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William Ockham
Recent Activity says that there were 4.78 million brackets submitted to their site and none of them were perfect by the end of the second round. This kid's bracket isn't perfect anymore, apparently.
I'm not a linguist, but I think I can explain what you're missing here. First, the most important background detail here is that the heavy favorite (Kansas) for the tournament lost in round two. None of the experts saw that coming. In fact, this autistic kid maybe the only person who predicted it. That's the key to the story. If Kansas had won their game, there would be hundreds, if not thousands of people with perfect brackets. Next, you're missing the "Rain Man" connection. That movie established the popular link in people's minds between autism and the older notion of the idiot savant. In the movie, Dustin Hoffman's autistic character performs all sorts of "magical" feats with numbers. Since then, any story that features an autistic person (the younger the better, but that's a generalized feature of feel-good stories) doing something amazing and at least vaguely math-related will get a lot of attention. All this is an example of how stories that reinforce certain narratives (modern day myths, really) get a lot of play and attention. The Language Log folks (really linguists, btw) are usually all over this. I strongly suggest you send them a link this post and see what happens.
Chuck, I'm a little late to the party, but I'd like to add a different point of view to the debate. The search for media bias is pointless. Charges of media bias are simply tools of partisans trying to 'work the refs'. The real issue is completely orthogonal to the normal left-right debate. The following ideas are from a 1986 book by Daniel C.Hallin, The Uncensored War. I was first introduced to them by Jay Rosen at PressThink ( ) Instead of that left-right single dimension, imagine a two dimensional doughnut (two concentric circles). The donut hole is the sphere of legitimate consensus (you know, motherhood and apple pie). If you don't share the views in that area, the media will seem extremely biased. The next circle represents the sphere of legitimate debate. That's the stuff that press covers and allows both sides to offer up their opinion. Outside that circle is the sphere of deviance. That's where you find people that journalists and the political mainstream have decided are unworthy of being heard. That's everybody from Ron Paul, 9/11 truthers, 'Show me Obama's birth certificate' types to anti-war activists, ANSWER, and Amy Goodman. If you're out there (like I am), you never see your views reflected in the mainstream press. The press isn't even conscious about its role in creating this framework, but it does it every day. As Jay Rosen points out in the article above, it makes this political act in a very unthinking way. There's often a real disconnect between the way the mainstream press (especially the Washington press corps) see these spheres and what public opinion polls show. Many ideas that are shared only by a minority of the public are considered part of the sphere of legitimate consensus. When you view the press this way, the various claims of media bias look a lot attempts to force the press to change the definitions of those spheres in various ways. A couple of things become immediately clear. Whoever happens to be President can force issues into the sphere of legitimate debate. Other folks have to work hard to do that. Also, this is an important function of the press, but it needs to be done consciously and openly. We really shouldn't be giving a lot of attention to the fake controversy over Obama's birth certificate, but we should never put some thing like the decision to pursue a war of choice in the sphere of legitimate consensus.
Toggle Commented Jun 9, 2009 on Media Bias at Imitatio Christi
FYI, I used to post here using "John the ex-Baptist" as my handle, but during your blogging "sabbatical", I decided to consolidate my internet identities.
Toggle Commented May 13, 2009 on There Goes Another Argument at Imitatio Christi
The torture program (and you really have to see it as a program, not just one or two individual techniques) was adapted from the SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) training program. The SERE program, in turn, was designed to help our service members survive and resist the type of torture developed by the Chinese communist regime. The Chinese communist torture program was very effective at getting prisoners to make false confessions. The U.S. government paid a Dr. Biderman to reverse-engineer the techniques used by the North Koreans on our captured airmen in the Korean war. Biderman was very explicit in describing the purpose of the torture program as to get the victim to agree to whatever the interrogator was looking for. Biderman's work was specifically mentioned by the CIA when they went to explain their techniques to the military at GITMO. The facts are very clear. The administration deliberately created a torture program that they knew was primarily good for creating false confessions. I'll leave it to you to decide why they would do that. I will point out the most outrageous torture was performed on Abu Zubaydah right before the adminstration started it's publicity offensive for the Iraq war and on KSM right as the Iraq war was starting. After the end of 'major combat operations in Iraq', there was another very widespread flare up of torture as it became increasingly clear that there were no WMD. Why do you think they were torturing people?
Toggle Commented May 12, 2009 on There Goes Another Argument at Imitatio Christi
It's tiresome eviserating the rationalizations of the evil people who worship at the altar of terror, but it's a job that must be done. Let's take these idiocies one at a time. 1. It's just someone's guess that rapport building would have worked. Actually, no. There's plenty of actual data that suggests that rapport building did work on Abu Zuybaydah before Cheney released his psycho psychologists (who had never done a real interrogation in their entire lives). 2. The people making this guess are all anonymous. Nope, in the case of Abu Zuybaydah the man's name is Ali Soufan. 3. We don't know how long rapport building would have taken. The questioners had no idea how soon after 9/11 the next attack would take place, so it was esssential to get the information as quickly as possible. Wrong again. Try Googling Sherwood Moran. He was recognized by the US Marine Corps (who, the last time I looked, had never been accused of being insufficiently tough) as their most effective battlefield interrogator during WWII. They even asked him to write a manual on interrogation. You should read it. 4. Has traditional rapport building has ever worked on other al Qaeda terrorists? After 7 1/2 years, one would think that this technique would have had an opportunity to prove its value on these people. But, no such examples are provided. Our interactions with al Qaeda have been going on longer than 7 1/2 years. The world neither started nor ended on 9/11/2001. Before the Bush administration, the FBI had turned a few al Qaeda operatives using rapport building techniques. Take a look at the investigation of the 1993 WTC bombing. 5. The questioners couldn't know in advance whether traditional rapport building would work. If they had tried that method and it failed, they would have been that much later in getting the information they needed via water boarding. Since they didn't know when the next attack was planned, they couldn't afford any delay. Except that the waterboarding didn't work, if by "work" you mean gain reliable intelligence from the prisoner. It's not just waterboarding you know. It's a whole program designed to copy the techniques used by the Chinese communists in the 1950's. Google "Biderman's principles". The purpose of the torture is destroy the individual's will. A side effect of this torture is that people subjected to it are less able to recall information. This particular form of torture was designed to get false confessions. You'll have to ask Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld what they were after. The evil wasn't limited to waterboarding a few terrorists. We tortured several innocent people to death. We tortured Khaled el-Masri after we knew he was innocent because we were too ashamed to admit that what we were doing was wrong. Ultimately, the reason we turned to torture was because the Bush administration was so ashamed of their failure to prevent 9/11 they had to blame the Constitution, human decency, and democracy. Instead of owning up to their incompetence, they turned their back on 850 years of civilized behavior and human rights.
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