10/30/09

How to Lose Wars and Miss What is Going On

Short version as to how to do this: Listen to David Brooks. But then, David Brooks never was much one for logic and real understanding.

Here is Brooks on the "more important trait" for a President to have, according to his "research:"  "tenacity, the ability to fixate on a simple conviction and grip it, viscerally and unflinchingly, through complexity and confusion."

So long as one also has the judgment to know which circumstances to apply this toward; otherwise, in matters of foreign policy and war in the 21st century, it is a train wreck. (Yet here the Washington Post's fairly hawkish David Ignatius, also today, takes an unusually "untenacious, non fixated, flinching, convictionless" approach to perpetuating the Afghanistan war: supporting McChrystal's call for troop inscreases, but willing to considerably alter course a year from now based on conditions if this turns out to have been the wrong call.)

What Brooks is trying to say, to spin it for him, is "exhibit clarity, vision and the strength to employ the right judgment." But what he actually writes is an extremely foolish litmus test. It is how wars are lost. It is how problems are exacerbated.It is how lives are ruined forever and fundamental underlying problems, military and otherwise, become further entrenched.

This appears to be yet another classic armchair warrior view. One that automatically believes that "clarity, vision and the strength to employ the right judgment," mean inflexibility, intransigence, shallowness of thought, and stubborness in the face of evolving circumstances and changing facts.  And that here, the right answer on Afghanistan, in black and white, is "whatever Brooks" (or the foreign policy "experts" he looks up to), think that it is -- and that anybody who does not unyieldingly fixate on this exact same view regardless of circumstances, is not exercising better judgment, but lacks the necessary prerequisite to be able to make decisions in this regard in the first place.(Leaving one to wonder exactly what decisions need to be made, if one is instead supposed to simply "fixate.')

It might be the right call to be "resolute" and stick with Afghanistan until the square of this country is somehow forced into a round hole (but if so, probably not under the current game plan), and it may not be. But Brook's inherent thesis that because there is a "military action," that this thus becomes the right course by implicit definition, is maddeningly shortsighted, and dangerously naive and sophomoric.

Glenn Greenwald today makes an excellent point as well about how Brooks "does what journalists are supposed to do" and cites a bunch of "expert sources," not a single one of which are named -- for no real good reason; although Greenwald supplies a pretty darn good one:
In a shocking coincidence, the views of these unnamed, handpicked, anonymous "experts" all happen to coincide perfectly with Brooks's own warrior views and, more generally, with clich├ęd neoconservative pablum.
Yep, that is pretty much what, to use Brooks words, what, "journalists are supposed to do," right?

David Brooks: Doing What He Does Best

David Brooks doing what he does best; and that is, miss the real story.

Brooks: Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, have no power because they can not merely summon a wish, and have millions act upon their specific command.

Wow, Brooks is amazed, and so reasons they have no real power or influence because they are not Merlin the Magician! (Except when it comes to turning non truths into believable assertions, that is. Then, sometimes, they are pretty Merlin like.)
He also suggests:

They are enabled by the slightly educated snobs who believe that Glenn Beck really is the voice of Middle America.
No, they are enabled by those who do not directly address and illustrate the pattern of wildly manipulative, and often profoundly ignorant representations engaged in, or who dismiss them as "unimportant" and to be ignored because, well, those same "slightly educated snobs" (who write for the NY Times, in this instance) don't tend to listen to them.

Beck is a somewhat deranged, rhetorically gifted genius, who has a very difficult time not only telling fact from fiction, but from not relying upon those fictions to support his often incendiary and outrageous views. He taps into a nerve, because hyperbole and outrageousness aside (which also, to many, make him appealing), he reaches a general distrust and concern that people have, as well as plays upon the very ignorances that he himself does great service to wildly exacerbating.

And it is in this quality — their effect upon general mainstream information and perception, and the overwhelmingly influence upon the nature of our debate that this small handful of not very well informed by wildly accusatory and fanciful pundits otherwise thus have — that these pundits are far far more important than they should be. Not in their ability to singlehandedly, and magically, make millions change their primary voting predilections near instantaneously, as Brooks otherwise ludicrously reasons.

It should also be noted that Brooks essentially uses the example of John McCain, somewhat exaggerating these pundits’ scorn for him, to make his point. But for the 2008 primaries and general election, McCain easily pulled the most dramatic character change, from a somewhat media beguiling and crafty statesman, to blatantly Machievellian figure, perhaps ever occassioned on our national stage.

And he did so why? Because he was not far right enough otherwise to win the nomination. And what are Beck, Limbaugh, and Hannity, essentially?  Far right.
But Brooks missed that little detail, too.  [The people that argue that because Beck sometimes rips into Republicans --notice it 's almost never far right Republicans -- plays to populist undertones, or makes wildly hypocritical libertarian leaning suggestions, he is not simply a slightly libertarian tinged far right winger, are misssing what Beck does as well.]

If by Beck and the like being “enabled” by “educated snobs” who continue to dismiss them as being “so obvious” to people, while notparticularly in the media – making the effective case as to how wildly misinformed and misleading these same pundits are, particularly given their enormous audiences and constant mentions — then yes, Brooks is correct here. But Brooks does not state anything like this.  But perhaps it is high time some of our “real” pundits like Brooks, however, started to.

10/29/09

Electric Vehicles Work, Major Advancement Highlights Need for Better Policy

For years we have been hearing how "batteries are too expensive or not sufficiently long lasting" for electric cars.

This was always incorrect. Well over half a century ago it was not clear if the major power source for vehicles was going to be electric, gasoline, or something else. The reason gasoline happened to take hold was because it was ridiculously cheap, while the enormous environmental (and later national security) costs were a) considerably lesser,and b)otherwise simply not integrated into the prices, or considered.

An electric car that could meet the performance/expectations cost that consumers have come to expect, could have been built at any time. The answer, at least until gasoline is no longer available, was simply to put a genset auxiliary motor on board; to power the vehicle, and to simply recharge the battery, if or when the charge gets too low.

The idea behind this is to capitalize on the increased efficiency -- and thus decreased pollutants, decreased electrical power generation source CO2 output (even when the electrity is produced by fossil fuels), and reduced fuel costs -- of electric motors over over internal combustion engines. (This improvement, albeit less, is still present even when the power plant source electrical generation is fossil fuel based, due to the enormous inherent inefficiencies in internal combustion engines.)

The Chevy Volt, due out late next year, is the first modern, mass production vehicle to utilize this very simple and highly practical concept. A concept that allows for reliance upon more efficient electrical power for short trips (in the Volt's case, 40 miles or so), while not otherwise limiting vehicle range.

For many drivers, most of the normal usage can be covered via charge, as the average commute in the U.S is less than 40 miles. For those times when additional range is needed, the auxiliary engine kicks on to maintain a constant level of battery charge. (During which time, in the Volt's case, the vehicle is still reasonably efficient, gaining an estimated 48-50 m.p.g., which blows away most other cars on the road today).

Moreover, if vehicles are charged at night, the energy and environmental gain can be much higher, as plants typically don't "shut down" at night due to great efficiency losses, and sometimes burn extra capacity to keep the cycle going. This is otherwise a complete net loss in terms of energy, pollution, and CO2 emissions, since it is essentially energy that is being "burned off." Here that same energy would go toward charging batteries of cars, that in essence, from an efficiency and enviromental standpoint, will be running on "free energy" (and, since electrical charging costs are typically very low at night, very low dollar cost energy to the end use consumer as well.)

Of course, more promisingly, if the energy production comes from cleaner and renewable sources, then the net efficiency, environmental, and carbon output gains are greatly magnified. And one of the main arguments for electric cars is being to inspire greater accompanying development of these capacities --

For example, a windfarm, already built, running excess power at night, might charge a car that the next day will essentially be driven with the only net result of that car's usage, in terms of energy loss of pollution, being the release of particulate matter from its tires. That is, close to zero net energy usage, and otherwise zero polluting car, in terms of its usage. This is an extraordinary improvement over typical vehicle miles driven today.

Sure the Volt's pricing point seems too high (and likely is), but this is the first time it's really been done; it was GM that did it -- a company that we just had to heavily bail out; and again, the true benefits of this car's decreased energy and environmental footprint are not being integrated into its costs structure so long as highly damaging gasoline -- in environmental, climate change, and national security terms -- remains relatively inexpensive.

So why wasn't this done before? For the same reason that the benefits of the Volt are largely being missed. There was simply entrenchment of the idea of almost complete reliance upon gasoline. Again, more importantly, the enormous external costs of gasoline usage are not properly factored into its price, and this is still the case today (even as, with climate change, its already large costs are increasingly rising). In effect, gasoline usage, because its real costs are not utilized into its cost structure is still, in theory, very heavily subsidized.

But now there may be a simpler, better, and additional answer to the already fallacious assertion that "batteries are too expensive or not sufficiently long lasting," while creating the potential for far more impressive electric capabilities and costs. As noted on this site,and elsewhere:

A Swiss company says it has developed rechargeable zinc-air batteries that can store three times the energy of lithium ion batteries, by volume, while costing only half as much. ReVolt, of Staefa, Switzerland, plans to sell small "button cell" batteries for hearing aids starting next year and to incorporate its technology into ever larger batteries, introducing cell-phone and electric bicycle batteries in the next few years. It is also starting to develop large-format batteries for electric vehicles.

A practical series of lithium ion batteries in an electric vehicle -- that is sufficient to power the car at least a few hundred miles -- for the most part represent the bulk of the cost of an otherwise practically made electric vehicle. Reducing the cost by half would make even advanced battery technology vehicles practical in terms of cost alone; and would, obviously, greatly extend what are already decent ranges for such vehicles as well.

Even an improvement of 50%, at half cost,would reduce the cost of a 200 mile range lithium ion vehicle, by thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars, while extending the vehicle's range to close 300 miles. This firm is claiming a 300% energy storage improvement.

The problem with zinc-air batteries has been the ability to re-charge them:

Unlike conventional batteries...zinc-air batteries rely on oxygen from the atmosphere to generate current. In the late 1980s they were considered one of the most promising battery technologies because of their high theoretical energy-storage capacity...The battery chemistry is also relatively safe because it doesn't require volatile materials, so zinc-air batteries are not prone to catching fire like lithium-ion batteries.

Because of these advantages, nonrechargeable zinc-air batteries have long been on the market. But making them rechargeable has been a challenge.

The company believes that it may have solved this problem. Even if it has not, by taking zinc-air batteries through over 100 charge cycles, it has moved us a lot closer.

They will begin by making tiny batteries, such as for hearing aids, and working on larger batteries, such as for electric bicycles and cell phones, in the next few years. The company is "also starting to develop a large-format battery for electric vehicles."

James McDougall, [ReVolt's] CEO, says that the technology overcomes the main problem with zinc-air rechargeable batteries--that they typically stop working after relatively few charges. If the technology can be scaled up, zinc-air batteries could make electric vehicles [far more practical].

Of course, the sooner our policies reflect the realities of our enormous reliance upon foreign oil (which in turn is just slightly less oil than is used by our transportation industry alone), the more market incentive there will be to move in this less destructive direction, than the path, in terms of environmental damage and excessive greenhouse gas emissions, that we are currently on.

The more incentive, the faster and more practically such developments and growth will occur, and the more market innovation, further multiplying the process, will follow. That starts with good policy, which means no more subsidization of destructive of oil and gasoline (or even coal, frankly); but instead, penalties ("disincentives"), with revenues to in turn be utilized toward the promulgation and reward of cleaner alternative end usage.

End market usage motivation is critical here, because that targets the neeeded result -- clean energy -- without trying to micromanage the means to get there. It's less government command and control intervention, with more positive market effect. On the flip side, it is even more effective to inspire better end use decisions via the penalization, or tax, of the utilization of any finite, environmentally destructive, polluting, heavy greenhouse gas emitting, and national security compromising fossil fuel.

Unfortunately, "tax" has become a bad, or loaded word, in America. But this is all semantics. Every time a drop of oil, drop of gasoline, or crud of coal is utilized, it is a far greater tax that is being imposed in the form of these various, and very real, albeit not immediately measureable harms. Thus it's not so much a tax, as it is a re-balancing of the natural market imbalance when such an enormous externality -- as exists in the case of the continued use of fossil fuels -- accrues. To not address the problem, inane and almost meaningless rhetorical slogans such as we hear from the likes of AEI and others aside, is rather foolish head in the sand behavior, as we very slowly begin to undermine the very world in which we live. The only real question is how best to achieve the necessary (and rather quick) transition over to clean, renewable (and "growh generating"), energy sources.

But this misnomer idea of a "tax" comes in, and it reframes the entire debate: since tax is an easy, appealing sounding, one second sound bite, and the far more important overriding concepts above, regarding how these destructive fossil fuels are in effect being heavily subsidized (which in pure economic terms amounts to a tax upon everything else) is not.

So it's not a question of "tax" or "no tax." (Hence, along with the fact that "penality" is a negative connotation word,one of the reasons why the more accurate term "disincentives" should be used).

It's a question of how we stop using fossil fuels. 1) Let the market do it with the proper policy incentive. This is something, so long as all of the heavy external costs of these fossil fuels are not integrated into the pricing structure, it by definition can't efficiently do completely on its won. And this is why excessive fossil fuel over reliance has led to the wildly destructive results, and hidden pollutions and health care and quality of life costs and other environmental harms, that we are very slowly starting to see today. Or 2), alternatively, simply regulate and proscribe the detrimental behavior.

It seems sensible all around to let the market inspire it. Thus the issue needs to be framed in terms of market solutions, properly motivating the market so that the excessive external costs are no longer being ridiculously subsidized, versus government command control solution, which will never fly because it is "too much government telling people what to do."

The first approach described above -- raising revenue off of harmful fossil fuel activies and thus taxing all other behavior and income earning, less, as a result (while some on the far right nevertheless still jump and up and down and screams "tax" while not understanding the issue) -- does not do tell people what to do; it is less onerous; it is far more efficient; and it is much easier to explain.

10/28/09

White House Advisor: Really Poor at Framing?

White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett says "of course it is true that Fox is biased." 

But that's not the problem with Fox. The problem with Fox is that it is an advocacy organization either designed or with the effect of coming across as far more persuasive than an outright advocacy station, by selling itself as "news" and throwing in little tidbits of apparent "balance" amongst a barrage of slant, misleading innuendo, misleading statements, and wildly relevant omissions.

That's a huge difference. Of course, the case needs to be made. but that seems to be another "challenge" on the part of Democrats, along with framing.

Then Jarrett uttered some words that might get the "democratic base" all teary eyed with positive political passion, but which will likely chill a whole lot of other Americans, including many who voted for Obama.
I think that what the administration has said very clearly is that we're gonna speak truth to power

It's almost like Democrats took lessons on how to play into right wing and far right wing caricatures of them. Yes, this is a popular phrase, and yes it has been used by some notable (and well spoken) politicians, but it is not appropriate here, and it sounds far more out there in this context than it really is. It makes it seem that to those not already fully on board with the White House that the White House has a rather controlling agenda.

Of course, active Dems keep getting their feedback from other active, fully committed Dems, who tend to see things the same way, so nobody is pointing out to Jarrett how this actually hurts the White House's message, hurts them with their case to Fox, and plays right into Fox's attacks back on them (which don't bear repeating here.)

Jarrett also helped those who want to make the case against the White House. But at the same time, she also did something more important. She aligned Fox with the rest of the media, when the real problem is that the rest of the media is not doing a sufficient job covering the media story that is Fox. This is two terrible strategic accomlishments with one move.
Jarrett told Brown that the White House will go after any network, not just Fox News, that distorts the truth.


"We're calling everybody out," she said. "This isn't anything that's simply directed at Fox
In other words, now the case is not about Fox, because what Fox does is pose as political and policy news station when it is actually in large part an ideologically motivated and highly manipulative advocacy station, but the case it about the entire media. This builds solidarity between Fox and the rest of the media, when exactly the opposite is required (let alone the fact that Fox often goes after the rest of the media, which in turn is too scared to make a real story out of Fox's constant distortions). And it also makes it seem now that the issue not so much how bad Fox is (see above again for what it does), but simply that the "media is bad" and it is thus about a thin skinned White House that seems to be attacking media and viewpoints that it does not like.

This plays directly into Fox's characterization of what the White House is doing. And it bolsters the alarming argument, false as it is, that the White House is trying to have a chilling effect upon independent reporting and disparate viewpoints.

10/27/09

Top Civilian in Zabul Province, Matthew Hoh, Resigns: We Fouled Up On Afghanistan

We fouled up on Afghanistan.

How?  We have been there for eight years. Even if our ends are seemingly helpful to the Afghan people, we are bombing and fighting over there, and there has to be some resentment. 

The window to help and resurrect Afghanistan, sans Taliban rule, was not eight years long. Yet we did not focus on Afghanistan sufficiently back when it mattered. Many people at the time made this argument. Unfortunately, few were in the Bush Administration.
Now, right or wrong, Matthew Hoh, a Political Officer in the Foreign Service and Senior Civilian Representative for the U.S. Government in Zabul Province, has resigned.  His reasons?
Hoh said that his act of protest and decision to speak out were painful, even "nauseating" at times, but he was strongly motivated by the friends he had lost on the battlefield and the mental anguish he has experienced since returning home. "I want people in Iowa, people in Arkansas, people in Arizona, to call their congressman and say, 'Listen, I don't think this is right,' " he explained, adding that he "is not some peacenik, pot-smoking hippie who wants everyone to be in love."

Hoh will meet with Joe Biden's foreign policy adviser this week, and will advise a reduction in troops. He said he feels the U.S. "has an obligation for it not to be a bloodbath," but that Afghans are resistant to what they see as a military occupation.
Hopefully Hoh is incorrect, but after eight years of lack of focus, this is an understandable and even somewhat predictable outcome.

Here is Hoh's letter of resignation. In it, he noted the following:
Like the Soviets [who were also in Afghanistan, perhaps for lesser reasons, for an extended time], we continue to bolster and secure a failing state, while encouraging an ideology and system of government unknown and unwanted by its people.
Among the prominent people that brushed off Afghanistan, back when it should have been clear (and to some of us, it was) not to take Afghanistan for granted, was none other than 2008 Republican Party Presidential Candidate John McCain.

McCain seemed to disparage the complexity of Afghanistan and the challenges we faced there, and seemed to ignore its history, from the very start. On October 1, 2001, he did not think that Afghanistan was much of an issue or the main challenge, and stated:

That's where the tough part of this whole scenario is going to begin. And that is that, after the Taliban are overthrown -- which I believe they will be -- I have very little doubt in my mind -- after bin Laden is either taken prisoner or killed and his network is destroyed, then what's next? Obviously, Iraq is still bent on.. [developing WMDs], Iran is..... [MSNBC, Hardball 10/03/01]
In April, less than two weeks after we went into Iraq, McCain stated:
But nobody in Afghanistan threatens the United States of America and nobody is running terrorist training camps to orchestrate attacks on the United States of America. [Fox, Hannity and Colmes, 4/03/03].
Perhaps somewhat true at that moment, but neither was this the case with Iraq. And it had been the case for Afghanistan, which is precisely why we went in there to begin with. In fact, it was in Afghanistan, aided, supported, and assisted by the Taliban, where al-Qaeda trained, and in fact did plan and launch its depraved September 11, 2001, attack.

Several other, very notable statements, seemed to belie an understanding of what the challenge in Afghanistan was, including calling it "so far a remarkable success" on an ABC just a few weeks before we went into Iraq, and two and a half years later, on CNN, stating "Afghanistan, we don’t read about anymore, because it’s succeeded." More details found here.

Why is this worth mentioning?  Because in 2008, our national media annointed John McCain our nation's top, unquestionable, military strategy and foreign policy expert, and not only pushed this same angle as the McCain Campaign, but even protected McCain from questioning or facts suggesting otherwise.

The same media that the far right, and the McCain campaign, argues, and actually believes, was "unfair" to it.

While at the same time, the media, ever defensive, ran articles headlined with the question as to whether or not it was being unfair to the McCain Campaign. And while Democrats, once again, played right into framing of the far right, by arguing points on their terms. Not by asserting how in fact McCain received oftentimes ridiculously favorable treatment relative to the facts, but by making the argument that "the media was not unfair to McCain," thus strenghtening the idea, from a non partisan perspective, that whether or not the media was unfair to McCain is the question, rather than reshift the focus onto the far more pertinent one as to whether it was in fact lopsidedly favorable to McCain relative to the facts, and if so, why.

10/14/09

Our Society is Getting out of Control -- School Policies Getting Nuttier and Nuttier

The law was introduced after a third-grade girl was expelled for a year because her grandmother had sent a birthday cake to school, along with a knife to cut it. The teacher called the principal — but not before using the knife to cut and serve the cake.
Then there is Zachary, the avid six year old who was so enthusiastic about joining the cub scouts that he brought his swiss army knife to school to use the fork in it to eat at lunch, and was expelled for 45 days.

Just read the whole article.

Noted on InstaBS as well -- a site that doesn't only scour the Internet far and wide for anything that is far right wing slanted and skewed, logically twisted on its head, and notated therein as reasonable, but often for interesting stuff too -- which here states: "the excuses offered for this piece of idiocy are even more daming than the idiocy itself."

Actually, no, they are not. They are highly insufficient, which is what makes what is idiocy on its face, still idiocy. But they are not more damning than the idiocy itself, which is the problem. The issue of how to deal with potential weapon violence in school is very real. But the inflexible, and over the top, solutions favored don't seem to be a sensible approach, at all.

When a six year old kid in an article makes more sense than all of the adults involved in setting the policy, perhaps it is time to reevaluate our approach.

Chris Matthews is not Helpful, to Anyone

In the 90's Chris Matthews could not get past Bill Clinton's private if disreputable behavior, and simply would not let of of it for the remainder of the decade, and beyond.

It is wrong for someone on the far right to do this, but at least they have the benefit of being driven by pure partisanship, and perhaps even a mildly Taliban like tinged belief that the President's private, legal, scurrilous behavior is so much our national business that we should devote two years to wrecking the presidency over it.

(On the pretense of an "untruth" in (1) a civil case, in a (2) deposition, on a (3) matter tangential to the issue in litigation, and a (4) matter of the utmost personal and private nature -- something which not one person has yet been able to provide an example of a successful prosecution for, in our entire American history. And for good reason; it's absurd. But our nation looked past that for two years, driven by far right framing, and a scandal obsessed and easily kowtowed media, that this same far right -- confusing occasional recitation of unfavorable facts (while omitting far more) with "bias" -- likes to correctly label a scourge, but for incorrect reasons. And which media, seeing this, like the dunce that it collectively is, then loudly, in turn proclaims, "see, we get criticized by all sides [though this blog is assuredly not a "side," nor part of one], we must be doing something right!")

Matthews? He's just simply wrong, much of the time, on everything. Which for a relatively smart guy, is quite a track record.

A simple google search of Bob Somerby's "Daily Howler" site and Chris Matthews will tell you all you need to know about Matthews.

But here, yesterday, is Matthews saying rather oafish things again. This blog says it like it is on Rush Limbaugh (see second half of this piece in particular). But still, this, by Matthews, is totally uncalled for, and not funny. (Although the headline to the video does seem a little bit misleading. But it is trivial in comparison to Matthews' statements).

Matthews seems to suffer from that common affliction of believing that everything that is "obvious" to him is obvious to everyone else, and that therefore nothing need be show with respect to Limbaugh. Clearly, this is far from the case. Still, perhaps the word "clearly" is inappropriate, since "clearly," it is not apparent to many that it is far from the case.

And that is the problem, Matthews' ridiculous James Bond movie villain fantasies aside.

The Fox Story is Still Being Missed -- Baltimore Sun Critic a Classic Dupe

This blog is no fan of Baltimore Sun TV Critic David Zurawik, who exhibits a strong bias, and strange leaps of logic.

So it was no suprise to see him jump all over the poor job of White House Communications Director Anita Dunn -- taking on a wildly manipulative, media source defending, "media critic" Howard Kurtz -- over the issue of Fox "News."

Ridiculously, Zurawik then points out, as "evidence" for his position that Dunn is wrong and that the White House's claim that Fox asserts repeated falsities is itself a threat to journalism, that he "watched [Fox] every day last fall" and guess what? There were times that Fox was not talking about Bill Ayers or Acorn!

Memo to Zurawik: When Ms. Dunno chose to make the point about the lopsided emphasis on what were fairly trivial stories, she was speaking in hyperbole. She did not literally mean that Fox was the 24 hours, round the clock, non stop ACORN and Bill Ayers only Channel.

With respect to Howard Kurtz, he has become such a jaded, entrenched, media defender, that he can't even see the difference between legitimate news (which is hard to find these days); legitimate news with a bias; and an advocacy organization either designed or with the effect of coming across as far more persuasive than an outright advocacy station, by selling itself as "news" and throwing in little tidbits of apparent "balance" amongst a barrage of slant, misleading innuendo, misleading statements, and wildly relevant omissions.

Notice that Zurawik himself, as a fish repeatedly goes for a worm on a hook, takes just such little tidbits to be evidence of "balance."

Here is the inane line that he even uses to "prove" his point, with respect to some salient assertion by Fox Anchor Shepard Smith over how ridiculous "Joe the Plumber" was being on something (overlooking the question as to why he was even on "information news" in the first place):
I wonder if [Anchor Shepard] Smith was acting as an "arm" of the Republican Party on that one.
Aside from the fact that someone can be a staunch Republican and disagree vehemently with some unlicensed plumber that doesn't know jack squat about policy or the facts, people need to communicate the following sentence, repeated from above, to Zurawik, and to others:

[Fox is] an advocacy organization either designed or with the effect of coming across as far more persuasive than an outright advocacy station, by selling itself as "news" and throwing in little tidbits of apparent "balance" amongst a barrage of slant, misleading innuendo, misleading statements, and wildly relevant omissions.

Zurawik has no clue, and serves up a classic example of exactly the type of poor reasoning skills, intense bias, and lack of information and objective analytical tendencies, that allow Fox to so successfully do what it does; namely, convince its audience that it is even being remotely "balanced," and convince much of the rest of America that it is a legitimate "news" station.

What Fox does is the biggest media story, by far, of the last decade and a half. Yet, Zurawik aside, famed "media critic" Howard Kurtz doesn't even see it, and it's sitting right in front of his nose. And this type of blindness by the rest of a somewhat acquiescing and itself increasingly poor media, only leads to further ignorance.

Although, we repeat: White House Communications Director Anita Dunn did not do a very effective job, either, of stating the case. Of course, she probably did to other Democrats, which is the problem. Democrats have to begin talking to more than just other, active, knee jerk Democrats. They won't start learning how to do this until they learn that they have to do it. In the meantime, they will continue to get bullied by the highly skewed and somewhat blindly asserted inanities of the likes of Howard Kurtz, and often, not even realize it.
____________

Update: Shockingly, the famous site Instapundit, missing the entire point (as does Zurawik), of course frames this as an Administration that is dangerous to press freedom.

We have already given examples of how InstaBS's profound political biases prevent it from viewing things remotely objectively.

Stating that Fox asserts falsities -- which Fox does repeatedly, and which has been proven on literally thousands of occasions (although Zurawik is probably so busy watching Fox and looking for those evidentiary nuggets of "balance" that he doesn't know anything) along with blatantly misleading on literally tens of thousands of occasions more -- is not a danger to an independent press. What is a danger to it, is the fact that the most watched "news" network on cable television constantly asserts falsities, serves as an advocacy channel masquerading as "fair and balanced" news, and yet is constantly being treated as yet another run of the mill, legitimate, news organization by the rest of the sheep in the media, and even by many Americans in relation to their own political biases or leanings.

The Fox Story is Still Being Missed -- Baltimore Sun Critic a Classic Dupe

This blog is no fan of Baltimore Sun TV Critic David Zurawik, who exhibits a strong bias, and strange leaps of logic.

So it was no suprise to see him jump all over the poor job of White House Communications Director Anita Dunn -- taking on a wildly manipulative, media source defending, "media critic" Howard Kurtz -- over the issue of Fox "News."

Ridiculously, Zurawik then points out, as "evidence" for his position that Dunn is wrong and that the White House's claim that Fox asserts repeated falsities is itself a threat to journalism, that he "watched [Fox] every day last fall" and guess what? There were times that Fox was not talking about Bill Ayers or Acorn!

Memo to Zurawik: When Ms. Dunno chose to make the point about the lopsided emphasis on what were fairly trivial stories, she was speaking in hyperbole. She did not literally mean that Fox was the 24 hours, round the clock, non stop ACORN and Bill Ayers only Channel.

With respect to Howard Kurtz, he has become such a jaded, entrenched, media defender, that he can't even see the difference between legitimate news (which is hard to find these days); legitimate news with a bias; and an advocacy organization either designed or with the effect of coming across as far more persuasive than an outright advocacy station, by selling itself as "news" and throwing in little tidbits of apparent "balance" amongst a barrage of slant, misleading innuendo, misleading statements, and wildly relevant omissions.

Notice that Zurawik himself, as a fish repeatedly goes for a worm on a hook, takes just such little tidbits to be evidence of "balance."

Here is the inane line that he even uses to "prove" his point, with respect to some salient assertion by Fox Anchor Shepard Smith over how ridiculous "Joe the Plumber" was being on something (overlooking the question as to why he was even on "information news" in the first place):
I wonder if [Anchor Shepard] Smith was acting as an "arm" of the Republican Party on that one.
Aside from the fact that someone can be a staunch Republican and disagree vehemently with some unlicensed plumber that doesn't know jack squat about policy or the facts, people need to communicate the following sentence, repeated from above, to Zurawik, and to others:

[Fox is] an advocacy organization either designed or with the effect of coming across as far more persuasive than an outright advocacy station, by selling itself as "news" and throwing in little tidbits of apparent "balance" amongst a barrage of slant, misleading innuendo, misleading statements, and wildly relevant omissions.

Zurawik has no clue, and serves up a classic example of exactly the type of poor reasoning skills, intense bias, and lack of information and objective analytical tendencies, that allow Fox to so successfully do what it does; namely, convince its audience that it is even being remotely "balanced," and convince much of the rest of America that it is a legitimate "news" station.

What Fox does is the biggest media story, by far, of the last decade and a half. Yet, Zurawik aside, famed "media critic" Howard Kurtz doesn't even see it, and it's sitting right in front of his nose. And this type of blindness by the rest of a somewhat acquiescing and itself increasingly poor media, only leads to further ignorance.

Although, we repeat: White House Communications Director Anita Dunn did not do a very effective job, either, of stating the case. Of course, she probably did to other Democrats, which is the problem. Democrats have to begin talking to more than just other, active, knee jerk Democrats. They won't start learning how to do this until they learn that they have to do it. In the meantime, they will continue to get bullied by the highly skewed and somewhat blindly asserted inanities of the likes of Howard Kurtz, and often, not even realize it.
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Update: Shockingly, the famous site Instapundit, missing the entire point (as does Zurawik), of course frames this as an Administration that is dangerous to press freedom.

We have already given examples of how InstaBS's profound political biases prevent it from viewing things remotely objectively.

Stating that Fox asserts falsities -- which Fox does repeatedly, and which has been proven on literally thousands of occasions (although Zurawik is probably so busy watching Fox and looking for those evidentiary nuggets of "balance" that he doesn't know anything) along with blatantly misleading on literally tens of thousands of occasions more -- is not a danger to an independent press. What is a danger to it, is the fact that the most watched "news" network on cable television constantly asserts falsities, serves as an advocacy channel masquerading as "fair and balanced" news, and yet is constantly being treated as yet another run of the mill, legitimate, news organization by the rest of the sheep in the media, and even by many Americans in relation to their own political biases or leanings.

Health "Insurance" is Part of the Problem, Not the Solution

Health Insurance insures people for trivial things that should be self paid, and adds countless billions of unnecessary middleman waste and seemingly non ending doctor office paperwork, while at the same time often dictating to people what procedures, and even, sometimes conditions, 'are and are not" covered, thereby defeating the purpose in the first place.

It seems the answer to solving our problem of excessive and spiraling health care costs, while at the same time many Americans are receiving sub par (or no) health care, does not lie in the direction on increasing health insurance, let alone mandated private, health insurance.

Also, they should be getting special treatment if they are non profit, keeping costs down and the quality of care up,and not commonly refusing to cover care that patients - who are often paying a small fortune for this health insurance (directly, or indirectly)- and their doctors decide is medically sensible.

10/13/09

One of the Stupider Science Statements Made in a While, in a "Super" Book, No Less

Here is the statement, and it comes from the new "book," "Superfreakonomics":

A lot of the things that people say would be good things probably aren’t,” Myrhvold says. As an example he points to solar power. “The problem with solar cells is that they’re black, because they are designed to absorb light from the sun. But only about 12% gets turned into electricity, and the rest is reradiated as heat — which contributed to global warming.
This is wild. This person, former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myrhvold, as told by ClimateProgress.org (a somewhat hysterical, mildly partisan, but extremely well researched site) was called as "smart as" anybody else out there, by Bill Gates. Apparently not, when it comes to matters of energy.

This line of reasoning by Myrhvold, who clearly has no clue about the subject matter, is similar to the one that confuses calories with kilocalories (a thousand calories); reads about how it takes a few calories to heat up ice cubes consumed in a drink, and suggests that one can therefore drink ice cold bud lite all day long and not put on a single calorie. (Nice idea, but you can't.)

If you want to see why Myrhvold's statement is ridiculous, click here.

We'll just share one reason, in case it was not obvious. (Don't feel bad if it was not. One of the smartest guys ever -- according to Bill Gates -- missed it, and an idiotic book that will soon be a best seller actually quotes it as logical.)

What was the absorbtivity or emissivity of the material that the panel covered up? If you look on Google images, you’ll see that PV panels [[which are often blue, not black] are often — if not usually — put on roofs or over ground that is quite dark, often black. In a large fraction of cases, the panels contribute less heat reradiation than what they are covering would.
The original book Freakonomics was creative, but in some ways, inane. Most people missed why. It compares intangibles with tangibles, and presumes that because we have to make choices with respect to intangibles with tangible items, that these valuations are equatable. (That is the short version of why it is based on a dumb concept, anyway). This column also shows why Superfreakonomics is, more obviously, a dumb book.

It will sell though. The worst --but most convincing -- crap usually sells the best. That's the way it tends to work.