A random sampling of the stupid.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Environmentalism is for commies

Todays installment comes from a site for small business owners, smbresource.com. It starts off with fairly reasonable statements:

The ethic of your business extends entirely from its profitability. If you're not profitable, you may be green, but you won't have any green, and neither will your employees.
I know it's selfish, but you can't expect a business owner, particularly a small business owner, not to put their business first. And there's nothing wrong with that. Things take a strange turn.
Those on the left, and those who don't run a business, find it easy to behave histerically towards the businessman who puts food on their very tables. They believe as they always have that the productive have a greater responsibility. It's hard to fathom this logic of why a hardworking productive person is responsible for the lazy, but we see it all around us.
You'd think this came from an article about welfare. But it doesn't; he's still talking about environmentalism. Environmentalists get angry at businesses for polluting, or for massive energy use which thereby causes release of CO2. The 2nd factor one can convince business owners to save power by arguing that it will save them money on electricity, but the first case is an externalized cost. Pollution needs to be regulated, and it most certainly is unethical to pollute your community.

My favorite part:
This is the ultimate desire of the "going green" crowd. They don't care about the environment, they just hate success, and in particular, success achieved in the way of productive business ventures.
Of course, we don't like what the opposition is saying, so we demonize them as much as we possibly can. It's the equivalent of saying "my teacher is just out to get me" when you get a bad grade. It would be lovely to think that people who oppose pollution in all its forms hate businesses and hate productivity, but it doesn't make dick for sense. They may put a higher value on endangered species, trees, or clean water than you do, but that doesn't mean they "hate success". Had me going for awhile there chief.

Error Scale: 2 & 9. 2 For most of the argument, 9 for the crap about how environmentalists hate businesses, success, Mom and apple pie.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Cheap oil is a right

The Ayn Rand institute is very angry, and of course everyone was following 9/11. Nevertheless, some people react more strongly than others:

Fifty years ago, Truman and Eisenhower surrendered the West's property rights in oil, although that oil rightfully belonged to those in the West whose science, technology, and capital made its discovery and use possible. The first country to nationalize Western oil, in 1951, was Iran. The rest, observing our frightened silence, hurried to grab their piece of the newly available loot.
Natural resources are a bit tricky in my mind. Obviously, whoever invests in the infrastructure to harvest the resource deserves some compensation. But who really has the right to Irans oil? The industrial revolution sprung from the west, which made oil a valuable commodity, but does that give the descendants of those inventors the moral right to travel 'round the world taking whatever they need?

This author says yes. I have to say I'm a bit surprised, I would've thought the line of reasoning would be a bit different from the Ayn Rand institute, something more like "whoever has the ability to take it has the right", but I guess I haven't studied their philosophy enough.

A more logical approach would hold that the people of a country deserve the profits derived from their natural resources. The US creates inventions that the world runs on? The profits derived from selling those products is the compensation. Say we can't do that without oil? Well, then it would be in the best interest of OPEC (et. al.) to provide cheap oil. But of course, the market sets the price, and oddly enough people only bemoan the free market when the results turn out against them. People pay a fortune for pharmaceuticals from the US that cost pennies to produce? Well, you've got to let the market set the price, or else we'll have shortages. Oil is expensive? We deserve oil because we provide the world with so much else.

Error Scale: 3. More arrogant and hypocritical, but moral arguments are always debatable


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Let the masses rule? Impossible

So apparently some radicals think that the public should decide how best to govern the nation:

The foundation has posted its Transparency in Government Act of 2008 on the Web at publicmarkup.org and has invited the public to tweak, add to or criticize any aspect of the proposed bill. The goal, said Ellen Miller, executive director of the foundation, is to change the backroom, secretive way that legislation is typically passed in Washington.

Now, some people think this is a bad idea:

The idea was not as well received by Paul Miller, past president of the American League of Lobbyists. Miller says lobbyists are unfairly portrayed as backroom-deal makers.

There is more transparency in legislation than ever before, Miller said. But he disagrees with putting bills up for all to rewrite.

"I don't think the way you advocate is to put everything online and say, 'All right American people, weigh in on that,' because then what's next?" Miller asked. "Are we going to let the American people decide our defense policy, our trade policy, our immigration policy?"

I'm just going to assume he was quoted out of context, and meant something more like "Policy decisions require a broad base of knowledge and careful, critical analysis, that members of the public simply do not perform." But still, telling the public that they shouldn't have a voice in government decisions IN A DEMOCRATIC COUNTRY seems just a tad idiotic.

Error Scale: 4 (assuming there was some redeeming context)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Error Scale

While I would love to post only mistakes which are logical errors in the mathematical sense, those are rarer, and much less amusing, than stories which are just dumb. For instance, you only occasionally see news stating that since toxic chemical cause cancer, and somebody has cancer, then they must have been exposed to toxic chemicals. It's quite common, though, for a reporter to find out that researchers have discovered a way to turn a normally attractive force, which allows geckos to stick to walls*, and turn that into a futuristic world of us riding flying geckos. But that's just an issue of the reporter being dumb, ignorant, lazy, and/or sensationalistic.

So in general, this blog will focus on cases of idiocy, ignorance, laziness, ridiculous sensationalism, and other types of nonsense not strictly related to syllogistic errors.

To aid in that endeavor, I have developed a simple scale on which to rate mistakes. As with all scales, it ranges from 1 to 10, with 1 being "might be right, but you said it was proven and it's not" and 10 being "the continued existence of this author is a near disproof of Darwinism".

Some examples of each level

1: "Measured atmospheric CO2 levels have been increasing in lock-step with human CO2 emission levels and global temperatures. Therefore, human CO2 emitted must be increasing atmospheric CO2, warming the Earth". While I actually do believe this, if some other factor warmed the Earth, it would almost certainly increase CO2 levels, which would then feedback warming the Earth more, and so on. Notice no humans were involved in this hypothetical situation.

5: "The vice president is not part of the executive branch." If you read the constitution without thinking too hard about this, it's obviously a false statement. If you agonize over the meaning of each and every word, you start to wonder. If you actually think about the consequences, as CREW did, of course it means there's some magical 4th branch, or that Cheney is should be subjected to all kinds of oversight. If you actually think for a second, you realize that 200 years of precedent put the VP in the executive branch.

7: "The streets are safe in Philadelphia. It’s only the people who make them unsafe." Mayor of Philadelphia. Gee, I wonder if he knows how to take something not perfectly, 100% literally? My guess would be not.

10: "We can't make pot legal. If marijuana were legal, people would smoke it." 'Nuff said


* The Casimir force. It's quantum mechanical in nature, essentially the random variations in quantum foam don't cancel out completely at very short length scales.

How to prevent lawlessness

The Washington Post reports:

"A crucial yet overlooked deadline looms over the Iraq debate: Unless further action is taken, the war will become illegal on Jan. 1, 2009. ...
The most recent U.N. resolution expires on Dec. 31, and the administration has announced that it will not seek one for 2009. Instead, it is now negotiating a bilateral agreement with the Iraqi government to replace the U.N. mandate."

This is an interesting point, which I was unaware of. Much more interesting is the authors solution:

"There's a simple solution to all these problems: Extend the U.N. mandate for 2009. That would put the use of U.S. armed forces on firm international and domestic legal footing. And it would allow the next president and Congress time to consider the future in a deliberate way.

Reps. William Delahunt (D-Mass.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) have proposed legislation to do just that. This initiative deserves bipartisan support. It represents the only practical way to confront the lawless unilateralism that the administration plans for New Year's Day."

This was a bit of a curveball. The logical progression appears to be as follows:

1. The U.S. occupation of Iraq becomes illegal Jan. 1, 2009.

2. The U.S. occupation won't actually have ended by then [implied, and I don't think anyone will argue that this is true].

3. We must change the law to make the occupation legal.

Classic government. Most other institutions are in a rather awkward situation when they break the rules; they actually have to face consequences. The government can, and according to the Post should, just changes the rules to fit whatever they decide to do at the moment.

Also, if your problem is "lawless unilateralism", pre-emptively making legal the action which was to be lawlessly and unilaterally imposed doesn't actually solve anything. You might just as well solve all crime by abolishing laws.

Pretty dumb, but the main problem the article is concerned with is the president exercising authority which he doesn't technically have, not the consequences of that authority. Sort of like a piano teacher telling their young student not to do drugs. Not a bad thing to do, just outside their authority.

On the error scale, I'd give it a 7.