Jonah Goldberg, the editor-at-large at the National Review Online might soon qualify for the category “not worth the trouble.” That’s not yet a category, but it should be–it would be filled with all sorts of tripe merchants whose reasoning is so bad that it doesn’t warrant anyone’s attention.
The other day we find him arguing in favor of ethnic profiling. As we are all accustomed to by now from right-wing columnists, arguments in favor of such things are typically arguments against the oppositions’ straw men. Take the following, which barely merits response:
>What is so infuriating about this is that the ACLU favors policies that discriminate against all sorts of people–old people, women, children and others who, under random searches and other idiotic numerical formulas, are pulled aside for no reason at all.
That being randomly searched constitutes “discrimination” offends the conscience.
Even more absurdly, Goldberg argues in favor of Cheney’s whacked-out “One Percent Doctrine.” In brief, Cheney has held that even if there is one percent chance of a terrorist using a nuclear weapon, we should treat it as a one-hundred percent certainty. Here’s Jonah:
>Ron Suskind’s new book, “The One Percent Doctrine,” explores Vice President Dick Cheney’s view that if there’s a 1 percent chance terrorists might detonate a nuclear bomb in an American city, the government must act as if there’s a 100 percent chance. Despite the guffawing this elicited from administration critics, it strikes me as eminently sensible. (If there were a 1 percent chance the snake in your back yard would kill your child, wouldn’t 1 percent equal 100 percent for you too?) The ACLU’s self-indulgent position, meanwhile, seems to be that if there’s a 1 percent chance a cop will be a racist, we must act as if it’s a 100 percent chance. And that means humans can’t ever be trusted.
Hard to know where to begin with this one. In the first place, we’d take issue with the method of calculating the odds of such events. Considering the way Dick Cheney and his fans hyped the possibility of Saddam having weapons versus, say, the government of Pakistan (which actually has nuclear weapons) falling, we’d have to say that the odds were really far below one percent. Second, it strikes us that Cheney and Goldberg have conflated logical *possibility* with *probability.* Two fundamentally different things. Anything that doesn’t imply a contradiction is possible. Saddam having ties to al Qaeda was possible. It just wasn’t actual or even probable. Anyone with a passing knowledge of his regime could have told you that. Now just because something is logically possible doesn’t mean that it should be assigned a probablity score. One percent, in fact, probably means very little or no probability anyway. So if we actually calculated numerically what Cheney meant, the actual chance would be far below 1 percent. Finally, that Goldberg is confused is evident from his specious analogy (click here to see others do the same on various topics). For many parents–especially those who live in the bug, snake, shark, and gator-infested parts of our country–there is a chance that they’re kid will get eaten by these things in their natural habit. Their solution? Keep their kids of out the water with gators in it. Goldberg-Cheney’s solution? Get rid of all of the gators.