Friday, July 30, 2010

Non sequitur

A letter to my paper by one Gary Walker makes this statement on behalf of Glenn Beck makes this point:

For boldly exposing corruption/evil and telling the truth, Beck (says he) has so many serious death threats against him and his family that he has to have the equivalent of a private security SWAT team around him at all times.

Put aside for a moment the point that this is not a verified fact, merely Beck's self-serving statement. The fact that Beck receives lots of death threats is utterly irrelevant to the merits of anything he says or does. It is an absolute non sequitur. It does not follow from the "fact" that Beck has had death threats against him that he is therefore a noble warrior in the battle against evil. Obama has had more death threats against him than any other President in history; that hardly proves he's a great or even adequate President.

To illustrate the absurdity of Mr.Walker's argument, let's use a controversial issue–global warming. Both advocates and deniers of global warming have received death threats. They both can't be right, of course, but by Mr.Walker's argument they would have to be. We've reached a logical absurdity.

You know, I bet Hitler got a few death threats in the 1930s...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Cliches are not good arguments

A letter writer in the paper criticizes my attack on the Arizona law, and concludes "Illegal is illegal." Hmmm.. that sounds plausible, I suppose. If 1=1, then illegal should =illegal, right? Well, no, actually it's absurd. Illegal is illegal is a great bumper sticker, but it's not much of a legal or moral principle. Is a parking ticket equal to first-degree murder?

The Arizona law makes unauthorized entry into America, which is a civil offense under federal law, into a state crime. Yes, unauthorized immigration is illegal, but illegal does not automatically mean a criminal offense.

Friday, July 23, 2010

And we care because...

From the why do we care department:

LA Times 7-22-2010:

If approved (Tani) Cantil-Sakauye would be the state's first Asian-American chief justice and would give women a majority on the court for the first time.

Wow. This is really significant. Well, not really. In fact, not at all.

Moving on, I believe the Arizona immigration law is unconstitutional. There are a number of reasons, which I spell out here in my recent letter to the local paper:

The controversial Arizona immigration law is unconstitutional. Contrary to the claims of its defenders, it does not simply mirror federal law.

As the nonpartisan site points out (, section 5A of the law makes it illegal for a driver to stop and attempt to hire or to hire and pick up passengers, if that action impedes traffic; for a person to get into someone's vehicle in order to be hired; or for an illegal alien to apply for work or solicit work publicly in the state. None of these restrictions (and a few others Arizona added) are part of federal immigration law.

Immigration law has always been a power assigned to the federal government by the Constitution — see Article 1, Section 8, which gives Congress the power to establish a uniform rule of naturalization. The states have no legal right to establish their own immigration policies. With a number of other states considering making their own immigration laws, the federal government's lawsuit is absolutely justified.

I think it is a dangerous trend for states to start making their immigration laws. Do we really want 50 different immigration laws in America? (This isn't hypothetical; 21 states are planning to follow Arizona's lead).

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Change? Not so much

My (Facebook) friend Chris Mooney wrote a 2005 book, The Republican War on Science. Mooney and others pointed out that the Bush administartion had censored scientists, altered scientific reports, and put bogus "facts" (e.g. abortion causes cancer) on government websites. Barack Obama ran as a friend of science, promising to restore it to its "rightful place". But, according to this story in the Los Angeles Times, things aren't getting any better.

From the Union of Concerned Scientists, a liberal advocacy group:

"Many of the frustrations scientists had with the last administration continue currently," said Francesca Grifo, the organization's director of scientific integrity.

For example, Grifo said, one biologist with a federal agency in Maryland complained that his study of public health data was purposefully disregarded by a manager who is not a scientist. The biologist, Grifo said, feared expressing his concerns inside and outside the agency.

Change we can believe in? Maybe in 2013. No, I take that back. Never happen.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Logical fallacy from MSNBC

In this clip from Media Matters MSNBC host Ed Schultz responds to Bill O'Reilly's charge that MSNBC lies with clips of Fox personalities lying. Schultz is committing the logical fallacy known as the ad hominem tu quoque. None of the clips falsify O'Reilly's statement. All they show is that Fox is dishonest, but how can that possibly prove MSNBC isn't? Let's use a religious analogy. If a Christian says Islam is false, would it be much of a defense of Islam for a Muslim to point out the same thing about Christianity?

My own intuition, not liking either network much, is to believe they're about equally dishonest. I am not certain about this—if a reputable study shows otherwise I'll retract this immediately.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Stewie for President!

Answering an essay question today on the merits of a flat tax, I turned to a debate between two intellectuals a few years ago:

Brian Griffin: You are really gonna sit there with a straight face and tell me a flat tax doesn't favor the wealthy.
Stewie Griffin: Not one bit. And it saves millions of man hours that the complexity of the current tax code wastes, which you would realize if you weren't retarded.

While Brian isn't retarded, I think he's wrong and Stewie's right. So tired...