February 22, 2006
Jiim Geraghty has some background on how the conservative blogosphere got scammed
So it looks like the AP and Chuck Shumer floated some very misleading comments around, and some big-time bloggers took the bait.
The controversy over this port sale have been driven by a great deal of vague, ominous and sloppy language thrown around by lawmakers, the media and bloggers. Had this discussion been marked by precision and a focus on just what was at stake, this would not have turned into the brouhaha it did. One almost wonders if the misleading language was deliberate.
Declaring that the UAE “has financial links to the 9/11 hijackers” makes it sound like the country’s government itself backed the attacks instead of some of its citizens; if that were the case, we would have invaded them.
Just what does it take for a country to have, as a New York Post editorial put it, “ties to the Sept. 11 hijackers?” The editorial observes that the country’s “banking system - considered the commercial center of the Arab world - provided most of the cash for the 9/11 hijackers.” Terrorists look to financing in Dubai for the same reason Billy the Kid robbed banks; that’s where the money is. I’m sure terror financing runs through Dubai; financing for just about every economic activity in the region runs through Dubai.
“Much of the operational planning for the World Trade Center attacks took place inside the UAE.” Well, the Hamburg cell planned a lot in Germany. Are we to distrust German companies? Does this fact outweigh the fact that our military leaders credit the UAE for cooperation and help in the war on terror, and call them “very, very solid partners”? Do we suspect that Donald Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace are lying, and putting American lives at risk because they really want to see this deal go through?
Here's a WashPo rundown on the development of the story.
I myself would fault President Bush for many failings, but lax interest in security is not one of them. When I saw reports that Bush had "sold our nations ports to the Arabs," implying, of course, "Arab terrorists", my first reaction was, "that can't be correct." The news these days is absolutely full of misleading BS, so why believe this?
The more you look at this story the less there is there. We'll get hammered in the Muslim press, of course, only this time we'll deserve it.
Technorati Tags: Ports
December 06, 2005
RINO Sightings up, it's a Karaoke Carnival!
The weekly carnival of the Ragin' RINO's, known as RINO Sightings, is available over at No Credentials. This week's Sightings host, Rose Nunez, has modeled the carnival as a karaoke office party! As always, lots of good stuff...enjoy!
Update: Now that I have posted the link I went back and spent some time enjoying Rose's work. I'm due to host the Sightings at the end of January, and I tell you, I'm getting intimidated! This is a really fine bit of creativity, that sets a tough standard to follow. Kudo's and thanks to Rose!
Technorati Tags: Raging RINOs
December 05, 2005
Homespun Bloggers Radio #11
I'm a bit late with the announcement again but the latest edition of Homespun Bloggers Radio, the eleventh in the series, is worth hearing on any schedule (and not just because I return to contributing this edition.) Forty Two minutes of wisdom and wit from the Homespun Bloggers.
(Kudos to Doug Payton, who produces HBR in addition to authoring "Considerettes." )
Technorati Tags: Podcasts
December 01, 2005
Pretending to be stupid
The most significant problem with blog-style punditry, whether in a true blog or in a traditional column, is the tendency to drift into cynical snarkiness. Most of the high-readership bloggers agree that punching up the "attitude" level will drive up your readership. I have to admit, as I look at my feed-reader, that I too seem to drop-in most regularly with those writers who can toss off a quick quip. It fits with the "blog reader lifestyle", I guess; a quick mental break between tasks at work.
One of the best of the "quick-quip" writers is James Taranto, well known for his "Best of the Web" column at Opinion Journal. I get his email version daily and look forward to it; it's a nice break, and often informative and insightful. That's the good news.
The not-so-good-news, as I said above, is that repeated snarkiness can lead to foolishness. Every so often I see a clearly intelligent and informed writer "pretend to be stupid" or perhaps, "dense" is the better word. Now that Sen. Kerry has poisoned the word "nuance" for political use, I worry that the concept of nuance is similarly off-limits. True, sometimes people can nuance themselves into delusion and illogical thinking, Sen. Kerry is an excellent example, but there is a proper role for nuance and there are many processes and phenomena in our world that cannot be reduced to soundbite-simplicity, at least not without wringing out most of the useful understanding.
So sometimes one can over-nuance things, and other times one can over-simplify. Intelligent people ought to be able to handle this. Remember how Einstein put it? "Make everything as simple as possible, but no simpler." Usually this is not hard, but then sometimes it is hard. Most things are "not rocket science," but some things are "rocket science."
Getting back to "pretending to be stupid." If a subject actually does contain a smidgen of nuance or complexity, there is a temptation to exploit that for purposes of making a snarky comment or rejoinder. The writer pretends to not get the subtle point, in order to make his opponent's position look silly. Most everything President Bush says is grabbed by his opponents and repeated in an absurd simpification. It makes for jolly jokes on liberal blog sites. On the other side, some folks seem unable to hear any critisism of the war effort without shouting back, "Oh, so your support the murder of Iraqi children?" This is purposely not getting the point; a deliberate dense-ness. Sadly it works well in a blog. We would be better off if we lost this habit.
Taranto slipped over that line today, imho, in this little comment:
The New 'Fake but Accurate' "Some climate experts have said the potential cooling of Europe was paradoxically consistent with global warming caused by the accumulation of heat-trapping 'greenhouse' emissions."--New York Times, Dec. 1
The 'clever quip' is in the title, "The new Fake but Accurate." Clearly there are things that are "fake" but accurate, but the obvious meaning of the reference is to the "Rathergate" episode. It implies that a "potential cooling in Europe" is something that must be explained away through subterfuge and illogic; the embarassment of reality breaking in. That sort of thing happens all the time; it happened to Rather, but this strikes me as something very different. I have always thought Taranto intelligent and informed, so I perceive this as a deliberate failure to get the point, He's being dense in order to sound witty.
When there is a blizzard in New York or Washington, or, as in this case, when scientists see risk of cooling climate in Europe, those who wish to make climate scientists look foolish will jump at the chance to wonder how things could be cold in a world that it supposed to be warming. One might similarly wonder how scientists can describe the birth of the Universe as the "Big Bang", when there can be no transmission of sound in space. "How could there be a 'bang!' and who heard it?" Few would take such a critisism seriously. We recognize that the term, "Big Bang" is just a name, not an attempt at a scientific description. Similarly, "Warming" is an unfortunately misleading term that has become a handle for a much more complex and dynamic set of climate changes.
People who aspire to some understanding of national economic issues should have no problem with a conceptual understanding of climate issues. Almost the whole of the Republican Party's position on the economy is dependant on understanding the economy as a dynamic system of flows. Democrats take full advantage of this "nuance" by pointing out that it seems absurd, on the surface, to claim the tax cuts for investors could ever benefit the poor. In simplistic terms, the only way to help the poor is to take money away from those who have it and give it to those who don't. Economies don't actually work that way, and many Demorcrats realize this, but that doesn't stop them from appealing to the overly simplistic view when it suits political posturing.
This climate debate is closely analogous. There is plenty to debate, discuss and further research, just as there is on economic issues, without falling back on misleading oversimplifications. I wish we could avoid appealing to ignorance and misunderstanding, even when they are politically useful.
It took me long enough to prepare this post that another example has popped up. Ian Murray, writing on The Corner, this morning comments on a recent court decision regarding regulation of Carbon Dioxide emmisions with this aside:
...it had no authority to regulate carbon dioxide (which is a natural and vital part of the atmosphere) as a pollutant.
There are many compounds which are "natural and vital" to the human body which, if consumed in excess, will kill it. The statement in parenthesis is another example of being deliberately dense in order to mislead. Carbon dioxide can and does kill people directly. On any submarine, the management of carbon dioxide is of vital importance. In the overly simple view of the world, some things are "good for you" and other things are "bad for you." I assume, however, we are all adults here and capable of understanding that many things can be good for us in one context and bad for us in another. This is one of those "not rocket science things."
PS: If you're interested, hre's a down-in-the-details discussion of the new scientific findings that started this rant.
November 16, 2005
Open Source Media, formerly "Pajamas" has gone live.
What was once called Pajamas Media has finally gone live with it's news portal, and has changed names to Open Source Media, which some don't like but seems fine by me. If you understand the reference to software development, the name does a good job of capturing what the news portal is trying to do.
I really hope this thing works out, as I am daily frustrated by the lack of a transparent news source (I've given up on searching for a truly "objective" source of news and interpretation, very likely such a thing is not possible. If these guys can bring the whole story with their biases and views out in the open I can make do with that. Let's keep our fingers crossed.
More from me on OSM over at Bird's Eye View.
November 11, 2005
New Centrist Blog - The Centrist Donkey
Bit late in mentioning this, but better late than never. Max Burns used to write "The New Democrat", but that effort faded away. Max is back, however, with a new blog, "The Centrist Donkey." I've been thinking that we need a few more of the "center-left" fellas to balance out us on the "center-right." I live in a highly liberal town, where I pass for an extreme conservative. Most everyone I know here is a Democrat and many, probably most, are more to the "center" than the real Left. You know, the Left that is so much in evidence just up the road in San Francisco and Berkeley. For some reason they have not been as visible in the blogosphere, so I'm happy to have Max back on the Blogroll.
Drop by and check it out. This week Virginia resident Max is talking about..., what would you guess..., the Tim Kaine victory, perhaps?
November 05, 2005
Homespun Blogger Radio - Now podcasting!
I am so late in mentioning this.
Doug Payton has been doing yeoman's work assembling and publishing the semi-regular Homespun Bloggers Radio Show, and has now achieved a new milestone. The 10th show is now available as a podcast! I have no doubt that podcasting is going to be a "big thing" in the near-future, and "podcast-blogging" is a natural.
I have been shamefully lax in contributing to the show as well. It is a lot harder to craft a five minute radio segment that a comparable blog post. The folks who do this sort of thing for a living have my admiration. I've enjoyed it, however, and am determined to be on-duty for the 11th show.
In the meantime, enjoy the latest Homespun Bloggers Radio Show!
Hear it in Streaming Audio
Hear it as a Podcast! (copy the URL into your podcast software, iTunes works great)
(To make things easy, here's the URL...
September 17, 2005
Light Blogging while at the Accelerating Change conference
Actually, I'm doing a bunch of blogging, but I'm doing it over at the other site, Bird's Eye View. Things are a bit quiet on the political front at the moment and my mind is occupied with questions of Artificial Intelligence.
September 05, 2005
Greys vs Pinks
I posted about Bill Whittle's Greys vs Pinks "essay" over at Bird;s Eye View, but I ought to call attention to it here as well. First of all, here is my post, and even more importantly, here is his post. If you haven't read what he had to say you should. You may not like it, or all of it, but its a good point from which to start some conversation. Bill got worked up over the New Orleans situation and went and said what a lot of people have been thinking but not saying.
Bill's position makes a lot of sense from a Centrist perspective. The old political categorizations, Left vs Right, Dem vs Repub, just don't work very well any more. It's not that there aren't distinctions within the political, there are, but they do not fit well with these old categories. Bill proposes a new binary categorization that he calls pinks vs greys in order to push past the "red vs blue" and "black vs white" categories. He's also got "sheep, wolves and sheepdogs" in there.
The categorization he is working in this piece is based on some simple values; some of which were evidently not in evidence in New Orleans this last week. The group he calls "greys" might also include a lot of centrists as there is an element of pragmatism to the group. If I'm understanding the greys they are not much for idealism nor ideologies. They think about dealing with things in a reasonable way and getting along well., which are also good centrist traits.
The way Bill writes the description, I don't imagine many will be stepping up to be counted as "pinks", so it may not mean much for me to say that centrists are "greys", but I think the point could be argued. In any case, as I have thought about his essay I've decided that its an interesting observation, and a good conversation starter, but the oversimplification breaks down is you carry it too far.
Still, I recommend you read it through and blog about it.
September 01, 2005
Leveraging the power of bloggers.
Bloggers can do more than just spread the news and comment on events. We can use our voices to raise relief donations. Today is "Blog For Relief" day, when hundreds of bloggers are publicizing opportunities to donate to the relief effort. If you have a blog, read about the effort here at The Truth Laid Bear and add your voice to the call for aid. Instapundit is also providing publicity to the effort.
The relief charity I would like to call your attention to is Episcopal Relief and Development.
Episcopal Relief and Development is mobilizing immediate relief aid to the hurricane effected areas. This organization makes use of the existing church infrastructure in the area. Episcopalians provide aid and support to the whole community, not just to the members of this church, and the churches in the area provide ready points of distribution and coordination. The people who live in the community, even though they themselves are effected, can do a lot to help their neighbors if they have the resources. That's where you and I come in.
Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) responded immediately by sending emergency funds to the Dioceses of Central Gulf Coast, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Western Louisiana to support immediate needs such as food, shelter and medical supplies.
Robert Radtke, president of ERD, described the hurricane's devastation as "tsunami-like."
"Authorities are locating people, rescuing them from houses, from rooftops," he said. "But our main concern is taking care of those persons who have been displaced or have lost their homes and everything they have."
The people most affected in any natural disaster are the poor, Radtke explained. "The people who have resources can get out of harm's way," he said. "Our priority is people living in poverty -- we're looking after the people who've been most drastically affected by this."
Here is their page for donations. They take the major credit cards and you don't need to be Episcopalian.
One way to speed relief to these areas is to mobilize the people who are already there. The churches of Mississippi. Alabama and Louisiana are already moving to provide relief to their own communities. You can help.