Spot the Fallacies

I spent a big chunk of the day writing the previous post and now don’t have time to give this blog post the attention it deserves. But you guys are sharp; I betcha you can find in it the same logical fallacies that I did. I’ll come back and discuss it further if I get a break.

9 thoughts on “Spot the Fallacies

  1. I couldn’t get past the opening sentences:

    It’s very difficult to anticipate the future. That’s one of the reasons government should be kept small, and tightly controlled…

    Sara Robinson wrote Stealing Our Future: Conservatives, Foresight, and Why Nothing Works Anymore, a powerful indictment of this nihilistic, know-nothing viewpoint we’ve had to suffer with for the last 2-3 decades. I won’t even touch the logical fallacies here; my anger burns at how rightards have systematically destroyed this formerly great country – and this attitude toward planning was one huge aspect of it. I’ll quote a bit from Sara’s article (you’ll want to read the whole piece):

    …Most Americans are so deeply marinated in this culture of planning that we don’t realize just how unique it makes us. We take it as a given that almost every county and region, and every state and government agency involved in land use and infrastructure, has a regional master plan on file somewhere. Planning commissions large and small are already working 20 years out, penciling in where the major roads will go, where the water will come from, where the houses and shopping centers will be, how many schools and firehouses and sewer plants they’re going to need, and how they’re going to finance it all. We have emergency plans for evacuations, disasters, epidemics, floods. When’s your road up to be re-paved again? Odds are that City Hall can tell you, up to 10 years out.

    Most of these institutions have been doing planning at this range since shortly after World War II, which was when the American culture of planning came into full bloom. The basic tools for large-scale forecasting had been evolving since the late 1800s, accelerating with the Soviet five-year plans (the first of which famously took four years to write, largely because they were developing an entirely new set of planning tools along the way), and the awesome advances developed by the meticulously-planned Nazi war machine.

    Allied generals — most notably Hap Arnold — realized early on that defeating the Nazis meant we’d have to become even better organizers than they were. The Allies had a massive resource advantage, but Arnold saw that fully leveraging that advantage in a two-front war was going to require a new generation of strategic planning tools. To that end, he brought together the first teams that pioneered the field of operations research (and which, after the war, formed the core founding group of RAND Corporation, which has continued to play a leading role in developing foresight techniques). Americans had always been smart about this stuff; but WWII was the event that drove us to the head of the class.

    And every American, it seems, absorbed the lessons. The vast industrial planning that rationed strategic resources, the factories that put Liberty ships to sea and B-17s in the air, the logistical infrastructure that moved supplies from the farms to the front lines, and the company supply sergeants who kept the track of the thousands of items their outfits needed — through it all, an entire generation learned to take the long view, think in big pictures, and visualize future events. When the war ended, millions of men and women brought those skills home to the cities and suburbs, and applied them every aspect of their lives from building companies to running households.

    These skills and habits became an embedded part of American culture. The U.S. was always a place where people could re-create themselves and seize new futures; but this sharp new set of tools allowed us to pursue that trait with a vengeance. It’s become a peculiarity of our character, this brash and pragmatic assumption that if you want to create a certain kind of future, you simply articulate the vision and start laying out the steps that will get you there. There aren’t that many cultures in the world that offer such strong support for big ideas, elaborate logistical and organizational planning, and long-term foresight — yet, until you’re outside America for a while, it’s hard to notice how special this trait really is, or how strongly it defines us as a people.

    Which is why this whole “Who could have foreseen it?” question reveals so much about what’s gone wrong in Bush’s America. It’s an admission of yet another secret piece of the right-wing agenda that’s been quietly, steadily moving along since the Reagan years, and has finally brought us to the point where its catastrophic implications can no longer be ignored.

    For many of us, the furious response to [the Bush administration’s] “Who could have foreseen it?” is “How could we have screwed it up so badly? Can’t we do anything right any more?” We have the sinking feeling that, even in their youth, our grandparents would have been far more likely to do the right thing in response to almost any situation — 9/11, Katrina, Saddam, or Iran — than anybody currently on the scene now. It’s becoming obvious that this helplessness, this total inability for a nation of visionary planners to mount an effective response to even small challenges, has deep roots in three decades of right-wing anti-government corporatism. These are the only people profiting from our devastating inability to envision, organize, and implement any kind of public plan.

    ♦ ♦ ♦

    Foresight is power. Organization and planning create the future. Those who have mastered these skills greatly increase the odds that they’ll be the ones to choose the future for everyone else. And therein lies the problem.

    Corporate leaders understand this power. (So does the religious right, which is why the largest department of strategic foresight in the country is now emerging at Pat Robertson’s Regent University. They’ve got a vision for the future, and are getting very systematic about implementing it.) Short-circuiting government’s capacity to exercise any kind of planning or foresight (or, importantly, oversight) on behalf of the people was a core piece of their rise to power. The War on Science that Chris Mooney so amply documents was accompanied, in a much lower key, by a War on Planning that gutted all the various methods the government used to develop large-scale plans, track leading indicators, and detect and adjust for disruptions.

    And so it was that the thousands of public employees around the country who kept track of trends in labor, public health, ecosystems, water, soil, weather, and so on just sort of went away — defunded or discouraged at the behest of business patrons whose interests were threatened by the things these observers recorded. The engineers tasked with maintaining our existing infrastructure and planning future improvements were pushed to retire, or found jobs in the private sector. The land use commissions in charge of enforcing long-term regional plans were just another obstacle to building strip malls and big box stores, and either bought off or sued into compliance. The massive strategic and logistical efforts that supported the military were outsourced to Halliburton. The accountants who might have totted up the extra costs these changed inflicted on taxpayers (though they were almost universally sold as money-saving efficiency measures) were dismissed — sometimes metaphorically, often literally….

    Are you angry yet?

  2. “The ethics laws Governor Palin signed in 2007, which caused her to prematurely end a remarkably successful term as governor in 2009, are a perfect example of this principle”.

    remarkably successful ?

  3. Good comment, Moonbat. Thanks.

    It’s been a while since my Logic 101 days, but the way it’s supposed to go is: A. major premise, B. minor premise, C. conclusion–not A. conclusion, B. opinion, C. whatever fits with A and B.

    Best I can say is, the author is of the confident and clueless variety; one who knows not, and knows not he knows not.

  4. “A legal device like Alaska’s drive-thru ethical complaint system will always do more damage in the hands of political operations, than good in the hands of well-meaning individual citizens.”

    Very Limbaughesque!. Just tainted bullshit intended to prey on the gullible.

  5. “The only reliable way to keep politicians honest is to limit the inventory of power they have to sell, so bribing them won’t be worth the effort. ”

    Paraphrase this to:

    “Since a strong, vigorous federal governement is the only entity with the size scope and authority to curb the abuses of big business, banking, oil, health insurance, etc we want the government to be small and impotent so corporations can fully exploit the average citizen, the environmant and 3rd world nations without interference.”

  6. I get it! This is one of those reading comprehension tests…you have us looking to find fallacies when the title tells us right from the beginning that it’s all “hot air”. It’s one big fallacy ,and if our comprehension skills were in order than we would know that from the outset.

    Although I did know that the blog post was going to be drivel because I recognized the registered HOT AIR trademark as a venom belonging to Michelle Malkin.

  7. 1. It’s very difficult to anticipate the future. That’s one of the reasons government should be kept small, and tightly controlled.

    This is a negative prediction of the future which attempts to defend against the uncertainty of future and generates anxiety in the subsystem at the same time. This kind of thing feeds itself. It predicts negative action without any actual data in the present. Functional systems are data based more than anxiety and retaliatory impulse based.

    2. Big Government is a blindfolded ogre with a chainsaw. Government programs always have unintended consequences – often the exact opposite of the legislators’ intentions.

    This can be observed in most any human endeavor and is especially self-serving here.

    3. The ethics reforms championed and signed by Palin in 2007 were meant to add accountability and transparency to state government, by making it easier for citizens to sue politicians for ethics violations.

    OK fine, but reform requires good policy and mutual and cooperative implementation, or at least somewhat non-partisan. And, only the righties know how to do this?

    4. Resources intended for use by responsible citizens will inevitably be abused by the most irresponsible forces in public life.

    Another anxiety driven prediction that reflects world view. Hmm, “most irresponsible forces in public life”. Does this mean anyone that says me nay? Remember what the studies say about righties enduring anxiety and uncertainty.

    5. The lovely dream of the lone citizen crusader, using his lunch hour to file a complaint against an untouchable crook in high office, fades into the ugly reality of groups like ACORN, issuing target lists to their foot soldiers.

    Jimmy Stewart died a long time ago and just who is it, besides endorphin intoxicated teens, that have lovely dreams of white knights when it comes to an adversarial mode political system?

    6. Both of them were trying to construct ethical safety valves for fundamentally corrupt systems.

    Again, the world viewed through dark lenses that puts energy towards the very outcomes which they purport not to want–minimally corrupted systems. Yes people are base when they have lost sight of the system as a whole and govern/operate only from a self-centered perspective.

    But if one can do naught but lament that the system will only fail us, then the system will in fact live up to that expectation. This is so because the viewer’s behavior that will manifest through those dark lenses will be perceived as threatening and guarAHNtee an equally anxious response that must try and preempt the darkness–>fight on! Not functional and not representative for citizens.

  8. It’s very difficult to anticipate the future. That’s one of the reasons government should be kept small, and tightly controlled.

    For instance, get rid of FEMA. It’s difficult to anticipate natural disasters (especially if you ignore the warnings you receive), so it’s best not to be prepared whatsoever.

    (I see Moonbat is much more thorough on the same line.)

    Do I need to go past the first paragraph?

    Oh, yeah, the argument about ethics investigations impeding ethics is also a keeper.

    Also: Sargent.

    That’s a classic right-winger post – it features horribly flawed logic, and it’s factually inaccurate to boot.

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