March 2008 Archives

How to Disagree

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I just read a great article that details disagreement that actually elevates a discussion's participants far better than I have ever done. This is why I'm not a fan of rhetorical battle which on the DH scale is approximately DH3.5. It's pretty and can convince those dazzled by eloquence or volume, but it's not really substantive. Sophistry is what it is. And we are all guilty of it from time to time. That's human.

For example, we cannot argue about matters of faith for reasons best given by example.

P1: The Bible is the Word of God.

P2: No it isn't.

--or--

P1: I know God.

P2: So do I.

The second statements should be completely true for P2 who contradicts P1, but without evidence to back P2 up she/he hasn't made a convincing argument for either one's veracity. That's why I try to be very picky about how and why I argue things about faith, the Bible, politics, etc. Evidence requires substance and empirical observation. I can make a convincing argument based on evidence that the Bible doesn't refer to itself at least the Bible. That's cut and dry like saying that John begins with "In the beginning, was the Word."

What's more interesting, is that I can make a convincing argument that the Bible and the Word of God are not the same things provided I define them well. Based on those definitions which are real empirical things, I can construct an argument that differentiates them. That is a subtle but very important difference from proving the statement: "The Bible is not the Word of God." A faith assertion that is not subject to rational argument. Faith is not argued; it is confessed.

Michelle Singletary - Debt Addicts Get A Dose of Reality - washingtonpost.com:

"But many of the individuals who are overloaded with debt need to take responsibility for their bad choices, too. Take credit card debt, for example. Certainly there has been a tremendous push -- for decades -- by financial institutions to get people to view credit cards as indispensable.

And consumers gladly went along, with no complaint, using other people's money until life's hardships -- a job loss, illness or divorce -- got in the way and they could no longer pay today for what they long since had purchased."

(Via The Washington Post.)

A quick, but fair, look at why debtors clearly have to share responsibility in the current economic crisis.

The Center Cannot Hold

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Huff TV: Roy Sekoff with Dan Abrams, Lanny Davis and Marc Lamont Hill on Clinton's Statements on Bosnia and Rev. Wright - Media on The Huffington Post:

(Via The Huffington Post.)

If Hillary misspoke, how can you misspeak in a book? How do you misspeak repeatedly? I don't think I'd ever forget, misremember being shot at, ever.

My problem isn't that she did the ol' resumé puff up. After all, she is trying to sell herself to us voters by the very definition of political candidate. I expect puffery and I'll even tolerate a small fish story here and there. But this is about substantiating her central claim to in her own words, "crossing the commander-in-chief threshold." She has repeatedly belittled Obama on this score. My take: you live by the sword, you die by the sword. Her experience warrants scrutiny and if it is found lacking, whether because of lies, misspeaking, or faulty memory, it's still lacking.

Where's the Devil?

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University of Chicago: Obama was a ‘professor’:

"The [Clinton] campaign also sent out a press release quoting a 2004 Chicago Sun-Times column that stated of Obama's professor claim: 'Several direct-mail pieces issued for Obama's primary campaign said he was a law professor at the University of Chicago. He is not. He is a senior lecturer (now on leave) at the school. In academia, there is a vast difference between the two titles. Details matter.'

But in a statement, the university said its senior lecturers are considered professors."

(Via CNN Political Ticker.)

Yes Hillary, details do in fact matter.

Colmes makes a Wright

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Colmes speaks to a mixed-race couple about Rev. Wright and the media smear of Obama.

Taking back the Party

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What happens when the little guy gets a voice in politics. Wow. For the first time in my adult life I'm proud of my country! ;-)

UPDATE:

Crazy!

msnbc.com video: Obama on the economy:

(Via MSNBC.com.)

Wages and incomes for middle class America have been flat for far longer than Obama intimated. In real dollar terms, they've been stagnant for decades where the top earners' incomes shares of national income have quintupled. So in terms of basic fairness and even sound long term economics, you've got to pay the piper. Rich folk: do you want to be pigs who get fat or hogs who get slaughtered?

Obama Casts Wide Blame for Financial Crisis and Proposes Homeowner Aid - New York Times:

"‘Instead of establishing a 21st-century regulatory framework, we simply dismantled the old one,’ he said, ‘aided by a legal but corrupt bargain in which campaign money all too often shaped policy and watered down oversight.’"

(Via The NY Times.)

I'm always for keeping things balanced. One thing he can't say without losing his bid is that a 21 century framework has to be structured so that debtors shoulder some responsibility. While I'm sure many were hoodwinked and bamboozled, many others simply got greedy and gorged on cheap debt. They have to be taken to the shed as well. Let's hope Barack leads in an effort to setup such a system.

Tapes’ Destruction Hovers Over Detainee Cases - New York Times:

"‘They thought they were saving themselves from legal scrutiny, as well as possible danger from Al Qaeda if the tapes became public,’ said Frederick P. Hitz, a former C.I.A. officer and the agency’s inspector general from 1990 to 1998, speaking of agency officials who favored eliminating the tapes. ‘Unknowingly, perhaps, they may have created even more problems for themselves.’"

(Via The NY Times.)

You don't beat the lawless by becoming like them.

Obama Rewriting Rules for Raising Campaign Money Online - washingtonpost.com:

"When Christen Braun decided it was time to learn more about the presidential candidates, the 28-year-old high school teacher from suburban Pittsburgh turned to Google -- right where Sen. Barack Obama's campaign was waiting for her.

Her search triggered an ad for Obama's Web site, which prompted Braun, a Republican, to sign up for the Democratic senator's e-mail list -- and then to make her first political contribution, for $25."

(Via The Washington Post.)

How Obama's campaign treats us like adults and wins us over, unlike some we could mention! ;-)

Macworld | Gone in 2 minutes: Mac gets hacked first in contest:

"Miller, best known as one of the researchers who first hacked Apple's iPhone last year, didn't take much time. Within 2 minutes, he directed the contest's organizers to visit a Web site that contained his exploit code, which then allowed him to seize control of the computer, as about 20 onlookers cheered him on."

(Via MacWorld.)

Apparently, Safari has, or at least had, issues. The Airs shipped with 10.5.0 and there have been several security updates to the OS and Safari. I'd love to know what version exactly of the software was hacked.

When I Became a Man

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I was recently told old saw:

When you are young and not a Democrat, you have no heart. When you are old and not a Republican, you have no brain.

The implication being that being a liberal or progressive is good-hearted naivete and that as one grows older, and supposedly in wisdom, one must understand certain realities. It's like Paul telling us that when he became a man he put away childish things.

As I celebrated my Lord's resurrection today, I thought about the friend who told this to me and I wondered how old I would have to be to outgrow Luke 6:20-38.

And raising his eyes toward his disciples [Jesus] said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. [Note Jesus's priorities.]

Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied.

Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh.

Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man.

Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.

[This is where most people stop, but reading on...]

But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry.

Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep.

Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.

[This is usually where we pick things back up...]

But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic.

Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.

Do to others as you would have them do to you.

For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.

And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same.

If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit (is) that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount.

But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

Be merciful, just as (also) your Father is merciful.

Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.

Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.

Why was there woe to the rich and comfortable? I think the answer is located in the Master's next words:

And he told them a parable, "Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own? How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,' when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother's eye. A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not pick figs from thornbushes, nor do they gather grapes from brambles. A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks. Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' but not do what I command? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, listens to my words, and acts on them. That one is like a person building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it because it had been well built. But the one who listens and does not act is like a person who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, it collapsed at once and was completely destroyed."

If growing old is to outgrow that, may I die young.

Race Talk

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What Politicians Say When They Talk About Race - New York Times:

"[Obama] spoke of black anger and white resentment and the significance of race in American history; his purpose was political but he spoke with seriousness and gravity and at length. Whether the speech helped or hurt him remains to be seen. But the moment was unlike virtually any in the more than 40 years since the triumphs of the civil rights struggle tore up party alignments of the past and tamped down explicit discussion of race by presidents and major-party candidates addressing the American people."

(Via The NY Times.)

Good overview of the speech. What's truly sad is the fact that, predictably, the conservative scream machine revels in it's own ignorance, i.e. racism simply doesn't exist. They hold to willful ignorance despite empirical evidence. Ah well, lets hope that saner minds prevail.

Recursive Holiday

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Good Friday! Happy Purim, Eid, etc... - TIME:

"But unlike some holy days — say, Christmas, which some non-Christians in the U.S. observe informally by going to a movie and ordering Chinese food — on this particular Friday, March 21, it seems almost no believer of any sort will be left without his or her own holiday."

Everybody is celebrating in a once in a millennium convergence.

(Via Time.)

Race and Reason

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Here's Obama's speech in response to the "firestorm" over Rev. Wright. Wow.

A MORE PERFECT UNION

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008/ 10:17:53 ET
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

"We the people, in order to form a more perfect union."

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America's improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution – a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part – through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton's Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I've gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world's poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It's a story that hasn't made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts – that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either "too black" or "not black enough." We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.

On one end of the spectrum, we've heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it's based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we've heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.


FBI Tried to Cover Patriot Act Abuses With Flawed, Retroactive Subpoenas, Audit Finds | Threat Level from Wired.com:

"FBI headquarters officials sought to cover their informal and possibly illegal acquisition of phone records on thousands of Americans from 2003 to 2005 by issuing 11 improper, retroactive 'blanket' administrative subpoenas in 2006 to three phone companies that are under contract to the FBI, according to an audit  released Thursday."

(Via The Wired Blog Network.)

A few observations:
  1. Any time you relax scrutiny and rely merely on the people themselves to do the right thing, you are asking for trouble. It doesn't matter that the vast majority of FBI personnel are good, honorable, upstanding, committed, self-sacrficing public servants. Enough of them aren't to require restraint to prevent considerable damage. Most people in our country are law abiding citizens, that doesn't negate the need for police.
  2. Many on the left will lambaste and right will ballyhoo, but when you want security there have to be compromises with "freedom." The rub is what is the substance of the compromise. In other words, when is it OK to snoop on our citizens? To paraphrase the Vermont license plate slogan, when have we stopped living free and died?
  3. Last but not least, the silver lining in all this is that the executive branch did it's job in self-restraint and audit. (Evidence that the public servants deserve the praise I and others give them.) These revelations didn't come from leaks or whistle blowing, which would have made them utterly frightening. It came from audit lending new meaning to Reagan's words: "Trust but verify."

FactCheck.org: Hillary's Adventures Abroad:

"Clinton is exactly right as to the details of her China speech. Does a tough speech count as foreign policy experience? Clinton frequently says that Obama 'offers speeches' while she 'offers solutions,' so by her own standards, the China speech doesn't deserve much consideration. We'll leave it up to you to determine how much China's human rights situation improved between 1995 and 2007."

While there's always hyperbole and exaggeration in any political campaign as a normal part of the process of salesmanship, there is that which crosses the line into hypocrisy. Why do politicians insult us this way?

(Via FactCheck.org.)

Why We Shouldn't Torture Lite

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Thursday, Mar. 13, 2008 - Quotes of the Day - TIME:

"'Stop exercising double standards on human rights issues and wrongly meddling in the internal affairs of other countries.' --QIN GANG Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, accusing the U.S. of double standards over human rights in response to a U.S. report labeling Beijing an authoritarian regime."

While I'm not given to facile comments about torture, this quote hit me. It reminds me why when we play word games and parse our way to activities like waterboarding, we still lose.

(Via Time.)

Bishop expounds on the new 'deadly sins' - CNN.com:

"In an interview with L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's official newspaper, Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti said priests must take into account 'new sins which have appeared on the horizon of humanity as corollary to the unstoppable process of globalization.'

In the 21st century, he said, 'You offend God not only by stealing, blaspheming or coveting your neighbor's wife, but also by ruining the environment, carrying out morally debatable scientific experiments, or allowing genetic manipulations which alter DNA or compromise embryos.' "

A welcome update for the modern man and woman.

(Via CNN.)

YouTube - Countdown 03/12/08 Special Comment - Keith calls out Hillary:

She tried to apologize but way too little too late. For her sake, she should take Oberman's advice. I've already lost all respect for her in this campaign. Her campaign, and by extension her, have played it like Karl Rove. This is what I found so reprehensible about the Bush campaign.

(Via YouTube.)

Dipdive » Blog Archive » Falling for Obama:

"...There seems to be an unusually high number of fainting incidents at Obama rallies, all of which leads to the question of why? Most people will chalk it up to some combination of star power, leadership, and good old-fashioned Obamania. Others (a.k.a. haters) will cite “scientific” and “medical” explanations: it was hot, it was too crowded, she was dehydrated, he was malnourished. Yeah, yeah, yeah."

Wow.

(Via DipDive.)

NPR: Obama Campaign Skewers Clinton E-mail Statement:

"What the Clinton campaign secretly means: PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE FACT THAT WE'VE LOST 14 OF THE LAST 17 CONTESTS AND SAID THAT MICHIGAN AND FLORIDA WOULDN'T COUNT FOR ANYTHING. Also, we're still trying to wrap our minds around the amazing coincidence that the only 'important' states in the nominating process are the ones that Clinton won."

Why the Clinton campaign should to stay in Hillary's older folks/experience. Ouch.

(Via NPR News Blog.)

iPhone Possibilities

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Let me say, Apple is a monster and their announcements on the iPhone roadmap are no joke. I can't do justice the possibilities, just go to the presentation on the site. It's a long one so take some time. But I will say they really thought this one out.

  • RIM/Palm/WindowsMobile hardware folks are done, well not done, but definitely baking in the oven. Microsoft is essentially subsidizing this by sacrificing them for Exchange's continued life. Apple's stack will soon follow, but Microsoft has no choice but to get board. Apple is not Cuba.
  • Sony PSP has a strong competitor, if not killer. Battery life and storage are the two limitations that as flash RAM cheapens will probably be resolved. I never thought the accelerometer would be so key. The Super Monkey Ball demo was no joke.
  • The iFund @ $100M is a bombshell: All the big developers just got a strong signal that The Next Killer App is under development and they need to get on this platform not now...but right now.
  • Apple's Mac sales received the "halo" effect from the iPod. That will only be accelerated with the iPhone. You need a Mac to develop for the thing, which means you get to try out the OS and the development suite reducing barriers to entry for Mac development.
  • Circumventing iTunes and giving direct, but controlled access to users is also brilliant. It's like iTunes DRM, not great, but livable. Clearly the Apple Store is not going to be a hugh profit center, but it will be cost neutral to Apple and not a huge burden to developers. AT&T must be emitting nocturnally at the prospect.