Leo Walsh's Reviews > Guilty: Liberal "Victims" and Their Assault on America

Guilty by Ann Coulter
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's review
Oct 16, 2009

did not like it

Shrill, opinionated, one-sided and poorly argued: Personal versus substantive attacks. If this book was researched like her other books, a lot to the "facts" about the "Liberal Media" are based on misleading Nexus/Lexus search results. Takes offense at the mainstream, and calls it Liberal. Bunches together all sorts of groups into an amorphous mass of undifferentiated "Liberal."

And, she is wildly inaccurate in a lot of places. Take, for instance, her scoffing at the Obama campaign's fears of the "Right-Wing Attack Machine." Yet this machine actually does appear to exist, just below the radar.

Here's an example from "W's" 2004 bid: In the SC Primary, ads suddenly "appeared" hinting that John McCain had a love child w/ a black woman. Asinine. Unfounded. But the target audience is clear: either overtly or covertly racist white people. Follow that up with the Swift Boating of Kerry in the general election.

Twice, the same thing happened: An unfounded, hearsay attack, running counter to established facts appeared at the right time to push W into office. Plausible deniability from the campaign. Empirically, such strongly correlated phenomena point towards one conclusion: Something is likely happening. I doubt it is a conspiracy. But it does smack of a well run marketing campaign.

So, here's the net result of W's election and the "Right-Wing/ Republican (Rove's ?) Attack Machine:" Two Vietnam vets who served with honor are dragged through the public square. A half informed public running around, trying to distinguish the real from the false--If they have the time or energy after school and soccer practice and laundry and dishes and home improvement projects. Is that the America we want? Is it ethical for political wonks, who know the facts, to willfully deceive? Is there no decency left in this country? Think of that when you listen to claims of Right-Wing patriotism.

The likely reason why the attacks did not take place in 2008 is that A) Democratic strategists, by mentioning the attacks before they actually happened effectively "inoculated" the masses against spurious, viral smears; and B) McCain was, at base level, a man of extreme honor. Not perfect, but a man worthy of respect.

Coulter's style throughout the book is more mean spirited than funny. Though I thought that her calling Obama O-Bambi was witty. But not particularly moving.

BTW: I found her take on the potentially destructive impacts single motherhood has on children and society thought-provoking. Even through her insensitive shrillness. But I question whether her data is accurate: Is it coming from peer reviewed sources? Or from rightist think-tanks without the requisite intellectual rigor that peer review entails, like the Cato Institute? Is single motherhood the cause or the symptom of societal ills?
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Alex I believe single motherhood is directly responsible for much of country's problems.

message 2: by Leo (new) - rated it 1 star

Leo Walsh Alex wrote: "I believe single motherhood is directly responsible for much of country's problems."

And your evidence? That is the difference between truth-based inquiry and opinion. To keep things simple, I am choosing a relatively lame example to show this, since I do not think it is worth a real argument.

A person can assert that the Holocaust never happened. But there is a lot of evidence - eye witness accounts from victims, guards and liberating soldiers. There was evidence on the scene when the War Crimes Tribunal sent their investigators into the camps.

There are many people who would agree with this hypothetical person. They could point to this or that ambiguous document. Or, they could a letter from a news editor that says, when a reporter mentions that they want to interview a well-known Holocaust denier, "Rejected. We don't want a nutter like this spoiling our panel." To this group, who are predisposed to see a "Pro Jewish Bias" in the press.

A conspiracy of nutters aside, the position is rocky. Most facts are against it. So it would be a silly position to maintain.

So, is your position fact based? And are those facts from reliable sources? For social sciences, this means "peer reviewed journal." Not, pray tell, FOX News...

message 3: by Jim (new)

Jim Not to comment on this book in particular but about her style in general:

She is indeed "Shrill, opinionated, one-sided, and mean-spirited" but would not say she argues poorly - that is if her notes accurately render their sources.

The examples you cite - of political battles, clean, dirty, and despicable - are the sorts of things I tend to gloss over as "business as usual" (a big yawn).

Of more interest to me are the so-called "culture wars" (and not particularly Coulter's comments thereby).

By at least one objective measure the "mainstream" is "liberal" - how journalists have registered to vote, which is heavily Democrat - so I don't think she has committed much of a category error there.

(I think political labels often don't work well when speaking about individuals - but work as a somewhat valid shorthand when applied to groups)

So far as single-motherhood goes, taken a-priori, destructive impacts are no big stretch.

Much has been made of correlations, which is Coulter's usual tack - but even NPR fairly regulary cites such correlations. When you factor that single-motherhood correlates strongly with poverty which in turn correlates with destructive impacts (and never mind lumping children with "society" - one category is clear and the other is highly amorphous).

(yes, correlation does not always imply causation, but ...........)

BTW, it wasn't clear, but do you regard CATO as intellectually rigorous? They are NOT "right" - rather they are classical liberal - or libertarian. I occasionally read their pamphlets and judge (or at least infer) that they have respect for evidence and can not only add and subtract but can multiply and divide (and can do valid statistics).

Anyway, I ran across your incisive comment on Keely's "Giver" review* and found this. I appreciate that you "took Coulter on".

*I was an early and persistent critic early on before Keely rewrote his review.

message 4: by Leo (new) - rated it 1 star

Leo Walsh Leo wrote: "it wasn't clear, but do you regard CATO as intellectually rigorous..."

The CATO Institute i snot rigorous in the academic sense. There is no peer review. Worse, conclusions tend to be pre-ordained, essentially to support the Koch brother's and their entitled billionaire money machine. These include an unfounded, near religious faith in "The Invisible Hand," and a strange belief the government is alway bad, private enterprise always good. I find any black/ white dogma questionable.

It's easy to find super-ethical and decent rich people and businesses; Warren Buffet and Costco come to mind. And super-useful and successful government programs, such as rural electrification and land grant universities.

That said, true academic research starts with a hypothesis that can either be proven or disproven by the data collected or experiment run. Thos get published in peer-reviewed journals. and their data sets made available so other researchers can confirm both the data and their analytic methods. And nitpicky researchers, many of whom think the exact opposite. This allows the best available evidence and the best available conclusion to said evidence to gain the upper hand.

CATO and their ilk, contrariwise, require none of this. They only search for evidence that supports their conclusions, when much of what runs through the real scientific process proves otherwise.

This was best highlighted by John Lott. He published his pro-firearm research, which confirmed what wold benefit the NRA and gun manufacturers -- that increased gun ownership increases safety. Academic researchers found it odd that his data and conclusions were quite different than theirs. Since academic criminologists' published papers showed that more guns led to either higher crime rates or weak correlations.

But when they asked for Lott's data, his computer conveniently crashed. It's possible, though improbable. He knew that his research would not stand to scrutiny and that his data faked.

CATO itself has a laundry list of such controversies. Research on privatization of water supplies, for instance, has proven wrong and about 180 degrees off of what political sector economists have observed. Flawed research on vouchers and charter schools (which, it turns out, have lower success rates, pay teachers less, cost the state more and are less efficient than a classic local public school.

And yet, they do make the rich richer and hurt the poor.

PS -- This is the sort of sloppiness that has many fact-based researchers, journalists and academics, fleeing the GOP. It's not that they are flaming lefties. Many are right of me, and some left of me, a left-leaning centrist who was a Republican (until I became an independent after Iran-Contra and a conservative Democrat after watching New Gingrich's unsavory behavior in the 1990's).

message 5: by Jim (new)

Jim Leo,

Thanks for your thoughtful comment:

The CATO Institute i snot (sic, freudian?) rigorous in the academic sense. There is no peer review.

I imagine few "think tanks" are peer-reviewed. I suppose "academic papers" are - at least by the journals. I further supose that academics in the soft "sciences" are not immune to confirmation bias. This is compounded by the nature of the soft sciences - which is difficult to reduce to valid statistical treatment - much more so than for the "hard" sciences.

I'd be less skeptical about the notion of rigorous papers and peer review if there were more actual intellectual/political diverisity in the academy. I'd be especially so, if they actually had to demonstrate mastery of analytical technquies as do Economists.

Worse, (CATO's) conclusions tend to be pre-ordained, essentially to support the Koch brother's and their entitled billionaire money machine. These include an unfounded, near religious faith in "The Invisible Hand," and a strange belief the government is alway bad, private enterprise always good. I find any black/ white dogma questionable.

No comment on benefactor's influence on think tanks.

The invisible hand correlates very well with wealth creation - even when national redistributive policies parasitize the wealth creators. You know the details - the objective evidence is undeniable.

And never mind painting CATO and other think tanks that respect property rights with a monochrome palette - or to call them "faithful". Economists have empirically demonstrated that free markets allow economic growth - this is not dogma/faith.

It's easy to find super-ethical and decent rich people and businesses; Warren Buffet and Costco come to mind. And super-useful and successful government programs, such as rural electrification and land grant universities.

We swim in an ocean of ethical and decent businessmen of all stripes and castes. Mostly even irrational economic actors will shun the unethical - that is in free markets. Less-free markets prop up unethical economic actors - ultimately with guns.

It's not "sexy", actually boring, to report on the ethical - sort of a built-in journalist's confirmation bias - constantly reinforced by the nature of what gets reported.

Here's an example. NPR interview. Both parties understood that diplomatic negotiations tend to be win-win. Neither understood that the vast majority of ordinary transactions are as well. Rather they both embrace an exploitation model where the actors have an unequal power relationship. They could swim in the ethical daylight, but choose to think about the muck at the bottom.

The particular reference was to Trump and his business dealings. I assert that we do not know anything about the large majority of his private business dealings (nor anyone else's). To think that the stuff splashed in the press is definitive is naive.

But it was clear that the two in the interview think that exploitation is the norm.

Did you say:

(vouchers and charter schools) make the rich richer and hurt the poor.??

If so, what is the basis for this? Would not the same school that (or voucher-paid option) "make(s) the rich richer" help the poor escape ghetto-schools? I understand that majorities of minorities believe that vouchers and charter schools give them a measure of autonomy. It seems faintly elitist to suppose that such autonomy "hurts" them - and bespeaks misplaced prerogatives.

message 6: by Leo (last edited Mar 10, 2017 06:46PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Leo Walsh Leo wrote: "Leo wrote: "it wasn't clear, but do you regard CATO as intellectually rigorous..."

The CATO Institute i snot rigorous in the academic sense. There is no peer review. Worse, conclusions tend to be ..."

LOL. The "it' snot" a classic typo I make, nothing Freudian. I think faster than I type and put spaces in the wrong place. I wish I had a nickle for every "time I typed that.

But re: think tanks. Some are balanced (Pew, Brookings). Those are safe. They don't publish diatribes but honest research.

A few are liberal (Center for American Progress, Economic Policy Institute). But more are right-leaning, and they're better funded (Heritage, CATO).

Data and. or arguments coming from any of these Think-Tanks is suspect. I'd go so far as to call it worthless. Since they start with a conclusion and set out to find data that confirms the dogma. Whereas real research starts with the data and creates policies from there.

Real research is pragmatic. Think-tanks with a political orientation's "research" is dogmatic.

As for universities, there is no doubt that professors are more open-minded than most. They get paid for being curious. This is EXACTLY the opposite of what you think of as small-c conservatives behavior. Towing the line, respecting authority, not questioning. In fact, overcoming these lethargic conservative tendencies is precisely why the Renaissance an Enlightenment were so revolutionary. Clear thinking, science and dogma proved much more powerful than Christian dogma in improving lives. But these thinkers gave us a common language, science, that has driven lightening fast innovation for over 300 years.

So an person who'd make a good academic would be different than a person who'd excell as a rule-bound soldier guarding our borders. They're so open to data, and willing to change their beliefs to adapt to a new piece of data or paradigm, and academic would be awful at following rules (Oh, Your passport expired? Come on in, and don't forget to fix it next time, okay?) While a rule-bound person would suck at research (they'd probably still be fighting that Pluto was a planet since they were thought that).

But each type of person has value, and contributes something to the community that the other lacks. One thrives on ignoring stable dogma but looks for the truth in new data. The other thrives on ignoring new data and enforces stable dogma. If they work together, we thrive. We have innovation and stability.

Re: Economics. For clarity, I am a capitalist who understands the need for regulation. For instance, painters loved lead paint. It went on more smoothly and took less coats than latex paint. But it was poisoning them. Left to their own devices, painters would still be using it. The EPA saved the lives of many a painter.

That's just common sense.

But the way most Libertarians speak of the invisible hand and Free Markets is now dogmatic. A free market is where Me and 20 of my neighbors have a farm. We take our produce to a farmer's market every Saturday, and the price varies by supply and demand.

The irony of contemporary American Libertarian "Free Markets" is that they become less free as they mature. There is an inevitable weaning of competition through mergers and mismanagement of businesses, all of which limits choice and centralizes capital. And this freezes capital in non-productive things. Especially when mixed with political power.

For instance, the petroleum industry, like the Koch brothers. The US would be much better off were we to develop an renewable energy sector. Cars could be electric. This would free us from middle eastern oil, and allow us to focus our petroleum on defense and long-distance transport. But big money, which has power, creates an unbalanced market by buying senators via petrol industry lobbyists. Worse, by freezing capital in petroleum, yesterday's technology, we're impeded from entering the future.

So the invisible hand is illusory, a tale told by big-industry players who actually buy politicians. In order to garner support for their own market manipulations.

And while I do disagree with Noam Chomsky on a lot of points, he's spot-on about big business. He says (and I paraphrase) that corporations, as long as they exist in their liability-free guise, are private tyrannies. And government represents what we do TOGETHER, and thus are the only reliable check on businesses creating another Love Canal, or having Cleveland's Cuyahoga River so polluted it burns.

The libertarian flaw is to discount what we do together, for a stable place to raise our kids. It's an extreme position, akin to Marxism on the left. And no extreme is sustainable.

Anyways, I've got to chill back. This is a book-length argument, not suited to comment boards.

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