Archive for category language + rhetoric

Japan man arrested collecting schoolgirl saliva | My Sinchew

A 55-year-old jobless Japanese man has been arrested in Tokyo for having three schoolgirls spit out saliva and filming them in the process, police said Tuesday.

Toshihiko Mizuno was caught in Tokyo on Monday on suspicion of “habitual indecency,” which carries a penalty of up to one year in jail or a fine of one million yen ($12,400), the Metropolitan Police Department said.

via Japan man arrested collecting schoolgirl saliva | My Sinchew.

Why “jobless” is mentioned? What does it have to do with the charge or the punishment? Would his behaviour be considered more leniently if he were employed? What if he had a part-time job? Would he get half-leniency? Is his behaviour all the worse because he has no job? Or could the fact that he has no job be a reason for his behaviour, e.g. he planned to sell the video footage (people will buy anything, believe me!)?

Secondly, what is “habitual indecency” and who decides? It is not a crime to video young girls spitting into containers, so somebody somewhere has to come up with a category of misdemeanor with which to charge this person. Who?

And what other “crimes” could be covered by this vague phrase “habitual indecency”? Who decides what is indecent? The law does not say, so presumably it’s… the judge? But before that, someone must make an arrest! The police, then? But it’s unlikely an alert copper spotted this behaviour. More likely a nosy neighbour or concerned parent alerted the police, who then swooped in, but only AFTER coming up with a plausible reason to arrest this guy.

And why were the girls not arrested, too? Surely the spitting (and in public, too!) is what is indecent. Or is someone trying to say that using a video camera for the purpose for which it is made – to video things –  is “indecent”, even “habitual”?

A smart lawyer could have a field day with this!

 


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Be objective, not sensationalist, foreign media told | The Japan Times Online

It’s official: foreign media sensationalized the Fukushima crisis and were even factually wrong. Shock! Horror! Shorely not!!

Shock Shock Horror Horror by Jeremy Brooks on Flickr

Shock Shock Horror Horror by Jeremy Brooks on Flickr

Interestingly, or perversely, some foreigners in Japan seemed to believe the sensationalist press rather than the restrained Japanese one, precisely because the restrained reports gave the impression of witholding information, leading to mistrust.

Tokyo has been asking foreign media to report objectively on the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday, as sensationalist or factually incorrect reports are believed to have fanned fears and led to import restrictions on Japanese products.State Foreign Secretary Chiaki Takahashi told a news conference that the government believes some reports by foreign media were “excessive,” and through Japanese diplomatic missions abroad has urged the news organizations responsible to correctly and objectively disseminate information.Ministry officials said some foreign media, especially tabloids, have overemphasized the danger of radioactive materials leaking from the Fukushima plant by focusing on extreme projections

via Be objective, not sensationalist, foreign media told | The Japan Times Online.


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Still No Need to Panic About Radiation Leaks at Fukushima? | Japan Probe

Lost in translation! Well done, Japan Probe. The original article includes a list of useful, informative links. Check it out. The comments are fun, too.

As time goes by, there hasn’t been much of a decline in the international panic and fear over the situation at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Reports about leaks localized within the buildings or immediate area of the nuclear plant are fueling new wild speculation about the threat to “Japan.”

Even when there aren’t new developments to report, the English language media manages to invent alarming new stories. Yesterday, the BBC, Associated Press, and other news agencies ran stories saying that Japan’s prime minister had announced the country was in state of “MAXIMUM ALERT” because of the nuclear situation. Kan’s actual words, “最大限の緊張感を持って取り組みたい” ( roughly: “(we are) working with the highest sense of urgency/alert”) was just a bland statement meant to convince people that the government is working hard to resolve the situation. The English translation favored by the BBC and AP misleadingly implied that Japan has a formal alert level system, which had just been increased because of new developments.

Below are some helpful links I’ve come across in the last several days. Those that are looking for level-headed rational examination of the risks might want to check some of them out. The information contained in the links might be particularly useful to residents of Japan who are struggling to explain the situation to hysterical overseas friends and relatives who are bombarding their e-mail inboxes with messages of nuclear doom.

via Still No Need to Panic About Radiation Leaks at Fukushima? | Japan Probe.


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Why I don’t read newspapers (2)

There has been a bigger-than-usual amount of scare-mongering and panic-fostering amongst the news media over the Japanese disasters recently. Here is an example from today. This is a good example of why I refuse to read newspapers.

First the headline: Fukushima workers exposed to illegal radiation levels. (this is a cached page: the Guardian has since changed its headline). Note the eye-catching, inflammatory headline.

Then it says, “Six workers at the Fukushima nuclear power plant have been exposed to radiation levels beyond the usual legal limit while carrying out emergency operations to make the complex safe.”

“beyond the usual limits” is not the same as “illegal”. Further down, it says, “The Kyodo news agency reported that Tepco said six staff members had been exposed to more than 100 millisieverts of radiation…” and in the next paragraph it reported, “The government earlier increased to 250 mSv the limit for those working in the emergency operation.”

Earlier. That means before the workers had been exposed to more than 100 millisieverts. In other words, it was not illegal, because the government had already raised the permitted dosage level.

According to this chart of radiation dosage levels, 50 mSv is “Radiation worker one-year dose limit”; 100 mSv is “Dose limit for emergency workers protecting valuable property” and 250 mSv is “Dose limit for emergency workers in lifesaving operations”. For comparison, 100 mSv is “Lowest one-year dose clearly linked to increased cancer risk”.

Newspapers cannot be trusted. They lie, shamelessly. Their purpose is not to propagage true information, but to sell eyeballs to their advertisers. Hence headlines that will grab attention are chosen. If they are not actually true or factual or accurate, well, who cares! They casn always change it later, or make some excuse.

And this is a relatively mild example. The “lie” is actually exposed in the article itself!! In many cases, the lie is only exposed if one searches for alternative sources of information. Not everyone does: they either do not have the time, or they tend to believe what they read.


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How not to talk to young people

Speaking of hope, or more particularly of how important it is to give people legitimate hope, here’s a good example of how not to do it. This is an exchange between Milton Friedman and a supposedly young Michael Moore. I say “supposedly” because I don’t see any resemblance, not because I don’t think he’s really young in this video. If it is Michael Moore, he was obviously a bright student and also obviously much better looking than he is now. What happened, Michael?? (One YouTube commenter wrote, “I don’t know about the gas tank blowing up but Michael Moore certainly blew up since this video was made.”)

The person who posted the video seems to think that Friedman won the exchange and “put Moore in his place”, but I think Friedman comes off as an arrogant and socially inept blunderer.

He’s technically correct, of course, but

  1.  he fails to convince either Moore or most of the student audience, and
  2. more importantly, he fails to recognize or take heed of the genuine concern for human life that Moore reveals by asking this question. He tramples all over it. Doesn’t even mention it.

This was a rather foolish thing to do. It alienated a lot of people quite unnecessarily. All he needed to do was to begin his answer by acknowledging the good-heartedness and compassion that was implied by Moore’s question. That would have been half the battle right there. But he did not. It probably did not even occur to him. 

He is right to point to essential principles, but first he should have recognized the principles that led the young man to ask his question.

Instead, he comes off as an unfeeling “economic animal”. Ha! He had a great opportunity and he blew it.


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Hope is a Theological virtue?

In the chapter on Hope, in Book Three of Mere Christianity, Christian apologist C.S. Lewis wrote, “Hope is one of the Theological virtues.” And that put me off right there.

Don’t get me wrong. I admire C.S. Lewis in many ways, especially his erudition and the conversational style in which he writes (he writes as he speaks, a a skill much praised by such luminaries as Fleisch).

As a Christian apologist, I’m grateful to him for introducing me to several key Christian ideas, and also some which are pertinent even withoutt the Christian theology, such as “Men without Chests” and “Punishment”.

No. I’m sorry, but hope is not  “one of the Theological virtues”. It is much, much more crucial than that. Would you say that food is a “theological virtue”? Or love? Or joy? I don’t think so.

Lewis may have meant well. He may even be technically correct. But to talk of hope in this way, trivialising this virtue (which it undoubtedly is), is almost unforgivable. And this sentence opens the chapter, for crying out loud: he really thought categorizing hope in this way was the single most important thing he could do right at the beginning of the chapter.

Hope: without it, humans curl up and die. There is a story about two Africans in a medical study who were diagnosed as HIV positive, and who promptly took to their beds. Some time later, they were tested again and this time it was negative. Did they stay abed? No! They started to “recover”. Nothing in fact had changed; the test had been defective (as is not infrequently the case, I hear). But now they had hope, whereas before they had none.

“There is no hope.” “What hope is there?” These are famous “last words” that usually precede abandonment of effort and struggle: what’s the point, if there’s no hope? Yet there are those magnificent words uttered by, I think, Aragorn, in the last part of “Lord of the Rings”; when Gimli the dwarf says, “There is no hope”, Aragorn counters, “Then we must do without hope.” A stout heart, indeed.

“Give them legitimate hope” counsels veteran speaker Gary North. The last part of a good speech should do this, he says.   Would it sound the same, do you think, if he said, “Give them a legitimate Theological virtue”? Just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

Here’s Gary North talking at Mises University, October 2010, about an opportunity for young Austrian economists and  at the same time teaching how to give a good speech.


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The art of persuasion

from http://www.exec-comms.com/blog/2009/01/19/in-praise-of-obamas-rhetoric/Ever since Aristotle’s “Rhetoric”, people have been interested in the power of persuasion. Today, I came across an unusual but possibly very effective way that neatly sidesteps arguments: to place a bet.

Economic Optimism? Yes, I’ll take that bet.

As the leader of the Cornucopians, the optimists who believed there would always be abundant supplies of energy and other resources, Julian figured that betting was the best way to make his argument. Optimism, he found, didn’t make for cover stories and front-page headlines.

No matter how many cheery long-term statistics he produced, he couldn’t get as much attention as the gloomy Malthusians like Paul Ehrlich, the best-selling ecologist. Their forecasts of energy crises and resource shortages seemed not only newsier but also more intuitively correct. In a finite world with a growing population, wasn’t it logical to expect resources to become scarcer and more expensive?

As an alternative to arguing, Julian offered to bet that the price of any natural resource chosen by a Malthusian wouldn’t rise in the future. Dr. Ehrlich accepted

Who won? Read the article to find out. Taking a tip from Julian Simons, the article’s author Tierney did the same:

The bet was occasioned by a cover article in August 2005 in The New York Times Magazine titled “The Breaking Point.” It featured predictions of soaring oil prices from Mr. Simmons, who was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the head of a Houston investment bank specializing in the energy industry, and the author of “Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy.”

I called Mr. Simmons to discuss a bet. To his credit — and unlike some other Malthusians — he was eager to back his predictions with cash. … He offered to bet $5,000 that the average price of oil over the course of 2010 would be at least $200 a barrel in 2005 dollars.


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Scientism

Scientism is the idea that natural science is the most authoritative worldview or aspect of human education, and that it is superior to all other interpretations of life.[1] The term is used by social scientists such as Friedrich Hayek,[2] or philosophers of science such as Karl Popper, to describe what they see as the underlying attitudes and beliefs common to many scientists, whereby the study and methods of natural science have risen to the level of ideology.[3] The classic statement of scientism is from the physicist Ernest Rutherford: “there is physics and there is stamp-collecting.”[4]

This belief in the inevitable upward evolution of humanity, that human society and the world in general is always improving and can only improve, is what Lewis called “The Myth”. He grew up with it. He fought against it. Yet it still sings its siren song. Are we not also still in thrall to it today?

There it is: Weston’s disease is that for him, science has “risen to the level of ideology”. To be against scientism is not to be against science, but against a few people who go to an extreme and make science into something that it is not – an ideology. For those who remember, this is similar to Lewis’ criticism of Darwinism. He was not criticising Darwinism itself but rather some of its crazy supporters. As this writer puts it,

C.S. Lewis (1898–1963), perhaps the most widely read Christian apologist of the 20th
century, was careful to distinguish between evolution as a theory in biology and Evolution as an idea that came to dominate the politics and religion of his time. He noted that decades before Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, poets and musicians had started proclaiming that humanity was inevitably evolving, onward and upward, to a glorious future    [http://post-darwinist.blogspot.com/2005/05/cs-lewis-wrote-mock-hymn-to-evolution.html


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Film-maker predicts hyperinflation; an economist disagrees. Which to believe?

On a forum I visit daily, a member had posted a link to an article describing a hyperinflation scenario in the U.S. I visited it. Later in the day, the website owner, economist and historian (and music buff) Gary North responded (members only):

I am writing this in response to a site member’s question. The member asked my opinion of this article.

Usually, I do not take the bait. If someone does not know enough to ask specific questions, it’s an “I’m wetting my pants” question. “It sounds so bad. Is the sky falling?” I then refer him to this article:

http://www.garynorth.com/members/5867.cfm

[I would also refer him to this article: Self-Inflicted Confusion and Paralysis: Thinking About the Economy Without Understanding Economics]  I am making an exception with this article, because it is so utterly, incomparably wrong-headed. It is so awful that it stands out like a beacon of incompetence. There is a grandeur to it. It is written with such confidence, yet it so completely illogical that it is breathtaking. This is World Cup finals nonsense…

It’s long. It’s also dead wrong. It’s long because it starts off wrong and tries to recover. It never does. Read the rest of this entry »


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Why I no longer read John Derbyshire

John Derbyshire, photographed in June 2001.
Image via Wikipedia

Update: Derbyshire’s homepage at Taki magazine includes links to some of my favourite libertarians/Austrian economists, such as Tom Woods, Karen de Coste, Peter Schiff, Justin Raimondo and Paul Gottfried (OK, I’m not sure Gottfried is a libertarian and he’s probably not an Austrian economist, but I like what he writes update: but he is a fan of HL Mencken), soDerbyshire’s not all bad. However, reading his posts just reminds me of why I’m not a conservative.

John Derbyshire writes and speaks well: imaginatively, highly knowledgeably, and with sarcastic humour. He’s been in my Google Reader for, oh, at least 2 months (a long time by my standards). I’ve learned much about good writing from reading his columns and something about how to put together an amusing and informative radio show. I also was interested in his report on how he put all his “attic stuff” online. But even though he is a fellow British expatriate, after reading his latest radio show transcript and one of his recent opinion columns, out he goes. I’m sure he will be mortified, and he may well write to me to beg to be re-instated, but I am adamant (although, perhaps, for a large fee…)

The first reason is his attempt to be humorous at the expense of the nine people murdered by the Defense Force of a certain Middle East nation. Don’t get me wrong: I’m no bleeding-heart liberal; indeed, Derbyshire’s no-nonsense conservatism was one of the things that attracted me about his writing. Derbyshire unerringly nails the false perceptions and phony values that mislead a lot of perhaps otherwise well-meaning folk:

  1. warm feelings about helping colorful third-world peasants escape from colonial oppression;
  2. The boats were filled with peace activists wearing beads and sandals, singing Pete Seeger songs and scattering rose petals on the waters of the Mediterranean as they went. Their mission was to bring much-needed food and medicine to the poor, peace-loving souls in the Gaza Strip;
  3. This Atrocity aroused the indignation of that mighty power for justice, liberty, and truth — the international community. Wherever in the world there is a hungry child, an anxious mother, a helpless invalid, or a victim of injustice, the international community will soon be on hand to cool the fevered brow, apply balm to the wounds, wipe away the little child’s tears, murmur words of gentle encouragement, and bring relief to the oppressed.

Derbyshire’s response is basically to completely exonerate the murderers, asking rhetorically if they are not to be permitted to defend themselves. I just found his response too pat, the repetition of the old conservative bromides too predictable. His complete exoneration of the murders seemed to me to reveal a harsh set of values which I do not share.

the poor, peace-loving souls in the Gaza Strip, who have been languishing in sickness and hunger since the cruel Israelis, for no reason but sheer malice, imposed a blockade on the place three years ago.

“For no reason but sheer malice” is clearly false; however, is the implied opposite therefore necessarily true? In addition, I thought this comment by libertarian Gary North more to the point:

The State of Israel has suffered its worst setback in public relations in my lifetime. I can recall nothing even remotely close. The PR disaster has barely begun to unfold.

The person who planned the Turkish resistance took a page out of Saul Alinsky‘s Rules for Radicals (1972). The overarching principle of Alinsky’s system is this: the action is the reaction.

The goal is to provoke a response that embarrasses the target. Alinsky recommended nonviolence. His model was Gandhi. But violence can be effective, too. Mild violence is implemented in order to gain a more powerful response, one that seems to be overkill.

I have studied his tactics for almost 40 years. I first wrote about them in 1983. I posted an article on this in March. http://www.garynorth.com/public/6274.cfm

The six ships that sailed for Gaza were tests. They were opportunities for a confrontation. That is a basic plan of action for Alinsky. If there is no resistance, this displays weakness. It undermines the will to resist. If there is resistance, the plan works if this resistance is seen by the public as excessive.

He goes on to list 9 actions which would have in all probability avoided bloodshed and, in the writer’s opinion, more importantly avoided falling into the “Alinsky trap”. (The article is only available to members.)

The second reason is another of Derbyshire’s values:

Living processes, presumably including those that comprise human thought and feeling, are complicated chemical reactions…. Biologists have known this stuff for a long time, but most nonspecialists have been reading only the first bit of Hamlet’s address: “What a piece of work is a man!” A few more revelations about our species’ jumbled, chaotic deep history, and we shall be in the “quintessence of dust” camp, where man delights not us.

Yawn. “We’re just a bunch of chemicals.” I thought Ayn Rand had dealt with that one pretty effectively, e.g. in Atlas Shrugged

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