Lies, filthy lies, statistics and spin…the Roman’s started this as well

From StrategyPage: The Golden Age Of Artful Dodging

August 26, 2013: Over the last few decades there has been an explosion in the number of news media outlets. With this has come fierce competition and more interest in gaining an audience than in reporting the news accurately. That has led to there being more propaganda than news out there. That wasn’t a difficult leap to make because in the last century some powerful propaganda methods and techniques for controlling public opinion were developed. Many of these techniques are actually ancient, but never before have they been used so intensively, persistently and in greater variety.

But this sort of thing goes back a long way. Two thousand years ago the ancient Romans saw schools of rhetoric as the best place to send bright young men with potential to be leaders. There schools of rhetoric taught how to use logic and persuasion to make a point and convince people. Some of books those students used are still studied and many of these ancient techniques evolved and mutated into modern propaganda and media spin. The schools at Rhodes were, for well-off ancient Romans, sort of a university education.

Has a good(horrifying) list of techniques, many in use by the media outlets we all listen to…even bloggers and the like, who may use the techniques without knowing they’re techniques.

Trust is the core of America’s strength, to generalize, the wider the circle of trust the richer the society

At Civil Horizon: Trust

Trust is far more important than law.

Think of it: how many times have you sued somebody, or been sued? Have you ever been arrested? Each of us interacts with many others in numerous ways every day, and recourse to the law is exceptionally rare. Our actions may be constrained by certain laws; but usually they are far more limited by the expectations of those with whom we are dealing.

Great piece! (Edited for clean up)

US Bureaucrat’s are (largely) neither stupid or venal, their bosses, our Politicians on the other hand….

Bad Mandates
Francis Fukuyama at The American Interest

Bureaucratic dysfunctions can almost always be traced back to a badly-conceived mandate from the political principal to the bureaucratic agent, which prevents the agent from exercising an appropriate degree of autonomous judgment.
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Under our system of government, private individuals are given standing in the courts to force agencies to implement laws. If local officials thought wheelchair ramps didn’t make sense, they would face a blizzard of lawsuits like the ones described by Loyola and Epstein, where a single individual named Theodore Pinnock forced every mom-and-pop store in little Julian, California to remodel their facilities to accommodate his wheelchair. So the problem here is not excessive autonomy, it’s complete lack of autonomy in complying with a senseless legislative mandate that takes no account of the need for discretionary tradeoffs against competing goods.

And why does the bureaucracy grow, because the politicians give it more, and more and more, to do….

German / Euro Green Dogma vs Cold Green (eyeshades, cash) Reality

At PhysOrg.com:German energy giants pull plug on conventional power
by Mathilde Richter20130818-201745.jpg

Lightning fills the sky above a wind farm near Jacobsdorf, eastern Germany in May 2013. With political clout firmly behind renewables, priority is given in the national power grid to so-called “clean” electricity.

Privacy IS Important! Without it Trust Withers and We Fester

WSJ: What We Lose if We Give Up Privacy
A civil libertarian reflects on the dangers of the surveillance state. By PEGGY NOONAN

READ IT ALL!

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Martin Kozlowski

I have to extract a lot of the piece, it discusses the issues much better than I can:

What is privacy? Why should we want to hold onto it? Why is it important, necessary, precious?

Is it just some prissy relic of the pretechnological past?

We talk about this now because of Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency revelations, and new fears that we are operating, all of us, within what has become or is becoming a massive surveillance state. They log your calls here, they can listen in, they can read your emails. They keep the data in mammoth machines that contain a huge collection of information about you and yours. This of course is in pursuit of a laudable goal, security in the age of terror.

Is it excessive? It certainly appears to be. Does that matter? Yes. Among other reasons: The end of the expectation that citizens’ communications are and will remain private will probably change us as a people, and a country.
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Among the pertinent definitions of privacy from the Oxford English Dictionary: “freedom from disturbance or intrusion,” “intended only for the use of a particular person or persons,” belonging to “the property of a particular person.” Also: “confidential, not to be disclosed to others.” Among others, the OED quotes the playwright Arthur Miller, describing the McCarthy era: “Conscience was no longer a private matter but one of state administration.”

Privacy is connected to personhood. It has to do with intimate things—the innards of your head and heart, the workings of your mind—and the boundary between those things and the world outside.

A loss of the expectation of privacy in communications is a loss of something personal and intimate, and it will have broader implications. That is the view of Nat Hentoff, the great journalist and civil libertarian. He is 88 now and on fire on the issue of privacy. “The media has awakened,” he told me. “Congress has awakened, to some extent.” Both are beginning to realize “that there are particular constitutional liberty rights that [Americans] have that distinguish them from all other people, and one of them is privacy.”

Mr. Hentoff sees excessive government surveillance as violative of the Fourth Amendment, which protects “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures” and requires that warrants be issued only “upon probable cause . . . particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

But Mr. Hentoff sees the surveillance state as a threat to free speech, too. About a year ago he went up to Harvard to speak to a class. He asked, he recalled: “How many of you realize the connection between what’s happening with the Fourth Amendment with the First Amendment?” He told the students that if citizens don’t have basic privacies—firm protections against the search and seizure of your private communications, for instance—they will be left feeling “threatened.” This will make citizens increasingly concerned “about what they say, and they do, and they think.” It will have the effect of constricting freedom of expression. Americans will become careful about what they say that can be misunderstood or misinterpreted, and then too careful about what they say that can be understood. The inevitable end of surveillance is self-censorship.

All of a sudden, the room became quiet. “These were bright kids, interested, concerned, but they hadn’t made an obvious connection about who we are as a people.” We are “free citizens in a self-governing republic.”
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Mr. Hentoff’s second point: An entrenched surveillance state will change and distort the balance that allows free government to function successfully. Broad and intrusive surveillance will, definitively, put government in charge. But a republic only works, Mr. Hentoff notes, if public officials know that they—and the government itself—answer to the citizens. It doesn’t work, and is distorted, if the citizens must answer to the government. And that will happen more and more if the government knows—and you know—that the government has something, or some things, on you. “The bad thing is you no longer have the one thing we’re supposed to have as Americans living in a self-governing republic,” Mr. Hentoff said. “The people we elect are not your bosses, they are responsible to us.” They must answer to us. But if they increasingly control our privacy, “suddenly they’re in charge if they know what you’re thinking.”
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What of those who say, “I have nothing to fear, I don’t do anything wrong”? Mr. Hentoff suggests that’s a false sense of security. “When you have this amount of privacy invasion put into these huge data banks, who knows what will come out?” Or can be made to come out through misunderstanding the data, or finagling, or mischief of one sort or another. “People say, ‘Well I’ve done nothing wrong so why should I worry?’ But that’s too easy a way to get out of what is in our history—constant attempts to try to change who we are as Americans.” Asked about those attempts, he mentions the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, the Red Scare of the 1920s and the McCarthy era. Those times and incidents, he says, were more than specific scandals or news stories, they were attempts to change our nature as a people.

Then there is a paragraph were I may part ways in degree if not philosophy…

What of those who say they don’t care what the federal government does as long as it keeps us safe? The threat of terrorism is real, Mr. Hentoff acknowledges. Al Qaeda is still here, its networks are growing. But you have to be careful about who’s running U.S. intelligence and U.S. security, and they have to be fully versed in and obey constitutional guarantees. “There has to be somebody supervising them who knows what’s right. . . . Terrorism is not going to go away. But we need someone in charge of the whole apparatus who has read the Constitution.”

That ‘someone’ in charge and a faint subtext that there is some level of relaxation of the constitution that may be valid bothers me more than a little.

Advances in technology constantly up the ability of what government can do. Its technological expertise will only become deeper and broader. “They think they’re getting to how you think. The technology is such that with the masses of databases, then privacy will get even weaker.”

Mr. Hentoff notes that J. Edgar Hoover didn’t have all this technology. “He would be so envious of what NSA can do.”

As above, it is going to get easier to dive deeper, MINORITY REPORT posited ESP for preempting crime. It’s not impossible that soon technology could do the same thing…with the same problem that some minority of the ‘targets’ would never have acted on the urges, ideas, or impulses that got them preemptively targeted…indeed we are undoubtedly killing ‘innocent”terrorists’ today, some who might have turned away if they had not been evaporated.

The terrorists have won if they twist us into some distorted remnant of ourselves or worst themselves. And one of the things they hate most about us and understand the least is our assumption of trust…I trust that another may be different, think different, have faith different from me and mine but I trust them (within reason) to hold certain things dear…

Consequently I’m a bit troubled by any assumption that we need some huge and empowered organization that is cut out of the normal mechanisms of governing. Yes we have to have to use these tools but if they cannot be used without violating basic rights one of which is an assumption of innocence, then they should be used in the main to figure out how they can be defeated so others cannot use them against us, and their own people…

I do not understand the fear that drives so much of this, the US stands astride the world and yet we do not rule. Instead we cry at others pain and try to do the ‘best thing’ we can, often to the detriment of ‘the easy thing’ or even ‘the only thing.’

OK the ‘intelligentsia’ (or demagogues, ideologues) across the rest of the world often deride us, let them, it not us trying to emigrate there. OK other places do ‘this,’ ‘that’ or ‘the other’ better, we copy the best and ignore the rest, and none of those ideas would work as well broadly across a geography and citizenry as richly diverse as ours!

Back at the beginning, the smart money knew the War on Drugs was lost before it started

From the: Hoover Institute: defining ideas: Losing the War on Drugs by George P. Shultz

First, who knew George Schultz, who was in the news all the time when I was young, was still alive? Glad of it! A hard nosed realist with polish and vast experience. I just hope this is part of a change in policy thinking…but I fear the vested interests!

A vast torrent of our resources among the some part of our morale stature, our trust and lawfulness, have been poured into the maw of the beast never to be seen again. Worse, the ruthless torrent has eroded our very ability to gate it.

Criminalizing human behavior does not stop it, it gives you (the one trying to mitigate harm) leverage. When that leverage works double, triple or more for the other side, you are the fool dangling off the end of your supposed ‘advantage.’

There’s a reason this bull is smirking

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Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg
You Can’t Afford Your Broker, at Any Price By Megan McArdle Bloomberg Aug 13, 2013 11:49 AM ET
Your broker does not have a fiduciary responsibility to you! She makes her money off of you!

This is why talking to the neatly turned out young things at any financial shop gives me the heaves. But they wangle it so it’s difficult not to, once in a while.

Best advice for the small investor, put the money in, keep an eye on the economy and your situation and try to forget about it….uhh, while, you know, keeping an eye on the …..etc…

WSJ || Sequester is bad medicine But the only medicine for now

20130812-155542.jpgLove the cartoon, yay WSJ!

WSJ OPINIONAugust 11, 2013, 6:18 p.m. The Budget Sequester Is a Success
The Obama spending blitz is over and the deficit is heading below 4% of GDP

This is about the only way we’re going to cut budgets in this environment, I think it is unrealistic to expect congress to manage its way out of this given the inability to horse trade and really sock it to any constituency, given the rules of the game as played today. The big remaining problem is the locked in promises inherent in the big ticket entitlements.

Captains Journal || Counterinsurgency Cops … An ugly trend spawned by war-action porn and misplaced priorities

20130812-091007.jpgOregon Dept. Transportation
Captains Journal || Counterinsurgency Cops (hat tip Instapundit)
This is grim reading, not because the ‘news’ is new but because it puts it in an a societal-political context that says its most likely an accelerating trend. Though perhaps self limiting since the abuses such as Swatting, stupid mistakes, and utterly inappropriate response will eventually cause a backlash, but that could take decades.

Look at the utterly predictable results of the of get tough on crime cycle ( ‘three strikes,’ ‘mandatory minimum sentences,’ ‘federalization ,’ ‘punitive confiscation,’and ‘layering,’) has had; unsustainable prison population, increasing numbers of utterly harmless pseudo criminals behind bars for years, turning rowdy youths into hardened criminals or near non persons, etc.

Now decades of a ‘war on drugs,’ war on this, war on that, failed progressive policies, knee jerk conservative reactions, increasing control of policy by the actors with fingers in the game (public service unions, prosecutors, activists, local politicos, etc) etc, has left us with a crushing burden of law, regulation, tax, and in general government infrastructure…

We saw this happen with the original prohibition, then people were smart and aware enough to realize the ‘cure’ was a feel good bandaid that drove the rot deeper.

This sort of crap: no tolerance, prohibition, cover your ass, take no chances (and that is what this sort of behavior is, in a POLICE force for crying out loud!) degrades the very society it is purporting to support, eroding the penumbra of trust and lawful-ness that our society has depended on to be the most productive and dynamic in the world.

The above is even more worrying when taken in the appropriate context of the surveillance state + anti terrorism infrastructure post 9/11. The original impetus was understandable, the respons well intentioned, sometimes noble, but out of proportion (the American habit of overwhelming firepower) to the original problem which was misdiagnosed, misunderstood, and/or fearfully/willfully overblown. Now we have huge infrastructure in place that is apparently doing nothing…and folks, usually with some level of good intention, want to make use of all that ‘stuff.’