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Fail to Disprove

Gee, "Critics Fail to Disprove Kerry's Version of Vietnam War Episode" is a mighty odd way of putting the point. On the one hand, you have John Kerry, the man whose life he saved and who avoided contact with him until the 2004 presidential campaign, and the United States Navy. On the other hand you have some folks who are definitely lying about something, led by a Nixon-era GOP hatchet man, and financed by longtime associates of a family with a long history of trying to win elections by having surrogates smear their opponents. When the latter group of people "fail to disprove" the former people's assertions, you have some mighty good reasons to believe that they're lying.

August 22, 2004 | Permalink

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Comments

If the Washington Post were a person it would be diagnosed with multiple personality disorder.

Posted by: praktike | Aug 22, 2004 12:24:55 PM

It is characteristic of modern life to start every discussion from zero. The rational thing would be to assume that Kerry's medal are valid, and that the testimony of the people with him was good, and then look for reasons strong enough to change the existing consensus. This would put the burden of proof on the accusers.

Disciplines like debate, law, and analytic philosophy actually encourage people to argue the weaker case just as an exercise of skill. Getting a guilty client off is more impressive than getting an innocent one off. (Plato's "Phaedrus" is about this topic, and rather amusing too).

There are reasons why law, speech, and philosophy work that way, but it dribbles down to high school level, where many teachers encourage kids to "question everything". The teachers' assumption is that most kids are conventional and thoughtless, but the conventionality of a lot of kids today is just cynicism and the search for the buzz. And the unconventional thinking can soemtimes end up with something like Holocaust denial or bloodthirty Social Darwinism.

Posted by: Zizka | Aug 22, 2004 12:27:38 PM

Bob Dole broke his own arm.

Posted by: Aaron | Aug 22, 2004 12:29:34 PM

Does anyone have Michael Dobb's email address? If we all remind him of his bias every time he exposes it....

Posted by: Jim | Aug 22, 2004 1:05:26 PM

Matthew

Did you hold your breath while typing that run-on sentence?

The Swifities are middle-aged vets telling us what they saw and heard in Vietnam 35 years ago. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Posted by: Warthog | Aug 22, 2004 1:08:21 PM

i think the logical arbiter for this whole affair will ultimately be the vietcong. (im sure they kept detailed records.) however if they side with john kerrys version of events the headline in the washington post will read "Former Terrorist Regime Gives Aid And Comfort to Kerry Campaign." should the vietcong disprove his version of events we are likely to see "Real Swift Boat Heroes Sink Cowardly Frenchman." along with this i would expect a call for his immediate execution. you cant just exaggerate your courage under fire and get away with it.

also, nice to see you back on the pipe, my.

Posted by: some dink | Aug 22, 2004 1:16:25 PM

"It is characteristic of modern life to start every discussion from zero. The rational thing would be to assume that Kerry's medal are valid, and that the testimony of the people with him was good, and then look for reasons strong enough to change the existing consensus. This would put the burden of proof on the accusers."

To formalize this a bit, the null hypothesis (in your case) is that the contemporaneous reports that support Kerry’s medals and performance are valid. We would be forced to discard the null hypothesis if there were evidence that the contemporaneous reports were in error (other conflicting contemporaneous reports were uncovered or the author(s) of said reports confessed to lying). I don’t think a rigorous test of this null hypothesis is the recovered memories of a subset of Kerry’s co-workers 35 years after the fact.

"The Swifities are middle-aged vets telling us what they saw and heard in Vietnam 35 years ago. Nothing more. Nothing less."

Kerry and his supporting Swifties are also middle-aged vets telling us what they saw and heard in Vietnam 35 years ago. Nothing more. Nothing less. However, Kerry has a written record of this events that supports his recollections (as pertains to medals and leadership, not re: dates and numbers of incursions into Cambodia), so the weight of evidence at present is with Kerry.

Posted by: Joel | Aug 22, 2004 1:41:34 PM

Um, warthog, I think Joel wins.

Posted by: scarshapedstar | Aug 22, 2004 2:39:23 PM

Warthog, what is this "middle-aged vets" fetish you have? The war was 30+ years ago. **Of course** they're middle aged (if not old.) Why do you have to call them "middle-aged" every time you mention them?

Kerry is almost 60. Most of these guys aren't middle-aged any more. They're just old.

Posted by: Zizka | Aug 22, 2004 3:13:39 PM

The Swifities are middle-aged vets telling us what they saw and heard in Vietnam 35 years ago. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Corollary to one of my comments from yesterday: It's much easier to defend a conservative worldview if you're just willing to assume the truth of your conclusions.

Posted by: JP | Aug 22, 2004 3:27:39 PM

The rational thing would be to assume that Kerry's medal are valid, and that the testimony of the people with him was good, and then look for reasons strong enough to change the existing consensus. This would put the burden of proof on the accusers.


One would say the same thing about the whole AWOL business, but of course that would be pointing out the hypocrisy of the entire left-wing, wouldn't it?

Posted by: Al | Aug 22, 2004 3:30:08 PM

Heh. And there's another case in point.

Posted by: JP | Aug 22, 2004 3:35:45 PM

"Kerry is almost 60. Most of these guys aren't middle-aged any more. They're just old."

Thanks a lot man. Tho not there yet, you still depress me. How bout we use "middle-aged" like Americans use "middle-class" and say you are still middle-aged until you are in the last 10%.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Aug 22, 2004 3:39:11 PM

The Swifities are middle-aged vets telling us what they saw and heard in Vietnam 35 years ago: Nothing.

Exactly. (And yes, I've truncated your words. But so did the Swiftliars with Kerry.

Posted by: ahem | Aug 22, 2004 6:29:52 PM

Warty, they are not "nothing less"; they are SOMETHING less -- and the reasons we know they are something less are that (A) there are very major self-contradictions in their comments; and (B) when one of them is confronted with contradictory evidence or testimony and asked about it by a reporter, his reaction is very often to clam up and refuse to say anything more at all on the topic.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw | Aug 22, 2004 7:25:48 PM

One would say the same thing about the whole AWOL business.--Al

Uh, well, no. "The whole AWOL business" is a function of discrepancies between Bush's honorable discharge and existing official records from which information to support that discharge is mysteriously missing, as is the testimony of eyewitnesses to his service at certain points. If the "null hypothesis" is that the records and the eyewitnesses tell the true story, then Kerry's in good shape, but Bush has a lot to worry about. There *is* no "existing consensus" about large portions of Bush's service; it's the absence of same that makes it suspicious, and the onus is on Bush to fill in the gaps.

Posted by: Judy | Aug 22, 2004 8:55:05 PM

OK, Bob. My 85-y-o Mom is :just past middle age".

Posted by: Zizka | Aug 23, 2004 1:10:43 AM

Al -- yeah, the burden of proof IS on the skeptics about Bush's service. The questions come from the lack of firsthand testimony about his presence in Alabama, and gaps in the documentary record.

Questions about his cocaine use come from his refusal to deny cocaine use. Other questions come from his admission to a period of alcoholism, and conjectures about how many of the typical alcoholic pathologies he had during that time.

Posted by: Zizka | Aug 23, 2004 1:14:27 AM

Does this mean Kerry really was in Cambodia on Christmas eve 1968?

I thought the latest word from the Kerry campaign was that Kerry wasn't in Cambodia in 1968, but that he did later on in 1969. Or is the Christmas trip on again? It's all so confusing. I mean, it's not like Kerry keeps changing his story because he's covering up for a lie or anything. Right?

Posted by: Brad | Aug 23, 2004 5:18:44 AM

Yglesias supports the troops.

Just not troops like John O'Neill--that Hubert-Humphrey-voting, Bronze-star-winning, "send-me" volunteering veteran and hero of the Vietnam war. All the things that supposedly make Kerry a great man are present in O'Neill, and even more. Injured in battle, decorated soldier, first in his class at a prestigious law school, clerk at the US Supreme Court.

All that Yglesias reduces to "Nixon-era GOP hatchet man." What an ass.

Posted by: Thomas | Aug 24, 2004 1:16:48 AM

Injured in battle, decorated soldier, first in his class at a prestigious law school, clerk at the US Supreme Court.

All that Yglesias reduces to "Nixon-era GOP hatchet man." What an ass.

Yes, you're right: O'Neill is an ass. As Hunter S. Thompson noted:

You don't even have to know who Richard Nixon was to be a victim of his ugly, Nazi spirit.

He has poisoned our water forever. Nixon will be remembered as a classic case of a smart man shitting in his own nest. But he also shit in our nests, and that was the crime that history will burn on his memory like a brand. By disgracing and degrading the Presidency of the United States, by fleeing the White House like a diseased cur, Richard Nixon broke the heart of the American Dream.

Charles Colson found God in jail and asked for forgiveness. O'Neill is still tainted by the stench of Nixon. Everything he has done since proceeds from that stench and is tainted by that stench. Gerry Ford said, according to Thompson, 'Ford, who believes strongly in Heaven and Hell, has told more than one of his celebrity golf partners that "I know I will go to hell, because I pardoned Richard Nixon."' O'Neill is shameless enough not to admit that the same applies to him.

Posted by: ahem | Aug 24, 2004 2:23:02 AM

ahem--O'Neill met Nixon once, and promptly told the man he'd voted for Humphrey. He didn't work for him, he didn't cooperate in any criminal conspiracy for his benefit, he didn't pardon him. He debated the lying John Kerry on the subject of Vietnam.

But it does go to show that the credential we're supposed to defer to in Kerry's record--his wartime heroism--counts for nothing. If O'Neill, who has a demonstrably more impressive record in every possible way, is in your view some sort of ass, well, then that heroism can't count for much.

Posted by: Thomas | Aug 24, 2004 9:52:10 AM

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