Feb 02


What’s the difference between Al Gore and the Unabomber? The Unabomber knows he’s not the President.


Some of you may remember the “Al Gore / Unabomber Test”, which is no longer available at several sites. Please send a link if you find it. Short of that, I’ll simply sum it up like this: there were six quotes from Al Gore’s book Earth In The Balance, and six from “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski’s Manifesto. The task set before you was to determine from which tract the eco-freak quote was pulled. I failed miserably. So did everybody else. The meaningful statistical difference between average real score and random answers score was nothing.

Why do I bring this up now? Eco-Freak Al Gore has gotten his face back in the news again, and this time the media is listening, because this time, he is talking about the media.

According to Former Senator and failed Presidential Candidate Al Gore, on the eve of the nation’s decision to invade Iraq, Senator Robert D. Byrd, (D-WV) stood on the Senate floor and asked, “Why is this chamber empty? Why are these halls silent?” Well, I wanted to see that quote in its context. Had the indestructible Senator and former Klan Kleagle simply wandered onto the floor of the Senate late one night, alone? I googled that entire quote. Nothing.

I googled this: “Why is this chamber empty?” and got six results, all of which referred to Gore’s supposed quote of Byrd in Gore’s 06 October speech. I googled this: “Why are these halls silent?” and was rewarded with seven results, all of which referenced the same Gore speech, except for two. One was Al Gore speaking at the 17 September Plenary Luncheon Session of the Clinton Global Initiative Inaugural Meeting. The other was Al Gore giving the opening remarks at, oddly enough, the 15 April Gore Center Open House.

It appears that the Senator from West Virginia never said that. Perhaps there is a record of this, but Google is unaware of it. My own charms pale. It did occur to me, however, that perhaps the Senator has a habit of saying these things upon opening any door. Entering his bathroom, the Senator flips on the light and thunders, “Why are these chambers empty?” Upon opening the refrigerator, he peers forlorny at the half-stick of butter and asks, “Why are these halls silent?”

PerhapsMr. Gore has fabricated the source. At best, he has misrepresented the facts. How interesting, then, that he takes TV Media to task for its misrepresentations and falsehoods. He gave a speech at something called the WeMedia Conference to the effect that our Republic requires a healthy exchange of ideas to function as intended by the framers of the Constitution, but that broadcast media is inherently incapable of supporting this exchange. This is due to the centralized control of the broadcast media by rich people who do not want their own views shouted down by mere plebes. So despite decades of television, print media is still where democracy functions. Fair enough. In the “prepared” version of Gore’s speech on October 6th as “reported” by the AP, which simply cribbed the Gore press release, misspellings and all, he establishes his position that the print media is the cornerstone of our democracy.

Mr. Gore cited three requirements for this “Marketplace of Ideas”:

  • First, that it is freely accessible to all, for both listening and being heard.
  • Second, that the relative merit of ideas be established through an open market mechanism, wherein good ideas receive attention and grow more popular, whereas bad ideas are ignored and wither to ignominy.
  • Third, that all participants understand their “unspoken duty to search for general agreement”.

So Mr. Gore feels that the free, unencumbered exchange of ideas is critical to maintaining a genuine democracy. Hear, hear! I could not agree more.
Web logs (“blogs”) are widely read, and freely authored and contributed to by any person with an opinion and some motivation. There is a neo-luddite argument that “blogging” takes specialized technical knowledge, but we can dispense with that argument by pointing out that a printing press requires far more specialized knowledge, and far more funding to operate.

Mr. Gore says, “Inexpensive metal printing presses were almost everywhere in America”. Really? To the same extent that internet-connected PCs are currently everywhere in America? Of course not. Besides which, a printing press generates a finite number of copies, which must be physically held to be read. So his idyllic days of the printing press actually provided less opportunity to publish and fewer chances to read the public voice.

Al Gore has described the internet application of blogging perfectly in his treatise of printed matter as a necessary condition for real democracy. He does not address the internet or the current fact-on-the-ground functioning marketplace of ideas directly. Instead, he correctly points out that television is the dominant medium, that it is a one-way conduit, and that it is unfit, by way of incapability, of supporting a participatory national discourse. However, having simply and quickly pointed out the shortcomings of television, he then fights this straw man for thousands of words. He wants to prop up this unsuitable mode of discourse by applying little band-aids of submitted video and internet-powered reviews of programs. Later, he reaches over to science for an explanation of why fixing television is the proper course. Without giving away the farm just yet, it rests upon the habitual Clinton/Gore/Clinton assumption that they know better than we do what is best for us. I call this their First Controlling Theme–more on that later.

We return now to his egalitarian model of free press access for all, and his rejection of the big-money control over public discourse:

So, unlike the marketplace of ideas that emerged in the wake of the printing press, there is virtually no exchange of ideas at all in television’s domain. My partner Joel Hyatt and I are trying to change that – at least where Current TV is concerned. Perhaps not coincidentally, we are the only independently owned news and information network in all of American television.
It is important to note that the absence of a two-way conversation in American television also means that there is no “meritocracy of ideas” on television. To the extent that there is a “marketplace” of any kind for ideas on television, it is a rigged market, an oligopoly, with imposing barriers to entry that exclude the average citizen.

That doesn’t sound very egalitarian, does it? He is going to fight the power of the rich who control television networks by…being rich and controlling a television network? Perhaps this is why he doesn’t simply throw his lot in with the bloggers: he is in financial competition with “the internet”, as he is a newly-entrenched member of the broadcast media.

There is, however, one form of broadcast media which is fairly egalitarian, which is democratic enough to sustain the Republic, and that is radio. Talk radio. Why the difference? Allow me to speculate. Anybody can contribute to talk radio by calling in just as anybody can contribute to public access TV. The big difference is this–people are accustomed to speaking into electronic devices such as telephones, and can do so in a manner which does not send the audience shrieking to change channels. 99% of talk radio is in fact done over the telephone. From a production standpoint, I’ll wager that it is much easier to maintain a given level of quality on talk radio than on public access TV. I don’t want to sound cruel, but public access TV has always made me long for silence. So public access TV chases away viewers, whereas talk radio attracts listeners as well as phone participants. Therefore radio, through talk tadio, can function as the medium of exchange in a marketplace of ideas a way the television, even through public access, cannot. And it does, swimmingly.
You would therefore be justified in anticipating Mr. Gore’s eager support of radio unfettered by controlling regulation and such shibboleths as “equal time” provisions. Sadly, you would be mistaken. Mr. Gore instead says:

One early American student of the medium wrote that if control of radio were concentrated in the hands of a few, “no nation can be free.”
As a result of these fears, safeguards were enacted in the U.S. — including the Public Interest Standard, the Equal Time Provision, and the Fairness Doctrine – though a half century later, in 1987, they were effectively repealed. And then immediately afterwards, Rush Limbaugh and other hate-mongers began to fill the airwaves.

Wait a minute! Didn’t he just say that controlled debate is no debate, and that the rough-and-tumble marketplace of ideas would sort out the good ideas from the bad, the popular from the merely populist, the sustainable from the impractical? Didn’t Al Gore just say that Government control of the media is a blow to democracy, and that people will decide for themselves what they will tolerate and what they will support?
Of course he did. So how does he get away with saying that the FCC deregulation of content in 1987 is a bad thing?

This is the last line of the Executive Summary of
Cato Policy Analysis No. 270, their look at the 1987 FCC deregulation:

Specifically, the volume of informational programming increased dramatically immediately after controls were ended–powerful evidence of the potential for regulation to have a “chilling effect” on free speech.

That’s pretty straightforward, and it is the exact point Mr. Gore made in the first two quotes. Here’s how it works: I don’t much care for Rush Limbaugh. I listen sometimes, but it gets pretty thick, so usually, do not listen. Voila! The unregulated marketplace of ideas saves the day. Of course, if you view the American people as sheep, unthinkingly led by whoever controls the media, that’s a different story, and we will return to that later his his SECOND CONTROLLING THEME.

What’s more, if you look again at his quote above, you may notice a non sequitur. Liberation of radio from the control of a few does not necesarily follow from a requirement that opposing viewpoints be granted equal time. These two things may in fact be opposed themselves! If one requires that equal time be given, then somebody must do that giving, and now we have mandated a gatekeeper. Somebody must now stand by during the exercise of free speech, stopwatch in hand, checklist of ideologies at the ready. Equal Time provisions are well-suited to a two-party system, and not to a three-party system, an n-party system, or a numberless collection of individuals with an uncategoriable array of points of view. Equal Time provisions are quite well suited to concentrating control of radio in the hands of a few.

Meanwhile, look at this:

Among the other factors damaging our public discourse in the media, the imposition by management of entertainment values on the journalism profession has resulted in scandals, fabricated sources, fictional events and the tabloidization of mainstream news. As recently stated by Dan Rather – who was, of course, forced out of his anchor job after angering the White House – television news has been “dumbed down and tarted up.”

WOW. He spins this whopper so hard that it actually comes back and hits him. He complains of “scandals, fabricated sources, fictional events and the tabloidization of mainstream news”, all of which Dan Rather is guilty of, and immediately cites Dan Rather as a victim of government meddling in the media.
I’m treating this paragraph in depth to counter the knot of untrue statements. This pack of, uh, statements is a well-constructed defense-in-depth, a loose cluster of mutually supporting half-truths and outright lies with overlapping fields of fire. A little “de-construction” is in order:

  • Scandals: The Dan Rather and Mary Mapes “Sixty-First Minute” Scandal certainly counts as a mainstream media scandal.
  • Fabricated Sources and Fictional Events: Perhaps Al Gore was thinking of Jayson Blair. But he mentioned Dan Rather, whose own scandal was all about fabricated sources and fictional events.
  • Tabloidization of Mainstream Media: Who has forgotten Dan Rather’s “The Fleecing of America” segment, an often sensational, tabloid view of government waste? Not I. Perhaps Al Gore.
  • “Forced out of his job…”: So long as this refers to “fired for embarassing the company”, I have no quarrel with it. But in the context of “…after angering the White House…” it certainly looks like “Karl Rove got rid of Dan Rather.”

In fact, one of the few things that Red state and Blue state America agree on is that they don’t trust the news media anymore.

Gee, Al, I wonder why that is.

Let’s now take a minute to collect some of the threads of this incipient argument.
First off, Al Gore professes to believe that a marketplace of ideas is the cornerstone of our democracy. I agree. He defines three key requirements for such a forum: that it be freely accessible for both speaking and listening to all comers, that the ideas in the mix are evaluated on their merit, and that everybody agrees to eventually agree, or at least try. Well, two out of three “ain’t bad”, and I’m even inclined to give him half credit for the last one. I don’t recall hearing anywhere else that some unspoken assumption or secretive general rule required all participants in the marketplace of ideas to seek a consensus.
The nice thing about a Republic is that you don’t need to generate a unanimous opinion; no consensus is required. All you need is a majority where it counts, and usually, that in turn requires a majority in a majority of places. I think that the point he wishes to make is that the participants are expected to behave in a civil fashion, but that is pretty much covered by the second requirement–if ideas rise or fall on their merits, then people are already behaving themselves pretty well.
What Mr. Gore is describing is clearly a society of basically literate, informed people. Of course, in the marketplace of ideas, those people will be informed differently** FIND THE DAMNED QUOTE about our national conversation being ruined by the evilweb!

Clearly, the purpose of television news is no longer to inform the American people or serve the public interest. It is to “glue eyeballs to the screen” in order to build ratings and sell advertising.

And it really matters because the subjugation of news by entertainment seriously harms our democracy: it leads to dysfunctional journalism that fails to inform the people. And when the people are not informed, they cannot hold government accountable when it is incompetent, corrupt, or both.

One of the only avenues left for the expression of public or political ideas on television is through the purchase of advertising, usually in 30-second chunks. These short commercials are now the principal form of communication between candidates and voters. As a result, our elected officials now spend all of their time raising money to purchase these ads.

That is why the House and Senate campaign committees now search for candidates who are multi-millionaires and can buy the ads with their own personal resources. As one consequence, the halls of Congress are now filling up with the wealthy.

Just like the Founding Fathers, who were poor to a man. No wait, they were nearly rich to a man! Politics in the United States has always been a rich man’s game. As our “deferential society” has given way to an increasingly egalitarian one, the distinction and privilege of coming from the right kind of family has disappeared. What is left is the fact that money still buys things in a capitalist society, and is no longer masked by the expectation that our social beters will govern for us. I quote here from an excellent book, and one which I highly recommend that Mr. Gore read at his earliest convenience, Decision at Philadelphia by Christopher Collier and James Lincoln Collier. And in this context, the last sentence becomes especially juicy.

Moreover, the United States in 1787 was for more rigidly stratified than it is today. It was, to use the historians’ term, a “deferential” society, in which the populace granted certain people offices and power by right of birth. In most communities there existed a small group of men who were more or less automatically elected to legislatures, judgeships, and the like. This establishment included large landowners, like Washington and Jefferson, wealthy merchants and shippers, lawyers, and in the North, ministers and theologians. There was room for bright young men to rise into it, so that there were always a few lowborn men in public office. But as often as not, the people in control of the United Staets were born to their stations and went on to college to prepare themselves for their roles.
This situation was not resented nearly to the degree that it would be today. The top people saw themselves as the natural leaders of their communities, and the plain people, in general, agreed with them. The belief was still widely held if not always expressed, that the “lower orders” were somehow different creatures from “the gentry”. The ordinary people viewed their “betters” much the same way as many Americans today look on the celebrated writer or television anchorman, as somebody somehow larger than life, wiser, possessed of a special knowledge or even insight handed down from above.

Ah, but the veneer comes away so quickly! The book was published in twenty years ago, about events two hundred years before that. The nation had clearly changed when the authors wrote. It has clearly changed since then, as well. Back in 1986, we had not had our fill of Rather, Jennings, and Brokaw. They were respected. Back then they were respectable.
Of course, I need not go into all that’s wrong with broadcast media these days–for that you may go to the Media Research Center, RatherBiased, or NewsBusters

Campaign finance reform, however well it is drafted, often misses the main point: so long as the only means of engaging in political dialogue is through purchasing expensive television advertising, money will continue by one means or another to dominate American politic s. And ideas will no longer mediate between wealth and power.

And what if an individual citizen, or a group of citizens wants to enter the public debate by expressing their views on television? Since they cannot simply join the conversation, some of them have resorted to raising money in order to buy 30 seconds in which to express their opinion. But they are not even allowed to do that.

Moveon.org tried to buy ads last year to express opposition to Bush’s Medicare proposal which was then being debated by Congress. They were told “issue advocacy” was not permissible. Then, one of the networks that had refused the Moveon ad began running advertisements by the White House in favor of the President’s Medicare proposal. So Moveon complained and the White House ad was temporarily removed. By temporary, I mean it was removed until the White House complained and the network immediately put the ad back on, yet still refused to present the Moveon ad.

The advertising of products, of course, is the real purpose of television. And it is difficult to overstate the extent to which modern pervasive electronic advertising has reshaped our society. In the 1950s, John Kenneth Galbraith first described the way in which advertising has altered the classical relationship by which supply and demand are balanced over time by the invisible hand of the marketplace. According to Galbraith, modern advertising campaigns were beginning to create high levels of demand for products that consumers never knew they wanted, much less needed.

The same phenomenon Galbraith noticed in the commercial marketplace is now the dominant fact of life in what used to be America’s marketplace for ideas. The inherent value or validity of political propositions put forward by candidates for office is now largely irrelevant compared to the advertising campaigns that shape the perceptions of voters.

Our democracy has been hallowed out. The opinions of the voters are, in effect, purchased, just as demand for new products is artificially created. Decades ago Walter Lippman wrote, “the manufacture of consent…was supposed to have died out with the appearance of democracy…but it has not died out. It has, in fact, improved enormously in technique…under the impact of propaganda, it is no longer plausible to believe in the original dogma of democracy.”

Like you, I recoil at Lippman’s cynical dismissal of America’s gift to human history. But in order to reclaim our birthright, we Americans must resolve to repair the systemic decay of the public forum and create new ways to engage in a genuine and not manipulative conversation about our future.

Americans in both parties should insist on the re-establishment of respect for the Rule of Reason. We must, for example, stop tolerating the rejection and distortion of science. We must insist on an end to the cynical use of pseudo studies known to be false for the purpose of intentionally clouding the public’s ability to discern the truth.

I titled this post Al Gore Steps In It, and the paragraph above is where he does so with the most vigor, and it relates to his book. I confess I never actually read the book. I thumbed through it, I glanced and skimmed, I kept trying to, but I just could not. So at the risk of judging a book by a cover, I will ask the reader to indulge me as I have judged the book by its cover, the title, the cringe-worthy subtitle, the author’s name, a general sense upon skimming, and two words that have stayed with me for over a decade, “appropriate technology”.
According to Mr. Gore, we are all supposed to stop having children. Okay, we are supposed to stabilize the world’s population. It’s the same thing. Like all hard-core “environmentalists”, Al Gore wants you dead. It’s not malice; it’s just that if you were no longer here, he would be one step closer to his goal.
Also, we should cease our use of electricity. Stop that! We should each have a great stinking compost heap under the kitchen window, and ride a generator-bicycle in order to make toast. This is what he refers to as “appropriate technology”. Would you live like that?
It is at times like this that I am reminded of the proof that socialism doesn’t work–primitive cultures pass through a phase which can be described as socialism. They get over it at about the same time they start wearing simple textiles. They also use appropriate technology, but thus is just another passing phase. Nobody wants to live like that, and human history has proven that we will use violence to prevent having to live like that. So Mr. Gore wants the government to require us, to compel us to live like that. This is why the Second Amendment exists.

…stop tolerating the rejection and distortion of science…an end to the cynical use of pseudo studies known to be false…

Here’s a few sentences of a review of Mr. Gore’s terrifying book from C-SPAN’S BOOKNOTES: REVIEWS :

“Gore seems to have bought into every worst case scenario that the lunatic envirocommunist movement has dreamed up. Boldly flouting every piece of real scientific evidence available to us, he accepts as a given that we face impending crises in the areas of overpopulation, food supply, global warming, water shortage, species extinction, and so on ad nauseum. Of course, he frequently contradicts the portrait he himself paints of the gravity of his litany of woes; on the one hand decrying the very possibility of climactic change, on the other pointing out that massive strides in our cultural development have often been precipitated by such changes.”

I don’t know all the answers, but along with my partner, Joel Hyatt, I am trying to work within the medium of television to recreate a multi-way conversation that includes individuals and operates according to a meritocracy of ideas. If you would like to know more, we are having a press conference on Friday morning at the Regency Hotel.

We are learning some fascinating lessons about the way decisions are made in the television industry, and it may well be that the public would be well served by some changes in law and policy to stimulate more diversity of viewpoints and a higher regard for the public interest. But we are succeeding within the marketplace by reaching out to individuals and asking them to co-create our network.

The greatest source of hope for reestablishing a vigorous and accessible marketplace for ideas is the Internet. Indeed, Current TV relies on video streaming over the Internet as the means by which individuals send us what we call viewer-created content or VC squared. We also rely on the Internet for the two-way conversation that we have every day with our viewers enabling them to participate in the decisions on programming our network.

I know that many of you attending this conference are also working on creative ways to use the Internet as a means for bringing more voices into America’s ongoing conversation. I salute you as kindred spirits and wish you every success.

I want to close with the two things I’ve learned about the Internet that are most directly relevant to the conference that you are having here today.

First, as exciting as the Internet is, it still lacks the single most powerful characteristic of the television medium; because of its packet-switching architecture, and its continued reliance on a wide variety of bandwidth connections (including the so-called “last mile” to the home), it does not support the real-time mass distribution of full-motion video.

And finally, so what if the internet, currently, does not support video as well as television. That is not an inherent property of the fact that it is packet-switched. That is an emergent property of limited bandwidth. For example, I watched Christopher Hitchens kick the manure out of George Galloway live, online, and blogged back and forth with some folks I know in realtime. I have very good bandwidth. There is no reason to think that in perhaps five years’ time, there will be no such effect, and we will look back on Mr. Gore’s remarks as quaint. Of course, one hopes his entire Television venture will be remembered as quaint, if at all, in a much shorter period of time. Well, we’ll see.

Make no mistake, full-motion video is what makes television such a powerful medium. Our brains – like the brains of all vertebrates – are hard-wired to immediately notice sudden movement in our field of vision. We not only notice, we are compelled to look. When our evolutionary predecessors gathered on the African savanna a million years ago and the leaves next to them moved, the ones who didn’t look are not our ancestors. The ones who did look passed on to us the genetic trait that neuroscientists call “the establishing reflex.” And that is the brain syndrome activated by television continuously – sometimes as frequently as once per second. That is the reason why the industry phrase, “glue eyeballs to the screen,” is actually more than a glib and idle boast. It is also a major part of the reason why Americans watch the TV screen an average of four and a half hours a day.

It is true that video streaming is becoming more common over the Internet, and true as well that cheap storage of streamed video is making it possible for many young television viewers to engage in what the industry calls “time shifting” and personalize their television watching habits. Moreover, as higher bandwidth connections continue to replace smaller information pipelines, the Internet’s capacity for carrying television will continue to dramatically improve. But in spite of these developments, it is television delivered over cable and satellite that will continue for the remainder of this decade and probably the next to be the dominant medium of communication in America’s democracy. And so long as that is the case, I truly believe that America’s democracy is at grave risk.

The final point I want to make is this: We must ensure that the Internet remains open and accessible to all citizens without any limitation on the ability of individuals to choose the content they wish regardless of the Internet service provider they use to connect to the Worldwide Web. We cannot take this future for granted. We must be prepared to fight for it because some of the same forces of corporate consolidation and control that have distorted the television marketplace have an interest in controlling the Internet marketplace as well. Far too much is at stake to ever allow that to happen.

We must ensure by all means possible that this medium of democracy’s future develops in the mold of the open and free marketplace of ideas that our Founders knew was essential to the health and survival of freedom.

IF Mr. Gore were actually committed to preserving the marketplace of ideas, he would be defending the blogosphere and the online infrastructure in general from the myriad legal and meta-market forces which threaten to bring the whole structure down. Several nations wish to take control of the root DNS system, currently administered in America. This would lead to balkanization (which may be unavoidable at some point, but that is hardly a safe assumption), and would subject the entire system to the vagaries of censorship and propoganda. Currently, China can block Chinese residents from seeing certain things, and can block us from seeing some things in China. North Korea has a complete digital embargo in place (except for a few government types, and a handful of very strange expats living there). But what they cannot do is screw up traffic between the US and, say Taiwan, or redirect all visitors at www.birkenstock.com to wvvw.b1rkenstock.com, which will then assault your machine, and turn all your ones into zeroes. Or something. But they could if they had the root DNS servers.
This is but one threat the the online marketplace of ideas. As a primairly text medium, the blogosphere is today’s Roman ForumHe should be all over this. I haven’t heard him say anything about it. Why are these halls silent?
Mr. Gore, you see, does not think you are smart enough to filter your own news from the internet. Even when discussing your television-watching habits, does he mention likes or dislikes, preferences or pet peeves? No, he goes straight to a (presumably) scientific explanation of why you, pathetic reflex-bound idiot that you are, cannot bear to look away from the flickering blue tube. No wonder he wants you dead. But your death has been difficult to engineer, so he bides his time while his CurrenTV scheme comes to fruition. You love television, says Mr. Gore, because you were made to, and you are powerless to do aught but worship at its pedestal, burning precious electricity in a most inappropriate manner. It is your God, says Al Gore, and he is its one true prophet.

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Jan 26

A Letter from a Terrorist–"Why I will not release your infidel daughter"

The RevWatch has obtained the following letter from the unknown parties holding Jill Carroll:

Mrs. Carroll,
Thank you for your letter of Thursday, January 16th (by your calendar). I will respond point-by-point to your misguided notions about Islam, my organization and our goals, and the eventual fate of your daughter. From your letter, I quote:

My daughter Jill Carroll was taken hostage on Saturday, January 7th, in Baghdad, where she works as a reporter. Jill’s fairness in reporting and her genuine concern for the Iraqi people made her the invited and welcome guest of her many Iraqi friends. A video just released gives us hope that she’s still alive but has also shaken us about her fate. So I, her father and her sister, are appealing directly to her captors to release this young woman who has worked so hard to show the sufferings of Iraqis to the world.

Already you have shown a complete disregard for, and an offensive ignorance of, my organization’s goals. The name of my organization is of no consequence to you–we will never meet or negotiate for anything you want. Let me explain first about my own motives, and how you have already set yourself up for failure with this letter of yours.

I do not give a camel’s tick for the alleged reporting done for or against Iraqis. I am not an Iraqi, I do not have much in common with them, and frankly I find them to be contemptible. I feel no compunctions about blowing up a school bus full of Iraqi children if it will further my goals, so do not bother me with your concerns for your child! The will of Allah will always be done, and no Iraqi or American will change that fact.

Furthermore, the suffering of Iraqis is actually a boon to my organization. Iraqi people who vote in peace, who shop in safety, and who sleep without nightmares of violence are no help to me. Those are the ones who have sold themselves into slavery, and turned away from the Path of Allah. No, it is the terrified, the insecure, the angry and indignant who are the true believers, either as cause or effect. Just as you cannot squeeze blood from a stone, I cannot motivate people who are happy. But I can squeeze blood from people, and I assure you, I could motivate even a stone, such is the degree of unhappiness I can cause.

Jill has always shown the highest respect for the Iraqi people and their customs. We hope that her captors will show Jill the same respect in return. Taking vengeance on my innocent daughter, who loves Iraq and its people, will not create justice.

Still, you harp on this theme of respect and love for Iraq and its hapless, overly passive citizenry. Let us be direct here: I can tell that you do not like your President, and feel that he is a devil. This is a point of view you and I probably share, but, and this is the critical point, for completely different reasons. I hate your president (may he die), I hate you, and I hate your daughter too. I hate all you Americans and I do not care for whom you vote. VOTING IS HARAAM! It is a violation, indeed, it is the absolute cancellation of the law of Allah for you to vote. Voting is the creation of earthly laws, and the Holy Koran is quite clear about this: There Is Only God’s Law.

It is not in my power to take vengeance, and neither is it in me to create justice. If you had a moral aspect to your depraved being, you would know that these powers are reserved exclusively to Allah, and certainly are not delegated down to such an unworthy servant as myself. I try to forgive you for your failing, to the extent that I can, because you are ignorant and evil, but it only winds up changing the emotion I might feel as I behead you. I would still remove your head from your body for the Glory of God.

So your celebrations of voting Iraqis and your own elections are of no concern to me or my organization, except to cause us an unbending resolve to destroy your sinful system, and to abolish your democracy (Haraam), your culture of entertainment (Haraam), your filthy and unavoidable empire of free sex (Haraam), consequence-free living, cohabitation, consortment of the sexes, public indecency–ALL HARAAM!

Your letter continues:

To her captors, I say that Jill’s welfare depends upon you, and so we call upon you to ensure that Jill is returned safely to her family, who needs her and loves her. Jill’s father, sister and I ask and encourage the persons holding our daughter to work with Jill to find a way to contact us with the honorable intent of discussing her release.

Well. Nice try. Perhaps you think you are dealing with an idiot who has never read a book or learned a tactic. Your obvious attempts to make me “identify with” you and your daughter, to “personify” her to me, and to perhaps cause the strings of my heart to change my actions are worse than useless. Do not presume to tell me the power I have.

Your daughter will be released when the exact conditions I have laid out are met, and even then it is only a possibility. If my conditions are not met, it is an impossibility. Do not attempt to placate me by calling the cowardly action of negotiation “honorable”. It would not be honorable for me. It would not be honorable for you.

We are enemies, you and I, and I have power, and you do not. Shut up. In the name of the ALmighty Allah, shut your mouth.

NOTICE from Haakon B. Dahl, RevWatch–This “letter” is an attempt to illustrate the difference between us and the terrorists we are fighting in Iraq. If you are not sure who I mean by “us”, perhaps you would be more comfortable reading something else–you will not like much of what I have to say here. Although I have written this in the voice of a fictional terrorist, I do not believe that I have written fiction. I believe that this is the point of view held by the evil men who are holding Jill Carroll, and that all the entreaties in the world from her parents and other westerners will do nothing to aid her release.
I typically eschew disclaimers, but if this post becomes popular, I want it known from the beginning exactly what I am saying. Some people do need explanations.

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Jan 19

A Letter to the Editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader

Here’s a nasty little cartoon:

I didn’t like it. In fact, I didn’t like it a lot, so I wrote the Editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader a letter.

The cartoon you printed on 17NOV was not a political commentary; it was vandalism, appreciated only by the same crowd who think that religious symbols covered in urine and dung somehow constitute art.
You should be ashamed for having printed such puerile filth, and poorly drawn filth at that. If you insist on sinking to this level, it could at least have some talent behind it.
Yes, I am a Republican. No, I would not find value in sick jokes which tear and strain to link Democrat policies with cannibalism and the grisly practices (live beheading) of our enemy. If you doubt that al-Zarqawi and his minions are your personal enemy, I suggest you travel there and ask him yourself. And if you go, please take that disgusting cartoonist with you. He can interpret for you. He speaks their language.
Haakon B. Dahl, LT USNR
Yokosuka, Japan

Note that I wrote that letter to the EDITOR of the paper, not to the cartoonist. What happened then? I received an answer from the cartoonist himself, who is presumably not also the Editor in such an auspicious paper as the Lexington Herald-Leader.[SEE UPDATE BELOW] I therefore consider this correspondance to have been made public. Accordingly, this is the “letter” I received from the cartoonist via e-mail:

sorry you didn’t like the cartoon….i don’t really understand your angry response…it seemed like a run-of-the-mill anti-cheney toon to me….everyone has their opinion…..thnx for your service and happy holidays!
joel pett

I didn’t write to the cartoonist, I wrote to the Editor. I expected that my letter would be printed, responded to, or summarily ignored, and I confess that the last option is the one I most expected. I did not expect my criticism of (an employee? a contractor?) to simply be forwarded to that person for disposition. I ask the reader, Does your business work like that? Why not?
I did not expect the cartoonist to be able to “really understand” my “angry response”. That’s why I didn’t write to the cartoonist. I can tell by the quality and content of the cartoon itself that the cartoonist will not understand the point I am making, or he would never have penned that foul little cartoon!
No, I wrote to the Editor of the paper in the same fashion in which one may complain to the manager of restaurant where one has been insulted by a wayward employee. Because the “author” did not attempt to write in English, I will not criticize his grammar, and while I may or may not appreciate the sentiment he attempts to express in his last “sentence”, depending on just what the sentiment is, I find it hard to accept his thnx for my service. Really, I don’t wish to seem ingracious in accepting thnx, but what is the correct response? ur wlkm? I just can’t do it.
So assuming that “thnx” means “thank you” in this case, as opposed to the sound one might make when afflicted with congestion, I find that to be the one “sentence” with which I do not take issue. Would you say that the first sounds less than true? That the second is manifestly obvious? That the third is disingenuous? That is, if the cartoon is “run-of-the-mill”, does the cartoonist expect to get paid for it? In the fourth sentence, he tries to be mealy-mouthed, but fails even in this as his grammar is not up to the task.
And that’s it. I have not re-addressed my initial complaint; that has gone ignored in the original letter. And I have posted the cartoon here without permission; I do not fear a letter from their lawyers, but rather would welcome such a thing–any response not written with a crayon would be better than what I have gotten to date. Besides, I assert that this is Fair Use.
If I had wanted to engage in this sort of note-passing, I would have written to the cartoonist. Furthermore, I would have sent him a crudely drawn picture rather than go to all the trouble of writing an actual letter. I cannot bring myself to communicate in little ellipsis-separated snippets, completely devoid of any capitalization. Perhaps we all speak like this from time to time, and it is certainly not a matter of life and death whether or not some prescriptive grammar is followed. What has me so exercised is the utter and surpassing laziness, not even thinly veiled behind a form letter. This is laziness on parade, a militant apathy. And do not forget, this is the response garnered by a letter to the Editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

thnx 4 nthng.

UPDATE: Thanks to LGF reader and blogger J.D. , I learned that Mr. Joel Pett is indeed “on the editorial board” of this paper. My earlier qualms about private correspondance, however, are gone. This was a letter to the Editor, obviously for publication. I intended that my letter be published; I intended any response to be published. This is the way of letters to the Editor–nothing has changed. A paper’s refusal to print criticism or its own weak-kneed response does not make the criticism or response private correspondance.

But what of Mr. Pett and the paper? Is this the best cartoon the paper could come up with? Is the Lexington Herald-Leader a little tight for cash, and has it asked an editor to fill in as a cartoonist? Editorial cartoons are the sort of thing many people would like to do, even for free. One need not suddenly add it to the job description of an obviously overworked and hurried Editor–look what happens to the quality!

So Mr. Joel Pett writes the editorials (?), prioritizes the news to be printed (?) and also pens the cartoons? Is he a man of such talent that more than three hundred people pay to read his writing, share his priorities, and chuckle at his vandalism? He must be an imposing figure. We shall try to find pictures of this man. Stay tuned.

Michelle Malkin has posteda Letter to the Editor of the Washington Post from no less than the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who are not happy with a different cartoon. I will run a side-by-side of the responses when the WaPo responds.

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Jan 19

Commitments vs. Commitment

Walter Cronkite says we should have abandoned Iraq when a hurricane knocked out NOLA… He says it would have provided a perfect excuse. I beg to differ. He advocates running away from a commitment.

This would change the nature of all of our international commitments: “The United States hereby commits to come to the aid of any country signatory to this pact against aggression and other forms of tyranny–unless in case of rain, in which case we will only play home games.”

A commitment is something you must do. Capital letter-C “Commitment” is what guarantees you will do it. A commitment is something you can point to on paper, and is something which can be counted, whereas Commitment is found within the hearts of trustworthy people, and cannot be measured by number or degree. Commitment is either present or absent, true or false. Commitments can be altered, but Commitment cannot.

Thanks to our Unlce Walter, I have learned that I can sum up the difference between the American Right and the American Left in one word, indeed, one letter:

Liberals have commitments.
Conservatives have Commitment.

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Jan 16

"No Regrets" Cronkite says Abandon Iraq

Here is a snippet I have edited [see brackets below] from Breitbart.com:

Former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite, whose 1968 conclusion that the Vietnam War was unwinnable keenly influenced public opinion then, said Sunday he’d say the same thing today about Iraq. “It’s my belief that we should get out now,” Cronkite said in a meeting with reporters.
“We had an opportunity to say to the world and Iraqis…” [that America was broke after Hurricane Katrina,] “…that “our hearts are with you” and that the United States would do all it could to rebuild their country, he said.

Note that what he calls an “opportunity” is actually an excuse. Things which make yur life harder do not provide opportunities, they remove opportunities. They may, however, provide you with an excuse. The only difference between taking an opportunity with or without an excuse is your own fortitude. So Mr. Cronkite is a Socialist of the cut-and-run variety, but without the cojones to say so.
This sort of decision-making may be popular in France, but it never pans out for the states. For an example, think of our crushing defeat in the 1968 Tet offensive. That was a handy excuse to leave Viet–hey, wait a minute–Tet was a defeat for the other side!
In fact, the only thing more galling than Uncle Walter’s surrender without the balls to say “surrender” is the fact that he always seems to think that the right time to surrender is when we really start kicking ass. After the Tet offensive, the North Vietnamese were doomed unless for some reason the U.S. were to simply leave the battlefield. Similarly, now that Iraq has had three elections, we are scheduled to start reducing our presence this year and the country grows more stable everyday, Syria stands busted, Libya has seen the light, and Afghanistan has high-ranking women in government–Yup, it’s time to quit. To a man such as Walter Cronkite, this war is now unwinnable. That is because a man such as Walter Cronkite is actually on the other side. Feel free to check my math here, but it’s only arithmetic: if America is winning (and we are) but he says “we” are losing (and he does), then it is clear who he means by “we”.

“I think we could have been able to retire with honor,” he said. “In fact, I think we can retire with honor anyway.”

Speaking as if he were one of us, he whispers poisonous advice. So which is the deeper flaw? Is it the Bush Administration’s failure to cut and run when we had a handy excuse, or the failure to cut and run (er, “retire”) now without an excuse? Speaking of retirement, in other news, Cronkite assessed his own powers of decision making as deeply flawed:

“Twenty-four hours after I told CBS News that I was stepping down at my 65th birthday I was already regretting it and I’ve regretted it every day since,” he said. “It’s too good a job for me to have given it up the way that I did.”

This is the melancholy sound of regret. Walter Cronkite doesn’t even know how to retire from CBS with honor (hint: shut up), but somehow he knows how to run the world? This from the same man who says that we should cut and run from this war (like the last) whenever an excuse provides political cover. If (for some reason) the Bush administration were to take Cronkite’s advice and later have regrets, what would those regrets be? Would they be the regrets of a Clinton or an Annan for action not taken?

CNN.com – Clinton expresses regret in Rwanda – Jul 23, 2005
KIGALI, Rwanda (Reuters) — Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, visiting a Rwandan genocide memorial on Saturday, expressed regret for his “personal failure” to prevent the 1994 slaughter of 800,000 people. Clinton apologised on a previous visit to Rwanda in 1998 for not recognising the crime of genocide. Clinton administration officials avoided the word in public for fear it would spark an outcry for action they were loathe to take, six months after U.S. troops were killed by Somali warlords in Mogadishu.

BBC NEWS | Africa | UN chief’s Rwanda genocide regret

“The United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has said he could and should have done more to stop the genocide in Rwanda 10 years ago.

At a memorial conference at the UN, Mr Annan said he realised he personally could have done more to rally support for international efforts to stop it.
“The international community is guilty of sins of omission,” Mr Annan said.
The genocide – in which some 800,000 people died – occurred when Mr Annan was head of UN peacekeeping forces.
The UN Security Council failed to reinforce the small UN peacekeeping force in the country.
“The international community failed Rwanda and that must leave us always with a sense of bitter regret,” Mr Annan said.
He said the painful memory had influenced many of his later decisions as secretary general.
“I believed at that time that I was doing my best,” he said.
“But I realised after the genocide that there was more that I could and should have done to sound the alarm and rally support.””

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Oct 13

In Defense of the Death Penalty

Diamondback Online – A cry for mercy

Mario Khurram, a Senior at the University of Maryland, proposes, in the article linked above, not using the death penalty for convicted terrorists, or any other murderer for that matter. His post, while poorly reasoned toward an unsupported conclusion, is offered in a level tone, so I will respond in kind. I hope he appreciates my refutation offered in the spirit his article seems to be–that of intelligent debate–and I welcome comments.

He starts by positing that the death penalty may be invoked for convicted “murderers, terrorists and/or enemies of the state,” and calls that “disastrous.” He then ascribes the death penalty primarily to an eye-for-an-eye mentality, an attempt to “balance out” the scales of justice, and reminds us that criminals have families, too.

He has already misplaced the responsibility for the deed and the motivation for execution. Every person has, or at least had, a family. If we truly believe that every family has the same rights, then every family must have the same responsibilities. We do not assign responsibility for murder to the family of the murderer, but they certainly have no claim upon the family of the victim, nor upon society in general, for consideration of their fate should they be deprived of the company of their murderous offspring.

No, the murderer alone is responsible for his actions, and when the time comes for him to face the consequences of his actions, those consequences should not be mitigated by a concern for those close to the killer. The time for consideration of this type was when the killer weighed, or failed to weigh, the consequences of his actions as they affect not only him, but his victim, his victim’s family, the society in which he runs amok, and yes, his own family. So the decision to spare his family a harsh ordeal, to have mercy on their own sensibilities, and to shield them from the loss of their murderous loved one was made by the killer at the time of the deed. Neither society nor the state itself owe an appeal of this decision to the killer’s family, as the victim’s family has no appeal, and the rights and responsibilities of both families are held to be equal.

He goes on to question the authority of the state, vis the law and its moral underpinnings, to deprive any person of his life. He says it is “very paradoxical”. I say it is simple. From Mr. Khurram’s post:

It is plausible and reasonable that the state may revoke numerous individual liberties via imprisonment, but revoking the most critical personal right to life demands serious deliberation. Without life, no other rights can exist or have any meaning in any government.

In this, I agree completely. We institute governments to protect our own rights. My right to life is protected in part by the knowledge that if I am deprived of my life through the wanton act of another, every effort will be made to apprehend that person and exact a severe penalty. Serious deliberation has already been undertaken in the course of legislating the sentence of execution for the most heinous crimes. Serious deliberation will be also undertaken by a jury of the killer’s peers. Their decision is binding. This is all done to preserve the value of life, not to cheapen it.

He then delves deeper into philosophy, raising questions about the value of a life.

Is a guilty person’s life of less value than an innocent person’s life? By what process does a person’s life lose value or become unworthy and subhuman?

We could simply dispense with this argument by stating the obvious–that life is of the utmost value. Yet the question as he has phrased it is concerned with relative value, and for that we may not rely solely on our deeply held beliefs, or cherished notions. For any discussion of a shifting value, there must be a market, so let us play at philosophical economics for a moment.

Nothing has an objective value. That is more properly referred to as a price, and is completely arbitrary, but in a fair market, the price is typically set close to the value, as determined by the market. Value exists only to a decision maker, either a producer or a consumer, that is, a giver or a taker. In this exchange of metaphysical goods, the value is set by the willingness of one person to give a life, and the willingness of another to take it. Let us assume that all persons are extremely reluctant to give a life, although some will for a sufficiently lofty ideal, but none can be convinced to do so without a very good reason. In the case of simple murder, the selling point of the victim has not been determined, but presumably it is set quite high, so the only variable remaining is the willingness of the killer.

Again, in order to preserve the value of life, through our government we enact laws which tend to damp that willingness to take a life. The most effective of these methods would be to attach that which is most dear, one’s own life, to the life of a prospective victim. The killer is presumably not willing to die without a very good reason. If the family and society from which a person comes have somehow failed to instill in that person a basic respect for the sanctity of life, let the law act as a final attempt to stay his hand.

So once again, the value of a life has been set by the killer. Through the deterrent mechanism of a possible death penalty, the upper limit on the value of a killer’s life to society is determined to be the value of the victim’s life to the killer.

Mr. Khurram points out the futility of attempting to “fill a void” created in our society by a murder, through the remedy of capital punishment. In this his answer correct, but that is not the question. The void cannot be filled. That is why the greatest effort must be made to prevent the act. There can be no atonement for murder.

He also bats down the notion that execution is the harshest consequence offered. I agree. It is hardly the harshest punishment possible. But he offers this canard:

Proper and strict life imprisonment (without parole), where the criminal is stripped of everything but the bare necessities, satisfies the criteria as the harshest consequence.

Not at all. The harshest consequences are routinely meted out to hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, year in and year out, for actions not even criminal in this or any other civilized society. The harshest consequences are also a simple, brutal fact of a short, hard life for millions of human beings who have done nothing wrong, offended no person or society, and who perhaps have never had so much as an impure thought, simply because they live in Hellish parts of the Earth, or have fallen to natural disasters. Starving children, drowned cities, slave labor–all “satisfy the criteria” of a consequence far more harsh than those offered by the American system of justice.

Mr. Khurram has the good fortune to live in a society which abhors violence and cruelty. This has conditioned him to think that our civilized system of making unpleasant decisions, in the wake of unconscionable acts, equates the worst which the world has to offer. In this he is mistaken.

He then engages in some rhetorical baiting of the religious through the appeal to an example set by the almighty, and further through a brief dunk in the abortion debate. I am inclined to agree with part of his argument–let us all follow the example of the almighty (as you perceive that power) and be done with this talk of murder. But in his appeal, he seems less than genuine, and it sounds more like a device than a conviction. He is casting about for support, trying to shame the anti-abortion and pro-death-penalty crowd into seeing murderers and hapless innocents as equal. Remember, however, that the murderer has already determined the value of his own life to society, whereas an unborn child has done no such thing. I reproduce his closing paragraph in full, without interrupting to point out the three grammatical errors:

I would like to encourage all those who fight abortion in the pro-life movement to consider that being pro-life also means fighting capital punishment. If we were to spend even half the energy to combat the death penalty as we do abortion, it could be permanently abolished, at least in the United States. We as individuals should learn to embrace mercy as a tremendous and liberating virtue. Of course, the government as an institution has the authority to punish crimes. But let us as individuals learn to forgive, especially when it is hardest. Why is it that God doesn’t strike the criminal dead, immediately after his heinous act? Despite our faults and shortcomings, why does he allow us to maintain the most precious gift of life that he has given to us? The answer is mercy.

Here, Mr. Khurram has mixed some gentle advice with a few non sequiturs. Embrace mercy, indeed, and do it when contemplating murder. Learn to forgive, and definitely forgive before taking the life of one who has done you, your family, and your society no such injury. Well said.

And if he wishes to question the actions of the almighty, he might wish to ask why He does not strike the criminal dead, immediately before his heinous act. I, however, would not presume to ask such a question.

Mr. Khurram demonstrates his misunderstanding of the problem by shading the death penalty as punishment, which has at its core the goal of behavior modification, as if it were something from which we expect the murderer to learn. We do not expect him to learn–we expect him to die, and his sole remaining earthly redemption, the last he may offer society, is if he may serve posthumously as a warning to others not to repeat his crime.

And his statement that “being pro-life also means fighting capital punishment” is patently mistaken. Being pro-life means assigning the highest value possible on life, and part of that is deterring, with every instrument at our disposal, the taking of life.

A man’s family, culture, and society attempt (or should attempt) to instill in him the utmost regard for the awesome gift of life. Imperfect creatures that we are, however, we institute governments and imbue them with tremendous powers to stand against the vicious impulses of some in our midst. That power must be credible to be effective. The death penalty is society’s last-ditch effort, when all else fails, to preserve the value of life.

Haakon B. Dahl (your humble correspondent) is a former Naval Officer who lives in Japan, and may be reached through comments at The RevWatch blog. I welcome all comments, but particularly comments from those in economics who may wish to poke holes in my analogy. I reserve the right to delete comments as I see fit.

NOTES FOR UPDATE: DNA technology is ostensibly good enough to prove innocence. But not really, as absence of evidence does not constitute evidence of absence. SO you can say that the prosecutor has not proven the case, but DNA is much better at nailing criminals than freeing the innocent. So if the “wrong man” argument dominates the anti-death-penalty crowd, this is fairly easy to counter–if DNA puts the man at the scene at the time, fry him. DEVELOP this argument and work it in.. And get Khurram out of this, to make it a regular essay, rather than a response piece–too long anyway.

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Oct 13

Blogs vs. Media Giants?

Boy, am I hungry. I could eat a cow. Good thing, too, as I don’t know any butchers in the area. Lots of ranchers, no butchers. No choice but to go hit up one of my rancher friends, walk a cow home, and eat the whole thing. But before I do, let me tell you about something I saw.

I saw an article at NewsBusters in which New York Times executive editor Bill Keller said, “Most of what you know, you know because of the mainstream media. Bloggers recycle and chew on the news. That’s not bad. But it’s not enough.”

Well, of course his comments did not please me, but the fact is that he is right. I can count actual reporting bloggers I am even familiar with on one hand, and the only one I can name is Michael Yon.

So what is this blog nonsense, anyway? Just today, I found myself explaining to yet another co-worker that he probably already reads blogs, he just doesn’t know it. He thinks they’re just web pages, and to him, that is all they are. I tried to describe the filtering hierarchy which the blogosphere evolves as its chosen architecture. I failed. Again. But in reading Mr. Keller’s comments, I realized where blogs fit in–as a “front-end”.

Let’s slide on into software terms here, but gently. This description may not be anatomically correct, but it puts most of the parts in the right places. A program you run can be considered to have many parts. The part you see is the user interface (UI). Behind that is the guts, and behind that is the back-end, which deals with program-to-machine issues, and communications with other computers. The guts section contains the actual “I’m-doing-what-you-want-me-to-do” program, such as a database which stores (and more importantly, retrieves) phone numbers and addresses. And trapped between the guts and the UI may be a front-end. The UI may in fact be a part of the front-end, but not necessarily.

If you have used Microsoft’s Access for your database needs, you have actually used an optional front-end. Access is NOT a database program–it is a front-end to the Microsoft JET database engine. If you had to deal with JET, you would swear you were using DOS. In fact, it would be SQL or something similiar (suspiciously similar…). So Microsoft came up with Access to keep those hands of yours and mine free of the dirty litle details of databases. Instead, we point and click and still wind up typing a lot. The front-end “fits onto the front” of the database engine so we only have to deal with shiny mousables and gridded tables. Of course, there are other front-ends, and this is where we come back to blogs.

The mainstream media is the News Engine. They make lots of money and have lots of people and equipment stationed across the globe and they go out and get lots of news. Then they put it on their own private networks and charge advertisers a fortune to be squeezed in between bits of this hard-won news. The network news programs have their own profit and loss responsibilities, and they try to attract more viewers, so they can charge the advertisers more, and they do this by taking all that valuable information and reducing it to something easy to feed to we invalids.

What blogs have changed is the front-end of the news. We are no longer forced to deal directly with CBS or CNN and their patronizing gruel-casts any more than we still have to deal with MS-DOS. The Internet has evolved an open source front-end for the MSM’s News Engine.

Keller is right. We need the legacy media and their awesome resources to provide the raw material of news to the blogosphere. But you don’t ask ranchers for beef; you ask butchers for beef, and if your butcher keeps trimming it his way instead of your way, you go find a different butcher.

We no longer need the MSM to study, analyse, antagonize over everything and then tell us what to think–we have developed our own front-end; it is customizable and verifiable, we fact-check it and each other, and it’s here to stay.

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Oct 07

FoxNews Poll

This FoxNews Poll shows the results for several political figures, when respondents were asked whether the subject was a “Strong and Decisive Leader”, and “Understands the Needs of Average Americans”.

I found it interesting that the subjects are ranked in descending “Decisive Leader” order, and that that closely matches the numbers for “Understands Needs” order. They descend roughly together, until “Understand” takes a jump back up with Clinton, and stays high for Kerry and the Algore.

So I did a little math. I wanted a single composite of both “scores”, so I plotted the results by hand, X=Understanding, Y=Leadership. If you look at the resulting graph, you see the subjects range from unpopular in the lower left (Gore Country) to Popular in the upper right(Giuliani Country). Also, they fall either above or below a diagonal line which indicates whether they lean more toward Leadership or more toward Understanding.

I also wanted more interpretation of the scant data, so I wrote a small python function lead(a,b) which takes a=leadership and b=understanding scores straight from the poll, and gives you back two numbers. The first number is sqrt(a^2+b^2), which on the graph is just the distance from zero that the subject earned. This is a numerical score for Popularity, and in the list below, it is the first number under a subject’s name. The function lead(a,b) also divides a/b (leadership/understanding) to give a quotient of leadership vs. understanding, and this is the second number under the subject’s name.

Using Rudy as our example, we would say that his popularity is 90.52 (minimum possible 0, maximum possible ~=~ 140), and a Leadership vs. Understanding quotient of 1.03 (over 1 = more leadership, under 1 = more understanding). The exact scores are reproduced at the bottom of this post.

If you now plot THESE scores you get some real information! Plot popularity from 60-100 going up the page. Plot Lead/Understand from 0.5 to 1.5 going left to right across the page.

Obviously, President Bush is not a candidate, but was included in the poll.

Assuming that these numbers mean anything at all, Condoleezza Rice is a more popular version of GW Bush. John Mccain is a more popular version of Hillary. Rudy Giuliani is the most popular, and centered between the four previously mentioned subjects as far as Lead/Understand. Lying at the fringe of the main group is John Kerry, more popular only than Gore. And the Algore itself lies an amazing distance to the left (very low lead/understand score), far from the group, and less popular than any other as well.

Some people call Giuliani “un-electable”. This poll seems to suggest otherwise.

Listed below are the results of my number-crunching, as copied and pasted directly from the program I used. They are listed in the same order as in the FoxNews poll; descending by “Decisive Leadership” percent answering “yes”.

Rudy Giuliani
>>> lead(65,63)

John Mccain
>>> lead(56,57)

Condoleezza Rice
>>> lead(55,49)

George W. Bush
>>> lead(51,45)

Hillary Rodman Clinton
>>> lead(51,53)

John Query
>>> lead(35,40)

The Algore
>>> lead(27,41)

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