Look closer. Think harder. Choose the sound argument over the clever one.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Medicare Benefit Gets a Little Praise

From NPR's Marketplace:
HELEN PALMER: Medicare's Leslie Norwalk says seniors with the drug benefit can look forward to a fabulous deal next year. ...

STUART ALTMAN: You have to give the Administration and the people that have been working on this program credit for doing a good job. ...

Stuart Altman teaches health policy at Brandeis University. The problems haven't gone away though, he says, the program's still too complicated.

And, says Deane Beebe of the Medicare Rights Center, seniors complain about the coverage gap when they have to pay 100 percent of their drug cost. ...

Chicago Sight: Shedd's Lizard

This giant lizard was the entrance to Shedd Aquarium over the summer, highlighting their lizards exhibit. I'm not sure about this lizard, but the exhibit is here through the end of February.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Superstition erodes Civilization

Nigerian superstition harms society:

A Nigerian murder suspect accused of killing his brother with an axe told police investigators he actually attacked a goat, which was only later magically transformed into his sibling's corpse, officials said Thursday. ...

Murder suspects in Nigeria, where many people believe in black magic, sometimes claim spirits tricked them into killing.

What if a jury of his peers tends to believe any crazy claim like this? What if news organizations repeated these claims all the time, adding, "for all we know magic really was involoved"?

Seeing this for the nuttiness it is, is a gift given us by our forebears. I'm grateful.

Civilization needs rational thought.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Chicago Sight: Art Institute's Lions

The lions standing guard at Chicago's Art Institute.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Global Day for Darfur

Sunday, September 17th is Global Day for Darfur.

Since 2003, Darfur in Western Sudan has been embroiled in a deadly conflict. Several hundred thousand people have been killed or seriously injured. More than two million people have been displaced and live in displaced-persons camps in Sudan or in refugee camps in Chad; and more than 3.5 million people are reliant on international aid for survival.

Visit the web-site at dayfordarfur.org, watch the ad, and sign the petition. They also have a toolkit and many more ideas for taking action.

Some Background:

In early August 2006, the UN's top humanitarian official Jan Egeland stated that the situation in Darfur is "going from real bad to catastrophic." Indeed, the violence in Darfur rages on with government-backed militias, known collectively as the Janjaweed, still attacking civilian populations with impunity. Government air strikes frequently precede these vicious militia raids.

Villages are razed; women, men, and children are raped, tortured, and murdered. The Janjaweed also target and destroy Darfurian food and water supplies, threatening the victim’s chance for survival. To make matters even worse, fighting between rebel movements has emerged as a new source of violence and instability in Darfur.

The AP reports a study in the journal Science showing that between 170,000 and 255,000 people have died in Darfur since 2003.

Hat-tip: Instapundit

I e-mailed my pastors, and signed the petition.

Send relief through a donation to World Vision.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Propaganda: the "Bacteria of Stupidity"

From the Chicago Tribune's Op-Ed "Meanwhile, back in Gaza ...":

The strangling international freeze on aid to the Hamas-led government in the Palestinian territories is holding, and that means even deeper misery for ordinary residents of Gaza and the West Bank. ...

A year after Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, life there has only grown worse. After so much optimism, wrote Ghazi Hamad, a spokesman for the Hamas government, "life became a nightmare and an intolerable burden."

Who to blame for all this? Hamad, a former Hamas newspaper editor, surprisingly pointed the finger--at least partly--at the Palestinians themselves. "Gaza is suffering under the yoke of anarchy and the swords of thugs," he wrote in a Palestinian newspaper. He said various armed groups in the Gaza Strip--most affiliated with Fatah, Hamas' rival--were responsible for the chaos. "We've all been attacked by the bacteria of stupidity," Hamad wrote. "We have lost our sense of direction."

The bacteria of stupidity. Well, that's a bit of refreshing candor. He could have helped his cause by admitting that not just Fatah, but Hamas, is spreading that contagion.

"The yoke of anarchy and the swords of thugs." Well put.

As bad as their previous government was, choosing more-radical Hamas only made things worse. That's not rocket science. What would cause them to make such a choice?

I believe the endless flow of propaganda fuels the epidemic he describes. Peruse MEMRI-TV and see for yourself.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Defining Propaganda

The word propaganda really means "information that is spread for the purpose of promoting some cause".

That, on its face, isn't a bad thing. Many causes are worthy of promotion. Spreading accurate information to promote a cause is a good thing.

When I talk about propaganda, I mean false, inaccurate or distorted information that is spread for the purpose of promoting some cause.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Reuters' Suspicious Missile Attack

On August 26th, an Israeli air strike allegedly hit a Reuters vehicle in Gaza City. But several aspects of this story smell very suspicious, particularly in light of recent events.

Powerline, 8/27, looks at the vehicle photos of this vehicle with a small rusty wound, as well as the circumstances:

The Palestinians noted that the vehicle was marked with Reuters' logo and the word "press," but it is unclear how the Israelis were supposed to see those markings in the middle of the night. ...

So the attack could well have happened as described. However, given the many phony claims about Israeli attacks that have been uncovered in recent weeks, there is no reason to accord any credibility to Reuters' Palestinian stringers.

Powerline, 8/28: Picture of the outside and inside, with comments from various readers like this:

I spent twenty years in both military and civilian bomb disposal. The damage to the ambulance pictured in the article was NOT caused by any missile.

On Israel's apology:

A couple of readers have pointed out that Israel hasn't denied hitting the Reuters vehicle. That's true. But the IDF has a history of apologizing for alleged attacks that later turned out to be bogus.

Caroline Glick, 8/28:

Yet it is unclear why anyone should believe either Shana or Reuters. Shana told Reuters that as he was driving to the battle scene, "I suddenly saw fire and the doors of the jeep flew open." He claims to have been wounded by shrapnel in his hand and leg. These are minor injuries for someone whose vehicle was just hit by a missile.

But then, the photographs taken of his vehicle after the purported missile attack give no indication that the car was hit by anything. There is a gash on the roof. The hood is bent out of shape. But nothing seems to have been burned. Cars hit by missiles do not look like they have just been in a nasty accident. Cars hit by missiles are destroyed.

The vigilance of just a handful of bloggers brought us the knowledge of the corruption of our media and the network of global NGOs that we have come to rely on to tell us the "objective" truth.

It is up to all citizens of the free world, who value our freedom to recognize this corruption, applaud the bloggers and join them in refusing to allow these corrupt institutions to cloud our commitment to freedom.

Powerline, 8/29: More photos, and some confusion as to just what car was hit.

Many obvious questions remain unanswered, and we can't answer them. What is needed is an investigation on the ground in Gaza. Reuters has called for an investigation of the incident; the Israelis should take them up on the offer and closely examine the vehicle (or vehicles) in question, as well as interview the Reuters employees involved.

Blogger Confederate Yankee contacted armored vehicle manufacturers. The damage reported isn't consistent with a rocket strike.

David D. Perlmutter, 8/30: "Reuters has filed updates of its original story. One shows a picture of the "wounded cameraman"--who certainly appears wounded. Interestingly, I could find no updates of the story on the Reuters site since August 27th and pictures of the vehicle do not reappear." [Emphasis mine.]

Mark Steyn:

What's stunning is not that almost all Western media organizations reporting from the Middle East are reliant on local staff overwhelmingly sympathetic to one side in the conflict -- that's been known for some time -- but the amateurish level of fakery that head office is willing to go along with.

Confederate Yankee, 8/31: "The simple fact of the matter is that without a close-up inspection of the vehicle by recognized experts and perhaps metallurgical tests on any shrapnel that can be verified as being recovered from the victims and the vehicle, we may never know exactly what transpired."

In summary, there seems to be at least one person wounded. How it happened, and if it happened in this Reuters vehicle as they describe is unlikely, though possible.

When confidence in reporting is lost as it has been in that region, we're left speculating.

Update, 9/22: Apparently, Israel did attack the vehicle, which was being used very suspiciously.

The vehicle’s presence in Gaza in itself constituted a violation of its license terms, and moreover, the jeep was carrying only Palestinians – one with links to Hamas who was not a Reuters employee.

Very enlightening on a couple levels, including damage possible from such an attack. We still don't know if the hit was direct or secondary (e.g., from falling debris).

Not a huge deal...

"It's kind of sad ... [but] not a huge deal..."

Ask.com's home page yesterday, the fifth anniversary of 9/11:

Google's page yesterday:

I wandered away from Google early in the summer (over the whole China censorship thing), and eventually settled on Ask.com, which I now like just fine. Not a Google boycott, per se, just a trough in my reservoir of good will toward them.

The elephant in the room: blogspot.com (which you're reading now) is Google. And my e-mail still goes through Yahoo, though they've cooperated even more with China. (Darn that ineria!)

FYI, Wikipedia stood up to China, refusing to censor politically-sensitive entries, and founder Jimmy Wales "challenged other internet companies, including Google, to justify their claim that they could do more good than harm by co-operating with Beijing." Hats off to him (despite Wikipedia's problems).

It's not a black-and-white issue. Some say even Google's "censored presence in China may yet be the thin end of a wedge that is essential to opening up that country to alternatives to its brutal totalitarianism."

I hope so.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Rank Propaganda, Control, Mass Murder

Kim Hyon Hui was a North Korean agent who helped plant the bomb on KAL 858 that killed 115 passengers.

She was caught. Her attempts at suicide failed.

During her interrogation in South Korea, Kim Hyun Hui’s resistance broke down quickly. Kim was taken to see the prosperity of Seoul outside of her prison cell. She had been taught in North Korea that American culture had supplanted the Korean culture in the South. She had also been taught that the rich exploited the poor who lived in poverty. What she saw outside of her prison cell made her realize that everything that she had been taught regarding South Korea was mere propaganda. Once she came to this realization, Kim Hyun Hui confessed the details of her role in the bombing of Flight 858.

Dave Price writes about it in Information, Insularity, and Induced Insanity:

[I]t is one of the most shocking and poignant stories I have ever read, and at the same time such a profound insight into the nature of tyranny and totalitarianism ...

In a similar vein, in the wake of the recent bomb plot Michelle Malkin had posted a survey from Britain with a result I can only describe as deeply disturbing: only 17% of British Muslims believe Arabs carried out the 9/11 attacks, and 56% believe it was not Arabs. This is one of the most frightening feats of social informational engineering since Germany 1938. ...

This example of contextual control [i.e., rank propaganda] does not strike me as much less contrived or ill-intended than the first, and the practical consequences are eerily similar. ...

And as Mohammed at ITM notes, the tyrants of the Mideast wield their own blend of totalitarian control and cynical pseudoreligious narratives to manipulate the people they purport to govern.
... taking a look at some simple statistics we find that the entire Arab media industry makes less than 1.5 billion dollars/year while consumes approximately 15 billions/year in return and this makes one think about who pays the difference.

No kidding. That has to be at least ten times our Mideast budget for counter-brainwashing programs like Voice of America. This is why Palestinians have no desire for peace with Israel: tremendous efforts are being made and tremendous wealth being expended by those in power to sell an alternate version of reality in which they and the violence they encourage are necessary. And the practical effect of the insanity they deliberately induce is apparent in the prevalence of suicide bombings across the region.

... Lies are the lifeblood of tyrants and fascists, Islamo- or otherwise. They hate and fear free democracies not because they are jealous of our freedom but because they realize our freedom is a potentially lethal threat to them... Regimes and movements built in the shadows of deliberately fostered ignorance and aggressively marketed lies cannot survive the harsh sunlight of truth, logic, and empiricism.

I hope so. Even in our free society, too many lies are agressively marketed and too much ignorance is deliberately fostered.

God help us.

P.S.: I'd never heard Kim Hyon Hui's story before, either.

Debunking Loose Change 9/11

Walking through my neighborhood a couple days ago, I saw a "Loose Change 9/11" sticker plastered to a mailbox. Loose Change is a leading conspiracy-theory-based film on 9/11.

The clearinghouse for refutations to that movie are at screwloosechange.blogspot.com. Hats off to them for their tireless work.

Hat-tip: Michelle Malkin

Update: wasn't far out of the way, so I went back and took the photo. It's washed out by today's rain.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

What's Your Motivation?

Via Jane Galt, a very interesting thought experiment:

If there were some policy that would make the rich poorer without affecting the income of anyone else, would you want the government to flip this switch?

The answer shows a philosophical watershed (though I'm lost in the economic jargon). If yes, it's not about redistributing anything. Isn't it, then, about envy or some sort of antipathy?

Wrechard (who pointed me here) says, "Hey, sounds like a civilizational fault line to me."

Friday, September 08, 2006

Joe Wilson's Fraud Complete

In case you missed it, it was Richard Armitage, not Karl Rove, who leaked former Ambassador Joeseph Wilson's wife's identity:

The confirmation of Mr. Armitage’s role, long the subject of media speculation, shows that the initial disclosure of Ms. Wilson’s identify did not originate from the White House as part of a concerted political attack, but was divulged by a senior State Department official who was not regarded as a close political ally of Vice President Dick Cheney. [Emphasis mine.]

Recall that "virtually everything Joseph Wilson said publicly about his trip, from its origins to his conclusions, was false." This was the one outstanding element not conclusively proven false.

HT: Instapundit.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Palestinian Civilians?

Look at the pictures here, here and here.

Are these people civilians, hostages, or combatants?

They're not unfortunate souls caught in the crossfire. They're choosing to be there. They're not discouraging those kids from being there. (Or someone off-camera is forcing them to be there. Consider the implications of that.)

What would you want your loved ones to do if they were in that situation?

HT: HotAir.

More, 11/27: Confederate Yankee chimes in.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Non-Peak Oil

Keep your eye on this. Publius reports:

Chevron, Norway’s Statoil and deep-sea driller Devon Energy have just discovered as many as 15 billion barrels of previously unknown oil in a vast underwater pool five miles under the floor of the sea. No one even had a clue about this huge oil’s existence up until new high technology of deep sea drilling (cost: $1 billion a pop, and every bit as weird and high-tech as a spaceship) came to the fore. ...

Oil tyrants beware.

Civilization has made amazing progress fueled by oil, but it has come at the cost of some ugly compromises. Let progress continue.

But not an excuse to waste it, or to stop looking for better sources of energy.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

What do you think?

Consider this statement:

Civilization is better than barbarity.

What kind of statement is it?

(a) Political.

(b) Moral.

(c) Self-evident or absolute truth.

(d) Personal preference or taste.

(e) Other.


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