Archive for January, 2014

Reduce to the absurd and create a straw man

Rick Moran wonders: Is It Possible to Love the Artist, but Hate His Politics? in regards to “the culture clash over Pete Seeger’s legacy.”

“Communist activist and troubadour Pete Seeger is dead. The outpouring of vitriol on the right and hagiography on the left is entirely predictable and, with few exceptions, entirely banal. Turning Seeger’s death into another clash in the culture wars somehow seems tiresome, like two old boxers coming out of their corners for the 12th round. Battered, beaten, bloody, all they have left is the instinct to try to destroy each other. Whatever art and artifice they possessed disappeared long before the bell clanged for the last round.

Must we reduce everything in America to a right vs. left Armageddon? One longs for a more complicated, less knee-jerk combative analysis of people like Pete Seeger. Actually, there has been no one like Pete Seeger, and future historians will brush aside most of the shallow, venomous assaults on his memory — as well as the one-dimensional paeans that whitewash his execrable politics — and look at the totality of his life and judge his monumental contributions to American society.”

What is the ‘reduce to the absurd?” That is what you do when you assert a generality about an “outpouring of vitriol on the right and hagiography on the left.” Yes, vitriol does exist and so do hagiographies but that does not mean that those characteristics are symptomatic of the sides in the culture debate.

What is the ‘straw man?’ That is the creating of a battle where the outcome is a desire to “try to destroy” the other side with the “battered, beaten, bloody” boxer standing in for the straw man.

There is a call for context of the times but then there is a judgment — “at a time when companies were still hiring thugs and sometimes working with local police to physically assault strikers and labor organizers” — offered to ‘excuse’ communist leanings.

“His was an immensely consequential life. But what does it say about us that we judge that life based solely on the fact that we violently disagree with his politics? If a man is made up of many layers, do we, when the time comes to judge him, strip away the facade layer by layer and judge him in all his marvelous complexity and contradiction? Or do we take the one-dimensional track and declare him a failure based on his political beliefs?”

That assumes the extreme, that disagreement is violent and that political ideology trumps any other consideration for the general populace. There is no evidence that Seeger is considered a failure as failure is not the topic under discussion.

The need is for discussion that is not laced with logical fallacies. There is a need to balance the image of heroes with their own integrity and honesty in their ideologies – especially in matters of how belief and practice fit together. The tale of the Pied Piper is one caution about this. If we cannot examine modern day’s Pied Pipers without being accused of extremism, vitriol, and intemperance, it will be difficult to shed any light on avoiding the same fate as the childrem of Hamelin.

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Raw emotion often goes negative

Walter Williams on the Politics of Hate and Envy:

“Though sports and Hollywood personalities earn multiples of CEO salaries, you’ll never find leftists and progressives picketing and criticizing them. Why? The strategy for want-to-be tyrants is to demonize people whose power they want to usurp. That’s the typical way tyrants gain power. They give the masses someone to hate. In 18th-century France, it was Maximilien Robespierre’s promoting hatred of the aristocracy that led to his acquiring dictatorial power. In the 20th century, the communists gained power by promoting public hatred of the czars and capitalists. In Germany, Adolf Hitler gained power by promoting hatred of Jews and Bolsheviks.”

Michelle Malkin on Standing up against wealth-shaming:

“America, we have a bullying epidemic. No, not the school bullying issues that get constant attention from Hollywood, the White House and the media. No, not the “fat-shaming” and “body-shaming” outbreaks on Facebook. The problem is wealth-shaming. Class-shaming. Success-shaming.”

“Perkins barely scratched the surface of the War on Wealth that has spread under the Obama regime. Anti-capitalism saboteurs have organized wealth-shaming protests at corporate CEOs’ private homes in New York and in private neighborhoods in Connecticut. Hypocrite wealth-basher and former paid Enron adviser Paul Krugman at The New York Times whipped up hatred against the “plutocrats” in solidarity with the Occupy mob. New York state lawmakers received threatening mail saying it was “time to kill the wealthy” if they didn’t renew the state’s tax surcharge on millionaires.”

It is an old technique and has a number of tragic wins to speak  for it. The ‘tragic’ part just doesn’t seem to have any impact which is enough to make one wonder just how historically literate the advocates of wealth envy must be. But then, it isn’t reality that is the driver, it is raw emotion and that seldom leads to happiness.


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Why would anyone be a diehard Stalinist?

Another 60’s hero is gone and the hagiographies populate the media. As with many of these heroes of the left, not all is pretty and peaceful. There is a dark side of Peter Seeger, too, and it is yet another story to make you wonder.

“Seeger popularized folk music and used it as a tool to effect political and social change in America. … Seeger in many cases was at forefront of the civil rights movement and a dedicated advocate for American labor.

“However, there is a dark side to Pete Seeger, one that is airbrushed out of all the effusive hagiography. Seeger was a dedicated Stalinist and has not renounced his devotion to communism, a political ideology, which according to the Black Book of Communism, responsible for the murder of over 94 million people. When you speak out against communism you get booed, when you’re a cheerleader for its mass murderers you get a Kennedy Center tribute and presidential praise.”

Seeger rationalized his anti U.S. views with “White people in the U.S.A. could consider apologizing for stealing land from Native Americans and enslaving blacks.” Human history be-damned, it seems.

“Some would argue that these inconvenient truths are peripheral to Seeger’s musical achievements and altruistic fight for civil rights. However, that argument ignores the fact that communism, and for a very long part of his life, support of the Soviet Union were central to Seeger’s politics and worldview.”

A wordsmith to fall for words is perhaps understandable, but a famous songwriter ignorant of the human condition is a puzzle. May Seeger rest in peace.

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Which is the lesser evil?

“This left-wing obsession with a non-evil exemplifies the left’s moral universe. That universe is preoccupied with lesser evils while nearly always ignoring the greatest evils.

“Preoccupation with real evil is the greatest difference between right and left. The right was preoccupied with fighting Communism while the left (not liberals such as JFK, but the left) was preoccupied with fighting anti-Communists.”

Dennis Prager makes a list to answer the question: What Preoccupies the Left? What Preoccupies the Right?

Consider: Compare and contrast the Washington Redskins to North Korea, Islamism to Islamophobia, Protecting to protesting Israel, … “Only a conservative leader would have the moral courage to say that. Because while the right fights evil, the left fights the Redskins.

Why? What can or should be done? How?

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About that goose with golden eggs

“Even those of us who create goods and services in more mundane ways receive income that may be very important to us, but it is what we create for others, with our widely varying capabilities, that is the real wealth of nations.

“Intellectuals’ obsession with income statistics — calling envy “social justice” — ignores vast differences in productivity that are far more fundamental to everyone’s well-being. Killing the goose that lays the golden egg has ruined many economies.”

Thomas Sowell on The Inequality Bogeyman

“These little episodes have much wider implications. Most of us are much better at some things than at others, and what we are good at can vary enormously from one person to another. Despite the preoccupation — if not obsession — of intellectuals with equality, we are all very unequal in what we do well and what we do badly.” … “We are lucky that we are so different, so that the capabilities of many other people can cover our limitations.”

Rather than obsess on the wealth, it would probably be better to look at just what the wealthy did for others.

“Before Rockefeller came along in the 19th century, the ancient saying, “The night cometh when no man can work” still applied. There were not yet electric lights, and burning kerosene for hours every night was not something that ordinary working people could afford. For many millions of people, there was little to do after dark, except go to bed.”

Finding just what some wealthy person did for the ‘common man’ is easiest for those directly connected to innovation and industry such as Edison, Ford, Gates, and Jobs. It is a bit more difficult when wealth is acquired at the second level, that of capital formation and management. That is why Wall Street is so often a target of the leftist envy. That envy is what killed the goose that laid golden eggs. It has caused much human misery.

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Tactics of social denigration

“Anyone who votes for Democrats should ask themselves how they would feel if someone at their office constantly practiced the strategy of berating other workers just to get promoted. And once they had the job, blamed others for everything that went wrong. If this appears to be unseemly in the workplace, then Democratic supporters should wonder why they accept it from their Democratic political leaders.”

“In the final analysis, the strategy employed by Democrats is one of social domination derived from social derision. It is an unfortunate trait of human nature for people to denigrate others. Further proof of the moral bankruptcy of the Democratic Party lies in the fact that they have aggressively chosen to employ this tactic.”

Michael Bargo, Jr. says Busted! The Democratic Party’s Moral Superiority, explains why, and then show the optimist in thinking that “When American voters wake up to the true moral character of the Democratic Party.” Many others are more pessimistic in thinking that, if the American voters haven’t woken up by now, they aren’t likely to wake up anytime soon.

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Inequality: good or bad

Steve Cichon dug up a 1991 Radio Shack newspaper advertisement and found that 13 electronic products for $5k (and 500 hrs. work) can now be replaced with a $200 iPhone (10 hrs.).

“The comparison above is an example of the “invisible hand” at work, giving us more goods, better goods, and cheaper goods over time. And the poor and middle class benefit the most. While only the wealthy might have been able to afford the bundle of 13 electronic products costing $5,000 in 1991, almost anybody today can afford an iPhone with features that far exceed the 13 products in 1991.

“Instead of spending so much time obsessing about income inequality, the “top 1%,” the “decline of the middle class,” and generally criticizing and blaming the free market for every woe, maybe we should devote more time to celebrating how the “miracle of the marketplace” has brought about rising living standards for all income groups in America, especially low-income households. Falling prices of manufactured goods like food, cars, clothing, household appliances, computers and electronics have probably given low-income households in the US greater access to the “good life” than all of the government programs and safety nets that are part of the trillion dollars of spending on America’s “War on Poverty.””

Then there’s the story about people in San Francisco ‘outing’ a Google engineer in anti-technology protests. Being poor just ain’t what it used to be … but then, many facets stay the same – see Appalachia: The big white ghetto for an insight into the new ‘Pepsi’ generation.

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visceral hostility vs polite disagreement

“This asymmetry in responses to people with different opinions has been too persistent, for too many years, to be just a matter of individual personality differences.”

“The vision of the left is not just a vision of the world. For many, it is also a vision of themselves — a very flattering vision of people trying to save the planet, rescue the exploited, create “social justice” and otherwise be on the side of the angels. This is an exalting vision that few are ready to give up, or to risk on a roll of the dice, which is what submitting it to the test of factual evidence amounts to. Maybe that is why there are so many fact-free arguments on the left, whether on gun control, minimum wages or innumerable other issues — and why they react so viscerally to those who challenge their vision.”

SOWELL: Seeing villainy on the right. “Many on the left have visceral hostility toward those with different opinions”

History has a message. Some see it in the present day. Will it register? Will it make a difference?

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History has lessons but ideology often has priority

Professor Sowell notes a list of issues that illustrate Fact-Free Liberals, at least when it comes to lessons from history.

“President Obama seems completely unaware of how many of the policies he is trying to impose have been tried before, in many times and places around the world, and have failed time and again.”

“But who reads history these days? Moreover, those parts of history that would undermine the vision of the left — which prevails in our education system from elementary school to postgraduate study — are not likely to get much attention.


“The net results are bright people, with impressive degrees, who have been told for years how brilliant they are, but who are often ignorant of facts that might cause them to question what they have been indoctrinated with in schools and colleges.”

It is generally much more productive to try to fit the narrative into reality than it is to try to distort reality to fit the narrative. That seems to be a very difficult lesson to learn.

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Escape from reality

“Yes, the tendency to run from reality is real. The temptations to do so can be found everywhere. Entire societies have been built on the premise that escapes into the equivalent of youthful fantasies is better than the taking on of adult responsibility. But such is not what built America. And such childishness will not preserve what traditional Americans have come to value.” [On Running from Reality by Don Sucher.]

Consider the case of Wendy Adams, honored by the Girl Scouts yet found to be a bit short of reality, or the ‘pot bowl’ as those who favor legalizing recreational drugs celebrate a football championship game between teams from states that have legalized marijuana, or the abortion and other religion related issues. There are many other examples and phenomena that Sucher describes.

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Cancer in the legislative

“One man stands in the way of his 99 colleagues. But, not alone really. His power exists only as long as his majority concurs and supports his actions. This prevents the body from working its will, it prevents legislation from being improved, and it prevents Senators from being held accountable by their votes on the great issues of the day. That is, of course, why it’s done.”

Powerline: How Harry Reid Is Destroying the Senate takes up the comments of Senator Jeff Sessions on the cancer in the legislative.

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How the Democrats investigate Republican scandals

There is a comparison and contrast on the table right now regarding tactics in the investigation of scandals. At the federal level, the scandals include gun running in Mexico, IRS targeting of political enemies, use of federal agencies to punish the public in budget arguments, terrorist attacks an others. Reporting on these is tepid, congressional committee subpoenas have been ingored, the Democrats have excused the behavior en-masse, and the effort to find out what happened drags on as if trying to get upstream in a fast river.

In New Jersey, things are different. Democratic lawmakers subpoena EVERYTHING from Christie aides over Bridgegate on ‘Bloody Friday’

“Gov. Christie has forcefully denied having any knowledge of the bridge traffic scheme, or playing any role in directing it.

His unequivocal statements have set up a political scenario where a single email, text message or statement to the contrary could sink his chances of winning the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.”

The talk is about ‘blood in the water’ and the goals are to bring him down – not find out what really happened and implement justice. It is a laboratory to evaluate differences in goals, tactics, and weighing priorities to see just how divided the country is today on political and ideological grounds.

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There’s more free-speech defending to do

In Wisconsin, the politics got ugly. The WSJ has an update on judge who stopped one effort at trolling the opposition for something to label as criminal.

“John Doe probes operate much like grand juries, allowing prosecutors to issue subpoenas and conduct searches while gag orders require the targets to keep quiet. We wrote about the kitchen-sink subpoenas and morning raids by special prosecutor Francis Schmitz that targeted dozens of conservative groups that participated in the battle to recall Republican Governor Scott Walker (“Wisconsin Political Speech Raid,” Nov. 16, 2013).

“Now we learn that Judge Gregory A. Peterson ruled on Friday that at least some of those subpoenas were improper. They “do not show probable cause that the moving parties committed any violations of the campaign finance laws,” he wrote. His opinion remains under seal but we obtained a copy.”

“Democrats would love to intimidate and muzzle the local activists who rallied to Mr. Walker’s recall defense. And the subpoenas all but shut down these activists, forcing them to hire lawyers and defend themselves rather than contribute to the political debate in an election year.”

“The John Doe process has become a political weapon intended to serve partisan ends regardless of the law. Kudos to a judge who was brave enough to read the law and stop it, but there’s more free-speech defending to do.”

The Christie Traffic Jam is being compared to the NPS shutdown’s in October. Those activities are mild stuff when compared to political prosecutions and prosecutorial abuse. The use of the legal system to harass, intimidate, and distract seems to have no end. Even McD’s is being sued — again — for having coffee that is too hot. The long term implications for the legal system are not good.

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Veteran’s benefits v Senator Reid

Did you know?

“It is remarkable that on a day when our news media are consumed by a lane closure on a bridge, the Democrats’ support for billions of dollars in fraud by illegal aliens isn’t even a news story.”

John Hinderaker describes the news that gets buried but tells the story: Once Again, Democrats Vote to Cut Veterans’ Benefits in Order to Enable Fraud By Illegal Aliens

Both sides are the same, you say?

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The balance isn’t even. There is a difference

Russ Vaughn provides an update on the status of the Knockout Game also known as Polar Bear Hunting as The Holder Effect. “Liberals who do acknowledge the existence of the Knockout Game and who its perpetrators are, trot out all the old chestnuts about racist white America being responsible for troubled black youth.” A key point here is that the only federal prosecution for a hate crime in these assaults is of a white guy in Houston – it took the DoJ quite a while to find an example to fit the proper definition of what they want to be.

Kyle Becker describes 24 Underreported Democrat Scandals That Make News Media’s ‘Bridgegate Mania’ Look Like a Joke as a perspective on the latest New Jersey Bridge brouhaha.

Perspective and reality don’t quite fit the ‘both sides do it’ fallacy. It is hard to say which is more tragic: holding the belief that both sides are exactly the same or the denial behavior in trying to maintain that fantasy.

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Civility in ideology: no both sides are not the same and, yes, there is a problem

BRUCE: Exposing liberal apologies, Palin and Romney shouldn’t forgive MSNBC hosts. Melissa Harris-Perry and Martin Bashir expose liberalism’s hatred, paranoia and cruelty:

“In the normal world, accepting an apology is the classy thing to do. We all do make mistakes, and the apology ritual is one that allows people to forgive and forget, and move on.

“This is all well and good if the issue at hand truly was a “mistake” delivered by someone of good will. When dealing with partisan liberals, however, neither of those apply.

“Arguing for harm to come to someone because you disagree with them is neither a mistake nor an accident. It’s a contemplated idea, cultivated into a message and delivered as an argument. Targeting a toddler for derision because it serves a political agenda isn’t something that mistakenly pops into someone’s head. It springs from an existing loathsome well.

“It would be valuable for today’s conservative leadership to recognize that comments like Mr. Bashir’s and Ms. Harris-Perry’s aren’t mistakes — they are public illustrations of what sits at the core of today’s liberalism — hatred, paranoia and cruelty.

“We all understand that people in the public arena will be the focus of debate and heated comments. They will be called names and accused of being everything from stupid to even dangerous. Politicians and public figures recognize and accept this is part of the public forum.

“What I’m speaking of here is something inherently different. It is a very specific illustration of what American liberalism has become, and it must be confronted.”

There is the denial, especially in the form of “both sides do it” (which is a logical fallacy) that attempts to minimize differences in behavior by ideological leaning. The latest scandal about bridge traffic illustrates just how strong the desire is to paint everyone with the same brush. That misses the point. Tammy Bruce is saying that apologies may not be enough in certain circumstances and cites two examples. Ugly “must be confronted” she says. It must be left on the perpetrator as a symbol to remind them not to go too far and to warn others about what they offer.

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Media delight

Finally, a scandal that gets the media excited. John explains: Christie Bridge Scandal Puts Reporters Back In Business.

“The most striking fact about the story so far is the obvious contrast between reporters’ attitudes toward the many Obama administration scandals–ho hum–and the repellent glee with which they are pursuing the Christie story. … It seems obvious that Obama’s IRS and Benghazi scandals are far more serious than the bridge lane closing, and Obama’s lockdown of national parks and monuments was a close parallel to the lane closure, only on a national scale. And, of course, one normally would expect the national media to pay far more attention to presidential than gubernatorial scandals. But the frenzy of the last 24 hours reminds us how excited reporters can get when they are going after a Republican.”

“This is what I don’t get: don’t reporters understand how obvious it is that they delight in Republican scandals, and do their best to cover up Democratic ones? Have they so internalized their prejudices that they really can’t see them, and assume no one else does, either? Or do they just not care?”

Perhaps a more significant question is why the voters and media audience do not see this or do not care.

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Inequality in honesty

A. Barton Hinkle posts on The Great Inequality Debate with some good insight but some rather glaring dishonesty.

“The abstract notion of equality is the lodestar of the American left, just as the abstract notion of liberty is the lodestar of the right. Or at least some liberty: Most conservatives care greatly about the economic kind, and the sight of an entrepreneur caught up in red tape enrages them. But certain conservatives care less about other kinds of liberty, such as the freedom of gays and lesbians to pursue their own happiness as they define it, or the freedom of a young black male in a hoodie to walk down the street with a bag of Skittles unaccosted.”

The distinction between left and right could be useful but the references maligning the right are dishonest. The “freedom of gays and lesbians” is a matter of the limits of libertarianism and the fundamental requirement that rights (freedoms) have responsibilities. The comment about “unaccosted” probably refers to the Zimmerman case and misrepresents the facts of that case as determined by trial.

“Focusing only on inequalities of result also ignores another important dimension to the question. Again, Wilkinson: “It’s not enough to identify a mechanism of rising inequality. An additional argument is required to show that there is some kind of injustice or wrongdoing involved.”

This gets to the matter that the left is presuming a guilt without evidence of a crime much less a proper connection between cause and effect. The whole ‘income inequality’ idea has very little to do with its purported aim – to reduce poverty or provide credibility to questionable behavior – and much more to do with such things as envy.

Efforts to force equality where it does not exist can lead to an unintended suffering. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. took the effort for equality to its limit in his 1961 “satirical and dystopian short story Harrison Bergeron. Governance efforts based on the ‘forced equality by government idea’ have failed and often expressed significant human suffering in the process of doing so.

Yet here we go again. The quote attributed to Albert Einstein on insanity comes to mind.

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Scary times (but its us, not them)

Hansen wonders about 2017 and the End of Ethics

“We have become inured to the press as an adjunct Ministry of Truth and to the notion that the president feels that he can do whatever he wishes without much worry over public audit. Such obsequiousness and exemption are now institutionalized, just as, after the divine Emperor Augustus, there was little accountability for the emperors or free speech allowed in criticizing them. So we are entering a new period in presidential history, and it may be difficult to go back to the status quo ante 2009, when reporters were not state megaphones and the president paid a price for not telling the truth.

More likely, the members of the national press corps do not even now quite get it that they have been completely discredited.”

“So we are living in scary times. The nation has grown used to the idea that what the president says is probably either untrue or irrelevant — and yet it does not really any more care which.”

The focus is on the first level media and their role as auditors of political behavior. In many respects, this is like those who point to a political party or even all politicians as the source for what is wrong in the country. This is simply a means to avoid something much more pernicious. The accountability for public and political behavior depends upon the citizens – each one of us – in our votes and in our acceptance of lies, deceit, and corruption. When we honor muggers and despise those who defend themselves lawfully, it’s us and not them that need examination.

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The playbook for novices

The entire gamut of logical fallacies resembles the playbook an experienced professional team might use in football. For each play, the tactics are called out by name (or number) in the huddle and the players in the team are expected to know what to do. If you get into politcal debates, you might want something a bit less complex so you can call out the use of logical fallacies (and avoid using them yourself). Kyle Becker has come up with 8 Things Liberals Do to Avoid Having an Honest Debate – Broken Down to a Science that might fit the bill.

“We’ve all been there: Stuck in a hopelessly circular argument with a liberal who won’t get to the point, acknowledge basic facts even exist, or get past juvenile name-calling in debates. It can be really frustrating.

One thing people can do to fight back is just to code all the non-responses to logical or rational arguments. Cryptically flipping back “Give me a break with that number 5 nonsense” or “Man, number 3, again?” can really humiliate people whose stupidity is broken down to a science.”

As integrity in debate is so rare, especially in political discussions, debating based on reason and logic is often useless. It is like trying to get an alcoholic on the path to salvation when he is still in denial that maybe his drinking is a problem.

Intellectual integrity in debate and discussion is something formally taught which is illustrated by the topic of logical fallacies often being covered in university as the link above illustrates. Reality, though, often brings a dissonance between education and reality up front and personal.

Sometimes, arguing with radicals seems like an exercise in futility. But remember, you’re not always arguing to change their minds, but the minds of rational people who are observing the debate.

Toward this end, taking note of the irrationality and calling out the logical fallacies can raise awareness that the fundamental issue isn’t just a matter of disagreement about something. Objective observation and measurement of technique and tactic is an initial step towards more honest discussion.

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