Posts Tagged ‘Media’

Logical Gerrymandering

I’m not a fan of Rick Perry and am not posting this in order to defend him in any way. What irked me about the above article is not what it says about Perry, but what it says about our poor grasp of basic logic. If you find this article a compelling indictment of Perry’s hypocrisy or feel it is an embarrassing mistake on the part Perry’s campaign handles, think again. You’re missing the import of a single word: “but”.

I don’t doubt that Perry is opposed to homosexuals serving in the military and that he is for prayer in public schools but this article makes some glaring mistakes in order to make the buffoon look more buffoonish and in turn shows its own buffoonery. As I just mentioned, the word “but” is critical in the quote. The way it stands, it could mean that if gays are allowed the freedom to serve in the military, then school children should be allowed the freedom to pray in schools. In the quote provided Perry is not saying anything anti-gay; he is simply addressing an inequality of freedoms. The word “but” is offering a comparison, essentially “this is allowed but this isn’t” in an effort to point out an inequality, it doesn’t necessarily condemn either position.

But the poor logic doesn’t end at a conjunction, it goes deeper. Apparently they used some music from Aaron Copeland in Perry’s ad. Aaron Copeland was one of the best American composers. His Fanfare for the Common Man and Appalachian Spring are breathtakingly beautiful. He was also gay. The author of the cited article seems to think, and want us to think, that this somehow makes Perry a hypocrite. But stop for a moment. Perry may be saying that it is wrong for gays to serve in the military but that says nothing about it being right or wrong for gays to compose music. Perry’s ad isn’t saying that everything every gay person ever did is wrong but that is the way it is presented. I could be opposed to Islam and yet still appreciate and use Arabic numerals and algebra and not be a hypocrite.

One last twist to wrap the whole mess up in a nice bow. The person who posted the screen shot above has a screen name of “atheism-“. If it is wrong for Rick Perry to use Aaron Copeland’s music because Perry is (presumably) anti-gay and therefore must believe that anything originating form a homosexual is wrong, then the atheist must abandon science. Isaac Newton is, in many ways, the father of modern physics yet he wrote more Christian theology than he did physics. So if being religious means that you’re mentally deficient, and we apply the logical fallacy employed above, then our friend “atheism-” is equally as hypocritical if he or she embraces atheism for scientific reasons.

If you don’t like Rick Perry or his politics, nail him on where he’s wrong. There’s plenty of material there. But don’t launch into logical gerrymandering to make him look foolish. It backfires badly.

Moore’s Chain of Non Sequitur

Michael Moore is generally clueless. Or dishonest. I know, he’s a big documentary film maker who tackles significant issues, but when you hear the man talk, you see that he really doesn’t get it.

Some things to note in the video above. He talks about personal responsibility. Good. But he seems to buy the legal myth that corporations are people because he goes on to say that GE and Bank of America lack “personal responsibility”. A corporation can’t have personal responsibility, a corporation isn’t a person.

I think he catches himself because he goes on to ask, “Where is the personal responsibility of the people that built these into great companies?” Great question! Yes, these are great companies and the personal responsibility of those who built them is present in the fact that they are great companies. Their job was to make those companies successful and they did. Of course they should do that responsibly and ethically, but Moore’s rant is about a 70 year old woman who can’t afford healthcare. Are the men and women who built GE and Bank of America responsible for her? Or are their companies? What is Moore’s point? I haven’t a clue but I’m not supposed to figure that out, I’m supposed to be incensed by the injustice and applaud politely. Never mind how much Moore is worth, he’s not the 1%.

Next he says that GE didn’t pay any taxes. That simply isn’t true. “Did GE pay U.S. income taxes in 2010? Yes, it paid estimated taxes for 2010, and also made payments for previous years. Think of it as your having paid withholding taxes on your salary in 2010, and sending the IRS a check on April 15, 2010, covering your balance owed for 2009.” Also, GE did not “get money back from the government”. Apparently he is right about Bank of America not paying taxes and the Obama administration did give BofA a boatload of money.

The problem (beyond inaccuracy) with him bringing up GE and BofA’s tax bills are that he started his talk about healthcare bills. He then jumps the rail to personal responsibility and then jumps again and ends up on corporate taxes. Talk about a chain of non sequitur. I’m actually bothered that he is trying to make himself part of the Occupy Wall St. movement. He hasn’t been part of the 99% for quite a while. And CNN doesn’t get it either. Their banner on the video is a throwaway line from the beginning of the clip that has nothing to do with the rest of his rant.

Morning Politics

Did you hear that Bank of America want’s to start charging $5 per month for its members to use a debit card? Sounds outrageous doesn’t it? President Obama waived the consumer finance protection bureau stick in the direction of BofA during an interview at ABC. I have to admit, I’m kind of cheesed about that fee but I really don’t think government regulation is the answer. I like what Dick Durbin said, “Bank of America customers, vote with your feet. Get the heck out of that bank. Find yourself a bank or credit union that won’t gouge you for $5 a month and still will give you a debit card that you can use every single day.” Government isn’t the answer to everything.

You know what is really kind of odd? The reason BofA is implementing the fee is because their other revenue source on debit cards has been throttled so they’re seeking money elsewhere. Those debit cards don’t operate for free. There is a nation-wide secure computer network that supports them and someone has to pay for it. So who throttled what? The 2010 Dodd-Frank law included a provision that cut the “swipe fees” that debit-card issuers charge merchants. That means the banks were restricted in how much they could charge stores on each transaction. And who authored this restriction? Neither Frank nor Dodd. It was none other than Dick “These Shoes are Made for Walkin'” Durbin. I wish he’d have heard his own philosophy when he authored that amendment in the first place.

In somewhat tangentially related news (both touch Wall St.) a liberal talking head on some radio station said that it is “media crime” that Fox and CNN are interviewing less articulate Wall St. protestors. Apparently it is okay to find the most red neck Tea Party supporter but if you do the same for the Occupy Wall Street group, that’s bad.

Finally, President Obama wants to increase taxes on couples who have more than $250k in taxable income. The Democrats don’t like that and would rather institute a 5% surtax on those who have $1 million in income after all the deductions. Why the disagreement? NPR summed it up:

The disagreement in their ranks arises partly from how the president proposes to pay for his plan, an approach seen by some senators as potentially making their already difficult path to re-election even more so.

So let’s set aside for the moment that someone might not get reelected and ask what should be done here. The tax increases are both intended to pay for the president’s job stimulus package. The fact that Democrats want to actually pay for what their spending is a good sign but how do you do that in an economy as sluggish as ours? There are two things that have to happen: don’t raise taxes and don’t cut spending. The idea is that there needs to be as much money floating around the economy as possible at this point. Taking it out of people’s pockets and dumping it in a money black hole is a bad idea. The Republicans want to cut spending and the Democrats want to raise taxes in order to balance the budget. The truth of the matter is that we need to do the opposite of what both parties are banking on. We’re in trouble if they fail to get a collective clue.

Once the economy starts picking up, tax revenues will increase as more people go back to work and start buying more stuff. Once tax revenues start increasing we need to do the opposite of what seems reasonable. Then we can start scaling back government spending and we can fiddle with taxes a bit. That seems counter-intuitive doesn’t it? We have more money coming in so we can spend more and since we have more money coming in we don’t need to mess with taxes, right? Wrong. Once the economy starts moving again that’s when the government has the leeway to reduce spending. The government doesn’t need to worry about upping their portion of spending into the economy, the people are able to do that. And when money is flowing we can start working on making taxes fair and equitable once again without the fear of causing those with money to hold on tighter to what they have.

But that kind of thinking won’t get you reelected. Isn’t soundbite worthy.

When Restraint Seems Like A Virtue

I haven’t said much about Julian Assange yet because, unlike the media, I think we have to wait and see. The question to me is whether Assange is Bruce Wayne or Joker from The Dark Knight. Is he a hero fighting a corrupt system on behalf of the common man, or is he simply an anarchist who wants to watch it all burn?

What we know so far is that he is the founder and final editor at Wikileaks. He has published a bunch of secret American documents. Now he’s wanted in Sweden for unrelated charges. Paypal, Mastercard and Visa have blocked the ability for people to donate money for his support and that resulted in a cyberattack against them by Assange’s supporters.

So how do we decide if he’s a good guy or a bad guy? For one thing he’s trying to free information. The government can make things secret for convenience reasons as well as for national security reasons. It is possible that Assange is simply airing the dirty laundry that world governments would rather keep in the laundry basket. But none of what he’s released so far is of any benefit to the common man. There are embarrassing missives between diplomats. So what? So our representative in country X thinks the leader is a ninny. That doesn’t really help the man on the street.

However, Assange claims to have a doomsday weapon that will reveal all kinds of secrets about the financial industry should he be sent to prison. Okay, maybe that could help the common man but it could also ruin him by crashing the institutes to which his life savings are entrusted. And there’s the rub. If he just wanted to collapse the entire Western system, that doomsday weapon (if it is real) could have done it. He has shown restraint. He’s vetted the information he’s posted in order to protect people. At least the ones he’s decided deserve protection. I think he’s capable of doing much more than he has done. He started his “career” as a hacker and has, as they say, madd skillz. Restraint sounds like a virtue, but Joker restrained his powers in order to do the maximum amount of damage at the right time too.

Bottom line is that Assange hasn’t done anything remarkable yet. The media is ready to either vilify him or make him a saint. That’s largely because the outlets have a political philosophy and are under pressure to produce reports so they land on one side or the other. It is too early to call on this one. So let’s all show some restraint, shall we?

This Just In!

It is the one great weakness of journalism as a picture of our modern existence, that it must be a picture made up entirely of exceptions. We announce on flaring posters that a man has fallen off a scaffolding. We do not announce on flaring posters that a man has not fallen off a scaffolding. Yet this latter fact is fundamentally more exciting, as indicating that that moving tower of terror and mystery, a man, is still abroad upon the earth. That the man has not fallen off a scaffolding is really more sensational; and it is also some thousand times more common. But journalism cannot reasonably be expected thus to insist upon the permanent miracles. Busy editors cannot be expected to put on their posters, “Mr. Wilkinson Still Safe,” or “Mr. Jones, of Worthing, Not Dead Yet.” They cannot announce the happiness of mankind at all. They cannot describe all the forks that are not stolen, or all the marriages that are not judiciously dissolved. Hence the complete picture they give of life is of necessity fallacious; they can only represent what is unusual. However democratic they may be, they are only concerned with the minority. – G. K. Chesterton, The Ball and the Cross