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IRAN – “REGIONAL SUPERPOWER” January 19, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Middle East.
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In reading this article concerning Iran’s defiance of the US and Europe in relating to restoring its nuclear program, Simon Jenkins in The Guardian, via Common Dreams, a few things caught my eye.

The writer repeats the claim, often made, that Iran is the big winner of the Iraq Invasion and subsequent civil war. At the same time, he points out it is surrounded by nuclear powers, not forgetting Israel, which to my knowledge has never faced any odium in relation to this matter from the US or Europe. More importantly, Simon Jenkins makes the point, which I believed to be true as a general sense, that are contending political forces, rather than one predominating, for example theocratic ascendency, in Tehran.

But I did not know that Tehran has a somewhat greater population than London. That is, Tehran is one of the world’s great metropolitan areas.

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THE BIG YAWN January 19, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Miscellaneous.
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Here is a personal fact, that may, or quite possibly will not be, of interest.

I have never been able to watch this film from start to finish without falling asleep. And most of the things about this film that I might ordinarily consider – the cast, the writer, the director – look good.

I put this inability to watch, or ability to nap, down to my commitment to life (Pun intended).

PREDICTIONS AS FOOLHARDINESS January 17, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Miscellaneous.
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Gerald Henderson, opinion columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald, claims:

In politics the foolhardy make predictions. That’s why the only long-term prophets around are false ones. However, change invariably takes place in a predetermined environment. So it makes sense to discuss options as the new year gets under way.

Can these statements be true? Many predictions will turn out to be incorrect, but that is because the theories they were based on were wrong or incomplete. Yet accurate predictions can be made, even if prediction is largely opinion, but prediction is more importantly one way to test opinions.

Contrary views are another way to test opinions. The opinions of columnists are not consistently and directly subject to trial. Yet now the technology exists, and newspapers have been slow to adapt. Blogging provides an opportunity for online discussion about the assertion of newspaper columnists.

When institutions do not adapt or adopt proven technology they run a greater risk of irrelevance.

“A MORE REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY” January 16, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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“A more representative democracy” is a principle advocated here, if to do so is be a voice yelling in the wilderness. To this end, I see the possibility of adopting the voting system practised in Germany and New Zealand – the Multi-Member Proportional System for the House of Reps. Hopefully, and I am not aware of the evidence for this proposition, the adoption of such a system would encourage greater participation in the political process, a sense of wider ideological possibilities, if possible provide the ground for active party participation, and even more starry-eyed the idea through the list system of placing outstanding and experienced citizens into the parliament.

January 15, was Martin Luther King Day in the United States. In reflection, The Washington Post published an article today by Nick Kotz, Still Seeking a Fair Vote, describing how the 1965 Voting Rights Act had been introduced, through the efforts of Dr King, the supporters of the Civil Rights campaign, and President Johnson, and how in more recent times, despite the success this measure had created, these advances had been turned back by computer-based redistricting – somewhat similar to computerized tomography where all the organs of the body politic are displayed in three dimensions, to advance those that redistrict, and disadvantage minorities. Of course, no mention is made of hanging chads, or overvotes in Florida 2000, or the amount of money needed to run a political campaign, or that there are no Blacks or Latino members of the Senate, despite making up 25% of the population.

Nor given the recent history of appointment is much, I suggest, to be expected from the Judicial arm of government, although the writer does not share my opinion:

The Supreme Court has the opportunity to reaffirm and clarify the central purposes of the Voting Rights Act. And Congress can and should honor King’s memory by renewing important parts of the voting rights law that otherwise will expire next year, thus advancing his ideal of a more representative democracy.

But let us, despite the odds, and with the Chilean example in mind, which is both astonishing and inspiring, in the words of Dr King “have a dream” of a more representative democracy.

CHILE SHINES A LIGHT? January 16, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Global Electoral Politics.
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Michelle Bachelet President elect of Chile via BBC News.

I had better contain my enthusiasm. I have been wrong before. It may be the case, given the history of geopolitics in South America, the road ahead may be far from easy. However, her opponent with over 97% of the vote counted was prepared to concede defeat. So I will celebrate the this new confirmation of Chile’s return to its long established democratic norms, after those 17 years of military dictatorship and darkness, and for many suffering. Now 1990 is almost a generation ago, when Pinochet was forced to resign.

The BBC reports in part:

Centre-left candidate Michelle Bachelet has become Chile’s first woman president, taking 53.5% of the poll with almost all the votes counted.

Her rival, conservative businessman Sebastian Pinera, has admitted defeat.

Giving a victory speech to cheering supporters, Ms Bachelet said: “Who would have said, 10, 15 years ago, that a woman would be elected president?”

The election is the fourth since Chile returned to democracy in 1990 after 17 years of military rule.

Outgoing President Ricardo Lagos hailed the election of Chile’s first woman leader as a “historic triumph”.

The New York Times report, as pointed out by John Quiggin, does not perhaps share my enthusiasm, at least in a somewhat cynical headline. The NYT also make the point that the opprobrium of the right in relation to the coup and dictatorship has not worn off yet, which doubtless contributed to Michelle Bachelet’s run-off victory.

The New York Times, to their credit, have written another more sympathetic report, without the unnecessary insinuations.

MORE DEPRESSION January 16, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Miscellaneous.
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Yesterday’s post was apparently sadly prescient.

I notice this evening the ABC reporting that Dr Geoff Gallop, Premier of Western Australia, has announced that he is suffering from clinical depression, and will be resigning from his position. I understand that he is following advice in taking that decision.

There are further comments at Andrew Bartlett’s blog and at Larvatus Prodeo.

Just want to express, a minor aggravation, with those who seem to trivialize, or even politicize this subject. We are really talking as human beings here one to one. As Andrew Bartlett noted the severity of depression varies, and I suppose the person who is suffering the depression is the best judge of that.

Jeff Kennett, former premier of Victoria and chairman of BeyondBlue, praises Dr Gallop’s public announcement as further reported by the ABC.

DIET AND DEPRESSION January 15, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Miscellaneous.
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Who would have thought it?

There is a direct connection between what and how much we eat and our mental health? The health editor, forThe Observer, Jo Revell, makes the case:

Eating a diet without fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, pulses or nuts deprives the brain of the essential vitamins and nutrients needed to regulate it.

The Guradian followed up with another article identifying foods that are good for the brain, and those that are not, including tea. What am I going to do?

INTERESTING GRAPH January 15, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Modern History.
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Perhaps this graph applies to the economic history of England. I have appropriated it fromBrad DeLong(and then check out January 2006). Usually when I see economics graphs, such as those for commodity prices on the NYSE, it is all just a whirl.

But his graph is, I think, intriguing. There are four periods with distinct trends. The first is the period of three hundred years from 1280 to 1590(about the time of Shakespeare), when there was a year to year pattern of consistently falling real income as the population increased from about 2 to 6 million. Then from the 1590’s to the 1730’s(James Cook born 1728) real annual income increased dramatically, whereas population did not take off. Over the next hundred years, real income fell steadily, but not precipitously, but the population increased by about 3 million. But then there is a period from around 1800( James Watt had “invented” the steam engine) when income and population are increasing strongly to the point by the 1840’s real income was about the same as it had been in 1280.

Here is Brad DeLong’s story:

I read this as showing slow improvements in technology from 1300 to 1600 offset by the coming of the “little ice age.” Thus from 1300-1600 when population went up real wages went down, and vice versa. After 1600, with the climate no longer deteriorating, improvements in technology get you a more favorable population-real wages tradeoff. After 1700 the speed at which the tradeoff moves left accelerates (“agricultural revolution”) and after 1800 it accelerate again (“industrial revolution”).

Graphs such as this one are interesting, for the other correlations that might be suggested. As one commenter on Brad’s blog points out English gained ascendancy, not due to its inherent superiority, but presumably to the death of French speakers, and it can be noted that it was during this period that the “Great Vowel Shift” occurs.

Postscript: I have decided – for how long it will last I do not know – not to take up ideological positions, because you can never know who might be cast to defend them. It is better, wiser and often more correct, to start from the position of ignorance. In matters economic, this stance is particularly easy for me.

INCONGRUITY January 14, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Human Rights.
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I am struck by the incongruity of a person called “The Terminator” ordering in effect the death of persons, although technically refusing their appeal for clemency, when he has made a cinematic career out of the slaughter of people. Sure it is the movies, but the implicit value represented is that some people do not have a right to life, or to due process, and in such cases these matters can be decided by the arbitrary decision of the good guy using murderous methods.

Furthermore, the idea of seeking clemency from a politician strikes me as strange, and its origin I imagine goes back to the notion of Royal Justice, and found its way into the American justice system from the reserve powers of early colonial governors, who acted on behalf of the King. A impression might be given that such decisions are politically driven, and while there have been exceptions, notably in the case of the outgoing Governor of Michigan, most appeals its seems are refused. The merits of any case are always going to be contentious, and there is a sense created that justice has been denied.

The American Bar Association supports my impression. According to Austin Sarat, “Mercy on Trail: What does it mean to stop an execution (Princeton Books):

The ABA proclaimed that the death penalty as “currently administered” was not compatible with central values of our Constitution. Thus it called upon each jurisdiction that imposes capital punishment not to carry out the death penalty until the jurisdiction implements policies and procedures . . . intended to (1) ensure that death penalty cases are administered fairly and impartially, in accordance with due process, and (2) minimize the risk that innocent people may be executed

They had called for a moratorium of executions until three conditions could be satisfied. Those convicted of capital crimes must have had competent attorneys representing them. The courts should consider any claims that were not properly heard in the trail, and they pointed to patterns of racial discrimination in the effect of the death penalty.

Of course, the better outcome is not to have the death penalty in the first place. Gubernatorial discretion is an area of State Government law, which explains how it slipped by Tom Jefferson and others.

FRIDAY NIGHT DOG BLOG – SUMMER RAIN January 13, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in DOG BLOG -.
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The weather has cooled down, and we have had rain. However, we can anticipate it will become warmer and drier later in the season, and the bushfire peril will re-emerge. Taffy has slowed down, due to his broken leg and advancing age, but despite that Sasha is far more affected by the temperature, even though I take out one and a half bottles of water.

Should you wish, you can click on to these photos to enlarge them.

Sasha romps, Taffy investigates.Posted by Picasa

Sasha runs by.Posted by Picasa

Don’t expect us to pose all the time. Posted by Picasa

Divided interest.Posted by Picasa

A Taffy momnet. Posted by Picasa

” . . . a long time passing”.Posted by Picasa

Time out. Posted by Picasa

“Linearity and leads- a species thing”. Posted by Picasa

Another stop. Posted by Picasa

“This way, or that?” Posted by Picasa

“Yes?” Posted by Picasa

“This is cool”. Posted by Picasa

Time Out Again. Posted by Picasa

Sasha flat out. Posted by Picasa

So Sasha is more affected by the temperature, the duration of the walk, despite the breaks and the drinks of water, than I would expect. This is late in the day, about six, and the temperature is perhaps over 20 but less than 30 degrees celsius, and I would have thought not excessive. Perhaps, I am not giving sufficient weight to the effect of humidity.There is no arguing with the evidence. By contrast Taffy’s kelpie endurance under similar conditions is displayed.

For more dogs and other animals go to Modulator’s Friday Ark#69, and to Mickey’s Musings Carnival of the Dogs.

SAME MINDSET, SAME FATE? January 13, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Iraq, US Politics.
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Richard Ackland, suggests, in the Sydney Morning Herald, that George Walker Bush has a contempt for the rule of law, or the law should be as he says it is, much like Saddam Hussein.

And in my opinion, to deny any person, under any circumstances, is beneath contempt. As is, any elected, or unelected official to declare any person guilty of an alleged crime, before a full, rigorous trial is completed.

The remarkable thing is that George Walker Bush continues to get away with this behavior. I know that purportedly he is a war time president, with a brief it seems to trash the American Constitution, not least the rules of civilized conduct.

Although president for life might sound nice to George Walker Bush, it is I suspect unlikely. Much Saddam. And then, he might be subject to indictment and incarceration, even if he decides amongst this final acts to create a legal immunity for himself.

WHO IS AFRAID OF KYOTO? January 12, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Category to be ascribed, Natural Environment.
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Kyoto Protocol Signatories (green) and Non-Signatories(Red)

(Via Wikipedia)

Especially when leaders with the vision of John Howard in his followship of Geogre W Bush have proposed a brave new technological set of fixes for a brave new world, with most of the old people and more importantly the old means of energy production thriving in it.

I know, I know, I have heard that too that these arguments against the person do not cut the mustard, and indeed that JH is a great politician, perhaps the greatest in Australian history, if you listen and believe the commentators in the Australian msm. I still think he is leading us up the garden path, or should that be, as they said in the movie, down the garden path. More down that up, I suspect.

Still, from what I have understood, the Kyoto Agreement was bad because it threathened the fossil fuel producers, and suggested the need for alternatives. Those who opposed Kyoto – the Bush Administrations and including their acolytes in sacrifices, the Howard Government – have set up their own planetarily sensitive initiative. to which we are told, by the ABC, that Australia has contributed a $100m over five years.

We may in these matters contibute to the planets degradation on the same per capita basis as the Americans, but are small beer regardless of the money we spend on a technological fix while we go about our reckless ways compared to India and China. Now India and China are big players, set to become bigger, and they will play a determining role, according to this BBC report, in the planetary outcome.

So perhaps the political genius is playing followship with the wrong people.

Friday, 13 January 2006: While the non-UN climate conference held in Sydney was small in numbers it did include the US, China, India and Japan – some heavy in hitters, both now and in the future, in greenhouse emissions. I would still express the view that the nations and industries that rely on fossil fuels have a limited future, what future they have will be at the expense of the planet, and countries such as Australia should have seen the future and invested in it.

John Quiggin expresses the view that Kyoto is the only game afoot, and the ensemble of dissembling referred in the above paragraph was a farce. If true, still somewhat dissappointing. I wish the Australian Government would take the issue of global warming seriously, and not try to fudge the issue.

PUZZLE MEME January 12, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Blogging in general.
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What might be between zero and infinity?

Follow the trail via Modulator to Pharyngula.

CHINESE ECONOMIC SUCCESS January 11, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Modern History.
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Robert Reich at Common Dreams, reflects on the nature of capitalism, and concludes, given the example of modern China that “Capitalism does not require democracy”.

China, he observes, is the “fastest-growing major economy”. An economybuilt upon infrastructure, human capital, and rewarding the successful, without regard to civil liberties, labor unions, or centres of power outside the communist party. Perhaps, China is the Singaporean model writ large. And he goes on to observe:

China shows that when it comes to economics, the dividing line among the world’’s nations is no longer between communism and capitalism. Capitalism has won hands down. The real dividing line is no longer economic. It’’s political. And that divide is between democracy and authoritarianism. China is a capitalist economy with an authoritarian government.

For years, we’ve’ assumed that capitalism and democracy fit hand in glove. We took it as an article of faith that you can’t have one without the other. That’s why a key element of American policy toward China has been to encourage free trade, direct investment, and open markets. As China becomes more prosperous and integrated into the global market — so American policy makers have thought — China will also become more democratic.

Well, maybe we’ve been a bit naive. It’’s true that democracy needs capitalism. Try to come up with the name of a single democracy in the world that doesn’t have a capitalist economy. For democracy to function there must be centers of power outside of government. Capitalism decentralizes economic power, and thereby provides the private ground in which democracy can take root.

But China shows that the reverse may not be true — capitalism doesn’t need democracy. Capitalism’’s’ wide diffusion of economic power offers enough incentive for investors to take risks with their money. But, as China shows, capitalism doesn’’t necessarily provide enough protection for individuals to take risks with their opinions.

My suspicion is more needs to be said about this analysis. I am wondering how capitalism went in the first of the Nazi Government in Germany. This may not be news, which is not to say that authoritarian may not be inimical to capitalism is not an important observation. And so capitalists, then and now, have always know this be axiomatic – and I wait with the expectation of disappointment for the Centre for Independent Studies to get on the case.

There is much more to be said on this issue, but here is an article, How Keynes saved Capitalism, including this quote:

As [Alexander]Cockburn writes, “Hitler, genocidal monster that he was, was also the first practicing Keynesian leader…. There were vast public works, such as the autobahns. He paid little attention to the deficit or to the protests of the bankers about his policies…. By 1936 unemployment had sunk to 1 percent.”

Cockburn goes on to say, “Not just Bush but Howard Dean and the Democrats could learn a few lessons in economic policy from that early Keynesian.”

At first glance, I thought Cockburn was totally off base. But as I looked into it, I found that respected academics have long drawn analogies between the economic theories of John Maynard Keynes, generally considered the most important economist of the 20th century, and the economic policies of Nazi Germany.

And in this pamphlet, “Those dammed Nazis”,Goebbels claims that his party is both socialist and nationalist. Just maybe we should be not so blase’ about political lying, or the rarer political truth telling.

I am finding it difficult to find a dispassionate treatment of the relationship between German Industry and the Hitler Government, but this article comes close – on an Anti-Defamation(of the Jewish People) League website. This article denises that leading German captains of industry financially supported the rise of Hitler, but suggests that once in power for opportunistic reasons they cooperated with the regime. It seems I have crossed into the territory of another history war.

13 January 2006 – For a contrary take on China’s prospects see here.

BEST BLONDE JOKE??? January 11, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Blogging in general.
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Yesterday, I happened to say I was on some type of blogging journey. This journey might be described as a clickathon – and you might just laugh when you get to end.

Take the lead from Modulator.

What is so new, a politician just misspoke – could happen anywhere, in any election. And yes, there is an election in Canda. If this kind of stuff gets traction and builds public support, my status as a predictor in these matters is going to suffer.

Postscript. The reasoning here, I suppose, is: Blondes are supposed to dumb; this joke is dumb; therefore this joke is a blonde joke. I was completely out of the loop on this one. Perhaps this is a North American expression. Just goes to show when you turn off the televison, not only do cut off the producer news that frames events, but you might be losing cultural knowledge. I was expecting that the joke, when I eventually arrived through the clickathon, would have something to do with blondes.

WHITHER CATALONIA? January 10, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in European Politics.
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The Independent reports that the Defence Minister has sacked the head of Spain’s “ground forces” for comments he made about further moves for greater Catalonian autonomy.

Catalonia, which I believed played a significant role in the Civil War, as well as being the birthday of Pablo Picasso, has long being of interest to me. I recall that speaking Catalan was banned under Franco. I note that Northern Catalonia is in France.

General Jose Mena was sacked and arrested because, according to The Independent :

General Mena said in a speech on Friday that the armed forces might step in to halt Catalan plans if they breached the terms of the constitution.

“If these limits are broken … the armed forces have a mission to guarantee the sovereignty and independence of Spain,” the general warned.

As expected, the Socialist Government has sought to play down the significance of this potential development. It may simply reflect a nostalgia among some of the military for the role they under the Fascist Government. However, it will be of interest to see how and if anything develops further, which I think most unlikely.

Footnote: 1. Just every so often I notice a spelling mistake. Of course, the title for this post might have been “Blacker Catalonia”.

JUICY FRUIT January 10, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Blogging in general.
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Juicy Fruit sent me an email to say that he enjoyed reading through my blog. So thank you for that. I cannot leave a comment there, or return his email, so I must resort to this brief post.

JF is a Park Ranger in Virginia, and he says that he loves his job, which to me is fantastic. I have usually hated my jobs, while for the most part liking the people I worked with.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service, a department of the NSW Government, features pretty prominently in my part of the planet. Much of our escarpment falls under their watch.

My concept of blogging for this blog is narrow casting. I would not feel comfortable writing for a large readership. I just do this for my own purpose, and hope that it may connect, even engage a few others.

I get the impression, that JF is on a similar blogging journey.

UPDATE: Not it seems according to Michael, who on New Year’ Day was was moved to comment:

Except for you, juicy fruiter. Yes, I have had several comments posted to my various blogs by the mysterious Juicyfruiter, an idiotic viral marketing scheme from the folks at Wrigleys. They tell me they like my blog, then they tell me to see theirs, where they talk about their job as a park ranger.

SCREW YOU JUICY FRUIT! I DON’T EVEN CHEW GUM!

[But I will continue to drink fruit juice, and stay away from your rubbish. I look forward to your permanent corporate demise, as befits your behavior.] I cannot help but think I should have been more aware – still then Iwould not get the chance to retaliate, and retaliate, and retaliate.

MIND BOGGLE January 9, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Iraq Policy, US Politics.
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This article, by Eric Margolis orginally published in the Toronto Sun, now via Common Dreams, is mind boggling stuff, and I am mind boggled.

The amount spent on Iraq reconstruction, with no further allocation sought from Congress, applies small by comparison with what is spent on defence.

Ah, there is a another difference between ourselves and the Americans. Here, with very few exceptions, campaign money is organized and controlled by the political parties.

The end of history indeed.

This post was written using Performancing for Firefox. As per usual I am trying to muddle through. Steve at Modulator is the reference.

Postscript:

Two trillion US dollars sounds like a big number to me, and according to these economists the real cost of the Iraq War (again via Common Dreams). If I had not read 1984, I would be asking why this money had been spent in this manner, and not for example on education, health and infrastructure, not to mention poverty.

PSYCHOMETRIC TESTING January 9, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Life Experience.
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I underwent psychometric testing today, and performed badly. So the experience was both stressful and depressing.

On reflection, I wondered how I survived all those examinations I have sat in my life, and I was never affected as I was today. Ideally, one should be calm and controlled. I was not, so I think that may indicate some personality deflect. I thought that the readings might be interesting, an opportunity to read quirky yet interesting stuff, but they were boring.

Still, I think it almost impossibility to design a test that does not presuppose some existing knowledge and skills. For example, today I found out that I do not have any skills using a hand calculator. Virtually, I never use them. So when confronted with using a calculator in a testing environment, I am useless.

And I suppose I will recover. Half fancifully, I am thinking of replying with rude comments when the testing agency provides my results by email.

Postscript:
Science or politics? It seems that the claims made for ability testing are large, and those for education are low. The personal stigma attached to testing can last a life time, as they might be intended to do, and here the social gradient will be reinforced in its implications. The new Conservative Party leader in the Britain is insisting on setting. Why are politicians, and mug punters, experts on education? Or is the real agenda, that education is for some and not for others.

REGARDING ARGUMENT January 8, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Blogging in general.
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Over the past few days, I have been given to reflect in a general way about argument, and of course it may not be of interest, but I who like to put them down anyway. I am very conscious of the fact that I am no paragon in regard to this area. As a first response, I make excuses. What do you do?

Logic, it seems, is divisible into two often separate categories: deductive and inductive reasoning. Furthermore, the validity of an argument, the inference drawn from the premises, does not depend on the truth of the premises, but on the form of the argument. I am guessing here that rationalists, have given more weight to deductive reasoning than to inductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning is somewhat cold bloodied, or at least cool, as one might be when drawing conclusions from Euclidean axioms. By contrast inductive reasoning is open to feeling, or at least the sense of the whole. Every swan I have ever seen is white or black, therefore it is likely (adding the element of probability) that all swans are either white or black. The acceptance of inductive reasoning was, I am guessing, a stimulus to the development of science.

I notice in reading about logic that we are supposed to be able to recognize fallacies. The excluded middle, insufficient evidence, weak analogies and so forth. On a rate occasion, my short comings, often overlooked and not intended have been brought to my attention, and I have found that instructive. Perhaps that sought of thing should happen more often. I cannot help but notice the attack mode that some commenters engage. Let us suppose, that these proponents prove a logical point, but in doing so one feels they have not what is moving the other person, or what they might be driving out. Similarly, reading newspaper editorials, I at least sometimes have the feeling that they have skillfully presented their case, but they have not come to terms with what those they criticize are saying. They have dismissed argument, without informing there mind with the arguments of others, and in so doing have had to refine their thinking. I do not do this. But it seems to me this approach is an ideal, and can be seen as both elitist and democratic.

The shock jocks on radio have I suppose set the standard for many. It is striking to me, that the progressives in America have in many cases followed the right in the style of argument used on radio stations. Now I am shouting into the gale, but I regard this development as very disappointing.