Saturday, July 31, 2010

I Just Want the Facts - Joe Friday

      When it comes down to opinion versus facts in an argument, there are well-known tools available which opinion can use to overcome facts.
      For example, if one is arguing against experts, persons who have devoted a major portion of their lives to understanding the subject under discussion, one can always find, or even create out of nothing (e.g., the Discovery Institute), a couple of renegades to dispute the majority. Then the opinionated one does not discuss the competing claims; instead he trumpets far and wide that “even among the experts there is disagreement on the subject.” The idea is to sell the imaginary controversy, not the facts. This is the method used in the case of evolution versus intelligent design. Hopefully this movement ended with the opinion in the Kitzmiller vs Dover Area School District case.
      Another tool of the opinionated is to take some statement or event out of context, and broadcast it as if it were the whole story. Such a case occurred recently when blogger Andrew Breitbart posted a 38 second video clip of Dept. of Agriculture worker Shirley Sherrod.
      In a speech before the NAACP, Ms. Sherrod, an employee of the Department of Agriculture, told of an event which occurred in 1986. Sherrod, a black woman, was helping black people who were losing their rural Georgia farms, when she was approached by a white farmer in the same predicament. The following is from the clip which Breitbart posted:

      “You know, the first time I was faced with helping a white farmer save his farm, he took a long time talking but he was trying to show me he was superior to me. I know what he was doing. But he had come to me for help. What he didn't know, while he was taking all that time trying to show me he was superior to me, was I was trying to decide just how much help I was going to give him. I was struggling with the fact that so many black people had lost their farmland. And here I was faced with having to help a white person save their land. So, I didn't give him the full force of what I could do. I did enough so that when he... I assumed the Department of Agriculture had sent him to me, either that, or the Georgia Department of Agriculture, and he needed to go back and report that I did try to help him. So I took him to a white lawyer that had attended some of the training that we had provided because Chapter 12 bankruptcy had just been enacted for the family farm. So I figured if I take him to one of them, that his own kind would take care of him.
      That's when it was revealed to me that it's about poor versus those who have, and not so much about white--it is about white and black, but it's not, you know, it opened my eyes because I took him to one of his own.”

      She went on to say: "Working with him made me see that it's really about those who have versus those who haven't. They could be black, they could be white, they could be Hispanic. And it made me realize then that I needed to help poor people – those who don't have access the way others have."

      When the brass at the USDA saw the online clip, they called and asked her to submit her resignation, which she did. As the USDA spokesman put it: “There is zero tolerance for discrimination at USDA and we strongly condemn any act of discrimination against any person.”
      Needless to say, there were some red faces at the USDA when the full version of the speech came out, and Sherrod was offered a new job with the agency.
      As he should, (remember Harry Truman’s “The Buck Stops Here”) President Obama has told Ms. Sherrod that he “regrets the events of the last few days.”
      What has me, along with both the left and most of the right, upset about this particular case is the knee-jerk reaction of the government to unverified “information.” Ideally, government decisions should be made on the basis of facts, not hearsay. (Of course, that has never happened, and politics being what it is, it probably never will.) I can’t find the exact phrase, but I believe it was Bertrand Russell who said something to the effect that he could not remember any decision in which less information would have been beneficial.
      Action based on facts, not reaction to the opposition, is one of the hallmarks of leadership. Unless that attitude starts at the top, unless the leader begins to lead, unless the puppets on the left stop dancing whenever the puppet masters on the right pull the strings, this administration will fall to a grass-roots reaction it cannot control. There are ominous dark clouds on the horizon.
      The Spirit always builds on what has come before; nothing appears out of nothing.
      Man Takes Control – The Spirit Runs Through It.

      The book or a free download is available in  paperback or on Kindle.

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