Monthly Archives: June 2005

Rambling about Rhetoric over Reason

Oops, did it again with my latest entry. Had more fun with rhetoric, and didn’t really care about reason. If people aren’t paying attention, they can be swayed by really shoddy reasoning. That’s an argument against real-time opinion gathering…

Imagine a debate between two presidential candidates. Imagine a TV with full interactivity. Imagine the candidates being judged in real-time by the people, with bar graphs in the corner of your screen. One candidate tells a lie. The people don’t know. It’s a real zinger, and the approval shows in the graphs.

Usually, you don’t even have to resort to lying. The way you frame an argument can totally confound an opponent, even if your argument wouldn’t make sense under further scrutiny.

So, further scrutiny. That’s one thing the world just has too little of. With the faster news cycles, there’s no time to analyze anything anymore. You post your opinion right away before the news story becomes stale. As a result, your opinion is not as solid as it could be. You miss a lot in order to get a point across.

Of course, no one cares, the debate dies before it can be resolved because another debate arises too quickly. Nothing ever gets solved anymore.

Must we agree to disagree? Then, how does the world move forward? You convince enough people to your side to overpower the other?

“It’s all about perception.” That’s one of my guiding Post-It notes. Does it even matter if I resort to rhetoric instead of reason? Do people care?

Well, I care. This weblog is a medium for experimentation and self-improvement. If I make a mistake, I’ll call myself out on it and make changes. Even if the news story is stale.

I’m wondering how I should go about things now. Should I hold off with my opinions, form them, revise, and then finally post? Or, should this process be transparent? Should I engage in a debate with myself?

This is a weblog. A place for experimentation. The first option I’ve done for years: It’s called an essay.

Let’s see what’s behind door number two.

War and Compensation

When I was younger, I never much paid attention to the wording, of “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation,” from the Fifth amendment. All I remember now is a vague sense of thinking that the government could only do this during wartime.

I realize now that public use is broader than that. But I don’t think it’s as broad as the Kelo v. New London decision would have it. I guess I’m too dumb to figure out how it constitutes “public use.” I looked up “public” in the dictionary; I looked up “use” in the dictionary; I still couldn’t figure it out. How does giving land to corporations constitute “public” use? How is adding jobs public “use”? I guess I’ll take the time to read the actual court case to figure it out, but for some reason, I still doubt I’ll get it.

While I was at it, looking up things in the dictionary, I also looked up “just.” This is arguable, but I don’t think fair market value for your home is “just.” I hope the cities pay for moving expenses and such. I really don’t know what they do.

All I know is, it really sucks for the common man.

Populism is Dead

populism: n. A political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against the privileged elite.

In more than three words: Populism as a political force is dead. Actually, let me clarify: A populist cannot win a presidential campaign.

Durbin not being lauded and populism’s death are symptoms of the same disease. They’re attacking the wrong people. Terrorism is a greater threat than the so-called privileged elite. Terrorists are beheading people on television while no one has died at Guantanamo. Defeating terror is more important than defeating the Republicans.

So, while Democrats try to figure out why people vote for the Republican party when its supposedly not in their best economic interests, maybe they should wonder instead why people vote Democratic when it’s not in their best safety interests. The Democrats are digging themselves deeper into their grave and they can’t understand why. It’s quite simple, really.

My Advice to Democrats after Kerry Loss is still as right as ever. Terror decided the election then, and it will continue to decide elections. Figure it out before the party self-destructs because of people like Durbin, and Dean, who can’t figure out that the real enemies are the terrorists.

There’s no need for any major shifts in the Democratic Party. The reason you’re losing is because of 9/11, but probably not for the reasons many Democrats think. Memorize this, Democratic Party: 9/11 was an overt act of war.

9/11 was an overt act of war.

Until you acknowledge this fact, the Democratic Party will never recover.

9/11 was an overt act of war.

It’s not saying, the War in Iraq is justified. It’s not saying Guantanamo is justified. Those are debatable. This fact is not.

9/11 was an overt act of war.

Until the Democratic Party figures out that terrorism is the greatest, most urgent, threat to America, they will not win back the presidency.

Of course, figuring it out and convincing the people you’ve figured it out are two separate things. I’m sure some members of the Democratic Party have figured it out. However, perception is everything.

It’ll be hard doing the convincing, though, when these marvelous quotes from Democrats are lying around.

Still, I’m giving advice and someone should take it. Carefully consider all the words and implications: 9/11 was an overt act of war.

Colons: The New Inescapable Part of Your Title

I swear, a colon has become a necessary part of every (non-fiction) book title these days. I looked down Discover Magazine’s top ten list or something or another, and all the science books had colons in their titles. Every single one. And here, I look around at some books lying around…

  • The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently… and Why
  • Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything
  • Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right
  • Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union
  • Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World
  • Sneaking into the Flying Circus: How the Media Turn Our Presidential Campaigns into Freak Shows

And on and on and on and on: You can’t escape the colon! Everyone’s got their great tagline. Since when did the title become not enough; since when did every title need a little explanation with it?

Okay, I can understand the Henry Clay one, I guess. I mean, it makes sense to have the man’s name in the biography, with something else in it to differentiate it from the others.

But when I write a book, I’ll just cut out the middle man, the colon. No, no, even better yet! I’ll leave out the title completely! I’ll use the tagline. That’s the thing that makes sense anyway. Go back and look at my list and take out the colon and everything before it! It’s utterly amazing!

Oh how I long for the days when the title did not need a crutch!

Note: The 3rd book on that list is not mine.

Extension: Media Bias

I often cannot make my argument as strong as I would like. In this particular case, instead of rewriting my entire old entry [add link later], I would like to add an extension. What I wrote is still valid, it just needs reinforcement. I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t call this “Part II”, but whatever.

And now, for something completely different… just kidding:

Let’s consider the case of the faked Bush Guard memos. I wrote this back in 2004, “When the errors were pointed out so quickly online, you have to wonder how much they really looked into the authenticity of these documents…”

Back then, I wrote it really caustically, implying that it was perhaps done with more vicious motives. I now have a different outlook. I tend to agree with this line from Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, “As a general rule, people, even the wicked, are much more naive and simple-hearted than we supose.” Thus, I question the validity of my previous implied allegations.

Still, the line does raise a valid point, if you ignore the tone. How much did they really look into the authenticity of those documents? Of course, the answer is “not very much,” otherwise, they would’ve figured out that they were fakes and never aired them in the first place. Well, this does leave two possibilities. Either they intentionally aired fake memos, or they did it unintentionally.

Humor me for a second if you believe the former, as this is important information and may still be valid even if they did post fake memos on purpose. The next logical question to ask, if you believe it was unintentional, is “How could they have done this?” Well, this Dan Rather trusted the producer, the producer trusted the lower-downs (as opposed to higher-ups), etc, etc, random people tossed in here and there, another etc. I guess the real question is, “Why didn’t anyone question this?”

If you believe it was unintentional, the only explanation is media bias. For the people of CBS, this memo confirmed what they thought had to be true about Bush. They believed he hadn’t finished his Guard service and that there was a cover-up. The problem in this memo scandal is that they didn’t even think to question the validity of these documents.

Therein lies the problem of media bias, even if you think Rather did it on purpose or even if you think Karl Rove planted the memos. The problem is a cocooning effect. Certain assumptions are made and never questioned. It seems like it should be true, so they post it. The problem runs to the left and the right: Koranic abuse, well, it fits the pattern with Abu Ghraib, let’s post the news story based on one anonymous source at the Pentagon speculating about what may be in a future report; Saddam had ties to Al Qaeda, yeah, let’s air it.

The issue of media bias is important for the long-term viability of news organizations. 60 Minutes II went off the air due to ratings issues. There’s no doubt in my mind that these ratings issues can be partly attributed to the memo scandal. With bias, it’s more likely that someone will slip-up, and bam, there’s goes the trust, and bam, there goes your audience. Guess what? People aren’t trusting the media as much as they used to. It’s not some hypothetical scenario… it’s already happening.

And so, the reasoning behind a more balanced hiring scheme is revealed. I can now better explain my last paragraph of the previous entry. The hiring of liberals and conservatives will create a culture of skepticism that would not exist otherwise. The risk of another memo scandal is reduced. Certain things trigger alarm bells in some people’s heads, like those headlines in my case. A culture of skepticism reduces the risk of this. The people working for you will have alarm bells go off in their heads, and things can be fixed.

Certainly, some things will slip through the cracks. But that’s no excuse to leave things the way they are. When it’s more balanced, things will slip through left cracks and right cracks. The allegations of systematic bias will be less sticky because they’re less true. Less alarm bells will go off in weblogger’s minds. The meme of media bias will begin to die out in the blogosphere. Trust goes up. Sales won’t slump as much. And you can go back to writing your sensational headlines without me complaining about them.

[Note: add in links to previous entries]

Analyzing Proper

Re-analyzing Gonzales v. Raich, I actually have reasoning better than what was implied by my satire. The supremacy of federal drug law over a state law is not that big of a stretch as I implied. One could argue that the Congress has the ability to regulate wholly intrastate activities as an extension of the necessary and proper clause. Indeed, it may be necessary. However, I would argue that it’s not proper. It overstretches the federal government’s power, especially since it took an amendment to ban alcohol. Additionally, in my eyes, it violates the principles of federalism. Well, that depends on your interpretation of federalism. The state has its sphere, and the national government is interfering with the sphere in an improper situation, in my opinion. Federalism allows for experimentation within states. It can’t happen if the national government is regulating everything. If it was a matter of national security, then the national government would have the necessary and proper powers to regulate. Medicinal marijuana should be left to the states. It is not proper for the national government to interfere.

Freewrite: Critic

Everyone wants to be a critic. Look at these morons on the left. Look at these morons on the right. I will use witty satire to prove my point, and my point is that they are wrong.

It is much easier to tear things down. There’s a certain glee in knocking it all down. The moment you take to demolish the card house seems to be infinitely more satisfying than the minutes/hours/eternity you spent painstakingly putting it together. The cards are so delicate. It takes a light touch to balance them, to make them lean together in a state of interdependence. It takes less effort to tear it down. A swipe. A kick. A simple blow. There are many methods to destroy a cardhouse. Perhaps, an infinite amount of methods, and it can certainly stretch one’s creativity.

The creativity used to build is a much more delicate creativity. The ability to envision not just a whole, but pieces. The ability to envision not just pieces, but a whole. The ability to synthesize, and to tear apart to understand, but without destruction. It is more strenuous and more difficult. Like constructing an essay, certain parts may be easy, but it’s hard to construct the whole. To transition, especially. Destruction cares not about transition. It is easy to criticize an essay. This is wrong, this is wrong, it’s easy to point this or that out. It is much harder to build.

Many people live their lives intent on destroying. But what use is this destruction if you’ve not your own alternative of what to build? Why replace a good/mediocre/horrible with nothing?

Why don’t you come up with your own idea? What would you suggest?

I can’t. It’s impossible to think of the best-case-scenario. The knock-your-socks off idea. The utopia.

Then, don’t give me a best. Give me a better.

Everyone wants to be a critic. What an ideal job: The destroyer.

For some reason, I value greater even the creator who fails.

Do not be afraid to fail. Your criticisms are worth nothing otherwise.

If you’re unsatisfied with the status quo: Don’t neglect your criticism. Don’t love it or leave it. Just don’t stop with destruction. You don’t have to give me a best, just give me a better.

Special Guest Blogger: Ryan Foley

so benjamin franklin. i hate bill o’reilly. carpet stain. anyways i was eating soup one day and it was really hot because it had just been cooked by some poor immigrant. However, it was really delicious at the same time, so i decided to bear with torturing my self in order to cater to the party in my mouth that i was experiencing. I ate the soup and i couldn’t feel or taste with my tongue for a week. i had to resort to tasting with other parts of my body.

Here’s How I Understand It: Media Bias

I cannot let the information sit. I must synthesize and evaluate. Hypothesize. What I said before about media bias was wrong. Let’s try again. Here’s how I understand it:

It is the media’s goal to get you to buy its products. The media’s higher goal is not to serve the truth.

The media’s tool to accomplish this is sensationalism. “If it bleeds, it leads.” It’s the media’s job to make it sound as if the world is ending in order to make us buy papers and watch TV.

This may lead to a disconnect between the truth and what’s on paper. They will lead with headlines such as, “Jailers splashed Koran with urine – Pentagon.” I don’t believe it is the intention to mislead the people. I do not believe it is part of a left-wing agenda to undermine the Bush administration. It is simply what sells. No one will buy a newspaper, or click a link, with the headline, “Koran Mishandling Unintentional – Pentagon.”

Yet, is this acceptable? I cannot simply accept these misleading headlines as what they are.

Now, one may believe, as CNN Boy does, that “it’s forgivable in the sense that the headline writer knows we understand there’s more to the story.” Yet, he also acknowledges that “the ability to read headlines … is a learned attribute.” The problem is, most people don’t understand that there’s more to the story. The perception arises that the media is purposely biased. Perception is everything.

There is more to this story, though. I’ve concluded that the media is not intentionally biased, but I cannot rule out that it may be unintentionally biased. To illustrate this, I must take a slight detour.

We’re all not under the illusion that Fox News is “fair and balanced.” Fox News is obviously biased to the right. I speculate that this is the reason for Fox News’s success. I speculate that people flock towards it, and talk radio, because they do not find a voice for the right in the other news outlets.

Bear with me, as I try to illustrate this further. As I said earlier, it’s the media’s job to make it sound like it’s the end of the world. Thus, the Bush administration is just a likely casualty of the media. He’s the president and in order to make it sound like it’s the end of the world, it’s only natural that his policies must seem to be failing, no?

Then, how can we account for the success of Fox News? They triumph the Bush administration, and still get good ratings. It’s because they make it sound as if the left is bringing about the end of the world.

The people, the employees, in the traditional media outlets, I’ve heard, are mostly liberal. That is, the majority of persons lean ideologically more towards the left. (This information I will assume now and look up later.)

That is what naturally creates bias towards the left. Not some left-wing conspiracy.

The solution is simple, then. We cannot eliminate bias within newspapers. The misleading headlines can persist. However, we can create a balance of bias. I believe it is possible to have a happy medium between Fox News and, to throw something out there, the LA Times. The way to do this is to simply hire more conservatives.

With a more equal mix of political biases, the misleading headlines will not be perceived to be so sharply leaning towards the left. The biases will balance out within a newspaper or television show, and the people will not perceive some vast left-wing, or right-wing, agenda. I believe it will happen naturally, as long as it is a true balance, not the hiring of token opposition persons.

Running Bats

From this month’s Discover magazine:

“Bat Bipeds: Several species of bat are known to use their strong forelimbs and weak hind legs to crawl along the ground, but no one suspected they might be able to run. At least not until Cornell University biologist Daniel Riskin dropped a common vampire bat onto a tradmill, only to be stunned as it broke into a bounding run…”

Scientists are so crazy. How the hell did he get the idea to drop a bat onto a freakin’ treadmill? Honestly, that’s hilarious.

Six Degrees of Necessary and Proper Separation

I completely agree with the Supreme Court’s decision in Gonzales v. Raich. After all, using marijuana for medical use is similar to using marijuana for pleasure, which is like using cocaine for pleasure, which was shown in Kill Bill II directed by Quentin Tarantino, who was in Girl 6 (1996) with Arthur J. Nascarella, who was in In the Cut (2003) with Kevin Bacon. Thus, the necessary and proper Kevin Bacon clause — Article 1, Section 8 — is satisfied, federalism be damned.

Necessary and proper credit to: The Oracle of Bacon at Virginia.

It’s juxtaposition time!

American deaths per year resulting directly or primarily from alcohol: 340,000 to 450,000

American deaths per year resulting directly or primarily from marijuana: 0


It took an amendment to ban alcohol.

(Medicinal use of) Marijuana was banned without an amendment.

another post-it note

I’m tired, so no long entry today. Instead, another post-it note (not on my monitor, although I’m thinking of switching it with “reasons are things you make up after the fact”): “You can’t save the world through vitriol.”

A Course Correction

No more vitriol from the Agnoiologist. No more criticizing what isn’t actually there.

“As a general rule, people, even the wicked, are much more naive and simple-hearted than we suppose. And we ourselves are, too.” — The Brothers Karamazov.

No more complaining into the void.

Misleading Headline About Koran Mishandling

EDIT: Old entry in strike-through is below for future reference. Revised entry follows:

From Yahoo, Jailers splashed Koran with urine – Pentagon.

The third paragraph: “In the incident involving urine, which took place this past March, Southern Command said a guard left his post and urinated near an air vent and ‘the wind blew his urine through the vent’ and into a cell block.” [emphasis mine]

The headline says “jailers.” The news article says “a guard.” Hmm… Almost makes you wonder if the guys who made the headline even actually read the news story? Or did they just disregard the truth for the sake of good copy? Thus, I don’t blame the Bush administration for “accusing […] the media of blowing ‘isolated incidents’ out of proportion.

Yahoo News Lies about Koran Mishandling

From Yahoo, Jailers splashed Koran with urine – Pentagon.

You gotta love the pyramid style of news article writing. A quick summary at the top can easily bury any clarifications within the middle of the article. Case in point:

The first paragraph: “American jailers at the Guantanamo prison for foreign terrorism suspects splashed a Koran with urine, kicked and stepped on the Islamic holy book and soaked it with water…” [emphasis mine]

The third paragraph: “In the incident involving urine, which took place this past March, Southern Command said a guard left his post and urinated near an air vent and ‘the wind blew his urine through the vent’ and into a cell block.” [emphasis mine]

Wait a second, why did I go so far as to say Yahoo is lying, if I merely mention misdirection in the beginning of my entry. Well, if you’ve the attention span to get this far, fear not, you will be rewarded.

Luckily, my attention-grabbing title, unlike Yahoo’s, is not a lie. Did you catch where I added emphasis in quoting the third paragraph? It says, “a guard.” Yahoo’s headline says, “Jailers.” Hmm… I would forgive this slight transgression if it didn’t seem indicative of greater MSM and leftist unjustified hullabaloo.

I found this gem from the blogosphere, commenting on the Koran mishandling: From the “Friday Night Newshole” Files. She’s one to talk about a “burying job,” when her ellipsis so conveniently cuts out: “The statement said the detainee was given a new prison uniform and Koran, and that the guard was reprimanded and given duty in which he had no contact with prisoners.” No, the Bush administration does not need to “issu[e] an apology to Newsweek for accusing them of erroneous reporting”.

At least the BBC doesn’t outright lie, like Yahoo, but it’s still misleading. After its less inflamatory “US Guantanamo guard kicked Koran” headline, the bold first paragraph reads: “The US has given details of how guards mishandled copies of the Koran at its Guantanamo Bay prison, including a case of one copy being deliberately kicked.”

However, by the time we get to the fourth paragraph, we find out: “The report said most of the cases were accidental or unintentional.” Yeah, that’s the line that should’ve been in bold.

Despite this, Reuters decides to play the quotes game: “White House blames ‘few’ jailers in Koran uproar.”

Oh no, it gets better, read on: “The White House sought on Saturday to minimize damage from new revelations about U.S. personnel mishandling the Koran at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison, accusing a few people of violating policy and the media of blowing ‘isolated incidents’ out of proportion.”

Or maybe, just maybe, Mr. MSM, you can consider that maybe just once, the Bush administration is right? The media is blowing isolated incidents out of proportion! Just look at those misleading headlines! It’s not damage control; it’s trying to show the truth. No wonder people are so disillusioned by the media.

And, before you read anything else about “Quranic abuse,” please read this excellent article by Christopher Hitchens: Stop the Masochistic Insanity.

UPDATE: Goodness, it gets even better! Turns out the BBC article does get some facts wrong!

Read: “It was part of an inquiry sparked by a magazine report, later retracted, that a Koran was flushed down a toilet.”

Wait a second… the Newsweek article was about “a forthcoming report by the U.S. Southern Command in Miami was ‘expected’ to contain the finding that Guantanamo interrogators had flushed a Quran down a toilet to break detainees.” (Quote from Down the Toilet at Newsweek via Slate.)

Wow, so we’re set up with the impression that this report came out as a response to the Newsweek article. It’s almost like they want us to believe the administration is making things up as part of a cover up. Unfortunately, this report was already in the works.

Despite what the MSM wants us to believe, the US is not that stupid. There is no systematic Koran mishandling going on. Quite the contrary, in fact, “A January 2003 Pentagon memo for ‘handling and inspecting of detainee Korans’ said U.S. personnel must ‘ensure that the Koran is not placed in offensive areas such as the floor, near the toilet or sink, near the feet, or dirty/wet areas.'” (Again from Slate, Quranic Etiquette.) Even if the urination incident was intentional, it doesn’t indicate systematic abuse. It’s no Abu Ghraib.

a few friday links

Found at Slate: Dismissed!
We won’t solve the military manpower crisis by retaining our worst soldiers.
— Critizing a new directive that “raises the approval authority for discharges from the battalion commander level to the ‘special court-martial convening authority’ level — generally a step of one command level, from battalion to brigade,” then gives steps the military can take to retain troops, mostly by cutting out the middleman of private contractors and adopting some of their policies. Very good, sensible article.

Found at Cosmic Log: Super-predator is regular visitor — Introduces new hypothesis of Earth’s periodic mass extinctions. Interesting and thought-provoking. I was already wondering about humans before the article mentioned it.