Sunday, February 26, 2006

Carlyle dragged into DPW?

So do you know what the Carlyle Group is? It's suddenly hit the news in a huge way, but almost every source I can find on the web about it is either partisan, or insane, or both. The Carlyle Group itself has a few web pages which basically say they're a group of saints, dedicated to making the world better for me personally, and saving lost puppies. Leftist crazies, OTOH, say it's a group dedicated to eating puppies, and funneling bribes from rich terrorists to George Bush so that he'll let them kill me.

Frankly, both views seem too extreme to be true.

Which is one thing that irritates me lately- everybody's got SUCH a partisan view that you can't trust anything. If I saw a web page that said "The Government of the UAE has invested N many billion dollars in various Bush family-related businesses. Those businesses are A, B, and C, and the Bush family owns x, y, and z % of them", then I'd say "Whoa, that bears investigating". But they don't, or won't, just say that. They say "Bush connection to UAE more incestuous than an appalchian village". Which is a cute turn of phrase, but contains no facts, and lets me know that the purpose of the whole article/web page is CONVINCE, not to INFORM. And it makes me suspect what facts there ARE in the article, because a serious partisan trying to convince will cheerfully distort facts, or lie.

So I figured I'd ask you, because you're pretty well informed. Do you know what the Carlyle Group is? Do you think they really represent a meaningful financial link between the Bush family, and the government of the UAE?

Only side I've ever heard to it was that they were part of the Bush conspiracy that led to 9/11. That's not precisely what Moore et al claimed, but close. I think that through the Carlyle Group and a small number of other holding corporations, you could easily link pretty much every single extremely rich person in the world. People are generally allowed to put their money wherever they want. If you have a successful holding company, you are going to have investors who are standup business leaders, oil magnates, shipping magnates, and probably front men for drug lords. Where do you draw the line, and how much research are you required to perform to vette your investors? Generally, if there's nothing directly criminal about the investor, their money can't be turned away.

I think part of this is that most people are looking to preach to the choir, not proselytize for converts. Making converts, or at least earning the respect of your opposition is far more difficult than rabble rousing and making yerself a hero to those who already think as you do. And when you are only trying to preach to the choir, it's much easier to use references to appalacian villages than to actually do your homework and present results, particularly if those results end up being rather specious. Like you said, it's easier just to perform a blanket, tacit conviction.

It goes on on both the left and the right. It's not guilt by association or guilt by assertion, it's guilt by tenuous implication. People do it all the time these days by referring to people or groups by their own pet names that implicitly convict (or exonerate) them of something of which they have not been convicted or even generally accepted by the public as responsible. Dailykos assumes in every post that anybody reading their site agrees not just that this administration is the worst ever, but that the vast majority of americans agree with them in that analysis. The right will do similar things by referring to the gov't of this or that arabic country as 'the terrorist training facility' or some such, when it's clear that even if there is a relationship between said gov't and terrorism, it's not that simple. (There are many other examples of this on the right, some of which *really* piss me off, but that's the one which comes to mind right now.)

It's like people just agreeing that everybody knows that Saddam was not involved in terrorism. This statement is true if you add the expression 'directly targetting americans on american soil'. For some reason however, some want to consistently undercut their own arguments by not making such a distinction. What's crazy is that nobody disagrees with me when I mention that Saddam financially supported the families of palestinian suicide bombers... the evidence has been pretty clear on that. But since that's mainly killing jews, and very few americans, I guess it doesn't matter so much, so we reduce the value of the argument to absolute zero. While not targetting america in terrorist support certainly reduced Saddam's threat, it didn't reduce it to zero.

But the issue here is not that specific argument, but the way nobody is trying to extend an olive branch or be inclusive of those with different viewpoints over such issues. Right there, I staked out a middle ground. I said yes, Saddam wasn't working with Al Qaeda on 9/11, but terrorism was still somewhat of a factor, not a completely bunk lie. Maybe it's not enough for people to invade a country over, but at the same time, it's not something to be dismissed lightly.
When I push that logic on my lefty buddies, I get a sensation like I'm working against some sort of preconditioned wall. Anything about terrorism and Saddam is just a lie, and I'm just deluded. Little to no room for dissent or examination of the question. Basically, they're not trying to help bridge gaps.

Yesterday, one of my housemates asked me to make some sort of statement saying that I would apologize for being an idiot if Iraq fell apart into a civil war and turned into a huge disaster. I told him that I wouldn't do such a thing, and I would expect him not to do such a thing on the other end. We all make our calls on the information which we have available to us. Some of us believe this source over that source, and other vice versa. It's not like either side is just inexcusably retarded. So why would anybody want to have such recriminations? I don't. If/when Iraq turns into a major success, I don't expect to go around trying to make people who opposed the war feel bad about themselves. They made their calls with what they knew at the time, same as those in the administration who made the call on invading Iraq in the first place. Being wrong isn't being stupid, even if it's me being wrong.

This whole issue is exactly why I keep several left and right blogs in tabs next to each other. I always want to be aware of the arguments my prospective opponents are making. Where they have good points, I score well by acknowledging the validity of those points. That allows me to focus my efforts on the points with which I disagree. If I am unfamiliar with their arguments, I will undercut my ability to convince them that I understand their position. And understanding the other position is the first step towards trying to reconcile these seemingly different positions. I find myself more often than not, in complete agreement with that very same lefty housemate, yet when he does something like call american military servicemen 'mercenaries', I am obliged to take him to task over it.

I haven't heard Carlyle Group mentioned since Moore's F9/11 fell off the stage. All I dragged up on it at the time was that some rich people had a holding company... with other rich people, and a whole slew of business directions. Some of those were americans, some were prominent americans, some were saudis. The conspiracy theories seem to abound whenever that name is mentioned, but it's honestly been a long long time since I've heard it mentioned at all.
When I was reading about it (shortly after F9/11 came out the websites were particularly active), it sounded just like another huge holding firm with a very diverse portfolio. The Carlyle Group does not make people foam at the mouth like they once did, nor as they currently still do at the mention of 'Haliburton'. :-)

My two 30-second opinion on Haliburton: Haliburton and the companies they have acquired were making a ton of money and expanding prolificly before GW entered the whitehouse. Expecting them to disolve because the VP used to run them is a little bit unreasonable, yet it's the only alternative to what's currently happened. In most of corporate america, you expand or you are bought. I haven't seen any serious accusations of impropriety on their part. There have certainly been no-bid contracts awarded, which, if there actually were competitors in those fields of services, would merit investigation. But in general, on that scale, few companies have the breadth of services that such a large demand requires.

This kind of thing completely sucks for me, because as a competitor, my little company can't deliver to a city an entire software suite, including financial software, legal software, emergency services, and fleet management software in addition to what we can provide. This really hurts us in certain cases, where the customer is looking for one big software project involving all of their departments. Fortunately for us, there are places where that's not the case... and in some cases, our prices fall under the 'must put out to bid' threshold.

Well, I just want people to try convincing each other, rather than just spouting rhetoric at each other. The internet is a very polarizing place unfortunately.

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