Archive for August 3rd, 2013

by lizard

Sure, the NSA may be systematically violating the 4th amendment of the US constitution, but according to Don Pogreba, the REAL problem is The Politics of Disreason:

I’ve been thinking today about the danger of disreason in American politics. Dis, meaning “ to treat with disrespect or contempt” and reason, meaning “to think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic.” It seems we’re awash in it.

Two Montana posts, one from the right and one from the left, perfectly illustrate the politics of disreason. One, from the dark money Watchdog organization, darkly hints that the implementation of Common Core education standards will lead to dangerous data mining of children. The other, from 4and20 blackbirds, uses a source who retracted his own claims and apologized for them to suggest that the Obama campaign used “ National Stasi Intelligence style” tactics to win the 2012 election.

Don positions himself as being the thinker who is reasonably anchored to logic for his two-prong attack against political disreason, which he finds on the right, as exemplified by the Watchdog, and on the left, as exemplified by JC’s post slamming Jim Messina for whoring himself out to UK Tories.

To deflect from the broader point of JC’s post, Don zeroes in on this source because the author recanted specific assertions regarding Obama’s 2012 campaign, Facebook, and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

The broader points about Jim Messina and the 2012 campaign are not crazy, logic-defying assertions. I wrote a post last March, for example, about Jim Messina, Dark Money, and MT Democrats that included a link to a ProPublica piece about Obama campaign volunteers feeding info into a database.

But crazy is the brush Don is painting broad strokes with as he continues exposing the REAL danger of disreason:

What both share in common is an almost pathological willingness to simultaneously ignore objective evidence and the conventions of logical reasoning to make wild, unsupported claims that fit anti-government and/or anti-establishment narratives.

Of course, it’s not just these sites. You can hardly search the Internet without finding someone who claims that President Obama was born in Kenya, that 9/11 was masterminded by FDR to cover up his involvement in Pearl Harbor, or that autism is caused by vaccines.

We’re swimming in a sea of not only wrong information, but information so easily discredited by logic and evidence that it distracts us from substantive discussions and engages a growing segment of the population in politics in a way that is more destructive than democratic. Even those who should be models spew this nonsense on the national stage.

Non-sense being spewed, hmmm, that reminds me of Obama’s recent speechifying about the economy. It’s like his role is to perform a pathological willingness to ignore objective evidence that the economic recovery is fake.

Also a part of performing his role: Obama defends Summers as he mulls Fed pick:

President Barack Obama defended Lawrence Summers on Wednesday in the face of concerns by fellow Democrats that the president may name his former economic adviser as chairman of the Federal Reserve, lawmakers said.

Obama praised Summers at a closed-door meeting with Democratic members of the House of Representatives, rejecting complaints, largely from liberals, that Summers had not been aggressive enough in seeking economic stimulus funds from Congress in 2009, the lawmakers said.

Here’s another great performance: because stopping and frisking the grist of colored youth has been so successful for NYC, that must be the reason Obama recently declared Ray Kelly’s performance has been “extraordinary”, fueling speculation Kelly could replace Napolitano as head of Homeland Security:

Sen. Chuck Schumer has been lobbying for NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly to replace Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano when she steps down, and on Tuesday, President Obama added fuel to the rumors. “Ray Kelly’s obviously done an extraordinary job in New York,” Obama said in an interview with Univision’s New York City affiliate. “And the federal government partners a lot with New York, because obviously, our concerns about terrorism often times are focused on big-city targets, and I think Ray Kelly’s one of the best there is.” He added, “Mr. Kelly might be very happy where he is, but if he’s not I’d want to know about it, because obviously he’d be very well qualified for the job.”

Clearly, I’m just trying to deflect from the danger posed by disreason. Let’s get back to Intelligent Discontent:

None of this is new, of course. We had John Birchers in the 1950s (and still do) claiming the UN and fluoride were conspiracies, Arkansas troopers claiming that Vince Foster was murdered, and those who claimed that HIV/AIDS was a western conspiracy to depopulate Africa.

But the Internet has magnified this nonsense and given it a cancerous growth pattern. It’s just not one farmer with an amusingly paranoid sign on his land about the UN; it’s a whole sub culture of mutually reinforcing bile and delusion. Look no farther than the comment field on any news story and you’ll see demonstrably false, easily fact-checked falsehoods pollute productive conversation. What could contribute to the marketplace of ideas devolves into a scrum of name calling and half-truths.

What’s worse is that most of these ideas are cloaked in a pseudo-certainty that would make a 14th century alchemist blush.

The premise of the marketplace of idea is that, in competition, the best ideas will emerge, bettering and educating society as a whole, but I’m not sure that premise holds any longer, when we’re in a Wal-Mart of terrible, clearance-rack ideas and everyone owns a free megaphone.

I’m not calling for censorship. I’m not calling for government regulation of speech. I am, however, asking if perhaps we can’t show a little restraint.

This call for restraint is incredibly disingenuous when you consider Don can’t even hold himself to his own declaration of disengagement:

4and20 blackbirds used to be the best, most thought-provoking, and most unique political blog in the state. I miss it, but no amount of my disappointment will bring it back to what I enjoyed—and the writers there today certainly aren’t under any obligation to meet my expectations.

But there’s a lot of Internet out there, and interesting and unique voices writing about politics in the state and the nation. Those are the sources I’ll be engaging with, arguing with, and learning from in the future.

So why continue to engage? I think Don provides the answer in this seemingly odd turn from calling for restraint to admiring radicals:

I admire radicals. I admire those who challenge the norms of their society and uncover unpleasant truths or force to see the world in a new way. But my admiration is limited to those radicals who can prove their claims, support them against often fierce scrutiny. Retreating into sophistic dodges or convenient conspiracy theories is certainly not the same thing.

I was talking the other day with a friend about the WTO protests that rocked the U.S. in the 1990s. Sure, they used radical tactics and challenged authority, but they also marshaled an impressive array of statistics, anecdotes, and economic evidence to make their case. It wasn’t enough to just be loud or just be radical. They made a case using reason as well as political theater.

This curious example of admirable radicalism exposes, IMHO, the need to absorb and co-opt the raw discontent that isn’t always depicted so charitably by partisans like Don.

That said, I am happy to see that the opposition to the WTO is acceptable radicalism, and if Don was moved by the impressive array of statistics, anecdotes, and economic evidence of the WTO opposition, then maybe I can look forward to a post about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, because when I plug that in as a search query at ID, I get nothing.

I’m getting side-tracked again. Luckily, Don brings it all back to disreason:

I’m not sure that I have any solution to offer beyond the trite. Before we post a link or share a juicy story online, maybe we can all ask ourselves to do a little verification and research our claims. Instead of couching every perceived slight in the language of totalitarianism or the death of the Constitution, perhaps we can focus on policy and solutions.

The politics of disreason, whether left or right, drive the kind of cynicism and disinterest that is the root of the real problem of American politics today. If I permit myself a bit of hyperbole, it’s those elements that truly pose the risk of losing democratic governance.

I don’t know. But it has to get better. The energy that’s being expended in these discussions certainly isn’t helping.

Cynicism and disinterest are byproducts of systemic corruption, and THAT is the real problem of American politics today.

by lizard

Toying with terror alerts is one of those issues Democrats used to criticize Bush back when he was doing it. From the link:

In these perilous days, we must be ready to think the unthinkable. No, I don’t mean the possibility of a catastrophic terrorist attack. After 9/11, that’s all too easy to imagine. No, I’m talking about a thought that even now seldom forces its way into respectable conversation: the quite reasonable suspicion that the Bush Administration orchestrates its terror alerts and arrests to goose the GOP’s poll numbers.

Now, I’m a respectable columnist. I don’t want to draw rolled eyes. But think about it.

The 18 months prior to the 2004 presidential election witnessed a barrage of those ridiculous color-coded terror alerts, quashed-plot headlines and breathless press conferences from Administration officials. Warnings of terror attacks over the Christmas 2003 holidays, warnings over summer terror attacks at the 2004 political conventions, then a whole slew of warnings of terror attacks to disrupt the election itself. Even the timing of the alerts seemed to fall with odd regularity right on the heels of major political events. One of Department of Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge’s terror warnings came two days after John Kerry picked John Edwards as his running mate; another came three days after the end of the Democratic convention.

For a president who, in too many ways, is presiding over Bush’s 4th term, it makes sense this terror tool would also be deployed by Obama. From yesterday’s NYT: Qaeda Messages Prompt U.S. Terror Warning:

The United States intercepted electronic communications this week among senior operatives of Al Qaeda, in which the terrorists discussed attacks against American interests in the Middle East and North Africa, American officials said Friday.

The intercepts and a subsequent analysis of them by American intelligence agencies prompted the United States to issue an unusual global travel alert to American citizens on Friday, warning of the potential for terrorist attacks by operatives of Al Qaeda and their associates beginning Sunday through the end of August. Intelligence officials said the threat focused on the Qaeda affiliate in Yemen, which has been tied to plots to blow up American-bound cargo and commercial flights.

At Moon of Alabama, this warning doesn’t pass the smell test. The blogger, b, points out that just a month ago, we were being told how terrorists were changing their methods due to the NSA leaks. Here’s a Huffington Post article peddling that line of bullshit:

U.S. intelligence agencies are scrambling to salvage their surveillance of al-Qaida and other terrorists who are working frantically to change how they communicate after a National Security Agency contractor leaked details of two NSA spying programs. It’s an electronic game of cat-and-mouse that could have deadly consequences if a plot is missed or a terrorist operative manages to drop out of sight.

This terror alert, for some reason, will apparently expire at the end of August. Should we be expecting something to happen this month?

Be afraid, citizens. And be grateful Big Brother is watching out for you.

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