Archive for September, 2013

Shutdown games

He runs a business that operates government campgrounds. Since he has no government employees and pays a share of receipts to the goverment, his parks tend to remain open during government shutdowns … maybe not this time. The Coyote notes that A Third of Government is Shutting Down and The Only Lost Function Anyone Can Name is Parks. The stimulus is the Associated Press (again).

we lay off 800,000 government workers and the only two losses the AP can come up with is that national parks will close and those 800,000 people will have less to spend. Since the NPS employs about 22,000 people, this means that the other 778,000 have a contribution to the economy that consists mainly of drawing and then spending a salary?

I would love to see the government shutdown rules modified to add National Parks to the critical assets that remain open in a shutdown, since this seems the only thing anyone cares about. Then it would be fascinating to see how the downside of the shutdown would be spun. I can see the headlines now. “AP: Millions of TPS reports go unfiled”.

The Coyote says he is getting notices that his operations at federal campgrounds will have to shut down – i.e the government will be shutting down visible revenue sources as a means to punish the public and convince them to get on board and punish any who oppose the administration’s expenditures (i.e. Republicans). Raw partisan politics on display?

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Faulty debate, the climatologist’s example

The Coyote identifies The Key Disconnect in the Climate Debate. It is about the the false analogy [wikipedia].

“Human activity altering climate” is not the same thing as an environmental catastrophe (or one’s house burning down). The statement that he is 95% certain that human activity is altering climate is one that most skeptics (including myself) are 100% sure is true. There is evidence that human activity has been altering the climate since the dawn of agriculture. Man’s changing land uses have been demonstrated to alter climate, and certainly man’s incremental CO2 is raising temperatures somewhat.

The key question is — by how much?

This is why there is so much fuss about every climate model being wrong in predicting global temperature averages over the last fifteen years or so. The alarmists have taken the extreme position of those models as Truth and there is significant dissonance being caused by reality not going along with that ideology. That dissonance shows in the use of the ad hominem and other logical fallacies as well as the psychological denial behavior so readily evident that inhibits proper discussion of issues centered on the topic.

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Going to bat for your team: Media vs Republicans and getting your money

John Hinderaker describes one reason why one political party is handicapped: The Associated Press Goes to Bat For the Democratic Party. The subject for examination is an AP story for tommorrow’s press by Andrew Taylor.

“There you have it! Our government is “teetering,” but those dastardly Republicans have “vowed” to use an “otherwise routine” spending bill to “try to attack” Obamacare. It’s all their fault! Nowhere do the Democrats “vow,” nowhere do they violate “routine,” nowhere do they “attack” anything. So whatever is going on here, it evidently is the doing of Republicans.”

And there is more: revisionist histories and the bogey man (i.e. the TEA Party) and the incredible nonsense paraded as Truth.

“Sure, that’s the idea. Republicans just want to stop people from getting health care. This is unbelievably stupid, but the AP presents it without comment.”

At least the bias is a matter of discussion, analysis, and exposure. Maybe, just maybe, a few more folks will stop and think about what they are told and compare it to what is readily visible that contradicts it. Maybe.

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Languange barriers as an ideological weapon for propaganda

People seek reassurance of being OK especially when they know deep down that they are wrong. Selwyn Duke takes a look at recent headlines and asks: Pope Francis Said What?! Actually, No, He didn’t. It is a take down of media distortions.

“Yet there are many reasons why media distort the pope’s words. First, they’ll do anything for eyeball-grabbing headlines. Second, Catholic theology has been forged over 2000 years, is very deep, and thus doesn’t lend itself to sound-bite presentation. More significantly, it cannot be understood by sound-bite commentators with 15-second attention spans who, sadly, interpret things knee-jerk style via the prism of their own prejudices. Third and in keeping with this, liberals exist in a realm of rationalization, anyway, and thus can truly convince themselves that their feelings-derived “sense” of someone’s meaning is gospel. The fourth factor is simple.

Leftists are dishonest.”

He notes that Pope Francis is rather gregarious and “talks to anyone and everyone about anything and everything” and notes that “This is dangerous for any public figure.”

That is the way ‘debate’ works these days. Everything you say can and will be used against you no matter the lack of intellectual integrity involved in selection and interpretation. The more material you provide, the more ammunition there is available for this sort of attack. … but this gets into the IRS scandal, the voter ID brouhaha, and similar issues.

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Signing on to ‘feel good’ — does it bind us?

The US Secretary of State, the one who falsely accused his fellow soldiers in Vietnam and threw away his medals, has signed on to a United Nations arms control treaty. You’d think this wouldn’t matter much as the Senate has to ratify treaties before they become law and even the current Senate is opposed to the Treaty. Theodore Bromund thinks, though, that the UN Arms Treaty will be menace to US for years to come.

“It’s commonly said that the Senate has to provide its advice and consent to any treaty – commonly known as ratifying it – before it can take effect. That’s true, but there’s a loophole. Once the U.S. signs a treaty, we hold ourselves bound not to violate the treaty’s “object and purpose.”

In other words, we obey in practice treaties that the Senate has never ratified.”

That was then, this is now and now is not the same as it was then.

“Today, treaties are not just about international conduct. They seek to regulate how we raise our children, how we treat the disabled, and how we manage our firearms market.”

On top of that, previous gun control laws can be ‘interpreted’ to provide the authority to control both import and export of firearms. All that is really needed is a bit of judicious definition twisting of a few words. That is only a part of the problem.

“But it is the Treaty’s vague norms that pose the biggest long-term problem. At the heart of the Treaty are terms like “international humanitarian law” and “international human rights law.” By committing itself to uphold these terms, the U.S. is binding itself to meet requirements that it does not define. That will affect not only our domestic firearms market but our foreign policy.”

The left lives on vague terms that can mean whatever is expeditious at the moment, especially those that sound good like phrases that include “humanitarian” or “human rights”.

Meanwhile, look for the stories about the horrors inflicted by a squad of terrorists on their victims during the recent African mall invasion. There is a link. “Feel good” just doesn’t cut it when dealing with that sort of horror. Much like the censoring of the falling man in the 9/11 attacks, there will likely be reluctance to expose just what those terrorists did to their victims. That is a form of denial as well.

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How can it be that ‘smart’ people are so ignorant?

Luboš Motl has been covering the latest climate change report and says “IPCC AR5 WG1 report out: a non-event.” The problems with that report boil down to how ideologs attempt to deal with conflicts between the models they use to raise the alarm and the data. A deeper problem is the human behavior.

“Quite generally, I simply can’t understand people like Astrokatie. Or even Alexander Ač, for that matter. They often seem to have some basic intelligence, like IQ above 90. And they have apparently been interested in these matters for many, many years. But they still don’t seem to get the basic facts, they still don’t remember the basic numbers, they still can’t see when someone says something completely wrong at a very basic level. Maybe they see it but they don’t want to see it and they act as if they weren’t seeing it.

I just don’t get those things. Two decades ago, it was before I had any good enough clue about the magnitude of various temperature changes in various regions and at various timescales etc. I was reading newspaper articles about global warming. They would never show any graphs so I was assuming that the graphs were sort of linear and clear, not just red noise, so they have a reason to talk about these things. But when I started to be interested in those things, it took just hours to learn, understand – and, in fact, memorize – all the key facts and next to key facts that I encountered and needed to fact-check.

The idea that someone of my age (or someone who is as old/young as I was then) need more than a decade (and maybe an infinite time) to penetrate into a basic body of knowledge that I could master in hours just seems otherworldly to me. These people must be either utterly irrational, taking the belief in the apocalypse as a necessary prerequisite for their survival, or totally lacking intelligence. How that can be compatible with their being hired in more or less hard sciences such as astrophysicist is beyond me.”

The alarmists use the term “denier” to label those who raise questions. Is this projection?

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Shields, diversions, and ideologic defense

Getting to the core problem and trying to find realistic and effective solutions can be difficult with nontrivial problems. Adding ideological barriers to solutions can add significantly to the difficulty in creating effective solutions. J.R. Dunn talks about Liberalism and Mass Shootings. He looks at gun-free zones, criminal background checks, affirmative action, and mental health reforms to show how each has contributed and how ideology has inhibited solution.

“Clearly, liberalism is far more deeply implicated in the problem of gun crime, including mass shootings, than anyone is willing to admit. There’s no point in sitting around grumbling about this — it’s all of piece with the liberal culture of denial inculcated since preschool. Instead, use this information. Too often 2nd Amendment advocates merely defend gun ownership. The best defense is a good offense. Make them explain why these atrocities always seem to occur in their bailiwicks, under the protection of their rules and laws, and by the hands of their protected classes — lunatics or select social or religious oddities. That will be enough to throw them off their stride before they can erupt into their customary tantrums. They might even forget to mention the mighty AR-15.”

Another indicator is the ruckus about the Senate web site explanation of the 2nd ammendment and how it ignores SCOTUS decisions. It is like an alcoholic who hasn’t yet come to grips he has a problem with booze. That is why suggestions to have the left ‘explain’ or to try to use facts and reality are rather useless. Confrontation with reality has its place but the alcoholic still has to accept his problem before any progress can be made.

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If the government can get away with it, why not me?

Going all the way back to Waco and Janet Reno, Bob Bar shows that Uncle Sam Sucker Punched By Lois Lerner is an insidious cancer on society.

“The message thus transmitted to other federal employees who might in the future consider improperly injecting politics into their official duties is: You may have to suffer a degree of public humiliation, but in the end, you’ll be paid everything due you and no adverse action will befall you. Just clam up, wait out the storm, and things will be fine.”

“Ironically, the federal government is a victim in all this. As an institution, our government relies on the citizens’ perception that it operates fairly and transparency in upholding the laws of the land. When that credibility is eroded – as it assuredly has been in recent months – so too is the willingness of citizens to respect and obey the laws of the land. Citizens fairly will ask – as did many when former President Clinton escaped punishment in the Senate – “Why should we obey the law when the government and our leaders do not have to?”

When a political party blocks justice for partisan reasons, the harm done is to what the party exists to do. If there is no government or no opposition then there is no reason for a party. Partisan efforts to inhibit investigation or even to avoid final judgment of wrongdoing, as Barr describes, is self destructive. The only problem for the rest of us is that of just how long it will take. From watching socialist and communist countries we know it can take a long time of growing misery, suffering, and death before it comes to a head.

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A tale from the receiving end

Out of the blue, the government attacks. DEHKO: Bullied by the IRS is the tale of an Iraqi immigrant and his grocery store. The IRS seized his bank account because he made frequent cash deposits. That is suspicious as it can be an indication of money laundering. For the grocery store, it was a means to keep cash on hand down to insurable levels.

“The IRS has turned my American Dream into a nightmare. … Remarkably, the government doesn’t even have to charge me with any wrongdoing to keep my money. Many people know about criminal forfeiture, which allows police to seize the ill-gotten gains of convicted criminals. In my case, the government used civil forfeiture, which lets the government take money from people who have never been charged with any crime.

Adding insult to injury, federal civil forfeiture law does not even grant me a hearing before or soon after they snatched my account. They’ve had my money for 10 months. I’ve been forced to spend thousands of dollars on lawyers just to get a hearing before a judge. Even more bizarre, under civil forfeiture, the government’s case is not against me, but against my property. This is why the official case has the ridiculous name, United States of America v. $35,651.11 in U.S. Currency. This is not just absurd; it’s unconstitutional.”

Find something ‘suspicious’ and then confiscate the involved assets. Some jurisdictions are using this scheme as a fund raising method in lieu of taxation. It has become a racket, a government shakedown of citizens, a destroyer of businesses and lives.

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Politics of personal destruction

The ad hominem is an effective tactic in politics if measured by its popularity, it seems. KNIGHT: Foiling the left’s character assassination provides a summary of how political positions have been framed as those of evil.

“There is a story about a rabbi falsely accused of a great wrong. The accuser, having a bout of conscience, admitted to him that he had been mistaken, and asked what he could do. The rabbi took a pillow, ripped it open and let the wind scatter hundreds of feathers. “You can gather each and every one,” the rabbi said. Once reputations are damaged, they are difficult to restore.

This is why “Have you stopped beating your wife lately?” questions are so effective. Today’s political equivalent is a charge of bad motive, such as racism, homophobia, xenophobia or wanting to destroy the planet.”

Then the inventory is listed: Voter ID, definition of marriage, global warming, gun control, abortion, immigration, banking, poverty programs … each with how those opposing the left are framed as evil, ignorant, or just plain bad.

“When confronted with the politics of personal destruction, the unfairly accused need to resist going into a defensive crouch.”

Knight provides examples in a Socratic way about how the ad hominem should be addressed.

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Prosecutor’s (in)discretion

The list grows. Jeffrey Scott Shapiro describes how High-profile cases show a pattern of misuse of prosecutorial powers

“last week’s reversals in the cases of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and five New Orleans police officers are part of a troubling pattern reminiscent of the Soviet criminal justice system — a system in which the state is always right, even when it is wrong.

In both cases, the judges who overturned the original trial-court verdicts cited instances of prosecutorial overzealousness and abuse of power, making the two cases the latest high-profile trials to run aground on the basis of misconduct by the state’s attorneys.”

Complex laws that can be subject to interpretation do not help on this issue.

This is another issue where the ‘both sides do it’ excuse doesn’t fit reality. There is a bias that leans heavily in one direction. Who knows? Maybe they’ll be after you some day.

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Political prosecution

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Partisan forest fires

It is a Trend That is Not A Trend: Rolling Stone Wildfire Article that serves as “an absolutely great example of an article that claims a trend without actually showing the trend data, and where the actual data point to a trend in the opposite direction as the one claimed.” … “What I want to delve into is the claim by the author that wildfires are increasing due to global warming, and only evil Republicans (who suck) could possibly deny this obvious trend (numbers in parenthesis added so I can reference passages below)

It is like another columnist noted in regarded to the latest shooting tragedy. The form of argument doesn’t make any sense but those who oppose some particular position are evil, subhuman, or whatnot.

Then, of course, when the facts of the matter are dismissed and you’ve spent a lot of time castigating those who don’t follow the same dellusions, you accuse them of obstructionism and blame them for everything you can think of … and appear really puzzled as to why nothing gets done.

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Power of the mob: are you in it?

Exacerbated by the I’net, perhaps, but only to reveal an ugly side of social behavior. Luboš Motl describes (and decries) Organized bullying against Larry Summers, Rebecca Ann Sedwick

” These are crazy times. We’re living in an era when a loosely organized community behaves as if it had the ultimate veto rights – a right to reject Summers regardless of his abilities and the opinions of others, to push Sedwick out of a tower, to keep the interest rates low, to ban the speech about the truths that are inconvenient for them, to do many other things. (Of course that I could add the organized anti-modern-physics crackpots, too.) These mobs, piles of loosely organized trolls, often represent a clear minority but they’re so loud and annoying that they are de facto controlling a large portion of the life of the Western nations.”

It destroys organizations, too, even nonprofit social ones supposedly formed for the purpose of fostering collegiality and friendship. Participants may not even be aware of their complicity in the process. That takes work and often an unpleasant personal examination.

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The long war: protecting rights

Yesterday, two Colorado congressmen were recalled for their votes against gun rights. Today, Miller notes that the National gun registry gets head start as Maryland compromises gun owners’ privacy.

“Gun owners place a high value on their privacy. Anti-gun politicians realize this and are hoping they can use the prospect of entering their names into a gun registry to scare these Americans away from buying a firearm. Every time these gun grabbers get caught in the act, Second Amendment supporters need to cry foul.”

“The larger issue is how much Americans can trust the federal government with registration lists of gun owners. Our Founding Fathers created the Second Amendment specifically so that an armed civilian populace could protect the nation from a tyranny.”

The efforts in Maryland are not only to ‘out’ gun owners in a public registry. It also involves putting bottlenecks on the background check process and complicating procedures to make in onorous and expensive to comply. It is an ongoing war against the individual and it isn’t one bothered by intellectual integrity.

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Gender pay gap

A Bureau of Labor Statistics annual report on “women’s earnings” concludes that there is a pay gap attibutable to discrimination. Mark Perry shows that their own numbers dispute the conclusion. ‘Ceteris paribus’: Once you start controlling for important factors, the 17.8% gender wage gap starts to disappear

“To claim that a significant portion of the raw wage gap can only be explained by discrimination is intellectually dishonest and completely unsupported by the empirical evidence. And yet we hear all the time from groups like the National Committee on Pay Equity, the American Association of University Women, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, and even President Obama that women “are paid 77 cents for every dollar paid to men.” And in most cases when that claim is made, there is almost no attention paid to the reality that almost all of the raw, unadjusted pay differentials can be explained by everything except discrimination – hours worked, age, marital status, children, years of continuous experience, workplace conditions, etc. In other words, once you impose the important ceteris paribus condition of “all other things being equal or held constant,” the gender pay gap that we hear so much about doesn’t really exist.”

This has been ‘discovered’ time and again yet the myth persists and is forcefully pushed by those who wish it were indeed so, despite what the facts say.

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Victor Davis Hanson describes how Obama Indicts Obama

“One of the problems that Barack Obama has in mounting an attack against the Assad regime is that the gambit violates every argument Barack Obama used against the Bush administration to establish his own anti-war candidacy.”

The list is long and detailed. It highlights not only the vacuousness of the attacks on the previous administration but also raises questions about competency and purpose of the current one.

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