“The Integrity Zone”

Egil “Bud” Krogh will speak in a free pubic lecture on Thursday, sponsored by The Village Square and St. John’s Episcopal Church. Find specifics here.

For now, here’s what you need to know:

1. You’ll be entering “The Integrity Zone.”
2. Krogh’s book “Good People, Bad Choices and Life Lessons from the White House” is available for purchase at St. John’s bookstore.
3. There could be an Elvis sighting involved.

Call 222-2636 x 22 if you’d like to make a reservation.

“The media”

“The main criticism of the media is that it’s partisan. And if you watch TV and if you watch the post-debate quarterbacking, you would see that that is absolutely true. Depending on where you tuned in, you’d have a completely different assessment of how the debaters did.”

–Brooke Gladstone, NPR’s On The Media on Bill Moyers Journal

“Facts matter” 19th century version

Apparently someone was onto The Village Square motto: “Facts Matter” just a tiny wee bit before we were:

[Man in general] is capable of rectifying his mistakes, by discussion and experience. Not by experience alone. There must be discussion to show how experience is to be interpreted. Wrong opinions and practices gradually yield to fact and argument: but facts and arguments, to produce any effect on the mind, must be brought before it. Very few facts are able to tell their own story, without comments to bring out their meaning. The whole strength and value, then, of human judgment, depending on the one property, that it can be set right when it is wrong.

— John Stuart Mill, 1865, On Liberty.

Looking first in our own brains

John Hodgman, author of “More Information Than You Require”, otherwise known to us as the “PC” from the “Mac/PC” ads and as a fake-news-commentator on “The Daily Show,” speaking Village Square-ese:

“Well the first place you look for fake expertise is in your own brain. All the half-truths and received wisdom that has sort of gotten in there through people telling you things that aren’t true and things you learned in school, like legends like George Washington chopping down the cherry tree. That was the beginning of fake expertise in this country. It was a complete fabrication by partisan means. It’s fake biograpy which is now part of the American biography now. So you start off by saying “what do I think I know” and you say it with a very straight face. And when you run out of fake stuff in your own head, that’s when you turn to the internet of course.”

Lea’s quote of the day

“So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.”
– Baha’u’llah (1817-1892); Iranian philosopher

The “Power of &” goes economic

Are you like me and horribly confused by just how we got to this economic precipice? Have you noticed two distinctly different versions of the story from each political campaign? Well, as usual, the operating principle – when seeking truth – is to find the AND rather than the EITHER/OR. Thanks to Fact Check.org and Time Magazine for this exercise in AND.

So, who’s responsible, using the “Power of &”?

The Federal Reserve, which slashed interest rates after the dot-com bubble burst, making credit cheap.

Home buyers, who took advantage of easy credit to bid up the prices of homes excessively.

Congress, which continues to support a mortgage tax deduction that gives consumers a tax incentive to buy more expensive houses.

Real estate agents, most of whom work for the sellers rather than the buyers and who earned higher commissions from selling more expensive homes.

The Clinton administration, which pushed for less stringent credit and downpayment requirements for working- and middle-class families.

Mortgage brokers, who offered less-credit-worthy home buyers subprime, adjustable rate loans with low initial payments, but exploding interest rates.

Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, who in 2004, near the peak of the housing bubble, encouraged Americans to take out adjustable rate mortgages.

Wall Street firms, who paid too little attention to the quality of the risky loans that they bundled into Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), and issued bonds using those securities as collateral.

The Bush administration, which failed to provide needed government oversight of the increasingly dicey mortgage-backed securities market.

An obscure accounting rule called mark-to-market, which can have the paradoxical result of making assets be worth less on paper than they are in reality during times of panic.

Collective delusion, or a belief on the part of all parties that home prices would keep rising forever, no matter how high or how fast they had already gone up.

Repression in the service of making one’s point

“John Stuart Mill made a shrewd, and wise, observation about the nature of most philosophical debates. In his splendid essay on Coleridge, he pointed out that both sides in intellectual controversies tended to be “in the right in what they affirmed, though in the wrong in what they denied.” Mill’s insight into the nature of intellectual discourse shines light on many disagreements: Whether it is conservatives debating liberals, parents arguing with their children, or a lovers’ quarrel, almost invariably something is being repressed in the service of making one’s point.” –Richard Tarnas

Kathleen Hall Jamieson: Hunkering down in ideology

In discussing one deceptive ad from each of our presidential campaigns, Kathleen Hall Jamieson was asked by host Bill Moyers “how is the audience to catch up to the truth of this?” Jamieson:

“The audience has to break out of the partisan media context that reinforces the belief that these ads are accurate… you hope that that partisan audience has enough exposure to places that give you both sides so they’re able to hear the other side and is able to hear credible sources… to indicate when their side is wrong and when the other side is wrong. It’s easy to hear those times when the other side is wrong, it’s much harder to be in places to hear that your side is wrong. First, because increasingly we’re not going to those kinds of places, it’s also difficult – because of the way we hunker down in our own ideology – for us to hear when our own side is actually not telling us the truth.

Paraphrasing, Jameson said “buy Village Square tickets.”

Mistaking part of the truth for the whole.

All students of man and society… are aware that the besetting danger is not so much of embracing falsehood for truth, as of mistaking part of the truth for the whole. It might be plausibly maintained that in almost every one of the leading controversies, past or present, in social philosophy, both sides were in the right in what they affirmed, though in the wrong in what they denied; and that if either could have been made to take the other’s views in addition to its own, little more would have been needed to make its doctrine correct. — John Stuart Mill

On our next topic: “Faith in the Public Square”

In researching our next topic, I found an interesting article on Florida’s recent dispute on science standards. Liam Julian of the Thomas Fordham Foundation writes in The St. Petersburg Times:

“Lost in all this was the difference between faith and science. Each can illumine the human experience, and they interact best when separated and respected. Neither side in Florida’s evolution disagreement realized this, and it’s therefore likely that the evolution controversy will continue…

Why try to pass off intelligent design as science, anyway? A better idea is to simply allow intelligent design and its ilk to remain philosophical ideas and allow evolution to remain a scientific one. 

This works both ways. Those who support Florida’s revised science standards should be careful to keep evolution in its realm – the scientific – and not heap upon it purposes for which it is unsuited. 

Richard Dawkins, Oxford scientist and author of The God Delusion, makes the mistake of using evolution as a weapon against faith. He has written that, because of Darwin, religion “is now completely superseded by science.” 

His claim would shock many, including Pope Benedict XVI, who has said that “there is much scientific proof in the theory of evolution” but who also warns against converting evolution into “a universal theory concerning all reality.” Pope John Paul II also believed that science and faith do best when they seek together to understand each other’s competencies and limitations.”

The low road, version 1.0

As news from the campaign trail get uglier and uglier, as fact takes a back seat to whatever the character assassination flavor-of-the-day, as one needs to bathe after the simple act of watching the evening news, it’s about time for this blast from the past:

In 1800, the Federalist Gazette suggested that if Jefferson were elected over Adams, they would see a devastation of “those morals which protect our lives from the knife of the assassin – which guard the chastity of our wives and daughters from seduction and violence.”

In their version of today’s editorial endorsement, they wrote:

At the present solemn and momentous epoch, the only question to be asked by every American, laying his hand on his heart, is “Shall I continue in allegiance to GOD AND A RELIGIOUS PRESIDENT; or impiously declare for JEFFERSON AND NO GOD!!!”

Worth noting for an advocate of civility in politics (and perhaps duly noted by media critics)?

Jefferson won anyway.

Peggy Noonan: “hit our game in a higher way”

More from Peggy Noonan, author of “Patriotic Grace”, on Meet The Press yesterday:

We may in our country may face difficult days ahead. And even immediately ahead. When you keep your mind on that you release, whoa, this whole partisan gamesmanship is OVER, it’s yesterday. What we need now is grace. We need real patriotism in which patriotism isn’t used as a weapon in a campaign. Patriotism actually needs grace in order to function. We need to be our best selves right now, we’ve got to hit our game in a higher way. We’ve got to be forbearing. We’ve got to be adults. I sometimes think one of the problems in America is there are too many people who don’t want to embrace the role of a grownup.

“The Big Sort”

Check this one out… The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart by Bill Bishop:

“The lesson for politics and culture is pretty clear. It doesn’t matter if you’re a frat boy, a French high school student, a petty criminal, or a federal appeals court judge. Mixed company moderates; like-minded company polarizes. Heterogeneous communities restrain group excesses; homogeneous communities march toward extremes.”