Archive for December, 2011

About those ‘fact checkers’ – Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Scott Johnson brings up the question: who will guard the guardians themselves?. The topic is the fact checking efforts in the MSM that purport objectivity yet turn out to be misleading propaganda pieces.

James Taranto takes up a great example of the absurd fact checking project undertaken by the mainstream media in his column “Newt year in Jerusalem.” It is a project that raises the question posed by the Roman poet Juvenal in Satire VI: “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” (Translation: Who will guard the guardians themselves?)

In the cover story of the new issue of the Weekly Standard Mark Hemingway does a number on the whole fact checking genre. Hemingway’s piece is “Lies, damned lies, and ‘fact checking.’” It doesn’t tell you anything you haven’t already intuited or observed, but it is must reading nevertheless.

It is one thing to have reporters take up the responsibility to ‘fact check’ those with whom they disagree ideologically. It is another when that effort becomes transparent and dishonest. “the question posed by the Roman poet Juvenal in Satire VI: “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”” will be answered by readers who don’t just accept what is in print as gospel but rather apply critical thinking skills and hold those who utter nonsense accountable for what they say.

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Futile care, the Lord’s will, and the physician

How do you want to die? How Doctors Die is Kevin Murray’s topic.

what I support is a patient’s right to choose their treatment, in a fairly absolute way. The point of my article is that the group that can reasonably be described as the most knowlegable and experienced in the end-of-life, have, in my observation, made a decision quite at odds with many people’s expectations. Surely you and most people would support a patient’s right to make their own decisions about their treatment?

The issue is “futile care” or heroic measures that have a very low risk of producing a form of living that would make one desire to continue living. Note that this is different from heroic care, such as exemplified by that provided to the 2011 air race crash victims.

The medical professionals are hired, trained, and committed towards providing life saving care no matter the cost or implication. They see the results of that care and it flavors their own perceptions about their own desires for care. That is the topic of the post.

The issue at hand is the idea that anything is better than death. As a binary, yes or no, question, life versus death is a simple matter. But when it comes to what many actually face, that isn’t the question.

Of course, doctors don’t want to die; they want to live. But they know enough about modern medicine to know its limits. And they know enough about death to know what all people fear most: dying in pain, and dying alone.

Almost all medical professionals have seen what we call “futile care” being performed on people. That’s when doctors bring the cutting edge of technology to bear on a grievously ill person near the end of life. The patient will get cut open, perforated with tubes, hooked up to machines, and assaulted with drugs. All of this occurs in the Intensive Care Unit at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars a day. What it buys is misery we would not inflict on a terrorist.

To administer medical care that makes people suffer is anguishing.

As for me, my physician has my choices. They were easy to make, as they are for most physicians. There will be no heroics, and I will go gentle into that good night. Like my mentor Charlie. Like my cousin Torch. Like my fellow doctors.

The commentary on this post is well worth reading as well. There is the obligatory ‘cancer cure the establishment won’t recognize’ post, one or two miracles of recovery, and a few who can’t read or are otherwise oblivious and uncivil but otherwise the comments are sharing stories of the experiences they faced and the tragedies they encountered.

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Semantic inflation

The late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to warn against “semantic infiltration” – employing less-than-accurate words in an effort to shape the debate.

The case in point for Hufbauer at the Washington Times is the attempt to create a rationalization for ‘they all do it’ in the energy debate.

CAP shrewdly – but inaccurately – conflates two completely different terms in public finance: subsidy and deduction. A subsidy is a payment made by the government, usually to promote the prospects of a specific technology or action – be it solar energy, ethanol or something else. Subsidies are often equated with handouts – a derisory term for sure.

A business deduction, on the other hand, is designed to ensure that a firm is taxed only on its net income. Deductions allow businesses to write off legitimate expenses from gross revenue to calculate net income. Deductions are widely regarded as proper in a system that taxes income, not revenue.

A similar phenomena can be seen in the tax cut debate whether it is about the Bush tax cuts and the rich or the current pending expiration of a FICA reduction that was made to stimulate the economy.

the debate should use honest terms in which up is up, down is down, and deductions and subsidies aren’t the same.

It is a critical part of a debate based on intellectual integrity.

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Congressional oversight when money matters

The REINS Act is about having Congress approve any regulatory decision anticipated to cost more than $100 million. It’s purpose is to provide oversight and accountability to regulator excess. Johnathan Alder makes an interesting point about the debate on the merits of this bill.

What’s so interesting watching this debate, however, is how many opponents refuse to make them, relying instead on inaccurate and fanciful characterizations of the bill. It’s telling when opponents of legislation are unable or unwilling to describe it accurately when making their case.

The commentary on Alder’s post illustrates his point quite well. The flame throwers aren’t very careful about keeping their ‘magnificent insights’ in the realm of reality and reason.

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Alarmism: nuclear pollution edition

Every day or so there is another story about Fukushima pollution. Today it was cesium in the milk children drink. Leakage into the Pacific Ocean is another. Japan shutting down nuclear reactors when their energy is desperately needed is another. Theodore Rockwell says The science does not support the panic.

No one, not one single person, has received a life-altering injury from radiation since the disaster started unfolding last March. The atrocities described are caused by the application of international radiation standards that are set at levels far below where science shows adverse health effects occur, and by the fear of radiation that policy creates and nurtures. Once again, fear of radiation does more harm that the radiation itself.

The reality is that, while some people in the Fukushima housing area are wearing cumbersome rad-con suits, filtered gas-masks, gloves and booties, and putting the same on their children, other people are living carefree in places like Norway, Brazil, Iran, India where folks have lived normal lives for countless generations with radiation levels as much as a hundred times greater than the forbidden areas of the Fukushima homes.

Nuclear pollution is one of the easiest to measure and one we know most about – that is why, for instance, it is used in medicine to help cure cancer. The problem is that it is associated with bombs, it is something that is not readily visible, and it comes up in the context of human activity. What is not often in such stories is the fact that there have been natural nuclear reactors and that background radiation is something we all live with.

These factors are behind what people see in the Chernobyl area. That has turned out to be a park with a thriving biosphere despite ‘radiation standards’ that don’t allow people to live anywhere near it.

A proposed European Community directive dated 17 Oct 2011 notes that the doses of radiation being regulated are small compared to doses people receive in the normal course of living. Instead of reaching the common-sense conclusion that they should therefore stop trying to regulate harmless doses of radiation, they decided they have to regulate Nature! They want us to wage an endless war against our naturally radioactive planet, when there is good evidence that without radiation, Life withers and dies.

The phenomena is one of those who desire to control the behavior of others – for their own safety, of course! It is the same desire driving climate alarmism and also showing up in the ban on shopping bags in a city on the Northwest coast. It may be that the biggest danger is the folks who use alarm and FUD mongering to control behavior and not the particular issue they pick up on any given day. Appropriate and reasonable regulation with due consideration for risks and costs goes by the board for these folks as, for them, the ends justify any means. All one has to do is to look at the OWS protests to see just how ridiculous this can get.

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The neighborhood military force

Cultural trends: the militarization of the civil police. Radley Balkio describes the problem at the Huffington Post.

Dress cops up as soldiers, give them military equipment, train them in military tactics, tell them they’re fighting a “war,” and the consequences are predictable.

Police militarization is now an ingrained part of American culture. SWAT teams are featured in countless cop reality shows, and wrong-door raids are the subject of “The Simpsons” bits and search engine commercials. Tough-on-crime sheriffs now sport tanks and hardware more equipped for battle in a war zone than policing city streets. Seemingly benign agencies such as state alcohol control boards and the federal Department of Education can now enforce laws and regulations not with fines and clipboards, but with volatile raids by paramilitary police teams.

It is the war on drugs that Balkio uses as a cause for this phenomena but the Dirty Harry movies might provide a better clue. The violent revolutionary groups that were an outgrowth of the 60’s civil protests raised the stakes in matters of civil order. Police became targets for violence. SWAT teams were one defensive response to that threat. The violence and crime associated with major drug traffic has just carried this forward and provided a means to rationalize ever more extreme police measures.

The police side of the effort does not stand alone, however. The prosecutorial side also has its problems as can be seen running from the recent revelations about abuse in the Alaksa Ted Stevens trial, the Holder Justice Department voter intimidation response, and the Fast and Furious scandal.

There was a time when the level of force governments chose to use in response to a threat was commensurate with the severity of the threat. From the inception of the SWAT team in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, paramilitary police units were generally only deployed when someone posed an immediate and violent threat to others — incidents like hostage situations, bank robberies, riots or escaped fugitives.

Today, SWAT teams are routinely deployed against people who pose little to no threat at all.

Where Balkio reveals his bias, and that of the HuffPo, is when he inserts the recent OWS pepper spray incident into his list of illustrations. That incident gained so much attention because videos made it appear that the police were casual about the use of pepper spray on defenseless protesters. While that was misleading, it also contradicts Balkio’s thesis in that it illustrated police restraint. In old times, it would have been batons and force used to arrest and remove the protesters.

Perhaps such a confusion between SWAT teams with violent home invasions and the removal of illegal protesters is one reason that the problem has grown to its current status. The inability to make appropriate distinctions can lead one astray.

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Cognitive dissonance, indeed

Chet shows a bit of hubris in his post on Cognitive dissonance. The topic is Lisa Randall’s book Knocking on Heaven’s Door. The issue is “what I found most refreshing about the book is not the physics, but her emphasis on “scientific thinking.””

The kind of thinking that led to the LHC and string theory has everything to do with the quality of life in the modern world, and Randall is careful to make that point.

Curiosity, creativity, rationality, openness, and tolerance, unconstrained by dogma are characteristics of the scientific temper.

Nothing new here for those of us who have imbibed the scientific spirit, but given the current flourishing worldwide of political and religious fundamentalisms (not least among the current crop of candidates for president of the United States), one has to wonder to what extent the scientific temper has illuminated the “modern world,” even as people enthusiastically construct their lives upon the technological and medical advancements that flow purely from a way of thinking they feel constrained to reject.

Rather than castigate religious fundamentalism and illustrate bigotry by assigning that to the “current crop of candidates for president”, it might have been more honest to use the climate research brouhaha as an example. Candidates for political office are ideological by definition. Researchers in science are supposed to illustrate those characteristics Chet describes. By using politics as the foil, Chet defines his own destructive bias, especially when there is something as egregious and well defined as the climate research scandal.

Or, perhaps, if climate research is too blatant, then maybe the ‘green energy’ scandals might be pertinent. Perhaps a clue for using political candidates can be found in looking at just who are the candidates currently in the public eye. That’d be Republicans. The meme of “religious fundamentalism” being plastered on Republicans would fit as that is a common bigotry of the left, one that lacks intellectual integrity.

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Hinderaker foibles

John Hinderaker describes the moral of the Herman Cain Story and falls into the trap.

Whether the accusations were true or not (and it is hard to believe that there was no fire anywhere in all that smoke), Cain’s effectiveness as a candidate was destroyed.

What happened to Herman Cain is what the Democrats intend to do to whoever the Republican nominee turns out to be. They know they can’t win a debate on the economy or on President Obama’s record, so they will do everything they can to distract the voters’ attention from those matters, which should be decisive, and instead turn the focus to the GOP candidate and his or her alleged foibles. If Republican voters allow that to happen by nominating a candidate with baggage that permits the Democrats to turn him into the next Herman Cain, it is all too likely that President Obama will be re-elected, with consequences that can hardly be overestimated.

As one pundit said, all the smoke is most likely from the media reporters rubbing sticks together trying to create a fire. Like Ann Coulter said, all of the accusers had the ‘full combo plate’ of issues of their own. Where Hinderaker misses is that he presumes guilt and then suggests that the Republicans have to nominate someone without baggage. When the Democrats or their sympathizers create the baggage, the issue isn’t whether it is brought into the fray or not, it is that people like Hinderaker allow those who bring it in to convince him it belongs to someone else.

The moral of the story, whether it is the Duke Rape Case or the Cain harassment allegations, is that we need to be careful in our judgments and not presume guilt as a matter of convenience.

On Cain’s defense, there is a much simpler model, and older and more ancient model, for all the smoke. It is of a gregarious and friendly man of position and influence being attacked out of jealousy and envy. The sad part of the morality tale is that some can only see sex maniacal men rather than a more common social scenario of friendship, caring, envy, and insecurity.

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Business competition?

Some of the ugliest business competition ads have started appearing on KKOH radio. The issue is that Reno TV Channel 2 was dropped from the DISH Network (KTVN disappears from Dish Network menu – RGJ). It appears that KTVN wanted a 288% increase for the privilege of carrying their content to DISH subscribers. Dish didn’t go for that increase so KTVN is angry and buying advertising to bash DISH.

Broadcast TV has a considerable expense for the transmission facilities they build and use to reach out to their viewers. Rather than see satellite and cable as less expensive means to reach out to a broader audience, it appears that KTVN sees it as a cash cow. Instead of spending money to reach audiences as with over-air broadcasting, they want media conduits to pay them for the privilege.

It is one thing to pay for content such as Netflix and movies. It is another to pay for advertiser supported media such as is typical with broadcast TV.

The muddle of the model arose because of early cable TV and the rise of cable TV channels. Those channels hawked their wares to cable TV companies that needed to fill bandwidth and create offerings to attract cable customers. The licensing constraints applied to cable TV and requirements to carry local channels also made an impact. Finally, the I’net and programming on demand has further clouded the issue. Dealing with such issues has caused much screaming and yelling. Network neutrality is one example. KTVN’s attacks on DISH are another.

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warped anti-capitalism thinking: give back you corporations!

The RGJ section to honor companies that give headline is an example of the insidious anti-capitalism propaganda that constantly faces the public. Why is this headline such an item?

On Dec. 18, RGJ Media will publish a special “Corporate Giving” section honoring local businesses that give back to the community. The RGJ will publish, at no charge, your company name and up to 10 of your beneficiaries.

“Give back” implies a taking to be returned. What is this taking that a corporation removes from a community? Jobs and employment? Citizen convenience in obtaining goods and services they desire?

This is particularly delicious in light of the bargain being offered: free publicity coupled with an association between your business and politically correct causes.

It is the assumptions and preconceptions coupled with a tinge of ignorance that illustrates a lack of intellectual integrity.

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Common folly

Solar is often touted as a free energy source. Recent stories about the Naval Air Station Kingsville are a case in point. Solar Power Folly is a quick illustration of just how vacant such ideas can be.

A $3.1 million solar array at Naval Air Station Kingsville is expected to offset the base’s consumption of conventional energy by 2.5 percent. This is part of the Navy’s push to provide 50 percent of its energy from non-fossil fuel sources by 2020. This sound like responsible government green goodness until you take the time to look at the numbers.

The numbers? 3.3 acres of land used might be one, but more direct is the observation that “Invest $3.1 million at 2.5 percent interest which would yield $77,500 a year.”

The capital expense for solar effort cannot even compete with an extremely conservative investment.

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Straw men: debunking myths and fact checking

Fact check articles and myth debunking efforts are becoming more of a study in logical fallacies than they are in clarification and understanding. Study debunks 6 myths about electricity in the South is an example. First note that this is a ‘study’ which implies an appeal to authority.

A study by researchers at Duke University and the Georgia Institute of Technology, published in the journal Energy Policy, spells out and debunks popular myths about clean energy that have been promulgated by policymakers, business leaders and advocacy groups in the South.

The straw men here include the creation of an ambiguous opposition to the desired ideology and the selection of “popular myths” to debunk. The assertions being made include the idea that efficient and renewable energy can meet growing energy demand, that this sort of energy is available, that they are compatible with each other, current policies are sufficient, and power resource decisions impact water resources.

The researchers found that energy efficiency and renewable energy can work together to meet projected growth without escalating electricity rates.

So, what’s wrong?

There is a very basic measure that is being ignored. That is the market. If these desired energy sources can indeed meet demand at competitive rates, you should not need government assistance to do so.

How can you tell ideology is at work?

The first clue is the emphasis on “renewable” and “clean” with the assumption that greenhouse gases are inherently bad. Another clue is about the water usage concern. Then there is the goal of the ‘researcher.’ “Our research is motivated by the hope that promoting fact-informed dialogue can tackle such barriers and clear the way for a more sustainable energy future.” This isn’t a goal to learn something but rather to promote something. That sort of ‘research’ effort is being exposed quite clearly in the climate research communications exposures. Using terms such as research or study for such efforts at lobbying and propaganda are dishonest.

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