Obama Takes on False Equivalence

I have written a few times about false equivalence, which I have called the “both sides fallacy” (see here, here, here, here, here and here). It is also called the balance fallacy or false balance.

We see it when people talk about the inability of government to solve our problems, or pass any meaningful legislation. “Both parties are to blame”. Democrats have been willing (sometimes I think too willing) to compromise, while Republicans have not. And our so-called “liberal media” has been either perpetuating or going along with the “both sides” meme.

Now, President Obama is calling out the media in speeches. There is an article about it in the Washington Post. He lists issues that Republicans have not been willing to discuss, and legislation they have torpedoed. You can’t blame both parties for Congress being broken when one party wants it to be broken. You cannot blame government for being ineffective when a lot of people in it do not want it to be effective.

The article was also mentioned in The Immoral Minority, Salon and a site I had not heard of until now called Driftglass. I will have to look at this Driftglass site. He (or she) says he was talking about this for a while, as I have.

Go read them. There are some pretty good quotes from Obama on the topic.

Image from Hollywood PQ, assumed allowed under Fair Use


Neil deGrasse Tyson On Science Deniers

Crooks and Liars embedded a video with Neil deGrasse Tyson on the place of science in our society. It’s a good interview.

I mention it here because he talks about the taxicab fallacy. He does  not use that term, but I think he expresses the basic idea.

The Immoral Minority had a post with another good NdT quote. There is a difference between scientific claims and political claims.

Just yesterday I listened to an episode of the Green News Report in which they covered the climate change “debate” between Bill Nye and Marsha Blackburn. Blackburn kept saying there is no scientific consensus on climate change. There is.

98% of climate scientists say it is happening and caused by humans. It is not a scientific controversy. A scientific controversy is when a sizable proportion of scientists in a field have not been able to make a determination. I do not know what the threshold is to stop saying a thesis is under debate, but I am guessing that it is lower than 98%.

A thesis might conflict with your political ideology. Or your religion. It might hurt your profit margin. It might inconvenience you. But all of those are different than scientific controversies.

Not everyone in this world believes in any sort of god or spirit. And not all who do are christian. And since there are so many denominations, obviously there is a lot of disagreement within christianity. So why don’t conservatives apply the same “there is no agreement” logic to their religion?

Image from Wikimedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use

More ‘Both Sides Do It’ Nonsense

One of the results of the government shutdown is some people on the web are pointing out that it is not the case that “both sides are to blame”, that it is in fact the case that one side is more to blame than the other.

I retweeted a few articles that I think at least mentioned the “both sides” fallacy:

Here is an article from the Washington Post pointing out that while there are fringe theories on the left, they were never spouted by any Senators or House committee chairs or any high-ranking Democrats, and there were not unending investigations into non-existent “scandals”.

Politicus has an article pointing out that the media is not as liberal as people think. It only got critical of GW Bush towards the end of his presidency. I guess spending billions on a war based on lies is okay with some people at least some of the time.

Dante Atkins at Daily Kos looked at the “both sides” BS when Olympia Snowe decided not to run for re-election in the Senate.

Business Insider had an article in April pointing out that some Repubs not only think the GOP is not waging a war on women, but think that Obama is waging a war on religion. Granted, a lot of conservatives seem to think they are being oppressed when they are not kicking someone around.

Maybe I should get a sticker that says I am a Proud Oppressor Of Conservatives.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use

Thoughts On Crazy Conservatives

I have stated on this site that I think a lot of conservatives are pathological. Nothing is ever conservative enough, and each thinks that THEY are the only TRUE conservative.

Now we are seeing that the Tea Bagger voters are upset that the guys they sent to Congress are “waffling”, or “not conservative enough”, or, as some might put it: realizing that not everybody in the country agrees with you. One article about this was published in The Guardian.

Another was published in The American Prospect. I think the last paragraph is a nice summary:

As many a Republican politician will tell you (ask Marco Rubio, for one), convincing the Tea Party that you’re sufficiently conservative and that you hate Barack Obama enough isn’t just a full-time job, it’s a game that almost everyone will eventually lose. At some point you’ll take some position or express some opinion that is interpreted as less than maximal anti-Obamaism, and all it takes is one slip to be declared a traitor forevermore.

But I have an issue with the last sentence: So as crazy as Republican politicians sometimes seem, don’t forget that they’re under constant pressure from a base that is even crazier.

I wonder what was going through the author’s head when he wrote that. Are we supposed to have sympathy for these Tea Bagger congressmen? They chose to suck up to the crazies. Some of them bad-mouthed people who did not vote for them, or Democrats/liberals in general. And now they are choosing to not stand up to the Tea Baggers.


A while back I mentioned the Texas Tribune Tribcast. I got through the first half of 2013 about a week ago. They also make the Tea Baggers sound pretty crazy. The TB’s don’t want to spend any money or raise any taxes. Two of the big issues in the past regular session and the special sessions were transportation and water. As I have stated on this site, lower taxes are nice, but they are not the answer to all the world’s problems. Neither is cutting spending. Cutting taxes won’t repair roads, and cutting spending won’t make it rain more.

Usually when you want to deride someone for magical thinking, you say, “XYZ does not just fall from the sky.” In the case of rain, it does fall from the sky. However, you have no way of making it fall when and where you need it to.

Image from Wikimedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use. Because Tea Parties are for little children with imaginary friends.

Ideology does not trump reality.

More Thoughts On Austerity

I had written a while back that the predictions of the austerity crowd (that if governments cut spending then economies will improve) are just not coming true.

After it was discovered that Reinhart and Rogoff lied in their influential paper, it seems like a lot of the wind has been taken out of the sails of the austerity movement. And yes, they flat-out lied. Or they are incompetent. As a commenter on The Big Picture pointed out, they left out a lot of countries whose data would have contradicted their thesis. One of them is Canada, one of the largest economies. They had their conclusion, then they looked for evidence. That seems like the usual MO for conservatives.

R&R at one point wrote an op-ed saying that their paper should not be used for political arguments. They wrote this after they and their movement were exposed. If you can find evidence they were telling Paul Ryan and conservatives to not use their paper to score political points, let me know. I guess IOKIYAR.

I recently saw an article on Seeking Alpha which said that the debunking of R & R is a factor in Germany moving away from austerity, and Germany announced it is backing off from pure austerity and is now planning to spend billions of euros to stimulate the economies of Europe. The article described this move as “underreported”. I would agree with that part. Is this another example of the media’s right-wing bias?

The Agony of Austerity: the Spanish Results

Rogoff & Reinhart answering my call in FT – Austerity is not the only answer to a debt problem

Self-Defeating Austerity Shocks

There’s Even Bigger Problems in the Reinhart & Rogoff Thinking….


The Layman’s Case Against Austerity


It’s all been for nothing – that is, if we ignore the millions of jobs lost etc


Austerity: the greatest bait-and-switch in history


Reply to Reinhart and Rogoff’s NYT Response to Critics

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use.


Peak Oil: Ambient Echo 002

I posted a week or so ago that there were a lot of articles debunking the concept of “peak oil“, and they all showed up at the same time. I wrote why I thought peak oil is still an issue.

Now, going through articles on The Drumbeat, we get two articles joining the debunking of the debunking of peak oil. “Watts Up, Vaclav? Putting Peak Oil and the Renewables Transition in Context” spends more time talking about the transition from oil to renewables than about peak oil. The author, energy analyst Chris Nelder, looks at some works of Vaclav Smil, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada. One of Smil’s “peak oil isn’t happening” articles that Nelder looks at was published by the American Enterprise Institute. It seems like conservatism in this country is really more about sucking up to the wealthy and big business than freedom for individuals.

Dangerous Times As Energy Sources Get Costlier To Extract” by Stephen Leeb (in Forbes of all places) is pretty much all about peak oil. He talks about energy return on investment,” or EROI. As I wrote in my post: We are spending more money to get the same amount of oil. He also introduced a new acronym: RROI, or resource return on investment. It’s a new acronym, but not really a new concept. He points out that oil drilling requires water. Food production requires both water and oil (in the form of refined products). Electricity, mining and manufacturing all depend on water, oil, and in some cases each other. So if oil drilling starts using more water, it could start a price spiral.

I think RROI will be mentioned more in the future. I have noticed over the past few weeks The Drumbeat is including more articles on peak water, and today I read one on peak soil. Maybe the “peak X” meme is overdone, but the basic concepts are valid: We are running out of stuff to make our stuff.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Saudi Arabia in a Suit: Ambient Echo 001

Here is the first post in the “Ambient Echo” category.

First off, there was an interview with the CEO of GM. He said that both parties need to come together and solve our fiscal issues. This is more of the “both sides are to blame” nonsense. Rethuglicans never seem to have a problem with spending when we have a Rethuglican president. I wrote about this in Stop Saying Both Sides Need To Rise Above, The Prospect Agrees With Me and Powell, Founding Fathers, and The Real Problem.

Juanita Jean, who runs The World’s Most Dangerous Beauty Salon, Inc., pointed to an article with yet another glibertarian Rescumlican saying we need to stop taxing and “punishing” the “job creators”. I wrote about this in Dividends and Taxes. That post also points out that a lot of the economic predictions of conservatives never come true, which Paul Krugman wrote about here. That post also pointed out that investors in stocks that have been raising dividends for decades should not be too concerned with taxes rates going up, especially if they go up to the rates of the 1990s, which were pretty good. This post and this post also touch that point.

And the piece that inspired me to write the first post for this category: S.C. GOP Chair: Republicans ‘Aren’t Very Good At Our Message’. It is more of the “we just need to explain our message better” nonsense from Rethuglicans. I wrote about this on Thoughts On The Election. We got your message. It’s not opportunity. It’s not community. It’s not freedom. Especially not freedom of religion. It’s corporate fascism and feudal theocracy. It’s Saudi Arabia in a suit. It’s tax cuts for wealthy, repentant rapists, and scorn for everybody else.

Proof this guy doesn’t get it: “We didn’t reach our base. I’m from the evangelical community and I don’t think we did a good job of reaching out to the evangelical community at all.” Most people who call themselves evangelicals are not evangelicals. They are pathological fundamentalists. This country is getting more secular. But go ahead. Keep pressing the same button. See what good it will do you. If you reach out to fundamentalists, you can’t reach out to anybody else because fundamentalists hate everybody else.

But then again, that is how Rethuglicans think: If Plan A does not work, keep trying Plan A.


New Category and New Energy Pages

I will start a new category for the blog called “Ambient Echo”. Sometimes I read something that mirrors something that I wrote, and I would like to occasionally publish links to those pages. One reason I am doing this is I have a text file with notes for posts that is getting very long. This might help clean it out.

I am also going to change the “Energy” page, and make it multiple pages. I have been bookmarking a lot of energy sites, and I have not put all of them on the “Energy” page here. I think I could split them into multiple pages instead of having one page.