Sunday, October 30, 2011

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed are kings

Mitt Romney would be the one-eyed man. Two quotes  from this Steven Chapman column sum it up:

A Democratic insider told National Journal, "He can talk and chew gum at the same time, which puts him way ahead of the other candidates."

One anonymous GOP bigwig added, "Republicans are beginning to realize that this is a choice between Romney and the unelectable."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

When it is not a strawman

For those who have never heard of this logical fallacy, a straw man is a criticism of an argument other than the actual one you're responding to. A Wikipedia entry explains it more formally: To "attack a straw man" is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by replacing it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition (the "straw man"), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.[1]  
 E.g. I say Obama hasn't been a great president--you then counter by saying "Well he's not the worst ever."
A reader should always be on the lookout for this kind of dishonest, fallacious reasoning.

On the other hand, it is as equally dishonest to claim that an argument is a strawman when it is not one.  This article on global warming is an example of this. Recently, physicist Richard Muller and a team of scientists showed conclusively that the earth was warming and wrote an op-ed about his team's findings. The author of this article, James Delingpole, claims that global warming skeptics accept the fact that the planet is warming, and that Muller is making a straw man argument. But Delingpole is wrong: Mueller is not making a straw man argument.

Many skeptics do claim the earth is cooling.  As I pointed out in the comments beneath the article (moddem 38 is my screen name), a Google search for "global cooling" has 5 million + hits. (Try it now, if you don't believe me). Delingpole either hasn't followed the debate very closely, or (more likely) he's being dishonest. Being as Delingpole is a conservative ideologue with no expertise in the subject--one of his books is named "365 Ways to Drive a Liberal Crazy,"-- there's every reason to see his argument as a deliberate falsehood.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Heed the 99 Percent - Rich Lowry - National Review Online

This was one of the most thoughtful columns on the OWS movement, i.e. the writer agrees with me. (I am not immune to the confirmation bias:)

Lowry argues persuasively that the movement's anger is justified, but directed at the wrong target. More importantly, the author's position is the same as mine.

Heed the 99 Percent - Rich Lowry - National Review Online

Friday, October 14, 2011


The title comes from this this clip I like from Animal House. On a more serious note, a poster (jeff1947) @ The Los Angeles Times website makes a great argument against the health care law: (The entire post is long, so I've just quoted a part of it). The whole post can be seen on this page at the Times' website.

I spent my entire working career in Germany.  If we wanted real health care reform, we would have adopted policies that work in countries such as Germany. If we wanted health care reform, we would have addressed the realities of why costs in this country are so much higher than in the rest of the industrial world and we did not. (Emphasis added).

By coincidence, I just finished reading a terrific book on worldwide health care systems, The Healing of America by T.R. Reid, and it comes to the same conclusion as the poster.  Reid points out a number of advantages German health care has over American health care system (go to p.67). Germany provides health care more generous health benefits at a much lower cost (11% of GDP v.17%). Every citizen can choose between over 200 plans and there are, unlike Canada, no long waiting lists. Jeff1947 in 2012!

No one really cares what the Constitution says | ViewsHound

Link to my article on Viewshound: No one really cares what the Constitution says | ViewsHound

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Taxes and who pays them

This article from discusses the conservative charge that 47% of Americans don't pay any income  taxes. Liberals immediately counter that there are other taxes such as payroll and sales taxes that hit the poor harder. Who's right? As usual in politics,there's some truth (and falsehoods) on both sides.

It is not true that 47% of the population pays no taxes; conservatives who argue this aren't considering the entire tax picture.  But liberals are wrong when they say that the tax code is biased in favor of the rich, Warren Buffett notwithstanding. (Google logical fallacies-argument from authority).  Even adjusting for payroll taxes, the rich pay a far higher % of their income than the poor/middle class. This chart from the centrist Tax Policy Center breaks the tax burden down by quintiles. The bottom 60% pay a much lower tax rate than the top 20%.  The tax rate goes up as income goes up at every level. 

On a side note, the author states: "In short, it is not that they are not paying their taxes. It is that the country’s tax structure lets them off the hook."  I don't see a distinction here. Here comes a  sports analogy (sorry,couldn't resist): It's not that I don't play for the Chargers, it's just that their strength and athletic requirements keeps me off the team.