an extraordinary and instantaneous smear campaign. It will end up making our political discourse even more angry and toxic.

I was naïve enough to be surprised at what has unfolded in the last 48 hours. The cynicism and intellectual corruption on the left is deeper than I imagined.

Bruce McQuain describes how Political opportunism never lets a crisis go to waste.

I continue to be incredulous of the blatant political opportunism this shooting of Rep. Giffords has unleashed on the left. OK, not really. But in a way, it is the Paul Wellstone memorial all over again on a national level.

First, all of this angst over political rhetoric is so overwrought and overblown as to be laughable. There has never been a time in the history of this land that the language hasn’t been rough or partisan. Never. Pretending this is the worst it has ever been is simply historically inaccurate. It may be more obvious now because of mass communications and the democratization of opinion, but it isn’t at all any different than it ever has been. Folks, do a little digging in the history books.

Our political speech should not be held hostage by the “unstable”. And this latest nut is a perfect example of the point. It appears he was not swayed by anything to do with political speech by anyone but Giffords. He was obsessed with her and for all we know, he got his orders to shoot her from the chicken pot pie he ate the night before.

Durbin’s nonsense notwithstanding, we cannot and must not make ourselves hostages to what could happen if some nut decides to take something literally. There is a difference between a random nutball deciding for whatever reason to do something and a movement that advocates violence as a solution to political problem. We must not bow to the pressure to accommodate the former by denying our free speech and we must not accept the latter as a solution to anything. But what we can’t do is lump the former with the latter and just curb our speech “in case” it might set one of the nuts off. That’s precisely what Durbin and his ilk are suggesting.

Daniel Harper describes The Left’s McCarthyism and cites George Will writes in the as well as Bill Kristol on C-SPAN

This McCarthyism of the left – devoid of intellectual content, unsupported by data – is a mental tic, not an idea but a tactic for avoiding engagement with ideas. It expresses limitless contempt for the American people, who have reciprocated by reducing liberalism to its current characteristics of electoral weakness and bad sociology.

Then there’s the business blogger who sets himself as being morally and intellectually superior to Palin (because his opinions of governance are different) and then, despite the cross hairs map he shows to qualify his point, suggests that blaming Palin is perhaps a bit overblown. Or there is the tech blogger who tries to be superior by noting that Glen Beck suggesting stopping violence with a gun.

And yes, there is a difference between the sides in this issue regarding political opportunism and rhetoric.

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Sticks and stones … but words …

There is a lot of exposition stimulated by the recent shooting about the propriety of rhetoric and comparing allegations with past events along with political posturing and matters of civility in debate. Shrinkwrapped provides a reference point in In Favor of Inflammatory Rhetoric quoting Freud: “The first human who hurled an insult instead of a stone was the founder of civilization”

in a nation of over 300,000,000 people, attempting to arrange our political discourse in order to minimize the risk of a psychotically disturbed patient from acting on his delusions is a non sequitor. It was not our political rhetoric that inflamed this person but his psychotic thinking and his deteriorating mind.

What needs to be remembered is that when we use words as weapons, it does not cause action; it inhibits action: words replace action. The insult replaces the spear; it does not cause the spear to be thrown.

We might all wish that our political discourse become more refined and elevated, yet it can’t and won’t any time soon, and for that we should be grateful. Our political divide is based on the most significant differences in the ways in which we conceptualize our country and believe we can best promote the common good and maximize our freedoms. The vision of the Left is incompatible with the vision of the Right and there are times when compromise is simply not possible. If our language reflects our intensity and the importance of the issues under debate, that is as it should be; the alternative to yelling at one another is not a pleasant afternoon tea, with polite elocution and refined disagreement, but guns and street battles. So by all means, continue yelling, continue flinging invective; it remains far preferable to the alternatives.

There is a court case that is relevant to this. It is about whether or not a man should be able to present himself falsely as a medaled combat veteran. In some jurisdictions, the courts have said it is OK because it is free speech. In others, courts have noted that it is a deceit intended to obtain benefit and, as such, should not be protected as free speech. While speech can be a substitute for more physically harmful weapons, there are limits which is why there are slander and libel laws. What is happening now pushes the boundaries of such law and the responsibilities that go with free speech. Matters of civility require intellectual integrity. What we are seeing right now is rhetorical spear chunking without any regards as to the quality of the point on the spear. It becomes an issue of just how much of that should really be protected and how much is enough.

As Limbaugh posits: “What is hate speech?” He notes that the definition has little to do with hate by those who most commonly use hate speech as their spear but rather they mean ‘disagree with me.’ If there was a more objective and agreed upon definition of hate speech, then, perhaps, something could be done about it. But if it is used strictly as a rhetorical weapon, it remains simply a substitute for an even less appropriate expression of views. As Shrinkwrapped noted, we should be thankful for small favors and hope we can keep things there as the many historical examples where even that restraint was lost illustrate.

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Public sentiment in regards to the entitlement mentality

This one is at Solving the entitlement problem, once and for all!. It appears that Mr. Evans of Gatesville, Texas may have some ideas about solving social problems that may be in sympathy with the views of many. Peter publishes the letter to the editor. It is worth reading and pondering.

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Poo-Gloos – innovation for human habitation

One of the most understated modern technologies is that of sanitation systems. As population density grows, the treatment of waste water (sewage) becomes a more difficult challenge as it takes time and space to process that waste into something environmentally benign. WUWT describes one promising technology for the transitional city size where passive treatments aren’t quite enough and active treatments are a bit too expensive for comfort.

Poo Gloo Gaia Pans is about a product now called a Bio Dome that will provide an optimum environment for bacterial growth, increases surface area for that growth by a factor of 100:1 in a sludge pond, and only requires a minimal airflow to keep it functioning. The installation and operating costs also tend to be on the order of 1000:1 less when compared to traditional mechanical installations used in larger plants.

These sorts of innovation occur all the time and add up to make a big difference in the standard of living. The battle in politics often hits this sort of thing as collateral damage. That needs consideration.

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Tactics in Terror: finding weak spots

Strategy Page says its Fusion for Everyone. The topic is the “revolution in how intelligence is collected, analyzed and used” fueled by technology based equipment and innovations in using the resulting data.

The drill is simple. Better intelligence enables you
to find where key enemy people are, so teams of troops can capture or
kill them. But the troops also pick up more information (from documents
and interrogation), which quickly leads to more raids. The damage to the
enemy is so great, and rapid, that their ability to undertake
operations becomes less and less. … The
intel tends to be good as well, with 80 percent of those raids resulting
in the capture of who the raiders were looking for, or someone
connected with the target.

What makes this viable is that terrorists cannot establish an infrastructure of base protection in the manner of a national army. The fact that they do not have the resources to fight as an army is why they devolve to terror. That fact is what is being used against them. The terrorist, by definition, attacks at the fringes because he cannot easily impinge on the command and control structures of an established national army. His own command and control structures can only be protected by secrecy and that can be more easily broken than a physical defense. It takes raw power to overcome a physical defense but only intellectual power supplemented by appropriate resources to overcome secrecy.

The breaking of cyphers in WWII is an example of this. That was done by a very small group supplemented by national forces assistance in data collection. What is happening in the war on terror is similar. Troops in the field collect data that is then processed to help guide further efforts which yield more data which further hone the point of the spear. This the ‘fusion’ of data the essay talks about in its title.

If you watched Band of Brothers you may have noticed scenes where the captain was typing out his combat reports. The process of getting information from battlefield to a point where it could be collected, collated, analyzed, and processed took a lot of effort and time. Modern technology has automated much of this process with everything from remote sensors to battlefield networks. The result is that data is gathered in real time and the analysis can be done in near real time, near enough to help guide the combat in which it is gathered.

The army is a heavy foot. Its actions are visible and it can be seen. Terrorists are a light foot depending upon stealth both in actions and in presence. Intelligence is removing that stealth and using what is uncovered to allow the heavy foot of the army to eliminate terrorist command, communication, and control infrastructure. What this illustrates is that there are many ways to fight a war and that it is why it can be a fertile breeding ground for innovation.

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Arizona horror: why reality matters

It is a horror and a tragedy: a guy with a gun lets loose in public targeting a political figure. The damage there was bad enough but there is more insidious damage in the reaction. That is getting discussed which may help create lessons learned.

The ammunition for the reaction damage is, one the right, Palin’s “crosshairs” campaign rhetoric and, on the left, the Daily Kos comments (since redacted) regarding one of the victim’s votes on assuming office and how to deal with that.

There are a few cases evident of the ‘both sides are the same’ school that the finger pointing, blaming, and political stagemanship being leveraged out of the horror is exactly the same on both sides of the political spectrum. Rick Moran seems to fall towards that meme, for instance. That needs to be called for what it is: denial. What should have precedent is determining the differences between the way various points of view look at, and use, the horror and using that for learning.

Lesson learning can be seen in Harnden’s The unseemly rush to blame Sarah Palin, the Tea Party and Republicans for murder in Arizona — “I’d be more reassured by a sheriff who concentrated on facts rather than over-heated, sweeping generalisations.”

Then there is Michael Daly’s view: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ blood is on Sarah Palin’s hands after putting cross hair over district to illustrate the point. “Here is what Sarah Palin said on the Facebook page where she depicted Gabrielle Giffords in the cross hairs of a rifle scope: “Don’t retreat! Instead – RELOAD!” … Well, the guy who shot Giffords yesterday managed to keep firing until he killed six, including a child, and wounded 13.”

Byron York makes a comparison and contrast: Journalists urged caution after Ft. Hood, now race to blame Palin after Arizona shootings — “There was ample evidence, in other words, that the Ft. Hood attack was an act of Islamist violence. … Nevertheless, public officials, journalists, and commentators were quick to caution that the public should not “jump to conclusions” about Hasan’s motive. CNN, in particular, became a forum for repeated warnings that the subject should be discussed with particular care.”

To some extent, these immediate reactions are emotional extrapolations about how one sees those who disagree with him. They represent what one wants it to be as a means of trying to understand the horror. That may be one reason why the subject is people rather than tools (so far). That is also why the perpetrator is getting short shrift in the dialog (so far). When the focus narrows, which it will likely do in time, the perpetrator and his tools will come under scrutiny. How that is viewed will also very likely provide some comparison and contrast lessons for those who care to learn.

The reality is in the specific behaviors that can be observed, not in emotional extrapolations. Those behaviors start with the perpetrator and his recent history. It is those behaviors that must be understood before taking action to reduce the odds of such a horror happing again.

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Peak oil? Gas too expensive?

Mark Perry says 2010 Was a Very Good Year for New Oil Finds. The message for the pessimists is that we are still finding things on the planet and it is tough to have a peak when you keep discovering more.

Last year was a really good year for new oil discoveries, there were at least 14 major oil discoveries in Brazil alone totaling 13.5 to 26.7 billion barrels, … In addition, there were more than 30 billion barrels discovered in other parts of the world in 2010 … With oil now selling now at close to $90 per barrel, we can expect even more discoveries in 2011.

Another post shows that the Time Cost of Gas Is Less Than Half the Cost in 1940.

the time cost of a gallon of gas, measured by the number of minutes of work at the average hourly manufacturing wage (BLS data here) required to purchase a gallon of gas at the nominal, retail price in each year between 1939 and 2010 (EIA data here).

It took just slightly less than 9 minutes of work at the average hourly wage of $18.56 last year to purchase a gallon of gas at the average price of $2.77 per gallon in 2010.  That’s a lower time cost than in all of the years between 1939 and 1958, and less than half the time cost of gas in the 1939-1941 period.

Don’t worry. Denial is strongly in place. Peak Oil is coming. Real Soon Now ™. Gas costs more than even and people can’t afford to live any more (or will Real Soon Now(tm) ). The data is a year old (or more) so it doesn’t reflect today’s reality.

Of course, if you are an optimist and like to look at the empirical side of things, then you have a lot going for your viewpoint. Not only in fossil fuels but also consider China’s 60 fold uranium energy gain thinking about reprocessing or the Japanese investors behind the California rare earth mines. When the demand is there, a supply or alternative will be found if given the chance.

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C&C – the other approach to the Constitution

Dinocrat says One side cheered, one side booed. It provides for a good comparison and contrast.

First is the “have preferred that it be read in its entirety” idea. Why? If the idea is to recite the law of the land that the members swore to uphold and defend, you don’t need then entire history of the law including all sections that have been modified or repealed. So why the preference for history? What is the hidden agenda? Why is it not stated constructively?

This also gets interesting when the idea of costs gets pulled into the discussion. Reducing the reading to only the Constitution as it stands as law today means less time and hence, less cost. It seems rather hypocritical to want to spend more and then to complain about how much is being spent.

The other comparison and contrast is tone. “Republicans wasting all that money” casts judgment on a group rather than criticizes a specific behavior from a group properly identified with that behavior. The “clever in its way” implies some sort of superior point of view, above that cleverness. Then there’s the ability to predict post hoc showing a bias in the title phenomena – which ignored the reality of the fact that the reading was a bipartisan activity. Some of the references used to support the thesis also had indicative titles: “cult of the Consitution” is demeaning to the foundational governance documents and very typical of the ridicule tactic that is a part of a pattern.

There is a difference. It is visible. It is a choice that people make or it is made for them.

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