Friday, October 28


Who Put Salt In Your Coffee?

Peggy Noonan frets that the world, or at least America, is handbasketly hellbound:
I think there is an unspoken subtext in our national political culture right now. In fact I think it's a subtext to our society. I think that a lot of people are carrying around in their heads, unarticulated and even in some cases unnoticed, a sense that the wheels are coming off the trolley and the trolley off the tracks. That in some deep and fundamental way things have broken down and can't be fixed, or won't be fixed any time soon. That our pollsters are preoccupied with "right track" and "wrong track" but missing the number of people who think the answer to "How are things going in America?" is "Off the tracks and hurtling forward, toward an unknown destination."
Well, Peggy, America has been hurtling towards an unknown destination for 229 years now. Longer, really, because the same spirit was present even before independence.

Hurtling forwards is no great drama. Hurtling backwards, now that would be a problem.

I'm not talking about "Plamegate." As I write no indictments have come up. I'm not talking about "Miers." I mean . . . the whole ball of wax. Everything. Cloning, nuts with nukes, epidemics; the growing knowledge that there's no such thing as homeland security; the fact that we're leaving our kids with a bill no one can pay.
Cloning shmoning. Sheep that look like their "mothers". Big deal.

Nuts with nukes? We've had that since the fifties.

Epidemics? You mean like SARS, which killed hundreds of people, nearly as many as died recently in a panicked crowd in Iraq?

No such thing as security? And this is news?

As for leaving our kids with a bill they can't pay, this is possible for a number of European countries; far less likely for America which isn't suffering the same demographic implosion.

A sense of unreality in our courts so deep that they think they can seize grandma's house to build a strip mall; our media institutions imploding--the spectacle of a great American newspaper, the New York Times, hurtling off its own tracks, as did CBS.
Not the first time the courts have got something wrong. As for the great American newspaper - does the name Walter Duranty ring any bells?
The fear of parents that their children will wind up disturbed, and their souls actually imperiled, by the popular culture in which we are raising them.
By that devilish jazz music!
Senators who seem owned by someone, actually owned, by an interest group or a financial entity.
Uh, Peggy...
Let me focus for a minute on the presidency, another institution in trouble. In the past I have been impatient with the idea that it's impossible now to be president, that it is impossible to run the government of the United States successfully or even competently. I always thought that was an excuse of losers. I'd seen a successful presidency up close. It can be done.

But since 9/11, in the four years after that catastrophe, I have wondered if it hasn't all gotten too big, too complicated, too crucial, too many-fronted, too . . . impossible.

I'll give Ms. Noonan this one. Isaac Asimov wrote a story on exactly this subject some years ago. In the story, presidential candidates must pass a series of test on various subjects, and as time goes by and the job grows, the requirements become more and more stringent until, one election year, none of the candidates manages a passing grade. The problem is resolved by having a team of experts answer the tests in their individual fields, with one man acting in the presidential role, taking advice from his cabinet.


The special prosecutors, the scandals, the spin for the scandals, nuclear proliferation, wars and natural disasters, Iraq, stem cells, earthquakes, the background of the Supreme Court backup pick, how best to handle the security problems at the port of Newark, how to increase production of vaccines, tort reform, did Justice bungle the anthrax case, how is Cipro production going, did you see this morning's Raw Threat File? Our public schools don't work, and there's little refuge to be had in private schools, however pricey, in part because teachers there are embarrassed not to be working in the slums and make up for it by putting pictures of Frida Kalho where Abe Lincoln used to be. Where is Osama? What's up with trademark infringement and intellectual capital? We need an answer on an amendment on homosexual marriage! We face a revolt on immigration.

The range, depth, and complexity of these problems, the crucial nature of each of them, the speed with which they bombard the Oval Office, and the psychic and practical impossibility of meeting and answering even the most urgent of them, is overwhelming. And that doesn't even get us to Korea. And Russia. And China, and the Mideast. You say we don't understand Africa? We don't even understand Canada!

Canada? Beer. Snow. A determination to be recognised as Not America. And a nasty case of France.

Africa? Corruption.

The port of Newark? Isn't there a Harbour Master, a Mayor, a Governor, a Director of Homeland Security, a whole bunch of people working on that? It's not like playing Age of Empires where you have to click on the little people to get them to do anything.

When I was young we didn't wear earrings, but if we had, everyone would have had a pair or two. I know a 12-year-old with dozens of pairs. They're thrown all over her desk and bureau. She's not rich, and they're inexpensive, but her parents buy her more when she wants them. Someone said, "It's affluence," and someone else nodded, but I said, "Yeah, but it's also the fear parents have that we're at the end of something, and they want their kids to have good memories. They're buying them good memories, in this case the joy a kid feels right down to her stomach when the earrings are taken out of the case."
You said that, Peggy. No-one else said that.
This, as you can imagine, stopped the flow of conversation for a moment.
Yes indeed. One of those moments.
Then it resumed, as delightful and free flowing as ever. Human beings are resilient. Or at least my friends are, and have to be.
Do people fear the wheels are coming off the trolley?
Some do, I'm sure. But some of us are busy trying to upgrade the trolley's turbojets to ion drives.
Our elites, our educated and successful professionals, are the ones who are supposed to dig us out and lead us. I refer specifically to the elites of journalism and politics, the elites of the Hill and at Foggy Bottom and the agencies, the elites of our state capitals, the rich and accomplished and successful of Washington, and elsewhere. I have a nagging sense, and think I have accurately observed, that many of these people have made a separate peace. That they're living their lives and taking their pleasures and pursuing their agendas; that they're going forward each day with the knowledge, which they hold more securely and with greater reason than nonelites, that the wheels are off the trolley and the trolley's off the tracks, and with a conviction, a certainty, that there is nothing they can do about it.
Well, duh, Peggy.

You're talking about journalists, who never really did anything about anything in the first place - excepting a few accidents of history - and now are being shunted off the public stage entirely. The Trolley of Journalism is not just off the tracks but upside down in a ditch. Hopefully a passing blogger will call for an ambulance.

You're a lobbyist or a senator or a cabinet chief, you're an editor at a paper or a green-room schmoozer, you're a doctor or lawyer or Indian chief, and you're making your life a little fortress. That's what I think a lot of the elites are up to.
Let's see:

Politics, politics, politics, journalism, politics, actual useful human being, potentially useful human being, politics.

You don't think there might be a reason why these "elites" act this way? (And in the case of politicians, always have?)

That's what I think is going on with our elites. There are two groups. One has made a separate peace, and one is trying to keep the boat afloat. I suspect those in the latter group privately, in a place so private they don't even express it to themselves, wonder if they'll go down with the ship. Or into bad territory with the trolley.
The latter group, Peggy, is known as engineers, and they have kept the human race afloat for 8000 years, since we first grew beyond the tribe. They do not wonder if they'll go down with the ship, because they are too busy fitting the ship with wings. But they do wish from time to time that the passengers would stop trying to knock holes in things.

(via the Llamas)

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Through The Looking Glass

Every day the loony part of the left blogosphere complains about the tightly controlled, always-on-message nature of the center/right blogosphere. In fact, the only thing we have in common is that we think that the loony left is indeed loony.

But why do they think that we all get our talking points faxed directly from Lord Rove's office every morning?* Because that's what they'd do:

Movers and shakers in Washington, especially their younger staff, pay attention to blogs and, increasingly, seek to engage them. At the Democratic National Committee (DNC), chairman
Howard Dean, who pioneered the use of the Internet to raise funds for his 2004 presidential campaign, has set up an Internet Department to get his message out to the blogs.

"Sometimes there are stories that don't fit with our larger, overall national media strategy that we send out to encourage and motivate and engage people in the blogosphere," says DNC spokesman Josh Earnest. "It's hard to imagine how we could communicate with them so effectively without this new technology," he adds.

Quickly, now: Who's the chairman of the RNC?

Bzzt. Time's up. No, I don't know either. It wasn't on the fax.

* When of course he converted to email years ago.

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Unclear On The Concept

Eric asks:
Why aren't the headlines reading "Barely 2000 American soldiers lost in 30 months, Iraqi's ratify Constitution enabled by overthrow of Ba'athist fascism"?
The answer is, because the people writing the headlines learned the wrong lessons from the 20th century. Or the 18th & 19th centuries, for that matter.

Basically, the opponents of the liberation of Iraq in the West* are Transnational Progressives, Tranzis for short. The Tranzis believe that everything that was bad about the 20th century - that is, WWI, WWII and Vietnam, tranzis having a very poor grasp of history - was due to the conflict of nation-states. It was to eliminate this conflict, and ultimately to eliminate the nation-state itself, that the League of Nations, and its successor the United Nations, were formed.

Now, if you are an adherent of this belief, it logically follows that nation-states are bad, and America, the richest and most powerful nation-state of all, is the very worst. And that since the fundamental nature of the nation-state is bad, only bad can arise from the actions thereof.**

So everything America does is bad. But Saddam Hussein was a fascist, and the Tranzis are intrinsically opposed to fascism, because fascism exalts the nation-state above all else. This opposition is fundamental to their ideology.

Of course, the Tranzis have had no success whatsoever in achieving their goals. So naturally America (which is evil) cannot ever achieve those goals, because those goals are good and America (as the premier nation state) cannot do good things.


This means:

1. America is not in Iraq to liberate the Iraqi people. (Because America is evil, and doesn't do such things.)
2. If America says that it is in Iraq to liberate the Iraqi people, it is a lie. (See above.)
3. If America follows a course of action clearly designed to liberate the Iraqi people, it is (a) only from some hidden motive and (b) doomed to failure.
4. If the Iraqis actually become free, for example, voting in huge numbers in clearly free and fair elections, then that is necessarily bad, because democracy is unfair to the people.
5. If Iraq, with America's assistance, becomes a prosperous, safe and generally healthy nation, then prosperity, safety, and health are ipso facto also evil.

So, the underlying source of all the wailing and fury of the left is that the liberation of Iraq has proved them to be wrong. And unless America fails, and fails horribly, they may be forced to admit it. Remember, when the left tried to free the world they ended up killing a hundred million people. So America has to, has to, has to fail.

Because the alternative would be unthinkable.

Steven Den Beste has written on this at length, and explains it better than I do here, but I don't have a link handy.

Update: Steven Den Beste provides a link (though I'm not sure if that was the one I was thinking of) and a handy search URL.

* Ignoring for the moment the Ba'athists and the Islamists, who oppose it for the very sensible reason that they want to be in control.
** Well, the idea that only bad ends can arise from bad means is another logical fallacy, but we'll leave that one alone for now.

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Thursday, October 27


Galloway Hung Out To Dry

If this pans out - and it looks pretty damn solid - George Galloway is, as the article puts it, screwed.

Couldn't happen to a nicer fascist scumbag.

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Monday, October 24


All That's Missing Is A Church Door

44 Reasons Why the Chomskians Are Mistaken. It's talking about Chomsky's infamously bogus lingustics, not about his infamously bogus politics. (Although the same problem - a cargo-cult approach to understanding the world - underlies both.)

(via Amritas)

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Monday, October 17


Message -> Mark -> As Junk

I've been trying to convince Thunderbird that the daily emails I received from the Washington Post are spam, but for some reason it's an uphill struggle. I don't know why Thunderbird refuses to block it, but this is why I want it to:
Sunni Turnout Is High In Vote on Iraqi Charter

Insurgents largely suspended attacks, granting Sunni Arab voters a chance to try to defeat the U.S.-backed charter and giving much of the country a rare day of peace that belied the deep fractures exposed by the vote.

Well sure, that's a piece of nice, straightforward, fact-driven reporting and not an abysmally biased opinion piece masquerading as news at all.

Fortunately we have blogs; in this instance The Belmont Club. At least Wretchard knows the difference between reporting and speculation.

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Sunday, October 16


Intelligent Design In The Dock

This is funny:
MR. MUISE: We object on the basis of hearsay again for any testimony relating to this affidavit, this out of court statement issued by Mr. Kenyon.

THE COURT: Again you're going to have to do better than a basic hearsay objection, and it's also an affidavit that appears to have been part of the record papers in that case. Now, is it unreliable? Do you have any reason to doubt its voracity?

MR. MUISE: Well, Your Honor, again with regard to it's an affidavit given in a court case that's not addressing the issue of intelligent design. Again she's relying on these statements to arrive at an opinion that's not substantiated by, you know, by weaving this web of these assorted statements throughout the course of the testimony. We're going to continue to object to any of the statements that keep coming up, Your Honor, and I'll ask for a standing objection on that, but --

THE COURT: Well, I don't think a standing objection is going to work for you because you may have particular things you want to say about it. You have to do what you have to do. I'll overrule the objection.


Q. And Matt, could you go to the first highlighted portion of the document?

MR. MUISE: Your Honor, we object on the basis of hearsay.

THE COURT: Are you objecting to the document, reference to the document generally, or to individual parts of the document?


MR. MUISE: Objection to the reading of this portion of the text into the record on the basis of hearsay.

MR. ROTHSCHILD: I'm not offering it for the truth, Your Honor.


MR. ROTHSCHILD: Your Honor, one more thing. Mr. Muise is objecting because these are philosophical and theological statements, and I think most of what Dr. Forrest is going to testify about surely are, and it is the plaintiff's position that intelligent design is at its core a philosophical, theological, religious statement. So that, I mean, that's what she's here to testify about, so it's not going to be surprising if those kinds of statements are, you know, the core of Dr. Forrest's testimony today.

THE COURT: Well, if you said that to get Mr. Muise to stop making continued objections, you're probably going to fail. So let's move on.


MR. MUISE: Your Honor, we object on the basis of hearsay.

THE COURT: Overruled.

Muise is the counsel for the defendant, the Dover Area School District, which is trying to teach Intelligent Design in public schools. They don't seem to be having a good time of it in court.

One thing I've noticed about judges (in my limited experience) is that they really don't appreciate time-wasters.

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Thursday, October 13


146 Years Of Smacking Idiots

Charles Darwin published his great work, The Origin Of Species, in 1859, and still people are writing posts like this one:
Finally, a skeptic has come to terms with reality. Douglas Kern at Tech Central Station has just posted an article on why Intelligent Design will replace neo-Darwinism as the dominant worldview on biological origins.

Most people don't understand the ID debate, because atheist fundamentalist fruitbat critics are too busy trying to shout down any debate with vitriol - attacking the messenger instead of the message.

You've seen it in the blogosphere - the endless rants about how ID is just a 'front' for Creationism (as if Darwinism wasn't a convenient front for secular humanism) without any reasoned attempt to actually meet ID's scientific challenges head on.

The debate from the science side can get a bit strident at times, it is true, but that is largely because the side of nonsense has been putting forth the same arguments since (and indeed before) Darwin's day. One can understand the irritation of the practicing biologists and geologists that 80 years after the Scopes Monkey Trial, the Creationists can put the same arguments out yet again under a new name, and try to force their nonsense back into schools.

And I'll ignore for now the irony of

[A]theist fundamentalist fruitbat critics ... trying to shout down any debate with vitriol - attacking the messenger instead of the message.
As I wrote in comment to the above post:

A scientific theory must be predictive - you must be able to use it to make predictions (whether these are positive or negative). It must be explicative - it must explain some natural phenomenon. It must be falsifiable - there must be some experiment or observation (and one that is actually possible to perform) that can prove that it is incorrect.

Evolutionary Theory fulfils all of these requirements. That doesn't necessarily mean that it is right. (It is right, of course, but it is the never-ending avalanche of confirming evidence that tells us this.) What it means is that it is a valid scientific theory.

Intelligent Design doesn't even begin to fulfil any of these requirements. That means it is not science. It's as simple as that; it's not science. That doesn't mean that it's necessarily wrong, just that it's a load of supernatural claptrap. It could in fact be correct, and it would still be a load of supernatural claptrap.

ID is not science, by the very definition of what science is. So teaching ID in the science classroom is fraud.

And it's nonsense. It says nothing, does nothing, makes no claims, except that "Evolution is wrong". Evolution can be shown to be wrong, but the IDists (and their predecessors the Creation Scientists and their predecessors the Creationists) can't do this because there is no evidence whatsoever that Evolution is wrong. And absolute mountains of evidence that Evolution is correct.

You might as well teach homeopathy in medical school, phlogiston in chemistry and the flat-earth theory in geography. In fact, all of these are more worthwhile than ID because they can - and have - been proven false.

ID can never be proven false, and that is why it is totally worthless. You can never know if it is true or false. The whole point of science is about exactly that, of winnowing the seeds of truth from the chaff of nonsense. With ID, you simply cannot do that:

By contrast, Darwinism cannot accept even the slightest possibility that it has failed to explain any significant dimension of evolution.
That's exactly the point. Evolutionary Theory must explain (or at the least, be compatible with) every significant dimension of evolution, or it is wrong. There's no point of having a theory if it doesn't explain its subject matter, and there's no point in having a theory if you can't know whether it is right or not.

Go ahead and teach ID as religion or philosophy, but it is not science, nor can it ever be.

(Cross-posted to The University of Woolloomooloo)

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Tuesday, October 11


Piglets Of The Day


(Picture via Little Green Footballs)

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