Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Alypius and the Gladiators

A correspondent wrote that he watched the Nicholas Berg beheading only up to the point where the knife was applied to the neck, but refused to view the severing. He did right, for reasons given in Book Six, Chapter Eight of Augustine’s Confessions.

Alypius was a student of Augustine, first in their hometown of Thagaste, and later in Carthage.In the previous chapter, Augustine writes that in “the maelstrom of Carthaginian customs” Alypius was “sucked down into a madness for the circus.” Later, when Alypius preceded Augustine to Rome to study law, some friends persuaded him against his will to attend a gladiatorial show. Alypius thought he could observe the scene calmly and resist the temptation to blood lust. But he was wrong. When a gladiator fell in combat, and a mighty roar went up from the crowd, Alypius, overcome by curiosity, opened his eyes, drank in the sight, “...and was wounded more deeply in his soul than the man whom he desired to look at was wounded in his body.” Augustine continues:

As he saw that blood, he drank in savageness at the same time. He did not turn away, but fixed his sight on it, and drank in madness without knowing it. He took delight in that evil struggle, and became drunk on blood and pleasure. He was no longer the man who entered there, but only one of the crowd that he had joined, and a true comrade of those who had brought him there. (Tr. J. K. Ryan)

In our decadent culture, we are not yet at the nadir of Roman brutality. But we are at the point where vast numbers of people find entertainment in, and see nothing wrong with, blood lust by itself or in permutation with sexual lust. For such people, and the legal sophists who misuse the First Amendment, the story of Alypius and the Gladiators can mean nothing. To borrow a line from a recent Dylan song, “It ain’t dark yet, but it’s gettin’ there.”

Dale's Philosophy of Religion Links

Dale's Philosophy of Religion Links

Dale Tuggy has assembled a comprehensive list of Philosophy of Religion resources. I appreciate being included. I will add Tuggy's site to the link bar to the right.

FrontPage magazine.com :: How to Defeat Jihad in America by Lawrence Auster

FrontPage magazine.com :: How to Defeat Jihad in America by Lawrence Auster

A Christian Libertarian

Steven Yates here describes how he became a Christian libertarian. The libertarian camp is less monolithic than I used to think. Yates' essay is another proof of this. It annoys me when liberals lump all conservatives together, failing to see the differences among say, Coulter, Hannity, and O'Reilly. Well, we conservatives ought to avoid the mistake of lumping all libertarians together. Watching the Libertarian Party convention on C-Span recently, I was surprised to hear some positions almost indistinguishable from my brand of conservatism.

David Brooks on the Mind-boggling Metaphysics of Michael Moore

HoustonChronicle.com - Brooks: Mind-boggling metaphysics of Moore

Link courtesy of my illustrious colleague in the Classics Department of Blog U., Dr. Michael Gilleland.

Hodges Reports on Censorship in South Korea

Dear Bill,

I have been unable to access your website since last week. Blogspot, it seems, is blocked in Korea. I also cannot access other great blogs, e.g., Belmont Club
(military analysis). Here in Korea, only one or two Korea blogs are accessible (to me).

I did manage to access your blog indirectly this morning and read it up to the 27th by clicking on Cache, rather than directly on your website.

So, I have now seen that Big Hominid sent you a letter concerning the Korean situation. The Koreans are all up in arms about the Kim Sun Il beheading video
(understandably), but (ironically) they had no problems allowing internet access to the beheadings of other countries' citizens. They even showed the Berg video on the national news here in Korea -- up to the moment just prior to the beheading.

Now, they turn to hamfisted censorship of the internet to stop the insidious downloading of the Kim video.

I haven't seen the video and don't really want to. I watched the Berg video online up to the moment Berg's captors went for him with a butcher knife (or so the blade appeared), but I quickly turned it off at the sudden realization that I didn't want to watch. Definitely not.

I don't need to see it. I understand what these fanatics are. The video wouldn't provide me with any new insights. Some people might need to see it, though. A lot of Koreans might better understand the
nature of the 'insurgents' in Iraq if they were to see it. But I don't wish its viewing upon them.

Here's a comment that I posted on censorship (brief) and Kim Sun Il (not brief) to Oranckay's Korea blog (http://www.oranckay.net/blog/)which I CAN still access:

-------------------------------------------------------
(Oranckay, Sunday, June 27, 2004, Kim Seon Il was to marry Iraqi woman...)

Comment Posted On: Tuesday, June 29, 2004, 08:51

From: Horace Jeffery Hodges

Lessons from Kim's Tragedy

I've been busy marking students' essays for the past week and hadn't paid much attention to the internet. I had noticed that accessing expat blogs in Korea was difficult, so difficult that the process timed out and left a message that I can't decipher (i.e., "can't
read") due to my poor Korean skills. Only last night did I have time to investigate further and discover that the sites had been blocked.

Now, that's annoying.

There's a lot to be said about this censorship, but others are saying it as well or better than I could.

Instead, I'd like to comment on the presence of Kim Sun Il in Iraq. His intention to marry an Iraqi Christian was news to me -- and I'll be interested to see if it is accurate. It is certainly consistent with
his expressed desire to work as an evangelical Christian missionary among Arabs, for which reason, he had spent considerable time learning Arabic.

In some respects, Kim was an atypical young Korean. He seems to have taken his studies seriously, if those reports are correct, and he chose to go to Iraq to improve his Arabic skills.

In other respects, he was typical of young Koreans -- anti-American, naive about the 'insurgents.' From reports about the early video showing him relaxed and answering questions posed by his captors, he seems not to have realized just how endangered he was.

How would his captors see him? Let's enter the minds of the Islamists who held him:

... This foreigner is from a country with personnel already in Iraq and with the intention to send 3000 troops, a country with close, long-standing ties to the United States. This foreigner has come to Iraq to
work for a company providing supplies to American troops. He is working to thwart our aims. He is an "infidel," and not only an infidel but a "Christian" infidel, and not only a Christian infidel but a Christian "evangelical" infidel -- just like that Christian evangelical infidel Bush! Moreover, he intends to work as a missionary among Arabs! He knows Arabic! Clearly, he is lying when he criticizes the Americans. Obviously, he is working with the American crusaders to undermine Islam. He must be a spy ...

That, more or less, is what his captors probably thought of him. That is why, regardless of what Korea might have done in response to their demands, they would have killed him. They wanted to kill him. They
were happy to kill him.

If this is hard to fathom, then read the following, which I posted a couple of weeks ago on Marmot's blog:

.......................................................

(From an interview with the "commander of the Al-Quds Brigade that took responsibility for the May 29 attack at Khobar, Saudi Arabia, in which 22 people were killed.")

"At the same time, we found a Swedish infidel. Brother Nimr cut off his head, and put it at the gate [of the building] so that it would be seen by all those entering and exiting.

"We continued in the search for the infidels, and we slit the throats of those we found among them. At the same time, we heard the sound of the patrols and the gathering [of the security personnel] outside. These cowards did not dare to enter. About 45 minutes or an
hour had passed since the beginning of the operation. "We began to comb the site looking for infidels. We foundFilipino Christians. We cut their throats and dedicated them to our brothers the Mujahideen in the Philippines. [Likewise], we found Hindu engineers and we cut their throats too, Allah be praised. That same day, we purged Muhammad's land of many Christians and polytheists.

"Afterwards, we turned to the hotel. We entered and found a restaurant, where we ate breakfast and rested a while. Then we went up to the next floor, found several Hindu dogs, and cut their throats."
.......................................................

If Mr. Kim had known of these actions, he might have been more wary and still alive today. Notice that what all of those killed had in common: they were "infidels." For that, they had to die.

In Kim's case, they showed how little regard that they had for him when they booby-trapped his beheaded corpse in the hopes of killing other infidels. What should Koreans learn from this? Regardless of
their opinion about the war in Iraq (about which,there is a legitimate range of views), they need to recognize that the insurgents are very dangerous people and share goals with other Islamist groups whose threats need to be known and taken seriously. Being Korean, anti-American, and pro-'Iraq' will not save your life if you fall into the hands of people like those who took Mr. Kim -- and then took his life.

-------------------------------------------------------

I hope that Koreans come to realize these things without seeing the video, I hope that the censorship of the Internet soon ends, and I hope that Islamist fascism gets rooted out and loses all credibility.

Some of these hopes may have to stay with me for a long, long time.

Thanks for listening, Bill.

Yours,

Jeff

=====
Office:

Assistant Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges [Ph.D., History, U.C. Berkeley]
Department of English Language and Literature
Korea University
136-701 Anam-dong, Seongbuk-gu
Seoul
South Korea

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

The AnalPhilosopher's Overzealous Spam Blocker

Keith,

You need to instruct your anti-spam bot to lighten up. It wouldn't allow the following e-mail into your inner sanctum:

Keith,

Thanks very much for the correction. You're right. I issued a retraction on my weblog.

You will have noticed that I installed standing links to all three of your weblogs, and one to Tech Central Station. It took me a while to get around to this since the template I am using (Rounders2) wasn't set up for links. I had to find and import the requisite HTML code.

Thanks for the friendly references to my blog in your posts. It's funny: I became aware of the last two only via a Google search on my name even though I read your posts most every day. But you're so prolific it is easy to miss some. Strange that I should miss the very flattering one of 17 June. I really appreciate it! And I'm glad you apparently agree with my post on Soc Security.

I didn't know that your chairman is Bradshaw. He and I both have papers that will be published in a sort of Festschrift for Panayot Butchvarov which will be appearing under the Edwin Mellen imprint.

Keep up the good work. By the way, I am amazed at how free of errors your posts are. I always preview what I publish, but often the Publish command alters the formatting.

Regards,

Bill V.

Steven Yates's Blog

Steven Yates's Blog

I am happy to be back in touch with my old correspondent, Steven Yates. Here is his weblog, to which I will install a standing link. He there relates the unfortunate events that severed our contact some nine or ten years ago.

A Retraction

Keith Burgess-Jackson writes:

Howdy, Bill. According to Bryan A. Garner, "adviser is the standard spelling. Advisor is a variant form. Note, however, that the adjectival form is advisory." A Dictionary of Modern American Usage, 23. The Oxford American Dictionary and Language Guide (p. 15) says this: "Either spelling of the word is acceptable, although 'adviser' may be seen as less formal, while 'advisor' suggests an official position." You make it seem like one is correct and the other incorrect. That's incorrect.

Keith is right. I did make it seem like 'advisor' is correct and 'adviser' incorrect, and I was wrong to do so. After I wrote that post, but before I published it, I paid a visit to Mr. Webster and saw that both spellings are acceptable. But for some reason (laziness?) I let my original formulation stand. I suppose 'adviser' struck me as a newfangled spelling. Being a linguistic conservative, I looked askance at it. The connection between 'advisor' and 'advisory' also influenced me.

By the way, I am happy to hear any and all reasonable and well-intentioned criticisms. One of the things I am doing in this weblog is conducting my education in public. Some of the things I write about are things in which I can claim no special expertise, e.g. my recent post on Social Security. I write to learn. I go out on limbs that you are invited to saw off if you can.

Keith's message also got me thinking about quality control in the blogosphere. Although anyone can publish anything, with astute readers like Keith to keep one honest, there is no reason why weblogs cannot be of the same quality as good hardcopy journals.

Monday, June 28, 2004

More Signs of Linguistic Decline

If I advise you, then I give you my advice, not my advise. Too many people are making this mistake nowadays. 'Advice' is a noun, 'advise' a verb. Someone who gives advice is an advisor. But if you write 'adviser,' I'll let it slide. We don't want to be pedantic, do we?

Another example of the use of a verb as a noun: 'Purchase this satellite dish before the end of month and the install is only $19.99.'
'Install' and 'invite' are verbs; 'installation' and 'invitation' nouns.

At a McDonald's drive-through, I noticed the sign: Confirm your order here above the microphone. When I ordered my Big Mac and fries, I told the order-taker that they need a second microphone at which to place one's order. "Say what, man?"

The Zen Buddhist and the Jehovah's Witness

A visit to Mangan's Miscellany this morning put me in mind of the following joke. What do you get when you cross a Zen Buddhist with a Jehovah's Witness? Somebody who knocks on your door for no reason at all.

The Abuse of the Politically Incorrect: Academia and Beyond

The Abuse of the Politically Incorrect: Academia and Beyond by Steven Yates

I corresponded with Steve Yates back in the early 1990s. I sent him some constructive criticisms on a Descartes paper of his, but then never heard from him again. We even played some postal chess (real postal chess, with postcards, before either of us had e-mail). He is an independent philosopher like your humble correspondent. One difference is that I quit a tenured position whereas he was unable to secure one. A second difference is that he is more libertarian. He is a fine essayist and we agree on much. I have installed a standing hyperlink to his article archive.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

What did Kierkegaard Want?

What did Kierkegaard want? by Roger Kimball

An astute and balanced essay by Roger Kimball.

God and Comfort

Itis exceedingly difficult to get atheists to take theism seriously, to treat it as a live intellectual/existential option. Their tendency is to dismiss it out of hand as little more than a reflection of a deep-seated need for psychological comfort in a universe indifferent to human wishes and desires. The belief in God appears to them like the belief in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. No doubt, some atheists argue against the existence of God, and to this extent take the belief that God exists seriously; but not as a belief that they themselves might adopt, but as a belief that they would like to eliminate in their opponents. These arguing atheists are not out to establish for themselves that God does not exist – this proposition being antecedently obvious to them – but to undermine theistic belief in the consumers of their arguments. In short, these arguing atheists are not inquirers, but ex post facto justifiers of a position they already accept. (Of course, there are also arguing theists who are in the same logical boat.)

Now one simple point that needs to be made here is that the question of whether or not a belief is comforting is logically independent of the question of whether or not the belief is true. To say that two propositions are logically independent is to say that each is logically consistent with both the truth and the falsehood of the other. If P = Belief that God exists is comforting, and Q = God exists, then there are four logical possibilities: {P, Q}, {P, ~Q}, {~P, Q}, {~P, ~Q}. Neither of these propositions entails the other, nor does either entail the negation of the other.

The following is therefore an invalid argument: The belief that God exists is comforting; therefore, God does not exist.

But suppose our interest is in explaining why theistic belief is widely held. We might offer this explanation: Theistic belief is widely held because it satisfies psychological needs such as the needs for comfort and security. But even if this explanation is a good one, all it does is specify a psychological cause of the prevalence of theistic belief. It does not specify a reason for believing that God exists. Since the causal explanation has nothing to do with reasons, it would be a mistake to think that the only reason why theists believe in God is because holding that belief comforts them. What cannot be a reason, cannot be the only reason. Given that theistic belief has sociological and psychological causes, it doesn’t follow that it cannot also have reasons, and among these, some good reasons.

Consider an analogy. Among the causes of my knowing the multiplication table is its having been drummed into me by rote in the third grade. But from the fact that I was caused to learn such truths as that 6 x 9 = 54 by rote memorization, it does not follow that these truths are not rationally justified. Thus, my believing that 6 x 9 = 54 can have a cause without prejudice to the fact that the proposition believed has a reason. (One way to specify the reason would be via
deduction from the Peano axioms.)

Beliefs are facts in the world. As such, they can be studied like any facts, and accounted for causally. (Why does little Ali believe that Jews are the sons and daughters of pigs and monkeys? Because that belief was put in his head by the Islamo-boneheads in the local madrassah.) When we study beliefs in this way, however, we prescind from their truth-value, which is just as essential to a belief as its being a state of a believer. Every belief-state (whether occurrent or
dispositional) has by its very nature a propositional content, and thus a truth-value. The main point I am making is that the question of whether or not a belief is true cannot be resolved by any inquiry into the causal genesis of the belief’s being held. To think otherwise is to commit what is called the genetic fallacy.

Let us now assume that it can be proven that God does not exist. If that has been established, it is appropriate to psychologize and sociologize theistic believers, to explain away their beliefs in terms of environmental conditioning, psychological needs, and what-not. Suppose it is said that theistic beliefs are originated and held because they are comforting. This explanation is good only if it is true that theistic beliefs are comforting. (I take it to be self-evident that in any adequate explanation the explanans (the explaining proposition) must be true.) But is the explanans true?

If God is but a comforting illusion we project into a Godless universe, then why do religions contain such dreadful notions? If our unconscious aim is to comfort ourselves, why do we (collectively and unconsciously) project notions that are terrifying and unsettling? For example, why, on Ash Wednesday, do Christian believers tell themselves that they are dust and unto dust they shall return? (Gen 3, 19: quia pulvis est et in pulverem reverteris.) This does not sound like a comforting escape from harsh reality, but rather a rubbing of one’s nose in it. One literally gets ashes rubbed into one’s forehead in the sign of the cross, the cross being the most horrible form of execution the brutal Romans could devise. Why don’t Christians tell themselves that they are really immortal beings who have nothing to fear from death? And why do they tell a story about a Last Judgment, a sort of final examination that it is possible to fail with disastrous consequences? Why do they speak of working out one’s salvation in fear and trembling?

I have made two main points. The first is that the question whether theistic belief is true is logically independent of questions about the origins of theistic belief. The second is that the commonly heard explanation that theistic beliefs are originated and held because they are comforting is inadequate. For theistic beliefs are just as unsettling as they are comforting. The same is true of atheistic belief. It is both comforting (because one need not fear any consequences of one’s actions beyond this life) and disturbing (because it leaves one without hope: the meaning of one’s living and striving is mitigated if not annihilated by the utter finality of death). In either case, the appeal to comfort fails as an explanation.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Anne Applebaum Essay: "Back in the USSR"

The New Republic Online: Back in the USSR

Thanks to John Gallagher for this link to an essay critical of the Bush administration by Anne Applebaum, author of Gulag, A History. I have read portions of this Pulitzer prize winning book, and recommend it.

Tribute to Morris R. Cohen: Rational Thought as the Great Liberator

Morris Raphael Cohen (1880-1947) was an American philosopher of naturalist bent who taught at the City College of New York from 1912 to 1938. He was reputed to have been an outstanding teacher. I admire him more for his rationalism than for his naturalism. In the early 1990s, I met an ancient lady at a party who had been a student of Cohen's at CCNY in the 1930s. She enthusiastically related how Cohen had converted her to logical positivism, and how she had announced to her mother, "I am a logical positivist!" much to her mother's incomprehension.

We best honor a thinker by critically re-enacting his thoughts. Herewith, a passage from Cohen's A Preface to Logic (1944), pp. 186-187:

...the exercise of thought along logical lines is the great liberation, or, at any rate, the basis of all civilization. We are all creatures of circumstance; we are all born in certain social groups and we acquire the beliefs as well as the customs of that group. Those ideas to which we are accustomed seem to us self-evident when [while?] our first reaction against those who do not share our beliefs is to regard them as inferiors or perverts. The only way to overcome this initial dogmatism which is the basis of all fanaticism is by formulating our position in logical form so that we can see that we have taken certain things for granted, and that someone may from a purely logical point of view start with the denial of what we have asserted. Of course, this does not apply to the principles of logic themselves, but it does apply to all material propositions. Every material proposition has an intelligible alternative if our proposition can be accurately expressed.


These are timely words. In Cohen's day, the threats to civilization were Fascism, National Socialism, and Communism. Today the threat is Islamo-totalitarianism. Then as now, logic has a small but important role to play in the defeat of these threats.

But I do have one quibble with Cohen. He tells us that "Every material proposition has an intelligible alternative..." This is not quite right. A material proposition is one that is non-logical, i.e., one that is not logically true if true. But surely there are material propositions that have no intelligible alternative. No color is a sound is not a logical truth since its truth is not grounded in its logical form. No F is a G has both true and false substitution-instances. No color is a sound is therefore a material truth. But its negation Some color is a sound is not intelligible if 'intelligible' means possibly true. If, on the other hand, 'intelligible' characterizes any form of words that is understandable, i.e., is not gibberish, then logical truths such as Every cat is a cat have intelligible alternatives: Some cat is not a cat, though self-contradictory, is understandable. If it were not, it could not be understood to be self-contradictory. By contrast, Atla kozomil eshduk is not understandable at all, and so cannot be classified as true, false, logically true, etc.

In Praise of the Useless

Morris R. Cohen, A Preface to Logic (Dover, 1977, originally published in 1944), p. 186:

It would certainly be absurd to suppose that the appreciation of art should justify itself by practical applications. If the vision of beauty is its own excuse for being, why should not the vision of truth be so regarded? Indeed is it not true that all useful things acquire their value because they minister to things which are not useful, but are ends in themselves? Utility is not the end of life but a means to good living, of which the exercise of our diverse energies is the substance.


Message from Big Hominid

Fellow blogger,

I am sending this message to the bloggers on my blogroll (and a few other folks) in the hopes that some of you will print this, or at least find it interesting enough for comment. I'm not usually the type to distribute such messages, but I felt this was important enough to risk disturbing you.

As some of you may already know, a wing of the South Korean government, the Ministry of Information and Culture (MIC), is currently clamping down on a variety of blogging service providers and other websites. The government is attempting to control access to video of the recent Kim Sun-il beheading, ostensibly because the video will have a destabilizing influence. (I haven't seen the video.)

Many Western expat bloggers in Korea are in an uproar; others, myself
included, are largely unsurprised: South Korea has not come far out
of the shadow of its military dictatorship past. My own response to
this censorship is not so much anger as amusement, because the situation represents an intellectual challenge as well as a chance to
fight for freedom of expression. Perhaps even to fight for freedom,
period.

South Korea is a rapidly evolving country, but in many ways it remains
the Hermit Kingdom. Like a turtle retreating into its shell, the
people are on occasion unable to deal with the harsh realities of the
world around them. This country is, for example, in massive denial
about the atrocities perpetrated in North Korea, and, as with many
Americans, is in denial about the realities of Islamic terrorism,
whose roots extend chronologically backward far beyond the lifetime of
the Bush Administration. This cultural tendency toward denial (and
overreaction) at least partially explains the Korean government's move
to censor so many sites.

The fact that the current administration, led by President Noh
Mu-hyon, is supposedly "liberal"-leaning makes this censorship more
ironic. It also fuels propagandistic conservative arguments that
liberals are, at heart, closet totalitarians. I find this to be a
specious caricature of the liberal position (I consider myself neither
liberal nor conservative), but to the extent that Koreans are
concerned about what image they project to the world, it is legitimate
for them to worry over whether they are currently playing into
stereotype: South Korea is going to be associated with other
violators of human rights, such as China.

Of the many hypocrisies associated with the decision to censor, the
central one is that no strong governmental measures were taken to
suppress the distribution of the previous beheading videos (Nick Berg
et al.). This, too, fuels the suspicion that Koreans are selfish or,
to use their own proverbial image, "a frog in a well"-- radically
blinkered in perspective, collectively unable to empathize with the
sufferings of non-Koreans, but overly sensitive to their own
suffering.

I am writing this letter not primarily to criticize all Koreans (I'm
ethnically half-Korean, and an American citizen), nor to express a
generalized condemnation of Korean culture. As is true anywhere else,
this culture has its merits and demerits, and overall, I'm enjoying my
time here. No, my purpose is more specific: to cause the South
Korean government as much embarrassment as possible, and perhaps to
motivate Korean citizens to engage in some much-needed introspection.

To this end, I need the blogosphere's help, and this letter needs wide
distribution (you may receive other letters from different bloggers,
so be prepared!). I hope you'll see fit to publish this letter on
your site, and/or to distribute it to concerned parties: censorship
in a supposedly democratic society simply cannot stand. The best and
quickest way to persuade the South Korean government to back down from
its current position is to make it lose face in the eyes of the world.
This can only happen through a determined (and civilized!) campaign
to expose the government's hypocrisy and to cause Korean citizens to
rethink their own narrow-mindedness.

We can debate all we want about "root causes" with regard to Islamic
terrorism, Muslim rage, and all the rest, but for me, it's much more
constructive to proceed empirically and with an eye to the future.
Like it or not, what we see today is that Korea is inextricably linked
with Iraq issues, and with issues of Islamic fundamentalism. Koreans,
however, may need some persuading that this is in fact the case-- that
we all need to stand together as allies against a common enemy.

If you are interested in giving the South Korean Ministry of
Information and Culture a piece of your mind (or if you're a reporter
who would like to contact them for further information), please email
the MIC at:

webmaster@mic.go.kr

Thank you,


Kevin Kim
bighominid@gmail.com
http://bighominid.blogspot.com
(Blogspot is currently blocked in Korea, along with other providers;
please go to Unipeak.com and type my URL into the search window to
view my blog.)

PS: To send me an email, please type "hairy chasms" in the subject
line to avoid being trashed by my custom-made spam filter.

PPS: Much better blogs than mine have been covering this issue,
offering news updates and heartfelt commentary. To start you off,
visit:

http://marmot.blogs.com/korea/
http://jeffinkorea.blogs.com/
http://aboutjoel.com/
http://oranckay.net/blog/
http://kimcheegi.blogs.com/
http://gopkorea.blogs.com/flyingyangban
http://rathbonepress.tblog.com/
http://blog.woojay.net/

Here as well, Unipeak is the way to go if you're in Korea and unable
to view the above blogs. People in the States should, in theory, have
no problems accessing these sites, which all continue to be updated.

PPPS: This email is being cc'ed to the South Korean Ministry of
Information and Culture. Please note that other bloggers are writing
about the Korean government's creation of a task force that will
presumably fight internet terror. I and others have an idea that this
task force will serve a different purpose. If this is what South
Korea's new "aligning with the PRC" is all about, then there's reason
to worry for the future.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Does Social Security Subsidize the Rich?

David Cay Johnston has published a book entitled Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich – and Cheat Everybody Else (Portfolio, 2003). The title of Chapter 8 is “How Social Security Taxes Subsidize the Rich.” Suppose we take a look at this chapter and see if there is anything to be learned from it.

The chapter begins with the uncontroversial point that tax deferral makes excellent economic sense. To give my own examples, money invested in a 401(k), a 403(b), or a traditional IRA shelters money from taxation until such time as the money is withdrawn. The money saved on taxes can itself be invested for a return. Thus one has the use of money that would otherwise be paid in taxes. The net effect is that “a tax delayed is a tax reduced...”(p. 118) I could quibble
with that formulation, but I won’t.

Johnston proceeds: “If a tax delayed is a tax reduced, the opposite must also be true. A tax paid today that could have been paid years or even decades from now costs more, a lot more.” Johnston then goes on to claim that “For two decades working Americans have been paying farmore of one particular tax than they needed to at the time.” This tax is the Social Security tax. According to Johnston, “From 1984 to 2002 the government collected $1.7 million more than the agency paid out ....” Johnston refers to this as “overtaxing” (119) People who earn $87,000 per year or less (in 2003) belong to the class of the “overtaxed” since only they are subject to the 6.2% withholding. (The figure is 12.4% if one counts the employer’s contribution -- which of course comes out of the employer’s overall compensation.) Johnston infers from this that people earning above the $87,000 cut-off “get a tax break on every additional dollar they earn.” (119)
Johnston’s point is that earners below the $87 K threshold pay a certain tax that is not levied against those who earn above the threshhold, and that this is grossly unfair. It is a tax break for
the wealthy.


Now surely this reasoning is fallacious. First of all, Johnston equivocates on ‘tax.’ The SS ‘tax’is not a tax in the sense in which property, sales, and income taxes are taxes. A tax is money taken by the government to pay for government services. You want public schools and libraries and roads and bridges? Then you must pay for them. And what you pay you don’t get back. What you pay in taxes does not go into some fund from which you can expect to withdraw money in the future. I cannot go to the County Assessor and demand the money I paid in real estate taxes over the past ten years. If I do, he’ll say, “You received county services for your tax payments, now get out of here.” But SS payments are monies one is supposed to get back starting at retirement. The money does not go into individual accounts, but it does go into a fund from which one can expect to make withdrawals in the future. Furthermore, the amount one can expect in retirement is determined by the amount one has paid in while working. Of course, this SS money is not well-segregated from the general fund: money is ‘borrowed’ from the SS fund for general government purposes and special ‘bonds’ or IOUs are put in its place. But this does not alter the fact that SS withdrawals from worker’s paychecks are not taxes. To call them ‘taxes’ is an obvious misuse of the term.

Once one sees through the equivocation on the term ‘tax,’ one sees that it is nonsense to say that people who earn above $87,000 per year “get a tax break on every additional dollar they earn.” (119) This is pure liberal/Democrat obfuscation. It is not as if the ‘rich’ are getting away with not paying some tax they owe, for the simple reason that SS withholdings are not taxes. Those above $87K don’t pay in, but they also don’t get anything back of what they didn’t pay in. Nor does it make sense to say (not that Johnston says this, but many Dems do) that the SS ‘tax’ is regressive. It can’t be regressive for the simple reason that it is not a tax.

Suppose Jones earns $100K. By Johnston’s reasoning, Jones is getting away with not paying $(100-87) x .124 in taxes. And since he is not paying his ‘fair share,’ he is being ‘subsidized’ by ‘the poor.’

According to Johnston, SS “represents a double tax.” (119). One pays the SS tax on money that has already been subjected to income tax. Now although it is true that SS witholding is not pre-tax, it is wrong to speak of double taxation here, given that there are two senses of ‘taxation’ in play, a proper and an improper sense. Thus, pace Johnston, there is simply no decent analogy between this situation and the double-taxation of investment returns. Suppose I am a responsible person who maintains a cash reserve account for emergencies. I fund this account with after-tax dollars. But I also must pay tax on whatever miserable return I get on it. This is a clear case of double-taxation: one is penalized for one’s virtuous behavior. But it is an unacceptable semantic stretch to speak of contributions to a retirement program – which is essentially what SS is – as instances of double-taxation.

Johnston’s overall argument in this chapter is rather murky, but it is something like this. Whether intended or not, the effect of the increase in SS withholding in the 1980s was to offset the Reagan tax cuts rather than to shore up the SS system, which was ostensibly the reason for the increase. The result was that the rich paid less and the poor paid more. The money to run the government had to come from somewhere, and if the rich were paying less due to the Reagan cuts, then more had to be swiped from the SS trust fund. The extra money taken from Joe Lunchpail in the form of increased SS withholding “was used in a socialist scheme to redistribute income. Only instead of taking from those with big incomes to dole out money to the poor, this money was used to redistribute money up.” (124)

In other words, money is taken from the relatively poor workers to give to the fat cats. This is nice political rhetoric with its Marxist class-warfare overtones, but sloppy analysis. First of all, it ignores the fact that Joe Lunchpail will get his money back at retirement, and if he lives long enough, he will take out far more than he paid in. As I said, and as should have been self-evident without my saying it, the SS ‘tax’ is no tax in any serious sense. Second, the increase in SS withholding was arguably justified by the long-term problems with the SS system which came into view in the early 1980s: more and more retirees to support who live longer and longer. Third, although Johnston speaks of government socialism, he himself is a socialist in that he assumes that all wealth belongs to the government, not to those who produce it, and that government’s proper role is to ‘distribute’ this wealth.

Finally, Johnston offers no positive solution to the SS problem. The obvious solution is to gradually phase out the current system, and to replace it with individual IRA-type accounts. This would make it impossible, or at least very difficult, for the government to get at the SS money. It would also solve the problem of running out of money: no one could withdraw more than they had paid in plus return. Third, there would be a substantial return. Fourth, the individual accounts could be passed on through wills and trusts.

But instead of saying something clear and positive, Johnston presents a torturous and obfuscatory analysis that trades on equivocations on ‘tax’ and ‘socialism.’

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Police Brutality in Compton?

I saw a video clip on Hannity and Colmes last night. An alleged auto thief attempts to elude police pursuit. Finally, abandoning the stolen vehicle, he takes off on foot with the cops in hot pursuit. Seeing that he cannot out run the police, the black individual stops and surrenders, raising his arms. He is then tackled by the lead cop and held face-down on the ground. Another officer rushes up and kicks him in the face. A third begins beating him on the head with a metal flashlight about eleven times. Sean Hannity, commenting on the action, remarked that the weapon wasn't a big stick. True, but it was a big flashlight. It appeared to be a Mag-Lite like the one I own. With three size 'D' batteries installed, such a flashlight is quite hefty and a serious weapon indeed.

Judging from the video clip alone, I would say that this is a case of police brutality. The man had clearly surrendered. He was brought to the ground and held there, and in such a way that even if he had a weapon in his waist band he could not have reached for it. He could have been cuffed at that point. The kicking and the flashlight beating were wholly unnecessary to bring him into submission.

Compare this case to the recent one in Cincinatti where a monstrously obese black man raised a ruckus in a restaurant and then attacked the police that were called to the scene. The Cincinatti man fought with the cops and refused to submit. So they clubbed him into submission, and rightly so. They were simply enforcing the law, and there was nothing in the video clip that suggested that any of the police actions were unnecessary. The black man later died, most likely due to overexertion in his morbidly obese condition. For a different view, go here.

I would say that anyone who cannot see the difference between these two cases is a blind partisan.

Comparisons of the Compton beating with the Rodney King case are perhaps inevitable. But there is a crucial difference: King, unlike the Compton man, refused to submit. Had he gone prone, and had the beating continued, then Stacy Koons (what a name!) and the boys would have been in the wrong. But 'motorist' King refused to surrender and chose to fight with a band of armed men, thereby demonstrating the intelligence that has become his trademark.

There are two truths that need to be appreciated and balanced one against the other. (1) A thin blue line separates social order from social chaos. (2) The enforcers of that order are not above the law.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Begging The Question, The Weblog

Begging The Question:

From this blog's FAQ page:

"Q: Blogs are just a waste of time. I don't like to waste my time. Therefore, I won't read your blog.

A: That's not a question, but it is a good example of an argument that begs the question."

The authors of this blog understand that 'beg the question' does not mean 'raise the question.' They understand that to beg the question is to argue in circular fashion: to assume the proposition at issue, the proposition to be proven. Exercise for the reader: does the above argument beg the question?

Questions: Their Raising and Their Begging

To raise a question is not to beg a question. 'Raise a question' and 'beg a question' ought not be used interchangeably on pain of occluding a distinction essential to clear thought. To raise a question is just to pose it, to bring it before one's mind or before one's audience for consideration. To beg a question, however, is not to pose a question but to reason in a way that presupposes what one needs to prove. Suppose A poses the question, Does Allah exist? B responds by saying that Allah does exist because his existence is attested in the Koran which Allah revealed to Muhammad. In this example, A raises a question, while B begs the question raised by A. The question is whether or not Allah exists; B's response begs the question by presupposing that Allah does exist. For Allah could not reveal anything to Muhammad unless Allah exists.

The phrase 'beg the question' is not as transparent as might be hoped. The Latin, petitio principii, is better: begging of the principle. Perhaps the simplest way to express the fallacy in English is by calling it circular reasoning. If I argue that The El Lay Times displays liberal bias because its reportage and editorializing show a left-of-center slant, then I reason in a circle, or beg the question. Fans of Greek may prefer hysteron proteron, literally, the later earlier. That is, what is logically posterior, namely, the conclusion, is taken to be logically prior, a premise.

Punchline: Never use 'beg the question' unless you are referring to an informal fallacy in reasoning. If you are raising, asking, posing a question, then say that. Do your bit to preserve our alma mater, the English language. Honor your mother!

Can an Independent Thinker Come to Conclusions?

It might be thought that my motto above, "Study everything, join nothing," and my being a self-proclaimed man of the Right stand in a certain tension one to the other, a tension that might even get the length of a contradiction. This raises the question: Must an independent thinker avoid all conclusions? No, he must avoid conclusions that are not arrived at independently. An independent thinker is one who thinks independently -- or at least does his level best to think independently -- not one who is independent of all conclusions.

It is also clear that one who arrives at, and (tentatively) embraces, a set of conclusions cannot legitimately be said to have joined anything. What one joins are things like churches and political parties; one cannot join a set of propositions.

Emerson on Thoreau

Ralph Waldo Emerson, journal entry from June, 1851:

Thoreau wants a little ambition in his mixture. Fault of this, instead of being the head of American engineers, he is captain of [the]huckleberry party. (Bliss Perry, ed., The Heart of Emerson's Journals, Houghton Mifflin, 1926, p. 256.)

As a former student of engineering, I am glad Thoreau stuck to his walking and writing. Like Kierkegaard, he served as a much-needed corrective to the hustle and frenzy of his age.

On Demonizing Opponents

One night on Hannity and Colmes, Sean Hannity interviewed Al Sharpton. Sharpton had recently visited Fidel Castro in his island paradise. Hannity was quite shocked to hear all the fine things Sharpton had to say about the Cuban dictator. I had the impression that Hannity would not allow even one good thing to be said about Fidel. Fidel is an evil dictator, so there cannot be anything good
about him! That seemed to be Hannity’s (specious) reasoning. Here we encounter the phenomenon of demonizing one’s opponents, a phenomenon found on both the Right and the Left. Although Fidel is an evil dictator, it does not follow that he has no good attributes. The same goes for Adolf Hitler, who practically everyone cites as the personification of evil. But it is obvious to any clear-thinking person free of political correctness that Hitler had many excellent attributes. He was disciplined, idealistic, courageous, resolute, a great orator, etc. No doubt Hitler had the wrong ideals, but having the wrong ideals is not the same as lacking ideals. No doubt Lenin used his courage for the wrong ends, but using one’s courage for the wrong ends is not the same as lacking courage. It took courage to break all those eggs especially when there was no guarantee of an
omelet. A bad man can have (some) good attributes, just as a good man can have (some) bad attributes.

Democrat party operatives thought they could smear Arnold Schwarzenegger by claiming that he had once praised Hitler. Suppose he had. That by itself does nothing to cast aspersions on Schwarzenegger. Qua instance of courage, discipline, etc., Hitler is surely praiseworthy. That is not to say that Hitler was a good man. To repeat, a bad man can instantiate (some) good attributes. But
people are so blinded by political correctness, so befuddled by uncritically imbibed speech codes, that they cannot wrap their minds around such simple points as I am making. People say that liberals don’t think, they emote. I would add that when liberals do try to think, they rarely do more than associate. “Hitler bad man! Schwarzenegger mention Hitler! Schwarzenegger bad man!” Another tactic used against Schwarzenegger was to claim that his father had been a Nazi. Suppose he had been. What does that have to do with our man? Do these lefties in their imbecilic group-think mean to suggest that the guilt of the father is inherited by the son?

Bill O’Reilly of The O’Reilly Factor once got into a silly argument with Bill Maher. Maher had praised the 9/11/01 hijackers for their courage, which elicited howls of protest from O’Reilly, who called them cowards. Now surely my man O’Reilly, right as he is about so much, is in the wrong here. Muhammad Atta and the boys displayed great courage in the successful execution of their nihilistic acts. No doubt the acts in question were unspeakably evil; but courage and cowardice are (dispositional) properties of agents, not of their acts. A courageous person is one who is typically able to master his fear and perform the difficult act that he envisages. It doesn’t matter whether the act is morally good or evil. So although courage is a virtue, hence something good, it does not follow that every act of a courageous person will be morally good. Equivalently, the performance
of an evil act does not show that its agent is a coward. A cowardly person is one who is typically unable to master his fear, and is instead mastered by it, with the result that he cannot perform the act he envisages. It is clear that Atta and his crew were the exact opposite of cowards.

At the root of O’Reilly’s confusion was his demonization of the opponent. He could not allow that Atta and his gang had any virtues, so he could not allow that they were courageous, courage being
a good thing.

William Safire Exposes NY Times Reporting Bias

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: The Zelikow Report

This is for those who persist in their belief that the reportage of the NY Times is objective.

John Gallagher on Media Bias and Selective Perception

Bill, I would agree that the examples you cite of "loaded language" constitute bias. Other objective measures of bias might include story selection (What stories do I have to go to the international press or the Internet to get because they're not covered by the mainstream US media?) and story placement.

BV: Agreed.

The trouble is, I can probably cite just as many examples of conservative bias as you can cite of liberal bias in the mainstream media. Conservatives tend not to notice or complain when stories are slanted to their liking, and I think the same can be said of liberals. Both conservatives and liberals exhibit selective perception when it comes to media bias.

BV: OK.

I'm unaware of any objective empirical studies which prove that a systematic liberal bias exists in the mainstream media. If you know of such a study, please let me know.

BV: Which media outlets are 'mainstream'?

Also, I'm not entirely clear on what you mean by "elite media." Would The Washington Post and The New York Times fit the bill? Do you consider these to be liberally biased papers? If so, give me some recent examples of liberal bias in the news coverage of either of these papers. Editorials and columnists don't count.

BV: I gave examples of elite media outlets in the post that got this thread going. Yes, The New York Times is a prime example. It is still the most prestigious newspaper in the country, although its credibility is not what it used to be. And yes, the NY Times most decidedly tilts Leftward. You want examples? How about the Abu Ghraib prison scandal coverage? Look at where the Abu Ghraib stories are placed, how many of them there are compared to stories about the Nicholas Berg and Paul Johnson beheadings, and the language in which they are formulated. And ask yourself: What's worse, to be behooded or to be beheaded? And how about the coverage of the Iraq war when it started? It was reported as going poorly when it was going well.

If I am to convince you, the logically first task would be to sit you down with the NY Times, my red pen at the ready, and try to get you to agree that a particular piece of reportage has a liberal slant. If I can't convince you that a particular specimen of reportage is biased, then there is no point at all in far-flung statistical analyses. In the meantime, surf on over to Times Watch.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

John W. Perry on Immigration

John W. Perry writes:

Well, shifting from the topic of media bias, where I think that you and I (along with John G.) "agree to disagree," I wonder what you think of illegal immigration?

One would think that the party divisions on this would be clear i.e., that liberals favor amnesty and conservatives favor deportation. Yet I don't think that's a fair division. I think businessmen, whatever their stripe, favor amnesty to illegals. Yet I think that this amnesty is creating a balkanized social structure with HUGE hidden costs -- largely due to the Mexican population
.

BV: I agree with you, John. Liberal attitudes are only part of the problem here. Liberals favor amnesty because they have no respect for the rule of law, and because they allow their emotions to swamp their reason; many people who are otherwise conservative favor amnesty because of their lust for the quick profits made possible by the cheap labor that illegal aliens provide. And you are right about the threat of balkanization. I sometimes wonder how long before the USA becomes the BSA (Balkanized States of America).

In California, it is estimated that health services to illegal aliens cost several BILLION dollars a year. Their crime rates are far higher than the general population which means that the State also pays for their maintenance in the prison system.

BV: You are absolutely right. And think of what a waste of tax money is involved in the printing of voter materials in Spanish. That in itself is an outrage, and I cannot understand how anyone can be so dumb as not to see what is wrong with it. I was standing in line at a bank the other day, and there was a sign that read: Entrada. Now if I know what that means, not having studied Spanish, why can't Mexicans learn the English equivalent? And then there is bilingual education, another outrage. Perhaps you can understand from this why I honestly believe that liberals in general are intellectually or morally obtuse. (That is an inclusive 'or': we must be inclusive, mustn't we?)

I am also unsettled by the balkanized social structure. Mexicans stick with Mexicans, Indians with Indians, Chinese with Chinese, etc.. Of course, in "polite" company, even raising the issue of immigration is declasse because it is perilously close to the issue of RACE. And in the educational system, "diversity" is celebrated even though it is a sham because of the lack of true assimilation and mixing.

BV: I couldn't have said it better myself. You're no liberal, John. You are too intelligent to be a liberal. What you are is a conservative who is opposed to corporate greed. Well, me too!

Diversity can be enriching, but only within a context of unity. Liberals, however, appear to have no appreciation whatsoever of the counterbalancing value of unity. Most talk of diversity nowadays is phony because what is intended is politically correct diversity: Libs want a diversity that excludes dissent. Their inclusivity is a sham that excludes people who question their assumptions. It is the kind of idiotic diversity that thinks that a gangbanger is on the same moral plane as a medical student, or that defacing public property with spray paint is a form of 'art.' These people are quite hopeless. They cannot be engaged rationally, because they have allowed what little reason they possess to be swamped by emotion.

As for RACE, I'm not sure I would touch that topic with an eleven foot pole -- which is the pole I use to touch things with that I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole. Blacks, I am afraid, are their own worst enemy. Nice white boys like you and me -- we don't want to hurt them black folk none. We be for 'em, not agin' 'em. Ever watch Black Entertainment Television? People who watch that crap will always be on the bottom. And then there is the reparations issue -- but I'll save that for later.

As to "diversity", I often point out a simple truth which is very discomfitting to Liberals: The stereos, cars, computers, cellphones, DVDs, and televisions that Third Worlders all clamor to buy are all inventions of the Honkie. That being said, some cultures I have no truck with -- I trust that the Chinese and Indians will assimilate over time and their cultures respect intellect and civility.

Of course, you are right. Where would all the thug rappers be if Whitey hadn't done the hard-core science and engineering that makes possible the technology wherewith their evil garbage is spewed across the land? Are you aware of the etymology of 'honkie'? It is from Bohunk, a derogatory expression for Polish- or Hungarian Americans, an expression which is a blend of Bohemian and Hungarian. Bohunks were also called Hungies, or Hunkies, and black workers in the Chicago meat-packing plants mis-pronounced this as Honkie, which soon became a derisive term for all whites. (Robert Hendrickson, Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, p. 356.)


The Mexicans are another story. I find them anti-intellectual and their achievement (or, rather, lack thereof) in schools would back this claim. Their crime rates in California are four times the State average. Indeed, the Mexican infiltration is one large reason that I plan to retire in a state where this infiltration is minimal -- which means a colder climate.

BV: Indeed. Trouble is, anyone who points out facts like these is labelled a racist. The PC types can't wrap their minds around the elementary distinction between a racist statement and a statement the content of which is racial.

As long as cheap labor is the only thing valued by the business community, I see no stanching of the huge influx of Mexicans to Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Patrick Buchanan refers to Los Angeles as "The Capitol of Mexifornia". Although Mr. Buchanan is a far right Conservative, I have always respected his views on immigration and its usurpation by the business community.

Mexico is a country with a sorry history and an even sorrier present.
Until their citizens and representatives show some willingness to value
attributes that most of the civilized world values, I think we ought to
shut those borders.


BV: We need to take seriously Buchanan's proposal of a moratorium on all immigration, legal and illegal. I'll end with an anecdote. On the morning of 9/11/01, I returned from a bike ride and switched on the TV in time to see one of the Islamo-hijacked planes crash into one of the Trade Towers. I said to my wife: "Well, there are two good things about this: Gary Condit will be out of the news for good, and something will now be done about immigration." Unfortunately, I was right about only one of my predictions. I am afraid we need a few more 9/11's to jerk us out of our complacency.

In the meantime, and in the words of Lenin, what is to be done?

Is There a Fact of the Matter About Bias?

Here is part of a message from John Gallagher:

I have yet to meet a conservative who does not believe that the media has a liberal bias. Conversely, I have yet to meet a liberal who does not believe the media has a conservative bias. Could media bias perhaps be a matter of perspective? I stand all amazed when a conservative tells me that The Arizona Republic is a liberal rag. From my perspective it is quite the opposite; I see them bury stories that are embarrassing to the Bush administration in a small paragraph on page Z28, the same story that a real newpaper like The Los Angeles Times would give full length coverage on the front page. I suppose this is just my liberal bias.


Thanks for writing, John. Note that my allegation of liberal media bias is restricted to the elite media outlets, and does not pertain to the media in general. The media in general may well have a conservative tilt if every outlet is taken into consideration: every website, weblog, AM radio station, small-town newspaper.

You raise the interesting question of whether bias might be solely in the eye of the beholder. I say No: there is a 'fact of the matter.'
Consider the following:
1. Falwell believes that homosexual practices are immoral.
2. Falwell is homophobic.
3. Falwell knows that homosexual practices are immoral.
(1) is free of bias. (2) displays liberal bias. (3)is an example of conservative bias. Each of these claims is objectively true, and not a matter of perspective or 'perception.' Now consider
4. The West Bank is disputed territory.
5. The West Bank is occupied territory.
6. The West Bank belongs to Israel by divine covenant.
It is obvious to me that (4) is unbiased, while (5) and (6) evince pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli bias respectively. Now consider:
7. Al-Qaeda operatives beheaded N. Berg.
8. Al-Qaeda operatives murdered N. Berg.
My claim -- which I intend to be objectively true and not subject to reasonable debate -- is that (7) is purely factual and free of bias, while (8) reflects conservative bias. 'Murder' implies wrongful killing, and the judgment of wrongfulness, though fully justified given my way of thinking, goes beyond the facts. Finally:
9. O'Reilly thinks that illegal immigration ought to be stopped.
10. O'Reilly is a xenophobe.
(9) evinces no bias whatsoever, while (10) shows liberal-left bias. Moreover, the bias displayed in (10) is irrational based as it is on a misunderstanding of 'xenophobe,' while the bias in (8) is rational inasmuch as good reasons can be given why that particular beheading was morally wrong.

Now suppose there is a newspaper that consistently says things like (2), (5), and (10) as part of its reportage (as opposed to its editorializing), but never says anything like (3), (4), or (8). I would say that such a newspaper has a liberal bias, and that this is a plain fact that does not itself express any bias.

Will you agree with me on this? If not, then I will wonder whether you accept the possibility of arriving at objective truth, or whether you are instead some sort of relativist. If the latter, then I will have to trot out my anti-relativist arguments. And if you do not agree with me on the foregoing, there would probably be no point in discussing whether the New York Times, or any particular media outlet, is biased to the Left.

Horace Jeffery Hodges on the 'Chomsky' Quotation Adduced by Colmes

Dear Bill,

You knew that I'd look into this, right? I tried three
variations:

1) "Any dictator would admire the uniformity and
obedience of the [U.S.] media."

2) "Any dictator would admire the uniformity and
obedience of the media."

3) "Any dictator would admire the uniformity and
obedience of the U.S. media."

The only official-sounding 'Chomsky' site that I could
find was something called Third World Traveler which
has the first variant:

-------------------------------------------------------
"Any dictator would admire the uniformity and
obedience of the [U.S.] media."
-------------------------------------------------------

But this site doesn't really seem to be sponsored by
Chomsky, and no source is given, so it doesn't take us
very far.

Interestingly, I found a site that uses the second
variant without citing Chomsky:

-------------------------------------------------------
The Media words are used to disguise, not to
illuminate, action: You liberate a city by destroying
it. Words are used to confuse, so that at election
time people will solemnly vote against their own
interests. This is becoming a crisis in Taiwan, the
masses though mostly educated, are unable to do the
simplest things, to think. The Taiwanese are ordered
and manipulated to not think and to do believe in what
the media enforces. To the foreigners who wish to
dictate Taiwan, they have realized that any dictator
would admire the uniformity and obedience of the
media. Their goal is to keep the bewildered herd
bewildered. It¡¯s unnecessary for them to trouble
themselves with what¡¯s happening in the world. In
fact, it¡¯s undesirable, if they see too much of
reality they may set themselves to change it.

10/16/2003
-------------------------------------------------------

That was on November 16, 2003. However, it is clearly
plagiarism since the words occur earlier, as shown
here:

-------------------------------------------------------
College Pres Cheers Chomsky

By Richard P. Bruneau
Hartford Courant
November 10, 2003

Chomsky's indictment of America's business community
reveals the master at his hypocritical worst. Many
so-called "scholars," freed from competition in the
marketplace of ideas by tenure, parrot Chomsky's
ruinous anti-business rhetoric while foisting on their
students an academic foundation built on the toxic
intellectual landfill of the '60s. They remain
oblivious to the risks and responsibilities that
business leaders face in meeting a weekly payroll or
the creative intelligence it takes to manage
personnel, resources and products through the rapid
waters of the marketplace. Instead, they mimic
Chomsky's conspiratorial dogma (as reported in the New
Yorker magazine) that "politics is driven by the
economic interests of elite institutions." Unable to
detach themselves from this discredited socialist
maxim, they imagine that the conspiracy circle also
includes America's news outlets. For, as Chomsky
opines in a well-known quote, "any dictator would
admire the uniformity and obedience of the U.S.
media."
-------------------------------------------------------

There's no point in showing all three variants on
scattered websites, for none of them provide a
specific citation.

However, I did find some interesting passages that
show Chomsky to be far more reasonable about U.S.
media. Here's one:

-------------------------------------------------------

The mass media are not a solid monolith on all issues.
Where the powerful are in disagreement, there will be
a certain diversity of tactical judgments on how to
attain generally shared aims, reflected in media
debate. But views that challenge fundamental premises
or suggest that the observed modes of exercise of
state power are based on systemic factors will be
excluded from the mass media even when elite
controversy over tactics rages fiercely.

Source: Manufacturing Consent, Preface, p. xii.

-------------------------------------------------------
And then there is this:

I actually have a high regard for the American media,
because I think there is a high level of professional
competence in a narrow sense. For example, if some
event is taking place somewhere in the world, and I
had to choose between the descriptions given by a
professional American reporter and reporters from
other countries where I know a lot about, I would
tend, by and large, to rely on the American reporter.
I think there is a high level of professional
competence and integrity in a technical sense. That
is, I think they are not going to lie. Well, there are
some who will, but, by and large, our reporters will,
in a sort of technical sense, try to find out what is
going on. What goes wrong is the choice of topics, the
framework of assumptions, the set of presuppositions
within which things are presented, the emphasis, the
tone and so on.

Source: Companion Book to the Film Manufacturing
Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media
, p. 167
-------------------------------------------------------

As for the original 'quote' and its variants, the fact
that I found no citations leads me to suspect that
Chomsky never wrote it, at least not as it stands.
Possibly, he uttered it, but nowhere is a talk cited,
either.

His other statements about media make this one sound
apocryphal. Even if he did state it, he might not have
been making a general statement about U.S. media but a
particular statement about U.S. media reports on a
specific issue.

So, unless somebody dredges up a citation, I'd cast
considerable doubt upon this 'Chomsky' quote. (Though
it does sound like something Chomsky might say...)

Yours,

Jeffery Hodges

=====
Office:

Assistant Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges [Ph.D., History, U.C. Berkeley]
Department of English Language and Literature
Korea University
136-701 Anam-dong, Seongbuk-gu
Seoul
South Korea

Unfairenheit 9/11 by Christopher Hitchens

FrontPage magazine.com :: Unfairenheit 9/11 by Christopher Hitchens

This is required reading. The Hitch takes apart Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. Here is an excerpt:

To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of "dissenting" bravery.


Monday, June 21, 2004

The Corporate Media

When I tune into the hard Left outlets like FSTV, I often hear the phrase ‘corporate media.’ Lefties seem to think that the major media outlets are propaganda arms of Big Business that promote a conservative agenda. But the content the major outlets deliver simply supplies demand. In the free market place of ideas at the present time in the USA, there is a very strong demand for nonliberal views, whether conservative, libertarian, or independent. This is why the Fox News Network beats CNN at the ratings game. If capitalists are as profit-hungry as leftists say they are, why should the moneygrubbers care which ideas are in demand? If they are out for profits, then they will sell anything that makes a profit, left, right, or center.

Being elitists, leftists think ‘the masses’ are stupid and infinitely malleable in their beliefs. Thus they think that Limbaugh, Hannity, and the rest form the dumb masses in their own conservative image and likeness. It is rather the other way around: it is because Limbaugh and Co. supply pre-existent demand, because they articulate in an entertaining and humorous way what millions of people already believe, that they are wildly successful.

Some lefties are dimly aware of this, as is evidenced by their complaint that Limbaugh ‘panders’ to his audience. But they can’t have it both ways: they cannot maintain that Limbaugh and Co. both ‘pander’ and ‘brainwash.’

Colmes Quotes Chomsky

As the motto for his chapter “The Myth of the Liberal Media,” Alan Colmes chooses the following quotation from Noam Chomsky: “Any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the [U.S.] media.” (Red, White, and Liberal, Regan Books 2003, p. 101) Colmes does not provide a reference, so I cannot determine whether Chomsky actually said this, or whether Colmes’ interpolation of ‘U.S.’ is justified by the context. But it is the sort of thing Chomsky would say.

Chomsky’s assertion is breathtakingly false in its implication that the U.S. media is uniform and obedient to the U.S. government. The bloviations of Chomsky himself are regularly heard on Free Speech TV, a hard Left outlet accessible on the widely available DISH Network. I also recently heard Brian Lamb interview him on C-SPAN for a solid three hours. Chomsky’s numerous books are easily accessible. If you surf around in the vicinity of FSTV, you will also find other hard Left stations such as LINK where you can watch pro-Arab and anti-Israeli programs, and listen to lectures by the late Edward Said. And consider all the Bush-bashers with their best-selling books: Michael Moore, Al Franken, Molly Ivins, Joe Conason, et al. Can any one in his right mind claim that the print media is uniform and obedient to the U. S. government? I could continue to pile example upon example, but what would be the point? Intelligent people neither demand, nor provide, lengthy proofs of the self-evident.

When people refuse to countenance the self-evident, we must suspect a certain derangement of their faculties. Chomsky’s assertion is not merely false, but delusional. It doesn’t need refutation; Chomsky needs therapy. The same goes for Colmes.

What Liberal Bias?

My last post, on liberal bias in the elite media, got a rise out of John Gallagher and John Perry. Here is some of what Gallagher wrote, together with a few responses from me.

Eric Alterman contests the conservative myth of liberal media bias in his book: What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News.

Do conservatives who complain of media bias have a legitimate complaint or are they just "working the refs"?

In the introduction to his book, Alterman notes:

... while some conservatives actually believe their own grumbles, the smart ones don't. They know mau-mauing the other side is just a good way to get their ideas across -- or perhaps to prevent the other side from getting a fair hearing for theirs. On occasion, honest conservatives admit this. Rich Bond, then the chair of the Republican Party, complained during the 1992 election, "I think we know who the media want to win this election-and I don't think it's George Bush." (p. 8) The very same Rich Bond also noted during the very same election, however, "There is some strategy to it [bashing the 'liberal' media] .... If you watch any great coach, what they try to do is 'work the refs.' Maybe the ref will cut you a little slack on the next one." (p. 9)


BV RESPONDS: Alterman is claiming that (1) Smart conservatives do not believe their bias charge, and (2) Conservatives who are both smart and honest admit that their bias charge is just a tactic to get more attention for the conservative point of view and to prevent the liberal point of view from being heard. Both of these assertions are obviously false. There are plenty of counterexamples to each of them. I am smart and I am a conservative and I believe that the elite outlets tilt to the Left. Note that I am not an 'interested party': I am not trying to sell a book on media bias, nor do I work for a right-wing publication, or anything like that. Note also the difference between 'just a tactic and 'a tactic.' Some conservatives may well use the bias charge as tactic to help them win elections. But that's not to say that it is just a tactic for winning.

But even if we assume that both (1) and (2) are true, how are these propositions about the psychological states of some conservatives relevant to the question whether the elite media outlets display liberal bias? That is not a question about anyone's psychological state, but a question about the content of certain uttered and printed statements. What Alterman is doing in the above passage is psychologizing. Equivalently, he is committing the genetic fallacy: instead of assessing the claim of liberal bias and the evidence for it, he is focusing on the origin (genesis) of this claim in the supposed interests of certain conservatives. He is arguing like this: the bias charge is false because smart conservatives don't believe it. But surely the premise is logically irrelevant to the conclusion. There either is or is not a leftward tilt in the elite outlets regardless of whether or not smart conservatives believe there is.

So, once again, I find evidence for my contention that libs and lefties are logical slopheads. Of course, there is the possibility that Alterman is not a logically incompetent individual but a pure ideologue who is interested in only one thing, winning, and will use any means to attain his goal, a goal the gloriousness of which retroactively justifies any and all means.


Alterman has some interesting things to say about Goldberg's book Bias too:

During the course of over 220 pages of complaining, Goldberg never bothers to systematically prove the existence of liberal bias in the news, or even define what he means by the term. About as close as we get is: "I said out loud what millions of TV news viewers all over America know and have been complaining about for years: that too often, Dan and Peter and Tom and a lot of their foot soldiers don't deliver the news straight, that they have a liberal bias, and that no matter how often the network stars deny it, it is true." (p. 35)


Goldberg did not set out to prove a liberal bias across the entire media, nor even across all television news. He concerned himself only with the evening news broadcasts, and not even with politics, but with social issues. Moreover, he appears to have done little research beyond recounting his own experiences and parroting the complaints of a conservative newsletter published by Brent Bozell's Media Research Center. (p. 39)


BV: I have read Goldberg's Bias and some of Alterman's book (and not just the portions quoted by Gallagher) and I cannot see that Alterman has successfully rebutted any of Goldberg's allegations. I think the problem is that liberals are just incapable of seeing their own bias, and that no fact that a conservative presents as evidence of bias will be allowed into court. Liberals tend to confuse the world with their view of the world. They just cannot fathom how anyone could disagree with them, and still be a person that could be taken seriously. Part of the problem is that they hang out with their own kind and reinforce each other in their views. But there are several other factors involved.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

The Great Media Bias Debate

Conservatives regularly complain that the elite media outlets tilt to the Left. The elite media include such outfits as PBS, NPR, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, to mention only some of them. Liberals, however, vehemently deny this bias charge. Here is Alan Colmes of Hannity and Colmes: “The media is [sic] conservative. Not liberal.” (Red, White, and Liberal, Regan Books, 2003, p. 101.) This is in a chapter entitled “The Myth of the Liberal Media.”

I would have thought that liberals should just concede the bias charge, so persuasively made by Bernard Goldberg in Bias and in Arrogance, and go on to say that they like having control of the elite media. But no, they deny what we conservatives take to be a simple fact. So what is going on here? Is there a fact of the matter? Or is it all a matter of ‘perception’?

Colmes’ first ‘argument’ in support of his thesis is that the media are owned by “a bunch of corporations” not “a bunch of raving lefties.” (p. 101) The argument seems to be this: (1) The elite outlets are owned by corporations whose interests are not liberal, but conservative. (2) The corporate owners, being conservative, inject conservative content into their broadcasts. Therefore, (3) “The
media is [sic] conservative.” Note that premise (2) is needed to move validly from (1) to (3). But (2) is obviously false. First, I wouldn’t describe Ted Turner as conservative in his political views. Second, the corporate owners don’t much care about the ideological content: their concern is with profits, ratings, the ‘bottom line.’ The corporate owners of the elite outlets are ‘conservative’ mainly
in the sense that they aim to make and preserve money. But this is entirely consistent with a tilt to the Left in the broadcast content.

The point is that you cannot show that elite media outlet XYZ has a conservative content bias by showing that its corporate owners are ‘conservative’ in the sense of motivated by a desire for profit, opposed to government control of the press, etc. Colmes has fallen victim to an equivocation on ‘conservative.’ But clarity of mind is not a strong suit among liberals.

Another mistake that Colmes makes is the ignoratio elenchi. You commit this fallacy of reasoning when you attack a thesis other than the one your opponent is making. Thus Colmes thinks he can refute the claim that the elite media outlets display liberal bias by pointing to “talk radio, talk television, syndicated columnists, and the national best-seller lists...” (p. 102) But no conservative
argues that every media outlet tilts to the Left. AM talk radio, dominated as it is by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, et al. tilts to the Right. The conservative claim is that the elite outlets are biased to the Left. I gave a partial list of them above. There is nothing elite about the AM band. Most liberals would not be caught dead listening to it.

Now does Mr. Colmes really want to claim that the elite outfits listed above are ideologically conservative? That would be just factually wrong. It is important to see that there is a fact of the matter here. It is not a question of ‘perception’ or ideological interpretation. Thus my claim that The New York Times is biased to the Left is not an ideological claim, but a factual one, as can be established by a careful and unbiased reading of the paper in question. As such, it is a claim that the liberal ought to agree with me on. But if I said that The N.Y. Times’ bias is pernicious, then that would be an ideological claim, hence not one I could reasonably expect the liberal to accept.

The low level of Colmes’ discussion is illustrated by this preposterous assertion: “When conservatives refer to ‘the liberal media,’ what they’re really saying is, ‘Everything this media outlet says is a lie.’” (p. 104) Note first the way most contemporary liberals misuse ‘lie.’ They think that lies and false statements are equivalent. But to lie, you must know the truth and attempt to hide it from your audience. Merely making a statement that turns out to be false does not constitute a lie. Thus if Bush was wrong about WMDs, it doesn’t follow that he lied about them. Now liberals are not so intellectually obtuse as not to know this. So one must conclude that they are willfully misusing language to forward their political agenda. If they are not intellectually obtuse, they are morally obtuse.

In any case, no conservative thinks that everything in The New York Times, say, is a ‘lie.’ The fallacy Colmes is committing here is called ‘the straw man.’ The epithet is self-explanatory, and I leave it as an exercise to discern the difference between straw man and ignoratio elenchi.

Here is the truth of the matter. The elite media outfits listed above tilt to the Left. This is not a matter of interpretation or ‘perception,’ but an objective fact provable to any unbiased person. Now this leftward bias is no problem on the Op-Ed page, or in commentary segments of TV broadcasts. But when the bias bleeds over into what is claimed to be objective reportage, then there is a problem. The problem is compounded when the biased reporters do not admit to their bias. But liberal bias is not the problem it used to be since conservatives and other nonliberals (e.g., libertarians) now have at their disposal plenty of AM stations, the Fox News Network, numerous websites, and C-Span. The free market place of ideas is alive and well, and we should all be grateful. As for C-Span, it sets
the standard for objectivity.

Liberal Strawman

John Gallagher writes:

Bill, I think you have set up a strawman of liberalism. Your liberals want everyone to have an equal income, don't believe in freedom, cannot think clearly, cannot engage in rational discourse, insist that all their fellow liberals toe the party line, don't believe in morality and want to wipe out religion. In other words, liberals are mushy minded communists. This sure doesn't sound like most of the liberals that I know!

BV: Thanks for writing, John, but you are misrepresenting me somewhat. I said nothing about equal income; I was talking about equality of outcome. I don't believe I said that liberals are against freedom, but that they sacrifice liberty for equality. Nor did I say that they don't believe in morality, but that their animus against religion (Christianity in particular) has the effect of lowering moral standards throughout the society.


>>...the liberal tendency is toward bigger and more intrusive government<
There is a disturbing tendency to bigger and more intrusive government and recently this tendency has been driven by conservatives. Who gave us rampant corporate welfare and the Patriot Act? Hint: It wasn't liberals.

BV: I think it is self-evident that conservative doctrine calls for a limited government of enumerated powers. Liberal doctrine, on the other hand, does not involve the same sort of commitment to constitutionally limited government. Note that I want to keep the debate on the level of doctrine. Since all the momentum since the time of FDR has been in the direction of bigger government, you can't expect the likes of Reagan and Bush to do much to slow it down. But you want an ever-expanding government, don't you? If so, how can you liberals criticize Bush for not slowing its growth? There is something strange in the way liberals argue. You criticize Bush for not doing something that you wouldn't want done anyway.

As for the Patriot Act, it bothers me too. But we wouldn't need it if liberals like Clinton had taken the terrorist threat seriously back in '93 when the first WTC attack occurred. The trouble with liberals and lefties is they are soft on defense and tend to underestimate the nastiness of human nature. Hence they don't take threats to national security as seriously as they ought to. If it weren't for resolute Commie fighters like Nixon, Kennedy, and Reagan, we would still have the Soviet Union to contend with, and might even be speaking Russian now. (Kennedy was a Dem, but not a lib in the contemporary sense of the term.)

>>the liberal tendency -- a tendency exemplified to a greater or lesser degree in individuals who classify themselves as liberals -- is towards erosion of standards, confusion of things that are distinct (e.g., equality of opportunity and equality of outcome), absurd exaggerations of sound principles (e.g., taking freedom of speech to license any sort of speech)<<

Examples of some liberals who want equality of outcome? What sort of speech do you think should be banned? Pornography perhaps?

BV: Every liberal who supports Affirmative Action wants equality of outcome. For example, someone who favors racial quotas is committing himself to the notion that if Blacks, say, are 12-14% of the population, then they should be 12-14% of the professoriate. That would be percentage-wise equality of outcome. People like this often argue as follows: since there is no equality of outcome, then there could not have been any equality of opportunity. But that is an obvious non sequitur: such people fail to consider that outcomes depend on what individuals do with their opportunities.

Your second question shows that you are not reading me carefully.
I said that the liberal tendency is to take freedom of speech to license any sort of speech. I didn't say anything about banning any speech. When you fail to meet my point head-on, and instead impute to me something I did not say, then you reinforce me in my belief that liberals do not think clearly.

>>liberals have become extremists.<<

Funny, I feel the same way about conservatives many of whom want to dismantle the social safety net. Most Americans would consider this extremism.

BV: 'Dismantle' means to take apart. Name a conservative that wants to do this. Consider Social Security. I think it ought to be gradually phased out and replaced with something better, namely, a system in which each worker has his own IRA-type account. I wouldn't call that dismantling but improvement.

>>It seems to me that contemporary liberalism has little to do with liberty, and a lot to do with the enforcement of (material as opposed to formal) equality. Liberty and equality pull in opposite directions. Liberals and leftists make a fetish of equality.<<

Again, some examples please. Which liberals are advocating material equality as a principle?

BV: Every liberal who is a socialist is an example. The socialist ideal is equality of outcome, equality of condition, a society in which there are no disparities in wealth and power. Note that contemporary liberals are not classical liberals since their main commitment is not to liberty but to material equality. This comes out in the things they say. Ralph Nader and so many others will often start our their talks with some such statistic as that 10% of the people control 90% of the wealth -- or whatever. The assumption here is that there is something wrong with some having more than others, that there is something wrong with economic inequality AS SUCH. But that is not self-evident; indeed, I'd say it is false. The net worth of Bill Gates vastly exceeds that of my own; but where is the problem with that? In fact, I hope he becomes trillionaire. For then he will pay even more in taxes, contribute more to charity, provide more jobs for people, etc.

If socialism is defined as government ownership of the means of production, then only some liberals are socialists. But all contemporary liberals want to move in the socialist direction, while people like me think we have gone too far in the socialist direction.

>>slandering your opponents...is a liberal-leftist tactic.<<

Perhaps, but it's also a extremist right tactic. Witness any of the recent books by Ann Coulter or Sean Hannity where liberals are called treasonous slime or worse. Listen to any right wing talk radio host.

BV: I've read both of Coulter's books, Treason and Slander, albeit quickly and not completely. She is an extremist, no doubt about it. But I'll buy you a pint of Hefeweizen if you can find one place where she uses the expression 'treasonous slime' or something worse. She does use the expression 'treasonable' which sounds like a lawyerly weasel-word, and she implies something quite absurd, namely, that every Democrat is treasonable. The obvious counterexample to that is JFK, and of course there are others.

So we are going to basically agree about Coulter. But a mistake you and many liberals make is to lump all conservatives together. There is a difference between Coulter and Hannity. What's extreme about Hannity? I'll buy you a quart of Hefeweizen if you can find 'treasonous slime' in his book. And surely Al Franken is far nastier than Coulter. Have you looked at his book? He is a despicable person. He slanders people, then tries to excuse himself by saying it was meant as a joke.

Another mistake you guys make -- which also reinforces my allegation of sloppy thinking -- is that you cannot see the difference between Bill O'Reilly and conservatives. He is not properly classifiable as a conservative. Why not? Well, he has some liberal tendencies and positions. For example, he doesn't have the problem with pornography that Mona Charen does. He is also soft on the gun-grabbers. He criticizes Bush and Ashcroft. I've never understood why libs and lefties hate O'Reilly so much. He is a national treasure. He has balls of brass and takes on powerful corporations that promote thug rappers like Ludacris. O'Reilly hatred is irrational, like liberal hatred of Bush.

Some pundit brilliantly quipped: "If Bush walked on water, liberals would complain that he swaggered."

Now John, do you really want to commit yourself to the claim that ALL right-wing talk show hosts slander their opponents? O'Reilly, who is on the radio now, doesn't.

>>Imagine a disease one of the symptoms of which is that its victims routinely deny that they suffer from it. Political correctness is such a disease. It is a disease that makes plain talk and clear thought well-nigh impossible, including plain talk and clear thought about its own existence and nature.<<

Again, use of misleading language is not unique to the left. Bush and Cheney's recent assertion of "contacts" between Iraq and Al Queda, to suggest that there was some cooperation between the two groups is intended to confuse, not inform.

BV: The misuse of language is systematic on the Left, only episodic on the Right. But I can't trot out all my evidence at the moment.

>>Libs and lefties are quite confused when it comes to moral equivalence. They see it where it isn't, and fail to see it where it is. To illustrate the latter point, they cannot see, pace Slavoj Zizek, that National Socialism and Communism are morally equivalent.<<

Are there really any liberals who support Communism left? I thought they were all in museums.

BV: Yes, they hang out at publications like The Nation. Try to get any of those people to admit that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were atomic spies, when it is now known that they were. Ron Radosh, former Commie, is the man to read here. Try to get them to admit that Whittaker Chambers has been vindicated, and that Alger Hiss was a Commie and a spy.

>>Consider the free speech provision of the First Amendment. The Left, distorting this provision, uses it to justify every manner of cultural pollution. The reason we live in a toxic society teeming with hordes of barbaric idiots is because of liberal policies in education, entertainment, the criminal justice system. For example, consider the moral boneheads who oppose California's entirely reasonable 'three strikes' provision. You don't oppose that, do you?<<

Of course I oppose 'three stikes'. It eliminates judicial disgression [read: discretion] and loads up our prisons with people who don't belong there. I don't want my tax dollars used to lock up petty drug offenders. Even many conservatives are recognizing the need for sentencing reform now.

BV: Now I am willing to make a little concession to you here, just to show you what a nice guy I am, and how 'fair and balanced' I can be. The drug laws need reform. If one of the felonies (one of the 'strikes') is possession or growing of marijuana for one's own use,
then that should either not be a felony at all, or should not count as one of the 'strikes.'

But of course that is peripheral to the central issue. Suppose you've got a guy who has been convicted of rape, grand theft auto, and stealing $200 worth of merchandise from a Mom and Pop store. I say lock that SOB up for the rest of his life. Consider: a guy like this has probably committed hundreds of crimes before getting three convictions. And look: if you want a society worth living in, a society in which small businesses can survive, then you can't allow them to be nickeled and dimed to death by punks.

As you know, since 'Three Strikes' was enacted, crime in California has dropped dramatically. You don't think that it good?

The trouble with liberals is that they have such low standards. They make no demands on themselves or on others. Is it really too much to ask that people not rape, pillage, and drive while drunk?

>>Part of what disgusts me about liberals is their incapacity to think clearly. They seem incapable of seeing obvious distinctions. For example, to make a moral judgment is not to be 'moralistic,' nor is it to be 'judgmental.' To advocate a high standard of behavior that one only imperfectly satisfies is not to be a hypocrite. And so on, ad nauseam.<<

I agree, to have a high standard of behavior as an ideal does not make one a hypocrite. I just don't see this high standard of behavior on the right. I see justification for greed and corporate cronyism.

BV: One of my problems with the Left is that they will not stand up for high standards, partially becuase they lack them themselves, and partially because they think that doing so would be 'moralizing.' The way a liberal avoids the accusation of hypocrisy is by simply not espousing high ideals.

>>...there is not and cannot be a right-wing form of PC. PC by definition refers to left-wing positions and to a toe-the-Party-line mentality.<<

There is more of a toe-the-Party line mentallity among conservatives, than among liberals. Liberals are a diverse group, but you don't realize that, which is why we're having this conversation.

BV: Sorry, but I don't agree. Bill O'Reilly had Ann Coulter on the other night. He disagreed with her strongly about her assessment of the situation in Iraq. I've seen him disagree with Mona Charen. There are plenty of other examples. Yes, liberals are diverse; some are more extreme than others.

>>Don't confuse moral education with 'moralistic crap.' Now you are sounding like a hard Leftist: 'bourgeois' morality is just ideology in the service of economic and class interests. But that is Marxist rubbish.<<

Wow, you're really hung up on this liberals are communists thing.

BV: I never said that all libs are Communists, but only that there are Marxist elements in liberal thinking, e.g., the notion that moral discourse is mere ideology employed to legitimate existing socioeconomic relations.

>>There is plenty of high-level discourse on the Right. Read David Horowitz, Victor Davis Hanson, to name just two. But I agree that on the Left there is mostly just garbage.<<

I guess you would regard it as garbage with the strawman of the Left that you've constructed. It pretty much leaves out any intelligent liberals.

BV: It is just that liberals makes such absurd claims. For example, people like Brock deny that there is PC. Liberals typically deny that the major media outlets tilt to the Left, when they obviously do. That is not a matter of interpretation, but a matter of fact. Anyone who is objective can see it. For example, consider that the Abu Ghraib story has been on the front page of the NY Times over 50 times now, many more times than the Berg beheading story. That shows clear Leftist bias. Now, I have no problem with bias on the editorial pages; but this is on the front page which is supposed to be devoted to objective reportage.

Here is another example. Brock somewhere in his new book (I gave the citation before)characterizes as xenophobia opposition to failure to enforce immigration laws. That shows either stupidity, or willful distortion.

>>Lefties have lately been cozying up to Islamo-fascists - which suggests that their opposition to religion is not quite consistent: they are anti-religious, but make an exception in the case of Islamic fundamentalism. This is one of the reasons we speak of the 'loony Left.'<<

Man, I miss all the good stuff! Which liberals have been cozying up to Islamo-fascists? Give me their names. I'll revoke their liberal membership card for being un-PC!

BV: You are misquoting me. I said 'lefties' not 'liberals.' In any case, check out what has been going on on the campus of UC Irvine recently. People there have no problem with graduates wearing Hamas armbands at a graduation ceremony.