Archive for August 2006

Well, this is out of date now…

Submitted for publication on 8/23/2006. Unpublished.———————————————————————————Conventional Wisdom or Mob Stupidity?
The news of an arrest in the Jon Benet Ramsey murder investigation came as a surprise to America on August 18, 2006. A case that shocked a nation nearly ten years before, and filled newspapers, magazines and tabloids for years before becoming cold began to heat up in countless cell phone calls, text messages, emails and water cooler conversations.

The alleged killer wasn’t a member Jon Benet’s own family afterall, contrary to conventional wisdom; it was a stranger, John Mark Karr.

This isn’t the first time conventional wisdom has proven wrong. On July 27, 1996 at the Summer Olympics held in Atlanta Georgia, security guard Richard Jewell noticed an unattended green knapsack in Centennial Park during late-night Olympic festivities. He immediately alerted the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and helped clear the area around the knapsack before it exploded – killing a woman and contributing to a cameraman’s fatal heart attack.

At first Jewell was praised as a hero, but within days fell under suspicion after the Atlanta News Journal reported that the FBI considered him a suspect. Soon, in the absence of others Jewell became the prime suspect in the bombing.

He was pilloried in the media. Comedian Jay Leno referred to him as the ‘Una-doofus.’ Two people wounded in the bombing sued him, and the FBI searched his mother’s home, where he lived. The FBI never found any evidence linking him to the crime, and Jewell was eventually exonerated by Attorney General Janet Reno, who apologized for the leak to the press that had lead to his public humiliation.

Although Richard Jewell fought hard to clear his name, his was the only name publicly associated to the crime – until Eric Rudolph was arrested in 2003 and later confessed to the bombing. For seven years Jewell was forced to defend his name, as the public and the media sought to link him to a crime he never committed.

In both cases circumstances fed suspicions. People felt uncomfortable with the glamour photographs taken of Jean Benet as a beauty queen, which many felt objectified a little girl inappropriately. Richard Jewell was a security guard who lived with his mother at the age of 33. Being a security guard isn’t the most highly regarded job in our society, and the fact that Jewell was living with his mother instead of being on his own at his age made him appear odd.

These suspicions arise from a conflict between reality and our sense of propriety. Parents are usually the harshest critics of other parents, and enough children return to live with their parents to spawn a term, ‘boomerang generation’, and a movie, ‘Failure to Launch.’ Yet when no immediate suspects appeared in both cases, the public used these oddities to create suspects from those closest at hand: The Benet family and Richard Jewell.

Even the most ordinary person leading a normal, uneventful life can appear guilty of the most heinous crime under the lens of suspicion generated by extraordinary circumstances. At such a time two human tendencies emerge: the need to uncover answers and the tendency to see patterns in data where none exist.

The murder of a child is a particularly heinous act – one that strikes an emotional chord in people that other crimes do not. Such an act demands immediate answers and the discovery of the killer. It generates an emotional response that clashes with the rule of law, and the slow and systematic accumulation of evidence by the homicide investigators.

This emotional impetus drives us to see patterns in the limited evidence we are privy too, which has usually been filtered through biased sources in the media and in the ‘conventional wisdom’ we pick up through our own social networks of family, friends and co-workers. As the facts become outweighed by the conjectures and fabrications found in ‘conventional wisdom’ the crime itself becomes a kind of ink blot, or Rorschach Test, where we spin our own explanation for the crime based upon opinions, faulty data and outright fabrications until we see what we expect to see – and lose sight of the truth.

This is bad news for those like the Ramsey family and Richard Jewell who become mired in our fabrications like flies trapped in amber. Richard Jewell refused to accept his fate and eventually saw himself publicly vindicated; Patsy Ramsey was not so fortunate, dying from ovarian cancer before seeing herself proven innocent in the eyes of the public.

Patsy’s fate is not unusual for victims of ‘conventional wisdom’. Is it possible that the term is just a euphemism for the chants of the lynch mob? After all, in the absence of a conviction in the criminal courts weren’t Patsy Ramsey and Richard Jewell convicted in the court of public opinion and hung? Isn’t this the same type of ‘conviction’ that resulted in innocent people being lynched or accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake in bygone eras? Perhaps these eras aren’t so ‘bygone’ after all, just that the noose is now made from tabloids and newspaper, and the fires from gossip TV shows and talk radio.

Can talk be as deadly as a noose or a pyre? Ask the Ramsey family, Richard Jewell – or perhaps even OJ Simpson.

Well that explains a lot…

CBS News reports:

George Bush spends 58% of US Budget on Whiskey and some Bling for his hommies

A simple question

Over the past 20 years the Wife and I have rescued over 30 animals.

I am now considering buying a dog from a reputable breeder.

Should I buy a dog – when so many existing ones need good homes – or should I rescue one – and risk spending years with a deteriorating, senile mutt?

US Out of (or into) Philadelphia Now

Gateway Pundit linky.
No surprise, really – given how mean the streets are in some areas. Oh, and one might wish to remember that this city is bluer than blue.

Coincidence?

Doubt it. The Law & Order Democrats were kicked out of the party over 30 years ago.

Curly, aka Spike, Died Quietly Today

Those of you who know my efforts at the ITPAA know this dog:
Curly, aka Spike

His yawn during the photoshoot became the symbol of my efforts to fight off-shoring and labor dumping. While the ITPAA is currently on hiatus, rest assured that the spirit behind it is alive now more than ever.

We adopted him nearly 3 years ago after he was found wondering the streets of Lancaster County. He was an older dog, about 9 when we adopted him, and probably had run away from – or been dumped – by his owner.

Curly loved to chase tennis balls. Even at his advanced age he ran like a dog possessed after tennis balls:
Caffeinated Poodle

Over the past year Curly had become totally blind. In addition he had exhibited personality changes to the point where he would bite anyone who disturbed him – except when he was being bathed or “going bye-bye” in the car.

Last night he began walking clockwise in circles. Today the wife found him in respiratory distress and had to take him to the vet to be euthanized. The Kid is away with friends for the day, so he will arrive home to a house without Curly.

This is the price of responsible pet ownership. It’s a price I really, really hate paying on days like today.

Offshoring as Mis-Management

Intel is downsizing its operations in Bangalore according to this article.

it looks like the employees are going to suffer for (mis)management problems. Our sympathies go out to them.

Mismanagement led to the offshoring in the first place as I argued 3 years ago.

Gary Numan Suspected in Jon Benet Murder

John Mark Karr

What, no one else thought he looks like him?

UPDATE 8/28/2006 – Not the killer just a psycho though.

Jewish gay porn actor to entertain Israeli troops

Source: Pink News via Kenneth in the 212.

His claim to be entertaining the troops will not be sanctioned by the Israeli army. Instead he offers free entry to soldiers attending his ‘performance’ in a Tel-Aviv nightclub.

He writes: “I haven’t decided yet who will be my partner for the live sex show I’m doing there (Israel has no problem with that type of entertainment).

“I am very proud to be going to my home away from home and entertain gay Israelis in a time of war.”

I hope whomever he chooses as his partner, he looks and squeals like Hassan Nasrallah.

Rising Anti-Semitism in UK Fuels Increased Emigration to Israel

Link

Leila Segal, a writer and editor, described herself as living in a “mental ghetto” in London, where she felt she was “always censoring” herself when it came to her Jewish identity.

“I’m not running away from that, because we have to confront it,” she said. “But I really think that coming to Israel and living in Israel, that’s a very strong act we can take to affirm our existence.”

Seeing the Truth in Photographs

Published August 20, 2006 – as Perspective, in Connecticut’s The Day——————————————Recently Reuters News Service has come under scrutiny for passing off doctored photographs to newspapers. On Aug. 6, Reuters fired Lebanese photographer Adnan Hajj and withdrew 920 of his photographs from their archives. Since then other news outlets including The New York Times, Associated Press and AFP have been criticized for running photographs that have been posed, manipulated, or misleadingly captioned.

The problem that these news outlets face is that, as photojournalist Eddie Adams once said, photographs lie. Adams took one of the most famous photographs ever, of General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing Viet Cong prisoner Nguyen Van Lem on a Saigon street during the Tet Offensive of 1968. In Adams’s photograph we see a disheveled handcuffed man at his moment of death. We do not see the events that led to his execution, his gunning down the wives and children of South Vietnamese officers, including that of a subordinate and close friend of General Loan.

Adams himself regretted the power of this photograph and later apologized to the general and his family for the damage it did to the general’s reputation. Adams stated, “’Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them; but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths.’

Photographs are not created in randomly or in a vacuum. They result from a series of conscious and unconscious decisions made by the photographer. A photojournalist begins with an assignment, a perceived need for a photograph of a certain type. The type of photograph and photographer will vary according to the assignment; we don’t expect photojournalists to travel to Iraq to shoot flowers just as we don’t send war photographers to cover flower shows. Once a photographer or his editor selects the assignment, the photographer must decide the subject matter that best fulfills it.

After the photographer finds that subject matter, she must decide on composition: What do I include in my photograph? What do I leave out? Where is the best light? Do I want to highlight my subject with a shallow focus, or do I want to include other elements using a wider lens? He will usually take several photographs of a subject, each differing slightly from the others to be assured that one of the photographs will meet the assignment’s requirements.

The mere presence of a photographer can alter a scene. In a photograph taken by newsman Arthur Weegee in 1940, a woman cheerfully smiles for the camera as she kneels behind paramedics trying to resuscitate a drowning victim on a Coney Island beach. Her expression changes a photograph from a scene of human suffering to a haunting, bizarre one. During the first Intifada in the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinian youths were careful to cultivate their image as Davids fighting against Israeli Goliaths, throwing pebbles at Israeli soldiers and settlers while foreign news crews were watching them, and switching to heavier and larger stones once they left.

The selection process continues on the computer after photos are taken. A photographer or his assistant is faced with more decisions. Are there elements that need to be highlighted or de-emphasized? Is more cropping needed? Cropping, cutting elements out of a scene, changes the context of a photograph. Imagine Adams’ photograph missing either one of the subjects, and it completely loses its power, becoming a picture of a soldier firing a pistol or of a man cringing. Cropping is perhaps the most powerful tool a photographer uses to determine a photograph’s context both during composition as well as after it is taken.

Once the photographer is satisfied with her work, she passes it on to her editor. The editor must then evaluate it based on different criteria from those used by the photographer. What size photo do I need to fill this space? Which photo goes with the written copy the best? Usually an editor must select one or two photos from several hundred photos taken by different photographers, a task that can be just as daunting and biased as the decisions made by photographers themselves.

Is it any wonder that at the end of this chain of conscious and unconscious decisions we have what Adams himself described as lies and half-truths?

While technology has made it even easier for photographs to be created, manipulated, and enhanced for editorial purposes, our perception has not kept pace with these changes. We may consciously recognize that the image of a model has been manipulated to remove blemishes, wrinkles, enhance skin tones and even elongate legs and slim down waists, yet we still unconsciously cling to the belief that what we are seeing is real. She looks perfect; therefore she must really be perfect.

Since the Reuters scandal broke, manipulated images are appearing at a maddening pace, threatening the public trust of news agencies and publications around the world. However it is impossible to remove all bias and prejudice from the process of making and presenting a photograph. While much will be made by those who have been hurt by the photographs produced by these outlets, the problem will remain that the adage “seeing is believing’” holds us in its thrall.

Adams said ‘The General killed the Vietcong; I killed the general with my camera.” His photograph rallied the anti-war movement in the U.S. as it became the symbol of an atrocity, the execution of an innocent civilian by a corrupt regime supported by the United States. Adams himself fought against this interpretation of his photograph, saying that General Loan “was a hero. America should be crying. I just hate to see him go this way, without people knowing anything about him.”

Photojournalists must accept responsibility for their work and consider what messages they carry and how they will be used. They must admit that like Adams’s photograph, theirs can kill. At the same time we must free ourselves from our deeply held trust in the medium by recognizing that photographs are not a shortcut to Truth, and contrary to our perception, often lie.

Scott Kirwin is a photographer and writer who lives in Philadelphia.

France Flees UN Peacekeeping Mission in Lebanon

The French show their lack of spine by cutting their peacekeeping force by 90%. No surprise given that from what I’ve seen of the south Lebanaese countryside there are few places to hide, and fewer civilians to rape.

That gives me a chance to dredge up this image from a hidden corner of the Old Razor, NukeFrance:

The Official French Flag

Stephen Zunes – Professor of anti-American Studies

Spent some time reading Stephen Zunes, a younger, poorer version of Noam Chomsky and can boil down his philosophy to four words:

It’s all America’s Fault

Terrorism? It’s America’s fault. Iraq? Blood for oil. Anything bad that happens in the world – rest assured that there is some nameless group or corporation behind it. The man is Machiavelli on acid, a Left-wing as paranoid as anyone to the right of Pat Buchanan.

Where he differs from Chomsky and much of the rest of the anti-Semitic Left is his viewing of the Jews and Israel as puppets of America, “mercenaries of America to fight the wars of what the ruling persons in America consider to be American interests.”

Like your garden variety anti-Semite, Zune sees not Jewish but American conspiracies behind every troublespot in the world. Somalia? The prolific Stephen Zunes pens “The Long and Hidden History of the U.S in Somalia”. East Timor? “For example, in 1975, after Morocco’s invasion of Western Sahara and Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor, the Security Council passed a series of resolutions demanding immediate withdrawal. However, then-US ambassador to the UN Daniel Patrick Moynihan bragged that “the Department of State desired that the United Nations prove utterly ineffective in whatever measures it undertook. The task was given to me, and I carried it forward with no inconsiderable success.” East Timor finally won its freedom in 1999.” Global Warming? Our Fateful Choice: Global Leader or Global Cop Tooth Decay? No – although Google did find his name associated with the term on four pages.

Zunes never offers any evidence in support of his assertions; rather he uses generic groupings like “people in power” or “oil industry” in the assumption that proof is not needed. After all, he is a tenured professor at University of San Francisco – the backup school for Bay Area Catholic kids who didn’t have the grades for Berkeley or UCSF.

However like all conspiracy theories, evidence supporting his arguments is as hard to come by as a clear photograph of the second shooter on the grassy knoll. For example, Zunes wrote a piece stating that Israel violated more UN Resolutions than any other state – failing to mention that Israel has been involved in roughly 270 UN Security Council Resolutions to begin with – or about 16%. Nor does he expose his methodology to determine how a state violates a UN Security Council Resolution, merely stating “I did not include those resolutions which simply criticised a particular action by a government. Nor did I include resolutions where the language is ambiguous enough to make assertions of non-compliance debatable.” This is exactly the kind of methodology that drives “real” scientists nuts, and takes the “science” out of “social science” by emphasizing the “liberal” in the term “liberal arts”.

Well, there’s no methodology because there’s no substance beyond what could qualify as at best, a blogger’s rant:

In other words, no country has done more to compromise the authority of the United Nations Security Council and its enforcement mechanisms than has the United States.While the UN Security Council had a strong case to insist that Iraq be more fully compliant with its resolutions, the United States is the last country to claim the right to enforce alleged non-compliance militarily. Not only does the UN Charter and UN Security Council resolution 1441 explicitly recognise that only the Security Council as a whole – and not any single member – has the legal authority to enforce such resolutions militarily, but the United States is the last member of the world body to claim any kind of moral authority to do so.

By Zunes logic, no country can be held accountable to the UN because some have gotten away it. This is akin to a serial killer saying that he should be allowed to be freed because Scotland Yard never caught Jack the Ripper. To do otherwise would be to “cherry-pick” UN resolutions.

Zunes “logic” – or lack thereof – leaves me feeling like I had just been rolling around in the intellectual mud with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and other great conspiracy fictions. Reading him I’m reminded of the conservative intellectuals of the 1920s and 1930s who were seduced by fascism. In fact, little beyond being born 70 years too late separates him from his intellectual peers of that bygone era.

Worse, his logic dehumanizes those who he attempts to ally with. In Zunes world, the Palestinians, Jews, Hezballah, North Koreans – everyone – are merely automatons, reacting to Americans in predictable ways. All their actions are instigated by Americans; they have no will to act on their own. Only Americans have the human quality of free will.

Unfortunately for the world according to Zunes, Americans use this free will to choose greed and avarice. In a sense, by imbueing these qualities to Americans alone, Zunes in effect advocates a type of “super nationalism,” where the only nation that matters is America, and like the warriors of old that ate the hearts of their enemies to gain their bravery, its only by overcoming and destroying America that the rest of the world becomes human. This problem is not Zunes alone; it is inherent to the “politics of victimization” where suffering is the only scale that matters while true power remains in the hands of the victimizer.

Zunes advocates this destruction of the United States by using a common tactic of the Left: Denying the right of the United States to pursue its goals, while allowing other nations to pursue their own goals. Zunes criticizes any American action whereby the nation pursues a goal to its benefit, for example by denying the United States the right to pursue a strategic victory over Syria or prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons. At the same time, Zunes argues that Iran has the right to nuclear weapons because its in its own interest.

Leftists like Zunes are fundamentally terrified by the hegemony America represents, and seek to bind it with Lilliputian threads. It must be frustrating for Zunes, who is so widely quoted in the Leftist media to see his threads ignored as the United States moves forward and follows its strategic interests. Luckily for Zunes, and the Leftists like Chomsky who are his intellectual peers, the nation sees men like him as evidence that the United States is not the nation they believe it is – for the nation that Chomsky and Zunes claim exists would have executed both men long ago. Instead, both are esconced in Academia where they can safely promulgate their vision of a world terrorized by the United States.

I hadn’t realized that SFSU had such a great fiction department.

Jon Benet Ramsey’s Killer Captured

And it wasn’t her brother, mother or father – contrary to conventional wisdom.

I’m not sure why we place as much weight on this type of “wisdom” as we do. It’s the intelligence of the mob – the same type of “thinking” that lead to innocent black men being lynched or women being burned at the stake in bygone eras.

I fell for that “thinking”; I was wrong. It’s important to be honest with yourself, to take pride in your accomplishments as well as to accept shame for your failures. I was wrong - and I won’t forget that.

UPDATE: 8/28/2006 – I was wrong again. His DNA didn’t match that found at the scene of the crime

Face Up on the Guillotine – The Revolution of the Democratic Party

Face Up on the Guillotine – The Revolution of the Democratic Party

Back in my college days I took a class on revolution taught by an Israeli Marxist. Even though my politics have shifted rightward from where they were back then, I haven’t forgotten what I learned and recognize it as being one of the better classes I had while pursuing a political science degree.

One of the important things I learned was that it is the nature of revolutions to turn on themselves. In the end, the revolutionaries often – but not always – turn into what they revolted against in the first place. The rebels become the regime, and during that process they inevitably turn on their leadership. The death warrant of Danton is signed by Robespierre who in turn is sent to the guillotine, face up, by those he once led.

It is becoming clear that the Democratic Party is in the final stages of a revolution begun three years ago by the so-called “Deaniacs,” liberal supporters organized using the Internet. Howard Dean’s presidential candidacy was energized by liberal bloggers, who pushed the grass roots campaign resulting in a juggernaut behind the former Vermont governor. Don’t forget that a month before the 2004 New Hampshire Primary, Al Gore, Bill Bradley, Barbara Boxer and Jimmy Carter all came out in support of Howard Dean’s candidacy and recommended that other candidates unite behind him to focus attacks on President George Bush.

However, the existing Democratic powerbrokers including the Clintons’ man Terry McAuliffe, head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), stymied this revolt temporarily by engineering John Kerry’s candidacy. The day after Kerry won New Hampshire, journalist Carl Cameron announced “Dean may be done.” He was – in one of the most spectacular flameouts in modern political history.

The day after Kerry lost the ‘04 election, Howard Dean announced he would make a bid for the DNC chair. An AP article at the time quoted him as saying the Democratic Party had to “establish a separate and unique identity from Republicans”. To that end the revolutionaries empowered by Dean took power by replacing McAuliffe in Feb 05, and have since pushed the national party leftward under his leadership.

We are currently in a stage of ideological “purification” – think Mao’s Cultural Revolution here – where the rank and file all carry their little red books, don red scarves, and rat-out their parents as “counter-revolutionaries”. The most visible attacks are centered on Joe Lieberman, who has suffered some of the nastiest attacks I’ve ever heard of let alone seen in a democracy. Some on the Left have referred to him as “Rape Gurney Joe,” implying that Lieberman opposes emergency contraception for rape victims (he doesn’t).

Pretty monstrous stuff – beyond the pale of even the most enthusiastic Karl Rove acolyte. Now other Democratic politicians are running scared, afraid to find themselves in the cross-hairs of the “purification cadres”. Others inevitably will find themselves in that position before the ‘06 election in 3 months’ time. 3 months is plenty of time for careers to be shortened, reputations ruined, and political capital spent.

But the cycle of revolution will not stop. Eventually the moderates who survived the purges eventually retake power in the stage known as Thermidorian Reaction (Marx was big on stages) after the revolutionaries weaken their cause by destroying themselves.

When will that happen?

There are two likely points:
1. The November ‘06 Election – The Deaniacs demand an oath of fealty to their belief that the Iraq War is a failure – just at a time when the war is petering out and the Iraqis are taking care of themselves. Should the war fail to be the defining issue in November, their “ideological” candidates will be trounced at the polls. This will force Dean to quit the DNC and leave the Deaniacs stunned, disheartened, and eventually apathetic – allowing the few remaining moderates (those who haven’t been purged and become Republicans) to take back the party.

2. The November ‘08 Election – Should the Deaniacs survive the midterm elections, they will be even more energized and place a McGovern-type presidential candidate at the head of their party. While Americans may not like the Iraq War, the odds are that they will like a Left-wing ideological candidate even less. Expect a landslide victory for the Republicans along the lines of ‘72 or ‘80.

Americans aren’t very ideological. Most are too busy to be energized by any one particular issue. Given the conditions of a growing economy and a war that is successful in its aims in Iraq, as shown by the failure of the anti-war movement to gain traction during the past 5 years, then it is likely that the revolutionaries will fail; it’s only a question of when.

Will Howard Dean find himself face up on the guillotine like Robespierre? Only time will tell.

Roundup of Current Wars

StrategyPage has a detailed report.