All posts by pmayo

Oversimplified Fairness

Because the bulk of our analysis is aimed at conservative punditry, we have occasionally been accused of a left-leaning bias. We have spoken about this apparent lack of balance in our note on bias: most "liberal/progressive" newspaper pundits–unlike their conservative colleagues–simply don’t make arguments. The exception to this claim is Paul Krugman, back from behind the Times Select Curtain. Today, however, Krugman gets a little sloppy: >The main force driving this shift to the left [among the American voting public] is probably rising income inequality. According to Pew, there has recently been a sharp increase in the percentage of Americans who agree with the statement that ‘the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.’ To be sure, there are more varied and urgent causes—say, for instance, an increasingly unpopular war and blatant disrespect for the Constitution—for the Democratic sweep of 2006. This is not to say that economic disparity hasn’t played a role, but to chalk them up as “the main force,” is, well, a little overstated. Furthermore, agreement with a cliche doth not a platform plank make. Paul, buddy, let’s not get out over our populist skis whilst riding in the wake of our glorious victory. -pm

Notional Enemies

Like all Marines, I spent a lot of time at firing ranges. It turned out however that sometimes these ranges lacked even fake targets. As a result we had to wage a kind of fake and frustrating war on an elusive “notional enemy.” One encounter with an actual enemy, however, gave me a new appreciation for the notional one. George F. Will, WaPo wordsmith, baseball fan, and resident raconteur, has made career out of this tactic. Real enemies, like real arguments, are hard to defeat; better to confront the fake ones. Although we are wearying of Will’s consistently fallacious claims, his nauseous elitism and his neo-conservative soap-boxing, today Will leads off with a real gem: >By striking down the District of Columbia's extraordinarily strict gun control law, which essentially bans guns, a federal appeals court may have revived gun control as a political issue. Perhaps I’m uninformed, but I was unaware that gun control had ceased to be a political issue. To argue that gun control has lain “dormant” lo these many years and that this federal court has now awakened some gun-toting, right wing giant is simply ridiculous. Will (inexplicably) wants to warn the Dems to look out for the right-wing gun nut majority that is now building steam. There’s not really an argument to be had there, so Will simply manufactures a premise that supports his tale of woe. We’ve seen this before, with our Beloved Leader. In lieu of an actual enemy, I’ll construct one, defeat it, and claim victory. I. Am. Awesome. Will isn’t ready to relinquish the traditional form of his preferred fallacy just yet, however: >Erwin Chemerinsky, professor of law and political science at Duke University, argued in The Post last week that even if the Second Amendment is construed as creating an individual right to gun ownership, the D.C. law should still be constitutional because the city had a defensible intent (reducing violence) when it annihilated that right. Go through the link in Will’s piece to Dr. Chemerinsky’s article. It’s actually a very nuanced claim about exactly what types of rights are enumerated in the Constitution and what types of rights the federal courts seem to be implying in their recent gun-control cases. Yet, Will ignores the built-in limitations of the 9th Amendment and mischaracterizes this piece as espousing some sort of paternalistic theory of Constitutional hermeneutics to prove the willingness of left to trample the rights of the people in their rush to take away all our guns. Here’s the payoff: >If the Supreme Court reverses the appeals court's ruling and upholds the D.C. gun law, states and localities will be empowered to treat the Second Amendment as the D.C. law does: as a nullity. This will bring the gun control issue — and millions of gun owners — back to a roiling boil. That is not in the interest of the Democratic Party, which is supported by most ardent supporters of gun control. Oh, is that right? -pm

Tu quoque Yogi Berra

There must be something in the water at the venerable Hoover Institution. Just last week, we visited a piece, wherein one of their fellows leveled that most traveled of ad hominem attacks, the tu quoque at former VP Al Gore. This week, as Uncle Yogi once said, is “déjà vu all over again.” V.D. Hanson is concerned, folks—concerned that we, the people, only focus on the failings of right wing politicians, pundits, and politico-religious types. He means to remedy the situation. He says, >But moralist Republicans don't have the market cornered on hypocrisy. If giving into excess embarrasses some of them, for a number of Democrats–supposedly the party of the people–hypocrisy arises from enjoying elite privileges while alleging that America bestows favors unduly on the few. I suppose it’s fun to argue against a position no one has held or even implied. I haven’t heard anyone pretend that Mark Foley’s failings whitewash Ted Kennedy’s. Moreover, it has no bearing whatsoever, as Hanson implies it does, on the populist programs of those prominent Democrats he indicts. Hanson gives us a litany of hypocrisies perpetrated by the left and then pretends that it makes their period as the party in power somehow moot because all politicos are cut from the same cloth. Ye gods. There’s a stark distinction between the duplicity that lead to a war that has cost 3,000+ U.S. lives, along with the lives of untold thousands of Iraqis and the global warming activist who uses the quickest form of transport available to disseminate information. Hanson simply glosses this distinction, because, you know, they’re all crooks and liars, right? >For both liberals and conservatives, the days of the simple-living Harry Truman and clean-living Dwight Eisenhower are apparently long gone–and for two reasons. >First, the country has changed. Globalization, high technology and billions in borrowed money have made Americans in general materially wealthy beyond our parents' wildest imagination. >… >Second, in our world of celebrity sound bites and media saturation, talk, not reality, is what counts. Multimillionaires lecture us about fairness, while sinners rail about sin. Ah, yes—the good old days. Regardless of the fact Pound, err…Hanson, has a point here—we are a society of consumers, more importantly of irresponsible, uncouth consumers and that’s not a good thing—the point is out of place here. Unless we can now impeach all politicos as the very root of avarice and greed, all we’re left with is the conclusion that we’re all just a bunch of hypocrites, in spite of our high ideals. Great story. Really. Compelling and rich. Hanson regroups, however, to deliver another kick to this equine carcass: >The political leaders of this country are essentially too often homogeneous. Republicans may represent constituents of traditional values; Democrats may champion the underprivileged. But their similar lifestyles reflect more a political class' shared privilege than the inherent differences of their respective constituents' beliefs. National figures may talk conservative or liberal, but they both are more likely to act like libertines. Indicting all politicos as hypocritical and wrong adds nothing. In fact, it’s rather banal. Still worse is that Hanson hasn’t argued so as to support the conclusion that the analogous evils of both conservatives and liberals have some bearing on their legislative activity. Beyond his dazzling pithiness, the problems here are evident: one, Hanson assumes, incorrectly, that some causal link exists between how one lives and how one performs in the political arena. Secondly, even if that were the case, he so muddies the waters that it is unclear how the hypocritical similarities between politicos have any bearing on anything. Look who’s pithy now. -pm

Et tu quoque, Gore?

The argumentum ad hominem is cool. Rather than address the salient points of your claim, I just attack you and declare your claim false on those grounds. QED. Such is the case with the “Al Gore’s an energy-hogging hypocrite” thematic. It’s a pitiful attempt to argue against global warming by proxy. Today, Dr. Henry I. Miller (not to be confused with Ana?s Nin’s lover) of the Hoover Institution joins the fray: >Perhaps I can offer a medical explanation for why Al Gore simply doesn't feel that he should be judged by standards of behavior applicable to everyone else. On the basis of his actions and writings over many years my guess is that Mr. Gore suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard? Paging Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard. Now, Dr. Miller holds both an M.S. and an M.D., but no mention of a PsyD. However, he has read a book: >The criteria for this diagnosis, as described in the psychiatrist's bible, the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders," include a "pervasive pattern of grandiosity [in fantasy or behavior], need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts," as indicated by the following: >"A grandiose sense of self-importance [e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements]." Ah, I see: Al Gore is a self-aggrandizing narcissist (read: politician). So, that’s his problem. My problem is that I fail to see how his hypocrisy is germane to the issues of global warming. That Mr. Gore has, in his official function, wrapped himself in contradictions to appease constituents may be true. Yet, it has no bearing on the facts of global warming. That’s the funny thing about science: the facts speak for themselves, regardless of the apparent hypocrisies of the orator. Nevertheless, Dr. Miller has more important fish to fry, like this one:. >Mr. Gore regularly demonstrates his grandiosity. Who can forget his notorious claim that he had been instrumental in creating the Internet? Indeed–especially not when your ilk will not let it go away. Moreover, this entire “Gore thinks he invented the internet” meme is pure fiction, just ask Bob Somerby. But Wait! Not only is the former VP a deceitful hypocrite, he’s a big meanie in committee, as well: >While a senator, Mr. Gore was notorious for his rudeness and insolence during hearings. A favorite trick–which I experienced first-hand–was to pose a question and as the witness began to answer, Gore would begin a whispered conversation with another committee member or a staffer. If the witness paused in order that the senator not miss the response, Mr. Gore would instruct him to continue, then resume his private conversation, leaving no ambiguity: Not only is your testimony unimportant, I won't even pay you the courtesy of pretending to listen to it. Dr. Miller treats this as some sort of coup de grâce, but there’s one problem here: suppose everything Dr. Miller has accused the former VP of is true—the facts of global warming remain the case. Even if Mr. Gore is a hypocrite, a liar, a Senate bully, and a narcissist possessed of egregious delusions of grandeur, the temperature of the earth is rising, the hole in the ozone layer is still there, the polar ice cap continues to melt, sea levels continue to rise, and our increasing carbon emissions continue to contribute to the problem. –pm


We pulled the following from the comments of Mr.Mayo. It's an analysis of Bush's speech mentioned here. Here’s what i caught: >“The issue on the economy is a big issue in any campaign. And I want the people of this district to know, plain and simple, that if Richard’s opponent wins, your taxes will go up. Make no mistake about it. The Democrat Party is anxious to get their hands on your money.” False cause with perhaps a little ad hominem abusive thrown in at the end. >“The key issue in this campaign is the security of the United States of America. You got to understand a lot of my thinking about the world changed on September the 11th, 2001. I make a lot of decisions on your behalf, and many of those decisions were affected by the fact that we lost nearly 3,000 of our citizens, 3,000 innocent lives on our soil on that fateful day. I vowed then, and I’ve vowed ever since, to use every national asset at my disposal to protect the American people.” Perhaps it’s a reach, but there seems to be bit of suppressed evidence here, namely that the war he is positing as protecting the American people has claimed more American lives than did September 11th. If he’s going to cite the loss of lives on 9/11 as the basis for his war, then he’s ignoring the fact that the war has cost more than 9/11, monetarily and in lives lost. >“You can’t negotiate with these people. You cannot hope that they will go away. I like to remind people, therapy isn’t going to work. The best way to deal with these folks is to bring them to justice before they hurt America again. “ Classic Bushman (can i coin that term in place of the strawman? he uses the thing so often maybe it should bear his name). Has anyone proposed negotiating with Al Queda? Or having a “therapy” session with Bush, Cheney, Osama, and Zawahiri down at Bob Newhart’s office? Do we need to be “reminded” of this? Does he seriously believe this?! He’s created a whole new genre of political discourse. Rather than distort the argument of his opponent, he creates a whole new opponent along with the argument. >“Our fellow citizens ought to listen to the words of Osama bin Laden, and Mr. Zawahiri, who is his number two in al Qaeda. They have clearly stated that Iraq is a central front in their war against us. “ Again, suppressing the evidence. Islamism was strictly nefas in Saddam’s Iraq; then we march in, guns blazing, Texas-style and turn it into a breeding ground for terrorism. Yet once again, he pretends there was no antecedent cause to Iraq’s becoming Osama’s recruiting poster. >“Al Qaeda’s leadership has told us loud and clear in their own words their ambitions are to develop new safe haven from which to launch attacks.” Now he’s Bushmanning Osama! They don’t want to create a “safe haven” in Iraq, for the simple reason that they already have a safe haven in the Afghnai/Pakistani borderlands, which was made possible at least in part because we couldn’t press our attack there because we were gearing up for an invasion of Iraq. They just want to point to Iraq and say to disenfranchised Muslim youth,”Look! We were right all along! They do want to come over here and take your land, your oil, and your religion.” >“The House Democrat Leader summed up her party’s approach to the midterm elections. She said this — and I quote — she said this election “should not be about national security.” I strongly disagree. The security of this country comes first, as far as I’m concerned. And this government, with supporters like Richard Pombo, will do everything we can to protect you. (Applause.) Of course, to give the Leader some credit, given her party’s record on national security, I can see why she feels that way. (Laughter.) I wouldn’t want to be talking about the record, either. “ Ad Hominem Circumstantial. Perhaps what Pelosi really meant is there might be other pertinent issues that should occupy the campaign slate, but then again, she’s just saying that because she’s a Democrat and they can’t talk national security, because their poor record in this area predisposes them to focus on other areas.